- The Washington Times - Friday, November 3, 2006

Gay-friendly Texas megachurch joins UCC

DALLAS — The Cathedral of Hope, a 4,300-member megachurch that works for full inclusion of homosexuals in the Christian community, has been admitted to the United Church of Christ.

The UCC North Texas Association voted Oct. 28 to admit the church, which will become the fourth-largest congregation in the mainline denomination.

The Cathedral of Hope was founded in the late 1980s primarily to welcome homosexual, bisexual and transgender people.

Last year, the 1.3 million-member United Church of Christ endorsed same-sex “marriage,” making it the largest Christian denomination to do so.

In the early 1970s, the UCC became the first major Christian church to ordain an openly homosexual minister. The church declared itself to be “open and affirming” of homosexuals 20 years ago.

Zimbabwean clerics seek reconciliation

HARARE, Zimbabwe — Leaders of the Roman Catholic Bishops Conference, the Zimbabwe Council of Churches and Evangelical Fellowship are asking for forgiveness for failing their nation as it slid into what they called “a sense of national despair and loss of hope.”

In a report Wednesday to congregations across the country, the clerics said principles of peace, justice, forgiveness and honesty had degenerated and that even some church leaders “have been accomplices in some of the evils that have brought our nation to this condition.”

“Clearly we did not do enough as churches to defend these values and raise an alarm at the appropriate time,” they said. “We confess we have failed because we have not been able to speak with one voice.”

The churches are seeking to foster free debate on issues such as the need for reforms in draconian security and press laws, freedom of expression and tolerance along with constitutional reform to protect human rights and curb powers both of the government and President Robert Mugabe. South African Nobel peace laureate Desmond Tutu, an Anglican archbishop, has called Mr. Mugabe “a cartoon figure of an archetypical African dictator.”

Corruption and skewed economic policies have plunged a majority of Zimbabweans into poverty, and has led to an upsurge in racial and cultural intolerance that marginalized minorities and other social groups.

The church report, calling for a new “national vision,” said churches only now were beginning to wake up to their role in healing six years of social, political and economic turmoil. Christians comprise 80 percent of the population.

Marriages without parental OK banned

MOGADISHU, Somalia — Islamic leaders have banned Somalis from marrying without the consent or knowledge of their parents, saying such unions violate Islam.

“It is against the teaching of our religion and parents do not approve of it,” said Sheik Mahad Mohamed Sheik Hassan, chairman of the regional Islamic court in Wanlawien.

The edict Monday was the latest step to impose strict religious rule as this chaotic nation emerges from more than a decade of anarchy. The group also has banned live music, the viewing of films and sports, and the use of qat, the leafy seminarcotic plant, in areas it controls.

The marriage practice of “masaafo” — roughly equivalent to eloping — is common in Somalia because it allows young couples to wed without their parents scuttling their plans over a dowry they consider too small or other objections. Weddings also often cost up to a year’s savings for an average Somali.

Mohamedek Ali, a 21-year-old Somali, said the costs were prohibitive and would prevent many marriages. “They cannot ban what our forefathers practiced,” he said. “All of us, including the mullahs were born from elopement marriage.”

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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