No Wombs For Rent?

Congress is considering legislation that would ban contractual agreements that involve payments to a surrogate mother. The bill, sponsored by U.S. Rep. Thomas Luken (D-Ohio), would also impose criminal penalties on people who arrange such contracts or advertise for prospective surrogate mothers.

“Surrogacy is a nice word,” Luken said, “a fancy word that is used for sugar-coating a practice in which the baby peddlers are involved in the business of selling babies.” A House Commerce subcommittee held hearings on Luken’s bill last month.

Harriet Blankfeld, operator of a suburban Washington firm that oversees surrogate arrangements, told members of Congress that the payment received by surrogate mothers is for their childbearing service, not for the baby itself. “We’ve had 49 births and no surrogate mothers who challenged the contract,” she said.

However, four surrogate mothers testified in favor of the ban on surrogacy contracts. “The economics of surrogacy in this country are simple,” said Mary Beth Whitehead, the surrogate mother who lost custody of her daughter in the highly publicized Baby M case. “The sperm donors are well-off, and the women they hire to bear their children generally are not.”


Proposed Methodist Hymnal

The United Methodist Hymnal Revision Committee has ended its controversial three-year task, producing what it calls a “populist” hymnal. The new hymnbook will be submitted for approval to the denomination’s general conference next April.

The United Methodist Hymnal is designed to replace the church’s Book of Hymns, produced 21 years ago. Many of the new book’s hymns contain changes to rid them of perceived sexism or racism. “Any time a new translation comes out that is this far-reaching in its potential, there’s going to be close scrutiny,” said hymnal editor Carlton Young. “… This hymnal is for more people than the other [hymn] book is.”

Whenever possible, the committee replaced the words “man” and “mankind” with terms such as “us” or “friends.” The committee also reduced the use of “his” or “him” when referring to God. And it injected alternative images for the deity—such as “Creator” and “Comforter”—to limit the number of masculine images such as “King” and “Father.”

None of the hymns in the new book refer to God as “she,” although a few refer to God’s motherlike qualities. But the committee left unchanged such favorites as “Rise Up, O Men of God” and “Dear Lord and Father of Mankind.”


Locating Noah’s Ark?

After analyzing a satellite photo of Mount Ararat, a Canadian clergyman says he has located the remains of Noah’s ark.

Edward Crawford, an archaeological illustrator and Presbyterian pastor in Edmonton, Alberta, said he discovered an unusual rectangular object that fits the biblical description of Noah’s ark. The object, which shows up on infrared film, sits about 2,000 feet below the peak of Mount Ararat.

During a visit to the Ahora Gorge region of Mount Ararat, Crawford said he examined cave drawings dating to about 4,000 B.C. He says he found a symbol for “star” or “God,” another indicating an event, and a third that could indicate a rainbow. The object Crawford believes to be the ark rests at the top of the gorge. He is planning a trip next summer to make an on-site excavation.


Successful Youth Crusade

Sponsors of a recent four-night evangelistic crusade for youth in Houston say they were surprised at the results. More than 24,000 teenagers showed up for the meetings, with more than 1,600 responding to the invitations to get right with God.

Popular youth speaker and author Dawson McAllister preached at the meetings. “… I’ve never seen something quite like this before,” said McAllister, who has worked with youth for 16 years. “I saw rich kids and poor kids, rough kids, punk kids—all kinds of kids—coming down the aisle with the same determination to find God.”

More than 200 churches and Christian organizations from a variety of denominations sponsored the event. On the first night, about 500 teenagers responded to McAllister’s altar call. “We had about five students for every counselor,” said Mark Wright, crusade coordinator of counseling and assistant rector at Ascension Episcopal Church. “… We made a call from the stage for anyone who had been trained to lead people to Christ to come down and help out.”

To assure ongoing spiritual guidance, the names and addresses of teenagers who filled out cards at the crusade were sent to more than 200 churches throughout the Houston area.

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Briefly Noted

Appointed: Country singer Willie Nelson, to the board of United Theological Seminary, a United Methodist institution in Dayton, Ohio. Seminary president Leonard Sweet, defending his choice of Nelson, said, “He may not have conventional piety, but I don’t know anyone who does have a conventional piety.” Nelson’s background includes a stint as a Sunday school teacher at a Methodist church in Texas.

Ended: A boycott of Mazda Motors of America, called by a coalition known as Christian Leaders for Responsible TV (CLEAR-TV). The coalition ended the boycott after Mazda agreed to reduce the amount of programming containing sex, violence, and profanity it helps sponsor on television. In July, CLEAR-TV ended a boycott of the Noxell Corporation after reaching a similar agreement.

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