Originally created 11/26/05

Religion News in Brief

American Baptist delegates oppose gay sex, but effect on growing split is unclear

GREEN LAKE, Wis. - The governing board of the 1.4 million-member American Baptist Churches in the USA added a stand against gay sex to the denomination's self-definition, but it's unclear whether that will heal a growing split over homosexuality.

The new wording says American Baptists are believers "who submit to the teaching of Scripture that God's design for sexual intimacy places it within the context of marriage between one man and one woman, and acknowledge that the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with biblical teaching."

The General Board approved the wording by a 59-45 vote (with five abstentions) as an addition to the "We Are American Baptists" statement.

The denomination has taken previous stands against gay sex. But it has not disciplined congregations with liberal gay policies, say complaints from the Pacific Southwest region, whose board will decide in December whether to have 300 member congregations vote on ending support for the denomination.

Last month, the West Virginia association, the largest regional group with 465 congregations, defeated by 391-325 a proposal to break with the national denomination.

Liberal policies among some American Baptists were cited as one reason the Southern Baptist Convention voted to quit the Baptist World Alliance, to which both denominations had belonged.




Federal judge requires New York City school rentals to religious groups

NEW YORK (AP) - New York City public schools must let religious groups rent space for meetings on the same basis as other organizations, a federal judge ruled. The city's law department said immediately it will appeal.

Bronx Household of Faith, an evangelical congregation, has sought for years to rent space for Sunday worship in Public School 15. In May, the U.S. Justice Department's civil rights division filed a brief supporting the church.

Judge Loretta Preska of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York had earlier taken the opposite side in the case.

She based her latest ruling on the 2001 Supreme Court precedent in another New York case, Good News Club v. Milford Central School. There, the high court said schools' denial of rentals for after-class Bible clubs was unconstitutional under free speech guarantees.



Southern Baptists end ties with Mercer University, cut funds for Belmont University

COLUMBUS, Ga. (AP) - The Georgia Baptist Convention severed ties with Mercer University during its annual meeting, citing the school's lack of commitment to the national Southern Baptist Convention. The decision only becomes final with a second vote next year.

Meanwhile, a Tennessee Baptist Convention meeting voted to end funding for Belmont University, weeks after Belmont said it was prepared to give up the money as part of a plan to elect more non-Baptist trustees. The Baptists, in turn, increased support for two other Tennessee schools, Carson-Newman College and Union University.

Belmont plans to reorganize its board so that up to 40 percent of its members are Christians from other denominations, rather than accepting exclusively Baptist nominations from the state convention. Baptists provide about 3 percent of the university budget.

In Georgia, Baptist spokeswoman Diane Reasoner said church members were "deeply troubled" by news articles that teachers in the religion department supported Mercer Triangle Symposium, the school's first gay student group, which participated in National Coming Out Day.

"For these and many other reasons, Georgia Baptists from around the state recognize that Mercer and the convention have grown apart in their values and commitment," an official statement said.

A Baptist panel also said university President R. Kirby Godsey had deviated from biblical theology in a 1996 book.

The Baptist affiliation has existed for 175 years. The Baptist convention provides Mercer about $3.5 million a year.

In May, Georgia's Supreme Court rejected Shorter College's attempt to sever its ties with the Georgia Baptist Convention and ruled that Baptists have sole power to appoint the board. Shorter sought to break away after a regional accrediting agency questioned the school's independence.

Christian couple attacked in tense Indonesian province

PALU, Indonesia (AP) - Unidentified gunmen shot a Christian couple, seriously wounding both, in an Indonesian province already on edge following a series of attacks including the beheadings of three Christian students.

Police said it was too soon to say whether the attacks were linked to the simmering sectarian conflict in the Indonesian province, where open battles between Muslims and Christians killed about 1,000 people in 2001 and 2002.

Pudji Laksono, a lecturer at Tadulako University, and his wife were shot by gunmen on a motorbike on their way home from a Saturday night worship service, local police said. As with previous attacks, the motive was not clear.

Last month, unidentified assailants beheaded three Christian high school girls in Poso, east of Palu. A week later, two girls - one Muslim, the other Christian - were seriously wounded by gun-wielding assailants in the same city.

In May, two bombs in the Christian-dominated town of Tentena killed 20 people.

Police have questioned several suspects in those attacks, but have not formally brought charges against anyone.


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