Today's Top Five

As The Washington Post noted yesterday, it's a heavy news day for those interested in how Christian denominations are dealing with homosexual acts. It's just one of those days.

1. North Carolina Baptists to oust gay-friendly congregations
The strongest stance on homosexual sex comes today from the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, which changed its membership guidelines. It "previously only required its members to support the convention through cooperation and financial contributions," the Associated Press notes. "Now any churches that 'knowingly act to affirm, approve, endorse, promote, support or bless homosexual behavior' will be barred from membership."

"This action does not mean that you should avoid ministry to the homosexual community," convention executive director Milton Hollifield Jr. told the AP. "Even though we believe that homosexuality is wrong, we still love and engage those in this lifestyle."

2. U.S. Catholic bishops urge pastoral care
Loving and engaging is also the theme of the new document from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, "Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Orientation: Guidelines for Pastoral Care." "None of the teaching is new, but there is an attempt to explain it in more clear, positive language than some documents of the past," notes the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. While several reports emphasize the document's call for those with such inclinations to live chastely, the document itself emphasizes the church's necessary role in befriending, supporting, and aiding persons with a homosexual inclination. The document is quite good, and even the sections on the sacraments can serve Protestant churches well, as they seek to encourage their congregations to take positive actions on chastity and sexual ethics.

3. PCUSA dismisses case against pastor who officiated at lesbian marriage
Janet Edwards, a Pittsburgh Presbyterian minister, does not encourage those in her church with homosexual inclinations to live chastely. She encourages them to marry others with the same inclination, and she married one lesbian couple in a syncretistic Buddhist-Christian ceremony. Presbyterian church courts, she noted, have only ruled that clergy "should not" perform same-sex marriages, and she claims this is unclear language that does not mean officiating at such ceremonies is banned. The PCUSA's Permanent Judicial Commission won't be making the ban any clearer—it dismissed all charges against Edwards yesterday, because the charges against Edwards were filed four days after the one-year statute of limitations expired. "This constitutes neither a vindication of the accused, nor any position on the charges," vice moderator Kears Pollock told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Edwards's lawyer, at least, doesn't quite see it that way: "I am pleased with the decision because it creates yet another precedent in which a minister of the Presbyterian Church has not been sanctioned for officiating at the marriage ceremony of a same-sex couple," he told the Presbyterian News Service.

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In related news, more churches are leaving the PCUSA.

4. ECUSA exodus
There's important news from Virginia, Texas, and California for those interested in the breakup of the Episcopal Church and the ensuing fights over leadership and property. But these days, you have to wonder if it's still news that major congregations are leaving the denomination and that diocesan leaders are fighting over such matters. If you're really interested in all the details, make sure you're reading TitusOneNine, CANN, and Midwest Conservative Journal.

5. Let's talk about something else
I mean, we could do another gay story if you really want us to. We could talk about how the Ted Haggard scandal is supposedly "reviving the gay therapy debate" and calling into question opposition to gay marriage. Actually, that's probably bigger news than ABC deciding at the last minute that a "God Gives Hope" display on its Times Square Super Sign violated its no-religion-ads policy. But let's talk about the Times Square story anyway for a moment. The Lexington Herald-Leader's Frank Lockwood reports that an ABC ad salesman "approached the church after learning that its ads would be appearing on a competitor's jumbo screens." The Assemblies of God says its campaign is "a hit despite ABC's decision." When CBS and NBC rejected a United Church of Christ ad, the UCC got the kind of publicity that you proverbially can't buy. We'll see if the AG gets any mileage from this. So far, not much. Maybe if they claim that they're the only loving church and that other churches are full of hate, like the UCC did in its ads, they'd get more media placements.

Quote of the day
"Having reconsidered your kind offer of several thousand dolls last week, the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation would like to receive them. We believe that with some effort we will be able to find homes for them all."

—Retired Maj. Bill Grein, vice president of the Toys for Tots Foundation, in a letter to David Sosha, president of Beverly Hills Teddy Bear, rescinding an earlier decision not to accept a donation of 4,000 talking dolls of Jesus, Mary, David, Moses, and Esther.

