Bishop lifts sanctions in ordination of lesbian

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- An Evangelical Lutheran Church bishop has lifted the penalties against a congregation that broke with policy by ordaining an actively lesbian pastor.

The national church's rule against gay and lesbian pastors still stands, Bishop Peter Rogness said, but discussion of the issue "would be better served by striking a more reconciling posture." The denomination is currently re-examining its policy.

Rogness' predecessor went after the St. Paul-Reformation Lutheran Church because it installed Anita Hill as a pastor in April 2001, five years after it had blessed her relationship with a woman.

Hill said the congregation, which considers the Lutheran homosexual policy "unjust and restrictive," hopes Rogness' step "will be seen as a helpful move in the discussion for our whole denomination."

Kentucky bill would impact clergy lawsuits

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- A bill pending in the Kentucky Senate's Judiciary Committee would lift the statute of limitations on child sex abuse lawsuits, allowing plaintiffs to sue decades after alleged molestation.

The bill is aimed at allegations of sex abuse against clergy, its co-sponsor said, and could have an effect on some of the 200 abuse lawsuits already pending against the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Louisville.

The Catholic Conference of Kentucky would likely not oppose lifting the statute of limitations, but it opposes a requirement in the current proposal to force priests to report abuse even when they hear about it in sacramental confession, the rite in which Catholics confess their sins to a priest in private.

Current state law permits alleged victims to sue perpetrators within five years after turning 18 and employers within one year after turning 18.

Lawmakers supporting the legislation say they expect it to pass in some form.

Report: Vietnam expands repression of Christians

HANOI, Vietnam -- Vietnam has intensified a crackdown against indigenous minorities in the Central Highlands where mass protests broke out over land rights and religious repression, a human rights group charged Tuesday.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch said the mostly Christian Montagnards have endured interrogations, detentions and beatings by officials. Victims include church leaders, people who tried to seek asylum in Cambodia and those suspected of helping a separatist movement.

Villagers said authorities banned Christmas services last month and arrested or detained dozens of people to keep them from worship, the report charged.

Human Rights Watch said at least 70 Montagnards face harsh prison sentences for joining unprecedented demonstrations in 2001 against religious restrictions and government encroachment on their land. An estimated 1,500 Montagnards fled to Cambodia following the crackdown.

Graham announces 2003 revival in Oklahoma

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Rev. Billy Graham's office said Tuesday he will hold revival meetings June 12-15 in downtown Oklahoma City.

Two weeks ago, Graham announced meetings for May 8-11 in San Diego.

In the past, the 84-year-old Graham scheduled events a year ahead to allow advance planning -- some 15,000 volunteers must be organized -- but his health is unpredictable due to Parkinson's disease and other ailments.

Graham said in a statement, "Although my strength is more limited now that I am in my 80s, my burden to proclaim the Gospel is as strong as ever."

A total of 10,000 people made Christian commitments during Graham's two previous Oklahoma City meetings, in 1956 and 1983.

--From staff, wire reports