ThoughThe Washington Post's coverage of the Southern Baptist Convention's new Statement of Faith and Message says the document "drops the concepts of 'the priesthood of the believer' and the 'soul's competency before God,'" the preamble to the proposed Statement of Faith and Message was in fact amended the day of the vote to include the concepts. The preamble says, "We honor the principles of soul competency and the priesthood of believers, affirming together both our liberty in Christ and our accountability to each other under the Word of God."

Southern Baptists adopt new Statement of Faith and Message

The big news of the day is the Southern Baptist Convention's voted to adopt its proposed Statement of Faith and Message, which includes a line limiting the office of pastor to men. The vote wasn't a surprise and has collected headlines all week, but it's nonetheless one of the day's top stories.

CNN focuses on the nonbinding nature of the church's statement.

Timesays the denomination is trying to scare away moderate and liberal members and churches. The Chicago Tribune leads off with the women pastors angle ("Without a word about women, or from a woman, the nation's largest Protestant denomination declared Wednesday that the Bible permits only men to lead the nation's 41,000 Southern Baptist churches") but then goes on to note other controversial votes, such as a support of the death penalty. For the second day in a row, religion writer Steve Kloehn notes that the changes at this convention are only the latest in a long shift to the right for the denomination. "The conservative leaders who took control of the denomination nearly 20 years ago not only have championed controversial social causes, but also altered the nature of the Southern Baptist Convention, turning a loose coalition of autonomous churches into a national institution with an increasingly specific, top-down agenda," he wrote yesterday. Repetition aside, Kloehn's coverage is probably the most well-rounded of the major daily newspapers. Kudos also to Hanna Rosin of The Washington Post, who gives equal treatment in her front-page story to both women pastors and larger theological issues: "The newest version [of the Statement of Faith and Message] drops language that says the faith is 'rooted and grounded in Jesus Christ,' as well as a passage calling the truth something that must be 'continually interpreted and related to the needs of each generation.' It also drops the concepts of 'the priesthood of the believer' and the 'soul's competency before God'--shorthand for the Reformation idea that any individual believer can have a direct relationship with God without the intervention of a cleric or other church official. USA Today's is strange for its apparent short-term memory loss. "More churches are expected to shift affiliation to join the rival, moderate Cooperative Baptist Fellowship," Cathy Lynn Grossman. But just three days ago, Grossman wrote about how the CBF functioned as a "denomination within the denomination" and how its genius was that Baptist churches could align themselves as both SBC and CBF. The New York Times and Los Angeles Times simply run the Associated Press's coverage inside their "A" sections. The AP story is notable in that while it quotes several female SBC pastors who are upset with the decision, its only quote from the SBC leadership is by Adrian Rogers, chairman of the drafting committee, who offers the rather innocuous statement, "Southern Baptists, by practice as well as conviction, believe leadership is male."

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Italy pardons man who shot Pope John Paul II

"This is a dream, I cannot believe it," Mehmet Ali Agca said when told he was free. He has long begged for a pardon, and recently (as noted by Weblog) tried to absolve himself by claiming his shooting was predestined (the Vatican recently revealed that a shooting of a pope was prophesied as the third secret of Fatima). The Vatican has also lobbied for his pardon in this Jubilee year of forgiveness. But just because he's out of Italian prison doesn't mean he's permanently free: Turkey wants him imprisoned for the 1978 murder of a journalist. (The New York Times article links to its 1981 coverage of the papal shooting.)

Indian Christians seek help from United Nations

"We are scared," says Herod Malik, head of the United Forum of Catholics and Protestants. "We have to go to international organizations because we have no faith in the Indian government." The group is asking the United Nations and watchdog groups like Amnesty International to intervene.

Hey! Evangelicals aren't as dumb as we thought!

In taking note of George Barna's survey of evangelical demographics, the Baltimore Sun offers a kind of backhanded correction. Though the survey shows evangelicals are relatively wealthy, highly educated, and diverse, John Rivera starts his article this way: "The common stereotype about evangelical Christians: They're poor or blue collar, white, less educated and from the rural South." (No quotes on that, by the way. Apparently that's what everybody thinks). But after that lead sentence, it's a pretty good summary of Barna's findings.

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The spirit of conviction

The next time you're invited to pray, you might want to ask why. Military investigators yesterday revealed that the Navy chaplains conspired to stage a prayer vigil in hopes of getting Petty Officer Second Class David Tate to confess to the murder of his wife. "Special Agent James Lofstrom, the lead… investigator, testified that agents hoped the fabricated base prayer service—led by Navy chaplains with Marine and Navy approval and covered by the media—would 'awaken (Tate's) conscience to the deed and the wrongfulness of it,'" reports The San Diego Union-Tribune. The last-ditch plan worked. A few days later, Tate confessed. "It was a novel and unique investigation," Lofstrom testified. Puts a whole new spin on "When all else fails, pray," doesn't it?

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