The Religious Consultation on Population, Reproductive Health & Ethics

Religious Consultation Report


May, 1998

Table of Contents

Page One: Project on "Right to Family Planning, Abortion and Contraception in Ten World Religions" Launched
Article 2: Updates on the Religious Consultation's International Projects
Article 3: Consultation Welcomes Paul Knitter and Elmira Nazombe as Board Members
Article 4: Reflections: On Our Two Bodies
Article 5: Editorial: The Superseding of Roe v. Wade
Article 6: Movers and Shakers: Tracking the Activities of Our Participating Scholars

Project on "Right to Family Planning, Abortion and Contraception in Ten World Religions" Launched

The Religious Consultation on Population, Reproductive Health and Ethics is proud to announce the launching of an exciting new international project entitled "The Right to Family Planning, Contraception and Abortion in Ten World Religions." The unique project is being funded through a generous grant from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation of Los Altos, California.

The unhelpful aspects of world religions in matters of fertility and gender roles are well known and are often believed to be the one and only orthodoxy. However, there are neglected resources within the religious traditions themselves which can justify, on religious grounds, the moral right to family planning, including contraception and abortion. It is these resources the Consultation project hopes to uncover and disseminate so that more progressive religious views of family planning, contraception and abortion can assert themselves in the ongoing international debates.

"The Right to Family Planning, Contraception and Abortion in Ten World Religions" project will begin with the convening of two conferences of outstanding scholars of ten of the world's religions. Current plans call for these scholars to represent Judaism, Catholic and Protestant Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Chinese religions, African and North American native religions and Baha'i. Each scholar will re-evaluate his or her respective tradition and present in a scholarly paper the justification for family planning practices.

The resulting scholarly papers will be published first in an academic volume and then in a popular volume, which will be aimed at policymakers, at population workers in the field, and at the general public. Translations of chapters of the popular volume into several non-English languages will follow. The Consultation plans to disseminate the findings as widely as possible through the print and broadcast media and over the Internet. The project's scholars will continue as a permanent task force to present briefings, engage the media, and contribute to policy debates here in the US, at the United Nations, and abroad.

International discussions of family planning and abortion have been restricted by pressure from the Religious Right, which has been increasingly vocal in all the world's religions. At the International Conference on Population and Development at Cairo in 1994, the treatment of contraception and abortion was skittish and defensive. We feel it is time for this defensiveness to end. At Cairo, our Consultation delegation found a hunger for liberal voices speaking from the world religions.

No group other than the Religious Consultation is currently speaking out in a loud and well-researched way on the religiously-grounded right to abortion and contraception. There is a strong need for this and an audience, especially among the policymakers and women's organizations and other non-governmental organizations who mistakenly feel that there is unanimous opposition among the religions of their nations to any progressive policies regarding population and repro- ductive ethics. The Consultation's goal is to do for the ten world religions what Catholics for a Free Choice has been doing for Catholics vis-a-vis family planning and abortion.

This new project on "The Right to Family Planning, Contraception and Abortion" fits in well with the Religious Consultation's overall goal of promoting internationally the voices of progressive, feminist religious scholars on the issues of population, ecology, reproductive health and the empowerment of women. We are proud to initiate this effort.

The following pages include updates on the Consultation's other ongoing projects, among them: "New Theology on Population, Consumption and Ecology," "Women's Religious Wisdom on Sexuality," and "Men's Obligations to Women: Resources in Reproductive Ethics from the World's Religions." Further details on each of these projects can be obtained from the Consultation's web site, which was recently updated. If you have questions or comments on this newsletter or the Consultation's work, please reach us via the numbers and addresses listed below.

Phone: 414/962-3166
Fax: 414/962-9248

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Article 2

Updates on the Religious Consultation's International Projects

"Men's Obligations to Women"

None of the religions of the world is anywhere close to perfect. All of them were and are heavily patriarchal. As Buddhist Rita Gross asks indictingly: "Can a religion founded by a man who abandoned his wife and newborn infant" to go seek enlightenment "possibly serve women's interests and needs?" Similar laments could be registered for all the world's religions.

