By Michael Pearson, CNN
(CNN) – Episcopal priests will be allowed to conduct services blessing same-sex relationships under a policy approved Tuesday at the church's national convention in Indianapolis.
The convention's House of Bishops approved the provisional policy 111-41 with three abstentions Monday, clearing it for consideration by the House of Deputies, which approved it Tuesday evening.
The policy was approved in the House of Deputies, following more than an hour of debate, by 78% of the voting lay members and by 76% of clergy.
With the vote, the Episcopal Church will become the largest U.S. denomination to officially sanction same-sex relationships. The Episcopal Church has about 1.95 million members in the United States, down 16% over the last decade, according to the church.
The service is not considered a marriage ceremony, media affairs representative Nancy Davidge said.
By the CNN Wire Staff
(CNN)– Members of two Islamist militant groups destroyed tombs at a shrine to Muslim saints Tuesday, according to the mayor of Timbuktu, Mali, and other residents.
"The Islamists ordered the people to leave the area before they started smashing the tombs," Mayor Ousmane Halle said. "I saw both members of Ansar Dine and MUJAO, another Islamic faction in charge of the city. They were heavily armed and people had no choice but to leave when they started destroying the shrines."
It was the second time in the past two weeks that Ansar Dine, a militant group that seeks to impose strict Sharia law, has attacked the site's 16 mausoleums, built from mud and wood in the 15th century.
One of the town's residents said the militants surrounded the ancient Djingareyber mosque area at 7:30 a.m.
By Marina Csomor, Special to CNN
(CNN) – People visit Jerusalem for the rich history, interwoven religious narratives and crumbling holy walls. They visit Europe for ornate churches with painted ceilings and golden trim. They visit India for peace of mind, finding serenity in its carved and colorful temples scattered along the sacred Ganges River.
But people rarely travel the U.S. in search of such sanctuaries. After all, what religious wisdom could America, a country still in its youth at 236 years old, have to offer?
Although the country may not have a reputation for religious landmarks, America is home to more than just secular city halls and strip malls. Whether or not you practice a faith, visiting these beautiful and historic U.S. religious spots may provide inspiration.
By Adam Levine, CNN
(CNN) – Muslim extremists are more concerned with defending against foreign intrusion than foisting Islam on the world, according to a new study of extremist texts. The study suggests that a Western approach of claiming extremists are seeking world domination is misdirected, and instead should seek to counteract claims of victimhood.
"Continued claims to the contrary, by both official and unofficial sources, only play into a 'clash of civilizations' narrative that benefits the extremist cause. These claims also undermine the credibility of Western voices, because the audience knows that extremist arguments are really about victimage and deliverance," write the researchers, Jeffry Halverson, R. Bennett Furlow and Steven Corman.
The analysis by Arizona State University's Center for Strategic Communication looked at how the Quran was used in 2,000 propoganda items from 1998 to 2011, though the majority were from post-2007, that emanated mostly from the Middle East and North Africa. Among the groups analyzed were al Qaeda and al Shabaab, as well as anonymous postings online.
By Laura Koran, CNN
Here's the Belief Blog’s morning rundown of the top faith-angle stories from around the United States and around the world. Click the headlines for the full stories.
From the Blog:
CNN: State Dept: Release pastor jailed for 1,000 days, sentenced to death in Iran
It has been more than 1,000 days since a Christian pastor was thrown into an Iranian jail for leaving Islam and sentenced to death for, as the U.S. State Department put it, "simply following his faith." On Monday, the agency once again called on Iran to release Youcef Nadarkhani.
CNN: Study: People tweet more about church than beer
In an effort to look at cultural differences across the United States, a data analysis company selected two words that it felt exemplified an American cultural divide and analyzed their usage on Twitter. The words: “beer” and “church.” And according to the study by Floatingsheep.org, Americans tweet more about church than beer, and there is a distinct regional divide between the tweets.
By Ed Payne, CNN
(CNN) - It has been more than 1,000 days since a Christian pastor was thrown into an Iranian jail for leaving Islam and sentenced to death for, as the U.S. State Department put it, "simply following his faith."
On Monday, the agency once again called on Iran to release Youcef Nadarkhani.
"Pastor Nadarkhani still faces the threat of execution for simply following his faith, and we repeat our call for Iranian authorities to release him immediately," said a statement from State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland.
His next scheduled court date is September 8.
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.