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More articles
N.C. Baptists on homosexuality | U.S. Catholic bishops on homosexuality | Presbyterians on homosexuality | More on homosexuality | Anglicanism | Catholic-Anglican relations | Catholicism | Celibacy | Church life | Ted Haggard | Politics | Church and state | Education | Sabbath | Malaysia | Indonesia | Abuse | Crime | Religious worker visa fraud | Immigration | Life ethics | Abortion | Giving | People | Books & magazines | Media and entertainment | Other stories of interest

N.C. Baptists on homosexuality:

  • N.C. Baptists strengthen rules on gays | The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina voted Tuesday to cut ties with congregations that affirm or approve of homosexuality, formally adopting a rigid anti-gay policy that allows the group to investigate whether member churches are gay friendly (Associated Press)

  • Church proud of support of gays | College Park in Greensboro is a likely lightning rod for North Carolina Baptists who voted this week to exclude member churches that embrace openly gay congregants — the church is among the list of supporters of a missions group that endorses same-sex marriages (News-Record, Greensboro, N.C.)

  • Once again, faith meets controversy | In the final assessment, a church is free to set its standards and people are free to choose their church (Editorial, Asheville Citizen-Times, N.C.)

  • Baptists, heal thyselves | Unfortunately for gay men and women, live and let live is a position reserved for straight folk in our society. We sin; they are sinners. A fine distinction (Ruth Sheehan, The News & Observer, Raleigh, N.C.)

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U.S. Catholic bishops on homosexuality:

  • U.S. Catholic bishops tackle contraception, gays, communion | The nation's Catholic bishops adopted guidelines saying that those who minister to gay people should help them live chastely -- a document criticized by many gay Catholics but also by a group of conservative bishops who thought it should also exhort gay people to try to change their sexual orientation (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

  • U.S. bishops adopt guidelines on gays | The nation's Roman Catholic bishops voted overwhelmingly to support initiatives that call for gay and lesbian Catholics to remain celibate and for married Catholics to reject artificial contraception (The New York Times)

  • Bishops adopt gay outreach guidelines | The nation's Roman Catholic bishops adopted new guidelines for gay outreach Tuesday that are meant to be welcoming, while also telling gays to be celibate since the church considers their sexuality "disordered." (Associated Press)

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  • Gay Catholics welcomed, cautioned | Guidelines approved by U.S. bishops support homosexual believers but put a big condition on Communion (Los Angeles Times)

  • Bishops stress sexual issues and warn on Communion | The Catholic bishops of the United States overwhelmingly approved new documents yesterday, exhorting Catholics to refrain from using artificial birth control, describing gay sex as immoral, and saying that anyone who disagrees with key church teachings should not take Communion (The Boston Globe)

  • Roman Catholic bishops talk about sex | America's Roman Catholic bishops Tuesday called on all Catholic couples, gay and straight, to remember church teaching in the bedroom (Chicago Tribune)

  • Bishops' meeting OK's 'core belief' documents | Reaching out to Catholics who ignore or just don't know important church teachings, American bishops yesterday approved documents on birth control, Communion and homosexuality. (The Newark Ledger, N.J.)

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Presbyterians on homosexuality:

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More on homosexuality:

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  • Church dust-up going to Court of Appeals | The long-standing conflict between the state's Episcopal bishop and six conservative parishes, including one in Darien, continues after both sides failed this week to settle a civil appeal filed by the parishes (Greenwich Time, Ct.)

  • Diocese delegates consider alternate leader | Delegates in the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth this weekend will consider whether to affirm Fort Worth Bishop Jack Iker's appeal to give local Episcopal churches separate leadership from Katharine Jefferts Schori, who became the denomination's national leader this month (Ft. Worth Star-Telegram, Tex.)

  • Fallbrook church tentatively backed | A lawsuit aimed at putting Episcopalians back in control of a Fallbrook church appeared headed for defeat yesterday, and another priest has left the San Diego diocese in a widening national rift led by conservatives (San Diego Union-Tribune)

  • Also: Judge tentatively rules against diocese in Fallbrook church dispute (North County Times, Ca.)

  • Episcopal leaders vote to leave | Leaders of two of Virginia's most historic Episcopal parishes have voted to split from the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Virginia, a move that could spark a legal battle over millions of dollars' worth of property (The Washington Times)

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Catholic-Anglican relations:

  • Unity with Catholics 'has hit the buffers' | There is significant room for co-operation between the Anglican and Roman Catholic Churches, though the possibility of institutional unity has "hit the buffers a bit," the Archbishop of Canterbury says (The Telegraph, London)

  • Anglicans, Catholics battle "imperfect communion" | British Anglicans and Roman Catholics sought on Wednesday to bridge doctrinal differences, but readily admitted "our communion remains imperfect." (Reuters)

  • Church could think again over women, says Williams | The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has reopened the debate on women priests by suggesting that the Anglican Church may one day "think again" about the issue (The Telegraph, London)

