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Religion Briefs for Sept. 27

Controversial pastor shutters congregation

TULSA, Okla. – A pastor who once led one of Tulsa’s most prominent charismatic churches and served as an adviser to then-President-elect Bush has shut down his church.

Bishop Carlton Pearson preached his final sermon at New Dimensions Church on Sept. 7. The church has been folded into All Souls Unitarian Church, the world’s largest church in that denomination.

New Hindu temple built to fulfill famed swami’s dream

HOMER GLEN, Ill. – Fully 115 years after a then-obscure Indian scholar introduced modern Hindu thought to America in a famous speech in Chicago, his disciples have opened what he called the “universal temple.”

More than 300 people gathered Sunday in the southwestern Chicago suburb of Homer Glen to inaugurate the 32,000-square-foot temple, which was the longtime dream of Swami Vivekananda. The swami brought the Hindu message to Chicago’s World Parliament of Religions in 1893.

Vivekananda later called for a temple that would teach meditation and the spiritual discipline of yoga to anyone from any faith.

Pittsburgh Presbyterians fly in Malawis

PITTSBURGH – Faced with years of decreasing church numbers, several Presbyterian congregations in Pittsburgh have flown in more than two dozen Presbyterians from Malawi to help locals keep the faith.

While church leaders in Pittsburgh struggle, the Presbyterian church in the central African nation has seen consistent growth, said Nora Goetz, co-chairwoman of the partnership program that helped bring 26 Malawis to the area on Friday.

“They are clearly doing something right, because their churches are growing by leaps and bounds, whereas ours are shrinking,” Goetz, of the Pittsburgh suburb Turtle Creek, told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Islam expert joins academy as new chair for Middle East studies

ANNAPOLIS, Md. – An expert on Islam is joining the U.S. Naval Academy this fall.

Akbar Ahmed, who is also a cultural anthropologist and the former high commissioner of Pakistan to Britain, will fill a new chair for Middle East Studies. He will teach courses, advise midshipmen and faculty, and assist in research projects.

Ahmed has promoted interfaith relations through his many books, television appearances and public dialogues with Judea Pearl, the father of slain Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. He has also worked in film and documentary.

His most recent book, published in 2007, is “Journey into Islam: The Crisis of Globalization.”

Ahmed previously taught at American, Princeton, Harvard and Cambridge universities.