In the Consultation's project on "Men's Obligations to Women: Resources in Reproductive Ethics from the World's Religions," male scholars of these religions are reaching into their traditions to mine and reappropriate the ingredients for rich and practical theories of justice toward women. The group met in June of 1997 and the final meeting is scheduled for this July in Philadelphia. Project leaders are John C. Raines of Temple University and Daniel Maguire of Marquette University.

At the July meeting, feminist scholars will critique the work done by the male scholars. The resulting papers will be published in scholarly and popular volumes, and several chapters will be translated into non-English languages for distribution outside North America. Ideas generated by the project will be disseminated through feature articles and Op-Ed pieces in the media. Project scholars will also present their findings to many policy- makers and organizations working in the areas of population, reproductive health and women's rights.

Participating scholars include: Rabbi Ze'ev Falk of Hebrew University in Jerusalem; Farid Esack, the Commissioner for Gender Equality in South Africa; Asghar Ali Engineer of the Institute for Islamic Studies in Bombay; Anantanand Rambachan, a Hindu scholar at St. Olaf College in Minnesota; Mutombo Nkulu-N'Sengha, a scholar of African religions at Temple University; Christopher Jocks of the Native American Studies program at Dartmouth; Tavivat Puntarigvivat, a Thai Buddhist scholar at Mahidol University in Bangkok; Marvin Ellison, a Protestant theologian at Bangor Theological Seminary; Gerard Sloyan, Professor Emeritus at Catholic University; and Liu Xiaogan, a Taoist scholar at the National University of Singapore.

The feminist critics include: Riffat Hassan, a leading feminist Muslim scholar based at the University of Louisville; Laurie Zoloth-Dorfman of the Program in Jewish Studies at San Francisco State University; Eva Neumaier-Dargyay, a Buddhist expert in the Department of Comparative Studies in Literature, Film and Religion at the University of Alberta; and Christine Gudorf, noted Christian scholar at Florida International University.

"Women's Religious Wisdom on Sexuality"

An interreligious group of a dozen international women scholars and activists gathered to explore "Women's Religious Wisdom on Sexuality" in Philadelphia last October. Their ultimate goal is to give voice to some of the positive implications of this recovery of the moral significance of women's experience for a variety of issues in sexual ethics and to bring that data into debates about public policy matters.

Project co-directors are: Radhika Balakrishnan of Manhattan Marymount College; Mary E. Hunt of the Women's Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual; and Patricia Beattie Jung of Loyola University.

Prior to the meeting, each participant collected selected bibliography and drafted a brief essay on the issues, problems and perspectives she thought necessary to address. Following introductory activities and a brief overview of the history of the project, participants began to work in small groups and plenary sessions. They identified priorities for the project and developed a process for working together through various (potentially) divisive issues. The aim was not to form a "common mind," but to identify overlapping concerns, both topical and methodological, without reducing each quite distinct perspective to one representative of a least common denominator.

Among the scholars involved in the "Good Sex" project are: Pinar Ilkkaracan of Women for Women's Human Rights, based in Istanbul; Grace M. Jantzen of the Centre for Religion, Culture and Gender at the University of Manchester; Suwanna Satha-Anand of Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok; Judith Plaskow of Manhattan College; Dorothy Ko of the Department of History at Rutgers; Rebecca T. Alpert of Temple University; Wanda Deifelt of Escola Superior de Teologia in Brazil; Madhu Kishwar, General Editor of Manushi in New Delhi; Giti Thadani, also of India; and Ayesha Imam of Lagos, Nigeria, Coordinator of the African and Middle East sections of the International Solidarity Network of Women Living Under Muslim Laws. This same group will gather in July 1998 in Amsterdam to review each others' essays and to strategize about how to promote within religious communities, NGOs and other social service agencies around the globe serious consideration of women's wisdom about sexuality.

