- - Tuesday, February 21, 2012


‘Great Commission’ name excites few Southern Baptists

NASHVILLE — Some Southern Baptists worry that their denomination’s name still carries the stigma of a 19th-century split with northern Baptists over slavery. Others who fought hard to build the brand and its conservative theology and politics don’t want to see it go.

So the idea to add the description of “Great Commission Baptists” to the name of the Southern Baptist Convention might be a compromise that excites almost none of the 16 million who make up the nation’s largest Protestant denomination.

“It’s not clear-cut. We can’t fully criticize or fully celebrate,” said Jonathan Merritt, a faith and culture writer and young minister at Cross Pointe Church near Atlanta. He wanted a new legal name.

“I serve in a big, multiethnic church here in Atlanta, and as late as last Sunday there was an African-American couple that said when they found out we were a Southern Baptist church, they almost didn’t join,” he said.

The “Great Commission” description endorsed by the SBC’s executive committee on Tuesday would be strictly optional. It still must be voted on by delegates at the annual convention this summer. Southern Baptist churches are independent, and many of them don’t have “Southern” in their names anyway.


Man found guilty in rape-torture case

WEATHERFORD — A Texas man was found guilty Tuesday of kidnapping his former neighbor, holding her captive and torturing her for nearly two weeks.

Jurors deliberated 50 minutes before reaching a verdict in the trial of Jeffrey Allan Maxwell, who was convicted of aggravated kidnapping and two counts of aggravated sexual assault after a Texas woman testified that he whipped her on a deer-skinning device and that she endured repeated assaults as she was held captive for 12 days.

Maxwell, 59, faces life in prison. Jurors will hear more evidence during the trial’s punishment phase, which was to start Wednesday.

The woman testified last week that Maxwell abducted her from her rural home at gunpoint March 1 after beating her in the face and shackling her hands and legs. Then he drove 100 miles away to his Corsicana house. She was rescued 12 days later when authorities went to question him about her disappearance after her house burned down.


Animal-rights activist charged in murder plot

CLEVELAND — Federal authorities say an Ohio woman who describes herself as an animal-welfare activist has been charged with soliciting murder in a plot to kill someone wearing fur.

Court records show 27-year-old Cleveland Heights resident Meredith Lowell appeared Tuesday in federal court in Cleveland and was ordered held by the U.S. Marshals Service pending a hearing next week.

Investigators say the FBI was notified in November of a Facebook page Ms. Lowell created with an alias offering $830 to $850 for the hit. The employee, posing as a potential killer, then learned via email correspondence, according to authorities, that Ms. Lowell wanted the victim to be at least 12 years old and wanted to be on site when the slaying took place so she could distribute “papers” afterward.

A defense attorney has declined to comment.


El Paso woman first border-bullets victim

EL PASO — A 48-year-old woman is the first reported victim of bullets flying across the border from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, into El Paso, Texas.

Authorities say the woman was hit in the calf by an assault-rifle-type bullet while shopping on a busy street downtown. The wound was not a serious one.

El Paso’s mayor asked Tuesday for residents to remain calm because there is “no way to prevent incidents like this from happening.” He said the odds of getting hit by a stray bullet are minimal.

At the same time the woman was struck, Juarez police and carjacking suspects exchanged about 50 shots near the border. Three El Paso schools were put on hazard alert.


Jury pool cut in half in spying case

NEW BRUNSWICK — The jury pool for the trial of a former Rutgers University student accused of using a webcam to spy on his roommate’s intimate encounter with another man was cut Tuesday after the judge reviewed answers from questionnaires.

Just 85 potential jurors for the trial of 19-year-old Dharun Ravi remained by Tuesday afternoon. Judge Glenn Berman said Tuesday that most of the roughly 190 prospective jurors who filled out questionnaires last week said they had heard about the case.

Mr. Ravi is charged with 15 criminal counts. The most serious are two bias intimidation counts that accuse him of acting against roommate Tyler Clementi because he’s gay. Those hate crime charges are punishable by up to 10 years in prison.


Judge stops city policy on proving homelessness

NEW YORK — A New York City court has ruled the city cannot go forward with a new policy requiring single people to prove they have no other options before they enter homeless shelters.

Tuesday’s decision in Manhattan state Supreme Court was in response to how the nation’s largest city introduced the proposal, which would have required people to show they’re truly homeless, with documents if possible.

The City Council voted in December to sue Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s administration over how the policy was communicated to lawmakers and the public. Council Speaker Christine Quinn says they weren’t consulted.

The city delayed enacting the policy pending the court review.

Mr. Bloomberg says no one should have the right to walk in and say, “Whether or not I need services, give it to me.”

From wire dispatches and staff reports.

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