Religion Today Summaries, March 10, 2003

Religion Today Summaries, March 10, 2003

Religion Today Summaries: Daily summaries of the top national and international religious news stories impacting Christians
In Today's Edition:

  • Methodist Court to Consider Case of Lesbian Pastor
  • American Teen Among Suicide-Bomb Victims
  • Ethiopian Church Leaders Freed after 10-Month Incarceration
  • Destruction of Ancient Joseph Tomb Decried by Government Officials and Scholars

Methodist Court to Consider Case of Lesbian Pastor
Kevin Eckstrom

(RNS) A lesbian United Methodist pastor who won two earlier court cases will now face trial in the church's highest court. Charges were first brought against the Rev. Karen Dammann in 2001 after she admitted to her bishop that she was living in a lesbian relationship. Elias Galvan, the bishop of Seattle, reluctantly filed charges. The 8.3 million-member church says that homosexual activity is "incompatible with Christian teaching" and bars "self-avowed, practicing" homosexuals from ordination. Two lower panels ruled in favor of Dammann, saying there was not enough evidence to warrant a trial. Galvan said he would appeal the decision to the church's Judicial Council because the case holds implications for the larger church. "This case hinges on several passages from the Book of Discipline that have never been tested and interpreted," Galvan said, referring to the church constitution, according to United Methodist News Service. "It is important to follow the process all the way to the Judicial Council to clarify the meaning and application of these passages." The court will hear the case when it meets April 26-27. Dammann remains a pastor in good standing with Galvan's office, but is now living with her partner and son in Amherst, Mass.

American Teen Among Suicide-Bomb Victims

(Charisma News) The teenage daughter of an American Baptist church worker, who was part of a school group trying to ease Arab-Israeli tensions, was among the 15 victims of a Palestinian suicide bomber who blew up a bus in Haifa, Israel, last week. Abigail Litle, who is due to be buried Sunday, died as she rode to a school class. The 14-year-old had recently taken part in an outreach program called Children Teaching Children, which sponsored bridge-building field trips, "The Boston Herald" reported. Her father, Philip Litle, said that she had "gone to a better place now." He said that he had no plans to leave Israel, where he and his wife, who have five children, have lived since 1989. "It's certainly sad that there are conflicts in the world," he said, the "Herald" reported. "I think that there is only one solution to these conflicts and that [is] to have a heart of love. That's not what you find sometimes on either side here." Originally from New Hampshire, Litle moved to Israel to study at a university in Haifa, and later took a job as an administrator at the Israel branch of the Southern Baptist Convention. "We were called here," he said.

Ethiopian Church Leaders Freed after 10-Month Incarceration

(Compass) Evangelical church leaders Kiros Meles and Abebayeh Desalegn has been set free after being jailed without charges for 10 months in the northern Ethiopian town of Maychew. “It is a shame for them to be in prison,” said the magistrate who ordered their release at a March 5 hearing. She found no evidence against the two Pentecostal elders under investigation for alleged murder and ordered the men transferred the same day from prison to the local police station, where they were discharged today. “They have been released this morning, and are at their homes, celebrating with all the believers,” a source told Compass. Meles, 46, and Desalegn, 35, were arrested after a two-day riot last April led by a mob of Orthodox Church extremists. When a young Orthodox man was shot dead during the last day of the rampage, local police accused the two evangelical leaders as suspects. However, the fatal shot came from the local police chief’s gun and an off-duty policeman was also jailed.

Destruction of Ancient Joseph Tomb Decried by Government Officials and Scholars
David Roach

(Baptist Press) A sacred Jewish burial site traditionally regarded as the tomb of the biblical patriarch Joseph has been destroyed by Palestinian vandals. "It's a travesty to all humankind when traditional or archaeological sites are destroyed -- sites that are revered and respected-regardless of who does it in the name of science or war or anger," said Steve Andrews, professor of Old Testament and archaeology at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo. This destruction comes in the wake of legislation offered in the 107th Congress by Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., to bar all aid to the Palestinian Authority if it persists in the destruction of Jewish artifacts. "Connected with such destruction is extreme religious intolerance -- contrary to the Jeffersonian principles of the free exercise of religion held dear by all Americans," Cantor said in introducing his bill -- a bill designed specifically to protect the Temple Mount. "Thousands of years of Judeo-Christian heritage is under siege." The incident has left Israeli government officials indignant.