"Muslim Women's Empowerment and Self-Actualization"

"Muslim Women's Empowerment and Self-Actualization: From ICPD Into the 21st Century" was a 14-month project funded by the United Nations Population Fund and led by the distinguished Muslim scholar and Religious Consultation Board member, Dr. Riffat Hassan. Objectives included developing a methodology for interpreting Islam from a non-patriarchal and justice-centered Qur'anic perspective and supporting the empowerment of Muslim women in all aspects of their lives.

The research component of the project entailed theoretical and library-related research into Qur'anic teachings on women and the history and culture of women in Muslim societies in Pakistan and India. Dr. Hassan also conducted extensive field research, including surveys of Muslim women in selected areas of Pakistan and India. Women were asked about health, education, employment, marriage, family life, decision-making, family planning, religious practices, etc. The purpose was to determine how Muslim women from a variety of backgrounds understand the religious and cultural attitudes that impact their lives and how they define happiness and self-actualization in the context of these traditions.

The results of this research have been translated into curricular and training materials for educational institutions and community-based organizations. Dr. Hassan designed two interdisciplinary courses, "Muslim Ethics" and "The Muslim Culture of South Asia," which are being introduced at universities in Pakistan and India. Country-specific reports on the current position and aspirations of Muslim women in South Asia are being completed and will be available to government agencies, educational institutions, foundations and other NGO's.

"New Theology on Population, Consumption and Ecology"

The Religious Consultation emphasizes that population, consumption, and ecology are inseparable concerns and that they can be fruitfully addressed by the world's religions working together. The style of our first project, "New Theology on Population, Consumption and Ecology," was to bring together leading scholars of the world's religions for mutual inquiry into the topic.

The diverse group of scholars included: Nawal Ammar (Kent State) - Islam; Rita Gross (University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire) and David Loy (Bunkyo University, Japan) - Buddhism; Catherine Keller (Drew University) and Alberto Munera (Fundacion Social, Colombia and, more recently, Georgetown University) - Christianity; Vasudha Narayanan (University of Florida-Gainesville) - Hinduism; Chun-fang Yu (Rutgers) - Chinese Religions; Laurie Zoloth-Dorfman (San Francisco State University) - Judaism; and Inez Tala-mantez (University of California-Santa Barbara) - North American Aboriginal religions. Project leaders: Harold G. Coward of the University of Victoria in British Columbia and Daniel Maguire of Marquette University.

These scholars gathered at two meetings, the first in Victoria in 1995, the second in Maine in 1996. These gatherings created a common mind, and the yield is a unified volume of distinctive studies rather than a collection of disparate contributions. The results are in press at SUNY Press and will emerge as Vision of a New Earth: Population, Consumption, and Ecology later this year or in early 1999. After the scholarly volume, a single-authored volume tentatively and hugely entitled What Happens When the World's Religions Sit Down to Talk about the Plight of the World will be published by Fortress Press. This popular volume will be targeted to policy-makers, journalists, NGO's and grass roots activists.

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Article 3

Consultation Welcomes Paul Knitter and Elmira Nazombe as Board Members

The Religious Consultation welcomes Paul Knitter and Elmira Nazombe to its Board of Directors.

Mr. Knitter is a Professor of Theology at Xavier University in Cincinnati. Since 1987, he has been General Editor of Orbis Books' series on interreligious dialogue, "Faith Meets Faith." His own books include One Earth, Many Religions: Multifaith Dialogue and Global Responsibility, Orbis (1995), and Pluralism and Oppression: Theology in World Perspective, University Press of America (1990), which he edited.

Consultation President Daniel Maguire lauded Knitter for his "extensive knowledge about world religions, which he doesn't just study from afar. Paul travels all over the world and works with scholars from all the world's religions."

Ms. Nazombe is Program Director for the Lead- ership Development and Global Education division of the Center for Women's Global Leadership at Rutgers. She worked for the Church World Service and Witness Unit of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S. She has been a policy analyst on issues of poverty and international development, and lived in East Africa for ten years, assisting with urban and regional planning.

