Today's Top Five

1. Faith-based initiative case goes to the Supreme Court
Just because you pay federal taxes doesn't mean you have the right to sue the government over how it spends your tax dollars, the Supreme Court ruled in 1923. If your "only injury is an anticipated increase in taxes," too bad.

In 1968, the court made an exception: taxpayers can sue over funding legislation that may unconstitutionally support religion.

"Our history vividly illustrates that one of the specific evils feared by those who drafted the establishment clause and fought for its adoption was that the taxing and spending power would be used to favor one religion over another or to support religion in general," Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote in Flast v. Cohen. "The taxpayer's allegation in such cases would be that his tax money is being extracted and spent in violation of specific constitutional protections against such abuses of legislative power."

Citing Flast, the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) sued over the White House's faith-based initiative. The White House, through Solicitor General Paul Clement, responds that the Flast exception is for congressional statutes, not executive branch expenditures on executive branch programs (like the faith-based initiative conferences FFRF wants to challenge).

At oral arguments Wednesday, that explanation didn't even sit well with Justice Antonin Scalia, who is generally dismissive of establishment clause claims. But Andrew J. Pincus, representing FFRF, seemed to fare worse with the justices. He had barely begun when Chief Justice John Roberts said, "I don't understand under your theory why any taxpayer couldn't sue our Marshal for standing up and saying 'God save the United States and this honorable Court.'"

Pincus replied that the taxpayer would have to "identify a discrete and identifiable non-incidental expenditure." So when the government pays for security when the president addresses a religious group, or when it pays for bagels at a prayer breakfast, it's not grounds for a suit, Pincus said, because "it is not paying for the center of what the violation is."

The question here is taxpayer standing, and Clement emphasized that there are still ways to challenge establishment clause violations. "Any time the establishment clause injury takes the form of alleged coercive conduct, the individuals who are coerced are going to have standing to bring the suit," he said.

There are also circumstances under which a taxpayer could bring a suit, Clement said — but it was clear that the justices had a hard time following his argument on this point. After a series of hypotheticals and dead-end questioning, Justice Samuel Alito stepped in to help.

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"General Clement, are you arguing that these lines that you're drawing make a lot of sense in an abstract sense?" Scalia asked. "Or are you just arguing that this is the best that can be done within the body of precedent that the Court has handed down in this area?"

"The latter, Justice Alito," Clement replied. "And I appreciate the question."

"Why didn't you say so?" asked an exasperated Scalia. "I've been trying to make sense out of what you're saying."

"Well, and I've been trying to make sense out of this Court's precedents," said Clement.

Still, he wants to keep those precedents. A number of groups filing amicus briefs asked the Court to draw the lines even tighter, even so far as closing Flast's taxpayer-standing hole altogether.

2. How much should we pile on the "Jesus tomb" silliness?
The blogs of archaeology professors and Bible scholars are full of commentaries on the Talpiot tomb claims made by Simcha Jacobovici and his colleagues. Much of them are really interesting to fellow scholars, and can be summed up as: countless reasons why Jacobovici is wrong. There are disagreements, but these are focused on the degree and manner in which Jacobovici is wrong—not whether he is. Weblog is a little surprised that the journalism blogs aren't talking more about this. This story is, after all, more about journalistic credulity and celebrity worship than it is about some guy making an unsubstantiated claim about Jesus. We get odd claims all the time, and I'm sure that other news outlets do, too. So why did Jacobovici and Cameron get such massive media attention—and, at least initially, such uncritical coverage? Why was the story, "Has Jesus Been Found?" and not, "Has James Cameron Lost It?" And as The Daily Show pointed out last night, why respond to Cameron with people like Bill Donohue?

But while we're on the topic: Could all you CT readers outraged that the media would give this so much attention please remember this incident the next time you ask why we're not covering the discovery of Noah's ark?

3. Speaking of media hype
"To a tired genre," says Newsweek, this week's media phenomenon, "brings breathless pizzazz and a market-proven gimmick, an evocation of ancient wisdom and hidden conspiracies that calls to mind The Da Vinci Code." Wait. Newsweek isn't talking about the Talpiot tomb? No. It's The Secret, the Oprah-blessed name-it-and-claim-it book and DVD set. Actually, Newsweek was much harder on The Secret than it was on the tomb.

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4. Six die in Bluffton University bus crash
Bluffton University, a member of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities affiliated with the Mennonite Church, suffered tragedy this morning as a charter bus carrying its baseball team drove off a highway ramp. Four students, the bus driver, and the bus driver's wife were killed. Nineteen students were injured, and three are in critical condition.

5. Los Angeles Times fills in some details on Calvary Satellite Network
Rob Moll's Christianity Today article on Calvary Chapel, which appears in the current issue, alluded to accusations of sexual harassment against Calvary Satellite Network president Mike Kestler and to conflict between Kestler and Calvary Chapel founder Chuck Smith. This week, the Los Angeles Times described the battle and accusations in more detail.

Quote of the day
"The period of secularization was important, but I see us living in a changed world where it is incumbent on politicians and political documents to spell out more clearly their spiritual roots. If we are honest, we often lack the strength to clearly state what our beliefs are and that makes us less credible to others with different beliefs and values."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, speaking to members of her Christian Democratic Union, would like to see the European Union constitution include references to its Christian roots.

