United Methodist Church trial of lesbian pastor begins
Efforts by the homosexual activist group Soulforce to physically block the trial of Ellensburg, Washington, United Methodist pastor Karen Dammann were predictably unsuccessful as 33 demonstrators were simply arrested and carried off, feeling very proud of themselves for accomplishing nothing of consequence.

"It's a great day for going to jail,'' retired Methodist minister Phil Lawson told The King County Journal. "I've resisted injustice and that makes me feel great."

Similarly, said Baptist pastor Brooke Rolston, "I've great pride in the people being taken into that [police] bus. I sense there is a very deep truth being witnessed here. The love of God is deeper than church law."

The most outrageous comments didn't come from protesters outside, but from witnesses inside. One of the first witnesses called in Dammann's defense was Mary Ann Tolbert, executive director of its Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies at Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, California. Dammann graduated from the school in 1992 and says she didn't consider herself homosexual until 1996.

"It seems to me if you're going to say one verse in Romans is enough to remove a person, and their calling and all this other stuff is overlooked, then with all due respect, it seems to me you're acting hypocritically," Tolbert told the church court. She compared Dammann, who is charged with "practices declared by the United Methodist Church to be incompatible to Christian teachings" for her lesbian relationship, with Jesus Christ, who also, "disagreed with the religious norms of his time." "You have to be very careful, that you don't replicate the crucifixion of Jesus in what you do," Tolbert said.

Dammann has quite the uphill task. On Valentine's Day, 2001, Damman wrote to her bishop that she was "living in a partnered, covenanted, homosexual relationship"—a direct challenge to the Methodist Book of Discipline. Her lawyer, Robert Ward, admits that the Book of Discipline bans gay ministers, but it also "reflects Jesus' ministry to the marginalized and includes statements confirming the sacredness of all humans including gays, and the importance of preserving civil rights for all people." That's a Seattle Times paraphrase of Ward's argument. Here's a direct quote: "We are people of the book. One book is the Bible. The other book is the Book of Discipline; let the whole book be your guide."

In other words, don't follow what your church teaches, but what you wish that it teaches.

Article continues below

"It is not the law of the church on trial today," responds James C. Finkbeiner, who is the prosecutor in the case. He told the 13-member jury, "Your job is to find her guilty or innocent (under present law). It is as simple as that."

It should be that simple, anyway. We'll see, as the trial continues today. (The UMC site has official trial coverage.)

More articles


  • 2 church officials resign | Foursquare Gospel lost $14 million invested in what authorities allege were Ponzi schemes (Los Angeles Times)

  • Brazilian missionary exposed as a fraud | The Brazilian lay missionary Maria Elilda dos Santos, the main source for the terrifying rumours of trafficking in children and in body parts in the northern Mozambican province of Nampula, has been exposed as a fraud in Friday's issue of the independent weekly "Savana" (Agencia de Informacao de Mocambique)

  • Cops hunt missing teenager | Jessica Chen never returned home from Sunday school (New York Daily News)

  • Conn., Texas charge man with bilking church-goers | John Eseppi is accused of swindling out-of-state investors and local churchgoers of more than $5 million while reportedly living in the lap of luxury on their savings (Register Citizen, Torrington, Ct.)

  • Church leaders ousted as financial probe continues | A Northern Kentucky Baptist church facing a state police investigation of its bank accounts and a bank ready to foreclose on a $4 million loan ousted dissident members from leadership roles Wednesday night (The Cincinnati Post)

  • Rash of church thefts reported in Lakewood | Thieves get away with little, but cause much damage (KMGH, Denver)

Iraq IMB workers remembered:

  • When God called, he answered | Slain missionary remembered in Canyon (Amarillo Globe News, Tex.)

  • Services for missionary scheduled in Colorado | Memorial services for David McDonnall, the missionary and West Texas A&M University alumnus who was killed in Iraq on Tuesday morning, have been scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday at First Baptist Church in Lamar, Colo (Amarillo Globe News, Tex.)

  • A witness to faith | Rowlett man died martyr's death in Iraq (Editorial, The Dallas Morning News)

  • Missionary couple felt call to Iraq | It was a CNN broadcast of an Iraqi man pulling dirty water from a hand-dug well that convinced Larry Elliott to head to the Middle East and offer his expertise in water purification (The News & Observer, Raleigh, N.C.)

