Today's Top Five

1. Haggard story is moving on
The election is over, with no sign of a "Haggard Effect." And with Haggard himself staying away from the cameras, even the Colorado media has stopped running daily updates about the scandal. There are, however, some interesting updates on the story.

First comes news that not all members of New Life Church will be able to vote on Haggard's successor at the church. "Only those who can prove they have contributed money to the church during the tax year 2005 will be able to vote in the selection process to choose Haggard's successor in the pulpit," Pueblo Chieftain columnist Chuck Green reports. A church spokesman tells him that a tax statement or church receipt are, "in a sense, your admission ticket."

Green is upset, since many church donors don't ask for receipts and don't seek tax deductions. "Poll taxes have been outlawed in elections in the United States, but not in Pastor Ted Haggard's New Life Church," he complains. "Money—combined with moral conduct—now becomes a qualifier for membership in God's house."

Green doesn't note that this rule is extremely common. Some Episcopal Churches, for example, also have the requirement, for example. At a church like New Life, which literally gets tourists in its pews every week, you'd think that demonstrating some kind of commitment to the church would be an important prerequisite in choosing a leader.

Another interesting note comes from Lou Sheldon of the Traditional Values Coalition, in an interview with The Jewish Week:

Sheldon disclosed that he and "a lot" of others knew about Haggard's homosexuality "for a while … but we weren't sure just how to deal with it."
Months before a male prostitute publicly revealed Haggard's secret relationship with him, and the reverend's drug use as well, "Ted and I had a discussion," explained Sheldon, who said Haggard gave him a telltale signal then: "He said homosexuality is genetic. I said, no it isn't. But I just knew he was covering up. They need to say that."

The Jewish Week journalist e-mailed the full text of the comments to Lexington Herald-Leader religion reporter Frank Lockwood. It turns out that Sheldon didn't say "a lot," but he did say he knew about Haggard's problem. Here's the full quote:

We're all sinners. Some of us hide our sins better than others. Ted, who I've talked to on this issue—some of us have known for a while he had this problem. We weren't sure just how to deal with it. Finally the escort blew it out of the water.
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He and I had a discussion. He said homosexuality is genetic. I said no it isn't. Never have amer acad of sciences or other scientific bodies found such a consensus. I just knw he was covering up. They NEED to say that.

So Sheldon knew that Haggard "was covering up" and had "known for a while that he had this problem" and did nothing? Sheldon is a pariah among religious conservative groups, but surely someone at New Life Church or the National Association of Evangelicals would have taken his call on this. Here's the phrase of the day, friends: culpable negligence.

But maybe Sheldon thinks that everyone who believes in a biological basis for homosexual attraction is gay. Or maybe he's lying about having known.

Oh, and by the way, we've received several messages demanding that we condemn Mark Driscoll for saying that a factor in many Christian leaders' sexual failure is that it "is not uncommon to meet pastors' wives who really let themselves go; they sometimes feel that because their husband is a pastor, he is therefore trapped into fidelity, which gives them cause for laziness." Driscoll has an update: "Contrary to some who misrepresented my prior blog, Gayle is in no way responsible for the sin of her husband and by all accounts seems to have been a lovely and devoted wife." Driscoll could do better; his earlier comment sends an incorrect message to any woman whose husband has cheated on her. Our wives should not be made to feel that they have to "compete" for their husband's affections against a potential adulteress—or a male prostitute.

2. Did religion matter in the '06 election?
"As the results of the midterm elections sank in this week, religious leaders across the ideological spectrum found something they could agree on: The 'God gap' in American politics has narrowed substantially," Alan Cooperman writes in The Washington Post. Actually, it might be more accurate to say that religious leaders at the ends of the ideological spectrum are talking about the God gap shrinking. Religious liberals say they're attracting people of faith; religious conservatives argue that people of faith are staying home, upset with Republican leaders for not giving them more. It really doesn't serve either side to tout the stats that suggest, for example, that evangelicals went to the polls in the same percentage that they have for years, and voted essentially the same way that they have for years.

As John Green of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life told the San Francisco Chronicle, "A great deal had been written about the discouragement of white evangelicals and how they might not turn out. This important element of the Republican electoral base held firm. They showed up in large numbers and voted Republican."

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Now, there are changes, and the Post is right to note them: "Democrats recaptured the Catholic vote they had lost two years ago. They sliced the GOP's advantage among weekly churchgoers to 12 percentage points, down from 18 points in 2004 congressional races and 22 points in the 2004 presidential contest." And in several races, Democrats really did do better than usual with white evangelical Protestants. Nationally, however, as we've noted before, the picture looks pretty much as it did in 2002.

