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Survey shows priest shortage for Catholics

A new survey shows that 17 percent of U.S. Catholic parishes lack a resident priest. In most cases such parishes are served by a priest from another parish, but others are administered by deacons, sisters or brothers in religious orders, or lay members.

The findings come from a survey of parishes by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, affiliated with Georgetown University.

The survey said lay ministers outnumber priests in every region of the nation.

The center's report said the average U.S. Catholic parish consists of 850 households and 2,000 individuals, among whom about 40 percent attend weekly Mass.

Interfaith TV network continues programs

The Odyssey Network, a cable TV outlet founded by an interfaith coalition, continues to offer scaled-down religious programming in the fall season premiering Friday.

Odyssey, which reaches 29 million homes, put a new emphasis on family-oriented entertainment last April after Hallmark Entertainment and the Jim Henson Company jointly paid $100 million for 45 percent ownership. Another secular firm, Liberty Media, is also a part owner.

Religious programming was the total fare when the New York-based National Interfaith Cable Coalition launched the network in 1988. Originally called the VISN channel, it was later renamed the Faith & Values channel and became Odyssey in 1996.

In this fall's schedule, religious shows fill three morning hours and two overnight hours. There are also religious programs Saturday nights after 10 and on Sundays from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Methodist faces next round of church trials

Methodist pastor Jimmy Creech faces a second church trial for performing a gay unity ceremony.

Nebraska's Bishop Joel Martinez said Creech must stand trial for conducting an April ritual for two men in Chapel Hill, N.C.

A March 1998 church trial cleared Creech over a similar 1997 ceremony involving two women, but then the Methodists' highest court ruled that such rituals violate church law.

Creech, who lives in Raleigh, N.C., maintains that the United Methodist Church law against rituals for same-sex couples amounts to institutional bigotry.

He said he was disappointed by the church panel's decision but not surprised.

The trial, likely to be held in Nebraska in the next few months, will be ''a detriment to the church,'' he said, calling it ''an act of violence against lesbians, gays and bisexual people.''

A jury of 13 ministers will decide Creech's fate. If convicted, Creech could be dismissed from the clergy.

Creech went on voluntary leave of absence after Martinez declined to reappoint him pastor of Omaha's First United Methodist Church after the earlier controversy.

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