1. Post-hurricane Gulf Coast has become the real Jesusland
"With government agencies stretched thin by the massive scope of the Gulf Coast recovery effort, groups from every conceivable religious denomination are shouldering a heavy share of the workload," the Associated Press reports today. "Tens of thousands of volunteers from hundreds of faith-based groups have poured into the region. That virtually bottomless well of labor makes them a valuable resource for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which helps coordinate their efforts to avoid duplication." There's a bit here about "the uneasy intersection of church and state," but the story seems pretty clear that these busloads of believers aren't coming to the Gulf Coast for government funds. One wonders what the longterm spiritual effects will be, both in the areas hit by Katrina and in the towns where dozens, hundreds, or thousands of these volunteers will return to.

2. IMB executive committee will rescind motion for member's ouster
In January, trustees for the Southern Baptist Convention's International Mission Board asked the full convention to fire Oklahoma pastor Wade Burleson from the board for what they called "broken trust and resistance to accountability." After a fair bit of media attention, they're reconsidering that call. Now Baptist media outlets say that the trustees will rescind that call at their March 20-21 meeting. "It's mainly [that] we discovered more options for handling trustee relationships than we thought we had," IMB chairman Tom Hatley told Associated Baptist Press. Burleson has extensive commentary about the development on his own weblog.

3. As the deer passeth
Nancy Trejos turned in a classic for yesterday's The Washington Post. (Sorry we missed it earlier.) A church that's so environmentalist that it has an "earth minister" decided to allow a group of local hunters to thin out the deer herd on the church's 206-acre property. "Some church members and neighbors" said it was not only "unpalatable," but inconsistent with the church's pacifist stance. The story ends with the fawning church administrator apparently praying to the deerly departed to "thank the deer for their life among us." That's red meat for those who see lefty churches as bucking good theology.

4. Court lets Christian school fire pregnant teacher
Three days after Covenant Classical School in Hoover, Alabama, hired Tessana Lewis, the school fired her. She sued for $600 in back pay and $15,000 for mental anguish, saying she was fired because she was unwed and pregnant. The school says it didn't care whether she was pregnant—they just cared that she said she couldn't assure the school that she'd stop having sex outside of marriage. Maybe so, Senior U.S. District Judge William Acker Jr. ruled in a decision made public yesterday, but "it was clearly the pregnancy that alerted Covenant to the fact that Lewis had engaged in sexual activity outside of marriage." That doesn't mean Lewis gets any money, though. As a religious school, Covenant can hire and fire based on its beliefs, Acker wrote. (The decision is not yet online.)

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5. Alcoholism common among stressed pastors: AP
Gene Robinson may be the only openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church, but he's not the only openly alcoholic church leader, the Associated Press reports today. Not by a long shot. Clergy face some unique temptations and barriers to rehabilitation, sources told the news service. Dale Wolery of the Clergy Recovery Network says alcoholism is more common among clergy in "religious denominations that accept social drinking," but that in denominations that frown upon alcohol, it's harder to get help.

Quote of the day:
"We are praying for bad weather so the event is postponed and they have to start from scratch. In Norway, in one prayer each Sunday, we ask for good and useful weather for the farmers and so on. Now, when we pray for good and useful weather, we mean bad weather."
—Church of Norway pastor Kjell Bertel Nyland, a leader of Norwegian Church Abroad. Norwegians were hoping for a postponing of the Nordic combined event in the Winter Olympics, since four of the country's athletes in the event were ill. But winds were light, Norway had to pull out, and Austria took the gold medal.

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Church life | New Orleans after Katrina | Catholicism | Abuse | Crime | Human rights, war, and peace | India | Cartoon controversy | Media and entertainment | Painting ban in Florida | Church and state | Evangelical Climate initiative | Politics | Education | Sexual ethics | Gay marriage in New Jersey | Gay marriage elsewhere | Abortion | Australia to get RU486 | UK tests abortion pills | Other stories of interest

Church life:

  1. IMB executive committee proposes revising Burleson action | Trustees of the nine-member International Mission Board executive committee will recommend at the March 20-21 meeting in Tampa that trustees reverse a Jan. 11 motion asking the Southern Baptist Convention to remove Wade Burleson of Enid, Okla., as a trustee (Baptist Press)

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  1. Also: IMB may rescind motion asking for trustee Burleson's dismissal (Associated Baptist Press)

  2. Unity a casualty in deer hunt | Thinning of herd by eco-friendly Md. church draws dissent (The Washington Post)

  3. Bishop's alcoholism familiar to clergy | Church leaders face special challenges and temptations (Associated Press)

  4. Bishops: Opponents of female clergy cannot refrain from cooperation with female clerics | Archbishop Jukka Paarma believes that a fresh resolution by the bishops of the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church on the issue of women's ordination in Finland is bound to at least clear the air within the church (Helsingin Sanomat, Helsinki, Finland)

