Presbyterian Church (USA) court approves same-sex "unions"

The Permanent Judicial Commission of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) ruled yesterday that Presbyterian ministers can perform "holy union" ceremonies for homosexual couples, so long as they're careful to distinguish the ceremonies from marriages. "Ministers should not appropriate specific liturgical forms from services of Christian marriage or services recognizing civil marriage in the conduct of such ceremonies," it ruled. "They should also instruct same-sex couples that the service to be conducted does not constitute a marriage ceremony and should not be held out as such." (See also Presbyweb's coverage and the full text of the decision.)

Presbyterians can also accept ministerial candidates who plan on "fully sexual" same-sex relationships

The Judicial Commission also allowed the Presbytery of West Jersey to approve a candidate for the ministry who told the church, "I am called into a loving, same-sex monogamous relationship" and "I intend to participate in a fully sexual way in any future relationship." The Judicial Commission ruled that, "while a candidate must be able to meet the … standards for ordination as a condition of ordination, [the Presbytery of West Jersey] may receive an 'inquirer who may still move into compliance while being nurtured in the covenant relationship as a candidate.'" See the text of the decision here and a "Pastoral Letter to the Church concerning the Decisions of General Assembly Permanent Judicial Commission" here.

Charitable giving way up, but not as much as economy

Echoing an earlier Empty Tomb, Inc. report that said proportional giving among Christians was down while actual dollar giving was up, the American Association of Fund-Raising Counsel Trust for Philanthropy found that charitable donations rose 9.1 percent last year, to $190.2 billion. "It did not quite keep pace with the tremendous accumulation in wealth," notes The New York Times. Donations to religious charities rose 5.5 percent, to nearly $82 billion.

Associated Press notices "Friends" phenomenon

"Christian singer Michael W. Smith's song ["Friends"] has become an anthem for special occasions—graduations, weddings, even funerals—although it's 18 years old and rarely played on the radio," writes The Associated Press. The story notes that Smith has recently sung it at memorial services for Columbine High School and golfer Payne Stewart, and sang it at the White House in 1992 as the Bushes packed their bags.

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