More articles

Hein v. Freedom From Religion Foundation | Church and state | India | Cuba | China | Israel | House of prophecy | Klingenschmitt discharged | 2008 candidates | Politics | Abortion | Stem cells | Life ethics | HPV vaccine | Homosexuality | Anglicanism | Church of England synod | British spirituality | Anglicans vs. Muslims? | AMiA priest dismissed | CRC battle | Closed churches | Church life (U.S.) | Church life (non-U.S.) | Catholicism | San Diego diocese files bankruptcy | Abuse | Crime | Missions and ministry | Education | Higher education | Evolution | "Lost Tomb of Jesus" | William Wilberforce | Books | "The Secret" | Money and business | Television | Media, art, and entertainment | Other stories of interest

Hein v. Freedom From Religion Foundation:

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  • Church handles social ills better than government | Faith-based initiatives are in the news again. Unfortunately, some of their strongest opponents still don't seem to understand what they really do (Tony Evans, The Dallas Morning News)

  • Crossroads of faith and policy | Taxpayers should not have to support religion (Andrew Coan, The Dallas Morning News)

  • Bagel breakfast | The Supreme Court looks at the president's faith-based community programs (Dahlia Lithwick, Slate)

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Church and state:

  • Ban on prison religious program challenged | U.S. judge ruled evangelical rehabilitation effort in Iowa is unconstitutional (The Washington Post)

  • Also: Faith behind bars | Second chances are the specialty of the InnerChange Freedom Initiative (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

  • PSL Council: No religious symbols at city hall | Jesus in a manger and a menorah don't belong on city property during the holidays, the Port St. Lucie City Council decided Monday night (Scripps)

  • Zoning debate settles down | For now at least, the dust seems to have settled in a zoning standoff between the Cowboy Church and Bedford County (News and Advance, Lynchburg, Va.)

  • Mennonites to leave state over photo IDs | Mennonites believe the Bible forbids them from posing for photographs, so they're moving to Arkansas (Columbia Tribune, Mo.)

  • Council refuses to eliminate invocation | The council last night rebuffed a request from a representative of Americans United for Separation of Church and State to consider eliminating the invocation from the council meetings, and it rejected a request of Mayor Konstantina B. Lukes to seek a legal opinion regarding the invocations and the recitation of prayers that might promote a specific religion (Worchester Telegram and Gazette, Mass.)

  • U.S. prosecutor emcees Christian event | A federal prosecutor was serving as master of ceremonies Tuesday night for a Christian organization that sparked controversy last fall when it asked Iowa judges to fill out a survey listing their views on hot issues (Associated Press)

  • Courthouse Bible study group gets a new meeting place | A St. Charles County judge who raised eyebrows by leading a weekly Bible study group at the courthouse has found a new place to meet (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Mo.)

  • Battle over St. Vitus intensifies | Church resists handing over control of iconic cathedral (The Prague Post, Czech Republic)

  • Romanian judge demoted for witchcraft | Judge Elena Simionescu was accused of being a witch and of creating an atmosphere of conflict during her term as a president of the court in Vatra Dornei, a small town in eastern Romania (The Telegraph, London)

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  • Faith-based plan an obvious ploy | Gov. Sonny Perdue and his allies are once again pushing an amendment to the state constitution that would allow faith-based groups to accept public money to perform public services, from teen counseling to homeless shelters (Editorial, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

  • 'Separation of church and state' cult | I know I am supposed to love my neighbor, but the Rev. Barry Lynn sure makes it hard. And so does everyone like him who continuously lies about some impending theocratic-right-wing-Christian takeover of the government (David P. McGinley, The Washington Times)

  • Call to take religion from ID cards | Politicians, paranormals, spiritualists and activists from the National Integration Movement asked the government to review a 2006 law on population administration which requires the inclusion of religion on identity cards, saying the law is discriminatory (The Jakarta Post, Indonesia)

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  • Church premises ransacked, eight injured | At least eight persons were injured as a mob ransacked a church and assaulted those present on Wednesday evening in a sequel to an altercation between a college run by the church and villagers nearby (PTI, India)

  • Also: Bible College attacked by Hindu mob in India | About 500 anti-Christian radicals attacked a Gospel for Asia Bible college in the eastern Indian state of Orissa on Wednesday evening, February 28 (Gospel for Asia/Mission Network News)

  • 150 Christian outcastes "return" to Hinduism | It is the first time such a ceremony has been held in Himachal Pradesh, where an anti-conversion law was recently enacted. A Catholic bishop warns that this is a dangerous situation for all Christians (

  • Government accused of `anti-minority bias' | Police charged with taking sides during communal riots (The Hindu, India)

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  • Church in Cuba keeps alight freedom flame | Every Sunday after Mass in Havana's western suburb of Miramar a group of women marches up and down the pavement in front of the church to raise the plight of the political prisoners jailed by the regime for voicing dissent (The Telegraph, London)

  • 2 men charged in Cuba travel fraud plot | Two men were arrested and charged with using fake religious organizations to get thousands of people permission to travel to Cuba, prosecutors said Thursday (Associated Press)

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  • Rivals seek to expand freedoms in China | Two advocates of the rule of law, both Christians, differ on whether to work within the system or to seek an end to Communist rule (The New York Times)

  • Flagellants for Red China | The Christian Left wants to apologize for Western "exploitation." (Mark Tooley,

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  • Jews urged to embrace evangelicals | Got a problem with evangelicals cozying up to the Jewish community? That's perfectly understandable, their representatives say. And here's their solution: Cozy on up (The Jerusalem Post)

