- The Washington Times - Friday, February 23, 2007

Baptist leader urges spiritual health exam

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A top Southern Baptist executive says leaders in the convention should examine the spiritual health of the denomination now that theological conservatives have been in control for several years.

Morris Chapman, president of the Southern Baptist executive committee, said his fellow leaders must look at whether the 16.3 million-member church is now better off.

“Is our convention any better spiritually because biblical conservatives are leading?” Mr. Chapman asked Monday during the committee’s winter meeting. “I leave that question for you to answer in the depths of your own heart.”

The conservative resurgence started in 1979, when Southern Baptists angry about what they saw as the liberal direction of their seminaries elected a fellow conservative as the convention president. It was a watershed that began a dramatic shift to the right in the years that followed.

Vatican: Grand sheik to meet pope

VATICAN CITY — The grand sheik at the highest theological college in the Sunni Muslim world has agreed to meet with Pope Benedict XVI in Rome, the Vatican said.

Cardinal Paul Poupard, who leads the Vatican commission on relations with Muslims, went to Al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo to meet with Mohamed Sayed Tantawi, grand sheik at the Al-Azhar Mosque, and extended the invitation. It “was accepted with satisfaction,” the Vatican said.

No date was announced for the visit.

Benedict has been trying to improve Christian relations with the Muslim world, particularly since the speech he gave Sept. 12 at Regensburg University in Germany that provoked violent Muslim protests.

Presbyterian leaders plea to keep unity

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The threat of churches departing from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has become so serious that leaders have issued a letter asking them to stay.

The Presbyterian Church, like other mainline Protestant groups, has been struggling for years to reconcile members who disagree over how to interpret Scripture.

At least eight churches have left since a Presbyterian General Assembly last summer, which voted to give leeway to install partnered homosexual clergy and allowed church officials to propose experimental phrasings for the divine Trinity in place of “Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”

The Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick, a denominational leader, wrote in the Jan. 29 letter that “there’s no question that the vast majority of Presbyterian churches are going to stay,” but “I think any exodus is too many.”

Exiled Buddhist monk makes Vietnam visit

HANOI — A prominent exiled Vietnamese monk returned to his homeland to lead mass prayers promoting reconciliation in a nation still nursing memories of war.

Thich Nhat Hanh, who has lived outside Vietnam for four decades, made his first homecoming in 2005 after being forced to live outside the nation during the Vietnam War.

He is now back for a second visit, planning three “Grand Requiem Masses” intended to unite people across regional, religious and political lines.

The Zen master arrived Tuesday in Ho Chi Minh City and plans to travel in Vietnam visiting temples until May 9.

A proponent of peace, Mr. Hanh was shunned by the leaders of both the former South Vietnam and the government of eventually victorious North Vietnam.

From combined wire and staff reports

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