- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 9, 2006

Presbyterian ties better with Jews

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — American Jewish leaders and a top executive of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) say their relations have taken a “significant turn” for the better after a crisis over the Protestant group’s policy toward Israel.

In a joint statement Monday, leaders of the Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist branches of Judaism, along with the Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick, the Presbyterian stated clerk, pledged to work jointly toward Mideast peace despite any differences.

“Together, we affirm that peace for Israel and the Palestinians should be built on the foundations of security, justice and the establishment of two viable states,” the leaders said, following a Nov. 29 meeting in Louisville.

“Our specific approaches to peace differ, but we believe that we can, and must, be strong advocates together — and together with other Christian and Muslim colleagues — for a renewed peace process,” they said.

The 2004 Presbyterian national assembly had vexed some grass-roots Presbyterians and Jewish groups by authorizing “phased selective divestment in multinational corporations operating in Israel” because of its policies toward Palestinians.

This past summer, the assembly changed course, voting to soften its policy. The new policy says that church assets should “be invested in only peaceful pursuits” in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

Norway’s church eyes cutting state ties

OSLO — The governing body of the state Church of Norway has voted for the separation of church and state as a step toward ending 469 years of Lutheranism as the Nordic nation’s official religion, the church said Wednesday.

In April, the Norwegian government opened a series of hearings on the state church system, seeking input from more than 2,500 congregations, cities and groups on the proposal by Dec. 1.

The general synod, comprised of 11 bishops and 11 diocese councils, voted 63-19 at an annual meeting during the weekend to amend the constitution to drop Lutheranism as the state religion.

The church said new legislation would be needed to transfer powers, including the authority to appoint clergy, from the government to the synod.

Duke professor wins Grawemeyer award

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A North Carolina scholar has won the 2007 Louisville Grawemeyer Award in Religion for his memoir examining the social and spiritual effect of a killing in his hometown.

In his 2004 book, “Blood Done Sign My Name,” Timothy Tyson tells of the 1970 slaying of a black man in Oxford, N.C. The two white men charged in the case were acquitted, provoking riots and social upheaval.

Mr. Tyson, who was 10 years old at the time, also recounted how the events affected him personally, including the forced resignation of his father, a progressive white Methodist minister, from his pastorate.

“This book explores issues of sin, redemption, conscience and human decency,” said Susan Garrett, a Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary professor who directs the religion award. “Tyson reminds us that changes in race relations have not come about peacefully or quickly, and he challenges us to see how much remains to be done.”

Mr. Tyson, a senior scholar of documentary studies at Duke University, also has taught at Duke’s Divinity School and history department and is an adjunct professor of American studies at the University of North Carolina.

His work was selected from among 57 nominations from six countries.

The Grawemeyer Foundation at the University of Louisville awards $1 million each year — $200,000 each for works in music composition, education, ideas improving world order, religion and psychology. The religion award is given by the university and the Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary.

Awards founder Charles Grawemeyer, an industrialist, entrepreneur and University of Louisville graduate, wanted to reward powerful ideas or creative works in the sciences, arts and humanities.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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