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NEWS BRIEFS: UCC strikes 'Heavenly Father' language; court (sort of) reinstates DADT

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)--A conservative group in the United Church of Christ called foul when the church's main legislative body replaced the term "Heavenly Father" with "triune God" in its constitution.

The controversy was reported by religion writer Peter Smith of The Courier-Journal.

"Rejecting God as Father in an age of fatherlessness is unthinkable," said David Runnion-Bareford, executive director of Biblical Witness Fellowship, about the General Synod's decision.

The change made in early July by the primarily liberal denomination shows a shift toward talking about God in gender-neutral terms instead of traditional masculine expressions. The decision still awaits regional ratification.

However, not all male references to God have been taken out of the UCC. The same synod that struck "Heavenly Father" from its constitution voted separately to continue using the traditional language -- "Father, Son and Holy Spirit" -- for baptisms.

The UCC recorded 1.08 million members last year.

NINTH CIRCUIT RULES AGAIN ON DADT -- The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has put the military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell back in place, but mostly in name only. On Friday, July 15 the court said the policy could be enforced, although the justices prevented the military from "investigating, penalizing, or discharging anyone from the military," The New York Times reported. The policy prevents homosexuals from serving openly. Under the court's order, persons who are openly homosexual presumably still cannot enlist, although those who currently are in the military cannot be discharged.

The legal case involving the policy is complicated.

Last November, the Ninth Circuit put a stay in place that prevented a lower court's ruling overturning the policy from going into effect. But on July 6, the court lifted the stay, meaning the earlier ruling would soon be in force. The Justice Department asked the Ninth Circuit to put the stay back in place.


The Justice Department says the military and Obama administration are moving toward repealing the policy but that they don't want a federal court to short-circuit the process.

Last year, more than 60 retired chaplains signed a letter to Obama and then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates warning that a repeal would marginalize "deeply held" religious beliefs of military personnel and present a conflict when some chaplains, while preaching, "present religious teachings that identify homosexual behavior as immoral." They warned that changing the policy could influence chaplains not only in what they could preach but in what they could say in a counseling session. A repeal, the letter further said, would harm morale because it would be casting "the sincerely held religious beliefs of many chaplains and Service members as rank bigotry comparable to racism."

Compiled by Whitney Jones is a student at Union University in Jackson, Tenn., and an intern with Baptist Press, and Michael Foust, associate editor of Baptist Press.

Copyright (c) 2011 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press


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