  • Also: Archbishop admits doubts over ordination of women | The Church of England may have to reconsider the ordination of women priests one day, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, said yesterday (The Times, London)

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  • Update: 'No doubts' over ordaining women | There is no theological reason to re-visit the issue of ordaining women, the Archbishop of Canterbury says. Rowan Williams' comments come after he told the Catholic Herald divisions in the Anglican Church had "tested his belief it was the right thing to do" (BBC)

  • Praise her, praise her! | If we did not know that Dr Williams is the soul of courtesy, one might describe those remarks as ungentlemanly (Editorial, The Telegraph, London)

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  • Is it OK to poke fun at Pope? | That was the question on most front pages of Italy's newspapers on Wednesday after the Roman Catholic officials reacted to a spate of Italian television and radio programmes poking fun at Pope Benedict (Reuters)

  • Pope trip will not heal wounds - Turkey Muslim head | Pope Benedict's trip to Turkey may help improve relations with Muslims but will not heal wounds stemming from his remarks about Islam, Turkey's religious affairs head said in an interview published on Wednesday (Reuters)

  • Bishops adopt familiar refrains | Catholic bishops yesterday approved three documents hammering home essential Catholic doctrines on sexuality and the Holy Communion, repeating basic church teachings that broke no new doctrinal ground (The Washington Times)

  • Today's nun has a veil--and a blog | More young women are entering convents. How they are changing the sisterhood (Time)

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  • Pope presides at Vatican summit on celibacy | Pope Benedict met top advisers on Thursday to discuss the status of celibacy among Roman Catholic clergy and requests by married priests who want to return to the active ministry (Reuters)

  • Vatican reaffirms celibacy for priests | The Vatican on Thursday reaffirmed the value of celibacy for priests after a summit led by Pope Benedict XVI that was spurred by a married African archbishop who has been excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church (Associated Press)

  • Time to reconsider rule of celibacy | The issue of celibacy is a human matter, not a sacred one. To reject celibacy is not to reject the divinity of Christ (Editorial, New Vision, Uganda)

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Church life:

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Ted Haggard:

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  • Conservative Democrats seek larger role | For a dozen years, the Democratic conservatives known as Blue Dogs have been baying at the moon, ignored by Republicans and tolerated by their more liberal Democratic colleagues. Now, these House lawmakers say that is about to change (Associated Press)

  • Think tank will promote thinking | Advocates want science, not faith, at core of public policy (The Washington Post)

  • Election signals decline of old school liberalism | A welcome move in a party that is home to vocal and organized far-left activists and bloggers who have grown increasingly shrill and threatening toward moderate and conservative Democrats (Kirsten Powers, USA Today)

  • Putting faith before politics | Evangelicals aren't re-examining their political priorities nearly as much as they are re-examining their spiritual priorities, and that could be bad news for both political parties (David Kuo, The New York Times)

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Church and state:

  • Court lets Minnesota churches continue their bans on firearms | Under the ruling, churches may still be posted as gun-free. But the decision has no effect on most of the law's provisions (Minneapolis Star-Tribune)

  • Also: Judge declares permanent injunction in churches' gun battle with state | A Hennepin District Court judge made permanent an injunction against the state of Minnesota's "conceal and carry" law, ruling that the state cannot limit religious groups from banning guns on church property (Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minn.)

  • After the call to order, Crystal River disagrees | The council will vote again on its invocation (St. Petersburg Times, Fla.)

  • Apostles test Georgetown neighbors' tolerance | The Apostles of Peace and Unity are hoping to spread good will and joy along their fractious stretch of 35th Street Northwest in Georgetown, where neighbors and community activists question the deeply held faith and principles of the would-be sect (The Washington Times)

  • Legislator wants to ensure religious rights | Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan, said the bill would include the First Amendment's freedom of religion clause and aim to allow students to have Bible groups in public schools and religious celebrations and Ten Commandments displays on government property (Deseret Morning News, Ut.)

