Lawsuits, gay marriages precede Presbyterian meeting

The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) doesn't start for another two days, but the fireworks have already begun. Attending commissioners will be debating the ordination of nonchaste homosexuals, late-term abortion, and compliance with the church's constitution. Activists on both sides are acting quickly to be the talk of the convention.

Stephen Van Kuiken, pastor of Cincinnati's Mount Auburn Presbyterian Church, performed another same-sex marriage ceremony Saturday. It's hardly a surprise; he's been promising to do it for a while. Nevertheless, it is his first time to perform such a ceremony since his presbytery's judicial commission slapped him on the wrist last month with a "rebuke" for an earlier gay marriage and told him not to do it again.

"I was kind of amused by the decision because I told them ahead of time [I wouldn't stop]," Van Kuiken tells The Cincinnati Enquirer. "It's like they wanted to warn me one more time. So I told them [Tuesday] that we did it again. I'm not hiding it."

But charges against Van Kuiken for this latest wedding can't be brought until all the appeals over the earlier disciplinary decision have been exhausted.

Another PCUSA "celebrity"—this one on the right—has moved from church charges to civil cases. Paul Rolf Jensen, has filed more than 20 ecclesiastical cases against pastors who violate the church's requirement that church officers "live either in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman, or chastity in singleness." He was also behind the effort earlier this year to charge PCUSA Moderator Fahed Abu-Akel with violating church law for not calling a special assembly over ordinations of unchaste homosexuals. In March, the denomination's highest court ruled that Abu-Akel "acted improperly" but wasn't required to call the assembly.

Now Jensen, an attorney, has filed a civil lawsuit against Abu-Akel, saying the denominational leader slandered him during that debate.

"I believe in the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)," Abu-Akel responded. "I believe we should settle our issues within the judicial processes of our denomination. Mr. Jensen has chosen not to use the church system to decide this matter. Therefore, I am filing papers today requesting an inquiry for vindication with Greater Atlanta Presbytery. I will submit to the presbytery's judgment about my remarks."

Other conservative groups in the PCUSA lamented the lawsuit. "We cannot commend this resort to civil court as an appropriate Christian course of action, for precisely the reasons the Apostle Paul details [in 1 Cor 6:5–7]," Presbyterians for Renewal said in a statement. "Although we believe our brother the Moderator erred in his attempted persuasion of the petitioning commissioners, we do not consider this a grievous illegality, nor one entered into with ill or conspiratorial intent."

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Despite the civil claim, Jensen isn't giving up on church courts. Just this week, he filed heresy charges against W. Robert Martin III, who reportedly does not believe in Christ's bodily resurrection or ascension. Martin, now pastor of Warren Wilson Presbyterian Church in Swannanoa, North Carolina, has been called to be the pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Palo Alto, California.

CT Associate Editor Douglas L. LeBlanc will reporting from at the General Assembly—it looks like we won't have to worry about it being a boring meeting.

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Persecution and violence:

  1. Pagan tribesman held over missionary's beheading | Police examine different motive theory (The Sydney Morning Herald)

  2. Also: Man arrested over missionary death (AFP)

  3. Earlier: Tears overwhelm as wife of murdered missionary leaves | Jean Gersbach leaves the Solomon Islands with the body of her slain husband (The Sydney Morning Herald)

  4. Indonesian police arrest a member of JI suspected of church bombing | Zoefri Yoes knew about a plan to bomb a church in Pekanbaru on Christmas Eve 2000 and helped store the explosives, say police (Channel News Asia)

Texas approves abortion waiting period:

  1. Texas Senate approves wait for abortion | Measure could be ready for governor's signature late this week (The Dallas Morning News, video)

  2. Texas poised to impose 24-hour wait for abortion | State Senate's okay sets up final action (Houston Chronicle)

  3. Texas okays disputed abortion legislation (Los Angeles Times)

  4. Abortion 'counseling' measure approved by Texas lawmakers | Legislation an attempt to frighten those seeking procedure, critics say (The Baltimore Sun)

More life ethics news:

  1. Australia euthanasia case in court | A court in Australia is being asked to give doctors permission to stop feeding a terminally-ill woman (BBC)

  2. Battle over euthanasia | The debate in Britain about legalizing euthanasia is moving into Parliament (The Tablet, U.K.)