  • Israeli police ban conference on holy site | Israeli police on Wednesday banned a news conference by Muslim and Christian opponents to Israeli excavation work near a disputed holy site (Associated Press)

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House of prophecy:

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Klingenschmitt discharged:

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2008 candidates:

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  • Paraguay's ruling party faces threat of a populist bishop | A charismatic Roman Catholic bishop recently suspended by the Vatican has emerged as the front-runner for next year's presidential election (The New York Times)

  • Religion in the news: Chavez's Jesus | President Hugo Chavez calls Jesus a guiding light for his self-styled socialist revolution. But his relationship with the Roman Catholic Church is complicated and sometimes strained (Associated Press)

  • Merkel wants EU to be vocal about Christian roots | "The period of secularisation was important, but I see us living in a changed world where it is incumbent on politicians and political documents to spell out more clearly their spiritual roots," German Chancellor said in a speech on Europe to members of her Christian Democratic Union (Reuters)

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  • U.S. can deny funds to AIDS groups over prostitution stance | Federal appeals court says organizations' free-speech rights wouldn't be violated if money was linked to pledge to uphold Bush administration policy (Associated Press)

  • Trouble in the family | Is James Dobson's legendary power starting to wane? (The Economist)

  • Religious groups take up environmental cause, unite on climate change | Evangelical Christians, Jews, Catholics, Muslims, Unitarians: All are committing time and effort to transforming their buildings and their congregants' mindsets (South Florida Sun-Sentinel)

  • Fla. official fired over sex-change plan | "If Jesus was here tonight, I can guarantee you he'd want him terminated," said Pastor Ron Saunders of Largo's Lighthouse Baptist Church. "Make no mistake about it." (Associated Press)

  • Still welcome the stranger | To claim that God is on your side in a debate is bold indeed. Yet my e-mail inbox is bursting with alerts urging my opposition to "amnesty" for "illegals" and my support for deportation and walls in the sand. Sentiments made most shocking because they were sent by people like me - Evangelical Protestants (Thomas Keown, Boston Herald)

  • Is this really the choice: the Bible or jail? | Joining the antiguns march through the streets of Peckham (Janice Turner, The Telegraph, London)

  • The times they are a-changing for US fundamentalists | Since 2004, the Christian right has found progress tougher, in part because of an embarrassing string of scandals, in part because secular America has begun to reassert itself and in part because a growing number of American Christians are uneasy about allowing religion to become so politicised and so closely associated with one party (Will Hutton, The Observer, London)

  • Evangelicals in exile | The Christian right is reeling from its biggest electoral defeat in a quarter century - and now they're talking about abandoning the GOP (Robert Dreyfuss, Rolling Stone)

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  • Church leaders threaten government over abortion | Two of Sweden's most influential church leaders have threatened to encourage Christians to vote against the government at the next election, following a proposal that foreign women should be allowed to come to Sweden for abortions (The Local, Sweden)

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Stem cells:

  • Adult stem cell study flawed, panel says | A scientific panel says a 2002 study that suggested adult stem cells might be as useful as embryonic ones was flawed and its conclusions may be wrong, a finding that raises questions about the promise of a less controversial source for stem cells (Associated Press)

  • Also: Panel finds flawed data in a major stem cell report | An inquiry panel has found what it called "significantly flawed" data in a stem cell paper that claimed stem cells isolated from an adult could change into all the major tissue types (The New York Times)

  • Adult stem cells wars | The moot attack on a pioneering stem cell paper (Michael Fumento, The American Spectator)

  • California stem cell research is upheld by appeals court | A state appeals court ruled in favor of California's new embryonic stem cell agency in a suit brought by opponents of abortion and taxes who challenged the validity of the agency (The New York Times)

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  • Also: Court upholds Calif. stem cell agency | California's $3 billion stem cell agency withstood another challenge to its constitutionality when a state appeals court rejected claims by abortion foes and anti-tax advocates that the agency's managers had conflicts of interest (Associated Press)

  • Where faith and stem cells meet | Jesus might have us use embryos—otherwise destined to be discarded—to aid the sick and dying (Michael D. Kerlin, Newsday)

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Life ethics:

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HPV vaccine:

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  • Churches issue prayer for marriage | After state court ruling, a reminder of religion's position (The Star-Ledger, Newark, N.J.)

  • Venus magazine becomes ex-gay pub | Venus Magazine, a publication that for 13 years targeted the Black gay and lesbian community, is now a voice for the ex-gay movement (Windy City Times, still a gay publication)

  • Church hosts conference on 'ex-gay' therapy | The controversial idea that counseling and therapy can overcome homosexual tendencies is at the heart of what's called the "ex-gay movement." Proponents of ways that gays and lesbians can be "cured" recently held a conference in Phoenix, Ariz. (All Things Considered, NPR)

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  • Hard road against Focus on the Family | How effective can a fledgling faith-based gay-rights organization be in fighting the homophobic multimillion-dollar empire that is Focus on the Family? (The Denver Post)

  • Drama troupe explores issues of faith for gay Christians | Faith was a natural topic for this crop of six performers, ages 14 to 21, because several come from clergy families (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

  • In a fight to the end, the billboards lose | Supreme Court turns down case of billboards that were refused for being antigay (The New York Times)

  • National gay marriage opponents switch tactics | Alliance for Marriage, the group that spearheaded the push for a federal constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, has reset its sights on state legislatures, conceding it has little chance for success in a Democrat-controlled Congress (Associated Press)