Are there angry evangelicals who are "fed up" with the Republican party? You bet. But that's bound to happen when one out of three evangelicals usually votes Democrat. If you consistently voted Democrat and yet were constantly referred to as "Bush's base," you'd be mad, too.

One of the more interesting election analysis pieces has little to do with how pew-sitters voted and more on how Christian political groups behaved. Guess who wrote this:

It is clear that Christian conservative leaders contributed to the Republican defeat, and in the process they've lost credibility. When Tom DeLay's excesses were exposed, Christian political groups closed ranks to support him. When congressional Republicans put on their phony legislative parade, Christian political leaders were willing accomplices. When the Mark Foley scandal hit, Christian groups faulted everyone but Republican leaders. Why have prominent Christian organizations and leaders behaved in this way? The sad reality is that many have been seduced by the Washington, D.C., political culture. They have identified themselves so closely with persons and parties that they have lost sight of principle. By excusing the behavior of the Republican Party, Christian conservatives set the party up for the 2006 defeat.

Time's up. The answer is Ken Connor, former president of the Family Research Council, CareNet board chairman, vice chairman of Americans United for Life, Jeb Bush's lawyer in the Terri Schiavo case, and now chairman of a group called Center for a Just Society. Haven't heard much from him lately? Something tells me you will.

3. Will the Democratic Congress protect tithing?
If the Democrats really want to reach out to religious voters, a New York Times article suggests one place to start: fixing the 2005 bankruptcy bill provision that makes it illegal for many debtors to tithe. Noam Cohen notes that a bill to allow tithing passed unanimously in the Senate, but didn't make it to the House by the recess. Cohen writes:

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[Republican Sen. Orrin] Hatch's plan was to get the legislation done during a lame-duck session, but with the election and change in leadership, the Democrats may want to revisit bankruptcy legislation comprehensively. Mr. Hatch and other Republican senators late last month wrote to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales to instruct trustees to allow tithing and other charitable giving. But a senior official at the Justice Department, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because litigation could continue, said last week that the department was not giving such instruction, noting that trustees had a fiduciary responsibility to "look under every rock, even the church's rock." But he added that the department wanted tithing protected, and that it had even helped Mr. Hatch draft the corrective legislation.

4. Evidence of American empire?
Seoul's Yoido Full Gospel Church is widely considered the world's largest church. Now its founder, Cho Yong-gi (David Cho), is retiring, and the church chose his successor on Sunday. Winning 435 of the 933 votes cast was Lee Young-hoon, who currently pastors the church's daughter congregation in Los Angeles. It will be interesting to see whether Lee's appointment will mean greater prominence for Yoido Full Gospel Church in the U.S.—both among supporters and critics.

5. Unclean Essene latrine scene
You have to be a certain kind of person to be interested in the archaeological news about Qumran latrines. The, um, "bottom" line: Scholars have found what appear to be toilets for the community that wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls. The evidence seems to support the view that Qumran really was occupied by the Essenes, and that this Jewish sect wrote the scrolls. Evidence also suggests that the group's rituals, including ritual cleansings, made them less healthy rather than more so.

Quote of the day:

"Ever since Jerry Falwell and his Moral Majority began making headlines in the 1980s, it has served the purposes of certain conservative activists and their ideological foes to exaggerate the influence they wield among evangelical Christians. In fact, it is both a strength and a weakness of evangelicalism that the 'movement' lacks a center. Yes, a significant majority of evangelicals voted for George W. Bush. Big deal. At the moment, it appears unlikely that a Republican of any stripe will win the White House in 2008, though the Democrats may yet find a way to squander their advantage. So much for theocracy."

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—John Wilson, editor of the Christianity Today sister publication Books & Culture, writing in The New York Times Book Review.

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Yes, this was the last "top five" in nearly a month, though we have had some link-only Weblog postings recently. You may need to update your Weblog bookmarks to link here. And do make sure that if you're looking for Christianity Today magazine articles, you're going to the actual magazine home page and not to the Christianity Today International corporate home page.

More articles

Ted Haggard | Homosexuality | Making babies | Catholic bishops meeting | Bishops on Iraq | War and violence | War over Christmas | Religious freedom | Church and state | IRS investigations | Election analysis | David Kuo's Tempting Faith | Abortion | More politics | Politics (non-U.S.) | Israel | Islam | Pope and Islam | Catholicism | First Anglican-Catholic meeting in U.K. | Anglicans and Episcopalians | John Sentamu comments | Church life | Crime | Jamaican priest murdered | Topeka church arsons | Abuse | Misused church planting funds | Giving | Missions & ministry | Belief | Atheism | Prospect's cover package on religion in Europe | History | Books | Education | Art & museums | Music | Media & entertainment | People | Other stories of interest

Ted Haggard:

  • Minnesota pastor brings calm hand to battered church group | As the erudite senior pastor of Wooddale Church in Eden Prairie for three decades, the Rev. Leith Anderson has earned a reputation as a calm, measured man with a head for leadership and the heart of a sociologist (Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minn.)

