The number of churches that were dismissed from Presbyterian Church (USA) last year has increased by fivefold compared to 2011, says a recently released report, The Christian Post notes. According to statistics released Thursday by the Office of the General Assembly for PC (USA), 110 congregations were granted dismissal in 2012 in order to join other Presbyterian denominations; in 2011, the reported number was only 21. In 2010, at the 219th General Assembly of PC (USA), a majority of presbyteries, or regional bodies, voted to approve Amendment 10a, which lets presbyteries allow for the ordination of openly homosexual clergy. Because of this amendment, many conservative congregations in PC (USA) decided to pursue dismissal from the mainline denomination, usually for more conservative Presbyterian groups.

Other news:

  • The liberal Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, the country’s largest Lutheran synod, now has its first openly gay bishop, The Christian Post reports. The Rev. R. Guy Erwin of Los Angeles, Calif., was elected Friday to a six-year term as bishop of the ELCA’s Southwest California Synod at the church’s annual assembly in Woodland Hills, Calif., the denomination said in a statement, noting that “Erwin is the ELCA’s first synod bishop who is gay and in a partnered relationship.” Erwin, interim pastor of Faith Lutheran Church in Canoga Park, Calif., was elected on the sixth ballot receiving 210 votes of 381 cast. The synod is made up more than 120 congregations in five counties. “The ELCA is a church that belongs to Christ, and in it there is a place for all,” The Associated Press quoted church spokeswoman Melissa Ramirez Cooper as saying. “The election of Pastor Erwin illustrates what many in the 4 million-member church believe: that God calls each of us by name.” The election follows the denomination’s controversial 2009 rule change allowing gays and lesbians to be ordained, a move that has cost the synod more than 600 congregations since then.
  • For the 14th straight year, ExxonMobil shareholders overwhelmingly have rejected a proposition to incorporate into the company’s written non-discrimination policy language explicitly prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, reports. ExxonMobil says its “global zero-tolerance policy” already applies to “all forms of discrimination, including discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity,” even though the phrases “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” do not appear in the current policy, as written. Nevertheless, the company says harassment, “even in its most subtle forms, directly conflicts with company policy and will not be tolerated. All employees are subject to disciplinary action, including termination, for any act of harassment.” The shareholder proposition, submitted by the New York State Common Retirement Fund, and voted down by 81 percent of stockholders, would have introduced into the company’s zero-tolerance non-discrimination policy language specifically addressing LGBT individuals. The ExxonMobil Board of Directors, in a proxy statement, recommended that shareholders vote against the proposal: “The Board has reviewed in detail ExxonMobil’s existing global policies that prohibit all forms of discrimination, including those based on sexual orientation and gender identity, in any Company workplace, anywhere in the world,” it said. “In fact, ExxonMobil’s policies go beyond the law and prohibit any form of discrimination. Based on these existing all-inclusive, zero-tolerance policies, the Board believes the proposal is unnecessary.” Conservative groups, including the Family Research Council, applauded shareholders for rejecting the proposal. “While other businesses drift away from their principles or capitulate under pressure, Exxon is putting its stock in something other than political correctness,” said FRC President Tony Perkins. “Exxon is setting a good example for other businesses who think promoting extreme political views is the only away to avoid the strong arm tactics of far left special interests.” In their submission to shareholders, homosexual advocates noted that more than 90 percent of Fortune 500 companies have adopted written nondiscrimination policies prohibiting harassment and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. “It’s clear that ExxonMobil is not going to change its policy unless it’s forced to,” Heather Cronk, director of GetEqual, told MSNBC after the vote. Indeed, legal force is now being applied. A week before Wednesday’s shareholder meeting, the oil giant was sued by the LGBT advocacy group Freedom to Work.
  • The head of a Protestant renewal organization disagrees with a group of evangelical church leaders and organizations endorsing U.S. Senate legislation aimed at giving amnesty to millions of illegal aliens. Mark Tooley, president of The Institute on Religion & Democracy, says some evangelicals are mischaracterizing the Old Testament “sojourner” as the modern-day equivalent of an illegal immigrant. “There is no evidence that when the Old Testament refers to sojourners, that the Hebrew theocracy of that day automatically extended citizenship and all the rights and privileges of being a member of their nation to anyone who happened to wander across their border,” Tooley told OneNewsNow. But an organization called the Evangelical Immigration Table is waging an aggressive $250,000 media campaign in support of Senate Bill 744, which would grant amnesty to an estimated 11 million illegal aliens. Although some polls indicate evangelical support for legalization, Tooley asserts that the vast majority of evangelical church members oppose giving amnesty to millions of illegal aliens living in the United States.
  • The Internal Revenue Service spent as much as $49 million on at least 220 employee conferences over three years beginning in fiscal 2010, according to an inspector general’s audit due out on Tuesday, reports. The audit was prepared by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, which confirmed accusations that the IRS has targeted tea party, conservative, and religious groups.
  • The Marines at Camp Leatherneck, in Afghanistan, lost one hot meal a day Saturday, reports Eager to pre-empt criticism, the Pentagon hastily informed the public that no soldier will lose any calories; they will be provided with yummy, nutritious MRE’s (“meals ready-to-eat”). Too late. Outrage is already growing. The reason being given for this loss is because of a need to cut down on expenses. “There is more to the preposterous excuse; a massive draw-down of troops in Afghanistan, some 30,000 soldiers, requires ancillary workers (e.g. kitchen staff) to be permitted to go home first. You read that right. Why on earth, since the massive decrease of troops is already saving the government a bundle, should there be a further need to decrease already-Spartan services provided to soldiers remaining on the firing line? Camp Leatherneck is located in Afghanistan’s southwestern Helmand Province, hedged by Pakistan and Iran. This is not the garden spot of the world and any troops remaining in the area, especially as their numbers decrease, are going to be in more danger. Does it make any sense, whatsoever, to deprive them of simple, hot meal? The [President’s] disdain for the military is common knowledge. Lt. Col. Cliff Gilmore at Camp Leatherneck broke the news. But it is the [President’s] regime, via the Pentagon, that is instituting this despicable ‘austerity measure.’ The [President] is unwilling to cut government spending anywhere but the military. Perhaps he needs a few suggestions: Federal funds have been implemented to provide breakfast, lunch and dinner for public school children. The regime plans to extend the program to include weekends. This is a permanent expansion of government spending. The [President] might have public schools spare a hot meal a day for the limited time the soldiers remain in Afghanistan. Or perhaps he should just stop acting like King Croesus . . . with our money.”