"I know her very well," Consultation board member Radhika Balakrishnan said of Ms. Nazombe. "She will bring to the board an international vision that is well-grounded in local reality."

Mr. Knitter and Ms. Nazombe replace retiring (and founding) board members Harold G. Coward, Mary E. Hunt and Eva Neumaier-Dargyay.

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Article 4

Reflections: On Our Two Bodies

By John C. Raines
Chair, Department of Religion
Temple University

We all have two bodies. Almost always we think we have only one. But that is not true. What is true is that we all have two bodies.

The first is our inside-the-skin body. It is the only body most of us think we have. It is the body that individualizes and particularizes. Our inside-the-skin body makes me "over here" and you "over there." It makes us female or male, white or black, young or old, poor or rich. It announces and defines our differences. Our inside-the-skin body tells us that we are here and now, and at best only for a little while. It is the body largely determined for us by the arbitrariness of our birth. It is the body we woke up with. It makes us members of this religion and not that, of this nation and not that, of this gender, race and class and not the other. It makes us end-of-the-20th century humans (as Christians count) and not 10th century or 22nd century humans. Our inside-the-skin body specifies, particular- izes, separates and distinguishes us. For most of us, it is the only body we think we have.

But that is not true. Just as intimate to us, just as immediate and indispensable to our personal lives, just as constantly and wholly constituting our material reality and being is our outside-the-skin body. It is the Great Body upon whom we are everywhere and always a dependent part. Think! We are, all of us, right now, breathing. Or we drink liquids or soon we die. Why? Because we are part of the Oxygen system, and part of Nature's watery embrace. By body weight we are 70 percent water, which reflects our own human beginning, and the beginning of all living things here on planet earth -- in the oceans! We cleanse and wash our oxygen and water and so replenish our inside-the-skin bodies with the plentitude of our other, outside-the-skin body.

There is no life alone.

There is only common life, shared life, life of intimate interdependence on the other and greater body, which is not so much ours as the body we belong to.

The Great Body of Livingness here on planet earth connects us each to the other, joins us into a body whose livingness is comprehensive and not exclusive. Our outside-the-skin body displays the larger truth about our lives. We are always and necessarily a part of the community of livingness, here on planet earth. Whatever we do to this our shared and extended body we also do to this our private and individual body -- the only body we mistakenly think we have.

This Great Body, our outside-the-skin body connects us to each other beyond time, beyond gender, race and class, beyond all that specifies and separates our lives as this, and therefore not that. It is our animal body that we share with all other animals (human and otherwise). And it is Spirit and Spirit-filled -- our endowment from the Cosmic Beginning. We are Star Dust -- all trees, all grass, all salamanders and whales and ants -- and yes, we humans too. All of us together inside this Great Cosmic Body -- we belong to each other and to all that is, and to all that was, and all that will be. All Life is Common Life, Shared Live, Life Together in the Great Belonging.

But inside-our-skin body so often we look "from inside here" towards a seeming "out there" and feel so alone, so fragile and unprotected, not embraced and nurtured (as we constantly are), but cast out, abandoned...finally in death. Yet in our dying only one of our two bodies die. Our other body, that Great Body of Nature upon which at every moment we have been so totally and intimately a part, she continues. Only one of our two bodies dies in death. It is not the end of "our story." The Story of Life -- our story -- goes on -- here on planet earth, and there in the stars, of which our star and planet are a part.

This we humans can know and say. Blessed, as we are, to become one of Nature's autobiographers (writing the story from inside, not outside). We are one space (and we believe and hope there are many others) where Cosmic Process births a creature who begins to give voice (here on planet earth how fragile and still so ignorant!) -- a voice that writes the story of this our Larger Story, which is our birth, our death, our common belonging--and our common challenge to honor and to preserve.