  • Local car salesman is upset after Focus on the Family comments | H.B. London, Vice President for Church and Clergy at Focus on the Family, said that pastors who fail "end up selling cars or shoes or something, and being miserable and angry the rest of their lives" (KXRM, Colorado Springs)

  • Publicity for one who exposed an evangelical | What they say is true: To rise above the din in this publicity and hype-glutted city, it takes a real hustler. One need look no further than seat E112 at the Cort Theater last night (The New York Times)

  • Pastor's case stirs debate | Prominent evangelical Ted Haggard's murky admissions of sin following allegations of an affair with a male prostitute have reignited a volatile argument over the roots of homosexuality—a debate where religion, politics and science collide (The Denver Post)

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  • Covering the downfall of an evangelical minister | KUSA-TV/9News in Denver, the NBC affiliate, was in the forefront in the coverage of Pastor Haggard's downfall (

  • Far from heaven | As long as he led a double-life, Ted Haggard was a downfall waiting to happen, if not now, then later. Too bad that there wasn't a smoother and more humane way for him to come out of the closet (Editorial, The Providence Journal, R.I.)

  • Haggard's friend talks on scandal | One thing's clear from the Haggard scandal: the fallacy of celebrity pastors, since "the only celebrity is Jesus Christ" (Jean Torkelson, Rocky Mountain News, Denver)

  • Only church donors to vote on next pastor | Only those who can prove they have contributed money to the church during the tax year 2005 will be able to vote in the selection process to choose Haggard's successor in the pulpit (Chuck Green, The Pueblo Chieftain, Co.)

  • Evangelicals get food for thought | The fallout from the Haggard scandal and downfall of this staunch Bush backer had little effect on midterm elections compared to the Iraq war and really big issues. Its long-term effect, however, will have evangelicals looking over their shoulders at every morally certain leader for some time (Anson Shupe, The Journal Gazette, Ft. Wayne, Ind.)

  • Behind hypocrisy of Ted Haggard | Duplicity not Christians' worst offense (Chris Crain, The New York Blade, gay newspaper)

  • A twisted view on 'flaunting' gay identity | Wouldn't you much rather be Neil Patrick Harris than Ted Haggard just now? In other words, wouldn't you rather be a content gay man living life to the fullest, than a closeted gay hypocrite living lies to the fullest? (Leonard Pitts Jr., The Miami Herald)

  • Hypocrisy is divine, it seems | Is it because preachers set themselves up as paragons, or is it because they are peculiarly vulnerable to the carnal sins that tempt us all, that they succumb so spectacularly? (Willem Lange, Rutland Herald, Vt.)

  • Another fallen evangelical | The author of Jesus Rode a Donkey: Why the Republicans Don't Have a Corner on Christ on Ted Haggard (Linda Seger, The Huffington Post)

  • About those now Haggard evangelicals | The Haggard scandal may finally prompt rank-and-file evangelicals to reclaim their faith from the leaders of the Religious Right, who have delivered evangelicalism into the captivity of right-wing politics (Randall Balmer, History News Network)

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  • The last temptation of Ted Haggard | The derision and cynicism with which Haggard's confession has been greeted is, in part, a result of the selectiveness with which some Evangelical Christians have dispensed forgiveness to others. (Charita Goshay, The Canton Repository, Oh.)

  • Questions raised by the Haggard scandal | Right now, both Ted and Mike are facing the dark side of their humanity. Are we willing to affirm them by declaring loud and clear that there is something of infinite worth in each of them? (Tony Campolo, Beliefnet)

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Making babies:

  • 'Arrows for the war' | The Christian "Quiverfull" movement measures a mother's spiritual resolve by the number of children she raises, each one an arrow in the quiver of God's army (Kathryn Joyce, The Nation)

  • How full is your quiver? | In a new movement, Christians 'open their wombs to God.' (Newsweek)

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Catholic bishops meeting:

  • Catholic bishops focus on the basics | America's Roman Catholic bishops are focusing on the many Catholics who misunderstand or disregard church teaching, instructing them on beliefs about homosexuality, marriage, contraception and Holy Communion (Associated Press)

