Episcopalian commission refuses to take position on homosexuality

A long-awaited report on gay unions from the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music suggests that the Episcopal Church "allow dioceses to find their own way in the matter." It's already the unofficial policy of the church—and one that frustrates conservatives in the church who point to the church's 1998 declaration that homosexuality is "incompatible with Scripture." The report says the commission is "not ready, theologically or scientifically, to say a defining word about the life of homosexuals in the church … In the context of reverence—and humility—it seems best not to take absolutist positions on a national level." But at least one paper in the report says the Bible "is not definitive enough to demand a negative judgment on the present subject."

'Anti-gay Anglicans seen as small, rich U.S. group: Canadian bishop says overseas clergy are being bought'

So reads the headline of an article published Saturday in Canada's National Post. The Anglican bishop of Vancouver says the recent irregular consecrations are part of a conspiracy: "My analysis is that this whole group is financed and politically managed by American conservative bishops who've lost the debate in their own church. What the American conservatives have managed to do is to export their anxiety about gays and lesbians." The unsigned article in the National Post reports, "Bishop Ingham says Anglican leaders in Africa and Asia, troubled by pressing local problems of war and poverty, have little real interest in crusading against homosexuals. They are being paid and lobbied to do so, he says, by American Anglicans (called Episcopalians) recruiting Third World church leaders to force change within the U.S."

United Methodist Church won't charge ministers in lesbian wedding flap

Investigators in the Methodists' California-Northern Nevada Conference decided charges against 68 ministers, who blessed a lesbian wedding to protest the UMC ban on gay marriages, were not serious enough to merit a trial. Evangelical leaders in the church are furious and will "step up efforts to create a separate western states jurisdiction within the United Methodist Church for those who believe that homosexual intimacy is contrary to biblical morality," reports The Los Angeles Times. (See also the Associated Press's widely published article.)

Presbyterian Church (USA) faces two split proposals

"We're not trying to create division," says evangelical pastor Jeff Arnold. "The division already exists, and nobody has found a way to reconcile the differences."

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Operation Rescue's Randall Terry censured by his home church on four counts

The Landmark Church in Binghamton, N.Y., where Terry has been a member for 15 years, has censured Terry "for leaving his wife … for a pattern of repeated sinful relationships and conversations with both single and married women … for presenting a letter from his attorney threatening legal action against the Landmark Church … [and for Terry's] personal and theological transformation." In addition to the Washington Post article linked above, the letter of censure is posted on Operation Save America's Web site.

Church gains support after attendance limit issued

Elizabeth Normand, a city of Portland (Ore.) land-use hearings officer issued a decision January 16 restricting attendance to 70 people at the 100-year-old Sunnyside Centenary United Methodist Church. The church can hold up to 400. The case originally focused on the church's meals program, which neighborhood residents say attracts the wrong kind of people to the area. But the judge also limited the number of people allowed to attend Sunday and Wednesday worship services. Church-state scholars around the country are stupefied at the ruling, and a meeting was held yesterday to further strategize a response. The meeting itself ended up a response, as 1,100 people crowded the church sanctuary to show support (see also the Associated Press's coverage of the ruling and Sunday's meeting). A similar battle is being fought in Tampa, Florida, where the mayor is fighting a church that distributes food to the homeless in a parking lot across from city hall.

Tom Landry remembered for faith beyond football

"Although Tom Landry was well-known as a religious man across the nation, the evidence of his good works and deep spirituality was not always public," says Katie Menzer in The Dallas Morning News. The former Dallas Cowboys coach died Saturday at age 75. (See a related article from the Associated Press—though almost every obituary for Landry talks about how his Christian faith was more important to him than anything.)

Justice Department won't investigate Americans United for Separation of Church and State

Six Republican Senators asked Attorney General Janet Reno to investigate the organization for intimidating voters. The organization has been telling churches they could lose their tax-exempt status if they distributed Christian Coalition voter guides to their congregations. Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Keeney said the department couldn't find enough voter intimidation to warrant an investigation.

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Gore courts black church vote and gets endorsement from pulpit

The vice president attended two black churches in Queens, New York, Sunday morning. The pastor of Allen A.M.E. Church, Floyd B. Flake, gave Gore a surprise endorsement. "I don't do endorsements from across the pulpit because I never know who's out there watching the types of laws that govern separation of church and state, but I will say to you this morning and you read it well: This should be the next president of the United States," said Flake, a former congressman who earlier embraced Bill Bradley with Rev. Al Sharpton. (See related coverage in the Associated Press)

Clinton's pastor calls for death penalty review while president listens

"Maybe there are circumstances in which historically one can justify this," said Philip Wogaman, senior pastor at Washington's Foundry Methodist Church during his Sunday sermon. "I'm not sure there are anymore." Wogaman is one of three pastors counseling Clinton after the Lewinsky scandal.

Help Wanted

Today's New York Times reports that pulpits across America are empty as the country faces a clergy shortage. "The situation is grave," says a leader in the Episcopal Church.

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