World Help cancels plans for tsunami orphanage
Yesterday's Weblog on plans by Virginia-based missions agency World Help to raise 300 Muslim tsunami orphans in a Christian children's home was outdated before we were even able to post.

In fact, it was outdated a day before The Washington Post published its story, too.

As it turns out, World Help canceled its plans to build the orphanage on Wednesday, once it heard that the Indonesian government wouldn't allow it.

Today's Post notes that the legal hurdles were big: "Indonesia … had regulations in place even before the tsunami requiring orphans to be raised by people of their own religion. This rule was adopted in large part to ensure that Muslim children were not converted. In response to fears that Acehnese tsunami orphans would be trafficked, the Indonesian Department of Social Affairs adopted a further prohibition on people taking children out of the province."

It's interesting to note the different perspective between the Associated Press and Reuters reports on this story. For Reuters, it's all about the "proselytizing." At the center of the story is a quote from Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations: "This confirms some of our worst fears that certain missionary groups would exploit the tragedy and the earthquake to enter into these areas and convert people through use of a disproportionate power relationship. How many incidents of this type are taking place that we don't hear about?" (Other people are worried about the mounting death toll, massive hazards to public health, and how violent Islamic groups are pressuring relief groups. It's a bit surprising that a group wanting to take care of orphans rates among his "worst fears.")

The Associated Press, meanwhile, frames the story as "an example of tightening restrictions on foreigners in Indonesia's Muslim-dominated Banda Aceh province."

For World Help president Vernon Brewer, the "proselytizing" angle is a red herring. "We're really not trying to proselytize," he told Reuters. "It's no different than what Mother Theresa did by taking Hindu orphan children and placing them in a Roman Catholic children's home in Calcutta, and she won the Nobel Peace Prize for doing that."

Episcopal bishops fudge again
At first glance, the statement yesterday from bishops in the Episcopal Church USA looks pretty good. "We as the House of Bishops express our sincere regret for the pain, the hurt and the damage caused to our Anglican bonds of affection by certain actions of our church," they said. "We express this regret as a sign of our deep desire for and commitment to continuation of our partnership in the Anglican Communion."

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Only one problem: They didn't really mean it, and said so.

"Utah Bishop Carolyn Tanner Irish said the statement was not an apology for consecrating New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson, who lives with his longtime male partner, but for the tensions that his election created within the Communion," the Associated Press reports.

Bishop Robert Duncan, Moderator of the conservative Anglican Communion Network (ACN) and Bishop of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, said "the Episcopal Church USA often uses graceful language but our behavior (the politics of power) contradicts the words." Duncan was one of 21 bishops to sign a separate statement explicitly submitting to last year's Windsor Report, which the ECUSA bishop's meeting implicitly declined to do when it decided not to put a moratorium on electing new homosexual bishops.

It's the old "I'm sorry you're angry" fudge that didn't work when we were 8 years old. And it certainly isn't repentance: The House of Bishops said they wouldn't place an injunction on ordaining more homosexual bishops or blessing same-sex unions. "The bishops said they did not want to 'act in haste,'" the AP explains.

The international leaders of the Anglican Communion meet next month.

More articles

More on the dropped orphanage plan:

