Violent tensions between Chiapas Catholics and evangelicals is easing, reports New York Times

The Times' Ginger Thompson reports on the building of the first evangelical church in San Juan Chamula, a Mexican town known for its persecution of evangelicals by Catholics. "On Sunday mornings, its bare sanctuary--furnished only with handmade benches and a folding table for an altar--fills with color and life that is at once exotic, yet familiar," Thompson writes. "As the worshipers arrive, they are greeted by music from an electric keyboard that sounds like it might introduce an American hymn, until the soloist begins singing in Tzozil, the language of the Chamulans." But if the evangelical service is familiar, "Little is recognizable about the Catholicism practiced there. There are no pews, and the air is hazy and pungent with incense. Worshipers kneel on a carpet of pine needles. They stand candles on the floor in front of them, as if it were one big birthday cake, and light them as they pray. And they drink a clear homemade corn liquor called posh from used Coca-Cola and Pepsi bottles." Tensions seem to be easing—at least they're less violent—but there's apparently a long way to go in this Chiapas town.

Russian Orthodox Church opens important synod

The Russian Orthodox Church's Council of Bishops is meeting in Moscow this week. Though the possible canonization of Russia's last czar and his family has received the most press, more important decisions will be made over relationships with non-Orthodox Christian churches, and the church's first "social doctrine," which will reportedly cover everything from "genetic engineering, contraception, organ transplantation, transsexualism, homosexuality, reproductive technologies and attitudes toward public education, mass media and sports." Don't expect the decision on ecumenism to welcome other Christian bodies with open arms: at the opening session, Patriarch Alexy II criticized "inadmissible Catholic expansionism."

MTV's Real World continues to stir up religious dissent

First, MTV's reality-based show, grandfather of CBS's Survivor and Big Brother, got Julie Stoffer kicked out of Brigham Young University (school rules prohibit unmarried men and women from living together). Now a Chicago-area Pentecostal preacher is upset about the way his son discussed their relationship on the show. "My congregation is sick, my family is hurt," says Dennis Broom of North Chicago's Living Waters Apostolic Pentecostal Church. "I just feel I'm being shown as a dark shadow. That's the image everyone perceives from this telecast."

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Progressive National Baptist Convention declares "national state of emergency"

There is a racial genocide happening to African Americans, says the Progressive National Baptist Convention. Citing AIDS, drug abuse, the penal system, and other injustices, denomination president C. Mackey Daniels says, "If such casualties were being inflicted upon the majority race, or any race that commands respect and exercises extraordinary economic and political power, a national state of emergency would have been declared long ago." Ten thousand of the denomination's 2.5 million members met in Louisville, Kentucky, last week.

Democrats and Republicans "under the judgment of God" for neglecting poor, says Tony Campolo

The Philadelphia-based preacher, author, and sociologist is attending Shadow Conventions, particularly to rally support for Jubilee 2000 (a plan to forgive debts owed by more than 40 of the world's poorest countries). "In this convention in Philadelphia--as they will in LA--they're talking about a $60 billion Star Wars system … that doesn't even work," Campolo said. "But they won't put up $600 million to cancel third-world debt, which I think is the best insurance for peace in our lifetime." Campolo also criticized the death penalty and a lack of American support for Palestinians.

"Kum Ba Yah" banned at camp

"We don't want to take the chance of a child offending another child's religion," says Bill Sadlo, director of operations for the North Port, Florida, Boys & Girls Club. So Sadlo barred 8-year-old Samantha Schultz from singing "Kum Ba Yah" at the club's day camp. Poor Samantha had practiced for a week, too. Randy Bouck, director of the Boys & Girls Club, actually said, "We just can't allow any religious songs. You have to check your religion at the door."

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