HOUSTON (AP) - Southern Baptist pastors from around the nation are meeting in Houston in advance of their denomination's annual conference starting Tuesday.
The Southern Baptist Convention, with nearly 16 million members, remains the nation's largest Protestant denomination, but membership declined slightly last year and baptisms fell by 5.5 percent.
At the pastors conference Sunday evening, Pastor Gregg Matte of Houston's First Baptist Church said, "Our country is in trouble, our churches are in trouble, our pastors are in trouble." He said, "We need more Jesus."
Southern Baptists are expected to pass a resolution urging congregations to end their sponsorship of Boy Scout troops now that gay youths will be allowed to join. Church leaders also are worried about growing acceptance of gay marriage and government requiring some religious institutions to provide contraception coverage.
BELLEVILLE, Ill. (AP) - The Roman Catholic Diocese of Belleville in southern Illinois is pairing its parishes so they can be served by one priest.
According to a plan released Thursday, the move will mean no parish in the diocese will be closed anytime soon.
Diocese spokesman Monsignor John Myler says the plan encourages the parishes to prepare for a time when only 50 priests will be available to pastor. He says parishes have been instructed to begin working jointly immediately.
Myler says the parishes are to implement the pastoral plan in a dynamic, flexible, gradual manner. He says if two or more parishes decide it is better to close a church building, it would be a decision of those parishes.
The diocese covers the 28 southernmost Illinois counties and includes 121 parishes.