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c. 2007 Religion News Service

Women outpace men in new Church of England clergy

LONDON (RNS) The Church of England says women outpaced men among newly ordained priests in 2006 for the first time, but it conceded that most women did not get positions as full-time clergy.

According to official church statistics published Monday (Nov. 12), only 95 of the 244 women ordained last year obtained salaried positions. Most of the rest ended up in an increasing number of voluntary posts, often in parishes where the church could not afford to pay.

Of the 234 men who joined the clergy last year, 128 landed paying jobs in the ministry, according to the figures.

Women have been allowed into the Church of England’s priesthood since 1994. But the BBC noted that only a relatively small number of women have been promoted to senior positions, such as cathedral deans and archdeacons.

In a study published in 2006, Britain’s University of Manchester said such a minor impact clearly demonstrated that the Church was “far from being an equal opportunity employer.”

The clergy report said that by the end of last year, 20,354 clergy were ordained to full-time, paid ministry.

_ Al Webb

Kentucky family sues over snake-handling death

(RNS) The family of a woman who died from a snakebite during a religious service last year has filed suit against a Kentucky hospital, alleging that poor care contributed to her death, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported.

Linda F. Long, who died Nov. 5, 2006, was rushed to Marymount Medical Center in London, Ky., after receiving a bite from a rattlesnake she was handling during a service at East London Holiness Church.

The lawsuit, filed Nov. 1, says a hospital nurse involved Long and her family “in a lengthy and time-consuming series of questions” before admitting her, and once admitted, employees “snickered and made derogatory comments” about Long’s religious beliefs.

The lawsuit also says that despite Long’s labored breathing, the emergency room doctor did not give her a tube to help her breathe and did not treat her properly when she went into shock.

The suit alleges that the doctor again refused to put in a tube when the helicopter crew transporting her to Lexington asked him to do so. The Herald-Leader said Long’s heart stopped on the flight to the University of Kentucky Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead at 10:50 p.m.

The lawsuit states the hospital did not adhere to proper standards of care in Long’s case, which contributed to her death. The Herald-Leader also reported that “the complaint … says the unprofessional comments about Long’s religious beliefs were discriminatory and caused her and her family emotional pain and humiliation.”

Although snake-handling in religious services is a misdemeanor in Kentucky, the Herald-Leader said police usually do not pursue charges because “the practice involves a matter of religious freedom” and those involved freely choose to participate.

Snake-handlers believe their actions demonstrate faith, pointing to Mark 16:17-18: “And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name … they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all.”

As of Nov. 8, the Herald-Leader said the hospital had not filed a response to the case.

_ Heather Donckels

Blake formally named presiding bishop of Church of God in Christ

(RNS) Bishop Charles E. Blake has been retained as the presiding bishop of the Church of God in Christ, winning an election at the close of his denomination’s 100th Annual Holy Convocation in Memphis, Tenn.

Blake, the pastor of West Angeles Church of God in Christ in Los Angeles, was named presiding bishop following the death of Bishop Gilbert E. Patterson last March. Blake plans to run for re-election next November during the next regular election of the predominantly black Pentecostal denomination.

Blake garnered 2,986 votes from delegates to the church’s General Assembly, said the Rev. Loran E. Mann, Blake’s press secretary. Bishop Chandler David Owens, a former presiding bishop, won 482 votes, followed by Bishop J. Neaul Haynes of Dallas, who received 241 votes. Bishop Roy L.H. Winbush of Lafayette, La., had withdrawn from the race, but still got 37 votes.

Mann said Blake has named Bishop Phillip A. Brooks of Detroit as the first assistant presiding bishop and Bishop Jerry Macklin of Hayward, Calif., as the second assistant presiding bishop.

_ Adelle M. Banks

Ticketed pastor catches break from Ohio courts

CLEVELAND (RNS) Faith helps different people deal with different challenges. In the case of Henry Curtis, faith caught him a break on a traffic ticket.

In March, Curtis, a former pastor at Cleveland’s Cory United Methodist Church, was cited for running a stop sign. He struck a deal with Cleveland prosecutors and agreed to plead guilty to a lesser charge (operating an unsafe vehicle) and pay $150.

Municipal Judge Marilyn Cassidy later waived the fine and court costs and instead sentenced Curtis to community service. Noting his job, Cassidy ruled the pastor’s daily duties would satisfy the punishment.

Prosecutors then turned to a higher authority.

In a recent unanimous decision, the 8th Ohio District Court of Appeals upheld most of the sentence. The city’s one small victory is that Curtis might have to pay court fees.

The appeals court found no fault in Cassidy’s decision to disregard the plea deal and dismiss the fine.

The court ruling came the same week that Cassidy was elected to the seat she was appointed to in January. As it turns out, Curtis _ who left Cory United Methodist in July _ worked on Cassidy’s campaign.

The judge also disclosed Friday (Nov. 9) that Curtis is her bailiff’s friend. She said she did not let that relationship cloud her judgment when she heard the case.

“I think ministers and clergy do enough, frankly,” she said.

Curtis, through his attorney, declined to comment.

City Law Director Robert Triozzi did not return a phone call seeking a comment, but in an earlier interview, acknowledged that judges are afforded a “wide discretion” in determining punishment.

“It wasn’t so much the suspension of the fine,” Triozzi said of the decision to appeal Cassidy’s ruling. “We had already worked out a plea agreement.”

The appeals court rejected the city’s claims that Cassidy violated the First Amendment by going easy on a pastor _ a move they said could be seen as endorsing religion.

_ Henry J. Gomez

Ohio clergy seek `Political Sleaze-Free Zone’ in 2008

CLEVELAND (RNS) A coalition of Ohio religious leaders is asking for the battleground swing state to be a “Political Sleaze-Free Zone” for the 2008 election.

We Believe Ohio kicked off the campaign at rallies in Columbus and Cleveland on Nov. 8, asking candidates and political parties to promote what they stand for and refrain from attack ads.

Organizers said they have more than 900 names on petitions urging politicians to bring dignity and civility to the political process. Gov. Ted Strickland supports the effort, according to the interfaith group.

Surrounded by local clergy on the steps of First United Methodist Church in Cleveland, Rabbi Richard Block of the Temple-Tifereth Israel in Beachwood said people want truth, not distortions of opponents’ positions.

In a statement, the Columbus-based group said the 2004 and 2006 elections brought “gutter politics” to Ohio. In their petition drive, the clergy ask participants in the upcoming election to reject “the politics of polarization,” and promote the common good by addressing issues such as poverty, jobs, education and health care.

In particular, the group asks candidates and parties to denounce attacks by outside groups, “and do everything possible to bring them to a halt.”

Mudslinging and attack ads may appear to have become an acceptable way of doing politics, said Imam Abbas Ahmad, president of the Northeast Ohio Council of Mosques.

However, Ahmad said, “We as people of faith are here to say it does not have to be that way.”

_ David Briggs

Quote of the Day: Charisma magazine editor J. Lee Grady

(RNS) “I hope every one of these ministries can prove they’ve done nothing wrong. But if God wants to use a senator to help the American church clean up its act, then I say bring on the reformation.”

_ J. Lee Grady, editor of Charisma magazine, responding to the investigation by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, into the financial operations of prominent evangelical TV ministries. His comments appeared in his weekly online column.


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