William F. Vendley concluded 25 years as Secretary-General of the World Conference of Religions for Peace. A native of Indiana with degrees from Perdue University, Maryknoll School of Theology and Fordham University (PhD), Vendely is a Roman Catholic scholar who has been active in inter-religious affairs for many years. During his tenure, he worked in Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Iraq, and other countries to equip and mobilize religious communities to be agents of peace. At the 10th Religion for Peace world Assembly in Lindau, Germany, this past week, Vendley was succeeded by Dr. Azza Karam, a Muslim who teaches at Vrige University in Amsterdam.
The Islamic Seminary of America began classes this week, on their campus in Richardson, Texas. The school, the first of its kind in the United States, is offering three classes this fall on the traditional 13-week schedule and 12 courses in its week-end module schedule. The mission of the school is “to be the world’s preeminent community of scholars where generations of religious scholars and ethical leaders pursue the highest levels of knowledge, research, and training, rooted in the Quran and Sunnah and integrating the rich traditions of classical Islamic knowledge with Western academic scholarship.”
A federal judge block temporarily Missouri’s ban on abortion after the eighth week of pregnancy that was scheduled to take effect this week. It was one of several developments in the on-going dispute between religious and political leaders about abortion. In South Bend, Indiana, a federal court of appeals issued a ruling to allow an abortion clinic to remain open. And in Vermont, the Health and Human Services Department of the federal government has announced a notice of violation, alleging that a university medial enter forced a nurse to violate her conscience by assisting with an abortion. The Trump administration has made what they called “religious freedom” a clear priority in their administration of the law.
The Evangelical Free Church of America has officially changed its position on eschatology. It dropped from its statement of faith the word “premillennial” thus allowing for a broader spectrum of ideas related to the end of the world. Like many Evangelical Protestant groups in America, the EFCA formerly embraced the ideas of the soon return of Jesus, together with the event called the Rapture, known broadly as Dispensationalism. This set of doctrines, dated to the early 19th century and associated with the Scofield Reference Bible, Lewis Perry Chafer, Dallas Theological Seminary, and the Left Behind book and movie series, has come under increased scrutiny by Evangelical scholars across the board.
The religious and legal actions set in motion by the investigative reporting of the Houston Chronicle keep popping up around the country. This week, the dismissed seminary president Paige Patterson argued in court documents that he is protected by the first amendment of the constitution from charges leveled against him in a case filed by a woman who was raped on campus while he was president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. In the same megapolis, pastor Matt Chandler and his Village Church defended themselves in court against a $1 million lawsuit claiming sexual exploitation by a camp staffer of a minor at a summer camp in 2012. Making the case more interesting are these facts: the lawyer for the church is Dustin Gaines who finished law school at Liberty University School of Law and the lawyer for the young girl is Basyle Tchividjian, a professor at Liberty University School of Law (and a grandson of famed evangelist Billy Graham).