- The Washington Times - Friday, April 6, 2007

Ex-Episcopal bishops leave denomination

ALBANY, N.Y. — The retired bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Albany has left the denomination to join the Roman Catholic Church.

Daniel Herzog informed Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori of his decision in a March 29 letter. He asked to be removed from the ordained ministry of the Episcopal Church.

Bishop Herzog, who had retired from the diocese in January, had disagreed with the liberal direction of the Episcopal Church, including the 2003 consecration of the first openly homosexual bishop, V. Gene Robinson, of New Hampshire.

Bishop Herzog was the second Albany bishop to recently switch affiliations. The diocese announced March 5 that a retired assistant bishop, David Bena, was transferring to the theologically conservative Anglican Church of Nigeria.

Bishop Bena plans to work as a missionary bishop of the Virginia-based Convocation of Anglicans in North America, a network of Episcopal conservatives created as a rival to the U.S. denomination.

The Episcopal Church is the U.S. wing of the global Anglican Communion. The world fellowship of churches, which traces roots to the Church of England, is on the verge of splitting over conflicting interpretations of biblical verses on sexuality, truth, salvation and other issues.

Mormon head defends church faith, teachings

SALT LAKE CITY — The president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints defended Mormon teachings during a two-day biannual conference for the denomination.

Gordon B. Hinckley said that the church’s central text, the Book of Mormon, is a valid account of Christ’s dealings with ancient Americans.

Mormons believe church founder Joseph Smith translated the text from a set of gold plates delivered to him by an angel. He said the plates told the history of ancient ancestors of American Indians who migrated to the New World from Israel and were visited by Jesus.

“I would think that every Christian would welcome this second witness of the reality of Jesus Christ. Strangely, they do not,” Mr. Hinckley said at the meeting, which ended Sunday.

The Scriptures for Latter-day Saints include the Old and New Testaments. But Mormons also believe that authentic Christianity vanished a century after Christ and was restored only through Joseph Smith. The founder revised — and in his view corrected — large sections of the Bible. Other sacred Mormon books contain Mr. Smith’s revelations.

Many Christian denominations do not accept Mormon teaching and require anyone baptized a Mormon to be baptized again if they join another church.

The debate is a sore spot for the Mormon Church, which in 1995 altered its logo to place more emphasis on the inclusion of the words “Jesus Christ” in its name.

French hopeful wants mosques financed

PARIS — French presidential front-runner Nicolas Sarkozy has backed off his proposal to modify French law to allow state support for mosques, but said in an interview released Tuesday he wants to keep Islam in France “cut off from foreign influences.”

Mr. Sarkozy, of Jacques Chirac’s ruling conservative party, has upset many in fiercely secular France by questioning the 1905 law separating church and state. He suggested it be modified to allow public financing of places of worship, specifically mosques, to better integrate the estimated 5 million Muslims in France, which is historically Roman Catholic.

But in an interview in the Catholic daily La Croix, Mr. Sarkozy said the law was too much of a “monument” to change hastily.

“I’ll pursue discussions with all religions,” he said. “Before touching [the law], one must be very careful.”

Still, he said he wants to “cut off France’s Islam from foreign influence, whether it is financing of places of worship or training of imams.”

While many of France’s Catholic churches stand nearly empty on Sundays, Muslims often carry out religious observances in basements of housing projects or on pavements outside cramped mosques.

In a 2005 book, Mr. Sarkozy said extremism is festering in underground mosques and Islamic groups do not have money to build houses of worship. While stopping short of calling for direct state funding for building mosques, Mr. Sarkozy has called for government support for the construction of parking lots, cultural centers and annexes to Muslim prayer halls as a way to encourage the building of more mosques.

France’s relations with its Muslims — particularly those in poor immigrant communities like those that escalated into rioting in 2005 — are a sensitive and key issue in the campaign for elections starting April 22. Polls show Mr. Sarkozy in the lead of the close and volatile race.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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