Southwest leaves Baptist group


COVINA, Calif. (AP) – The board of the Pacific Southwest region has voted unanimously to break ties with the 1.4 million-member American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A., concluding a long dispute over homosexuality.

The region covers southern California and five other states with about 5 percent of the American Baptists’ 5,800 congregations. The break is effective Nov. 1.

Denominational headquarters in Valley Forge, Pa., said “a significant number of churches wish to remain American Baptist” and would form a new southwestern association.

American Baptist policy states that “homosexuality is incompatible with biblical teaching,” but southwestern Baptists were upset that, in local situations, practicing homosexuals were ordained to the clergy and held leadership posts in American Baptist agencies.

The Southern Baptist Convention cited such complaints in a 2004 decision to quit the Baptist World Alliance, in which it shared membership with the American Baptists.

Exile Church moves to reconciliation

MOSCOW (AP) – A split between the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate and the breakaway Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia has moved closer to normalized ties.

Clergy and lay delegates to a special council of the exile church in San Francisco voted to recommend that the bishops make the final decision to rejoin the mother church.

“It’s a big step toward church unity, and it’s clear from the vote that that is awaited no less eagerly abroad than it is in Russia,” said Archpriest Nikolai Balashov, who heads the Moscow patriarchate’s commission for dialogue with New York-based group.

Arsonists attack Christian station

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) – In an attack on the Christian radio station Hope FM last week, unidentified gunmen shot and killed a guard, wounded two others and torched part of the building during a broadcast that was comparing teachings of the Bible and Islam’s Quran.

The eight masked assailants shouted angrily that the Pentecostal station had failed to take telephone calls, a guard told the Kenya Television Network.

Church and government officials condemned the attack and warned Christians and Muslims not to let the raid spark religious conflict.

“The government condemns this attack. It is a criminal act,” spokesman Alfred Mutua said after visiting the station. “We are asking religious leaders not to say words or preach words that would breed intolerance.”

Boston cardinal to lead pilgrimage of repentance over priestly sexual abuse

BOSTON (AP) – Cardinal Sean O’Malley plans to lead a pilgrimage of repentance to nine parishes with especially painful histories of sexual abuse of children by priests.

In a letter to abuse victims, O’Malley said the novena (nine-day prayer cycle) starting next Thursday would include prayers for victims and “an act of reparation,” with priests joining him to express “repentance for priests and bishops whose actions and inactions gravely harmed the lives on children entrusted to their care.”

O’Malley said the novena would acknowledge “the sins of clergy sexual abuse that violated the innocence of children and are an offense against God.” He urged victims and their families and friends to consider attending the services but acknowledged that many victims find it difficult to enter church.

David Carney, who said he was molested by a priest at age 14, praised O’Malley for “trying to fix things that he didn’t break.”

Soon after O’Malley took over in 2003, the archdiocese settled claims from more than 550 abuse claimants, followed by settlements with another 88 this year. Those agreements and other expenses from the scandal totaled $150 million.

Mitchell Garabedian, an attorney who represented more than 200 victims, said O’Malley’s plan was “a step in the right direction for many victims but unfortunately for many victims it’s too little, too late.”

Wisconsin teacher says Catholic schools fired her over test-tube fertilization

MILWAUKEE (AP) – A Wisconsin woman claims she was illegally fired by two Roman Catholic schools for undergoing in vitro fertilization.

Kelly Romenesko, 37, taught French in the Appleton Catholic school system and asked for time off in 2004 to complete the medical procedure. But four days after she told school officials she had become pregnant they fired her.

Last week a court hearing on her discrimination complaint, based upon gender and pregnancy, was postponed, probably for months, amid questions whether the state has jurisdiction over religious employers.

Romenesko’s attorney said the schools claimed she violated a contract provision requiring her to act in accordance with Catholic teaching. An investigator from the state’s Department of Workforce Development upheld the firing in December and Romenesko appealed.

In vitro fertilization involves extracting eggs from a woman, fertilizing them with sperm in a laboratory dish or test tube and implanting fertilized eggs in the womb.

The Catholic teaching is defined in “Donum Vitae,” a 1987 church instruction from the cabinet of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict.

Kentucky readies for another Ten Commandments battle

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) – Kentucky’s battle over Ten Commandments displays in state offices may be on again.

The Lexington Urban County Council, the latest government entity to join, voted tentatively by 8-1 to accept a gift of historical documents that includes a framed copy of the commandments, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported.

This year the state legislature voted to restore a Ten Commandments monument on the state Capitol grounds that was removed by court order in 2000. The American Civil Liberties Union recently filed a lawsuit against that action.

The Lexington donation, from the Body of Christ Ministries in Irvine, would include framed copies of the Bill of Rights, Declaration of Independence and other documents. The ministry has made offers to a dozen Kentucky counties and only two have turned down the gift.

A 2000 poll by Louisville’s Courier-Journal showed 86 percent of Kentuckians had no problem with displays in government buildings.

The state has twice gone before the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold displays in public settings. In 1980 the high court threw out a law allowing public school classroom postings and last year it outlawed McCreary County’s courthouse display.