  • Tsunami orphans won't be sent to Christian home | The children were still in the Muslim province of Aceh and had not been airlifted to Jakarta, Indonesia's capital, according to an e-mail under Brewer's name circulating yesterday among his supporters (The Washington Post)
  • Group halts tsunami orphan fund raising | The situation involving the group WorldHelp is an example of tightening restrictions on foreigners in Indonesia's Muslim-dominated Banda Aceh province (Associated Press)
  • Christian group drops Indonesia orphanage plan | An evangelical Christian charity has dropped plans to settle 50 Muslim children orphaned by the Asian tsunami in a Christian-run home after the Indonesian government blocked the move, the group said on Thursday (Reuters)
  • Plan for orphans dropped | An evangelical Christian charity has dropped plans to settle 50 Muslim children orphaned by the tsunami in a Christian-run home after the Indonesian Government blocked the move. (Sydney Morning Herald)
  • Indonesia Islamic group warns of backlash | Indonesia's most influential group of Islamic clerics on Friday warned of a widespread Muslim backlash if international aid groups involved in relief efforts in tsunami-battered Aceh province begin proselytizing and adopting children orphaned from the disaster (Associated Press)
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  • Religious groups are exploiting Aceh chaos | Dozens of Muslim and Christian groups are exploiting the chaos wrought by the tsunami in the Indonesian province of Aceh to spread their message and compete for influence, secular aid workers said yesterday (The Telegraph, London)
  • Two punishing schedules | As our Dean, the Very Rev Matthias Jensen, has so rightly pointed out, the unfortunate tsunami in the Indian Ocean is a foretaste of God's punishment for sinners and heathens. Surely this is obvious. Most of those so sadly swept away have been non-believers, Muslims, Buddhists and the like. As for any Christians caught up in the incident, well, we can be sure they were definitely not Sydney Anglicans! More likely the wicked from the fleshpots of Phuket etc, who have received their just deserts. (Sydney Morning Herald)
  • PM praised for building bridges to Islam | Prime Minister John Howard has built bridges with overseas Muslim communities through his response to the tsunami crisis, an Australian Muslim leader said. (Sydney Morning Herald)

Muslim groups' response:

  • Religions battle for souls on Sumatra | While Muslims are bragging about their religious credentials, Christian groups are mostly invisible and instruct workers not to display their church names or wear crosses (Associated Press)
  • Indonesian Islamic party reaps rewards of goodwill | Extensive relief work in Aceh Wins sympathy -- and votes (The Washington Post)

ECUSA & homosexuality:

  • Episcopal bishops 'regret,' dissent over gay issues | The Episcopal House of Bishops agreed to express "regret" yesterday for the church's 2003 consecration of a homosexual bishop but refused to set a moratorium on either such consecrations or church-sanctioned blessings of same-sex unions (The Washington Times)
  • A moratorium on weddings | In a protest against the Episcopal Church's refusal to allow same-sex marriages, the leaders of a New Haven church will perform no marriage ceremonies at all (The New York Times)
  • Episcopal bishops regret gay-bishop angst | Episcopal bishops expressed "sincere regret" Thursday for consecrating the denomination's first openly gay bishop without full consideration for overseas Anglicans who objected, and said they prayed for forgiveness so they could maintain ties with sister churches around the world (Associated Press)
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  • Episcopalians compromise to avoid split | In an uneasy compromise that is part of an effort to keep the Episcopal Church USA from breaking apart, the liberal bishop of Massachusetts has invited a leading conservative bishop from Canada to preside at the installation today of a new rector for a conservative parish in Marlborough (The Boston Globe)

ELCA keep policy on homosexuality:

  • Lutheran panel seeks tolerance of gays | Both sides are angered at a recommendation to not change the church's policy regarding gays (The Roanoke Times, Va.)
  • Lutherans take middle path on gays | ELCA study upholds policies, grants leeway (St. Paul Pioneer Press, Minn.)
  • Lutherans try to ease tension over gay issues | Task force recommends keeping restrictions but showing some tolerance (The State, Columbia, S.C.)
  • ELCA to keep policy on gays | The nation's largest Lutheran denomination released Thursday its long-awaited report on homosexuality, nodding to sentiment that favors the blessing of same-sex unions and ordination of gays or lesbians in committed relationships (Minneapolis Star-Tribune)
  • 2 local Lutherans see little effect from panel report | Two local members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America say a panel recommendation on the church's official stance on gay issues will have little practical impact (Wausau Daily Herald, Wi.)
  • Lutherans issue report on gay issues | The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America issues a report announcing it won't change its written policies on same-sex unions and gay clergy. The ELCA doesn't bless same-sex relationships or condone gay clergy, but it recommends giving local church leaders leeway in disciplining their congregations over same-sex issue (Talk of the Nation, NPR)
  • Uneasy status quo on gay Lutherans | Formal same-sex unions opposed in church report (The Mercury News, San Jose, Ca.)
  • Lutheran report urges status quo on gays (Chicago Sun-Times)
  • Lutheran study reinforces stand on gay policies | But bishops should get option on discipline, task force says (The Toledo Blade)
  • Gay-issues report gets cool reception | Progress scant, Lutherans say (Chicago Tribune)
  • Lutheran decision splits on gay clergy | A Lutheran task force handed a victory to homosexual rights groups yesterday by recommending that although the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America should not change its policy against ordaining homosexual clergy, it should not censure churches that break the rule (The Washington Times)
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  • Lutheran leaders look to ease stance on gay pastors | Lutheran parishes in areas with supportive bishops could hire gay and lesbian pastors without fear of being kicked out of their denomination under a proposal put forward by leaders of the largest Lutheran denomination in the nation yesterday (The Boston Globe)
  • Lutherans compromise on gays in the clergy | One conservative Lutheran leader said that schism could result from a failure to take what he called a biblical stand on homosexuality (Los Angeles Times)
  • Lutherans recommend tolerance on gay policy | Sanctions could be avoided for pastors and congregations that chose to bless same-sex unions and ordain gay members of the clergy (The New York Times)
  • Church decision proves divisive | Lutheran pastors Donna Simon and Russell E. Saltzman have been waiting anxiously to see what a denomination task force on gay issues would recommend. When the report was made public Thursday, both were disappointed, but for very different reasons. (The Kansas City Star)
  • Lutheran study takes middle road on gay issue | After four years of study, a task force of the nation's largest Lutheran denomination took a tenuous middle ground yesterday on the pitched issue of homosexuality. (Philadelphia Inquirer)

