Religion Briefs Pa. church begins surrender program
PHILADELPHIA — Philadelphia police say 100 people with outstanding arrest warrants showed up to surrender at a church in two hours.
That was just the first two hours of a program that began Wednesday morning and continues until Saturday. Anyone who’s wanted for a nonviolent offense in Philadelphia is invited to go to True Gospel Tabernacle Church in South Philadelphia between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.
Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey says the church’s pastor read about similar programs in other cities and offered the use of his church building. The idea is that some will find the church less intimidating than a police station or a courthouse.
Camden, N.J., has scheduled a fugitive surrender program at a church next month.
Crosses stay up in Las Cruces
LAS CRUCES, N.M. — A federal appeals court has rejected claims that using Christian crosses in city logos and buildings is unconstitutional.
The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver affirmed a lower court decision to dismiss a lawsuit brought by Las Cruces residents Paul Weinbaum and Martin Boyd against the city, and another claim by Weinbaum against Las Cruces Public Schools.
Las Cruces, Spanish for “ The Crosses,” routinely uses three crosses in its city and school district logos.
In a 43-page opinion released last Friday, the appellate court acknowledged that use of such symbols raises legitimate constitutional concerns. But justices found the use of crosses “is not a religious statement” and is based on the city’s unique name and history.
A U.S. district judge in Las Cruces dismissed both lawsuits in 2006, ruling that “a city may make use of images that have a religious connotation as long as the primary or principal effect is not to endorse religion.”
El Paso attorney Brett Duke, representing Weinbaum and Boyd in their joint claim, would say only that he was reviewing the ruling.
Co-founder of Promise Keepers returns to lead
DENVER — Bill McCartney, the former college football coach who forged Promise Keepers into a formidable men’s movement, has come out of retirement to lead the evangelical Christian group.
McCartney, 68, has returned as chief executive officer and chairman of the ministry he co-founded. McCartney replaces Tom Fortson, who resigned voluntarily, according to Promise Keepers general counsel Ed O’Brien. The announcement was made last week.
Promise Keepers has struggled to find an identity since its heyday in the mid-1990s. In 1996, the group drew 1.1 million men to 22 stadium conferences; 10 years later, 18 conferences attracted some 132,000.
Tax forms also show steadily declining gifts, grants and contributions to the Denver-based group — from $15 million in 2002 to $9 million in 2005, the most recent year for which figures are available.
Under Fortson, Promise Keepers scaled down its events and took tentative steps into politics by running voter registration drives and issuing statements on subjects like gay marriage.
McCartney, former coach of the University of Colorado football team, also brought back former Promise Keepers executive Raleigh Washington to serve as president. They have yet to release details of their plans for the group.
Cleveland Catholic parishes protest downsizing plan
CLEVELAND — A downsizing plan that could shutter more than 45 Roman Catholic parishes in the Diocese of Cleveland is prompting some Catholics to look for ways to save their churches.
More than 20 regional groups of parishes are preparing recommendations for closing or merging parishes in response to population shifts to the outer suburbs and the ongoing clergy shortage. Bishop Richard Lennon is expected to decide the fate of the parishes by March. The most closures are expected in Cleveland, where about 25 parishes are in danger of being shut down.
Anincreasing number of parishes have decided to fight to stay open. St. Peter Church in downtown Cleveland has opposed an initial plan for a merger with St. John Cathedral.
At St. Barbara Catholic Church on Cleveland’s West Side, about 400 people have appealed to the Cleveland Catholic Diocese to allow their parish to remain open.
“It gets very hard when people are facing the possibility of closing, and all the feelings that one would humanly expect,” said Rick Krivanka, co-chairman of the diocesan committee overseeing the downsizing process. “ There’s no easy way to do what is very difficult.”
European Mormons consolidate headquarters
FRANKFURT, Germany— The Mormon church has consolidated its European headquarters to Germany as it undertakes a bid to increase its membership across the continent.
In August, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — which claims some 13 million members worldwide — consolidated its former western European head office in Birmingham, England, with its central European offices in Frankfurt in Germany.
More than half the members of the Salt Lake City-based church live outside the U.S., with about 450,000 members living in Europe.