Religion writer at Globe wins prize

WASHINGTON (AP) – Michael Paulson of the Boston Globe took top honors in the Religion Newswriters Association’s annual contests for a package of stories highlighted by a series on the trials of an inner-city church.

Paulson received first place in both the Templeton Award for Religion Reporting and the Supple Award for Religion Writing categories from the RNA, which seeks to improve coverage of religion in the secular press.

Pastor shutters congregation

TULSA, Okla. (AP) – A pastor who once led one of Tulsa’s most prominent charismatic churches and served as an adviser to then-President-elect Bush has shut down his church.

Bishop Carlton Pearson preached his final sermon at New Dimensions Church on Sept. 7. The church has been folded into All Souls Unitarian Church, the world’s largest church in that denomination.

“I wanted a place where my people could find safe harbor,” he said. “They’re already outcasts in the evangelical-charismatic community.

New Dimensions Church once was known as Higher Dimensions Family Church. Eight years ago, the church had about 6,000 members, and Pearson served as a guest host on the national Trinity Broadcasting Network, was a member of the Oral Roberts University board of trustees and was among group of black religious leaders who advised Bush in the days after his election.

Pearson then began preaching that all people would go to heaven, a theology he refers to as “the gospel of inclusion.” Not long after, evangelical leaders began spurning Pearson, the membership in his church – renamed New Dimensions Church – fell to a few hundred and the church’s south Tulsa property was lost in foreclosure.

Presbyterians fly in Malawis

PITTSBURGH (AP) – Faced with years of decreasing church numbers, several Presbyterian congregations in Pittsburgh have flown in more than two dozen Presbyterians from Malawi to help locals keep the faith.

While church leaders in Pittsburgh struggle, the Presbyterian church in the central African nation has seen consistent growth, said Nora Goetz, co-chairwoman of the partnership program that helped bring 26 Malawis to the area.

“They are clearly doing something right, because their churches are growing by leaps and bounds, whereas ours are shrinking,” Goetz, of the Pittsburgh suburb Turtle Creek, told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. The partnership between the Pittsburgh Presbyterians and the Malawis began 17 years ago.

Thirty-nine Pittsburgh-area churches are part of the exchange program with the Synod of Blantyre, which runs 430 Presbyterian churches and another 600 small prayer houses in Malawi, said Andrew Maere, the Synod’s secretary-general.

Islam expert joins Naval Academy as new chair for Middle East studies

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) – An expert on Islam is joining the U.S. Naval Academy this fall.

Akbar Ahmed, who is also a cultural anthropologist and the former high commissioner of Pakistan to Britain, will fill a new chair for Middle East Studies. He will teach courses, advise midshipmen and faculty, and assist in research projects.

Ahmed has promoted interfaith relations through his many books, television appearances and public dialogues with Judea Pearl, the father of slain Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. He has also worked in film and documentary.

His most recent book, published in 2007, is “Journey into Islam: The Crisis of Globalization.”

Ahmed previously taught at American, Princeton, Harvard and Cambridge universities.

AP-ES-09-24-08 1151EDT

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