Zimbabwe Churches Denounce Violence

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) - The Zimbabwe Council of Churches released a pastoral letter Monday that it sent member congregations prior to last weekend's services denouncing politically motivated violence in the African nation.

Meanwhile, the nation's embattled president, Robert Mugabe, declined to meet the Rev. Konrad Raiser, secretary general of the World Council of Churches, who endorsed the church letter's contents.

Raiser said he met all other heads of states on an Africa tour that included Angola, Botswana, Namibia and South Africa.

The World Council held its international assembly in Harare in 1998, and had supported Mugabe's one-time guerrilla movement in its effort to overthrow a white-minority regime.

But the Zimbabwe church letter said that since the government lost a referendum last year aimed at entrenching Mugabe's powers, ``we are witnessing murders, rapes, beatings and abductions.''

``The law is selectively applied or not being applied in cases of political violence,'' with ruling party militants perceived as above the law, and Mugabe ``has the capacity to stop this violence,'' the letter said.

Leaders from about 30 church groups have repeatedly protested to little avail over lawlessness, harassment of the judiciary and media, official corruption and economic mismanagement.

Episcopalians deny $146,000 for African church that sponsors conservative U.S. mission

NEW YORK (AP) - Trinity Church, a wealthy Wall Street parish of America's Episcopal Church, has rejected a proposal to give $146,000 in grant money to the Episcopal Church of Rwanda because of its support for the conservative Anglican Mission in America.

Trinity's Judith Gillespie wrote the Rwandan church that continued aid for clergy training was impossible because Rwandan bishops are ``actively working to promote schism within the Episcopal Church.''

The Anglican Mission, based in Pawleys Island, S.C., is sponsored by the Anglican branches in Rwanda and Southeast Asia. It ministers to U.S. congregations that want to remain within Anglicanism, but reject the Episcopal Church because it lets local dioceses ordain openly gay clergy and conduct same-sex blessing ceremonies.

In June, Rwanda's archbishop helped consecrate four new U.S. bishops for the mission.

Trinity gave the Rwandan church a three-year grant of $132,000 in 1998, and it was applying for a $146,000 renewal.

The Trinity congregation dates back to 1697, and Alexander Hamilton is buried in the churchyard.

Jews protest Florida Christian theme park's plan to display biblical manuscripts

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) - Area Jewish leaders who protested February's opening of the Holy Land Experience theme park are now upset that it plans to lure tourists through a display of biblical manuscripts.

Next summer, Holy Land will open a $9.5 million, 17,000-square-foot museum featuring such items as a 4th century Bible from Egypt, an original 1611 King James Bible and numerous illuminated manuscripts.

The collection was owned by the late Protestant businessman Robert D. Van Kampen, who in 1994 built an underground ``Scriptorium'' for it near the family compound in Grand Haven, Mich.

A Van Kampen Foundation spokesman said after Van Kampen died the family decided his collection should have ``greater exposure.''

Holy Land President Marvin Rosenthal, a convert from Judaism to Christianity, said ``any city in America would want to have this collection.''

But Rabbi Daniel Wolpe, president of the Greater Orlando Board of Rabbis, protested that ``a Torah should not be a display item.'' Jewish leaders have also opposed the park itself, saying profits might be funneled to its parent organization, a mission to convert Jews.

Alabama congressman will try again on Ten Commandments law

MOBILE, Ala. (AP) - U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt plans a second try at getting Congress to pass a law letting states display the Ten Commandments in public buildings.

An identical bill passed the House overwhelmingly in 1999 but died in the Senate.

The Rev. Barry Lynn of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, immediately called the proposal from Aderholt, R-Ala., ``reckless and radical.''

Alabama's chief justice, Roy Moore, recently placed a monument including the commandments in the lobby of the state Judicial Building. A state lawsuit over display of the commandments in his county courtroom prior to his election as chief justice ended without a final ruling on legality.

In neighboring Mississippi, Democratic Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck and Republican state Sen. Alan Nunnelee said they raised $24,000 to put framed ``In God We Trust'' posters in public school classrooms.

A state law that took effect July 1 requires the displays but the legislature appropriated no funding.

The Rev. Donald Wildmon, whose Tupelo-based American Family Association is promoting the idea nationwide, said the 42,000 posters going up in Mississippi schools were all donated.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi is considering a lawsuit against the displays.

New conservative movement reports backing by 10 percent of U.S. Presbyterians

LENOIR, N.C. (AP) - The conservative Confessing Church Movement said it has won support from a tenth of the membership of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) since its inception in March.

The movement reported 266,926 Presbyterians in 801 congregations and 44 states have affiliated with the Confessing Church, compared with the denomination's nationwide active membership of 2.56 million.

The movement calls on Presbyterians to insist that Jesus Christ alone is the way to salvation, that the Bible alone is the infallible rule of faith and life and that male-female marriage is the only place for sexual activity. It is being promoted by the Presbyterian Lay Committee, based in Lenoir.

Colorado couple pleads guilty to child abuse in daughter's faith healing death

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (AP) - The parents of a diabetic 12-year-old pleaded guilty to felony child abuse for failing on religious grounds to seek medical assistance for the girl, who died.

In a deal with prosecutors, Randy and Colleen Bates pleaded guilty to criminally negligent child abuse in Mesa County District Court in the Feb. 6 death of 13-year-old daughter Amanda. Prosecutors planned to recommend probation for the couple.

The Bateses, who have 12 other children, belong to the General Assembly Church of the First Born, which prosecutors say opposes medical treatment. Their plea was not an acknowledgment that they committed a crime, they said.

Amanda was the 12th known child of First Born parents in Colorado to die or be stillborn after receiving no medical care.

After Amanda's death, the state legislature removed a religious exemption from felony child-abuse statutes.

World-straddling Hindu pilgrimage visits California

NORWALK, Calif. (AP) - A world-straddling Hindu pilgrimage ended its U.S. portion Sunday with about 2,000 people attending events at Sanatan Dharm Mandir Temple, organizers said.

A procession that included chants, devotional music and the swamis dropping flower petals preceded talks in which leaders spoke of religious diversity and finding solace, and the world as one family, said spokesman Beata Gutman.

The pilgrimage began in India on Aug. 15, stopped in Washington, Miami, Atlanta and Chicago, and now heads for Britain.

The 2001 World Christian Encyclopedia reports Hinduism, the world's third-largest religion, has 1 million U.S. followers.

Study indicates religious activities heighten teens' self-esteem

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Eighth graders who participate in religious activities have higher self-esteem than those who do not, said a study reported at an American Psychological Association convention.

A 1999 survey of 1,261 youths, conducted by the University of Michigan Survey Research Center, was analyzed by Yong Dai and Rebecca Nolan of Louisiana State University and Qing Zeng of Wells College.

The results may indicate religious institutions teach youths how to have positive images of themselves, the authors said, and that younger teens' closeness with their families reinforces religious involvement.

The study also found black females were more likely than white females to evaluate themselves positively, while white males had higher self-esteem than black males.