CIA releases report on missionary plane shooting

A recently declassified report from 2008 shows numerous incidents of misconduct by a CIA program responsible for accidentally shooting down a missionary plane in 2001. The report by then-CIA inspector general John Helgerson reveals that after telling the Peruvian military to shoot what they thought was a drug-smuggling plane, CIA officers inaccurately portrayed the incident as an "aberration." In fact, procedural violations led to the downing of several other planes prior to the incident that killed American missionary Roni Bowers and her infant daughter. The report also showed that the CIA kept evidence on the case from investigators.

Woman sentenced to death for blasphemy

A Punjabi court sentenced Asia Bibi to death in November, making her the first Christian woman to receive the death penalty under Pakistan's blasphemy law. The case against the 45-year-old field worker, and mother of five, concerned derogatory remarks she allegedly made against the prophet Muhammad in June 2009. Human rights groups and Christian organizations widely condemned the sentence, which revived calls for the law's repeal. Pakistan's minister for minority affairs said the blasphemy law will remain due to security concerns, but expects Bibi's appeal for clemency to be granted.

Polarizing Episcopal bishop to resign

Gene Robinson, bishop of New Hampshire and the first openly gay bishop in the Anglican Communion, announced in October that he will resign in January 2013. Robinson's election deepened the conflict within the Episcopal Church and the wider Communion. Robinson, who at 65 will be much younger than most departing bishops when he steps down, said the seven years of continual controversy were an added strain. The Episcopal Church ordained a second openly gay bishop, Mary Glasspool, in May 2010, a decision Robinson said took the pressure off him to remain in office.

Court quashes Jews for Jesus suits

A Florida judge has ordered attorney Barry Silver to pay damages to Jews for Jesus, ruling that Silver had filed three equally meritless and nearly identical suits against the organization. Since 2003, Silver has alleged that Jews for Jesus misleads Jews to persuade them to become Christians. The ministry's attorneys countered that Silver was grinding a personal axe against Christianity. Judge Edward Fine ordered Silver to foot the bill for Jews for Jesus' court costs and fees.

More Anglicans head for Rome

UNITED KINGDOM The Vatican announced in November that 50 Anglican priests, including five bishops, plan to leave the Church of England for the Roman Catholic Church. Pope Benedict XVI has opened a special clerical category for Anglicans who object to recent developments in the Anglican Communion. These "personal ordinariates" will let them retain many Anglican distinctives while belonging to a church that maintains opposition to female priests and gay clergy. In Baltimore, an entire Episcopal parish voted to switch to Catholicism for similar reasons.

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Church bolts over ELCA agricultural proposal

Anselm Trinity Lutheran Church in Sheldon, North Dakota, voted in November to leave the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). Far from the first church to take that step in recent times, Anselm Trinity's complaint is unique: Its members object to the denomination's resolution expressing "concern" over genetically modified seeds. Many North Dakota farmers use modified seeds, and Anselm Trinity does not believe the denomination needs to get involved in the issue. Most departing churches report concern over the ELCA allowing clergy to have homosexual relationships.

Methodist pastors can still bar members

The Judicial Council of the United Methodist Church said it would not reverse a 2005 decision that permitted a Virginia pastor to refuse membership to a gay man. Pastor Ed Johnson had been placed on an involuntary leave of absence after saying he would minister with, but would not accept as a member, a homosexual man who wished to join South Hill United Methodist Church. The council reinstated Johnson later in 2005 after affirming a minister's right to determine who could and could not become a church member. Several regional Methodist bodies have pressed for reconsideration, but the council said it is not the proper venue for changes in church law.

Muslim zoning controversy may bar churches

Attempts by Muslim worship centers to open in the western Chicago suburbs have prompted a zoning debate that may impact existing house churches. DuPage County is temporarily not enforcing its zoning regulations on places of assembly while the Islamic Center of the Western Suburbs applies for a permit to meet at a home for worship. The county, facing a lawsuit after denying another Muslim prayer center near Naperville, has proposed a law that would ban groups meeting in unincorporated residential areas. While the proposed ban may please disgruntled neighbors, religious leaders say the changes are too broad, given that the majority of the county's churches outside municipal boundaries are located in neighborhoods.

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Catholic seminary opens near Havana

CUBA President Raul Castro attended the debut of the first Roman Catholic seminary to open since the island's Communist revolution in 1959. The San Carlos y San Ambrosio Interdiocesan Seminary had inhabited a building in Old Havana since the 18th century until the government evicted them in 1966. Then-president Fidel Castro promised to back the project when Pope John Paul II visited Cuba in 1998. The new seminary, southeast of Havana, is one of two Catholic seminaries on the island.

Malaysia debates pork in school

MALAYSIA Ten-year-old Christian Basil Beginda touched off a nationwide debate one November day when he brought fried rice with pork to his public school in the Malaysian state of Sarawak. Eating pork is forbidden in Islam, and though the predominantly Muslim nation has no laws against non-Muslims eating it, Beginda was caned by an assistant principal. The subsequent debate reached Malaysia's parliament. Some argue that Beginda is legally a Muslim, but others say that Muslim or not, the punishment was too severe. The assistant principal apologized after Beginda's mother protested.

Christian flag fracas in North Carolina

A group in King, a town northwest of Winston-Salem, wants the Christian flag and only the Christian flag to fly at the city's war memorial. The city council took the flag down over the summer when a local veteran complained, then restored it in October after thousands of residents protested. But when the council agreed in November to restore it as part of a display of many religious flags, the King Memorial Preservation Foundation made its position clear: return the Christian flag and keep other religions' flags out.

HUD: 'Christian roommate' ad okay

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) dismissed a complaint in November against a Grand Rapids, Michigan, woman who advertised at her church for a "Christian roommate." The Fair Housing Center of West Michigan called the ad discriminatory, and the Alliance Defense Fund sent HUD a letter on her behalf. According to WOOD TV in Michigan, HUD found "no reasonable cause" for the complaint.

World Vision supervisors convicted of stealing aid

LIBERIA A U.S. federal jury found two former supervisors of World Vision's Liberia offices guilty of conspiracy, fraud, and other charges concerning their embezzlement of more than $1.4 million in aid. World Vision uncovered the actions of Joe Bondo and Morris Fahnbulleh in 2007, after an anonymous tip said food and funds from the U.S. Agency for International Development were being diverted. A third World Vision supervisor, Thomas Parker, has been arrested in Liberia and is fighting extradition.

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