Sunday, February 15, 2009

Pittsburgh's Bible Belt rivals South's, scholars say

From the Pittsburgh Tribune Review-

A yarn popular among local preachers tells of a golden phone that puts a call through to heaven for $10,000, but in Pittsburgh that call sets you back just 35 cents.

It's a local call in "God's Country."

The region known for steel is quietly making its mark as a religious stronghold with influence stretching nationwide.

A strong work ethic and conservative religious bent, the legacy of early settlers from Scotland and Ireland, has created a Bible Belt here as strong as that in the South and Midwest, theologians say, but with a personality of its own because Pittsburgh, with its many faiths and nationalities, has a deep religious commitment that spans church spectrums.


Pittsburgh this month will host a national convocation of Presbyterian church officials that is the first of its kind for the Presbyterian denomination. The conference will explore the religious freedoms put at risk when civil courts are asked to resolve property disputes that arise in church schisms.

Some of the same issues that drove the splits within the Presbyterian and Episcopalian churches caused the excommunication of the Rev. William Hausen from the Roman Catholic Church. The pull and tug between conservative and liberal factions in the church bothered Hausen, so in 2004, he started his own church.

Hausen, of Sewickley, maintains that the Catholic Church, the largest denomination in the seven-county region with 988,490 members, needs to modernize its positions on issues such as divorce, birth control, ordination of women and celibacy for clergy.

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