Religion & homosexuality:

  • Christian couple disagrees, but preaches inclusion for gays | For both Tony and Peggy Campolo, outspoken Christians wrestling to reconcile the teachings of their faith with the realities of being gay in today's America, their journey began in high school (The Pottstown Mercury, Pa.)
  • Stage set for battle over gay marriage | Va. rights group plans campaign (The Washington Post)
  • Enrollment of gays' sons prompts a plea to bishop | A group opposed to the pair attending Catholic school asks the O.C. prelate for input (Los Angeles Times)
  • King would have supported gay 'marriage,' ex-aide says | Martin Luther King Jr. would have supported same-sex "marriage," Jack O'Dell said last night at an event sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution's Anacostia Museum (The Washington Times)

Homosexuality & politics:

  • Gays fight ban on civil unions | Virginia's primary homosexual rights group and several religious leaders yesterday called on state lawmakers to repeal a ban on civil unions and said the group will lobby against a proposed constitutional amendment that would define marriage as the union of man and woman (The Washington Times)
  • Military has discharged 26 gay linguists | The number of Arabic linguists discharged from the military for violating its "don't ask, don't tell" policy is higher than previously reported, according to records obtained by a research group (Associated Press)
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Religion & politics:

  • Tired of arguing over God, faith groups mobilize to help the poor | As the solemn rituals of Inauguration Day loom, political activists from nearly all points of the compass seem to be hauling out God as a supporter of partisan issues (David Crumm, Detroit Free Press)
  • War poses religious dilemma | Some pastors fear to speak for peace (The Express-Times, Easton, Pa.)
  • Religious leaders here ask Bush to push Mideast peace | Chicago religious leaders issued a joint plea Thursday for President Bush to make peace in the Middle East a top priority of his second term (Chicago Sun-Times)
  • Supporter of abortion rights is choice for Republican job | Ken Mehlman, chairman of the Republican National Committee, has asked an Ohio Republican who supports some abortion rights to be his co-chairman, stirring the ire of social conservatives (The New York Times)
  • Venezuela archbishop concerned over Chavez | A top Catholic archbishop expressed concerns about the direction of President Hugo Chavez's government but said he is not taking sides and hopes to smooth out relations that have been tense for years (Associated Press)
  • Blasphemy law 'should be axed' | Trevor Phillips, chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality, last night urged ministers to repeal the blasphemy law to allay fears that the new incitement law will limit the freedom to criticise or make fun of religion (The Guardian, London)
  • Groups ask for more aid, less excess | Progressive religious leaders, political groups ask Bush to tone down inaugural celebration (The Dallas Morning News)

Newdow protests inauguration prayer:

  • Atheist protests inauguration prayer | Michael Newdow told U.S. District Judge John Bates that plans to have a minister invoke Jesus in the Jan. 20 ceremony violate the Constitution by forcing him to accept unwanted religious beliefs (Associated Press)
  • Atheist lawsuit awaits ruling | A federal judge is scheduled to rule today on a California atheist's lawsuit seeking to bar clergy-led prayer during President Bush's second inauguration next week (The Washington Times)

Church & state:

  • Religion-based prison program struck down | U.S. District Judge John Shabaz handed the Madison-based Freedom From Religion Foundation a victory Wednesday in ruling that federal funding of a prison mentoring program in Arizona violates the First Amendment prohibition against the promotion of religion (The Capital Times, Madison, Wi.)
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  • Biblical quotation okay in case, court rules | A Cincinnati judge did not violate the constitutional rights of a convicted rapist when she sentenced him to 51 years in prison after quoting a Bible verse, a federal appeals court ruled (The Cincinnati Enquirer)
  • Tenn. school allows Muslim headscarves | A public high school changed its dress code to allow religious headscarves after a national civil rights group for Muslims complained to the principal on behalf of a student (Associated Press)
  • What will the Justice Department's church/state stance be under Alberto Gonzales? | The future of Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act enforcement (Marci Hamilton,

Georgia evolution stickers rejected:

  • Judge rules against textbook evolution disclaimers | A federal judge rules that a Georgia county must remove stickers on science textbooks stating that evolution is "a theory, not a fact." (All Things Considered, NPR)
  • Judge nixes stickers challenging evolution | A Georgia school district is ordered to remove the additions to biology textbooks. The ruling says they amount to an endorsement of religion (Los Angeles Times)
  • Judge rejects Georgia school board evolution stand | In a ruling issued in Atlanta, U.S. District Judge Clarence Cooper said Cobb County's school board had violated the constitutional ban on the separation of church and state when it put the disclaimers on biology books in 2002 (Reuters)
  • Judge in Georgia orders anti-evolution stickers removed from textbooks | The stickers say "evolution is a theory, not a fact" that should be "approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically considered" (The New York Times)
  • Ga. evolution stickers ordered removed | Some parents and religious conservatives decried the ruling as another in a string of what opponents call activist judges overruling the wishes of elected officials — often on matters of religion (Associated Press)
  • Darwin beats God in Red America | Schools told to remove stickers (Toronto Star)


  • A matter of 'Intelligent Design' | A Pennsylvania school board is at the center of a controversial approach to teaching creation as an alternative to evolution (Newsday)
  • Michigan teacher transferred over remark | A middle school teacher who reportedly told his students that Bedouin Arabs used the Quran as toilet paper has been transferred to another school, officials said (Associated Press)
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  • Pope bemoans unholy smoke | "What can one say of the city traffic?" he sighed at an audience yesterday. "Every year it becomes more congested and tiresome." (The Guardian, London)
  • Jewish delegation to visit Vatican | A delegation of some 160 Jewish religious figures are going to Rome next week to meet with Pope John Paul II at the Vatican at a time of potential strains in the Vatican-Jewish relationship (The Jerusalem Post)
  • If this man is a saint | Pope Pius XII, by not returning children to parents and relatives or their legal or spiritual guardians, made himself a criminal. (Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, Haaretz, Tel Aviv)

Catholic priest killed in Jakarta:

  • Roman Catholic priest killed in Purworejo | The priest suffered a massive head wound when he was attacked in the compound of a Catholic retreat, according to the report (The Jakarta Post)
  • Catholic priest murdered in Java | Provincial police chief Chairul Rasyid said the motive for the killing, which follows a string of sectarian attacks on Christians in the world's largest Muslim-populated country, was "probably" robbery (The Courier-Mail, Australia)

Human rights & religious freedom:

  • Iraqi Christian campaigns struggle | IRAQ'S Christian parties complain they lack funding and are living in danger ahead of landmark parliamentary elections scheduled for January 30 (The Australian)
  • Human rights group criticizes U.S. | Human Rights Watch says there is growing evidence of conflicts between religious communities and the human rights movement (Associated Press)
  • In S. Africa, stigma magnifies pain of AIDS | Many still see disease as fatal, shameful (The Washington Post)
  • Muslim wins sacking case after Mecca pilgrimage | It is believed the case could have implications for companies who employ Christians and make them work on Christmas Day (Evening News, Edinburgh, Scotland)

