A New York City Presbyterian church that owns decaying apartment buildings in Paterson, N.J., voted last week to sell the buildings after Paterson's mayor accused it of being the city's largest slumlord.
The congregation of the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church voted unanimously to sell the properties, some of which it had received from a church member, the church said in a statement.
Paterson Mayor Frank X. Graves charged last month that the church collected about $1 million a year in rent on buildings with rotten roofs, dilapidated plumbing, broken windows, peeling paint and vermin.
Two national organizations of nuns have denounced the Vatican's treatment of Mary Agnes Mansour, forced by the Vatican to choose between her job as new director of Michigan's Department of Social Services and her religious order, as "arrogant use of power in a male-dominated church."
A Washington-headquartered Catholic social justice group and a Catholic group calling for abortion choice also denounce the Vatican pressure, and the central administration of the Sisters of Mercy of the Union, the governing arm of Mansour's religious order, said it was considering a canonical appeal.
The 52-year-old nun asked for and received dispensation from her vows as a nun from the Sisters of Mercy last week after she was ordered by the Vatican to either resign from the state job or leave her religious order because she had not denounced the social services department's Medicaid funding of poor women's abortions. The Vatican was supporting a demand by her bishop, Archbishop Edmund Szoka of Detroit.
Mansour, a nun for 30 years, is the former president of Mercy College in Detroit.
The National Assembly of Religious Women and the National Coalition of American Nuns charged last week that the Vatican's Congregation for Religious "has ignored the principle of freedom of conscience" and that "the one-sided manner in which this decision was handed down seriously violates canonical due process."
The two organizations called on women to gather in silent prayer and protest" across the country tomorrow, Pentecost, "as a visible witness to the arrogant use of power in a male-dominated church."
Also issuing a protest was the board of directors of the Washington-headquartered Network, a national Catholic social justice lobby founded by Roman Catholic nuns that now has 67,000 members. It charged that among the "most insidious implications of the controversy" is the "clear threat to political ministry as an authentic Christian calling."
Frances Kissling, executive director of the pro-abortion-choice organization, Catholics for a Free Choice, meanwhile, charged that "Catholic women throughout the U.S. are certain to be further alienated from the church by the arbitrary and callous way in which Sister Mansour's legitimate vow of service to the poor was summarily dismissed by the Vatican."
Kissling charged that it is an "irony" that "at the same time [Archbishop Philip] Hannan of Louisiana is perfectly free to espouse views totally out of synch with the bishops' pastoral on war and peace."
Hannan has been the most outspoken critic of the pastoral, a 150-page document condemning nuclear arms that was approved by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops early this month, and has said he will tell parishioners of his New Orleans diocese to ignore it.
The faculty and students at Christ Seminary-Seminex are greeting the seminary's final commencement at its St. Louis campus today, the closing of the campus, and the dispersal of the seminary's faculty and students to three other Lutheran seminaries as a cause for rejoicing, not tears.
Seminiex, from the phrase "seminary in exile," was formed in 1974 by more than 400 faculty members and students from the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod's Concordia Seminary who walked off the campus to protest the church's suspension of the seminary president, the Rev. Dr. John H. Tietjen, in a bitter doctrinal dispute.
But what they ended up creating was more than another seminary. Without realizing it, they launched a Lutheran movement that is expected to result in 1988 in the merger of three Lutheran church bodies representing 5.4 million worshipers.
The 3-million-member Lutheran Church in America began discussing union with the 2.3-million-member American Lutheran Church more than a decade ago. But the two churches did not begin serious talks until the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches, formed by 100,000 former Missouri Synod Lutherans who had joined the Seminex protest, issued a "call for Lutheran Union" in 1977.
The merger of the two larger denominations and the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches was approved last September by the three churches at separate conventions, and the new Lutheran church will come into being on Jan. 1, 1988.
"I see it as a vindication of the trust we had," said Tietjen, now Seminex's president. "We were ready to risk everything because we rooted our faith in God and our understanding of the Gospel."
The controversy nine years ago at Concordia centered on interpretation of the Bible. It came to a head in 1973 when the conservativbe 2.7-million-member, Missouri Synod passed a resolution accusing the Concordia faculty of teaching false doctrine.