- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 23, 2007

Mormons dispute slaughter-site plea

SALT LAKE CITY — Descendants of the 120-member immigrant party slaughtered in southern Utah by pioneer Mormon settlers say their plea for federal stewardship of the Mountain Meadows mass grave site has been rejected by leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Phil Bolinger and Scott Fancher of the Arkansas-based Mountain Meadows Monument Foundation say they got the news June 6 in a telephone call from Elder Marlin Jensen, who oversees the church history department.

“He told us that President [Gordon B.] Hinckley had turned us down. He doesn’t think it’s in the best interests of the church to allow federal stewardship in the meadows,” said Mr. Bolinger, the foundation president who is related to 30 of those killed. “That really bit me bad.”

Mr. Jensen declined an interview, but confirmed through spokeswoman Kim Farah that the church will not pursue federal stewardship of the site. A similar request was also rejected in 1999.

The Sept. 11, 1857, slayings have been blamed on southern Utah Mormon leaders and a small band of Paiute Indians. Ever since, Mormons, outsiders and church historians have debated whether church President Brigham Young had any responsibility for the killings.

Baptists appoint sex-issues strategist

SAN ANTONIO — The Southern Baptist Convention has created a new job of national strategist on sex issues, who will work with homosexuals who believe they can overcome their homosexuality.

Bob Stith, who served as pastor of Carroll Baptist Church in Southlake, Texas, for 37 years, started the new job June 1.

On June 13, at the SBC annual meeting in San Antonio, Mr. Stith said he hopes to bring men and women “to wholeness in Jesus Christ.” He hopes the ministry will help homosexuals “come to a place where this temptation doesn’t dominate their life.”

Mr. Stith and SBC officials are still working out the specifics of the job.

Nun quits teaching after diocese letter

SCRANTON, Pa. — A Roman Catholic nun quit her teaching job rather than comply with what she called an “insulting” demand for a letter declaring her a Catholic in good standing.

The Diocese of Scranton is laying off about 100 teachers as it closes several elementary and high schools in Luzerne and Lackawanna counties, in part because of declining enrollment.

The diocese is basing its retention decisions on teacher qualifications, seniority and proof of good standing in the church in the form of the letters from pastors.

But Sister Regina Werntz, who has taught the past nine years at Bishop Hoban High School, said that “most of the 10 sisters at Bishop Hoban … viewed this as personally demeaning and also insulting to our religious congregations.”

Orthodox prelate seeks Cyprus talk with pope

VATICAN CITY — A Cypriot Orthodox archbishop seeking to arrange a groundbreaking meeting between Pope Benedict XVI and the Russian Orthodox patriarch said Monday that Cyprus would be an ideal location for the talks.

Archbishop Chrysostomos II of Cyprus made the remarks at the end of a six-day visit to Rome for talks with Benedict and other Vatican officials and now plans to meet with Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II in Moscow on July 13.

He said the Orthodox Church is “open” to a meeting with Benedict and that while it is not clear where it would be held, “Cyprus would be a solution.”

Such an encounter eluded the late Pope John Paul II in his long pontificate because of Catholic-Orthodox tensions after the demise of Soviet communism. But Vatican officials have expressed recent optimism that the talks could be held within a year.

The two churches split nearly 1,000 years ago.

After the fall of communism, the Russian Church accused Roman Catholics of improperly seeking converts in areas that traditionally would be Russian Orthodox. The Vatican rejected the claim, saying it is only ministering to Russia’s tiny Catholic community of about 600,000 in a country of 144 million.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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