  • Appeals court weighs dispute between religious sect, Duchesne | The ongoing legal battle between the Summum church and Duchesne over the city's refusal to allow the Salt Lake City-based faith's principles to be displayed alongside a Ten Commandments monolith landed before a federal appeals court on Wednesday (The Salt Lake Tribune)

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  • Woman wins religious discrimination case | Three years after she was fired for refusing to work on Sundays, Connie Rehm has won back her job on the staff of this small town's public library, and her employers have received a costly education in employment rights law (Associated Press)

  • MSPs support next step in Sabbath campaign | The Free Presbyterian Church yesterday won the support of a key parliamentary committee to continue their fight to reinstate Sunday as a day of rest (The Scotsman)

  • Also: Day of rest petition is passed on | MSPs have passed on a petition to Westminster calling for a return to Sunday observance (BBC)

  • In sports and faith, she stays the course | As a Seventh-day Adventist, "I can't run on Saturday," said Vania Jure. "It's Sabbath for us." (The Boston Globe)

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  • Life as a secret Christian convert | Abandoning Islam for Christianity is such a sensitive issue in Malaysia that many converts find themselves leading a secret, double life (BBC)

  • Religious freedom in Malaysia | |Many believe racial divisions and religious tensions are on the rise and that the careful balance the government has maintained between its Chinese, Indian and Malay populations is precarious (BBC)

  • Malaysian leader says freedom must take back seat to national unity | Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi has vowed to maintain racial and religious harmony in his multi-ethnic country, saying Malaysians' freedom to discuss touchy issues of race and religion must not undermine national unity (Voice of America)

  • PM addresses issues; moves to defuse racial and religious concerns | "If we can achieve what we want by whispering softly, then what reason is there for us to roar?" (New Straits Times, Malaysia)

  • Now the brakes are on … | Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi yesterday put the brakes firmly on the debate on race and religion, noting it had reached a worrying level (New Straits Times, Malaysia)

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  • Suspect admits beheading schoolgirls | "I apologize," Hasanuddin, 34, told the Central Jakarta District Court (The Jakarta Post, Indonesia)

  • Also: Suspect admits Poso murders role | A suspected Muslim militant has admitted he was involved in the 2005 beheading of three Christian schoolgirls in Indonesia's Sulawesi (BBC)

  • Also: Suspect apologizes for beheadings | A suspected Islamic militant told judges Wednesday he took part in the beheadings of three Christian girls on an Indonesian island wracked by religious violence to avenge the deaths of Muslims, but apologized to their families (Associated Press)

  • Two men accused of role in Indonesian beheadings | Indonesian prosecutors outlined on Wednesday two Muslim men's involvement in the beheadings of three Christian schoolgirls last year, charges that could carry the death penalty if proven (Reuters)

  • Fugitive surrenders in Poso | One of 29 people wanted by police for suspected involvement in anti-Christian attacks in Poso and Palu, Central Sulawesi, has surrendered, a police spokesman said Wednesday (The Jakarta Post, Indonesia)

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  • Volunteer faces sex charge | A church volunteer was arrested Wednesday by Longwood police, accused of four counts of sex offenses against a child older than 12 (The Orlando Sentinel)

  • Pastor surrenders in teen-sex case | A high school pastor at Greenwood Community Church admitted to being sexually involved with a 16-year-old girl and surrendered to deputies Tuesday, investigators said (Rocky Mountain News, Denver)

  • First trial scheduled for Ponchatoula rape case | The first of the seven members of a Ponchatoula church charged by a grand jury with raping children will go on trial in August, District Judge Doug Hughes ordered Wednesday. (The Advocate, Baton Rouge, La.)

  • Former priest in Colo. clergy abuse scandal dies in Mexico | Harold R. White, 73, allegedly molested boys in various parishes over a three-decade career (The Denver Post)

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Religious worker visa fraud:

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  • Vatican decries fence planned for U.S. border | A top Vatican official on Tuesday took aim at the U.S. plan to build a fence along the Mexican border, saying it was inhumane (The New York Times)

  • Vatican prelate touts obeying local laws | The Vatican on Tuesday stepped into the debate about Muslim women wearing veils, with a top cardinal saying immigrants must follow the laws of their host countries, including any bans on such face-covering (Associated Press)

  • Also: Vatican enters Muslim veil debate | A senior Vatican cardinal has expressed concern over the use of some Muslim veils by Islamic immigrants in Europe (BBC)

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Life ethics:

  • The AIDS evangelists | World Vision is campaigning to raise AIDS compassion among Christians. The key: focus on widows and orphans (Seattle Weekly)

  • Irish court rules frozen embryos not "unborn" | Frozen embryos do not enjoy the same constitutional right to life as those carried in the womb, an Irish judge ruled on Wednesday, ending a mother's fight to have another child without the consent of her estranged husband (Reuters)

  • Pre-22-week babies "should not have intensive care" | Premature babies born before 22 weeks gestation should not be given intensive care treatment to keep them alive, according to a report released in Britain on Wednesday (Reuters)

