At&T’S New Choice

After more than two decades of philanthropic support, the AT&T Foundation last month announced it will no longer give direct donations to Planned Parenthood. AT&T had been giving to Planned Parenthood since the 1960s; since 1986, those donations have totaled $50,000 annually.

Prolifers, led by the Christian Action Council’s Doug Scott, had been writing to AT&T expressing their concern. (The prolife movement considers Planned Parenthood the nation’s largest purveyor of abortions.)

In a letter to Scott, AT&T senior vice-president Jane Redfern acknowledged that Planned Parenthood’s political activities forced the decision. “Noting Planned Parenthood’s increasing role in abortion rights advocacy, the trustees of the AT&T Foundation recently concluded that we are unable to clarify to our constituents’ satisfaction the distinction between funding of Planned Parenthood’s educational programs and taking a position in support of abortion,” she said. “AT&T does not take a position on abortion,” she added. “To do so would be presumptuous, because it is a matter of personal conscience.”

Mapplethorpe V. Cincinnati

Is it art or pornography? Lately that question has been on the minds of Cincinnati residents regarding the works of the late photographer Robert Mapplethorpe.

Some of the controversial photos are of nude children; others convey what have been widely described as “homoerotic images.” The photos first raised a stir when their exhibit was cancelled last year by the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. They launched a major debate on the use of federal funds for the arts.

But there was little debate among Cincinnati’s political leadership. When it opened last month, sheriff’s deputies stormed the exhibit, clearing out all visitors. The Contemporary Arts Center and its director, Dennis Barrie, were indicted by a grand jury on charges of pandering obscenity and misuse of a minor in photography.

Supporters of the exhibit have cried censorship; hundreds have become members at the art center since the controversy erupted. But they face an uphill battle in Cincinnati, which, buoyed by the efforts of the group Citizens for Community Values, has rid the city of virtually all X-rated materials. The Cincinnati-based National Coalition Against Pornography (NCAP) has not taken a stand for or against the exhibit.

Women’S Priesthood Opposed

For Catholic women seeking full equality with men, there was good and bad news in the second draft of a major statement on the concerns of women issued recently by a special committee of bishops. While decrying sexism and calling for change in the church’s policy prohibiting ordination of women as deacons, the statement reaffirms the Catholic position against ordaining women as priests.

An earlier version of the statement, published two years ago, suggested that ordination of women to the priesthood merited further study. The recent draft, however, states that the church’s current practice “constitutes a tradition which witnesses to the mind of Christ and is normative.” It points out that Jesus “called only men to become part of the Twelve,” adding that the priest is the “sacramental symbol of Christ” and that the “sacrament relies on the natural symbolism of gender to signify the relationship between the priest and Christ.”

Arson Suspected

Though at press time there was no known perpetrator or motive, fire officials suspect arson in the April 17 fire that ravaged the offices of the Anderson, Indiana-based Helvering Agency, including those of popular Christian vocalist Sandi Patti. According to John Helvering, president of the agency and Patti’s husband, there were no injuries, but the office area serving 20 employees was totally destroyed. A fire wall protected a warehouse in which T-shirts and other ministry-related products were stored. A nearby garage that houses buses and trucks used in concert tours was likewise unharmed. Helvering said the ministry would rebuild in Anderson.

Briefly Noted

Appointed: As interim president of Western Conservative Baptist Seminary in Portland, Oregon, Russell A. Shive. This follows the recent appointment of Earl D. Radmacher to the position of chancellor at the school.

As president of Kansas City-based Gospel Missionary Union, Carl L. McMindes, effective January 1 of next year.

Died: Civil-rights leader Ralph David Abernathy, former president of the Southern Christian Leadership Council, which he founded with Martin Luther King, Jr., in 1957.

Dismissed: Perjury charges against former PTL pastor Sam Johnson, who had been accused of lying to a grand jury. U.S. District Judge Robert Potter dismissed the charges, saying, “I don’t think it would be fair to this defendant on this evidence to go to the jury.”

Renominated: As president of the Evangelical Free Church of America, Paul Cedar, currently pastor of the Lake Avenue Congregational Church in Pasadena, California. Cedar was nominated for the same position last year but pulled out at the last minute. He has since said he felt a responsibility to his church during a time of transition, but now feels free to accept the new post.

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