Religion news in brief

  • Article by: The Associated Press
  • Associated Press
  • June 25, 2014 - 11:51 AM

Methodist panel overturns pastor's defrocking

BALTIMORE (AP) — A United Methodist Church appeals panel has overturned the church's decision to defrock a pastor who presided over his son's same-sex wedding ceremony and said he would perform other gay marriages if asked.

A lower church court suspended Frank Schaefer of Lebanon, Pennsylvania, last year for officiating at his son's 2007 wedding. The church then defrocked Schaefer because he wouldn't promise never to preside over another gay ceremony. Schaefer appealed, arguing the decision was wrong because it was based on an assumption he would break church law in the future.

But at a news conference Tuesday, Schaefer said he "absolutely" will perform more same-sex weddings, and is confident that church law will change.

John Lomperis (lahm-PAYR'-is), director of the conservative group United Methodist Action, says Schaefer should have joined another denomination whose views he shares rather than expect the United Methodist Church to change. Lomperis adds that he hopes Schaefer's restoration to ministry gets appealed to the church's highest court.


Freed Christian woman, family detained in Sudan

KHARTOUM, Sudan (AP) — A lawyer for the Sudanese Christian woman sentenced to death and later freed says the woman and her family were detained at the international airport in Khartoum while trying to leave the country.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters in Washington that the Sudanese government informed American officials that 27-year-old Meriam Ibrahim, her husband and two children were "detained for several hours" Tuesday over issues relating to their travel documents. Harf said the Sudanese assured the U.S. that the family is not under arrest, has "since been released" and is safe. She said U.S. officials are continuing to work on getting them out of the country.

Ibrahim was raised by her Christian mother but her father was Muslim, making her a Muslim under Sudanese law, so the country didn't recognize her Christian wedding to an American citizen. Instead, she was convicted of adultery and apostasy and sentenced to 100 lashes and execution by hanging.

A Sudanese appeals court dropped Ibrahim's charges and freed her after worldwide outrage.


Judge voids Austin's pregnancy-center law

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A federal judge has thrown out an city ordinance in Austin, Texas, that required pregnancy resource centers — religiously-based organizations that do not offer abortions or refer women to abortion providers — to post signs announcing they do not offer medical care.

The Austin American-Statesman reports that Judge Lee Yeakel ruled Monday that the requirement is unconstitutionally vague and violates the centers' due process rights.

The ordinance was passed unanimously by the Austin City Council in 2012.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of four pregnancy centers — LifeCare, Austin Pregnancy Resource Center, South Austin Pregnancy Resource Center and the Gabriel Project, which is run by Catholic Charities of Central Texas.


Mormon church excommunicates women's group founder

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The Mormon church has excommunicated the prominent founder of a Mormon women's group.

The group, Ordain Women, announced Monday afternoon that Kate Kelly's former church leaders in Virginia notified her of the decision.

Kelly's former leaders in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had weighed the high-profile decision overnight. She did not attend the disciplinary hearing but instead held a vigil in Salt Lake City with about 200 supporters.

As the leader of Ordain Women, Kelly is accused of apostasy, which is repeated and public advocacy of positions that oppose church teachings.

Mormon officials aren't discussing Kelly's case, but say disciplinary hearings are held when members' actions contradict church doctrine and lead others astray.


Vatican to name new adviser to oversee Legion

VATICAN CITY (AP) — The superior of the Legion of Christ religious order says the Vatican next week will name a new adviser to help oversee it.

It's the latest sign that Pope Francis doubts the Vatican's three-year reform experiment has resolved all the order's problems.

Francis has kept the Legion at arms' length since he inherited the reform project that was launched after the Legion admitted its founder sexually abused his seminarians and fathered three children.

Francis has yet to meet with the new superior and didn't send a message to the congregation when it met in January to chart its new course. The Vatican insisted on naming two members of the new government and during his recent trip to Jerusalem, Francis skipped a luncheon planned by the Legion and ate instead with the Franciscans.

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