01: Christians for Fair Witness on the Middle East brings together mainline Protestant and Roman Catholic clergy and laity to counter the “anti-Israel” views found to be growing within mainstream churches.
The organization, which includes United Church of Christ, Lutheran, Episcopal, Methodist, Presbyterian, and Roman Catholic churches, was formed over the concern that Christian-Jewish relations could be reversed by increased criticism against Israel and activism on behalf of the Palestinians. One example of such activism is the drive to disinvest in Israel, most evident in the Presbyterian Church (USA).
Sr. Ruth Lautt, O.P., national director of Fair Witness, says that the anti-Israel orientation growing in some American churches is driven by the Palestinian Christian group known as Sabeel. The group’s founder, Palestinian Anglican Naim Ateek has pointed to Israel as the sole cause of the conflict with the Palestinians. Fair Witness holds that “Israel’s right to exist within secure borders and to defend itself from attack are as fundamental as the dignity of Palestinian life and the need for Palestinian national self-expression.“ (Source: Ecumenical Trends, January)
02: Pooling resources and facilities has become increasingly common among seminaries, but Andover Newton Theological School and Hebrew College have taken the cooperation to a new level.
The schools collaborate on curriculum and course development, religious services and even fund-raising. Christian and Jewish students enroll in courses at both institutions and attend one another’s observances of holy days. The institutions continue to be financially independent of one another, but they plan to build a single auditorium and a non-denominational chapel to serve both schools.
The arrangement has created the Interreligious Center on Public Life, which brings together Jewish, Christian and Muslim scholars to deal with issues of religious pluralism and hot button political and policy issues. The experiment is even gaining national attention, with Steven Spielberg’s Righteous Persons Foundation giving the Hebrew College $100,000 for their interfaith programs. Some observers say the arrangement may serve as a test case for similar interfaith ventures in U.S. seminaries. (Source:Chronicle of Higher Education, Jan. 13)
03: The new Center for Atheism is the latest of several attempts by atheists, secular humanists and other freethinkers to press for equal rights and engage in political activism.
The Washington, DC-based center, founded by Kenneth Bronstein of the New York City Atheists, plans to lobby in the capital for the atheist cause and to engage in church-state battles.
(Source: U.S. News & World Report, Jan. 16)