For those of us who are Christians, that is what we celebrate and pledge our loyalty to in our every Holy Communion. Other world religions do the same thing, but in different ways. Body distinguishes and separates, but also joins and unites.

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Article 5

The Superseding of Roe v. Wade

By Daniel C. Maguire
President, Religious Consultation

This year's celebration of the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion is a glorious day when you look back, but a sad day when we move to the present tense. Twenty-five years ago a courageous U.S. Supreme Court decided to trust women with their reproductive choices. Their recognition that abortion may be a moral choice coheres with the great religious traditions of the world. Our new project at the Religious Consultation, "The Right to Family Planning, Contraception, and Abortion in Ten World Religions," will show that those rights are found in the world's major religions, though often hidden from public view by chicanery or timidity. A great court sided with these religious traditions and opted to take government off the back of women's reproductive choices. The result was an almost immediate drop of 40% in maternal deaths, as abortions became safe and medically proper.

Today the scene is bleak. Thanks mainly to right wing terrorist tactics, 84% of all U.S. counties now have no abortion provider, and states are imposing major restrictions on women who wish to use their constitutional right to choice. Only 12% of medical schools teach abortion techniques. Even where it is taught, students can opt out on grounds of conscience. If a Jehovah's Witness student of hematology who did not believe in blood transfusions pleaded conscience, s/he would be told to find another profession. OB/GYN residents can opt for ignorance of a basic medical procedure in their specialty of choice. Once again, women's interests are discardable. Catholic hospitals are merging with other hospitals and blocking the abortion option as the price of doing business. This imposes a minority anti-choice Catholic view (most Catholic people and experts are pro-choice) on whole pluralistic communities. Over 60% of the doctors who provide abortions -- people who remember the back-alley days -- are over 65. The shadow of the back alleys is upon us again, and the country is more concerned with the president's sex life than with this denial to women of a constitutional right.

What has fueled the defeat of Roe?

1) Fanatical right wing "pro-life" terrorists who shoot, bomb, and harass to subvert the law. A young doctor learning abortion procedures had to appear on the cover of The New York Times Sunday Magazine wearing a mask out of fear for his life.

2) The lack of candor and courage on the part of religious and other liberals. This malignant timidity promotes the big lie that Christians, Jews, and Muslims, the principal religious groups in the U.S., are opposed to abortion as a possible moral choice. Pro-choice positions have been taken by representative Christian groups, such as the Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Methodists, the United Church of Christ, the Catholic Church, etc. as well as Jewish groups and Muslim theologians. The pro-choice position has solid grounds in all these traditions, but clergy do not teach it, religious presses do not write on it, and so right wing distortions prevail. On Catholic campuses, as Professor Mary Buckley of St. John's University once said, there is "a gentle fascism" on the subject -- though no fascism is gentle. Most faculty members admit the possibility of a moral choice of abortion but they are cowed into silence, knowing that it is not the path to tenure or promotion. Sometimes administrators are blamed for that, but I submit that academic cowardice on the part of faculty is the principal culprit. Marquette University has supported my academic freedom, though most of its administrators are not pro-choice. Suppression imagined is as debilitating as suppression imposed.

3) Hatred and distrust of women. There is no comparable restriction of a medical procedure for men, nor would men tolerate it. This is a gender-based restriction imposed largely by men. The galling fact is that men are the killers of the species. The Amazons are creatures of myth. The choices of women regarding life and its crises are more likely to be sensitive. As male legislators, judges, and religious leaders pour oil on the slippery slope that is pushing the return to back alley abortions, their misogynist colors are showing.

I wrote an Op-Ed for The New York Times some years ago on the history of pro-choice Catholicism. The editors told me that none of them had heard of this before. Briefly, what I wrote of was this: the Bible is silent on abortion, except for Exodus 21-22 where a man who causes an accidental abortion is fined, not punished under their "life for a life" rubric. Scripture scholars note that the fetus was not considered a person. The early Christian Tertullian called a late-term emergency abortion -- what the anti-choicers call a partial birth abortion -- a "necessary cruelty," showing he approved of the procedure.

