Religion digest: Mormons looking to go green

Associated Press

FARMINGTON, Utah — The Mormon church — which begins a new construction project every week — is looking to lessen its imprint on the environment.

Church officials debuted a pilot building program Tuesday that features solar panels generating electricity, tankless water heaters, high-tech insulation, motion sensor lighting and other features designed to maximize economic savings and minimize environmental impact.

The church is showcasing the new building practices at projects in Utah, Nevada and Arizona.

Church Bishop H. David Burton says if the prototypes perform well, the environment-friendly building practices will be used on a broad scale.


The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has more than 17,000 buildings worldwide.

3 pastors expected to compete for Southern Baptist presidencyNASHVILLE, Tenn. — Three clergyman will be in the running to become the next president of the Southern Baptist Convention at the denomination's annual meeting.

The expected nominees so far are Ted Traylor, pastor of Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola, Fla.; Bryant Wright, senior pastor of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga.; and Jimmy Jackson, president of the Alabama Baptist State Convention, according to Baptist Press and other Baptist outlets.

The three will be vying to succeed Johnny Hunt, pastor of First Baptist Church of Woodstock, Ga., who is completing his service as Southern Baptist president after finishing two one-year terms.

With more than 16 million members, the denomination is the second-largest in the United States, behind the Roman Catholic Church. Southern Baptists have been struggling in the face of stagnating numbers of baptisms and a slight decline in membership.

The convention's annual meeting is set for June 15-16 in Orlando, Fla.

Thousands of Lebanese march against sectarianism in their tiny Arab nationBEIRUT — Thousands of Lebanese marched for secularism in their deeply divided country.

More than 2,000 people took part in the "Laique Pride," or "Secular Pride," march organized April 25 by civil society groups. Participants headed toward parliament in downtown Beirut but were kept about 100 meters (328 feet) away from the compound by Lebanese troops.


A small Mediterranean nation, Lebanon is home to 18 religious sects and is deeply divided along sectarian lines. It experienced a ruinous 15-year civil war between Muslims and Christians that ended 20 years ago.

Since Lebanon gained independence in 1943, the president has always been a Maronite Christian, the prime minister a Sunni Muslim and parliament speaker a Shiite Muslim.

Parliament and Cabinet seats are equally divided between Christians and Muslims.

Western Pa. judge asked to decide whether civil law, or Jewish law, covers exhumation requestPITTSBURGH — An Allegheny County judge must decide whether civil law or Jewish religious law governs a family's request to exhume the remains of a long-deceased family member so the remains can be moved to another cemetery.

Judge Lawrence O'Toole heard arguments Monday from the family of Howard Tobin, who died 45 yeas ago, and an attorney for Poale Zedeck, the Orthodox Jewish cemetery north of Pittsburgh where Tobin is buried.

Tobin's family say they want his remains moved to a Pittsburgh cemetery, near those of his wife and son.

But Rabbi Ari Goldberg says Jewish law prohibits exhumation. The Orthodox congregation's attorney says Pennsylvania law has allowed religious cemeteries to follow their own rules without court interference.

O'Toole didn't say when he will rule.


Ala. school band director accused of leading prayer; superintendent denies chargeOXFORD, Ala. — A group that promotes the separation of church and state claims Oxford High School's band director routinely leads his symphonic band class in prayer, a charge school officials deny.

In a letter faxed to Oxford Superintendent Jeff Goodwin April 23, the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation claims band director Chris Pennington violates students' First Amendment religious freedoms and demanded the problem be corrected immediately.

The group also alleged Pennington threatened a failing grade for band students who did not show up for a concert at a Baptist church.

Principal Trey Holladay said during a phone interview Monday that Pennington has not led prayers and the church concert was not mandatory. He said any prayers are led by students.

Leading Anglican thinker, Bishop N.T. Wright, to leave post as head of dioceseDURHAM, England — Church of England Bishop N.T. Wright, the New Testament scholar and prolific writer, said Tuesday that he will step down as head of the Diocese of Durham.

Wright, 61, said he decided to retire from the job because it had become increasingly difficult to combine the work of a diocesan bishop with his writing and teaching. His last day in the Durham diocese will be Aug. 31.

He will then begin his new appointment as research professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at the University of Saint Andrews in Scotland.

Wright is considered a leading voice of the evangelical center of the Anglican Communion, a 77 million-member worldwide fellowship that traces its roots to the Church of England. Among Wright's most popular works are his introductory books to Christian faith, including "Simply Christian," and "Surprised by Hope."

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