In solid opposition to genetic engineering, some of the country’s most influential Christian leaders have laid theological, doctrinal, and political differences aside. Some 60 such prominent leaders, representing virtually all facets of Christianity, have signed a resolution that calls upon Congress to prohibit genetic engineering of the human germline cells.

The signers include Moral Majority’s Jerry Falwell, Sojourners’ Jim Wallis, Southern Baptist Convention president James Draper, and noted evangelical theologians Carl Henry and J. I. Packer. The resolution has been endorsed by almost all leaders of Protestant denominations and by Roman Catholic bishops from every region in the country. This is the first time in this century that such a diverse group of leaders has united in support of a specific piece of social legislation.

The resolution was written by Jeremy Rifkin, director of the Foundation on Economic Trends. In a paper outlining the key arguments behind the resolution, Rifkin suggests that genetic engineering could pose as serious a threat to humanity as nuclear warfare. Rifkin writes that with the arrival of genetic engineering, “humanity approaches a crossroads in its own technological history.”

Rifkin is skeptical of the argument that the potential benefits of genetic engineering outweigh the potential harm. Arguing that part of the strength of the human gene pool is its diversity, Rifkin reasons that tampering with the pool “might ultimately lead to extinction of the human race.”

Rifkin likens contemporary talk of superior genes to Hitler’s dream of an Aryan race. “Today the ultimate exercise of political power is within our grasp … Never before has such complete power over life been a possibility.”

Rifkin continues, “In deciding whether to go ahead or not with human genetic engineering, we must ask ourselves: ‘Who should we entrust with the authority to design the blueprints for the future of the human species? Who do we designate to play God?’ ” Rifkin and the other signers of the resolution hope it will represent a watershed in Christian thinking on science and technology

Construction has begun on the Pentecostal Resource Center, a proposed $2.4 million complex that someday will house a complete array of data on the Pentecostal movement. Set for completion next summer, the center is expected by Church of God officials to be a valuable resource to scholars, researchers, and writers. The building will be located near Church of God headquarters in Cleveland. Tennessee.

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A member of the Williamsport, Pennsylvania, school board plans to appeal a recent federal district court ruling in favor of students who want to hold religious meetings on the same basis as other student-initiated clubs (CT, June 17, p. 30). Samuel E. Ericsson of Christian Legal Society, who represents the students, called the appeal decision an answer to prayer. “We believe this is the fact situation that will give higher federal courts the opportunity to address the issue,” he said. The Pennsylvania decision contradicts another federal district court finding, in Lubbock, Texas, which prohibits religious meetings on school grounds.

CBS has refused a challenge to have a January 23 segment of “60 Minutes” examined by an independent panel. The challenge was issued by the National Council of Churches, one of the organizations attacked by “60 Minutes” for alleged support of leftist political organizations. The NCC suggested public arbitration by an impartial panel as a substitute for a court trial. An NCC attorney said arbitration would be the functional equivalent of a trial, but that it would be far less expensive. The NCC is interpreting the CBS decision not to have its practices examined as an admission of guilt.

L. Ron Hubbard lives, says a Riverside California, judge. The ruling was based on a seven-page declaration purportedly written by Hubbard, the reclusive founder of the Church of Scientology. Hubbard’s son, Ronald DeWolf, brought the case to court in an effort to be made trustee of his father’s estate (CT, Feb. 18, 1983). The judge told DeWolf’s lawyer that the declaration made the difference, and he gave him three weeks to disprove its authenticity.

The National Federation for Decency has named the Southland Corporation as June’s “Pornographer of the Month.” According to the NFD’S executive director, Donald Wildmon, 7–11 convenience stores, which are owned by Southland, sell more pornographic magazines than any other retailer in the United States. Wildmon says he met with 7–11 officials and requested that the pornographic magazines be removed. But they told him that the magazines bring in too much money for them to be discontinued. The Pornographer of the Month award is given to companies that advertise in, or distribute, pornographic publications.

Five acres of archeological excavations on the southern flank of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount have been opened to the public. Plans call for the area to be enlarged and incorporated into a national park along the Jerusalem walls.

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A recent appeal by President Reagan to Iran’s Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to halt the planned executions of 22 prominent Bahais, drew a feisty response. “How come you support a bunch of people,” asked the Ayatollah, “whose activities are dictated by their Zionist masters?” The idea behind Bahaism, according to the Iranian press agency, is “to undermine Islam.” At least 150 Bahai men and women have been hanged or shot by the Iranian government since the Ayatollah came to power in 1979.

Evangelist Luis Palau’s campaign in northwestern Mexico at the end of April got a boost from an unlikely source: Marxist politicians. Attacks by two socialist members of the Hermosillo city council on Palau as an agent of American imperialism, and on city mayor Casimiero Navarro for inviting him, backfired. Newspaper, radio, and TV commentators rushed to Palau’s defense, intensifying interest in the “Festival of the Family” sessions in the state gymnasium. More than 3,400 recorded Christian commitments. That, as local coordinator Roberto Mendoza pointed out, is a breathtaking response for a city of 400,000 that before the campaign could muster only 2,500 evangelicals.

Drastic losses in Church of Scotland membership appear to have jolted the Presbyterian body’s annual assembly into considering evangelism. It has lost nearly a quarter of its membership over the last 16 years. Now less than one-fifth of Scots even nominally belong to the Kirk, as it is known. An unofficial “Urgent Call to the Kirk” was circulated, calling for Jesus Christ and his gospel to be restored to the center of the church’s life, and for the reevangelization of Scotland. The document’s signatories formed a remarkable cross section of the denomination, and included three former moderators and the assembly’s principal clerk. Taken by surprise, the assembly responded by instructing presbyteries to plan a strategy for mission within their areas and to prepare proposals for evangelization in Scotland.

Speakers of Hanga, who number 3,000 or more and live in a dozen villages in northern Ghana, in May received the two-hundredth complete indigenous language New Testament from the efforts of the Wycliffe Bible Translators. A couple began living and working among the Hangas in 1971. Production of the New Testament was financed by the World Home Bible League and the International Bible Society.

Since President Robert Mugabe came to power in Zimbabwe with Marxist leanings, he has put a stop to religious education in the public schools. Right? Wrong. It was changed from an elective to a required course, complete with examinations. Ever since then, the Bible Society has been scrambling to supply Bibles to the nation’s primary and secondary schools at a greatly reduced price. So far it has provided 60,000 copies and is attempting to furnish immediately another 20,000 copies. Even so, at least two students will have to share each Bible.

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An Orthodox Jewish sect was permitted to worship briefly in a corner of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount in May. The temple precincts house the Muslim Dome of the Rock and other shrines and have remained off limits to non-Muslims since the Israeli occupation of the Old City in 1967. But Israel’s high court ruled that the Faithful of Temple Mount should enter a small corner of the courtyard near the Moghrabi Gate for an hour and a half. Ringed by police, hundreds crowded into the space to commemorate Jerusalem Day, the anniversary of the city’s reunification 16 years earlier. The traditional Jewish worship area at the Western (or Wailing) Wall, whose stones are believed to include the last remains of Herod’s temple, is just outside the temple precincts.

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