  • Gay marriage ripe for decision in 3 courts | All eyes now are on the highest courts in California, Connecticut and Maryland, where decisions on the constitutionality of gay marriage are likely this year (

  • Adoption opt-out decision 'right' | The limited exemptions for religious groups from gay discrimination laws should not be widened, Parliament's joint committee on human rights says (BBC)

  • Magistrate in gay adoption defeat | A Christian magistrate who says he was forced to quit the bench because he does not agree with adoption by gay couples has lost a discrimination case (BBC)

  • Gay rights advances likely in Congress | At least two measures are likely to win approval this year: a hate-crimes bill that would cover offenses motivated by anti-gay bias, and a measure that would outlaw workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation. Also on the table — although with more doubtful prospects — will be a measure seeking repeal of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy that bans openly gay and lesbian Americans from serving in the military. (Associated Press)

  • Hawaii civil unions plan goes nowhere | Hawaii lawmakers effectively killed a proposal to create civil unions for gay couples by declining to vote on the legislation (Associated Press)

  • Lawsuit raises questions about putdown | When a few classmates razzed Rebekah Rice about her Mormon upbringing with questions such as, "Do you have 10 moms?" she shot back: "That's so gay." After Rice got a warning and a notation in her file, her parents sued (Associated Press)

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  • Analysis: Episcopal choices | Three years of emergency summits, nuanced apologies and behind-the-scenes negotiating failed. Anglican leaders this week gave the U.S. Episcopal Church an ultimatum: Halt your march toward full acceptance of gays, or lose your place in the global Anglican family (Associated Press)

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  • A closer look at Anglican debate on gay issues | The Episcopal Church's presiding bishop asks for patience as the church -- and the denomination -- tries to forge a compromise (Los Angeles Times)

  • A divide, and maybe a divorce | Slavery split apart American churches. Now could the fight over homosexuality do the same? (The New York Times)

  • Episcopal leader calls for calm, patience | The bishop makes her appeal as the global church calls for a ban on same-sex unions (Los Angeles Times)

  • Also: Episcopal head seeks gay compromise | Appearing on a live webcast, the Episcopal Church's presiding bishop began the painful task Wednesday of persuading members to roll back their support for gays — at least for now — so the denomination can keep its place in the world Anglican fellowship (Associated Press)

  • Also: Church head attacks impatience on gays | "We are being pushed toward a decision by impatient forces within and outside this church who hunger for clarity," said Katharine Jefferts Schori (Reuters)

  • Gay bishop says no to ultimatum | New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson said in a statement that Episcopalians should set aside the Anglican Communion's request for now "and get on with the work of the Gospel" even at the risk of losing their place in the Anglican fellowship (Associated Press)

  • Also: Gay bishop weighs in on Anglican debate | "Just because The Episcopal Church has been invited to subvert its own polity (governing structure) and become a Church ruled by bishops-only, a Church that is willing to sacrifice the lives and ministries and dignity of its gay and lesbian members on the altar of unity, does not mean that we are going to choose to do it," Robinson wrote (USA Today)

  • Virginia property litigation to continue, church's attorneys say | Lawyers for the Episcopal Church have told two attorneys representing some of the 11 Diocese of Virginia congregations involved in a legal dispute over possession of church property that "there is no basis at this time" to put that litigation on hold (Episcopal News Service)

  • In Africa, the missionary tables have turned | African Anglicans are imposing on the West, not the other way around. (Jonathan Zimmerman, The Christian Science Monitor)

  • Aids orphans in firing line as church fights over gay priests | While the Church itself is bitterly divided over the issue of homosexuality, there appears to also be a growing division between those dioceses in Africa who seek to cut off all relations with Western Anglican churches who have supported the ordination of gay priests, and those who favour a pragmatic line because of the huge financial support provided to their congregations by Western churches (The East African, Kenya)

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  • A crumbling Anglican Communion | An interview With Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi (New Vision, Uganda)

  • African bishop optimistic on unity | Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola said dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church had been going on for more than 40 years, and that much progress had been made in terms of finding ways to work around the divisive issues (Reuters)

  • The Episcopal Church and the rift over homosexuality | In the civil war over homosexuality in organized religion, the Episcopal Church faces division over its acceptance of gay bishops and same-sex couples. It's one of the most divisive issues to major religions since slavery. (Talk of the Nation, NPR)

  • Showdown in Africa | A midnight session narrowly averts a divide between The Episcopal Church and worldwide Anglicans (World)

  • Gay bishops wouldn't worry the Catholics | The celibate gay Anglican vicar is in fact closer to the Catholic ideal of priesthood than a married one (Dominic Lawson, The Independent, London)

  • A new bill of rights? | The capacity of Anglicanism's breach to divide is real and is tenacious (William F. Buckley, National Review Online)

  • A divorce the church should smile upon | A generation from now, when we look back on the breakup of the Anglican Communion and on the status of homosexuals within the churches of the world, what may we expect to see? (Jack Miles, The New York Times)

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Church of England synod:

  • Williams: Church appears 'obsessed with sex' | But the Archbishop argued that its bitter and prolonged dispute over homosexuality touched deeper issues, such as the way the worldwide Communion dealt with profound differences, which could not be easily avoided (The Telegraph, London)