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New Orleans after Katrina:

  1. Religion Today: The Church of Katrina | With government agencies stretched thin by the massive scope of the Gulf Coast recovery effort, groups from every conceivable religious denomination are shouldering a heavy share of the workload (Associated Press)

  2. Vocal pastor finds way to Katrina rebuilding funds | "I got no money, but I ain't hungry, because I love and trust the Lord," pastor Sam Green says (USA Today)

  3. A parish to be mourned | The mostly black St. Augustine has a unique role in New Orleans. Some say its absorption by another parish will hurt the community (Los Angeles Times)

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  1. Vatican calls Turkey trip a critical test | A planned papal trip to Turkey will be a critical test of Christian-Muslim relations, a top Roman Catholic official said Wednesday, citing a priest's slaying that a Vatican newspaper has linked to protests over cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad (Associated Press)

  2. Vatican urged to reopen debate on birth control | Bishop Francis Deniau told the Catholic magazine Le Pelerin this week that Benedict's first encyclical "Deus Caritas Est" (God is Love), which was widely praised for the positive way it spoke about sexual love, was a hopeful sign for possible change (Reuters)

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  1. Outsider to examine abuse cases | Church invites auditors to study why problems keep occurring (Chicago Tribune)

  2. Anaheim pastor arrested in alleged molestations | The pastor of an Anaheim church has been arrested on suspicion of molesting three boys and a girl — all congregants whom he met during services, authorities said Wednesday (Los Angeles Times)

  3. Priest's term on Vineyard is questioned | The Bristol district attorney, Paul F. Walsh Jr., said yesterday that it is inappropriate that a priest serving time on Martha's Vineyard after being convicted for downloading child pornography is taking a computer course in ''the country club of the houses of correction," and has not been enrolled in a sex-offender treatment program (The Boston Globe)

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  1. The continuing, coast-to-coast battle between the Catholic Church and the law on childhood sexual abuse | Why it is time for federal legislation (Marci Hamilton, FindLaw.com)

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  1. Archbishop denies assault charge | Timothy B. Baymon, a founder and archbishop of the Springfield-based International Communion of the Holy Orthodox Christian Church, pleaded innocent yesterday to the beating of a former bishop, Edward Chomba, on Jan. 1 (The Republican, Springfield, Mass.)

  2. Pastor blames demons, not mental illness | Defense accuses him, husband of downplaying Plano mom's behavior (Houston Chronicle)

  3. Also: Pastor says mental illness is 'demons' | The church pastor of a woman accused of cutting off the arms of her 10-month-old daughter told jurors Wednesday that mental illness is actually demon possession and cannot be cured with medication (Associated Press)

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Human rights, war, and peace:

  1. U.N. report calls for end to Guantánamo detentions | Inspectors for the United Nations Human Rights Commission said that certain practices at the prison camp "must be assessed as amounting to torture" (The New York Times)

  2. Peace prize for Belgian priest accused of genocide | The prize was granted on Wednesday in the Belgian city of Ghent by the Flemish weekly church newspaper Kerk en Leven (Church and Life) (Reuters/IRIN)

  3. Nukes deplored at Christian gathering | The spread of nuclear weapons technology is "an outrage to all humanity" in an unstable world of terrorism networks and increasing violence in the name of religion, the head of the largest alliance of Christian churches said Wednesday (Associated Press)

  4. Historic Christian towns losing ground in Holy Land | Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Roman Catholic archbishop of Washington, D.C., is taking an increased interest in the desperate plight of Christians in the Holy Land—to the point of politely and privately asking for help from President Bush (Robert Novak, Chicago Sun-Times)

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  1. Christians welcome 15-point program for minorities | The Christian community today welcomed the announcement of a 15-point program for minorities aimed at enhancing their social development and firmly dealing with communal violence (UNI, India)

  2. VHP opposes reservation for dalit Christians | Dalits who convert to Christianity to enjoy its putative non-discriminatory social order should not lay claim to the reservation pie, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad said today (UNI, India)

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Cartoon controversy:

  1. Lebanese PM: Pope backs protests | "The pope was very supportive of the peaceful expression of opinion in the Arab world, the Muslim world, because he condemns himself, as well, the efforts that are being made by others to trespass on the freedom and the convictions of other people," Siniora said (Associated Press)

  2. Can't we all just get along? | Lessons from the riots over the cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad (Marc Gellman, Newsweek)

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Media and entertainment:

  1. Salem Communications acquires CrossDaily.com for $2.3 million | Radio giant seems to want graphics collection for church services market (Press release)

  2. Church makes Bollywood Aids film | Bollywood and the Roman Catholic Church in India have jointly produced a commercial film highlighting the problem of Aids (BBC)

  3. Church's job: never mind errors, use the code | Rather than bemoaning factual errors in The Da Vinci Code, John Allen says the church would do well to use the novel as a starting point to re-engage those disillusioned with the institution (The Sydney Morning Herald)

  4. Will godcasting make church obsolete? | Uh, no. And no one really is saying that it will, so why the headline? (WTVF, Nashville)

  5. Hindu lite | No one begrudges a blessing, but believers object when riffs plunder serious spiritual teachings or venerable images (USA Today)

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Painting ban in Florida:

  1. Deltona's ban on paintings will stand | Despite a threatened lawsuit, religious images won't return to a City Hall display (The Orlando Sentinel)

  2. Yesterday: Deltona faces lawsuit over paintings (The Orlando Sentinel)

  3. Artist threatens to sue Florida city | Officials in Deltona have removed several paintings from a Black History Month display because of concerns the works were overtly religious (Associated Press)

  4. Attorney needs to go back to his law books | Even the American Civil Liberties Union could not produce any Pavlovian outrage over the painting's content (Mike Lafferty, The Orlando Sentinel)

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Church and state:

  1. Court says crucifix is educational | Top judges say cross should stay in nation's classrooms (ANSA, Italy)

  2. Protesters arrested for carrying signs on Strip sue county | Lawsuit: Ordinance violates First Amendment (Las Vegas Review-Journal)

  3. Air Force guidelines split Jewish groups | Revised rules seen as too vague as they back off protections of religious minorities (The Jewish Week, New York)

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Evangelical Climate initiative:

  1. Evangelist: 'What would Jesus drive?' | Drew graduate brings 'creation care,' a campaign against global warming, to the forefront (The Star-Ledger, Newark, N.J.; alt version running this week from Newhouse News Service)

  2. Goshen College leader responds to initiative | John D. Yordy talks about climate change and evangelical diversity (South Bend Tribune, Ind.)

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  1. Budget-cuts law faces legal challenge | Jim Zeigler, a lawyer in Mobile, Ala., said his challenge comes from the right—as a conservative who is worried that the bill will hurt charitable giving to churches (The Washington Times)

  2. Religious groups fight ban | A handful of nonprofit groups that sponsor travel for members of Congress are pushing back against recent proposals to ban privately funded trips, arguing that their activities are far different from the golfing and exotic foreign junkets that have been the centerpiece of recent lobbying scandals (The Hill, D.C.)

  3. Opposition wants churches to have their say | The parliamentary Opposition says it will today urge the Joint Select Committee examining the proposed Charter of Rights to hear submissions from religious groups that have raised concerns about some provisions of the Charter (The Jamaica Observer)

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  1. Pregnant teacher's firing upheld | Judge says Christian school exempt from law on discrimination (The Birmingham News, Ala.)

  2. Two teachers want to lead an after-school Christian group | District says no (The Salt Lake Tribune, Ut.)

  3. ACLU wants TPS to bar creationism, intelligent design | The Ohio ACLU yesterday demanded that Toledo Public Schools cease any instruction of intelligent design or creationism. The request came in response to an article in The Blade Monday in which some public school teachers acknowledged they included creationism or intelligent design when discussing evolution in the classroom (The Toledo Blade, Oh.)

  4. 2 religious holidays stay school days | Saying it was a question of religious neutrality, the Skokie District 73.5 school board voted this week to hold classes on Yom Kippur and Good Friday next school year, sticking to a policy in place since 1997 (Chicago Tribune)

  5. End is nigh for missionaries' college | St Joseph's College in Mill Hill has been training priests for more than 100 years (Times papers, Hertfordshire, U.K.)

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Sexual ethics:

  1. Bishops to oppose adoption by gays | Exemption bid seen from antibias laws (The Boston Globe)

  2. Should sexually active minors have a right to privacy? | A Kansas case reveals the dark side of mandatory reporting (Sherry F. Colb, FindLaw.com)

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Gay marriage in New Jersey:

  1. State justices hear same-sex debate | The lawyer for seven same-sex couples urged the New Jersey Supreme Court yesterday to declare they have a right to marry—not just to form second-class civil unions—and to base that ruling on the state constitution (The Star-Ledger, Newark, N.J.)

