A panel of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has acquitted a minister who was accused of violating the denomination's constitution by legally marrying his male partner.
The church judicial commission split 3-3 Monday on the charge against the Rev. Erwin Barron, who is under the jurisdiction of the Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area, but now works as a college professor in San Francisco. A two-thirds vote was required for conviction, which could have led the denomination to revoke Barron's clergy credentials. An appeal is likely.
The church constitution requires celibacy for clergy who aren't married to a member of the opposite sex. Barron and his partner, Roland Abellano, married in September 2008 in California, during the short period when gay marriage was legal in the state.
The trial Monday grew from a complaint by an elder at a Minnesota church. The Star Tribune of Minneapolis reported that neither side would name the accuser.
Two new major Bible translations being released
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The nation's Roman Catholic bishops are releasing their first new Bible in decades as the season of Lent begins. The New American Bible, Revised Edition, will be available starting on Ash Wednesday, which falls this year on March 9.
The latest version contains a new translation of the Old Testament _ the first such new translation in more than 40 years. The New Testament section had already been updated in 1986 and will not be changed in the new edition.
The translation effort started 17 years ago, prompted in part by the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, which are the oldest known texts of Scripture. A group of more than 50 experts changed language and reordered passages to be closer to the original text and better reflect modern usage.
Separately this month, Zondervan, the publishing company based in Grand Rapids, Mich., is releasing the latest translation of the New International Version of the Bible. The NIV is the top-selling Bible in North America, used widely by evangelicals and other Protestants.
Zondervan says it has already sold 40,000 of the updated translation as an electronic book.
Past attempts to remake the NIV for contemporary audiences in different editions had been plagued by controversies about gender language.
New American Bible: http://www.usccb.org/nab/bible/articles.shtml
New International Version: http://www.zondervan.com/
Canada polygamy inquiry uncovers child bride allegations involving sect leader Warren Jeffs
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) _ An affidavit filed in a Canadian court case asserts that nine teen girls may have been brought from Canada to the U.S. to marry jailed polygamous sect leader Warren Jeffs and other men from his church.
The 55-year-old Jeffs is head of the Utah-based Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. He's jailed in Texas awaiting trial on charges of sexual assault and bigamy. Prosecutors say Jeffs had sex with two children, one under age 14 and the other under age 17. A court entered not guilty pleas on his behalf.
According to the affidavit filed last week, between 2004 and 2006 nine girls aged 12 to 18 were brought from Canada specifically for the weddings.
The documents say at least three of the girls_ two aged 12 and one aged 13 _ were married to Jeffs. It's not clear from the records whether the girls are the same victims whose relationships with Jeffs are the basis for the Texas charges. All three of those marriage occurred in 2004, when Jeffs would have been 48.
A telephone message left for Jeffs' Texas criminal attorney, Jeff Kearney, was not immediately returned.
The information in the affidavit stems from church records seized by Texas authorities during a 2008 raid on the church's Yearning for Zion ranch in Eldorado.
The Canadian affidavit was filed by an attorney for the Ministry of Attorney General for British Columbia. The province's supreme court is in the middle of a monthslong inquiry to decide whether a ban on polygamy is a violation of constitutionally protected religious rights.
Oil spill just one reason this year's Chauvin fleet blessing is in question
CHAUVIN, La. (AP) _ A tentative date of April 10 has been set for the blessing of the fishing fleet in Chauvin, but there is some question about whether the annual event will take place, partly because of the BP oil spill.
Monsignor Fred Brunet, pastor of St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church in Chauvin, is trying to determine whether enough fishermen want to take part this year.
"It is expensive and with the oil spill and everything, I don't know," Brunet said.
Complications from the BP disaster are part of the reason. The spill damaged local fisheries, and some boats are still being cleaned or repaired after taking part in oil cleanup.
Also, The Courier newspaper of Houma reports some residents are upset about the party atmosphere that is now part of what is supposed to be a religious event.
The more devout participants say the blessing has devolved into a sort of floating Mardi Gras, with people raising beer cans to salute the passing priest and occasional flashing.
Other spring boat blessings are usually held in Golden Meadow, Dulac and Pointe-aux-Chenes.
In most cases a priest rides on the prow of a lead boat, shaking holy water in the direction of moored boats. Other boats join behind in procession. Many of the boats are decorated with religious symbols, banners and on some occasions have displayed social or political messages.
So far, only in Chauvin have participants discussed scaling down or eliminating the event.