Russia's president joins pilgrimage
Diveyevo, Russia -- President Vladimir Putin visited the closed city of Sarov, paying homage to one of Russian Orthodoxy's most revered saints, Seraphim.
Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II met Putin inside the newly restored Cathedral of St. Seraphim of Sarov.
The majestic building is tucked inside the barbed-wire-enclosed city of about 80,000 that was home to Soviet nuclear facilities. The city is still closed both to foreigners and to Russians without special permission so most of the pilgrims gathered in Diveyevo, a picturesque village nearby.
"Russia has known many bright feats in the service of God, the people and the fatherland, but Seraphim of Sarov, his life and studies are one of the brightest," Putin told thousands of pilgrims.
Lutherans defend pork roast after complaint
Cedarburg, Wis. -- Trinity Lutheran Church is defending a pork roast at its 160th anniversary festival after complaints from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the militant animal rights and vegetarian lobby.
The animal rights group proposed holding what it called a cruelty-free cookout, arguing that factory farms mistreat God's creatures. It offered to provide free vegetarian chili and veggie dogs if the church canceled the barbecue scheduled for Aug. 17.
Pastor Chuck Turbin said vegetarian alternatives will be provided but there's nothing wrong with roasting pork or chicken because "Scripture clearly gives us permission to eat the animals."
Assemblies of God loosens marriage policy
Washington -- The Assemblies of God, a Pentecostal denomination with 2.6 million followers, loosened policy on conducting second marriages for divorced members at its biennial General Council.
Prior policy said "we disapprove of" conducting a marriage for a divorced person while the former spouse is alive, except in cases involving fornication, adultery, or being divorced by an unbeliever.
The new wording says "we discourage" such marriages and eliminates a provision that any minister conducting a ceremony against those rules "may be dismissed."
The resolution said the former language "creates an increasing hardship on the local pastor" and forces decisions in "very difficult and untenable situations." It added that such a "difficult decision should be left in the hands of the local pastor," who knows the couple and "is better equipped to decide whether or not he or she should perform the ceremony without threat."
Delegates postponed until 2005 a separate decision on policy toward clergy candidates who were divorced prior to Christian conversion.