  2. Outside court, a respectful clash | Demonstrators pray or sing over fate of marriage (The Star-Ledger, Newark, N.J.)

  3. N.J. state court deliberates issue of gay marriage | New Jersey's Supreme Court began weighing arguments about whether the state should become the second in the nation to permit same-sex marriage (The New York Times)

  4. N.J. court hears gay marriage arguments | New Jersey Supreme Court justices grilled lawyers on the issue of same-sex marriage Wednesday, asking what business the state has barring such unions, but also whether lifting the ban could open the door to legalizing polygamy (Associated Press)

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Gay marriage elsewhere:

  1. To have and to hold -- for him and her | The county's 'Courthouse Cupid' emerges as a passionate adversary of same-sex marriage (The Washington Post)

  2. Idaho slates gay-marriage amendment vote | A proposed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage in Idaho passed the state Senate on Wednesday and will go to voters this November (Associated Press)

  3. Also: Idaho Legislature backs ban on gay marriage | Idaho's Legislature gave final approval on Wednesday to a measure that would bar all forms of "domestic legal unions" except marriage between a man and a woman, making the Western state the latest to move against gay wedlock (Reuters)

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  1. Faso stops short on talk of outlawing abortions | John Faso wants to curry favor among Republicans in his battle for New York governor against former Gov. William F. Weld of Massachusetts (The New York Times)

  2. All clones are not the same | Calling human cloning in all its forms an "egregious abuse," as President Bush did in his State of the Union speech, is a serious mischaracterization (Michael Gazzaniga, The New York Times)

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Australia to get RU486:

  1. Abbott's $60m to counter abortion | Tony Abbott has prepared a $60million four-year scheme to offer counseling to women with unwanted pregnancies (The Sydney Morning Herald)

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  1. Abortion pill on its way soon | Australian women could have access to the abortion pill within months after federal MPs yesterday voted decisively to let medical experts approve the drug as an alternative to surgical terminations (The Age, Melbourne, Australia)

  2. Australia shifts control of abortion drug | Australia's parliament on Thursday stripped regulatory control of an abortion drug from the country's health minister — a staunch Roman Catholic who once warned of an "epidemic" of abortion in Australia (Associated Press)

  3. Medical groups applaud passing of pill bill | The decision to strip the Health Minister of his powers to control the controversial abortion drug RU486 has earned the approval of medical groups — but dismayed the pro-life lobby (The Age, Melbourne, Australia)

  4. A rare day when the party lines fell away | In the end there was not even a show of hands (The Sydney Morning Herald)

  5. The bitterness behind a civil debate | The vote on RU486 has widened underlying divisions in the Liberal Party (Peter Hartcher, The Sydney Morning Herald)

  6. Can I order a soy latte with two sugars and an abortion pill, please? | It's obvious: women are frivolous beings eager for a taste of the drug - just for fun (Harriet Veitch, The Sydney Morning Herald)

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UK tests abortion pills:

  1. Study finds home abortion 'safe' | A pilot study into whether women could have abortions at home has shown early signs of success, it has been reported (BBC)

  2. Abortions at home are safe - pilot study | Second trial underway (The Guardian, London)

  3. Women 'can have safe abortions at home' | None of the 172 women, who took tablets supervised by a nurse in a health centre, suffered serious complications, according to a report in the Nursing Standard (The Telegraph, London)

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Other stories of interest:

  1. Norwegian prayers for wind not answered | On Wednesday, in a cozy hideaway off the town's main drag, a building full of faithful Norwegians prayed to their high one for some seriously high winds to delay the Nordic Combined event (Associated Press)

  2. Bedrock of a faith is jolted | DNA tests contradict Mormon scripture. The church says the studies are being twisted to attack its beliefs (Los Angeles Times)

  3. Wiesenthal's Jerusalem excavation ignites furor | When workers broke ground on the $200-million Museum of Tolerance on the edge of Independence Park, they unearthed a historic Muslim cemetery that Arabs say holds the remains of not just their grandparents, but associates of the prophet Muhammad from the 7th century (Los Angeles Times)

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  1. Longtime pastor, civil rights leader dies | The Rev. John T. Porter, a civil rights leader who served 38 years as pastor of one of Birmingham's largest black churches, died Wednesday (The Birmingham News, Ala.)

  2. Monastery mystery | Tucked away in the desert, not far from the prison in Florence, Arizona, there's a mysterious, multi-million dollar religious compound that's drawing criticism (KVOA, Tucson)

  3. Also: Greek monastery in Arizona desert accused of brainwashing, anti-Semitism (Bartholomew's Notes on Religion)

  4. Religion news in brief | 21 presbyteries call for repeal of gay ban, Pope convenes top cardinals over relations with schismatic group, and other stories (Associated Press)

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Related Elsewhere:

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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