  • Synod disarray over civil partnerships | The Church of England's policy towards the government's civil partnerships legislation for gay couples was in disarray last night after an unholy coalition of liberal and conservative members of its general synod combined to defeat its bishops (The Guardian, London)

  • Also: Synod rejects gay clergy policy | The Church of England was in disarray over homosexuality last night after the General Synod refused to endorse the bishops' controversial policy on gay "marriages" (The Telegraph, London)

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  • Also: Anglicans vote on gay and lesbian issues | The Church of England's assembly on Wednesday affirmed existing teaching that homosexuality is no bar to full participation in the church but avoided the fractious debate within the Anglican Communion about accepting gay sexual relationships (Associated Press)

  • Also: Anglicans lock horns over gays as rift deepens | Church of England Bishops succeeded in toning down a liberal motion on homosexuality, arguing that this could have upset delicate negotiations (Reuters)

  • Church plans cuts to pay for bishops' homes | The Church of England is considering cutting spending on parish missions and theological textbooks to help meet the rising cost of its bishops' palaces (The Guardian, London)

  • Church to relax its marriage laws | Divorcees wanting to remarry in church will be given much greater freedom under new ecclesiastical legislation in the Church of England (The Telegraph, London)

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British spirituality:

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Anglicans vs. Muslims?:

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AMiA priest dismissed:

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CRC battle:

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Closed churches:

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Church life (U.S.):

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Church life (non-U.S.):

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  • Pentecostal Church needs space | Black-led Pentecostal churches have seen a huge increase in their congregations in recent years and need new places to worship (BBC, video)

  • Pentecostal church lures Latin Americans away from Catholicism | Pentecostal ministers in Latin America are luring increasing numbers of Roman Catholics away from their faith with modern marketing tactics, including caps and logo T-shirts. The range of religious "services" on offer even extends to exorcisms (Der Spiegel, Germany)

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  • Book IDs Polish priests as informants | A book released Monday has dredged up more painful allegations from Poland's Communist era, naming some 30 Roman Catholic priests, including several bishops, as registered informants with the secret police (Associated Press)

  • Also: Four cautions as crisis builds about priest-collaborators under the Communists | As with the sexual abuse crisis in the United States, once the dam breaks, documents and accusations surface so rapidly that the media barely has time to record them, let alone sort through them carefully. In such an environment, elastic terms such as "collaboration" and "informant" tend to be recycled endlessly, giving a false impression of fixed meaning, when in fact every situation is different (John Allen Jr. National Catholic Reporter)

  • Pope is warned of a green Antichrist | An arch-conservative cardinal chosen by the Pope to deliver this year's Lenten meditations to the Vatican hierarchy has caused consternation by giving warning of an Antichrist who is "a pacifist, ecologist and ecumenist" (The Times, London)

  • Catholics in England boosted by migrants | Influx of devout from new E.U. countries swells attendance, transforms church (The Washington Post)

  • Iraq veteran finds archdiocese the tougher front | Vicar general is frank about challenges of being manager (The Boston Globe)

  • Upswing in contributions since crisis buoys diocese | The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston raised $13.8 million in its most recent annual fund drive, up 57 percent from its low point in the midst of the clergy sexual abuse crisis, but still down significantly from its fund-raising levels before the crisis (The Boston Globe)

  • Visiting pope to canonise first Brazilian saint | People who have benefited from healing miracles attributed to Franciscan Friar Galvao are expected to take part in the ceremony on May 11 in Brazil's biggest city, Sao Paulo (Reuters)

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San Diego diocese files bankruptcy:

  • S.D. Catholic diocese files for bankruptcy | Move will halt start of sex-abuse trials (San Diego Union-Tribune)

  • 1st diocese hearing airs battle ahead | Signs of the battle to come surfaced yesterday in the first bankruptcy hearing to be held since the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego sought Chapter 11 protection from clerical sexual abuse lawsuits (San Diego Union-Tribune)

  • Bishop urged to rethink bankruptcy | Advocates for alleged molestation victims call for San Diego diocese to try to settle lawsuits rather than proceed with its court filing (Los Angeles Times)

  • Complex legal issues will accompany filing | As the case unfolds, both sides will battle over complicated legal questions dealing with civil law and church law, and whether constitutional claims of religious freedom trump the bankruptcy code (San Diego Union-Tribune)

  • Real estate battle key in diocese bankruptcy | Parishes, not church, own many properties, filing says (San Diego Union-Tribune)

  • Also: San Diego Diocese files for bankruptcy | The filing puts lawsuits from 150 people who alleged that they were sexually abused by priests in abeyance. One activist calls the move 'morally bankrupt' (Los Angeles Times)

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  • Abuse critic apologizes to Baptists | But SNAP leader insists SBC do more on pedophiles (The Commercial Appeal, Memphis)

  • Ex-Steuben pastor pleads guilty to sex abuse charges | Former pastor of the Borden Baptist Church could get more than 30 years in prison (Star-Gazette, Emira, N.Y.)

  • Former youth pastor admits to child porn | The former youth pastor of a Baptist church in St. Charles admitted Thursday in federal court that he pasted photos of the heads of teenagers from the congregation onto scenes of adult pornography (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

  • Trinity Baptist faces new abuse lawsuit | The second negligence lawsuit in just more than a week was filed Thursday against Trinity Baptist Church, also saying the Jacksonville church hid knowledge of alleged sexual abuse of children by former Pastor Robert Gray in the 1970s (The Times-Union, Jacksonville, Fla.)

