Cubans mark 100th anniversary

HAVANA (AP) – A top executive of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) helped Cubans celebrate the 100th anniversary of the opening of the capital’s first Protestant house of worship, giving a sermon in which he urged all Christians to do more to eliminate global inequality.

The Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick, the Presbyterian stated clerk, spoke in both English and Spanish to hundreds of followers and diplomats at the Dec. 10 ceremony in central Havana. Delegations from Florida and Washington D.C. were also present.

Texas pastors back colleague

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) – The Southern Baptist pastor who found himself at the center of a controversy over speaking in tongues drew renewed support from a group of pastors who want the denomination to re-examine policies governing the practice.

About 150 pastors and other church leaders from around the country participated in a roundtable discussion at Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, home of the Rev. Dwight McKissic.

Trustees at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth voted in October that they would not tolerate any promotion of “private prayer language” at the school. The vote came nearly two months after McKissic said during a chapel service that he sometimes speaks in tongues while praying.

Group threatens suit over cross

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. (AP) – A legal advocacy group with ties to the Rev. Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University is jumping into the dispute over whether the College of William and Mary should have removed a cross from its chapel.

Mathew Staver, a lawyer with Liberty Counsel, said the decision by college president Gene Nichol to remove the 2-foot-high century-old bronze cross violated the Constitution’s guarantee of free expression of religion.

Staver, dean of Liberty University’s law school, called the removal, “politically unwise and constitutionally incorrect.”

In October, Nichol ordered the cross to be kept in the chapel’s sacristy so the sanctuary would be more welcoming to all faiths, not just Christians. It can be returned to the chapel upon request.

Nichols said that displaying the Christian cross “sends an unmistakable message that the chapel belongs more fully to some of us than to others.”

The chapel is in the Wren Building, which is used for secular meetings, including annual school-wide events for freshmen and seniors. The College of William and Mary became a state school in 1906.

Since the removal, some students and alumni have campaigned to have the cross brought back. Their Web site,, includes a petition that has received about 7,000 signatures.

Because the cross hung in the chapel for 75 years without complaint, the removal demonstrates hostility toward Christianity rather than the neutral stance required by the First Amendment, Staver said. Staver said Liberty Counsel “is always ready to litigate” if the issue cannot be resolved out of court.

Dalai Lama to visit Indiana next October

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) – The Dalai Lama will visit Bloomington next October.

The Tibetan spiritual leader is scheduled to be in Bloomington and Indianapolis Oct. 23-28. He visited Bloomington four times before, most recently in 2003.

“We are still in the planning stages regarding his itinerary,” said Elaine Irwin-Mellencamp, wife of rocker John Mellencamp and a member of the Kumbum Chamtse Ling Temple at the center.

“He will spend some of his time in Indianapolis and surrounding communities, but most of his time will be spent in Bloomington,” she said.

The purpose of the 71-year-old spiritual leader’s visit will be to promote peace, said Sudhaka Koneru, treasurer of the Tibetan Cultural Center’s executive board.

Tenzin Gyatso was proclaimed the 14th Dalai Lama at age 5 and became Tibet’s leader at 15. He fled into exile in India following an abortive 1959 uprising against Chinese rule. His efforts to preserve Tibetan culture and promote Tibet’s liberation earned him the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize.

Gwinnett County church drops ‘Hog’ from its name

LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. (AP) – After 152 years, Hog Mountain Baptist Church in eastern Gwinnett County has changed its name to drop the word “Hog.”

The Rev. Barney Williams said he advocated changing the name because hogs are associated with sin in the Bible. He says he believes a different name could attract new members.

Church members voted Dec. 11 to become Hamilton Mill Baptist. They picked from a handful of proposed names, including Oak View, Fort Daniel, Mill Creek and Oak Hill.

The area where the church sits was called Hog Mountain until the late 1990s when the name of Hamilton Mill became more popular, especially among newcomers living in the upscale development close to Interstate 85.

Hog Mountain was the site of the county’s first courthouse and jail. Its name comes from a story of men stopping in the area as they drove their pigs to market.

In November, members decided in a 21-7 vote that it was time to change the church’s name. The Gwinnett Historical Society sent a letter to church deacons, asking them to reconsider the change.

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