Originally created 01/22/05

Episcopalians react to bishops' statement on gay dispute

PITTSBURGH - The leader of a network of Episcopal Church conservatives said the statement from the denomination's bishops, expressing "sincere regret" for the pain caused by the consecration of an openly gay bishop, falls short of what's needed.

Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh was among 21 of 150 bishops who said the denomination must express regret for its actions, which have disrupted world Anglicanism, and must agree to impose requested moratoriums on consecrations of gay bishops and conducting same-sex blessing rites.

Another conservative, Bishop Jack Iker of Fort Worth, Texas, said the Episcopal bishops want to remain part of the Anglican Communion "while continuing to reject the clear teaching of the Communion on matters of sexual morality."

Integrity, the Episcopal gay and lesbian caucus, said it's thankful the bishops rejected the moratorium proposals. Integrity leaders will meet Anglican Communion officials in London in early February.

The 38 leaders of the world's Anglican branches, including U.S. Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold, meet in Northern Ireland next month to discuss the report from an international commission that recommended an American statement of regret and the moratoriums.




Austrians are leaving the Catholic Church in record numbers

VIENNA, Austria (AP) - Austrians are leaving the Roman Catholic Church in record numbers, according to statistics released Monday.

Church officials attributed the 44,852 dropouts during 2004 to a scandal involving the discovery of child and other pornography on computers at a seminary in the diocese of St. Poelten, the Austria Press Agency reported.

The number is expected to rise further, since the St. Poelten Diocese has yet to report its 2004 statistics. The seminary where the pornography was found was shut down in August and a new bishop was installed in November.

The previous record loss of 44,300 parishioners occurred in 1995 when accusations surfaced that the late Cardinal Hans Hermann Groer molested youths at a monastery in the 1970s. Since then, the Austrian church has lost almost half a million members, APA reported.

The exodus means an income loss, since dropouts escape paying a tax collected by the government for church purposes, which averages more than $325 a year.


Malaysia arrests 160 at protest over discrimination against Christians in Myanmar

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) - Malaysian police arrested 160 Myanmar citizens Monday for protesting outside their country's embassy against the military junta's alleged discrimination against Christians.

Authorities detained the demonstrators after they chanted anti-junta slogans for about 30 minutes and defied police orders to disperse, said a spokeswoman for Malaysian human rights group Suaram.

The protesters could be charged with violating a rule requiring a police permit for gatherings of more than three people. Those without valid immigration documents could be deported.

Police confirmed the arrests, but provided no details.

The Kuala Lumpur embassy of Myanmar (known as Burma till 1989) was recently rebuilt after three men armed with firebombs, machetes and an ax set it ablaze last April. Police arrested the attackers, who are members of Myanmar's Rohingya ethnic Muslim minority.

Predominantly Buddhist Myanmar, ruled by the military since 1962, also includes followers of Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and animism.

The U.S. State Department said last year that Myanmar continues to discriminate against members of minority religions and restricts their educational, proselytizing, and building activities.


Pennsylvania church is allowed to ring bells, despite complaints

FRIEDENS, Pa. (AP) - Friedens Lutheran Church is free to ring its bells to beckon people to pray for the end of a local labor dispute, a district justice ruled.

Two years ago, the church began bell-ringing to rally members to pray for an end to a dispute between teachers and the Somerset Area School District. The teachers have been working without a contract since January 2000.

S. Lynn Brace, a church neighbor, filed a criminal complaint of harassment against Lutheran Pastor Edward DeVore, saying the bells constantly interrupt daily life. A district justice acquitted DeVore, finding no evidence of intent to harass.

"This intrusion into my life needs to stop," Brace said in a court document reported by The Tribune-Democrat of Johnstown. "I cannot unplug the bell and I cannot report it to the 'Do Not Call List.'"

The bell tolls 14 times each night around 9 p.m. if volunteers are available, though Brace said the bells sometimes ring as many as 75 times.

He also said DeVore's actions violate the separation of church and state. But the American Civil Liberties Union sided with DeVore, because though the bells may appear to be a political message the church is not violating any laws.

The Lutherans say they're impartial in the dispute and just want to see it settled.


Colorado church hopes to turn site of tragedy into student center

FORT COLLINS, Colo. (AP) - The Timberline Church is negotiating to create a student center in the former Sigma Pi fraternity house, where Colorado State University sophomore Samantha Spady was found dead of alcohol poisoning last September.

The church hopes to arrange a lease shortly and open "the Lighthouse" by July. It would provide housing for up to 25 students and such activities as student-run movie nights, Bible studies, parties, volleyball games and free pancake breakfasts from midnight to 3 a.m. on Saturdays for students returning from parties.

"That house is a great location for what we'd like to do," said the Rev. Reza Zadeh. "We want to make a place of tragedy into a place of life."

Zadeh said a wall will be dedicated to Spady's memory.

The house is surrounded by several sororities and fraternities but the church center will fit in with the area, said Mark Koepsell, university director of Greek affairs.

Spady's mother, Patty Spady, said the church's idea is "a positive thing" and "a step in the right direction."

The Sigma Pi chapter was shut down and won't be eligible to return to campus for five years.


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