  • Risks catch up to missionaries | Four are killed in Iraq, victims of the violence increasingly directed against civilian aid workers (The Baltimore Sun)

Article continues below

Life ethics:

  • Bioethics appointments raise local protest | The Midwest Bioethics Center has lent its voice to a growing national protest sparked when two proponents of stem-cell research were replaced on the President's Council on Bioethics (The Kansas City Star)

  • Birth control a non starter in Philippines election campaign | In the predominantly Roman Catholic Philippines, birth control is a subject the main presidential contenders have chosen to quietly ignore (AFP)

  • Utah mom's arrest alarms women's groups | Melissa Ann Rowland has been called callous, indifferent. The kind of mother who would refuse surgery to save her unborn twins because she didn't want a scar. The kind who would use drugs while pregnant. Women's groups have nevertheless taken up her cause because they say her arrest is an alarming back-door effort to undermine abortion rights (Associated Press)


Antiabortion comments in Australia:

  • Abbott's abortion comments slammed | Federal Health Minister Tony Abbott's declaration that more effort should be put into preventing teenage promiscuity to reduce abortions was met with both approval and disgust (The Age, Melbourne, Australia)

  • In praise of a truly Christian politician | Abbott's widely condemned speech was much more than an anti-abortion argument (Angela Shanahan, The Age, Melbourne)

Article continues below
  • Rate of abortion highlights our moral failings | Why isn't the fact that 100,000 women choose to end their pregnancies regarded as a national tragedy approaching the scale, say, of Aboriginal life expectancy being 20 years less than that of the general community? (Tony Abbott, The Australian)

Ten Commandments:

Religion and politics:

  • For young Bush supporters, religion and politics do mix | Today, as he campaigns for a second term, the president's unabashed candor about his faith is hitting the mark among an emerging group of voters: young conservative Christians (The Dallas Morning News)

  • Secular absolutism | The irreligious left tries to impose its religious views on everyone else (Editorial, The Wall Street Journal)

  • By their fruits | How to be a Catholic president in the 21st century (Steven Waldman, Slate)

  • GOP candidate faces divorce questions | The leader in the Illinois Republican Senate primary fended off fresh questions Sunday about his divorce files as the Democratic front-runner got an emotional endorsement from civil rights leader Jesse Jackson and visited black churches (Associated Press)

  • Forum discusses religion in political forums | At a prayer breakfast, two Newport leaders give their thoughts on invocations at council meetings (Daily Pilot, Newport Beach, Calif.)

Religious employers:

Article continues below

Orthodox church:

  • Icons highlight Byzantium exhibit at Met | The Metropolitan Museum of Art is mounting its third exhibition on Byzantium in 27 years, presenting icons, manuscripts and other works from the final three centuries of a religious empire whose art and culture influenced the world for more than a millennium (Associated Press)

  • Radical Georgian ex-priest held | Georgian police have raided a church to detain a radical ex-Orthodox priest after a clash with his supporters. (BBC)

  • Head of Greek Orthodox Church to visit New Jersey | Patriarch Bartholomew's weeklong visit from Turkey starting Saturday "brings the church closer to the community," a spokeswoman said. The church's U.S. leader has also said the visit could help relations with American parishioners upset over governance issues. (Associated Press)

  • Keeping the faith, finding the power | The world of Byzantium was characterized by an element that is not widespread in our era: Christianity (Patriarch Bartholomew, The Wall Street Journal)

Mormons in Salt Lake City:

  • SLC set for Mormon bashers | Standing Together Ministries, a group of Utah evangelical churches, says it didn't have time to organize counter-demonstration (The Salt Lake Tribune)

  • SLC to create buffer zones at conference | Fearing that increasingly provocative anti-Mormon protests will incite violence among some Mormons attending the LDS Church's worldwide conference next month, Salt Lake City police say they want to protect protesters by limiting their physical contact with conferencegoers (The Salt Lake Tribune)

  • Speech rules to alter little on Salt Lake streets | There are a few new free speech rules street preachers and others will have to abide by when they take to Salt Lake City's sidewalks this spring (Deseret Morning News, Ut.)

  • Earlier: Temple Square Face-off | Baptist evangelist irks LDS, but court is on his side (Christianity Today, Dec. 9, 2003)


Article continues below
  • The next Great Awakening? | From 'The Passion' to The Purpose-Driven Life, superficial God-talk in the public square is being replaced by complex—and equally public—conversations about faith (Chicago Sun-Times)

  • The young and the restless | 'Emerging churches' tune into those who want spirituality but shun organized religion (San Diego Union-Tribune)

  • Getting over it, mind and body | Edward Hallowell is completing a two-year exploration of the phenomenon of human forgiveness (US News & World Report)

  • More go it alone, worship study finds | More American Christians are taking part in religious activities away from their places of worship, while church and Sunday school attendance have remained flat, according to a survey (Religion News Service)

  • Some spiritual pilgrims take on trained guides | Some people are turning to spiritual directors to help them strengthen their relationships with God (The Dallas Morning News)

