- Created on 22 February 2013
In 2007, the world wept along when they learned of Robin Roberts' cancer battle. They were devastated when the co-anchor of Good Morning America announced she had been diagnosed with a rare form of breast cancer, when she subsequently was diagnosed with MDS, and when she underwent a live-saving bone marrow transplant.
Years later, Robin has made a victorious return to Good Morning America. While the world marvels at her grace and indomitable spirit of optimism, African-American women proudly celebrate her sisterhood.
For many African-American women, when Roberts was diagnosed, breast cancer finally had a face....and it was as devastating as if a friend or family member had been diagnosed.
Two years earlier, in June 2005, after a 5-year stint as an ESPN sportscaster, Robin was promoted to co-anchor of GMA. Like a bright smile rapidly spreading across the face of the nation, Robin, along with co-host George Stephanopoulos, became a friendly, familiar, trusted face on the popular morning show.
Never was Robin's strength more apparent than when she vowed to beat it and return to her GMA chair. Quietly turning tragedy into inspiration, Robin allowed the world to watch as she bravely underwent surgery, before going on to complete chemotherapy, followed by radiation treatments.
Robin's gift to women all over the world was her teaching – by example – the importance of early diagnosis in improving your chances of surviving breast cancer.
- Created on 11 February 2013
VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI announced Monday he would resign Feb. 28, the first pontiff to do so in nearly 600 years. The decision sets the stage for a conclave to elect a new pope before the end of March.
The 85-year-old pope announced his decision in Latin during a meeting of Vatican cardinals Monday morning.
"After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths due to an advanced age are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry," he told the cardinals. "I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiriual nature, must be carried out not only by words and deeds but no less with prayer and suffering.
However, in today's world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of St. Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary — strengths which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately the ministry entrusted to me."
The last pope to resign was Pope Gregory XII, who stepped down in 1415 in a deal to end the Great Western Schism among competing papal claimants.
Benedict called his choice "a decision of great importance for the life of the church."
The move sets the stage for the Vatican to hold a conclave to elect a new pope by mid-March, since the traditional mourning time that would follow the death of a pope doesn't have to be observed.
There are several papal contenders in the wings, but no obvious front-runner as was the case when Benedict was elected pontiff in 2005 after the death of Pope John Paul II.
- Created on 14 January 2013
(CNN) -- Vice President Joe Biden and officials on his gun violence committee held an unannounced meeting Wednesday evening with a group of 12 national faith leaders.
One theme brought up by several participants was the "moral tragedy" reflected in the gun violence the nation has seen over the past several months.
According to Rev. Michael McBride, one of the attendees, the vice president talked about the moral imperative to take action.
"He was asking the faith community to use the power of our moral voices and persuasion" to help find common sense solutions, McBride said.
McBride heads PICO National Network's Lifelines to Healing Campaign, a faith-based effort to reduce gun violence focused on inner cities. The acronym stands for People Improving Communities through Organizing.
He spoke at the session about the tragedy of urban violence and ways to prevent it.
Biden reiterated to the group what he mentioned publicly Wednesday: the administration will be pursuing initiatives on two tracks, legislative and executive. The latter would see faster action because it is within the president's unilateral control.
In the meeting, he did not offer specifics on what type of measures the committee was contemplating. The topics of background checks, assault weapon bans and mental health were discussed, and the vice president mentioned those three as some of the most talked about subjects so far in his various committee sessions.
Leaders of the Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh and Hindu religions, as well as Evangelical and Pentecostal Christian communities, were represented. Among other topics they raised: protection of religious buildings and religious intolerance.
- Created on 16 January 2013
(AP) — While the nation struggles to agree on how to curb gun violence, followers of a man gunned down nearly 45 years ago think his wisdom offers an answer.
The words of Martin Luther King Jr. and the role he set for churches in leading a nonviolent response to civil injustice are as applicable today as they were in the 1960s, say his younger daughter and other followers.
Bernice King, chief executive of the King Center in Atlanta, recalls a sobering statement from her father: "The choice is no longer between violence and nonviolence, but nonviolence and nonexistence."
King's lessons take on new urgency after one of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history, when a gunman opened fire at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., last month, killing 20 children and 6 adults.
Some faith leaders and others say the Newtown shooting and others justify re-examining the principles King used decades ago to bring about social justice and seeing how they could curtail pervasive violence today.
As a Baptist minister, King derived many of his principles from Jesus Christ, particularly from his Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus discussed embodying peace.
Bernice King, who is also a minister, said clergy and faith leaders may not realize it, but they have a role in curbing violence from the pulpit.
"I think churches are very critical to this," King said. "I think we need to do a better job of developing people in the body of Christ to become instruments of peace."
She said the King Center is developing a curriculum that incorporates the principles of King for teaching to students from kindergarten through 12th grade. It also plans to make a curriculum for college students.
One principle taught by King is that to attack someone, or injure someone, amounts to self-injury.
"We have to change people's mindset ... their way of knowing how to address conflict and anger and things of that nature," Bernice King said. "We can't just confine it to gun control."
Pastor Richard W. Sibert believes teaching nonviolence at an early age affects future behavior. After the shootings in Connecticut, the community activist had a program at his Walnut Grove Missionary Baptist Church in Murfreesboro, where young members tolled a bell and read the name of each child killed. He said he wanted the youth to understand the pain violence can cause.
"They have to realize they just can't strike out at people," said Sibert, adding that parents, or guardians, need to instill the same doctrine at home. "Violence is not the way."
Lewis Baldwin, a professor of religious studies at Vanderbilt University, said ministers also have a voice outside of the church that they don't fully use. For example, he said religious leaders haven't been vocal enough on the issue of gun control.
"We need to use our influence ... to influence Congress," he said. "Churches have been pretty much silent when it comes to challenging the NRA and challenging people in the halls of government to take serious stands against the easy accessibility of guns."
Tennessee Sen. Stacey Campfield is among a number of lawmakers across the country sponsoring legislation that would allow trained teachers with handgun permits to carry weapons in school.
The Knoxville Republican said he supports the idea of nonviolence, but believes people should be able to prevent themselves from becoming victims of violence.
"If someone is trying to defend their lives or the lives of innocent people, they should have the ability to defend those lives," Campfield said.
Robbie Morganfield, pastor of St. Mark's United Methodist Church in Laurel, Md., said faith leaders should broaden their focus beyond guns and create what he calls a "partnership initiative" with other entities to improve mental health care, as well as address violence in entertainment and video games. Such issues are currently being targeted in proposals by President Barack Obama.
"There's definitely a need for a renewed discussion about violence in our society," said Morganfield, who is also an adjunct instructor of communications. "I just think there needs to be a multi-pronged approach to it."
He added that faith leaders should also emulate the boldness King showed during the civil rights era.
"I think on some level, that was the genius of Martin Luther King. The courage and the audacity he had to challenge people at a time when it really wasn't popular to do it, and it wasn't safe to do it."
This past summer, Martin Luther King's principles of nonviolence were once again heard when a recorded interview with him from 1960 was discovered in a Chattanooga attic.
During part of the interview, King defines nonviolence and justifies its practice.
"I would ... say that it is a method which seeks to secure a moral end through moral means," he said. "And it grows out of the whole concept of love, because if one is truly nonviolent that person has a loving spirit, he refuses to inflict injury upon the opponent because he loves the opponent."
An excerpt of the audio released on the Internet went viral, evoking emotions from many who said they were moved by hearing King once again talk about nonviolence.
The Rev. Joseph Lowery, who founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with King, said the civil rights icon's basic principles "remain just as strong today as ever."
"I can't think of anything better to try," Lowery said. "What we're doing now is not working. We've got more guns than we've ever had, and more ammunition to go with it. And yet, the situation worsens."
Others who heard the King recording were spurred to action. Magician David Copperfield purchased the recording and donated it to the National Civil Rights Museum, saying he wanted to promote King's message of nonviolence.
After the recent shootings in Connecticut, Copperfield said King's practice should lead the debate on curtailing violence.
"If we stop focusing on who to blame, or what to blame, we can instead use that energy to teach our children that when we find a wrong to make right, we can reach the result peacefully," he said.
- Created on 11 January 2013
The evangelical pastor chosen to give the benediction at President Barack Obama's inauguration withdrew from the ceremony Thursday after remarks surfaced that he made two decades ago condemning the gay rights movement.
The Rev. Louie Giglio of Passion City Church in Atlanta said in a statement he withdrew because it was likely that the "prayer I would offer will be dwarfed by those seeking to make their agenda the focal point of the inauguration."
Addie Whisenant, a spokeswoman for the Presidential Inaugural Committee, said the committee had chosen Giglio because of his work to end human trafficking. Giglio organizes the Passion evangelical conferences that draw tens of thousands of young people.
"We were not aware of Pastor Giglio's past comments at the time of his selection and they don't reflect our desire to celebrate the strength and diversity of our country at this inaugural," Whisenant said in a statement.
The liberal website ThinkProgress posted audio of the sermon Wednesday. In the talk, which the pastor said he gave 15 or 20 years ago, Giglio cited Scripture and called same-sex relationships sinful and an abomination. He warned congregants about what he called the "aggressive agenda" for acceptance of the "homosexual lifestyle." And he recommended the writings of an advocate for therapy that aims to convert gays and lesbians into heterosexuals. Repeatedly in the sermon, Giglio urged congregants to welcome gays and lesbians to the church and said God loves them.
"Speaking on this issue has not been in the range of my priorities in the past 15 years," Giglio said, in announcing he would withdraw. He framed the conflict over his participation as a question of religious freedom.
"The issue of homosexuality ... is one of the most difficult our nation will navigate," he wrote on his church blog. "However, individuals' rights of freedom, and the collective right to hold differing views on any subject is a critical balance we, as a people, must recover and preserve."
Obama's inaugural planners have put an emphasis on reflecting diversity in the festivities, including the participation of conservative Christians and gay Americans. Obama personally selected Richard Blanco, whose work explores his experience as a Cuban-American gay man, as the inaugural poet. And the Lesbian and Gay Band Association of St. Louis was one of the first selections to march in the inaugural parade.
An inaugural official said the Presidential Inaugural Committee vetted Giglio. But their statement said they didn't know about that particular sermon. Whisenant said the committee was considering others to deliver the benediction at the Jan. 21 event.
Ross Murray, the faith program director for the gay advocacy group GLAAD, urged the committee to choose someone for the role who reflects "the growing sentiment in the U.S. and in faith communities that LGBT people are full and equal parts of society."
Several evangelical leaders called such demands evidence of liberal intolerance.
"Some are wondering if those who hold to traditional evangelical beliefs on homosexuality are no longer welcome in the public square," wrote Ed Stetzer, head of the research arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, on his blog.
Obama faced a similar uproar in 2009, when he chose prominent pastor Rick Warren to give the inaugural benediction as an olive branch to evangelicals, who overwhelmingly vote Republican. Warren had compared gay relationships to incest and pedophilia. He had also urged congregants at his Saddleback Church in California to support the Proposition 8 ban on gay marriage on the 2008 state ballot. Despite pressure from gay rights advocates for Warren to bow out, the pastor gave the benediction.