Today's Top Five

1. It's the National Day of Prayer
It seems like most daily papers have some article on local National Day of Prayer events today, so we're listing it as today's top news story. But honestly, there's not much news about today's events. Bush's speech was almost exactly the same one he has given at prayer breakfasts and days of prayer since his first inauguration. Even the 90-hour Capitol Bible Reading Marathon isn't really new: It has preceded the National Day of Prayer for the last 17 years. There's a protest of sorts called the National Day of Reason, where atheists are donating blood, but it doesn't look big enough to make much news. Anyway: People are praying today. Great! We hope they pray tomorrow, too, when the cameras are off.

2. Vatican excommunicates Chinese bishops
The Vatican has excommunicated two bishops ordained by the state-controlled Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, whose ordination had been opposed by Roman Catholic officials. The Vatican also excommunicated the two bishops who performed the ordinations. Catholic blogger Amy Welborn asks an interesting question: Does the excommunication of the ordainers "imply then that all of the previous bishops consecrated in the CPA have indeed had the tacit approval of the Vatican?" Discussion follows, with the general answer "not really."

3. Judge: San Diego cross must go. Really.
"It is now time, and perhaps long overdue, for this court to enforce its initial permanent injunction forbidding the presence of the Mount Soledad cross on city property," U.S. District Judge Gordon Thompson Jr. told the city of San Diego yesterday. He originally ruled that the cross was unconstitutional in 1991—and it's been a long battle ever since. If it's not down in 90 days, he'll fine San Diego $5,000 a day.

4. Newspapers preview Episcopal vote
Yep, there could be another gay bishop in the Episcopal Church USA. Could be, but we'll wait and see. That seems to be the theme in Episcopal circles anyway: There's always one more meeting, one more vote, one more document, with each one touted beforehand as some kind of referendum on whether the denomination is going to be orthodox or walk away from historic Christianity. Afterward, all the talk turns to the next meeting, vote, or document.

5. Did end of Sudanese civil war make it worse for Darfur?
The New York Times argues as much today. At the very least, things are worse in Darfur than they were when the peace agreement was signed.

Quote of the day:
"Many have said that these were just college pranks, that this was a joke that got out of hand. It was not a joke then; it is not a joke now."

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—Alabama attorney general Troy King, announcing 46 state arson and burglary charges against the three former college students accused of nine church arsons. The three were indicted in March on federal charges.

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National Day of Prayer | Church and state | Religious freedom | Sudan | Politics | China-Vatican relations | Condoms | Abortion and life ethics | Education | Homosexuality and education | Homosexuality | Church life | Crime | Missions & ministry | Da Vinci Code | Entertainment and media | Spirituality | Other stories of interest

National Day of Prayer:

  1. Prayers, and other offerings | As the Rev. Roy Kirton prays for President George W. Bush in a Copiague service today marking the National Day of Prayer, a small band of nonbelievers will be embarking on an alternative observance (Newsday)

  2. Bible's profile at the Capitol touches a chord | 90-hour marathon of Bible reading, which will include readings by about two dozen members of Congress and their staffers, led up to Thursday's National Day of Prayer (The Christian Science Monitor)

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Church and state:

  1. San Diego has 90 days to remove Mt. Soledad cross | Judge threatens fine to enforce '91 ruling (San Diego Union-Tribune)

  2. Mizoram police grab children of satan-fearing cult | Police in the largely Christian state of Mizoram have taken 13 children away from their parents said to belong to a cult which believes attending school exposes students to satanic forces, an official said on Thursday (Reuters)

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Religious freedom:

  1. U.S. finds religious freedom threatened worldwide | Two U.S. allies called 'of particular concern' for intolerance (CNN)

  2. Vietnam, US spar on rights before trade talks | Vietnam, which hopes to be taken off a U.S. blacklist on religious rights to ease passage to the World Trade Organization, on Thursday rejected as "completely wrong" a report saying Hanoi had not done enough on freedom of faith (Reuters)

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  1. An incomplete peace: Sudan's never-ending war with itself | When the civil war in southern Sudan ended in 2005, the West hoped Darfur would also become peaceful. Instead, the conflict there has escalated (The New York Times)

  2. Aid agencies seek donations for Darfur | The World Food Program is so strapped for cash it has halved food rations for refugees in Sudan's wartorn Darfur region. Another U.N. agency has been forced to cut out measles vaccinations for children there (Associated Press)

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  1. On his watch | If peace negotiations are to succeed in Darfur, military action must be on the table (Editorial, St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

  2. Killing fields | Darfur needs peace "enforced at the end of a barrel" (Jan Egeland, The Wall Street Journal)

  3. Responding to evil | Protesting about Darfur is unlikely to stop the carnage. But we still need to speak out against oppression. (Marc Gellman, Newsweek)

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  1. Churches champion migrants as Europe tightens laws | Working together or separately, Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox clerics have stepped up to defend immigrants in France, urge an amnesty for illegal immigrants in Britain and shelter asylum seekers in Belgium in recent weeks (Reuters)

  2. Romney to address Mormon faith if he runs | Republican Gov. Mitt Romney, often questioned about how his Mormon faith would affect a potential presidential run, said Wednesday he envisions mimicking John F. Kennedy and explaining his religion to the public (Associated Press)

  3. Landscape in Ala. governor's race shifts | Roy Moore isn't getting treated like a hero in the state's topsy-turvy race for governor. He trails Gov. Bob Riley by a 2-to-1 margin in the polls and an even wider margin in fundraising as they head toward the Republican primary for governor on June 6 (Associated Press)

  4. The paranoid style | We're at a moment when crude conspiracy mongering is emerging from the belly of the American establishment. Case in point: Kevin Phillips's theocracy thesis (David Brooks, The New York Times)

  5. They say he can talk with the dead | Associates of newly installed Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare say in recent years he has become deeply, even mystically, religious — prompting a popular rumour that he is able to talk to the dead (The Age, Melbourne, Australia)

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China-Vatican relations:

  1. Pope strongly condemns Chinese church | Pope Benedict XVI noted that its consecration of two bishops without Vatican approval was an offense punishable by excommunication (The New York Times)

  2. Vatican excommunicates 4 Chinese bishops | The Vatican on Thursday excommunicated two bishops ordained by China's state-controlled church without the pope's consent, escalating tensions as the two sides explored preliminary moves toward improving ties. The Vatican also excommunicated the two bishops who ordained them. (Associated Press)

  3. Viewpoints: China and the Vatican | Comments from Catholic nun and professor Beatrice Leung and researcher Anthony Lam (BBC)

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  1. Vatican re-examines ban on contraception | A Vatican study on whether it could permit condoms to battle AIDS has a very narrow scope: married Roman Catholic couples in which one partner has the virus. But its theological underpinnings are centuries old, and could lay the groundwork for an end to the church's blanket ban on contraception (Associated Press)

  2. Catholics and condoms | Will the pope change the church's stand? The Vatican is currently engaged in a complex debate—and a major part of it is whether condoms could turn marital sex into something considered evil (Newsweek)

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Abortion and life ethics:

  1. Contraception won't go to vote | Democratic leaders feared there wouldn't be enough resources to fight a possible ballot measure limiting abortion rights. They foresee other chances for the pill (The Denver Post)

  2. Kan. grand jury to probe death of woman | A grand jury called for by a public petition drive will hear testimony about the death of a mentally retarded woman who suffered a massive infection following a late-term abortion, a court official said (Associated Press)

  3. Support for Roe v. Wade hits new low, poll shows | Roe v. Wade is supported by a slim 49% to 47% plurality, compared with 52% who favored the decision in 2005 and 57% in 1998 (The Wall Street Journal)

  4. Plan B on the Hill | People on both sides of the Plan B issue should stop using the FDA as a staging area for political foolishness. (Robert Goldberg, The Washington Times)

  5. Data failure | Misreporting from the Guttmacher Institute (Ramesh Ponnuru, National Review Online)

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  1. Kaiser's seminary tenure nears end | Walter C. Kaiser Jr. on Saturday will preside over his last commencement as president of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, capping a nine-year tenure marked by dramatic growth at the evangelical Protestant graduate school (The Boston Globe)

  2. Battle lines form over Boston College selection of Rice as speaker | Political dispute divides campus (The Boston Globe)

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Homosexuality and education:

  1. In lawsuit, parents say schools ignore their beliefs | At the center of a federal lawsuit filed last week by two sets of Lexington parents over the discussion of homosexuality in public elementary schools is the question: Do parents or public schools have the final say in deciding what morals, values, and principles should be taught to children, and at what age should those lessons take place? (The Boston Globe)

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  1. Committee okays bill to add gays, lesbians to textbooks | Hotly debated measure heads to state Senate (San Francisco Chronicle)

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  1. Calif. Episcopalians may elect gay bishop | What's left of unity in the Episcopal Church is at stake heading into a weekend election for bishop of California that sets up a major clash over gays' role in the church (Associated Press)

  2. Church braces for possible election of gay bishop | Decision by Bay area Episcopal diocese could reopen rifts caused by a similar vote in 2003 (Los Angeles Times)

  3. California Episcopalians consider gay bishop | California Episcopalians will consider electing the world's second homosexual Episcopal bishop this weekend at their convention in San Francisco (The Washington Times)

  4. Episcopalians face key votes over gays | An election Saturday of a California bishop may force the hand of the US church, set to decide its stance in June (The Christian Science Monitor)

  5. Court may put gay marriage before voters | After the state's highest court made Massachusetts the first state in the nation to legalize gay marriage, opponents mobilized to circumvent the decision by putting the issue before voters in a ballot question (Associated Press)

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Church life:

  1. Cross purposes | As older Seattle churches struggle to stay afloat, new churches are attracting urban hipsters with club-like venues, punk rock, and joke-filled sermons—and a social agenda that would make Jerry Falwell proud. Meet Seattle's emerging radical right (The Stranger, Seattle)

  2. Religion Today: Rebuilding Katrina's churches | Church leaders from Waveland to Pascagoula face hard decisions about the future (Associated Press)

  3. Silence a major part of some forms of worship | Shared silence and meditation services are bucking the "make-a-joyful-noise" trend and instead offering local worshippers time to connect with their spirituality (Associated Press)

  4. Church must redo growth plan | First Evangelical Free Church of Fullerton fails to get okay from city on $19 million expansion after neighbors appeal (The Orange County Register, Ca.)

