Update on the latest religion news


Associated Press

Posted on October 21, 2013 at 5:01 AM

Updated Monday, Oct 21 at 5:00 AM


Pope Francis delivers his first message in English

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis has delivered his first message in English, a greeting to Catholics attending an evangelization conference in the Philippines.

The Argentine pontiff, whose father was Italian, has delivered most of his messages in Italian since being elected pope in March.

On Friday, he told the Philippine conferees that they should let Jesus speak into every aspect of life. He also asked for prayer, telling the conferees, "I need it."

On Sunday, the pope reverted to Italian as he urged pilgrims in St. Peter's Square to join him in praying for the people of the Philippines, who have endured a series of natural disasters. An earthquake struck the central Philippines last Tuesday, killing at least 171 people and damaging a dozen or more churches, some of them hundreds of years old.

The country has also been hit by Typhoons Nari and Usagi, which killed a number of people and left widespread devastation.


207-a-03-(Pope Francis, delivering his first message in English)-"I need it"-Pope Francis asks for prayer. (20 Oct 2013)

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206-a-10-(Pope Francis, delivering his first message in English)-"and social media"-Pope Francis says every aspect of life needs Jesus's message. (20 Oct 2013)

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205-a-11-(Pope Francis, delivering his first message in English)-"love the church"-Pope Francis sends his greetings to an evangelization conference in the Philippines. (20 Oct 2013)

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Traveling Calif. minister, pilot die in Kan. crash

DERBY, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a California minister and his pilot are dead after their small Texas-bound plane crashed soon after taking off from a Kansas airport.

Sedgwick County Sheriff Jeff Easter identified the victims as 72-year-old minister Edward Dufresne (doo-FRAYN') and the pilot, 49-year-old Mitchell Morgan.

Easter says witnesses reported seeing debris falling from the twin-engine Cessna before it crashed Friday southeast of Wichita.

Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Tony Molinaro says the plane was bound for New Braunfels, Texas. According to the itinerary on his website, Dufresne spoke Thursday night at a Wichita church and was scheduled to speak at a Schertz, Texas, church Friday night.

Dufresne ran the World Harvest Church in Murrieta, Calif., about 80 miles southeast of Los Angeles.


Female pastor resigns after marrying woman

DETROIT (AP) — A female pastor has resigned from a Detroit church after disclosing that she married a woman.

Bishop Allyson Nelson Abrams stepped down from Zion Progress Baptist Church on Friday. The Detroit Free Press says she told congregants on Oct. 6 that she married a pastor affiliated with a Washington, D.C., church.

Abrams married Diana Williams, a bishop emeritus with Washington's Imani Temple African-American Catholic Congregation, which has separated from the Catholic Church. They wed in Iowa, where same-sex marriage is legal.

Abrams, who once was married to a man, said leaving was necessary to prevent further division in her church. She said some urged her to stay but others had learned about her marriage before the announcement and were making an issue out of it.


Pa. pastors to defy church, perform gay marriage

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A group of Methodist ministers will jointly officiate the marriage of a same-sex couple — in violation of church doctrine — to show solidarity with a colleague facing possible dismissal for presiding at his gay son's wedding.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that more than 30 pastors have pledged to officiate at the same-sex marriage next month in support of the Rev. Frank Schaefer, who leads Zion United Methodist Church of Iona in Lebanon, Pa.

Schaefer faces a church trial on Nov. 18 for officiating at his son's 2007 wedding in Massachusetts, where gay marriage is legal.

The United Methodist Church, which has about 12 million members worldwide, accepts gay members. However, it bars openly gay pastors and the blessing of same-sex unions.

Gay marriage is not legal in Pennsylvania, though several lawsuits are challenging that prohibition.


Out of the spotlight, Obama nurtures his faith

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is not an overtly religious man. He rarely attends church and he almost never elaborates in public about his religious beliefs.

But Obama's longtime advisers say that in private, Obama carefully cultivates his spirituality. They say it's a grounding mechanism during turbulent times when the obstacles to governing a deeply divided nation seem insurmountable.

Every year on Obama's birthday, he convenes a group of pastors by phone to receive their prayers for him for the year to come. During the most challenging of times, prayer circles are organized with prominent religious figures.

And each morning for the past five years, Obama has read a devotional written for him and sent to his BlackBerry, weaving together biblical scripture with reflections from literary figures like C.S. Lewis and Maya Angelou.