  • Catholic bishops shift focus | The bishops now face a different world — one where their moral authority has been diminished by the clergy sex abuse crisis, where money for church programs is scarce and where many American Catholics have little understanding of, or regard for, church teaching (Associated Press)

  • Bishops may alter language on gays | Baptism urged for kids of same-sex parents (Chicago Tribune)

  • Catholic bishops take up contraception and gay issue | Among the issues before the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops at its semiannual meeting are new guidelines for ministry that encourage parishes to reach out to gay Catholics (The New York Times)

  • Catholic bishops debate gay ministry | The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is debating how parishes can be welcoming to gays while also upholding the teaching that gay relationships are "disordered." (Associated Press)

  • Bishop decries vulgarity | The head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops urged national policymakers Monday to leave behind the campaign season's "shrill and shallow debate" over Iraq and help end sectarian violence, so that citizens of the war-torn nation can find peace (Associated Press)

  • Bishops fund studies on abuse | Catholic bishops yesterday allotted $335,000 for three studies on sexually abusive priests, debated whether they should urge a "responsible" U.S. exit from Iraq, and tangled over new guidelines on receiving Holy Communion and on pastoring to homosexuals (The Washington Times)

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Bishops on Iraq:

  • U.S. Catholic bishops call for 'honest dialogue' on Iraq | The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said Monday that the United States should keep its troops in Iraq only as long as they are contributing to a "responsible transition" to Iraqi rule (The Washington Post)

  • Bishops call for change on Iraq policy | Catholic leaders stress need for justice, peace (The Boston Globe)

  • Bishops renew stance on Iraq | Call for peace raised at prelate meeting (Chicago Tribune)

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War and violence:

  • U.N. envoy meets with Ugandan rebel | Uganda's most vilified rebel leader vowed not to surrender as long as he faces arrest on charges of crimes against humanity (The New York Times)

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War over Christmas:

  • Toys for Tots rejects talking Jesus dolls | A local company that makes talking Jesus dolls that quote the Bible donated 4,000 of its dolls to the U.S. Marine Reserves' Toys for Tots, only to have the toys rejected (Los Angeles Daily News)

  • Christian, Muslim Britons say leave Christmas alone | Christian and Muslim Britons joined forces on Monday to tell city officials to stop taking the Christianity out of Christmas, warning them that this fueled right-wing extremism (Reuters)

  • Also: Leave Christmas alone, say Muslims | They warned that attempts to remove religion from the festival were fuelling Right-wing extremism (The Telegraph, London)

  • Also: A call to celebrate | Of course Muslims don't take offence at Christmas celebrations. Why should they? (Editorial, The Telegraph, London)

  • Christmas wars in schools: The First Amendment solution | Religious significance of December holidays shouldn't be banned from school activities — but neither should it dominate (Charles C. Haynes, First Amendment Center)

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Religious freedom:

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Church and state:

  • Church leaders mull separation from state | Leaders of Norway's state church are holding their annual meeting (Kirkemøtet) at Hafjell this week, with the very existence of the state church at stake (Aftenposten, Oslo)

  • Widows seek Wiccan symbol on headstones | A federal lawsuit filed Monday accuses the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs of violating the constitutional rights of Wiccans because the government does not allow its symbol on headstones in national cemeteries (Associated Press)

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IRS investigations:

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Election analysis:

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David Kuo's Tempting Faith:

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  • Appeals court rules on Ohio abortion law | A federal appeals court upheld one Ohio abortion regulation and struck down another Monday, agreeing that women must get a doctor's counseling before an abortion, but rejecting a regulation that gave minors only one chance to avoid a parental consent requirement (Associated Press)

  • Mo. panel: Immigration, abortion linked | A Republican-led legislative panel claims in a new report on illegal immigration that abortion is partly to blame because it is causing a shortage of American workers (Associated Press)

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  • The court and abortion | The Supreme Court unnecessarily returned to the politically charged area of abortion this week, hearing arguments in a case testing some of the core principles of Roe v. Wade (Editorial, The New York Times)

  • Partial-birth replay | The Supreme Court has to decide whether it meant what it said about 'partial-birth' abortion. (Editorial, The Washington Post)

  • Partial-birth deceit | Could the court be in the process of reversing itself? Let's hope so (Editorial, The Washington Times)

  • Neither partial, nor an abortion | Infanticide is again before the Supreme Court. Why? (G. Tracy Mehan, III, The American Spectator)

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More politics:

  • Purpose-driven candidate? | Senator Barack Obama, Democrat of Illinois, has a date next month with Rick Warren, the megachurch pastor and best-selling author of "The Purpose Driven Life" (The New York Times)