  5. In Massachusetts, Catholics torn by hierarchy, politics | Tension between the state's liberalism and the church's conservatism, long compartmentalized by Catholics here, has been pushed into conflict by a series of high-profile issues pitting church and state against each other (The Christian Science Monitor)

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  1. State indicts three church fire suspects | Authorities announced state arson and burglary charges Wednesday against three church fire suspects and said they won't settle for anything less than a long time behind bars for the former college students (The Birmingham News, Ala.)

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  1. Also: 3 face state arson charges in Ala. fires | "Many have said that these were just college pranks, that this was a joke that got out of hand," state Attorney General Troy King said. "It was not a joke then, it is not a joke now" (Associated Press)

  2. Convicted mayor of Lynchburg, Va., resigns | The mayor of Lynchburg resigned Wednesday, a day after a federal jury convicted him of raiding his church's charity to pay his debts with money donated by the Rev. Jerry Falwell and his son (Associated Press)

  3. Thieves steal church bell from Pa. family | Someone stole a 400-pound church bell from a family's backyard, police said. Police in Fallowfield Township said the 100-year-old bell likely was taken over the weekend (Associated Press)

  4. Accused Anaheim pastor is nabbed | Facing additional molestation charges that could bring a life term, the man flees court but is caught by a bounty hunter in Redlands (Los Angeles Times)

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Missions & ministry:

  1. Teens mark passage to adulthood with grace | Church-run program ends in a cotillion (The Washington Post)

  2. Modern-day abolitionist | Linda Smith is trying to bring hope to what may seem like a hopeless situation. In 1998, she founded Shared Hope International, a nonprofit organization that aims to rescue and restore women and children who are in crisis, because of the global sex-trafficking market (The Washington Times)

  3. Salvation Army marches to heavy metal | 'At the Loaf' monthly at Lawrenceville gym gives kids a safe outlet to rock (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

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Da Vinci Code:

  1. English Catholic group opposes Da Vinci film boycott | A group of prominent English Roman Catholics is opposing a Vatican call to boycott the film "The Da Vinci Code," saying the movie's release is not a threat but a chance to explain their faith (Reuters)

  2. Camp, decadent, cowardly | The Da Vinci Code appeals to the kind of people who just want to flirt with Christianity (Theo Hobson, The Guardian, London)

  3. Why Jews should worry about 'The Da Vinci Code' | Jews in particular need to be aware of the gift Brown has given, in all innocence, to anti-Semites (David Klinghoffer, The Jewish Week, N.Y.)

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Entertainment and media:

  1. Catholics fail to block "Popetown" in Germany | Just hours before the episode was scheduled to air, a court rejected an injunction filed by Bavarian bishops, allowing MTV to go forward as planned (Reuters)

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  1. Catholic Church plots next move as "Popetown" airs | MTV Germany risked incurring further wrath from the Catholic Church Wednesday when it went ahead with the planned broadcasting of a single test episode of the irreverent cartoon series "Popetown" (Deutsche Welle, Germany)

  2. Film "Jesus Camp" focuses on US evangelical youth | Documentary looks at Pentecostal evangelical Christians, some of whom send their children to summer camps where they pray, "speak in tongues" and are encouraged to campaign against abortion (Reuters)

  3. "Flock of Dodos" film brings humor to evolution row | The film shines a spotlight on "intelligent design," a school of thought that says many of the seemingly miraculous and complex elements of nature must be the work of an intelligent designer -- namely God (Reuters)

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  1. Does it pay to pray for healing? | Sickness and death aren't God's will. God is fighting them and will overcome them--but until then, should we pray for healing? (Tony Campolo, Beliefnet)

  2. Religion, but no church required | 53% engage in religious activities on their own (Toronto Star)

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Other stories of interest:

  1. Ancient text shines light on early Christianity | 1,500-year-old gospel initially attributed to Apostle John (The Ottawa Citizen)

  2. Israel offers outline to divide Jerusalem | Blueprint would give most of Jerusalem's Arab neighborhoods to the Palestinians while keeping the predominantly Jewish areas for Israel (Associated Press)

  3. Pell challenges Islam - o ye, of little tolerant faith | Australia's most influential Catholic says the Koran is riddled with "invocations to violence" and the central challenge of Islam lies in the struggle between moderate and extremist forces as the faith spreads into a "childless Europe" (The Sydney Morning Herald)

  4. Declining, but not false, profits | Even as the industry stagnates, shoppers still flock to Frederick's Christian bookstores from a wide area (The Gazette, Gaithersburg, Md.)

  5. Clergyman loses battle to drive out flock | An Anglican clergyman did not bargain for creatures great and small being driven across his front lawn when he bought a weekend retreat in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales (The Telegraph, London)

  6. Drawing the young to faith | Jews and Christians can learn about their religions through two new graphic novels (The Orlando Sentinel)

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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.
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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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