Sanford churches to hold weekly prayer meetings
SANFORD, Fla. (AP) — Churches in Sanford, Fla., have opened their doors for prayer to ease tensions after George Zimmerman's acquittal in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.
The group, Sanford Pastors Connecting, announced that churches across Seminole County would open their doors each Monday at noon. The first prayer meeting Monday at New Life Word Center Church was attended by Sanford's mayor, city manager and police chief.
New Life Word Center's pastor, the Rev. Ronald Merthie, said they prayed for both the Zimmerman and the Martin families and for unity, peace and better community relations.
Merthie said Mayor Jeff Triplett expressed relief that Sanford had endured intense media scrutiny and that violence had not occurred.
LGBT group finds acceptance at evangelical college
PASADENA, Calif. (AP) — Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif., is one of the first evangelical seminaries in the nation to approve an official student organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students.
Its decision not to oppose the LGBT club is creating ripples in the larger world of Christian colleges. Attempts to start gay student groups at some other Christian colleges in the U.S. have been met with censorship or outright bans.
Though Fuller's approval is seen by many as progress, some don't like the conditions that come with it. School policy states that students can "come out," but they must remain celibate and are not allowed to be politically active.
Students said they are aware of the LGBT group's limitations, and choose to accept them.
Illinois Sen. wants handguns banned from churches
PARK RIDGE, Ill. (AP) — An Illinois state senator wants to add churches to the list of places where concealed guns wouldn't be allowed.
Park Ridge Democrat Dan Kotowski says he doesn't agree with a provision in the state's new concealed-carry law that allows guns in churches, temples or mosques. He filed an amendment to the law Monday and says he'll push for its approval.
Illinois was the last state in the nation to approve concealed-carry legislation this month.
Kotowski is a former gun control lobbyist.
He's one of a number of lawmakers seeking changes to the gun bill, although lawmakers voted to override changes that Gov. Pat Quinn proposed last week to meet a federal court deadline.
Several other states, including Nebraska, South Carolina and North Dakota, prohibit carrying concealed guns in churches.
Pa. man guilty of killing organist ex in church
COUDERSPORT, Pa. (AP) — A Pennsylvania man has pleaded guilty to fatally shooting his ex-wife while she played the organ during a church service last year.
The Bradford Era reports that under the plea agreement, 53-year-old Gregory Eldred of Coudersport will receive a mandatory life prison term when he returns for sentencing next week.
Eldred pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, acknowledging that he gunned down 53-year-old Darlene Sitler while she was serving as the organist at the First United Presbyterian Church of Coudersport on Dec. 2. The church is about 140 miles northeast of Pittsburgh.
Eldred was an elementary school music teacher, while Sitler taught music at the Northern Potter Children's School.
Pope spends day in hill town, jokes with residents
CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy (AP) — For once, Pope Francis has abandoned his traditional Sunday greeting at the Vatican, opting for an informal front-door encounter in a hill town outside Rome which hosts the papal summer residence.
Unlike his predecessors, Francis isn't staying in Castel Gandolfo for the summer, but came for the day. Usually when in Castel Gandolfo, pontiffs appear at a window overlooking an inner courtyard or on a balcony facing the town's main square. This time, Francis spoke to people at their level, standing outside the main entrance, chatting and bending down to kiss babies in strollers.
He joked that he would have given a cake to help residents celebrate the feast day on Monday of the area's patron saint but didn't know if such a huge cake could have been baked.