  • God fearing | In today's freewheeling marketplace of ideas, why are evangelicals seen as a dangerous threat? (John Wilson, The New York Times Book Review)

  • What, me worry? The Christian Right and "theocracy hype" | What I sought to describe was not an imminent theocratic takeover of America, but a slow, often subtle, but ultimately profound change in American life and government (Michelle Goldberg, Huffington Post)

  • Sects appeal | Evangelicals v. Mormons (Molly Worthen, The New Republic)

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Politics (non-U.S.):

  • Christians ask if force is needed to protect their religious values | A leading church group which represents more than a million Christians has raised the prospect of civil unrest and even "violent revolution" to protect religious freedoms (The Telegraph, London)

  • Oaxaca bishop: No sanctuary for leftists | The Roman Catholic bishop of Oaxaca said Saturday the church cannot grant sanctuary to four leftists who led a five-month takeover of the city to demand the resignation of the state governor (Associated Press)

  • Hope tempered by skepticism as Nigeria faces historic vote | Skepticism, fed by generations of rigged votes, military coups and political violence, darkens the mood of Nigerians as they head toward what should be a historic moment -- the first ever transfer of power from one democratically elected president to another (The Washington Post)

  • Church document not what I signed up to says Pius Ncube | Bulawayo Catholic Archbishop Pius Ncube has described the much talked about church discussion document as "soft as decaffeinated tea". The cleric alleges that some areas were altered while several pages were removed from the document that was originally signed by the clergy in Zimbabwe (SW Radio Africa)

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  • Letter from Canada: The new Christian Right | Canada's new conservative prime minister is forging ties with US conservatives and evangelicals as Canada moves toward an Americanized Christian state (Chris Hedges, The Nation)

  • Away from the skirmish | So far, Theos seems to be confused about its strategy. To succeed it needs to move beyond tit-for-tat debate (Mark Vernon, The Guardian, London)

  • Vote God, pray for liberty | The return of religion to politics means those who are committed to liberty must learn to defend it, lest they someday have to fight to get it back (Ralf Dahrendorf, The Guardian, London)

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  • For evangelicals, supporting Israel is 'God's foreign policy' | Many conservative Christians say they believe that support for Israel fulfills a biblical injunction to protect the Jewish state (The New York Times)

  • Embrace Christian evangelical support | It is time to overcome skepticism of Christian support for Israel and accept that while the two faith communities have substantial issues on which they will always disagree, on the most important issue, the survival of God's chosen people, we are in perfect harmony. (Shmuley Boteach, The Jerusalem Post)

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  • Germany ponders pastor's grisly suicide | We know this much: The 73-year-old pastor's last sermon focused on his fear that Christian Europe would be overwhelmed by Islam. A few weeks later, at one of the most important Lutheran landmarks, the Rev. Roland Weisselberg soaked himself in gasoline and set himself ablaze. He left no suicide note, and the meaning of his final words is still the subject of conjecture (Associated Press)

  • Also: Priest burns himself to death over Islam | A retired priest committed suicide by setting himself on fire in a German monastery in protest at the spread of Islam and the Protestant Church's inability to contain it (The Times, London)

  • Christian population falls in Holy Land | Call it part of a modern exodus, the steady flight of the tiny Palestinian Christian minority that could lead, some predict, to the faith being virtually extinct in its birthplace within several generations — a trend mirrored in many dwindling pockets of Christianity across the Islamic world (Associated Press)

  • 'Taleban law' passed in Pakistan | Pakistan's North West Frontier Province has passed a bill setting up a Taleban-style department under a cleric to enforce Islamic morality (BBC)

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Pope and Islam:

  • Pope urges Catholics-Muslims dialogue | Pope Benedict XVI on Friday urged Catholics in his native Germany to hold open dialogue about faith with Muslims living there (Associated Press)

  • Muslim praises Pope's "thirst" to understand Islam | Pope Benedict is no expert on Islam but has a real thirst for understanding the religion and conducting a sincere dialogue with its followers, says a Muslim philosopher who discussed Islam and Christianity with him (Reuters)

  • Pope to meet cleric who denounced him | The pope's upcoming trip to Turkey will include a meeting with a Muslim cleric who was one of the first to denounce Benedict XVI for his remarks on Islam and violence, the Vatican said Saturday (Associated Press)

  • Pope to meet Turkey's religious affairs chief | Pope Benedict will meet Turkey's religious affairs head when he visits the country later this month, a man who sharply criticised remarks the Pontiff made about Islam two months ago which angered many Muslims (Reuters)

