Openly gay Methodist pastor won't be suspended
Mark Edward Williams, a gay Seattle United Methodist pastor at the center of the denomination's battle over homosexual clergy, won't be suspended during his disciplinary review. The United Methodist Church's Judicial Council overturned an earlier decision requiring bishops to suspend pastors during such review, and said it doesn't have the authority to make such requirements. Only the bishop can suspend a Methodist pastor, and Bishop Elias Galvan says he won't suspend Williams. The denomination continues to examine a formal complaint against Williams.

Michael W. Smith has friends forever in the GMA
The Dove Awards, Christian music's version of the Grammys, were held last night. No big surprise: Michael W. Smith was the big winner, taking home six awards, including artist of the year. The Gospel Music Association honored its longtime favorites like Smith, Steven Curtis Chapman, and recent favorites Third Day and Toby McKeehan. But the big financial successes in the Christian music industry were largely shut out. Mannheim Steamroller's Christmas Extraordinaire, 2001's top-selling album in the Christian genre, lost in the instrumental category. P.O.D. received several nominations, but no awards. The O Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack, also listed as Christian, wasn't nominated.

Cal Thomas looks Robertson's horses in the mouth
Now that The New York Times has revealed Pat Robertson's racehorses, columnist Cal Thomas says the broadcaster's rationalizations don't hold up.

"I don't bet and I don't gamble," Robertson told the paper Monday. "I just enjoy watching horses running and performing. … I wish horse racing was not supported by gambling. … I like to look at them as performers and to study their bloodlines. That's what I find interesting."

That's ridiculous, says Thomas. "Using Robertson's rationalization, a visit to a bordello could be justified because he might testify to his appreciation of the piano's player's prowess or his desire to study the 'bloodlines' of the well-proportioned staff." Martin Marty made a similar point in the Times piece.

Barnard College historian (and Christianity Today editor at large) Randall Balmer also finds Robertson's rationale lacking. "What strikes me is that evangelicals, for most of the 20th century, were unequivocal in frowning on this sort of activity," he told the Times. For Robertson to flout that is really quite remarkable. I think he'll have a hard time explaining this to his followers. Many people look to him as a role model for moral guidance. This strikes me as beyond the pale on his part."

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Church & State in the U.K.:

  • Carey defends Church link with State | Archbishop of Canterbury says severing links would lead to collapse of civilized society (The Times, London)

  • Preacher fined for anti-gay sermon | A British preacher was found guilty of harassment yesterday, after a gay man complained that his street corner sermon was an incitement to attack homosexuals. (The Times, London)


  • ACLU helps form school prayer legislation | American Atheists Inc. member says changes still make bill unconstitutional (Associated Press)

  • Students may get religion | County schools could return to off-campus teaching (The Times-Journal, Fort Payne, Ala.)

  • Prayer bill for schools generating controversy | Ohio school districts soon could designate daily moments of silence for "prayer, reflection or meditation" under a bill sent to Gov. Bob Taft yesterday for his expected signature (The Plain Dealer, Cleveland)

  • A moment of irrelevance | Rather than tackle a tough issue like how to raise enough money to pull the state out of debt, lawmakers concentrated their boundless energy on an issue wholly separate from the economic future of Ohio. They established the option of a moment of silence in schools. (Editorial, The Plain Dealer, Cleveland)

Politics & Law:

  • Civil libertarian fights tape airing | The director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State is being sued in federal court in Alexandria for not allowing distribution of a tape in which he discusses homosexuality's compatibility with Christianity (The Washington Times)

  • White House and DeLay at odds | Administration wary of declaration of support for Israel (The Washington Post)

  • Supreme justice | Scalia weighs in on his Catholic faith and the death penalty. (Editorial, The Wall Street Journal)

  • Lawmaker criticized for harsh words | A Florida lawmaker is being criticized by Jewish colleagues and the American Jewish Congress for remarks he made during a battle over religious rights language he wants inserted into the state's school code. (Associated Press)

  • Clarity needed | In deciding to clarify the rules under which social and political protesters must operate, the U.S. Supreme Court has taken on what may be its most important First Amendment case in years. (Editorial, The Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville)

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Missions & Ministry:

Church life:

Sexual ethics:

  • Gay bill heads to Senate floor | Legislation to ban workplace discrimination against homosexuals is headed to the Senate floor after being approved yesterday by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy's committee. (The Washington Times)

  • Most other religions, too, frown on gays (Philadelphia Daily News)

  • Birth control challenge to church admonitions on sex | Over the past 25 years, Italian women - in a country where more than 90 percent of the people are at least nominally Catholic - have just said "no" to more babies, and most of them are either forgoing motherhood entirely or insisting that their family planning stop at just one child (The Hartford [Conn.] Courant)

  • A dirty word | Abstinence-phobia clouds credible reporting. (Kathryn Jean Lopez, National Review Online)

Church abuse:

  • The Pope's words | Catholic leaders need to follow the Pope's tough talk with tough action. (Editorial, The Orlando Sentinel)

  • A media circus in Rome | Vatican and U.S. bishops' officials disagree on how to deal with a deluge of reporters. (Los Angeles Times)

  • Vatican deliberations | Even as American cardinals moved to confront the sex scandals that have so shaken the Roman Catholic Church in the United States, they failed to embrace the kind of disciplinary reforms that would decisively break with past mistakes. (Editorial, The New York Times)

  • 1-strike plan splits group | Top church leaders said they still did not agree on whether to impose such unconditional punishment on all priests who have molested minors. (The New York Times)

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  • Cardinals agree on ousting priests for sexual abuse | Recommendations were far murkier than the zero-tolerance policy that had been promised by some cardinals just hours earlier. (The New York Times)

  • When in Rome | Transforming words while abroad into actions at home. (Rod Dreher, National Review Online)

  • Grease the guillotine | We all need the Catholics to clean house. (Dave Shiflett, National Review Online)

  • Get it straight | The hypocrisy of blaming gays for sexual abuse by priests. (William Saletan,

  • Scandal backlash costs Catholic Charities $800G | Boston branch was turned down for nearly $1 million in corporate grants this month because of the church's pedophilia scandal. (Boston Herald)

  • The church and its critics | Think of the irony: A sex-drenched American media culture is now upbraiding the Catholic Church for being too forgiving toward licentious sexual behavior. (Editorial, The Wall Street Journal)

  • Seminarians reaffirm faith | Commitment to the priesthood has only grown stronger as they inherit the church during one of its most difficult trials (Detroit Free Press)

Eastern Orthodox:

Interfaith efforts:


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