Pastor John Piper announces leave of absence

The Minneapolis pastor who claimed last summer's tornado was divine retribution for another church's tolerance of homosexuality is taking a break.

John Piper, the celebrity pastor of Minneapolis megachurch Bethlehem Baptist Church, announced in a sermon this weekend that he will take an eight-month from all pastoral duties and public appearances starting in May.

Last August, Piper claimed that a tornado that struck downtown Minneapolis was a targeted attack by Jesus Christ on the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, which was holding its annual national meeting at the Convention Center at the time. Piper argued that the tornado was sent to punish the Lutherans, who decided that day  to allow homosexuals to become ministers.

Those hoping Piper is stepping down from the pulpit to reconsider his belief in divine meteorological homophobia may be disappointed. He apologized to his congregation for failures of character, saying "I see several species of pride in my soul" and promising "I am not making peace, but war, on my own sins." But he stressed that his focus will be on nurturing his relationship with is wife and children. Piper is scheduled to return to actively leading the church in 2011.

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