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  • Celebrating Mass without the masses | It was 12:20 p.m. on a recent Monday, and the Rev. Norberto Cordovez, the assistant pastor at the Chapel of San Lorenzo Ruiz, was preparing to celebrate Mass. Wearing an emerald stole atop his white robe, he peered out at the 36 empty wooden pews. Then, almost as if he were speaking to himself, he began reading from the Bible (The New York Times)

  • Pope to hold summit on married priests | Pope Benedict XVI has called a meeting Thursday with top Vatican officials to discuss lifting the celibacy requirement for priests seeking to marry or who have already married (Associated Press)

  • Can America's Catholics adapt to Tridentine Mass? | Pope Benedict XVI is considering a proposal that would allow more Roman Catholic churches to return to the traditional Latin mass, called the Tridentine Mass (Weekend Edition Sunday, NPR)

  • At Mt. Carmel, keeping faith | A church vigil enters third year (The Boston Globe)

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First Anglican-Catholic meeting in U.K.:

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Anglicans and Episcopalians:

  • Episcopal rift threatens unity | The issue of gay priests has some dioceses-- including Springfield's--in open revolt as the talk turns to a permanent separation (Chicago Tribune)

  • Conservatives see no compromising | On his annual visits to confirm newcomers to Springfield parishes, Bishop Peter Beckwith spares no words to warn his flock that the Episcopal Church is falling apart--succumbing to secular values in the guise of modern faith (Chicago Tribune)

  • Liberal wing soars on inclusiveness | At least a third of the Newark clergy are gay (Chicago Tribune)

  • Episcopal Church elects Ohio bishop | A priest who supports same-sex unions was elected Saturday as bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Ohio (Associated Press)

  • Bishop wants to heal church | The first woman to lead the Episcopal Church hopes to end a global rift over gays, women, and she's kicking off her term with work in Chicago (Chicago Tribune)

  • Episcopal parish, diocese reach accord | Episcopal congregation in Woodbridge has become the first to strike a deal with the Diocese of Virginia about how it plans to leave the Episcopal Church (The Washington Times)

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John Sentamu comments:

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Church life:

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  • Cyprus enthrones Greek Orthodox leader | Newly elected Archbishop Chrysostomos II was enthroned Sunday as head of the Greek Orthodox Church of Cyprus in a ceremony that traces its roots back centuries (Associated Press)

  • Prepare thee for some serious marketing | Churches say they are modeling their outreach practices on proven business and marketing strategies — not unlike what Wal-Mart is doing by adding more-fashionable clothes or what Borders is doing with its smaller "express" bookstores — to reach potential new members or to keep existing ones (The New York Times)

  • The church's bottom line | Pastors increasingly need business savvy to manage millions and wide-ranging ministries (Religion News Service)

  • Congregations see future in endowments | Endowments have long been a source of income for colleges and charities. Now, more churches are getting in on the act (Religion News Service)

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  • Sound Beach church defaced with swastikas | Clergymen arriving at St. Louis de Montfort Church in Sound Beach Sunday morning found several swastikas painted in a reddish-orange hue over their front glass doors (Newsday, N.Y.)

  • Pastor links dressing to sex assaults | A Warrnambool pastor has come under fire from women's groups for comments he made about "provocative dress" and sexual assault (The Standard, Warrnambool, Victoria, Australia)

  • Update: Praise, ire for pastor | Warrnambool pastor David Hodgens has drawn national media attention as well as praise and ire for his comments regarding sexual assault and women who dress "provocatively" (The Standard, Warrnambool, Victoria, Australia)

  • Diocese invites scandal | The Catholic Diocese of Palm Beach and Bishop Gerald Barbarito have a long way to go to deliver on the promises of transparency and accountability made to parishioners who have witnessed too much scandal in recent years (Editorial, Palm Beach Post, Fla.)

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Jamaican priest murdered:

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Topeka church arsons:

  • Heart still intact | 'The building is not the church. You are the church' (The Topeka Capital-Journal, Kan.)

  • Church security worries pastor | St. David's arson fire has ministers wondering about buildings' safety (The Topeka Capital-Journal, Kan.)

