Christian music sales drop 8 percent
First, the good news: sales of Christian music in mainstream stores soared 9.2 percent in 2000: the largest increase ever. In fact, most Christian music customers are now buying their albums in mainstream stores; 50.4 percent of Christian and gospel music sales come from "secular" stores. Now the bad news: Christian stores experienced a dramatic 38 percent drop in Christian music sales last year. That led to an 8.5 drop in Christian music sales overall—the first downturn in more than five years. CCM Update runs down a list of possible reasons why Christian music took such a hit. Gospel Music Association President Frank Breeden explains, "Basically, none of our gold and platinum selling artists in the contemporary Christian music community released studio albums in 2000. Those are the bread-and-butter of CBA stores, so they had no frontlist to sell this year." Others say Christian music's crossover success may be backfiring. "I think the market's different right now, all the way across the board," said ForeFront Records President Greg Ham. "We're becoming more of a mainstream market, and I think our consumers, maybe for the first time in Christian music history, were buying 'N Sync and didn't feel bad about it."

Jim Wallis: Bush's efforts "encouraging"
A few weeks ago, Christianity Today ran an article by Ron Sider on his meeting with President-elect Bush and other religious leaders to discuss how government and faith-based institutions could better work together on poverty issues. Yesterday, in The Washington Post, Jim Wallis gave his perspective of the meeting. "It is an encouraging sign that the president-elect is reaching out to begin discussions with leaders of faith-based initiatives," he wrote in an op-ed piece. "Bush asked theological questions such as, 'What is justice?' That is a key question, especially amid fears that an emphasis on faith-based initiatives will be used to substitute for governmental responsibilities. We told him that in forging new partnerships to reduce poverty, the religious community will not only be service providers but prophetic interrogators. Our vocation is to ask why people are poor, and not just to care for the forgotten."

Is this the new NCC?
As noted earlier in Christianity Today, the National Council of Churches wants to create a new ecumenical organization that includes Roman Catholics, evangelicals, and Pentecostals as well as its constituency of mainline Protestants and Eastern Orthodox. It may not have to after all. The Foundation for a Conference on Faith and Order in North America was formally (and quietly) created on Friday at Princeton's Center of Theological Inquiry, and its 16-member board includes some heavy hitters: Richard Mouw, president of Fuller Theological Seminary; William Cardinal Keeler, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Baltimore; Archbishop Dimitrios, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Diocese in America; Cheryl Bridges Johns, associate professor at the Pentecostal Church of God Theological Seminary; and Thomas Gillespie, president of Princeton Theological Seminary. (For more on ecumenism at the dawn of the 21st century, see a roundup in this week's U.S. News & World Report)

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