SAME-SEX UNIONSBishop Defends BlessingsThree days after the Episcopal Church was asked to stop authorizing formal blessings for same-sex unions, Washington's bishop issued a strongly worded refusal yesterday, saying Christians have just begun repenting for the historic persecution of gays and lesbians. Bishop John Bryson Chane is among Episcopal leaders who have expressed alarm since Monday, when a meeting of global Anglican leaders called for the Episcopal Church--the U.S. branch of the Anglican Communion--to bar gay men and lesbians from becoming bishops and to stop official blessings of same-sex unions.

Christians have persecuted, stigmatized and denied "the dignity of God's gay and lesbian children," Chane wrote, calling it "agonizing" to see Anglican leaders "call upon us to remain in our sins."

Some Episcopalians believe there is a loophole in the Anglican leaders' demand that would allow priests to offer blessings on their own authority. "Under no circumstances will I enforce a ban on the blessing of same sex unions," Chane wrote, "if that, in fact, is what the Primates are asking us to do."

-- Michelle BoorsteinTHE MALLPark Service Seeks Public InputThe National Park Service has scheduled a meeting for tomorrow to gather input from the public on plans for the Mall. The meeting, the first of three, is set to run from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. in room M-09 on the mezzanine level of the Old Post Office Pavilion, 1100 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Those attending should enter on 12th Street.

Park service staff will be available to talk about planning for such projects as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial and the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Background information on the projects can be found at the park service Web site, http://www.nps.gov/nationalmallplan.

Subsequent meetings are scheduled for March 8 from 4 to 8 p.m. and March 10 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the same location.

-- Michael RuaneUDCAlumni Support Is Requested The University of the District of Columbia announced a "call out" to its alumni yesterday, urging people who graduated from any of its eight founding schools to "return to their alma mater." Graduates of the Miner Normal School, Miner Teacher's College, Antioch Law School, Wilson Normal School, Wilson Teacher's College, District of Columbia Teachers' College, Federal City College and Washington Technical Institute are asked to support UDC.

Phil Fenty, father of Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) and a 1977 graduate, will be honorary chairman of the Alumni Reclamation Campaign. UDC is celebrating its 30th year.

-- Susan KinzieNE WASHINGTONMore Fires Set at Middle School For a second day, firefighters responded to Kelly Miller Middle School in Northeast Washington for nuisance fires. Yesterday's fires happened about 11 a.m. -- two in trash cans and one in a locker, said Alan Etter, spokesman for the D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department. Wednesday's fire was in a locker at the school, which is in the 300 block of 49th Street, Etter said.

No one was hurt, but students were evacuated for an hour yesterday. Etter said the four fires are under investigation.

-- Allison Klein