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  • Settlements reached in church sex abuse cases | Four men have agreed through mediation to settle their sex abuse claims against the Archdiocese of Denver for between $100,000 and $150,000 each, the attorney for the victims said Monday (Rocky Mountain News, Denver)

  • Also: 4 settle diocese suits over abuse by priests | Details under wraps after mediation (The Denver Post)

  • Abuse claim accepted | Pueblo diocese says man's story of molestation probably happened (Associated Press)

  • New York priest's sex-abuse trial begins, in Pennsylvania | The most prominent Roman Catholic priest in the Archdiocese of New York to be accused in the sexual abuse scandals faces a rare church trial (The New York Times)

  • Orphanage compo vow | The Catholic Church has moved to settle dozens of complaints for physical and sexual abuse lodged by former residents of the Goodwood Orphanage (Sunday Mail, Adelaide, Australia)(

  • Sexual abuse | Identify proven abusers, but leave the presumption of innocence intact (Editorial, South Florida Sun-Sentinel)

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Misused church planting funds:

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  • Lost in the fine print, protection for tithing | The nation's toughened bankruptcy laws have made some unlikely opponents — religious institutions, which now vie for dollars from bankrupt consumers (The New York Times)

  • How to give away your money | New law cracks down on abuse but complicates donations; a receipt for church offerings (The Wall Street Journal)

  • Rethinking charitable giving | Here's what you can do now to make sure your donations (and your tax deductions) work the way you want them to (Reuters)

  • The kindness of taxpayers | There's a right way for governments to give away our dough to charities. Then there's the other way (Tom Keane, The Boston Globe)

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Missions & ministry:

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  • Americans believe in God, with conditions | The vast majority of Americans believe in God. But in the land of the free, ideas about the more personal nature of God can be subject to some interpretation (The Washington Times)

  • Workshop explores theology | Theology is the drawing card for 10,000 academics who will gather this week at the Washington Convention Center. A double conference of the American Academy of Religion (AAR) and the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) will bring 2,800 speakers for 600 sessions beginning Friday morning and ending Nov. 21 (The Washington Times)

  • Prosperity gospel bringing in the cash | Give and you shall receive. That's the message of Creflo Dollar, among the highest-profile of an increasingly visible number of black preachers advocating the pro-wealth philosophy known as prosperity gospel (Newsday)

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  • Losing our religion | A gathering of scientists and atheists explores whether faith in science can ever substitute for belief in God (Newsweek)

  • Got God? No way | Evangelical atheists increase visibility (Los Angeles Times)

  • Majority views religion as force for good | Most people believe that religion is a force for good and should play an important part in national life, according to research published today at the launch of a counter-attack against secularism (The Telegraph, London)

  • Atheist fundamentalists | Rock star Elton John's wish to "ban religion completely" may be dismissed as the hyperbole of a famous eccentric. But militant atheism has become more fashionable than ever. And it's targeting your children (Editorial, Investor's Business Daily)

  • Articles of faith | AC Grayling rejects religion with a reforming, missionary zeal which gives his non-belief a faith dimension (Theo Hobson, The Guardian, London)

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Prospect's cover package on religion in Europe:

  • Breeding for God | In Europe, the fertility advantage of the religious over non-believers has historically been counterbalanced by the march of secularisation. Not any more. Secularisation in Europe is now in decline, and Islam continues to grow. Europe will start to adopt a more American model of modernity (Eric Kaufmann, Prospect, U.K.)

  • A religious liberalism | Eric Kaufmann ignores the radical traditions and potential of religion (Sean Swan, Prospect, U.K.)

  • The Pope's reason | What is wrong with the Pope affirming the truth of the faith which he represents? (Edward Skidelsky, Prospect, U.K.)

  • The Pope was wrong | Pope Benedict's recent comments on Islam were riddled with inaccuracies (Abdal Hakim Murad, Prospect, U.K.)

  • Realism on religion | Eric Kaufmann overlooks what people who call themselves "religious" actually do (Alan Wolfe, Prospect, U.K.)

  • Faith's last gasp | Despite superficial appearances of a resurgence in religious belief, we are actually witnessing the death throes of faith (AC Grayling, Prospect, U.K.)

  • A crude distinction | Eric Kaufmann's division of the world into religious and secular blocs is absurd and Gradgrindian (Theo Hobson, Prospect, U.K.)

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  • The Bible--in longhand | The first handwritten version in half a millennium (Naomi Schaefer Riley, The Wall Street Journal)

  • The passion | A fictional account of the woman who tried to persuade her husband not to crucify Jesus. Ron Charles reviews Pilate's Wife (The Washington Post)

  • Science vs. religion | Robert Lee Hotz reviews Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and E.O. Wilson on the gospel of science (Los Angeles Times)

  • Faith and funding | In God and the Welfare State, Lew Daly brings a different perspective to bear on this debate: that of a liberal evangelical. Andrew Stark reviews the book (The Wall Street Journal)

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  • Church group likes vouchers | A budding effort to send Indiana children to private school at taxpayer expense got a nudge this morning from a group that represents Hoosier Catholics (The Indianapolis Star)

  • School Board spent $100,900 on prayer fight | The Tangipahoa Parish School Board has spent about $100,900 in upfront fees to litigate two lawsuits involving school prayer the American Civil Liberties Union filed against the board in the past three years, officials said (The Advocate, Baton Rouge, La.)

