National | Religion

Issue: "Iraq: What went wrong?," May 15, 2004

Upholding integrity

The 4-million-member Presbyterian Church of East Africa (PCEA) served notice to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) that it will not continue fellowship with any regional presbytery or church that supports homosexuality. It has partnerships with 10 PCUSA presbyteries. More than 400 commissioners at an assembly of the Nairobi-based PCEA also ordered one of its presbyteries to discontinue immediately its partnership with the National Capital Presbytery in the Washington, D.C., area and to cancel a scheduled exchange visit.

National Capital is one of 10 PCUSA presbyteries that support repeal of the PCUSA ordination standard of fidelity in marriage and chastity in singleness. They oppose the provision that says homosexual conduct is sinful, too. National Capital also is the home presbytery of PCUSA moderator Susan Andrews, who has used her office and travels to promote homosexual ordination. Her travels as moderator have included a trip to East Africa.

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"The idea of lesbianism or gay-ism ... is unbiblical," said PCEA general secretary Samuel Muriguh. The PCEA reportedly receives about $300,000 a year from PCUSA churches. Its action to sever some partnerships will likely reduce funding, but, Rev. Muriguh continued, "we have our integrity to uphold," and "it is better to go without the money." PCUSA's top executive, stated clerk Clifton Kirkpatrick, greeted the news from East Africa with an invitation to PCEA leaders to a "dialogue ... sharing and learning from each other."

Marriage proposal

The 8.3-million-member United Methodist Church is the first U.S. mainline denomination to go on record opposing same-sex marriage in civil law. The action came during the UMC's quadrennial policy-making General Conference this month in Pittsburgh. Delegates voted 625 to 184 to add language to the UMC's Social Principles handbook endorsing "laws in civil society that define marriage as the union of one man and one woman." The cleverly worded legislation was submitted by conservative leader Mark Tooley, director of the UM Action Committee of the Washington, D.C.-based Institute on Religion and Democracy. The UMC already had prohibited same-sex unions in its churches but had not yet addressed the issue of marriage in society at large.

Bulletin Board

An evangelical supervisor who was fired from her long-time job with the Cox cable company in Phoenix, allegedly for harassing a gay subordinate, was not discriminated against on the basis of religion, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled. Evelyn Bodett had acknowledged telling Kelley Carson that homosexual conduct is a sin, that turmoil in Ms. Carson's personal life was a result of her gay lifestyle, and that she would be "disappointed" if Ms. Carson were to date another woman. Ms. Bodett also had invited Ms. Carson to attend a church service and a religious conference. Ms. Carson said she was "born again" when Ms. Bodett prayed with her once-an event Cox executives described in later court proceedings as an "exorcism."

After Cox executives learned of Ms. Bodett's comments, they accused her of "gross violation" of the company's anti-harassment policy and fired her. Ms. Bodett denied that her comments constituted harassment. She sued, claiming she was the victim of religious discrimination.

Who will pay? That's the question that has embroiled the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston in conflict with its insurer, the Lumbermens Mutual Casualty Co. The archdiocese agreed last year to pay $85 million to 552 alleged victims of clergy sexual abuse. Then it sought to recover about $67 million from Lumbermens. After the insurance company refused, the church sued, arguing that its policy covered victims of clergy sexual abuse for unlimited amounts. Lumbermens countersued, contending that the policy was meant to cover accidental injuries, not damages resulting from crimes.

Edward E. Plowman
Edward E. Plowman


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