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  • Abuse victims demand more than a check from the church | Church officials, reeling from an estimated $1.5 billion in settlements and other costs related to the sex abuse scandal, are often willing to oblige (The Washington Post)

  • Sordid details of preacher's pornography arrest | Court documents outline shocking details of child porn charges against a former Methodist minister (WALB, Albany, N.Y.)

  • Former Columbia pastor pleads guilty to abuse of 15-year-old congregant | Roberto Edgar Lopez, originally from Mexico City, helped establish Horeb Iglesia Metodista Unida Hispana, the Hispanic United Methodist Church (Columbia Missourian)

  • Catholic priest accused: Tale of obsession | Victim recalls being beaten, dragged by hair, sexually assaulted (Las Vegas Review-Journal)

  • Attorney quits client's case | A Florida attorney says he intends to withdraw from the case of an alleged sex assault victim who admitted in recorded phone conversations that he never was a victim (The Denver Post)

  • Activists seek prey of priests | An allegedly abusive priest has been gone from St. Mary's parish for almost two decades. But that didn't stop four activists from seeking people Wednesday who might have been abused by him or other clergy (Kennebec Journal, Me.)

  • Mexican cardinal says L.A. can't try him | A Los Angeles court has no legal right to try Mexico's most prominent cardinal for complicity in the alleged rape of a child by a Mexican priest, the cardinal's lawyer said Sunday (Associated Press)

  • Group defending pastor after abuse | By another priest: Parishioners say church not divided, contributions are up (The Courier News, Elgin, Ill.)

  • Also: Motion for sanctions stricken | A judge apologized Thursday to St. Peter Monsignor Joseph Jarmoluk for being identified in court as a witness in the sex-abuse lawsuits against the Rockford Diocese and former priest Mark Campobello (Kane County Chronicle, Ill.)

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  • Gay marriage critic tried on lewdness | The lawyer for a former Baptist church leader who had spoken out against homosexuality said Thursday the minister has a constitutional right to solicit sex from an undercover policeman. (Associated Press)

  • Winkler's trial set for April 9 | An April 9 trial date has been set for Mary Winkler, the minister's wife facing a first-degree murder charge in connection with the shooting death of her husband, a defense attorney confirmed Friday (The Jackson Sun, Tenn.)

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Missions and ministry:

  • Evangelicals' work in Africa criticized | Critics accuse them of taking advantage of vulnerable communities — forcing people to abandon traditional beliefs in exchange for desperately needed goods and medicine (Associated Press)

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  • Principal deems Jesus chant offensive | A Catholic school principal has organized sensitivity training for students who shouted "We love Jesus" during a basketball game against a school with Jewish students. (Associated Press)

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  • A call for required study of the Bible | Stephen Prothero, chairman of Boston University's religion department offers this proposal: Public high schools should require one course in the Bible for all their students and another in world religions (The Boston Globe)

  • Craig petition seeks Bible class | Lessons focus on history, literature (The Denver Post)

  • Church schools face challenge from charters | While happy to see an increase in educational options for parents in the low-income, minority neighborhoods where both charter schools and parochial schools are usually concentrated, some principals are worried that increased competition from charters could exacerbate the enrollment declines in Catholic schools (The New York Sun)

  • Church in Spain has right to fire religion teachers over private life | The Roman Catholic church in Spain has the right to fire religion teachers at state schools for what it deems to be inappropriate private conduct, such as an extramarital relationship, the Spanish constitutional court has ruled (The Guardian, London)

  • FCAT blessing raises a ruckus | While the Christian prayers and anointing took place after school hours on the night of Friday, Feb. 2, the oil was still on desks the following Monday when teachers opened their classrooms. Some felt the extra help crossed a line (St. Petersburg Times, Fla.)

  • Also: No place for religious rituals in the classroom | Principal and staff members anointed desks with prayer oil (Jeff Webb, St. Petersburg Times, Fla.)

  • Enloe students questioned | Former students say a teacher suspended this week often talked about Christianity (The News & Observer, Raleigh, N.C.)

  • Also: Free speech fight | Public school sparks debate with classroom presentation on Islam (World)

  • Earlier: ACLU probing religion at Enloe | Proselytizing cited by speaker in class (The News & Observer, Raleigh, N.C.)

  • Schools will take fair day, but not religious holidays | Students and teachers may continue to take religious holidays without penalty (The Tampa Tribune, Fla.)

  • Also: All school religious holidays dropped | The Hillsborough school calendar will not recognize any religious holidays next school year, but it will continue a traditional day off for students to attend the state fair (St. Petersburg Times, Fla.)

  • Also: Let's take a holiday from the hypocrisy | No more promises of a secular calendar while, wink wink, they close for Christian holidays (Marlene Sokol, St. Petersburg Times, Fla.)

  • A new model for schools in the Boston archdiocese | Three church-affiliated schools plan to consolidate in order to offer the resources of a public education with the morals and faith of a Roman Catholic one (The New York Times)

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Higher education:

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  • Darwin's God | In the world of evolutionary biology, the question is not whether God exists but why we believe in him. Is belief a helpful adaptation or an evolutionary accident? (Robin Marantz Henig, The New York Times Magazine, preview, sub. req'd.)

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  • A question of faith, not science | Sen. Raymond Finney wants to know the official state position on the origin of the universe (Editorial, Bristol Herald Courier, Tenn.)