The first real theology of abortion was done by Saint Antoninus, the revered fifteenth century Dominican bishop of Florence who defended early abortions to save a woman's life, a broad class with many members in the medical context of his day. Today's Catholic hierarchy might well begin their deliberations with a prayer to St. Antoninus, this pro-choice bishop, canonized a saint in 1523. In the sixteenth century, the Catholic teaching was that a woman, vis-a-vis the fetus, has a jus potius, a prior right in health crises indicating abortion. In this very 20th century, Jesuit theologian Augustin Lehmkuhl justified abortion arguing that in certain medical crises the fetus has in effect surrendered its right to life in order to save the woman's life. In 1975, Bishop Josef Stimpfle of Augsburg defended abortion "to save the life of the mother." The Belgian Bishops made a similar statement in 1973. In other words, the Catholic tradition, while concerned about abortion, recognized that there are exceptions to the moral ban on abortion. The tradition was open to the possibility of exceptions. To pretend that this tradition views all abortions as immoral is disingenuous and dishonest.

The most consistent view in all of Catholic and Christian history relating to abortion is called "delayed ensoulment." That means that in this tradition, from the early centuries all the way into the 20th century, the fetus in the first three months -- when 90% of abortions in the U.S. are done -- is not considered a baby. It could not be baptized if aborted or miscarried; it was not a candidate for Christian burial. St. Augustine, believing in the resurrection of all the dead at the end of the world, said that such fetuses would not rise. They were not persons. (He also added that not all the sperm of history would rise in the final resurrection -- for which we can all be grateful.)

The Christian view of abortion is not a simplistic negative floating through twenty centuries. It is a nuanced struggle with a difficult issue.

Perhaps conservatives and liberals could unite on one approach: the best way to prevent abortions is to prevent unwanted pregnancies. The key question is not why there are so many abortions. The key question is why so many women who do not want to be pregnant are pregnant. What are the precipitating causes of unwanted pregnancies? Certainly sexism is one. Sexism is the belief that women are inferior. How do you make love to an inferior? Carelessly. That makes for unwanted pregnancies. Could not conservatives and liberals together address sexism honestly?

Poverty causes unwanted pregnancies. "The poverty of the poor is their ruin," says the Book of Proverbs. Part of that ruin is chaos in personal and social life, not a favorable context for good reproductive choices. Serious concern for the poor is the heart of good citizenship. It is also a strategy to prevent unwanted pregnancies.

In a perfect world, there would be no unwanted pregnancies and almost no abortion. This world is not perfect. While we struggle with its imperfections, let us trust women and their choices. Their track record in preserving our species through generous service to life is outstanding. Men, the warriors of the species, the corporate titans who are wrecking the earth, are in no position to lecture women on respect for life.

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Article 6

Tracking the Activities of Our Participating Scholars

Liu Xiaogan of the Department of Chinese Studies at the National University of Singapore has authored Lao Tzu: A New Investigation of the Date and New Interpretation of the Thought (in Chinese), published by the Great East Book Co. of Taiwan, 1997. He is leading a three-year project, "An Interdisciplinary Approach to Early Confucian and Related Chinese Classics, " which will be completed this year and yield three new volumes. ...

Marvin Ellison of the Bangor Theological Seminary will give the closing plenary address this June at the national conference "After Awareness: Preventing Abuse by Creating Healthy Communities." The conference is sponsored by the Interfaith Sexual Trauma Institute. He recently led a workshop on "Spirituality and the Moral Wisdom of the GLBT Communities" at the 4th Annual Northeast GLBT and Ally Student Conference in Portland, Maine. ...

Mary Evelyn Tucker continues to coordinate a series of conferences on "Religions of the World and Ecology" at Harvard. Two volumes associated with that series have been published: Buddhism and Ecology: The Interconnection of Dharma and Deeds, edited by Tucker and Duncan Williams, 1997; and Confucianism and Ecology: The Interrelation of Heaven, Earth and Humans, edited by Tucker and John Berthrong, 1998. Both are published by the Center for the Study of World Religions and Harvard University Press. ...