  • Respectable baby killing | Support builds for legalizing euthanasia for ill and disabled newborns (Wesley J. Smith, National Review Online)

  • Church concerned by embryo ruling | Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin said the court's ruling that the three frozen embryos are not "unborn" as defined under the Constitution "cast doubt on what rules were in place to protect life" (The Irish Times)

  • The wedge issue that wasn't | Stem cells didn't move the 2006 elections (Yuval Levin, National Review Online)

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  • Abortion, free speech at issue in high court | The Missouri Supreme Court was asked Wednesday to toss out a new abortion law on the grounds that it could silence those who provide advice to pregnant teens (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

  • Also: Court hears abortion-law case | Missouri's chief justice said Wednesday that a recent abortion law did not appear to infringe on free-speech rights — dulling an argument of abortion providers seeking to overturn the law (Associated Press)

  • the point | Feminists smacked down (Kathryn Jean Lopez, National Review Online)

  • Pro-lifers for choice | The elections revealed hidden diversity on both sides of the abortion issue (Jacob Sullum, Reason)

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  • Corps does about-face on talking Jesus dolls | The Marine Corps Reserve will now accept the Bible-reciting Jesus dolls that a Valencia company offered to its Toys for Tots program (Los Angeles Daily News)

  • Target gives $1 million but no reversal on bell ringers | Salvation Army bell ringersarestill banned from Target stores, though the charity will receive $1 million and a place on the retailer's website (Minneapolis Star-Tribune)

  • Jesus banned | An international Christian charity is asking people to pack presents into glittering gift boxes for disadvantaged children this Christmas—but pictures of baby Jesus are banned (Weston & Somerset Mercury, England)

  • Nuns' canned-food offer isn't up to prosecutor's palate | Anti-nuke nuns are trying to pay off $3,082 in restitution to the U.S. Air Force - in canned goods (Diane Carman, The Denver Post)

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  • `Purpose' pastor has pulpit for Obama | Illinois Democrat invited to megachurch for World AIDS Day (Chicago Tribune)

  • The gospel according to Ray | Ray Lewis has a story to tell, of persecution and redemption, of fathers and sons, of pain caused and pain endured. The trials he's suffered -- and Lord knows there have been many -- are all part of a master plan (Sports Illustrated)

  • The gospel according to Stephen Baldwin | An interview with "the Unusual Suspect" (ScrippsNews)

  • City pastor faces divorce over infidelity | Ms Joan Ndikirya Makumbi, wife to Pastor Patrick Makumbi of Victory Christian Church in Ndeeba, is accusing her husband of having extra-marital affairs, domestic violence and denying her sex since 2000 (The Monitor, Uganda)

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Books & magazines:

  • A new journal of religion | Students at the U. of Virginia are writing and editing a new journal about scriptural reasoning, an expanding practice that aims to find commonality within the Abrahamic traditions of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam (The Chronicle of Higher Education)

  • 'John's Story' kicks off 'The Jesus Chronicles' | Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins are taking readers back to early Christianity with The Jesus Chronicles. The four-book series focuses on the writers of the Gospels. The first, John's Story: The Last Eyewitness, hits stores Tuesday (USA Today)

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Media and entertainment:

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Other stories of interest:

  • Death sentence for three Protestant leaders upheld | They have been convicted of murder and theft but their lawyers claim they were condemned without proof and on the basis of "confessions" extracted under torture. Most probably they will be executed in mid-December to prevent the Supreme Court from reviewing their case (

  • Heard on the Street: Buyout firms eye ServiceMaster | Private-Equity firms are circling ServiceMaster Co., a $3.2 billion company that has weaved a religion-based business ethos through its home-services outlets (The Wall Street Journal, via Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

  • National day of prayer called for rain | Christian church leaders will pray for rain in a bid to help drought-affected Australian farmers (The Australian)

  • Religious observance may keep older people healthy | A new study adds to mounting evidence that older people who regularly attend religious services are healthier than those who don't (Reuters)

  • Icon collector opens museum | American businessman Gordon Lankton recently opened the Museum of Russian Icons, which displays 110 of the 270 icons he's collected (Associated Press)

  • My half-year of hell with Christian fundamentalists | When Polish student Michael Gromek, 19, went to America on a student exchange, he found himself trapped in a host family of Christian fundamentalists. What followed was a six-month hell of dawn church visits and sex education talks as his new family tried to banish the devil from his soul. Here's his story (Der Spiegel, Germany)

  • Death of the death of God | Not only has religion risen from its grave, it has been working out (Danny Katz, The Age, Melbourne, Australia)

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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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