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Gay union

Religion | Despite conservative challenge, a controversial homosexual megachurch joins mainline denomination

Issue: "Darfur," Nov. 25, 2006

The 3,500-member Cathedral of Hope in Dallas, widely known as the world's largest homosexual church, last month joined the 1.2-million-member United Church of Christ. Now the Cleveland-based UCC's fourth-largest congregation, it recently named Jo Hudson as senior pastor. She has been a UCC minister since 1997. However, the main reins of power remain in the hands of controversial cathedral "dean" Michael Piazza, a nationally known gay activist who has been at the church since 1987.

The cathedral left the gay-oriented Metropolitan Community Churches denomination in 2003, during an MCC investigation into financial irregularities at the church, especially involving Piazza. In parting, MCC and cathedral leaders agreed to seal the records of the investigation. Under a cloud, Piazza submitted a "non-binding" resignation from his church position but returned several months later.

UCC conservatives unsuccessfully challenged denominational leaders in Texas to take a close look at the Piazza investigation before voting to accept the cathedral. The UCC, a mainline denomination, has been ordaining homosexuals since the 1970s, and last year it officially endorsed same-sex marriage.

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Bulletin Board

CANADA: The new Conservative-led government in Canada wants to reopen the debate over same-sex marriage. Under the former Liberal government, Canada last year became the third country in the world to approve same-sex marriage. The Conservatives stand poised to introduce legislation that would give civic officials and clergy the right on religious or ethical grounds to refuse to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies. It would also protect the free-speech rights of religious leaders and others who criticize homosexual behavior or refuse to do business with gay-rights groups. A new national poll has found strong public support for both proposals. They would provide relief for civic and religious leaders already under attack by gay activists for alleged discrimination.

FLORIDA: Kent "Dr. Dino" Hovind, self-styled evangelist and founder of Creation Science Evangelism and Dinosaur Adventure Land in Pensacola, Fla., was found guilty of all 58 counts involving tax fraud and related issues. He was jailed pending sentencing in January and could face a sentence of 200 years in prison. His wife Jo, a grandmother and piano teacher, also was convicted on numerous counts, including measures to shield transfers of cash from bank reporting. Prosecutors said the Hovinds took in about $5 million between 1999 and 2004 from amusement-park profits and merchandise; half went to their employees, much of it unreported.

TEXAS: Investigators for the main Southern Baptist state unit in Texas reported that funds for starting new churches in the Rio Grande Valley were misused or missing. Also missing were many of the 258 churches three pastoral workers said they started, the investigators said. The Baptist General Convention of Texas said it gave more than $1.3 million to start and support those churches between 1999 and 2005. Attorneys on the investigative team blamed poor oversight at BGCT headquarters for much of the mess. They also said they discovered forged documents and other evidence of fraud in field locations, where several workers acknowledged handling large amounts of cash. BGCT board members were to decide this month whether to pursue legal action against individuals suspected in the misuse of funds.

Edward E. Plowman
Edward E. Plowman

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