008-c-19-(Carlotta Bradley, AP correspondent)-"world to him"-AP correspondent Carlotta Bradley reports one of President Obama's spiritual advisors says Obama draws heavily on faith to guide his daily life contrasts with his public persona. (20 Oct 2013)

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007-c-21-(Carlotta Bradley, AP correspondent)-"really shake him"-AP correspondent Carlotta Bradley reports President Obama reads daily devotionals written especially for him. (20 Oct 2013)

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006-v-37-(Carlotta Bradley, AP correspondent)--An upcoming book may offer a peak at President Obama's spiritual side. AP correspondent Carlotta Bradley reports. (20 Oct 2013)

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Churches facing challenge as congregations age

WASHINGTON (AP) — Local pastors face new challenges in growing their churches during the 21st century as a new generation increasingly moves away from conventional religious structures.

A Pew Research Center report from October 2012 found that nearly 20 percent of the Americans are religiously unaffiliated, up from just over 15 percent five years before.

However, just 6 percent of people say they're atheist or agnostic, the report said. Indeed, many of the religiously unaffiliated say they are religious or spiritual in some way, as the report found that 68 percent of the unaffiliated believe in God, 37 percent consider themselves spiritual but not religious and 21 percent pray every day.

The growth of the religiously unaffiliated appears largely generational, as 32 percent of adults under 30 are religiously unaffiliated compared to only 9 percent of those 65 and older, according to the report.


Ex-Minn Archbishop Flynn resigns St. Thomas post

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The retired Archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Harry Flynn, has resigned as chairman of the University of St. Thomas Board of Trustees.

In a statement Saturday, the school said the board accepted Flynn's retirement at its regular meeting Thursday. The statement also confirmed that the board's vice chairman, the Rev. Kevin McDonough, resigned Oct. 4.

The statement did not give reasons for Flynn's or McDonough's resignations, and university spokesman Doug Hennes declined to comment. But both men had been under criticism in recent weeks for their handling of clerical sexual abuse cases.

The statement did say that St. Thomas has retained outside counsel to lead an independent investigation of "matters related to clergy sexual abuse allegations that impact the university" and has appointed a special committee to oversee the investigation.


Convicted evangelist Alamo must tell money source

TEXARKANA, Ark. (AP) — Convicted evangelist Tony Alamo (uh-LAH'-moh) and his wife are being ordered to reveal the source of money used to pay their lawyers.

The Texarkana Gazette says U.S. Magistrate Barry Bryant ruled that arrangements for attorney fees are not protected by the attorney-client privilege and must be revealed.

Attorneys for two men that Alamo was convicted of ordering to be abused want the information. They believe Alamo is concealing money in order to avoid paying $15 million to each man as ordered by a federal jury that convicted Alamo in 2010 of conspiracy, battery and outrage for ordering the abuse of the men when they were boys living in Alamo's ministry.

The 79-year-old Alamo is serving a 175-year prison sentence for bringing young girls across state lines for sex.


Nigeria's military killing thousands of detainees

LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — As Nigeria has escalated its war with Islamic militants, mortuary records from a hospital in the troubled northeast show the number of detainees who died in military custody more than tripled in June.

The records obtained by The Associated Press cover a hospital in Maiduguri, the birthplace of Boko Haram, the movement fighting to uproot Western cultural influences from a country shared almost equally by Muslims and Christians.

A pastor said he was held at Maiduguri's Giwa Military Barracks after he and four other people were arrested because weapons were found hidden in the shoe factory where he works. He described hundreds of naked people crammed into a cell meant for a couple of dozen. Once a day, he said, a soldier would throw a loaf of moistened bread into the cell to be brawled over. Some died of torture, he said.

He told the AP he was freed with the intervention of a Christian group, and his jailers' recognizing his prayers for salvation as Christian.


Relative: Egyptian family rejects Israel honor

CAIRO (AP) — A member of the family of the first Arab honored by Israel for risking his life to save Jews during the Holocaust says the family isn't interested in the recognition.

Egyptian doctor Mohamed Helmy was honored posthumously last month by Israel's Holocaust memorial for hiding Jews in Berlin during the Nazis' genocide, but a family member tracked down by The Associated Press this week in Cairo said her relatives wouldn't accept the award, one of Israel's most prestigious.

Helmy was honored by Israel's Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial as "Righteous Among the Nations" — the highest honor given to a non-Jew for risking great personal dangers to rescue Jews from the Nazis' gas chambers.

On Sunday, the museum criticized the family, saying "political sentiment seems to have overcome the human aspect."