  • More study on Bible class | Wilson County should seek an alternative (Editorial, The Tennessean)

  • The elite believers | Even in the US, where there is a proliferation of Bible colleges, there is one that stands out— Patrick Henry College (Stephen Bates, The Guardian, London)

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Art & museums:

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  • Bono, trying to throw his arms around the world | Bono's rock stardom has been eclipsed by the empire of advocacy organizations he created to accomplish what simple fund-raising never could (The New York Times)

  • Mute Math gets major-label equation to add up | The band earned headlines earlier this year, particularly in the contemporary Christian music sector, after it filed a suit against major label Warner Bros., citing breach of contract (The Tennessean, Nashville)

  • How did 'Kumbaya' become a mocking metaphor? | Why is "Kumbaya" the designated silly-song to represent phony or ineffectual friendliness? Where did the song come from? And what the heck is a "Kumbaya," anyway? (The Dallas Morning News)

  • Hidden under a bushel | Sufjan Stevens and the problem of Christian music (Randall J. Stephens and Delvyn Case, Books & Culture)

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Media & entertainment:

  • Holy Hollywood | Three years after 'The Passion of the Christ' made Mel Gibson a fortune, movie studios rush to cash in on the Christian market. Will audiences buy it? (Newsweek)

  • Hooray For Holy-wood | Movie studios, usually pegged as disciples of Mammon, are now trying to reach the faithful (Time)

  • Religious jibes keep TV watchdog busy | The Broadcasting Standards Authority has reported a declining number of complaints, but says it was not under-worked in the year to June because of the complex issues it had to deal with. In its annual report it says most of the complaints it received were about two TV programmes - Popetown and South Park (The New Zealand Herald)

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  • Moral choices are in play in faith-based Left Behind | Left Behind follows the classic real-time strategy format. Game characters explore the map, acquire resources, build and upgrade structures, tools , and weapons. But some of the weapons are unusual. Prayer, for instance (The Boston Globe)

  • Showbiz has a star in Jesus | Religion sells--and sells--as Christians fuel a $4 billion entertainment industry (Chicago Tribune)

  • Govt commends Christian Broadcasting Network | CBN President Michael Little commended President Obasanjo for "establishing a platform for righteousness in Nigeria" and prayed for God to grant the President "renewed strength and wisdom (Nigeria First)

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  • It took three miracles to make me listen to Christ, says Army chief | The new Chief of the General Staff believes, however, that he owes his survival in a series of near-death experiences to divine protection (The Telegraph, London)

  • Jakes cancels engagements after wife falls ill | Bishop T.D. Jakes of the Dallas megachurch the Potter's House has curtailed his speaking schedule to be with his wife Serita, who is recovering at home from illness (The Dallas Morning News)

  • Man hit by plane propeller was helping missionary group | Man winds up badly hurt with hole in his chest as promotional stunt goes horribly wrong (Cnews, Canada)

  • Building water parks and a ministry | A big part of David Busch's business plan is summed up in the signs sprinkled throughout the Hawaiian Falls water parks he builds. The postings quote Scripture and other Christian sources, extolling the virtues of being grateful and compassionate and putting others first. Busch considers them reminders to himself as much as to his employees and patrons (Ft. Worth Star-Telegram, Tex.)

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Other stories of interest:

  • Vatican official blasts human trafficking | Human trafficking, including women forced to become prostitutes or minors forced to do child labor, is worse now than the trade in African slaves of past centuries, a top Vatican official said Tuesday (Associated Press)

  • Death act's alias has state tongue-tied | Oregon officials try to find a neutral term for what's been called "assisted suicide," but it's not easy (The Oregonian)

  • Activists arrested in protest of deer killing | Police arrested two animal rights activists Monday after they chained and padlocked themselves to the doors of the Diocese of Rockville Centre headquarters to protest the diocese's support of the killing of deer at the Catholic seminary in Lloyd Harbor (Newsday, N.Y.)

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  • So what's with all the dinosaurs? | The world's first Creationist museum - dedicated to the idea that the creation of the world, as told in Genesis, is factually correct - will soon open. Stephen Bates is given a sneak preview and asks: was there really a tyrannosaurus in the Bible? (The Guardian, London)

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November 13 | 6 | 3 | 2
October 11 | 6 | 5 | 4
September 21 | 15b | 15a | 14
September 6 | 1 | August 29
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August 15 | 11 | 10

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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