Minnesota bishop lifts sanctions against church
St. Paul, Minn. -- An Evangelical Lutheran Church bishop has lifted the penalties against a congregation that broke with policy by ordaining an actively lesbian pastor.
The national church's rule against gay and lesbian pastors still stands, Bishop Peter Rogness said, but discussion of the issue "would be better served by striking a more reconciling posture." The denomination is currently re-examining its policy.
Rogness' predecessor went after the St. Paul-Reformation Lutheran Church because it installed Anita Hill as a pastor in April 2001, five years after it had blessed her relationship with a woman.
Hill said the congregation, which considers the Lutheran homosexual policy "unjust and restrictive," hopes Rogness' step "will be seen as a helpful move in the discussion for our whole denomination."
Billy Graham announces another 2003 date
Minneapolis -- The Rev. Billy Graham's office said Tuesday he will hold revival meetings June 12-15 in downtown Oklahoma City.
Two weeks ago, Graham announced meetings for May 8-11 in San Diego.
In the past, the 84-year-old Graham scheduled events a year ahead to allow advance planning -- some 15,000 volunteers must be organized -- but his health is unpredictable due to Parkinson's disease and other ailments.
Graham said in a statement, "Although my strength is more limited now that I am in my 80s, my burden to proclaim the Gospel is as strong as ever."
A total of 10,000 people made Christian commitments during Graham's two previous Oklahoma City meetings, in 1956 and 1983.
Kentucky bill would lift statute of limitations
Louisville, Ky. -- A bill pending in the Kentucky Senate's Judiciary Committee would lift the statute of limitations on child sex abuse lawsuits, allowing plaintiffs to sue decades after alleged molestation.
The bill is aimed at allegations of sex abuse against clergy, its co-sponsor said, and could have an effect on some of the 200 abuse lawsuits already pending against the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Louisville.
The Catholic Conference of Kentucky would likely not oppose lifting the statute of limitations, but it opposes a requirement in the current proposal to force priests to report abuse even when they hear about it in sacramental confession, the rite in which Catholics confess their sins to a priest in private.
Current state law permits alleged victims to sue perpetrators within five years after turning 18 and employers within one year after turning 18.
Lawmakers supporting the legislation say they expect it to pass in some form.
Report: Vietnam intensifies repression of Christian Montagnards
HANOI, Vietnam (AP) -- Vietnam has intensified a crackdown against indigenous minorities in the Central Highlands where mass protests broke out over land rights and religious repression, a human rights group charged Tuesday.
The New York-based Human Rights Watch said the mostly Christian Montagnards have endured interrogations, detentions and beatings by officials. Victims include church leaders, people who tried to seek asylum in Cambodia and those suspected of helping a separatist movement.
Villagers said authorities banned Christmas services last month and arrested or detained dozens of people to keep them from worship, the report charged.
Human Rights Watch said at least 70 Montagnards face harsh prison sentences for joining unprecedented demonstrations in 2001 against religious restrictions and government encroachment on their land. An estimated 1,500 Montagnards fled to Cambodia following the crackdown.
In the past year, authorities have shut some 400 highlands churches, many believed to be affiliated with a Protestant movement advocating Montagnard rights.
Villagers have reported being forced to recant their faith and local TV stations and newspapers have regularly broadcast coverage of Christians "volunteering" to leave the church. Public gatherings are banned.
Hanoi has repeatedly denied accusations of repression against Montagnards, some of whom fought on the anti-communist side during the Vietnam War. The regime recognizes six religions that accept its control.
Muslims ask religious leaders to repudiate Florida Baptists' sign
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- The Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations has asked state religious leaders to repudiate a roadside sign at First Conservative Baptist Church that reads: "Jesus Forbade Murder. Matthew 26:52. Muhammad Approved Murder. Surah 8:65."
Imam Zaid Malik of the Islamic Center of Northeast Florida said the Quran verse does not endorse murder but indicates believers who are steadfast in battle will overcome larger armies.
The verse reads: "O Prophet (Muhammad)! Inspire the believers to conquer all fear of death when fighting, (so that) if there be 20 of you who are patient in adversity, they might overcome 200; and if there be 100 of you, they might overcome 1,000 of those bent on denying the truth."
The Rev. Gene Youngblood said his Baptist congregation has no plans to remove the message. "Are we not entitled to freedom of speech?" he asked.
Lutheran official clears university over Sept. 11 service
VALPARAISO, Ind. (AP) -- The Indiana district president in the conservative Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod cleared Valparaiso University officials of violating church rules by holding a multi-faith Sept. 11 anniversary gathering.
Some clergy complained that the gathering at the church-affiliated school combined Christian and non-Christian religious views.
District President Timothy Sims ruled there was inappropriate mixing of religious views at the service, which involved Jews and Muslims, but that officials sought forgiveness for their actions.
Sims admonished the clergy who filed the complaint, saying they should have talked with Valparaiso officials before filing it.
Jewish members of Maryland Senate object to prayers in Jesus' name
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) -- Baltimore Baptist clergyman Reginald Thomas ended a Monday invocation before Maryland's state Senate with "in Jesus' name," offending Jewish senators.
Jewish legislators complained last week to the Senate president that rules requiring nonspecific prayers had been ignored three times during January.
Two senators asked Thomas to avoid such references but "that's his conviction," said Democratic Majority Leader Nathaniel J. McFadden, who invited Thomas.
Democratic Sen. Sharon M. Grosfeld, who is Jewish, proposed having the prayer held before the Senate is called to order -- or before attendance is taken -- making it optional.
The National Conference of State Legislatures urges clergy to follow ecumenical approaches in public prayers.
Year Book puts American Jews at 6,155,000
NEW YORK (AP) -- The newly issued "American Jewish Year Book 2002" estimates there are 6,155,000 Jews in the United States, constituting 2.2 percent of the nation's population.
The American Jewish Committee annual is the standard reference for statistics and other information on the U.S. Jewish community.
The highest Jewish population percentages were reported for New York State (8.7 percent), New Jersey (5.7 percent) and the District of Columbia (4.5 percent).
The Year Book includes the committee's census of U.S. synagogues, the first conducted since 1936, issued last August.
The census found 3,727 congregations, including 1,501 Orthodox, 976 Reform and 865 Conservative. Orthodox synagogues often have smaller memberships than those in other branches.