  3. Antiabortion group plans 'campus' | Stem cells, cloning to be among topics studied in Stafford (The Washington Post)

  4. Democrats back abortion rights | GOP poses threat, seven hopefuls tell EMILY's List (The Boston Globe)

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  1. A humble assessment | The past and future of the pro-life movement (Leslie Carbone, Breakpoint)

Church and state:

  1. Rights coalition files suit over Colorado vouchers law | The suit filed in Denver County District Court alleges that the law, enacted earlier this spring, violates a state constitutional ban on public financing of religion (The Washington Post)

  2. Also: Foes sue to block vouchers (The Denver Post)

  3. Also: Vouchers face legal challenge (The Rocky Mountain News)

  4. Separating church, state and sports | There has to be decent judgment with how far religious zeal goes before it violates the respect and dignity of some players (Leo Sandon, Tallahassee Democrat, Fla.)

  5. Parents complains when son returns home from school with Bible | School wasn't involved in Gideons project (Associated Press)

  6. Religion-free zone? | America's public schools are in a bind. A new law requires them to allow 'religious expression' on school grounds—or risk losing federal funds. But they risk a lawsuit if they do. (The Christian Science Monitor)

  7. School prayer issue remains unsettled | Despite Supreme Court decisions, educators and constitutional experts are still grappling over whether God should have a seat on the stage of public school graduation ceremonies this spring (The Plain Dealer, Cleveland)

  8. Religious freedom for teachers on trial in Pennsylvania | In Pennsylvania, the church-state question is made more complicated by a 19th century law that originally had nothing to do with religious tolerance (Voice of America)

  9. The mayors' prayer breakfast message | Entitlement leads naturally to exclusion (Kerry Kovac, The Oregonian)

  10. Keeping separate church and state | Would taxpayers be as willing to pay for a student's training as an imam? Again, we think not (Editorial, Seattle Post-Intelligencer)

Religion and politics abroad:

  1. God save the Brits—from madman Blair | Mr. Blair is turning into a right-wing American (Heather Mallick, The Globe & Mail, Toronto)

  2. Christians must join larger fight | Has their opposition to the forces of marginalization and pauperization been strong enough? (Lancy Lobo, The Indian Express)

  3. Hishongwa warns 'holy rollers' | Namibia's Deputy Minister of High Education, Training, and Employment Creation says new church organizations are attempting to disturb the peace and order in the country (The Namibian)


  1. Christian combo off the menu at Burger King | After Johnsonville Burger King refused to hire a practicing Christian who wouldn't work Sundays, another employee says other Christians are also unhappy with the fast food giant's policy (Cook Strait News, New Zealand)

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  1. 'Have a beautiful, blessed day'—say it and get fired | Security guard A.C. Cephus III has been saying "Have a beautiful, blessed day" to passersby for years, and nobody seemed to mind. That is, until last week, when he was told that if he says it again, he'll get fired (John Kass, Chicago Tribune)

Missions and ministry:

  1. Missionary first New Zealand SARS fatality | Chee Nan Pin was working in Hong Kong as a missionary for Worldwide Evangelisation of Christ International (

  2. Also: Virus kills NZ citizen in Hong Kong (The New Zealand Herald)

  3. Iraq humanitarian assessment | Throughout Iraq, more and more humanitarian aid is coming in. But challenges still abound (Religion & Ethics Newsweekly)

  4. I don't need a lesson in piety—but thanks | Campus Crusade for Christ recently held "Jesus Awareness Week," a series of activities and speakers to, well, increase awareness of Jesus. I, for one, am being made just a little too aware. (Nick Disabato, The Daily Northwestern, Northwestern U.)

  5. Jabez author in Africa: 'I'm like a coach' | Since moving from the United States to Sandton, a Johannesburg suburb, Bruce Wilkinson is becoming a new voice in Africa (Religion News Service)


  1. South African gang murder Belfast priest | According to reports, the priest was attacked by a gang of six men, who broke into his home (The Belfast Telegraph)

  2. Baylor regent under investigation by university officials | Jaclanel Moore McFarland says she didn't tip off anyone to drug bust (Waco Tribune-Herald)

  3. Also: Baylor regent told to resign over drug sting gone bad (Associated Baptist Press)

  4. Jailed missionary still waiting to see judge | Eleven days after 47-year old Jim White was arrested in Haiti, the local missionary is still waiting to go before a judge (The Courier-Times, New Castle, Ind.)

  5. Suspected arsonist says he targeted white church | Suspect being held on $250,000 bail for Sunday's church fire (WBAL, Baltimore, video)

  6. For three nuns, a prairie protest and a price to pay | Sisters reconciled to prison for actions at missile site (The Washington Post)

  7. Town's church poisoning leads to soul-searching | A close-knit community in Maine reels from a murder and the suicide of the prime suspect (Los Angeles Times)

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