CBN Loses Popular Host

In a surprise announcement on the Christian Broadcasting Network’s (CBN) “700 Club” television program, cohost Ben Kinchlow told viewers he would be leaving CBN to pursue other career options. Kinchlow, who serves as vice-president for ministries for the network, joined CBN founder and former host, Pat Robertson, in 1975.

According to CBN spokesman Benton Miller, Kinchlow has not informed CBN of any specific future plans. Miller also mentioned that while CBN regretted losing Kinchlow, they have no immediate plans to replace him. “We have deliberately shifted our focus from individuals to issues, so in the long run I believe things will work out for the best.”

CBN board chairman Robert Slosser also expressed regret at Kinchlow’s departure. “This is Ben’s decision to go at this time and we respect and support him in what he believes is God’s call on his life,” said Slosser.


Porn Fight To Heat Up

When a 1986 Justice Department commission reported a link between some sexually explicit material and violence, Attorney General Edwin Meese III vowed an “all-out campaign against the distribution of obscene material.” That same department has announced plans to make 1988 “a big year for obscenity prosecutions,” according to William F. Weld, head of the Justice Department’s criminal division.

Although civil liberties groups fear such a crackdown threatens First Amendment freedoms, department officials say they intend to move against major distributors of pornography, not individual bookstores and outlets.

Indictments against adults on obscenity charges jumped from 10 in 1986 to 71 in 1987, and observers expect a larger increase in 1988.


Bishop Backs Euthanasia

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence, Rhode Island, in an apparent first, has issued a formal statement saying it is morally permissible to allow a comatose person to die.

In a statement endorsed by Bishop Louis Gelineau, diocesan theologian Robert J. McManus said that H. Glenn Gray may morally decide to withhold nourishment from his wife, who has been in a coma for eight years. Gray’s lawyer had sought the opinion from the diocese and will use it as part of her case seeking to force the Department of Mental Health, Retardation, and Hospitals to stop feeding Gray’s wife.

Robert Barry, an assistant professor of religious studies at the University of Illinois, said Gelineau and Auxiliary Bishop Kenneth Angell would be the first bishops to approve withholding of food and water. “As far as I know, they are breaking ranks with their fellow bishops,” said Barry.


Methodist Losses Continue

Recently released membership and attendance figures for the United Methodist Church (UMC) chart a continued decline for the 9.1 million-member denomination. Reporting on 1986, the denomination’s statistical office reported 67,400 fewer members, a figure consistent with the relatively steady. 8 percent loss rate of recent years, UMC membership has steadily declined for more than two decades.

Losses were also reported in Sunday school enrollment, worship attendance, and the number of organized churches. A slight increase (12,000) was reported in the number of preparatory members (usually children), bringing that total to 1.4 million.

The declines were announced during the week of the denomination’s semiannual Congress on Evangelism where 750 people discussed ways to breathe new life into their church. Joseph R. Hale, general secretary of the World Methodist Council, challenged fellow Methodists to be willing to look “unsophisticated or even worse” in their efforts to witness to unbelievers. “The future of the United Methodist Church hangs on … our willingness to teach and preach without apology,” he said.


City Sells Land For Crèche

Of the dozens of crèche battles waged during 1987’s Christmas season, one in Dearborn, Michigan, has attracted attention for its attempt to skirt a court order to remove a nativity scene from city property.

The battle began two years ago when the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sued the city for allowing a crèche on its property. Instead of tearing down the display, the city sold a small plot of city land to a nonprofit foundation that, in turn, donated the land to the Dearborn Chamber of Commerce for “patriotic observances and nationally recognized holidays.” Judge Anna Diggs Taylor ruled that the city had complied with her previous order that “… neither the land, nor the scene itself, is public property.”

However, the ACLU once again brought suit against the city in 1987, alleging that the proximity of the display to city hall violates the church establishment clause of the U.S. Constitution. And in a surprising reversal of her previous opinion, Judge Taylor ruled in favor of the ACLU. The city requested a stay of injunction from an appellate court, and was granted the stay until a trial is held. The crèche remained on city property through the Christmas season.

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Briefly Noted

Elected: As bishop of the Metro Chicago Synod of the newly formed Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), Sherman Hicks, 41. He is the ELCA’S first black bishop.

Announced: By the Christian and Missionary Alliance (C&MA), plans to move its international headquarters from New York to Colorado. Denominational officials said the Denver area has been targeted because of a “western movement” in the C&MA

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