Tom Heneghan, Religion News Service

Tom Heneghan writes for Religion News Service.

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Reformed Churches Endorse Catholic-Lutheran Accord on Key Reformation Dispute

Image via RNS/WCRC/Anna Siggelkow

Amid ceremonies this year marking the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, one of Protestantism’s leading branches has officially said it now agrees with the Vatican on the main issue at the root of its split from the Roman Catholic Church half a millennium ago.

ISIS’ Intriguing Silence About Donald Trump’s Approach to Muslims

Image via RNS/Screenshot from CNN

With his anti-Muslim rhetoric and planned travel bans, you’d think President Trump would be a favorite target for Islamic State’s propaganda. The jihadist caliphate in Syria and Iraq must be pulling out all the stops to slam him as the epitome of Islamophobia.

Well, think again. The extremist group that Trump vows to “totally obliterate” has hardly printed or broadcast a word about him since before the November election. The caliphate’s Ministry of Media acts almost as if he didn’t exist.

Trump’s Wish to Ban Muslim Immigration Is Widely Shared in Europe

Image via RNS/Reuters/Marko Djurica

According to two extensive recent opinion polls, majorities across Europe are deeply concerned about Muslim immigration and support an immediate end to it, even as Europeans vastly overestimate the actual Muslim populations of their countries.

Voters in several countries back a complete immigration ban at levels notably higher than those in the United States. Anti-immigration politicians in Poland, Hungary, and elsewhere are gaining ground in Western Europe.

Toy Figure of Martin Luther Sparks Accusations of Anti-Semitism

Image via RNS/Tom Heneghan

All was apparently going fine until Micha Brumlik, a retired Frankfurt University education professor and respected Jewish commentator, wrote last June that the popular toy was “anti-Jewish, if not even anti-Semitic.”

The problem, he said, was the inscription on the open pages of the Bible that the Playmobil Luther holds. On the left is written in German: “Books of the Old Testament. END,” while the right page says “The New Testament, translated by Doctor Martin Luther.”

France: Anti-Abortion Websites Could Be a Crime

Image via Reuters/Philippe Wojazer

Since coming to power in 2012, the government has made abortion completely free as part of the National Health Service, scrapped a requirement that a woman must be “in distress” to obtain permission to abort, and dropped a weeklong “reflection period” between applying for and carrying out an abortion. It decided to act again in part because several anti-abortion sites were found to be ranked higher on search engines than the government’s own abortion information site. Although their home pages appear to be neutral, the sites and their advice hotlines — run mostly by Catholic anti-abortion activists — are on closer inspection clearly against abortion and stress the physical and psychological damage they say the procedure can cause. 

German Protestants Officially Renounce Converting Jews to Christianity

Image via RNS/Reuters/Fabrizio Bensch

Tackling a delicate issue, as it begins its yearlong celebration of the Reformation’s 500th anniversary, Germany’s main Protestant church has officially renounced its mission to convert Jews to Christianity.

In practice, the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), made up of 20 regional Lutheran, Reformed, and United churches, mostly gave up efforts to convert Jews in the decades after the Holocaust, and closing that chapter should have been a formality.

Germans Consider a Muslim Writer for Their Next President

Image via katatonia82/Shutterstock.com

While Americans watch Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump fighting to the finish, in a noisy and polarized campaign, Germans are quietly debating their own presidential election in far different terms.

Among the names put forward as candidates are two leading Protestant bishops — one of them a woman — and even a respected Muslim writer.

Russian Orthodox Church Calls Boycotted Crete Council 'An Important Event'

Image via Tom Heneghan / RNS

The Russian Orthodox Church, whose boycott of a major summit of Orthodox Christian leaders in Crete last month threatened to slow down efforts to promote greater unity, has declared the meeting “an important event in the history of the conciliar process.”

The church’s synod, in its official reaction to the June 20-26 Holy and Great Council, also said the meeting could not be called “pan-Orthodox” because four of the 14 independent Orthodox member churches did not attend.

Pan-Orthodox Council Turns Into Cliffhanger Over Boycott Threats

St. Basil's Cathedral in Moscow. Image via  / Shutterstock.com

After a gap of over 1,200 years, including 55 years of preparation, the planned Holy and Great Council of the Eastern Orthodox churches has turned into a cliffhanger only days before it is set to open.

The historic summit of the 14 Orthodox member churches was called by their spiritual head, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, to promote unity among the faithful who had grown apart by geography, language, and customs.

Tunisia's Ennahda Movement Renounces Political Islam

Zaituna Mosque, Tunis. Image via Tom Heneghan / RNS

Tunisia’s Ennahda movement, the most successful Islamist party to emerge from the Arab Spring revolts early in this decade, has renounced political Islam and declared it will operate in the country’s politics as “Muslim democrats.”

A party congress over the weekend in the beach resort of Hammamet voted almost unanimously to drop Ennahda’s traditional religious work and participate in Tunisian politics as a regular political party.

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