Prominent Southern Baptist pastor retires under fire

The Rev. Jerry Sutton, a one-time Southern Baptist presidential candidate and embattled pastor of a Nashville, Tenn., church, has sealed an early retirement deal with his congregation after disputes that lasted more than a year. The Tennessean reports that the congregation approved a $314,000 retirement package for Sutton on Sunday. Two Rivers Baptist Church was sued by dissident church members who sought Sutton’s ouster and access to church financial information. That suit continues, though the plaintiffs were ousted from the church in May. Said Sutton in a letter to church members: “Although we have won court cases and church votes the conflict continues.

COMMENTARY: Coming home from vacation

c. 2008 Religion News Service NEW YORK _ Last week, while walking a trail in Central Park, I felt so free and easy that I decided to run, rather than walk. I ran only a mile, but it was a revelation to discover that, after a 10-year vacation from running, I could still do it. The next day, I added a second mile to my run and made a connection with faith. It’s that connection that I want to explore.

Tenn. church killings seen as a hate crime

An unemployed man accused of opening fire with a shotgun and killing two people at a Unitarian Universalist church apparently targeted the congregation out of hatred for its support of liberal social policies, police said Monday.

Children of God

Two weeks ago, the photographer Stephanie Sinclair was given rare and intimate access to some of the young women who have found themselves at the center of the often-bilious battle between the state of Texas and the F.L.D.S. What’s interesting is that in a case that is, at heart, about doctrinaire male authority, and supposed abuse committed by men, it’s the women of the F.L.D.S. who have largely had to assume a public mantle these past months, making court appearances, trying to defend both their faith and their lifestyle in the face of deep skepticism.

Census reports more unmarried couples living together

The number of opposite-sex couples who live together, less than a million 30 years, hit 6.4 million in 2007, show federal data released Monday. Cohabiting couples now make up almost 10% of all opposite-sex U.S. couples, married and unmarried.

Small-town cop tracks struggle in spiritual journal

LEXINGTON, Ill.-Spencer Johansen has been the popular police chief of this rural Illinois town, population 1,900, for 18 years and always thought he’d retire here. But then some seemingly inexplicable things started happening. “I missed a couple of court dates, nothing major, they were just minor traffic cases,” he said. “But … that wasn’t like me.”

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2008 Religion News Service Student apologizes for swiping Obama’s prayer JERUSALEM (RNS) An Israeli yeshiva student has apologized for removing a personal prayer that Sen. Barack Obama inserted into the Western Wall during a visit to Israel last week. “I’m sorry. It was a kind of prank,” the student, identified only by the Hebrew initial “Aleph,” told reporters Sunday (July 27). “I hope (Obama) wasn’t hurt.

Dallas pastor C.A.W. Clark Sr. dead at 93

The Rev. C.A.W. Clark Sr., a Baptist minister described as “one of the great black preachers of the 20th century,” died Sunday (July 27) at the age of 93.

We’re sorry (for what they did)

This just in, from the department of people apologizing for the actions of others … Rev. David Runnion-Bareford, who heads the tiny Confessing Movement in the United Church of Christ, has apologized for the “division and confusion” caused when a UCC church in Boston hosted (and former Massachusetts UCC President Rev. Nancy Taylor approved) a schismatic “ordination” of women priests who insist-the Vatican notwithstanding-that they are also Catholics. The ceremony, held at the UCC- and Presbyterian-affiliated Church of the Covenant in Boston, drew the ire of the Archdiocese of Boston. It also angered Runnion-Bareford, who might very well be the last living conservative in the UCC. In an open letter to Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley, he apologized on behalf of the UCC, even though the UCC itself isn’t apologizing-and I’m fairly certain noone is expecting them to.

Small-town cop tracks struggle in spiritual journal

c. 2008 Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly LEXINGTON, Ill. _ Spencer Johansen has been the popular police chief of this rural Illinois town (population 1,900) for 18 years and always thought he’d retire here as the police chief. But then some seemingly inexplicable things started happening. “I missed a couple of court dates, nothing major, they were just minor traffic cases,” he told Religion & Ethics Newsweekly.