Pope addresses limits of science

VATICAN CITY (AP) – Scientists advising Pope Benedict XVI told the pontiff that they will study scientific insights into evolution, reflecting his special interest in the subject.

Nicola Cabibbo, a physics professor at Rome’s La Sapienza University and president of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, said Monday in a speech to the pope that academy members shared the pontiff’s view that “faith and reason need to come together in a new way.”

No date has been set for the meeting exploring “scientific insights into the evolution of the universe and of life,” which Cabibbo noted was of “special interest” to the pope. Generally, the plenary session of the academy meets every two years.

Benedict’s predecessor, John Paul, told the academy in 1996 that Charles Darwin’s theories on evolution were sound as long as they took into account that creation was the work of God and that Darwin’s theory of evolution was “more than a hypothesis.”

Evolution has come under fire in recent years by proponents of intelligent design who believe that living organisms are so complex they must have been created by a higher force rather than evolving from more primitive forms.

In the United States, supporters of both camps have often clashed over what students should be taught in public schools.

The academy is currently grappling with predictability in science. It is an advisory body of scientists, researchers and scholars who help shape papal pronouncements.

Exploring the relationship between faith and reason has been a theme for Benedict, a former theology professor, since he became pope last year.

Missouri Baptists expel 19 churches

ST. LOUIS (AP) – The Missouri Baptist Convention has voted to oust 19 churches for donating money and having other ties to more moderate Baptist groups.

The unusual step is the largest expulsion of churches in the convention’s history. It means those congregations will no longer be affiliated with the 16.3 million-member Southern Baptist Convention, the nation’s largest Protestant denomination.

“We do not enjoy this kind of thing,” said the Rev. David Tolliver, of the Missouri Baptist Convention.

Most of the 19 churches had already distanced themselves from the Missouri Baptist Convention. But the expulsions were decided when delegates to an annual meeting of the convention voted Oct. 31 to bar any representatives of the 19 churches.

“I think in recent years the convention has attacked, defunded and excluded groups they can’t control,” said the Rev. Mike Shupert, pastor of the Cape Girardeau church. “They want to say, ‘This is what you have to believe.’ That’s not the Baptist way.”

Shupert said some of the roughly 150 congregants at his church had chosen to give money to what they deemed more moderate Baptist groups, the Atlanta-based Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Missouri.

The changes should not affect most congregants on a day-to-day basis at the 19 churches, but has meant the end to historic partnerships. Shupert said his church had a partnership with the Missouri Baptist Convention for more than 100 years.

Minister: Everyone invited to trial on gay marriage ceremony

PITTSBURGH (AP) – A Presbyterian minister charged with breaking church law for performing a lesbian marriage has sent out invitations to her church trial next week.

The invitations from the Rev. Janet Edwards state that she is delighted to have “an opportunity to engage in the absolutely essential discussion that has to go on in the Presbyterian Church over the place of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people among us.”

The invitation ends: “Janet wants the world to come. Feel free to invite anyone.”

Jerry Van Marter, news director for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), said, “Wow. It’s a real show trial isn’t it?”

Edwards, 56, a parish associate at the Community of Reconciliation Church in Pittsburgh, was charged in September with presiding at the June 2005 wedding in violation of the church’s position on marriage.

Her trial is scheduled for Nov. 15 at The Priory, a small hotel on the city’s North Side. Edwards’ invitation advises out-of-town guests about a reserved block of hotel rooms and a shuttle to the trial. It also invites them to a worship celebration and lunch at the Pittsburgh Golf Club.

The denomination’s high court has said that clergy in the Presbyterian Church may bless same-sex couples as long as the ceremony doesn’t resemble a marriage liturgy.

Edwards has been clear that she presided over a marriage. She has argued there is no ban on same-sex marriage ceremonies because the ruling states clergy “should not” conduct them, which she believes does not constitute a prohibition.

Trials are usually open to the public and, like civil trials, include testimony and cross-examination. Judges deliberate and rulings typically are issued within days. Either side can appeal to the regional and then national levels.

Edwards said she will plead not guilty. If she is convicted, penalties could range from a reprimand to removal from ministry.

With diocese facing bankruptcy, incoming Catholic bishop asks for low-key installation

DAVENPORT, Iowa (AP) – The incoming Roman Catholic bishop of Davenport, taking over a diocese facing bankruptcy, is asking parishioners not to organize an extravagant celebration at his installation this month.

The request by Bishop Martin Amos comes weeks after the diocese filed for bankruptcy protection from clergy sexual abuse claims.

“He’s considering the financial situation of the diocese,” says diocese spokesman David Montgomery.

Diocesan officials said that more than $10.5 million has been paid so far to resolve abuse claims since 2004, including a $9 million payout to 37 victims. Insurance covered part of the cost.

Amos’ installation is planned for Nov. 20. Amos, an auxiliary bishop in the Diocese of Cleveland, will succeed Bishop William Franklin, who is retiring.

Montgomery says no money has been set aside for the celebration service because all the diocese’s assets are under protection of the bankruptcy court. The diocese is taking donations throughout its 22 counties in eastern Iowa to cover the costs.

The church plans to save money by not offering dinner at the reception held after the installation. It has also abandoned a plan to show the service live on cable television. Instead, the ceremony will be shown on tape-delay on Mediacom Channel 11, which is owned by St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Montgomery says.

All the priests in the diocese have been asked to contribute toward the installation, and some parishes are taking special collections.

The diocese is not sure of the final costs involved and has no alternative plan if the collection runs short, Montgomery says.

Ministers christen home of N.C.-based Christian broadcast center

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) – Big names in television evangelism gathered to break ground for a new broadcast center for the Charlotte-based Inspiration Networks, which is building a $98 million complex in South Carolina.

Pat Robertson of the Christian Broadcasting Network, Rodney Parsley of the World Harvest Church in Columbus, Ohio, and pioneer televangelist Rex Humbard were among the people who came Nov. 5 to what will be a 93-acre campus in Lancaster County, S.C.

They condemned commercial television as evil.

“Television has become America’s drug of choice, an electronic Valium,” Parsley said.

David Cerullo, chief executive officer of Inspiration Networks, said “most secular television today has gone beyond the bounds of good entertainment and good information into what the Bible would describe as spiritual darkness.”

Cerullo started Inspiration in 1990 when he bought the broadcast assets of the old PTL network.

Inspiration has four channels with programs in English and Spanish and employs 320 people spread out in nine buildings in the Charlotte area. The new campus will bring everyone into one location and the network expects to grow to 1,500 employees.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.