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CULTURE DIGEST: Presb. Church (USA) rejects push for homosexual ordination

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Leaders of the Presbyterian Church (USA) rejected a plan to allow the ordination of homosexuals in the denomination, voting instead to retain language calling for “fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman, or chastity in singleness.”

By April 27, a slight majority of the denomination’s 173 local presbyteries had voted against the deletion of the language in the Book of Order, which sets forth guidelines on who is eligible for ordination. The proposed new language would have lacked any standard for sexual behavior.

Alan Wisdom, director of the Institute on Religion and Democracy’s Presbyterian Action committee, said the PCUSA has signaled its intention to remain in the mainstream of global Christianity.

“All traditional Christians can take encouragement that the Presbyterians have held the line on sexual morality,” Wisdom said in a news release. “They have stood against the cultural pressure to legitimize any relationship between ‘people who love one another.’

“They have maintained the Church’s historic teaching: that God’s provision for human sexuality is found in marriage — the ‘one flesh,’ lifelong, life-giving union of the two created sexes,” Wisdom said.

Wisdom noted that the latest vote marked the fourth time in 12 years that PCUSA presbyteries have voted on sexuality standards.

“Each time they have upheld ‘fidelity and chastity.’ If ever there were a case when the church had made up its mind on an issue, this is it,” he said.

Last year the PCUSA General Assembly voted to remove the fidelity and chastity requirements for clergy, and it would have gone into effect if ratified by a majority vote of the presbyteries.

The PCUSA, the nation’s largest Presbyterian denomination with 2.2 million members, does have some homosexual clergy, but they have been required to stay celibate since the denomination voted for such a requirement in 1978, according to The Washington Times.

PEPSICO OPPOSES SHAREHOLDER RESOLUTION — PepsiCo, which drew the ire of the American Family Association over corporate gifts to homosexual causes, has expressed opposition to a resolution filed by a shareholder requiring the company to be transparent about its charitable contributions.

The resolution, as reported by AFA, requests that the company provide a semiannual report disclosing its standards for choosing which organizations receive charitable contributions. Shareholders also would like to know the business rationale and purpose for each contribution as well as the personnel who participated in making the decisions to contribute.

Also, the resolution asks that PepsiCo describe the benefits to the company and the beneficiaries produced by such contributions and a follow-up confirming that the organization actually used the contributions for the stated purpose, AFA said.

The resolution stems from concerns AFA raised after PepsiCo gave a total of $1 million to the Human Rights Campaign and Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays to support the homosexual lifestyle in the workplace. HRC in turn gave $2.3 million to defeat Proposition 8 in California, and AFA launched a boycott of PepsiCo.

“Clearly, PepsiCo has no intentions of being neutral in the culture war,” said Don Wildmon, AFA’s chairman.

According to PepsiCo’s 2007 annual report, company executives gave $74.8 million in charitable contributions, the resolution stated.

In response to the proposed resolution, PepsiCo said it has been supplying shareholders with information on charitable giving since 1999. On the company’s webpage under the “purpose” tab, PepsiCo provides information including amounts donated, policies and procedures, governance, charitable organizations supported, rationale for giving, and the primary platforms to be achieved with such contributions, the company noted. The gifts to homosexual causes, however, are not listed.

PepsiCo said its current platforms are improved health, environment and inclusion. Recent contributions have supported health and wellness, diversity, education, employee initiatives and disaster relief. PepsiCo’s board of directors urged shareholders to vote against the resolution, according to a PDF file provided by AFA.

Last September, PepsiCo received an Out & Equal Workplace Award for advancing “fair, safe and equitable work environments for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.”

“PepsiCo is helping define what’s next for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and ally (LGBTA) groups by leading the way with initiatives that continue to raise the bar through broader involvement and corporate giving,” PepsiCo said in a news release in the Diversity News portion of their website.

Shareholders will vote on the proposed resolution May 6.

WARREN AMONG 100 MOST INFLUENTIAL — Rick Warren is among Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World,” a list that also includes President Obama, Tiger Woods, Brad Pitt, among others.

Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., is listed among the “Heroes and Icons” in the annual issue which hit newsstands May 1. Nancy Gibbs, a writer for Time, noted that Warren is a “best-selling megapastor of one of the country’s biggest megachurches.” She said he has “decried evangelicals’ incursions into the political arena” but found himself quizzing the two presidential candidates last August.

“He has called issues like abortion, stem-cell research and euthanasia ‘nonnegotiable,’ while he has pursued his fight against AIDS and poverty,” Gibbs wrote. “This ideological evanescence ensured that the left would be furious when Barack Obama asked Warren to offer the invocation at his Inauguration — and that the right would be furious when Warren accepted.

“But in the middle are thousands of pastors whom Warren trains and millions of seekers who follow his every word. Which means he is right where he wants to be.”

Warren also wrote the entry about another person on the most influential list, Rwanda’s president Paul Kagame. Warren noted that Kagame was responsible for ending that nation’s genocide and has led the slow process of rebuilding.

“When journalist Stephen Kinzer was writing a biography of Kagame, the President gave him a list of his critics and suggested that Kinzer could discover what he was really like by interviewing them,” Warren wrote. “Only a humble yet confident leader would do that.”

AMERICANS CONFUSED ABOUT CHRISTIANITY — Americans are trying to make sense of biblical teachings in light of their daily experiences, researcher George Barna said in a recent report that found a number of inconsistencies in people’s beliefs.

The Barna Group surveyed nearly 2,000 self-described Christians and found that one-quarter of them identify with descriptions of God that are not consistent with biblical teaching — for instance, everyone is god, god refers to the realization of human potential, etc.

Nearly 40 percent of the Christians surveyed strongly agreed and 20 percent agreed somewhat that the Holy Spirit is “a symbol of God’s power or presence but is not a living entity,” Barna said. Forty percent strongly agreed that Satan “is not a living being but is a symbol of evil.”

More than 20 percent of those surveyed strongly agreed that Jesus Christ sinned when He lived on earth, Barna found, and another 17 percent agreed somewhat.

Even so, a slight majority of Christians, 55 percent, strongly agree that the Bible is accurate in all of the principles it teaches, and 18 percent agree somewhat.

“Most Americans, even those who say they are Christian, have doubts about the intrusion of the supernatural into the natural world,” Barna said in an April news release. “Hollywood has made evil accessible and tame, making Satan and demons less worrisome than the Bible suggests they really are. It’s hard for achievement-driven, self-reliant, independent people to believe that their lives can be impacted by unseen forces.

“At the same time, through sheer force of repetition, many Americans intellectually accept some ideas — such as the fact that you either side with God or Satan, there’s no in-between — that do not get translated into practice,” he said.

Most Christians in America, Barna said, tend to be generally open to maintaining relationships with people of other faiths.

“Most are not predisposed to judging people of different faiths, such as Mormons or Wiccans,” he said, based on the research. “But that open-mindedness is sometimes due to their limited knowledge about the principles of their own faith and ignorance about other faiths as it is to a purposeful acceptance of other faiths.”

For more information on the study, visit www.barna.org.
Erin Roach is a staff writer for Baptist Press.

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