Religion News in Brief

AP News
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Posted: Nov 11, 2009 2:43 PM

Sweden's Lutheran church consecrated its first openly gay bishop, just two weeks after it gave clergy the right to wed same-sex couples.

Eva Brunne became bishop of Stockholm's diocese in a ceremony Sunday.

She lives in a "registered partnership" with another woman, a civil union between gays used in Sweden before same-sex marriages were legalized this year. The couple also has a child.

"It is very positive that our church is setting an example here and is choosing me as bishop based on my qualifications, when they also know that they can meet resistance elsewhere," the 55-year-old Brunne told The Associated Press by phone.

Brunne's spokeswoman Annika Sjoqvist Platzer said she didn't know of any openly gay women who had reached the position of bishop in other countries.

In 2003, the Episcopal Church, the Anglican body in the U.S., caused an uproar in the global Anglican fellowship by consecrating the first openly gay bishop, V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire. The 77 million-member Anglican Communion is now on the brink of schism.

Brunne was elected as bishop of Stockholm in May, then ordained Sunday in Uppsala Cathedral. She said hadn't encountered much resistance within the church over her sexual orientation.

The Church of Sweden has become more open toward sexual minorities in recent years, though there still is resistance from individual clergy. Former Archbishop Gunnar Weman protested Brunne's elevation in a statement to the Christian newspaper Dagen, saying it "is not compatible" with Holy Scripture.

The Church of Sweden counts about 6.7 million members though few of them regularly attend services in the largely secular Scandinavian country.

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Memorial to Conn. 9/11 victim halted as town refuses to make reference to 'Muslim terrorists'

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) _ A memorial to honor a Sept. 11 victim from a small northwestern Connecticut town has been halted by the unexpected conflict arising from his father's insistence that it say his son was murdered by "Muslim terrorists."

Town officials in Kent are balking, saying it would be inappropriate to single out a religious group in a project on town property and paid for with taxpayers' money. The memorial plaque to be erected outside the town hall is on indefinite hold.

Peter Gadiel says he's frustrated about what he calls a growing trend across the country to soften the reality of the Sept. 11 attacks by not mentioning a word about terrorism on victims' memorials. "Ordinarily I would not want a reference to his murder on his memorial, but there seems to be an effort to whitewash what happened that day," said Gadiel, a 61-year-old retired real estate investor.

Gadiel's 23-year-old son, James Gadiel, was working for the Cantor Fitzgerald brokerage firm in the World Trade Center when he was killed.

Town leaders acknowledge that Muslim terrorists were responsible for the attacks, but they insist that saying it on a public memorial plaque would be wrong. "To disparage a particular religious group would not be appropriate," said outgoing First Selectwoman Ruth Epstein.

Town officials say that most of the criticism is coming from outsiders.

Epstein said the town has received about 150 e-mails and numerous phone calls on the issue. Many of them supporting Gadiel were obscene and threatening, including one from a person who hoped Epstein and her family were killed by terrorists, she said.

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NC magistrate: Sectarian prayer before county commissioners meeting violates First Amendment

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) _ A federal magistrate concluded Monday that opening a board of commissioners' meeting with sectarian prayer violates the First Amendment.

Magistrate Trevor Sharp issued the recommendation in the case of the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners' meetings. The magistrate's recommendation carries no legal weight, other than offering guidance to the federal judge who will make a final ruling.

Sharp noted that the invocations frequently referred to Jesus or Jesus Christ, and said such prayers "display a preference for Christianity over other religions by the government."

The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina had filed a lawsuit over the prayers two years ago on behalf of Forsyth County residents Janet Joyner and Constance Lynn Blackmon.

The county commission had argued that their policy of inviting different clergy to deliver invocations meant it was staying neutral. But the ACLU and Americans United argued that any opening prayer must be nonsectarian for the government to be truly neutral.

Joyner and Constance are members of the Winston-Salem Chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a watchdog group based in Washington, D.C.

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Phoenix Methodist church loses appeal; can no longer offer meals to the needy

PHOENIX (AP) _ The kitchen is closed at a north Phoenix church that fed the homeless.

CrossRoads United Methodist Church lost an appeal of a city ordinance banning charity dining halls in residential neighborhoods.

The hearing officer, retired Arizona Supreme Court Justice Robert Corcoran, ruled Monday that feeding the homeless at a place of worship can be banned by city ordinance. The decision affects all Phoenix churches with underlying residential zoning and is effective immediately.

City officials maintained that CrossRoads violated Phoenix zoning code by feeding the poor and homeless on its property, a use that can only occur in commercial or industrial zones.

The church appealed and maintained it is a church and is not operating as a charity dining hall.

Neighbors were especially upset with the church because they didn't like homeless people hanging around their area near Central and Northern avenues.