Charges filed against gay Methodist pastor
Now that the United Methodist Church's top judicial body has reaffirmed the denomination's ban on openly gay ministers, complaints have been filed against Seattle pastor Mark Edward Williams and his predecessor, Karen Dammann, both of whom have announced that they are homosexual. The October church court decision didn't mention either Williams or Dammann by name, but both were at the center of the controversy. A church trial will follow. Both the Seattle Times and Seattle Post-Intelligencer quote people in the church who support Williams, but neither quote anyone who supports the church's commitment to orthodoxy.

Still no Burnhams
The Philippine Army had promised to free American New Tribes missionaries Martin and Gracia Burnham by Sunday, but the couple is still being held by the radical Muslim Abu Sayyaf Group. Military spokesman Lt. Gen. Roy Cimatu tells Reuters that ground commanders want to extend the "inspirational deadline," but believe they can free the Burnhams by the end of the year. One major development: the American troops assisting and training the Philippines are now armed, according to the Los Angeles Times. The Philippine Constitution prohibits armed foreign troops of the nation's soil, but apparently someone found a loophole for the American soldiers to carry weapons "for protection." Meanwhile, New Tribes Mission is asking Christians around the world to make tomorrow (Wednesday, Dec. 19) a day of prayer for the release of the Burnhams. The New Tribes Web site offers specific prayer requests.

Also: U.S. to help Philippines battle terrorist threat | Military advisors will train Manila's forces for special operations against Muslim rebels linked to Bin Laden (Los Angeles ...

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