rev._fred_luter_jr.jpgSouthern Baptists re-elect first black president
HOUSTON — The Southern Baptist Convention has re-elected its first black president, the Rev. Fred Luter Jr. Luter was first elected in 2012. His presidency comes at a time when the nation’s largest Protestant denomination is trying to move beyond its traditional white Southern base.

The Nashville-based Southern Baptist Convention claims 16 million members, but recently announced that membership declined in 2012 for the sixth straight year.
Baptisms fell by 5.5 percent after a slight increase in 2011. That’s considered a particularly important measure of growth for a denomination committed to evangelism.
Southern Baptists gathered in Houston for their annual meeting June 11-12, where Luter was re-elected unopposed and received a standing ovation.
Southern Baptist presidents can serve a maximum of two one-year terms.

Small Kansas church finds stash of Bibles
ASHLAND, Kan. – A small rural Kansas church is celebrating what some might consider a gift from God. A minister of the Presbyterian Church in Ashland says she was sorting through some boxes at the church when she found one filled with some unusual Bibles.
The 15 Bibles found by Minister Marsha Granberry were printed in several languages including Eskimo, Slavic, Cherokee, Russian, Chinese and Yiddish.
Most of the Bibles were printed in the 1920s and 1930s, except the Cherokee version, which apparently was printed in 1860.
Granberry says the Bibles are in pristine condition, with no watermarks, tears or underlining.
The Wichita Eagle reported the monetary value of the Bibles hasn’t been determined but the small congregation is considering putting them up for auction to pay for a badly-needed church bathroom.

Monument with cross draws lawsuit
LAKE ELSINORE, Calif. – A humanist group is suing a California city for funding a monument depicting a soldier kneeling at a cross.
The Riverside Press-Enterprise reports that the American Humanist Association served Lake Elsinore with the suit that claims the Riverside County community violated the separation of church and state by agreeing to pay $50,000 to create a monument with a soldier kneeling before a cross-topped grave. The veterans’ monument would be placed in front of the city’s Diamond Stadium.
City Councilman Brian Tisdale says the design shows a World War II soldier mourning a comrade and isn’t meant to be religious.
However, William Burgess of the humanist group says it still comes down to a government putting a religious symbol on public property.

Communism-era losses compensated
PRAGUE – The Czech Republic’s highest court has upheld a government plan to pay billions of dollars to religious groups in compensation for property the country’s former Communist regime seized from them.
The ruling is a big victory for the country’s churches, which have been fighting since the 1989 fall of communism to get back assets such as farms, woodlands and buildings that have remained in the state’s hands.