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CULTURE DIGEST: Liberal Christian group debuts; minister suspended for performing daughter’s same-sex wedding

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–The newly formed Christian Alliance for Progress has entered the political landscape with a mission to present a biblical justification for socially liberal positions, including homosexual rights, abortion rights and an end to war.

Since last November’s election when the mainstream media and a broader scope of politicians suddenly focused more attention on the value of the evangelical vote, Democrats have been searching for ways to pull those voters over to their side. Meetings have been held in Washington to brief Democrats on what evangelical voters really want and how they can begin to find it outside the Republican Party.

Now the Christian Alliance for Progress, based in Jacksonville, Fla., and led by businessman Patrick Mrotek, is focusing on convincing Christians that the Democratic Party holds ideals that are more closely aligned with those of Jesus.

The group wants to debate conservative Christian figures such as Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and James Dobson, arguing that the Gospel calls for liberal policies, according to The Washington Times June 23.

“If you look back on the history of American fundamentalism, 30, 40 years ago there were plenty of moderate folks theologically and politically in the Southern Baptist Convention,” Timothy Simpson, the group’s director of religious affairs, told The Times, noting that progressive politics in the past was associated with evangelical Christianity.

The alliance’s website lists issues most pertinent to their cause, leading off with the statement, “Our positions on political issues arise from how we see the values that Jesus taught.”

After mentioning the need for economic justice in the management of America’s wealth and being good stewards of the environment, a subhead reads, “Rejecting Bigotry, Embracing Dignity — Equality for Gays and Lesbians.”

Another subsection calls for supporting “compassionate programs that are genuinely effective in helping prevent unintended pregnancy. We affirm that each woman’s body belongs to herself. No woman should be forced either to bear a child or to terminate a pregnancy.”

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, told The Times that Democratic groups that have sought the evangelical vote since November have not been successful. Rather, he observed, evangelicals are becoming increasingly engaged in politics and sticking with Republicans.

“It’s really not about labels, it’s about really the issue,” Perkins said. “For an organization created under a new name to reach a particular group with the same worn-out policy positions that have been rejected by values voters is not going to get them anywhere.”

MINISTER SUSPENDED FOR ‘SAME-SEX’ WEDDING — The Reformed Church in America has suspended one of its ministers for violating church law by officiating a wedding in which his daughter married another woman.

In a nearly three-to-one majority decision June 17, the denomination’s annual meeting participants — the General Synod — voted that Norman Kansfield’s behavior was “contrary to our faith and beliefs as affirmed by the holy Scriptures and the decisions of the General Synod concerning the relationships of active homosexuality,” according to The New York Times.

“I am a heterosexual and I am married,” Kansfield had said in defending his actions. “I support marriage — marriage in its broadest possible context so that it can do the most good for our whole society.”

Kansfield, who served as president of one of the denomination’s two seminaries until he was dismissed from the position in January, performed the wedding between two women at a church in Massachusetts just after “same-sex marriage” was legalized in the state last year.

As further punishment, delegates stripped Kansfield of his standing as a theology professor and voted to suspend him from the ministry until he satisfactorily conforms his views to church doctrine.

The Reformed Church in America has about 280,000 members in nearly 900 congregations.

‘VALUES’ & MARRIAGE COUNSELING — A longtime marriage and family therapist is launching a therapist-finder registry to help couples locate marriage counselors who believe in the sanctity of marriage and will work to keep the union together rather than passively allowing it to dissolve, though critics are suspicious of what they call an underlying conservative message.

William Doherty, a therapist at the University of Minnesota with 30 years of clinical experience, has developed the National Registry of Marriage Friendly Therapists, online at www.marriagefriendlytherapists.com, because he believes that since the 1970s marriage counselors have been too neutral and have focused too much on the individual, according to USA Today June 22.

“The registry is about training and competence and about values, because most couples assume the therapist is pro-marriage, but many therapists feel they have to be neutral,” Doherty said. “The values thing comes into play when there seems to be a discrepancy between somebody’s personal happiness and their commitment to the marriage.”

But because several general therapist-finder registries already exist, critics question the need for one like Doherty’s. Some also take offense at his use of the term “marriage friendly” because they believe marriage counselors are inherently favorable to the institution of marriage. They also object to Doherty’s requirement that therapists listed on his registry sign a values statement affirming their support of marriage.

“I don’t know of any body of research that suggests therapists who sign a values statement are going to be better at keeping couples together than those who don’t sign a values statement,” Alan Hovestadt, a professor of family therapy at Western Michigan University, told USA Today.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that marriage and family therapy has grown from an estimated 1,800 in 1966 to nearly 50,000 specialists today.

TEN COMMANDMENTS HOTLINE PROPOSED — Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, called the Supreme Court’s split decision on the Ten Commandments June 27 a marginal victory because it will allow displays in certain contexts but overall has served to confuse Americans more. Now he is proposing a hotline for citizens to call when they wonder whether a planned display will stand the court’s test.

“Justice Stephen G. Breyer was the swing vote in both the Texas and the Kentucky cases,” Perkins said in his June 28 Washington Update. “Justice Breyer’s reasoning will further confuse communities that wish to display religious monuments with historical significance — or is that historical monuments with religious significance?

“A possible solution might allow Justice Breyer, a Clinton appointee, to establish a 1-800 number that city governments can call to ask the fickle Justice if their display would be permissible,” Perkins added.

The court issued a 5-4 ruling in both cases, invalidating Ten Commandments displays in Kentucky courthouses while upholding a monument of the Decalogue on the Texas capitol grounds.

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  • Erin Curry