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Lutherans lose 91,000 members

CHICAGO (AP) — The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America lost almost 91,000 members and 48 congregations last year, but saw a slight increase in per-congregant giving.

In 2009, the denomination dropped to 4.5 million members and about 10,300 congregations, according to a report released Tuesday by David Swartling, the ELCA secretary.

Total offerings in congregations dropped by nearly 3 percent, to about $2.6 billion, but average giving per baptized member increased by a similar percentage, to $492.

The ELCA, which is the largest Lutheran body in the United States, is dealing not only with the impact of the recession but also with the fallout from the denomination's vote last year to lift the celibacy requirement for gay clergy.

Poles demand that cross be removed

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Thousands of people held a midnight rally in Poland's capital to demand that a wooden cross erected in memory of the late President Lech Kaczynski be moved from in front of the presidential palace.

The cross was erected by scouting groups after Kaczynski was killed in an April plane crash in Russia. The cross has become a site of mourning for a small group of elderly supporters of the late leader.

Those at the protest rally late Monday said they want the cross moved to a nearby church, arguing that it has no place in front of the presidential palace of a nation constitutionally defined as secular. While church and state are technically separated in staunchly Roman Catholic Poland, the church is influential in political life.

Authorities tried to move the cross last week but were prevented from doing so by praying demonstrators, raising the stakes on a cultural battle that pits a deeply conservative, often older constituency against an increasingly secular and younger population.

Many of the protesters Monday were young people who were mobilized on Facebook.

Woman to honor man who saved her

HAYNEVILLE, Ala. (AP) — The woman whose life was saved when civil rights advocate Jonathan Myrick Daniels shielded her from a shotgun blast during a 1965 voting rights campaign will participate in a pilgrimage honoring him and others.

Ruby Sales, founder and co-director of Spirit House, will join the Bishop Todd Ousley of the Episcopal Diocese of Eastern Michigan as featured guests at the pilgrimage Saturday in Hayneville.

Daniels was an Episcopal seminarian who joined the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in helping register black voters in Alabama.

He was shot and killed on Aug. 20, 1965, while shielding the then-16-year-old Sales from a shotgun blast as she attempted to enter a store.

Church founder, kin to halve their pay

GARDEN GROVE, Calif. (AP) — The founder of the Crystal Cathedral and his family are taking a voluntary 50 percent pay cut for to meet the demands of businesses that have sued the megachurch for more than $2 million in unpaid bills.

The Orange County megachurch, which airs the "Hour of Power" to viewers worldwide each week, has been marred by financial problems.

Those taking the pay cut for the next two months include the Rev. Robert H. Schuller, his wife, their five children and respective spouses. Employees will also face a pay cut of between 5 percent and 10 percent.

The church has been trying to sell off property and has laid off workers and cut "Hour of Power" from some broadcast TV stations to close a $55 million to $70 million budget deficit.