Charges filed against gay Methodist pastor
Now that the United Methodist Church's top judicial body has reaffirmed the denomination's ban on openly gay ministers, complaints have been filed against Seattle pastor Mark Edward Williams and his predecessor, Karen Dammann, both of whom have announced that they are homosexual. The October church court decision didn't mention either Williams or Dammann by name, but both were at the center of the controversy. A church trial will follow. Both the Seattle Times and Seattle Post-Intelligencer quote people in the church who support Williams, but neither quote anyone who supports the church's commitment to orthodoxy.

Still no Burnhams
The Philippine Army had promised to free American New Tribes missionaries Martin and Gracia Burnham by Sunday, but the couple is still being held by the radical Muslim Abu Sayyaf Group. Military spokesman Lt. Gen. Roy Cimatu tells Reuters that ground commanders want to extend the "inspirational deadline," but believe they can free the Burnhams by the end of the year. One major development: the American troops assisting and training the Philippines are now armed, according to the Los Angeles Times. The Philippine Constitution prohibits armed foreign troops of the nation's soil, but apparently someone found a loophole for the American soldiers to carry weapons "for protection." Meanwhile, New Tribes Mission is asking Christians around the world to make tomorrow (Wednesday, Dec. 19) a day of prayer for the release of the Burnhams. The New Tribes Web site offers specific prayer requests.

Also: U.S. to help Philippines battle terrorist threat | Military advisors will train Manila's forces for special operations against Muslim rebels linked to Bin Laden (Los Angeles Times)

Salvation Army battle continues
Protests of the Salvation Army's decision not to offer domestic partner benefits continue around the country, but the denomination reports that it's having little effect. Gay rights organizations are putting fake $5 bills in Salvation Army kettles that say, "I would have donated $5, but the Salvation Army's decision to discriminate against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered employees prevents my donation now and in the future." Mary Scholl, a member of Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians and Gays, says she started the protest because the Army's decision "seemed so mean." Several conservative groups, including the American Family Association of Michigan, say they'll trade legal tender for the protest bills. They may not have to cash in many. The protest started in Michigan, but The Bay City Times reports that the local Army has only received one such note. In Seattle, meanwhile, about 30 show up every day in the 15 to 20 downtown kettles. Spread the word: there's a good chance the protest will encourage those who support the Salvation Army to dig deeper as they walk by the bell-ringers.

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Blaming religion for 9/11:

Church and state:

Popular culture:

Church life:

Turning the other fist:

Religion and politics:

Conservatives quiet on Falwell remarks | The right should have repudiated post-Sept. 11 criticism of liberals (Jonathan Alter, MSNBC)

Ex-minister acts in unofficial 'faith czar' role | John Battle tells Church of England newspaper he has been doing the informal, unpaid job, which has no title, for the last five months (Ananova)



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