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Religion around the world

4 Baptist leaders register new convention -- just in case

TYLER, Texas (AP) -- Four Baptist leaders have taken the first legal step toward a new denomination to rival the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest U.S. Protestant body.The founding board members say they incorporated and registered the name "Baptist Convention of the Americas" with the Texas secretary of state in 1998 in case such an entity is needed but acted quietly to prevent further discord among Southern Baptists.

One founder, local pastor Paul Powell, told the Tyler Morning Telegraph that the likelihood of a breakaway denomination increases as strife continues between the Baptists' conservative and moderate factions. His colleagues are on the moderate side.

"It sure looks like we're headed in that direction," said Powell. "We know the gap is widening between the two. Everything that happens kind of accentuates that."

He added that "mad, narrow-minded and fundamentalist" Baptists "are not my kind of Baptists."

Powell formerly led the denomination's pension board. The other founders are Houston businessman John F. Baugh; Baylor University Chancellor Herbert Reynolds; and the Rev. W. Winfred Moore, who teaches religion at Baylor.

Panel is urging all Christians to mark Easter on same day

CHICAGO (AP) -- A panel representing the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and U.S. Eastern Orthodox churches has endorsed a call to have all Christians mark Easter on the same date.

Christianity's eastern and western branches often follow different dates. For instance, this year western Easter is April 23 and Orthodox Easter is April 30.

Easter is the Sunday following the first full moon after the spring equinox, but eastern and western Christians use different calculations.

Participants in a 1997 meeting in Aleppo, Syria, sponsored by the World Council of Churches, proposed joint acceptance of modern astronomical calculations taken from the meridian of Jerusalem, starting in 2001 when both eastern and western Easters fall on April 15.

Yeshiva University launches graduate program for women

NEW YORK (AP) -- Yeshiva University has launched a graduate program in Orthodox-oriented study of the Talmud and Torah for women, said to be the first university-based program of its kind in the United States.

The two-year program for up to 10 women will lead to a certificate, but students have the option of simultaneously earning master's degrees tuition-free at the university's graduate school of Jewish education.

Professor Ephraim Kanarfogel, who will direct the new program, said it "will enable an elite cadre of women to be better prepared to be leaders in Jewish scholarship."

He stressed that the training is not analogous to rabbinic ordination, which Orthodoxy does not allow for women.

Episcopal Church cancels consecration of new bishop

ATLANTA (AP) -- The Atlanta diocese of the Episcopal Church canceled the consecration of its new bishop on short notice, citing "very recent discoveries of lack of disclosure in personal financial and family matters."

The Atlanta Journal-Consti-tution said the Rev. Robert Trache and his wife filed for personal bankruptcy in a Virginia federal court Jan. 20.

The Rev. Richard Callaway, head of the diocesan standing committee, said the issue was not so much the couple's problems as "how they handled the decisions they made and how they were disclosed to the body of the faithful."

The Rev. Trache was in Atlanta when the cancellation occurred but issued no comment.

The priest, who was also a candidate for bishop of Michigan last year, was formerly rector of St. James' Episcopal Church in Richmond, Va.

N.J. district to close schools for another Muslim holiday

PATERSON, N.J. (AP) -- The Paterson school district, the first in the state to close for a Muslim holiday, added a second day off this year.

Paterson schools previously closed for the feast marking the end of Ramadan, the month of fasting. This year the school district added a day off March 17 for Eid al-Adha, the worldwide festival marking the end of the pilgrimage to Mecca.

No other district in New Jersey closes for any Islamic holiday, said a spokesman for the New Jersey School Boards Association.