Asghar Ali Engineer, Chair of the Centre for the Study of Society and Secularism in Mumbai, has been honored with the first-ever Communal Harmony Award from the government of India for his untiring work in promoting communal harmony in his diverse land. Engineer, a Muslim scholar, oversees the Centre's workshops and publications. Most recently, the Centre has conducted workshops for police forces in an effort to de-communalize them. ...

Dorothy Ko, a Professor of History and Women's Studies at Rutgers University, won the 1997 Berkshire Article Prize awarded by the Berkshire Conference for Women Historians. The article is "The Body as Attire: The Shifting Meanings of Footbinding in 17th Century China," Journal of Women's History, 8:4, 1997, pp. 8-27. She is now co-chairing an international, three-year project about "Women in Modern Chinese History" which is funded by the Chiang-Ch'ing-kuo Foundation and based at the Institute for Modern History of Academia Sinica in Taiwan. The project aims to place research resources on CD-ROMs, create web sites, hold regional workshops with graduate students and conduct individual research on women and gender in Chinese society. ...

Benjamin Hubbard, Chair of the Department of Comparative Religion at California State University-Fullerton, has been writing a monthly column on religion for the Los Angeles Times (Orange County edition). He co-authored America's Religions: An Educator's Guide to Beliefs and Practices, published by Libraries Unlimited/ Teacher Ideas Press, 1997. He has begun work on a new book tentatively entitled: Whose Religion is True? An Introduction to Religious Diversity. ...

In late 1997, Daniel C. Maguire, a Professor of Ethics at Marquette University, received the Distinguished Scholar Faculty Award "for his outstanding contributions to the field of peace studies" from the Wisconsin Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies. He delivered a paper called "Population-Consumption-Ecology: The Triple Problematic" at the Harvard University conference on Christianity and Ecology in April, 1998. ...

A grant from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America with matching assistance from Luther College has enabled James Martin-Schramm of the Department of Religion and Philosophy at Luther College and two colleagues (professors of chemistry and sociology) to initiate a new interdisciplinary course called "Stewardship and Sustainable Development in the United States." The purpose of the course is to critically examine the concept of sustainable development and its relationship to the Judeo-Christian stewardship tradition. Schramm also delivered a paper on Christianity and the ecological crisis at the Christianity and Ecology conference at Harvard. ...

Farid Esack, a Muslim scholar and the Commissioner for Gender Equality in South Africa, will have a book published by Oxford: Oneworld later this year. Its title is On Being a Muslim. The current focus of his work is Islam and gender and the interface between religion, culture and identity. He spoke on "Freedom and Identity: An Islamic Perspective" at the Jewish-Christian-Muslim Consultation in Bendorff, Germany in March. He also spoke at the International Interfaith Council in Oxford that same month. ...

Paul F. Knitter of Xavier University has become a member of the Board of Trustees of the International Interreligious Peace Council. His recent publications include a collection of previously published articles, Horizonte der Befreiung: Auf dem Weg zu einer pluralistischen Theologie der Religionen, Verlag Otto Lembeck, 1997, and The Uniqueness of Jesus: A Dialogue with Paul Knitter, Leonard Swidler and Paul Mojzes, Orbis Books, 1997. ...

Rebecca T. Alpert has been appointed Assistant Professor of Religion and Women's Studies at Temple University. Her book, Like Bread on the Seder Plate: Jewish Lesbians and the Transformation of Tradition, was published by Columbia University Press in 1997 and is nominated for a Lambda Literary Award as Best Book in Religion and Spirituality. She is currently working on two edited volumes: Voices of the Religious Left: A Sourcebook for Temple University Press, and The First Generation of Lesbian Rabbis, co-edited with Shirley Idelson and Sue Levi Elwell for Rutgers University Press.

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