  • Flat-earth society's warriors | Anyone with working synapses who read the "Bridges" memo would see it as painting Jews as conspirators in the undermining of Christian theology (Robyn Blumner, St. Petersburg Times, Fla.)

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"Lost Tomb of Jesus":

  • Scholars, clergy slam Jesus documentary | Amos Kloner, the first archaeologist to examine the site, said the idea fails to hold up by archaeological standards but makes for profitable television (Associated Press)

  • Revision for the greatest story ever told? | Provocative speculation or wild conjecture? That, of course, is the question (U.S. News & World Report)

  • Ancient tomb may contain Jesus' family | A new book claims an ossuary may present physical evidence of Christ's kin (Today, NBC)

  • Raiders of the lost tomb | A book and movie allege the final resting place of Mary, Joseph and the King of Kings has been found. Controversy to follow (Newsweek)

  • Faith tested | A claim that the tomb of Jesus Christ has been found has naturally upset many Christians, but others say their faith remains unshaken (Newsweek)

  • 'Lost Tomb of Jesus' claim called a stunt | Archaeologists decry TV film (The Washington Post)

  • Documentary claims to find Jesus' tomb | Lots of questions are raised and answered, however speculatively (Associated Press)

  • Greek church condemns Titanic director's Jesus film | "We express our sorrow over the historical ignorance, lack of scientific base and evidence of this case, whose purpose is to strike at … what constitutes our faith," the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece said in a statement (Reuters)

  • Crypt held bodies of Jesus and family, film says | The claims were met with skepticism by several archaeologists, and outrage by some Christian leaders (The New York Times)

  • Beyond belief | This week film director James Cameron claimed to have found the burial casket of Jesus. Last month archaeologists said they had found his foreskin. So what other discoveries have been heralded as relics of Christ? (The Guardian, London)

  • Bones of contention | Hundreds of people vowed they saw Jesus in the flesh after the crucifixion, and who are we to argue with them? People often see what they want to see (The Courier-Mail, Brisbane, Australia)

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  • Christian heresy of the Talpiot tomb? | To say that the Holy Sepulchre is not holy and that East Talpiot, a mundane south Jerusalem neighborhood, was the final resting place of Jesus's remains is nothing short of blasphemy and a complete rejection of the foundations of Christian faith, according to church traditionalists (The Jerusalem Post)

  • Israel may open 'Jesus tomb' to public (The Jerusalem Post)

  • Claims swirl around 'tomb of Jesus' | Archaeologists and scholars challenge the evidence from a TV documentary that would challenge Christianity's foundations (The Christian Science Monitor)

  • Jesus junk | Professor scoffs at Lost Tomb of Jesus documentary (Dallas Observer)

  • Asbury scholar assails Jesus film | Crypt might have held Christ's bones, it says (Lexington Herald-Leader, Ky.)

  • Can we resurrect some standards? | We can only hope, in this era of The Da Vinci Code, the public has gotten enough practice separating fact from fiction from pure hogwash to cast a very skeptical eye on these claims (Editorial, Chicago Sun-Times)

  • 'Titanic' find or sacrilege? | James Cameron's new documentary claims to have discovered tomb of Jesus Christ (Cathleen Falsani, Chicago Sun-Times)

  • More ifs and maybes than fact in 'Lost Tomb' | Weighing in at just two letters, "if" can still be one of the mightiest words in the language, closely followed by "maybe." Give me enough "ifs" and "maybes" and I'll have you believe - or try to anyway - that the moon is a hunk of moldy green cheese, after all (Verne Gay, Newsday)

  • Bones of contention | An archaeological discovery in Jerusalem is fuelling the strange and tedious cult of a merely human Jesus (Theo Hobson, The Guardian, London)

  • These film-makers are peddling twaddle about Jesus | New claims about Christ's resurrection fail on both scientific and theological grounds (Justin Thacker, The Guardian, London)

  • Don't get sucked into latest claim | I find it interesting sometimes when Christians let the simplest things rock them (Monica Carter Tagore, The Shreveport Times, La.)

  • Cameron finds Christ! | What else in the ossuary? (Dave Konig, National Review Online)

  • The fruit of thy tomb | Discovery Channel's phony Jesus show (John J. Miller, National Review Online)

  • Lights, camera … Jesus | Mr. Cameron is doing much more than riding a current, though, as he draws on a much older tradition: The huckster, pushing a curiosity, hocked for a carnival nickel, a spectacle of man or woman or beast from beyond the known (Editorial, The Washington Times)

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  • Cameron's Jesus film is all about the hype | It's today's Cardiff Giant (Tom Hennessy, Long Beach Star-Telegram, Ca.)