  • Find your own desert during Lent | Lent is that moment when we examine what it is that competes with God for our attention (Jane Shaw, The Guardian, London)

  • Pick & choose | When one religion doesn't fit, some choose interfaith spirituality (The Dallas Morning News)

  • Czech Republic: Many looking to Islam in their search for spirituality | The Muslim community in the Czech Republic, one of the least religious countries in Europe, is small, but trends for growth are seen. Many Muslims come to live and study in this Central European country. There is also a tendency for some young Czechs to convert to Islam in their quest for spirituality. (Radio Free Europe, Czech Republic)


  • Tolerance has never come naturally | Tolerance begins as an exercise in forbearance, a gritting of teeth (Ted Gup, The Washington Post)

  • Earlier: Are You Tolerant? (Should You Be?) | Deconstructing the gospel of tolerance (Daniel Taylor, Christianity Today, Jan. 11, 1999)

  • No pressure: Bible Belt families welcome Muslim refugees | Sponsor Francie Markham wanted to take her Somali Bantu refugee family to a local mosque for services, so the Methodist woman veiled her head and visited the Islamic Center of Columbia (Associated Press)

  • Desmond Tutu warns against fundamentalism | Religious fundamentalism is on the rise, Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu warned the United Nations Wednesday, and he pointed to Iraq as a place where religious divisions threaten to disrupt the rebuilding of a shattered nation (Associated Press)

  • A lesson learned about HIV | Some have said I'm picking on Christians. My answer: I am (Issac J. Bailey, The Sun News, Myrtle Beach, S.C.)

Article continues below


  • The case for staying home | Caught between the pressures of the workplace and the demands of being a mom, more women are sticking with the kids (Time)

  • Why women have to work | Most working moms don't go to work to "fulfill themselves", they do it out of necessity (Amelia Warren Tyagi, Time)

  • Men want change too | Thirty years ago, an equal child-rearing partnership was Michael Elliott's dream, but things haven't worked out that way (Michael Elliott, Time)


  • Liberty looking for a little divine intervention in first round | In some form or another, a large part of Christianity will have a rooting interest in what amounts to predetermined fate: St. Joseph's Catholics over Liberty University's evangelical Christians in a first-round NCAA Tournament game (CBS Sportsline)

  • KU's Simien draws strength from his newfound Christianity | Faith has become a priority in the life of Kansas forward Wayne Simien, who spends a lot of time these days worshiping at Victory Campus Ministries (The Kansas City Star)

  • Liberty's rise is part of Falwell's plan | For Jerry Falwell, who founded what began as Lynchburg Baptist College 34 years ago, the rabid support and steady improvement of the team under coach Randy Dunton are just the start of what he hopes will be a march to the top of college sports (Associated Press)

  • Love gift: Golfer gives his runner-up check to church | Davis Love III found a way to erase contentious memories from the Match Play Championship, donating his $700,000 from finishing second to his local church (Associated Press)


  • Spaces that inspire awe | Photographer Robert Berger's new book pays homage to L.A.'s religious buildings—some grand, others humble (Los Angeles Times)

  • Best-selling Christian author not without critics | To some within the Churches of Christ, Max Lucado is an errant theologian whose positions on baptism and instrumental music in worship have strayed too far from the faith's literalist following of New Testament teachings (Associated Press)

St. Patrick:

Article continues below
  • Church alert 'was hoax' | A security alert in County Down which led to people being sent home from St Patrick's Day Mass has been declared an elaborate hoax (BBC)

  • Man vs. myth | The real St. Patrick is worthy of legend (Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minn.)

Scientist wins religion prize:

  • S. African scientist wins religion prize | George Ellis, a South African academic who studies the relationship between faith and science and has worked as an advocate for the homeless won a religion prize Wednesday that is billed as the world's richest annual award (Associated Press)

  • Religious honor for atheists' son | To hear George Ellis tell it, science and religion are ultimately united in the way they divide. Christian, Islamic and scientific fundamentalism all have the same effect: They polarize (Gannett News Service)

  • Professor George Ellis: a man of many parts | George F R Ellis has pursued rigorous scientific research into cosmology with the same doggedness he has brought to social activism, offering him a perspective that has advanced his career as a theoretical cosmologist, thrust him to a position of leadership as a humanitarian, and made him a trusted voice in the science and religion dialogue (Cape Argus, South Africa)

  • SA scientist wins R10m prize | A University of Cape Town scientist has won the world's largest annual monetary award for an individual (The Star, South Africa)

  • Leading UCT scientist wins R10m prize (Cape Times, South Africa)

The Passion:

Article continues below

The Passion and the Catholic church:

  • Pope meets with 'Passion' star Caviezel | Caviezel, who plays Jesus in the film, had a brief conversation with the pontiff, who then blessed the devoutly Roman Catholic actor (Associated Press)

  • A great moment in the life of an artist | Talking with James Caviezel after his meeting with the pope (Peggy Noonan, The Wall Street Journal)

  • Vatican enters Passion debate | Father Raniero Cantalamessa said if the film spread the belief that all Jews were responsible for Christ's death, it should be criticized (BBC)

  • Brazil Catholic bishops praise 'Christ' movie | Catholic leaders in Brazil, the world's biggest Roman Catholic country, said on Friday Mel Gibson's film "The Passion of the Christ" was accurate and deeply emotional and its violence showed Jesus' strength (Reuters)

  • Vatican sermon criticises Gibson's 'Passion' | A Vatican preacher Friday issued a veiled criticism of Mel Gibson's film "The Passion of Christ" in a sermon delivered in front of Pope John Paul II. "The Jewish people, as such, are not responsible for the death of Christ," said Father Raniero Cantalamessa, the preacher of the papal household. (Sify, India)

The Passion in Germany:

  • "The Passion" stirs heated debate in Germany | Debate has already begun raging on its violence and message even before the first showing on Thursday (Deutsche Welle, Germany)

  • German churches join Jews in attack on 'Passion' | Rushed into 400 cinemas in the world's second biggest film market by revenues three weeks ahead of schedule in response to public demand, the biblical epic portraying Christ's final 12 hours has also been attacked by German religious leaders and film critics as anti-Semitic kitsch (Reuters)

Passion criticism:

Article continues below

Andy Rooney on Passion:

  • Rooney responds to Gibson 'wacko' furor | It's the biggest viewer response ever to a segment on CBS's "^0 Minutes," which has been on the air since 1968, a spokesman said (Associated Press)

  • The 'Passion' over a movie | Of a record 30,000 pieces of mail and email we got, not much of it mentioned Pat Robertson's conversation with God (Andy Rooney, 60 Minutes)


  • Priest orders bridal gown restrictions | The city's oldest Catholic church has put brides-to-be on notice: No risque gowns for the bridal party. (Associated Press)

  • Church of the conundrum | With big parishes in the suburbs jammed, the archdiocese may not be able to spare a priest for St. Stan's, where fewer than 150 people attend the two Sunday Masses (Editorial, St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

  • The law can't stop at the church door | As a Catholic parent whose family has spent a great deal of time in churches and with priests, I regard appropriate government intervention not with fear but with hope (Stephen H. Galebach, The Washington Post)

  • Vatican: Africa free from worsening western unbelief | A worldwide survey by the Pontifical Council for Culture says Africa, Latin America and Asia are untouched by a growing indifference to God in the Western world (Catholic Information Service for Africa)

  • When churches disappear | The top-down structure of the Catholic Church buttressed Boston's parishes—and neighborhoods—through decades of crisis and change. But now, that same hierarchy may prove their undoing (The Boston Globe)

  • Text service launched by church | A text alert service is to be launched by the Catholic Church in Scotland (BBC)

  • Pope hits longevity milestone | On Sunday, Pope John Paul II added another milestone to his career, becoming the third longest-serving pontiff in the history of the Roman Catholic Church (Associated Press)

Cardinal Franz Konig remembered:

Gay marriage:

Article continues below

Gay marriage opinion:

Related Elsewhere:

Suggest links and stories by sending e-mail to weblog@christianitytoday.com

What is Weblog?

Check out Books & Culture's weblog, Content & Context.

See our past Weblog updates:

March 17 | 16 | 15
March 12 | 11 | 10 | 9 | 8
March 5 | 4 | 3 | 2 | 1
February 27 | 26 | 25b | 25a | 24 | 23
February 20 | 19 | 18 | 17 | 16
February 13 | 11 | 10 | 9
and more, back to November 1999

Launched in 1999, Christianity Today’s Weblog was not just one of the first religion-oriented weblogs, but one of the first published by a media organization. (Hence its rather bland title.) Mostly compiled by then-online editor Ted Olsen, Weblog rounded up religion news and opinion pieces from publications around the world. As Christianity Today’s website grew, it launched other blogs. Olsen took on management responsibilities, and the Weblog feature as such was mothballed. But CT’s efforts to round up important news and opinion from around the web continues, especially on our Gleanings feature.
Ted Olsen
Ted Olsen is Christianity Today's executive editor. He wrote the magazine's Weblog—a collection of news and opinion articles from mainstream news sources around the world—from 1999 to 2006. In 2004, the magazine launched Weblog in Print, which looks for unexpected connections and trends in articles appearing in the mainstream press. The column was later renamed "Tidings" and ran until 2007.
Previous Weblog Columns: