- The Washington Times - Friday, February 2, 2007

Faith leaders meet secretary of state

U.S. Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders held a private meeting with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to press for a greater U.S. role in ending Mideast violence.

Roman Catholic Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington, said the religious leaders asked for high-level engagement with both the Israelis and the Palestinians “that holds both sides accountable in a step-by-step peace process.”

The group also promised to “say tough things to our communities here and in the region” about what must be done to bring about peace.

Along with Miss Rice and Cardinal McCarrick, the meeting Monday included Bishop Mark Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori; Sayyid M. Syeed, national director of the Islamic Society of North America; Rabbi Paul Menitoff, a leader in Reform Judaism; and Rabbi Amy Small, a leader of the Reconstructionist branch of Judaism.

The leaders are part of the National Interreligious Initiative for Peace in the Middle East, which represents more than 35 religious groups and supports a two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Parents of arsonist visit burned church

PANOLA, Ala. — The parents of a former Birmingham-Southern College student who pleaded guilty in a series of rural church arsons visited with the congregation of one burned church, asking for forgiveness and expressing remorse.

“My son wants you to know how sorry he is,” Mike Cloyd told members of Galilee Baptist Church on Jan. 28.

Mike and Kim Cloyd of Pelham are the parents of Matthew Cloyd, one of three former college students who pleaded guilty to federal charges in the church arsons. The couple spoke with the congregation, which is meeting in a trailer as its new church building is being constructed.

The Rev. Bob Little said he prays for solace for his congregation, the convicted arsonists and their families.

“We thank God for the opportunity to bring about some healing,” Mr. Little said. “We need to embrace each other in times of trial.”

Matthew Cloyd, 21, Benjamin Moseley, 20, and Russell DeBusk, 20, await sentencing in federal court and also face state charges in the arson case.

Five churches were burned in Bibb County on Feb. 3, 2006; the others were burned four days later in Greene, Pickens and Sumter counties.

Congregation to leave Presbyterian Church

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — Signal Mountain Presbyterian Church has voted to leave the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) because of the congregation’s theological differences with the national denomination.

The 2,000-member church voted overwhelmingly Jan. 28 to break away and join the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, which has fewer than 200 churches and a more conservative view of Scripture than the 2.3 million-member Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), like other mainline Protestant groups, has been struggling for years to reconcile members who disagree over how to interpret Scripture on many issues, including ordaining partnered homosexuals.

In June of last year, a Presbyterian national assembly voted to give local congregations and regional bodies some leeway to install homosexual clergy and lay officers with same-sex partners.

The assembly also voted to allow church officials to propose experimental phrasings for the divine Trinity, including gender-inclusive language for the traditional “Father, Son and Holy Spirit,” without requiring congregations to use the alternative wording.

From combined wire and staff reports

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