Religion & spirituality:

  • Epiphany is annual manifestation of God to God's people | Today, we hear people use the word "epiphany" quite frequently, but what does it really mean? (Ventura County Star, Calif.)
  • Religion Today: Worship on the run | On their trek for economic survival, migrants traveling through the treacherous Arizona desert also find themselves embarking on a religious journey (Associated Press)

Namibia's religious broadcasting ban:

  • Oppressed must not become oppressor | Our democracy will always suffer serious setbacks as long as people like Director General of NBC occupying the decision making posts (The Namibian)
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  • NBC scraps religious 'ban' | The Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) has agreed to reintroduce the morning and evening devotions on national radio after it took all religious programs off the air (New Era, Namibia)
  • Broadcaster backtracks on religious programs | The ban was imposed after NBC head Gerry Munyama said the corporation was "concerned about the way some devotions are conducted" and wanted to revisit its guidelines (The Star, South Africa)
  • Concerned about NBC ban | It is with great concern that we took notice of the decision taken by the Director-General of the NBC, to ban all religious programmes (Board Association of Charismatic/ Pentecostal Churches of Namibia, The Namibian)


  • BBC producer resigns over Springer 'blasphemy' | Antony Pitts, a senior producer at BBC Radio 3, handed in his resignation after watching the BBC2 broadcast of Jerry Springer - the Opera, despite two personal interventions by director general Mark Thompson trying to persuade him to stay (The Guardian, London)
  • In times of crisis, the media is the moralist of the story | Foreign correspondents are never neutral and they demand intervention (Martin Woollacott, The Sydney Morning Herald)
  • Among the evangelicals | How one reporter got religion (Mark I. Pinsky, Columbia Journalism Review)


  • Flaunting his faith, bullhorn in hand | Michael Marcavage's tactics have brought the Lansdowne evangelist some legal scrapes - and national attention. (Philadelphia Inquirer)
  • Faith, hope, and lots of charity | A farewell service for the retiring Archbishop of York takes place in York Minster tomorrow. As the goodbyes are prepared, Michael Brown, Religious Affairs Correspondent, talks to the primate about the highs and lows of his decade in office (Yorkshire Post, England)
  • Moody icon stepping down to join his sons in new job | After 18 years at the helm of the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Rev. Joseph Stowell is leaving to preach at a 7,000-member church in the suburbs (Chicago Tribune)


  • Woman paroled in shooting over snowball fight | The woman charged with weapons offenses in the snowball fight shooting of little Ebony Smith was sentenced yesterday to 11 ½ -23 months in prison. (Philadelphia Daily News)
  • Beasts of Satan's killing spree has Italy transfixed | Eight members of an alleged Satanic cult were ordered to stand trial in an Italian court yesterday in relation to three supposed ritual killings (The Independent, London)
  • Also: Italy satanic murder trial opens (BBC)
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  • Power over life and death | Christian bishops urge governor to grant clemency to Donald Beardslee (San Francisco Chronicle)

More articles of interest:

  • Can praying really make you live longer? | Forget jogging or gym workouts, going to Mass could well be the key to living to a ripe old age (The Belfast Telegraph)
  • Religion news in brief | Catholic donors polled; Court overturns objection to biblical reference in sentencing; Thousands attend Manila's religious festival despite bomb threat; and other stories (Associated Press)
  • Foreign adoption resisted | Affected countries have strict rules (The Washington Post)
  • 'Christ-like' shell to go on sale | A bar manager in Switzerland has announced plans to sell an oyster shell resembling the face of Jesus Christ, according to local media (BBC)

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Last week's tsunami blog:

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January 13 | 12
January 7 | 6 | 5 | 4
December 23 | 22 | 21
December 17 | 14b | 14a
December 10 | 9 | 7 | 6
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November 24 | 23 | 22
November 19 | 18 | 17 | 16
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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.
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