- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 15, 2008

Pastor not ousted over gays in listing

FORT WORTH, Texas — The senior pastor of a Baptist church embroiled in a debate over putting photos of its gay members in a church directory will be allowed to keep his pulpit.

Members of Broadway Baptist Church voted 499-237 on March 9 to reject an attempt to oust the Rev. Brett Younger.

“I hope we will move forward and be the church together and that others will come and share church with us,” said Mr. Younger, who has led the congregation for seven years. “Broadway has been, for a long time, an amazing congregation that is willing to tackle difficult issues. I think it will continue to be a congregation that challenges its members to think and serve.”

A group calling itself Friends for the Future of Broadway had collected more than 160 signatures on a petition calling for Mr. Younger’s removal. They expressed concern that the pastor was embracing a theology they considered too liberal.

“We respect the will of the majority and pray for the congregation’s healing, recovery and continued service to the community that befits a 125-year-old church,” said Robert Saul, a spokesman for the group.

While the congregation is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, it has taken positions to the left of the conservative-dominated denomination.

Last year, several gay couples who belong to the church asked that their portraits be allowed to appear in the church’s 125th anniversary directory. Critics said the photos could be interpreted as endorsing same-sex relationships. As a compromise, the church voted last month to publish a directory that would include member photos in “candid, small and large group pictures” but not include family portraits.

“Broadway has always been a moderate Baptist church that didn’t lean too far to the left or lean too far to the right,” said Tom Dodson, a longtime church member. “Our concern is that we are leaning too far to the left and losing our Baptist distinctive beliefs.”

After the vote, church members stood in a long receiving line for a chance to hug Mr. Younger.

Graduation prayers vote prohibited

AUSTIN, Texas — A federal judge has prohibited the Round Rock school district from allowing students to vote on whether to have prayers at graduation.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks is included in an agreement reached by the school district and Americans United for Separation of Church and State. The Washington-based group sued the school district in August on behalf of six parents and a former student.

The suit was prompted by a majority of seniors at McNeil, Round Rock and Stony Point high schools who decided to have prayers at their graduations. Most students who cast ballots at Westwood High School voted against an invocation at commencement.

In its petition, Americans United said prayers at a school-sponsored event violated “the boundary between church and state that is necessary in a pluralistic society.”

Judge Sparks’ judgment forbids the school district from holding any election or vote by students to have a prayer, benediction, invocation “or other religious communication” in any graduation unless the U.S. Supreme Court rules in future cases that such votes can be held.

Then he dismissed the suit against the school district.

Religious leaders hit coal-fired plant

RICHMOND — More than 60 faith leaders from across Virginia have joined environmental groups in urging Gov. Tim Kaine to oppose a coal-fired power plant that Dominion Virginia Power wants to build in Wise County.

The ministers, rabbis and theologians signed a letter to the governor from the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, one of the environmental groups leading the fight against the proposed plant in Southwest Virginia.

The religious leaders state in the letter to Mr. Kaine that speaking out against the coal-fired plant is their moral responsibility as part of their “good stewardship of God’s creation.”

At a press conference Monday, Rabbi Ben Romer from Congregation Or Ami in Richmond said the spiritual community has “an inherent covenantal responsibility” to care for the earth.

“The danger and effective destruction of our environment with a coal-fired plant in Wise County only brings further damage to a world that’s entrusted to us,” he said.

In response, Dominion spokesman Dan Genest said: “Dominion believes we are good environmental stewards and we have a record that demonstrates that.”

Kaine spokesman Gordon Hickey responded to the letter by saying that conservation and cleaner energy sources “are central to the governor’s energy plan and he believes we’ll get there faster if we work with all the parties to achieve that goal.”

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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