  • Hollywood vs. Jesus | Appearing in New York City with a limestone coffin that he claimed had held the remains of Jesus, Cameron attacked a central Christian tenet--that Christ rose bodily from the dead. Yet he confirmed another article of faith: that Hollywood blasphemers are out to get Christians. (James Poniewozik, Time)

  • Giving 'Jesus' the silent treatment | The make or break of the "Jesus family" theory actually depends, along with the "Jesus" ossuary, on the filmmakers' purported statistically overwhelming evidence that the confluence of names on five more of the ossuaries found in the same tomb makes it all but impossible that this isn't the founder of Christianity and his family in their final place of rest. And that is where the trouble starts. Because three of those other five don't fit (David Horovitz, The Jerusalem Post)

  • Have they found Jesus? | The evidence of this name suggests that the tomb is in fact not the last resting place of Galilean peasants, but the mausoleum of an aristocratic family in Jerusalem with pretensions to Hellenistic culture (Bruce Chilton, New York Sun)

  • Tomb of the (still) unknown ancients | More Jesus hype of the "Da Vinci Code" type (Ben Witherington III, The Wall Street Journal)

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William Wilberforce:

  • William Wilberforce forced left | Guess who's claiming this Tory abolitionist and colleague of Edmund Burke as one of their own (Mark Tooley, The American Spectator)

  • Amazing ideas | William Wilberforce and classical liberalism (S. T. Karnick, National Review Online)

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  • Lawsuit claims nonpayment in audio Bible | A woman who says she wrote the script for a star-studded audio version of the New Testament has sued the producers, claiming she was cheated out of hundreds of thousands of dollars in payment (Associated Press)

  • MKs demand the author of blood libel book be prosecuted | MKs on Monday demanded that the state examine ways in which it could prosecute Professor Ariel Toaff, who wrote book "Pasque di Sangue" [Passovers of Blood], which discusses the possible facts behind 15th century European blood libels against Jews (Haaretz, Tel Aviv)

  • Letter by letter, sacred documents are reborn | Rabbi Zacharia Eisenbach is a trained sofer, the Hebrew word for the scribe who, adhering to ancient Jewish law, writes and restores Judaism's holiest document (The New York Times)

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  • Archbishop, Roger Rabbit guy do sci-fi | Space Vulture, a new sci-fi novel Roger Rabbit creator Gary K. Wolf has written old friend John J. Myers — now the Roman Catholic archbishop of Newark — has to be one of the genre's most unusual collaborations (Associated Press)

  • Inherit the wind, redux | How intelligent design and evolution clashed in a Pennsylvania town. Christine Rosen reviews Monkey Girl by Edward Humes (The Washington Post)

  • Faith-based liberation | Carl Rollyson doesn't like Eric Metaxas's biography of William Wilberforce (The New York Sun)

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"The Secret":

  • Decoding 'The Secret' | Oprah lives by it. Millions are reading it. The latest self-help sensation claims we can change our lives by thinking. But this 'new thought' may just be new marketing (Newsweek)

  • Shaking riches out of the cosmos | Rivals claim credit for "The Secret," a DVD and a book that promote the power of wishful thinking (The New York Times)

  • "The Secret" is out | New Age phenomenon claims you can have anything you want (CBS Evening News)

  • Manifest destiny | This is my Father's world, and no "secret" can overcome his purposes (Janie B. Cheaney, World)

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Money and business:

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  • FCC expected to impose record $24 million fine against Univision | United Church of Christ had first raised the complaints (The Washington Post)

  • TV contests humiliate losers, say synod speakers | Members of the Church of England laid into a range of television programmes from Big Brother and Strictly Come Dancing to Little Britain for lowering standards of behaviour and exploiting the humiliation of human beings, during a debate at their general synod yesterday (The Guardian, London)

  • Also: Blame TV for moral decline, says Synod | Popular television shows ranging from Celebrity Big Brother to Little Britain were blamed by members of the Church of England's General Synod yesterday for eroding moral standards (The Telegraph, London)

  • 'The show is like a coffee morning in slow motion' | Revelation TV, a low-budget, family-run Christian cable station, has finally won its battle to be allowed to raise funds on air. Is this the birth of British televangelism? (The Guardian, London)

  • Televangelism in America today | Televangelism has a long and inglorious history in America, studded with financial corruption and sexual scandals - and yet it thrives (The Guardian, London)

  • Target: Evangelicals | The documentary 'Friends of God' delivers a distorted and dishonest picture of millions of American believers (Don Feder, USA Today)

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Media, art, and entertainment:

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  • Keeping it real with the monks | A great new movie shows how God is present in the lives of some extraordinary, ordinary men (Michael Potemra, National Review Online)

  • Irresponsible reporting on religion is dangerous | Reporting on religion in the mainstream British press is not only sometimes dreadful, it's dangerous, and something needs to be done about it (John Allen Jr., National Catholic Reporter)

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Other stories of interest:

  • Religion's generation gap | When children become more devout than their parents, relationships can get strained. A report on keeping the faith, and the peace, at the dinner table (The Wall Street Journal)

  • Gen Y's ego trip takes a nasty turn | A new report suggests that an overdose of self-esteem in college students could mean a rough road ahead (Los Angeles Times)

  • Sudan, in mud brick and marble | Capital's extremes of poverty and wealth symbolize nation's wider rifts (The Washington Post)

  • Vietnamese priest accused of plot | Vietnamese police have accused a prominent dissident Catholic priest of disseminating propaganda intended to undermine the communist government, officials and state media said Monday (Associated Press)

  • Also: Vatican delegation going to Vietnam | The visit is part of periodic talks between both sides, but this appointment follows by a few weeks a meeting at the Vatican between Pope Benedict XVI and Vietnam's prime minister (Associated Press)

  • Vatican's soccer tourney kicks off | Priests and seminarians from several soccer-loving countries took to a field near the looming dome of St. Peter's Basilica Saturday for the first match of the Clericus Cup, a tournament fielding 16 teams from Catholic institutes in Rome (Associated Press)

  • NFL seeks to trademark 'Big Game' phrase | League wants to protect Super Bowl image, but Stanford and Cal have already taken action to oppose move (Los Angeles Times)

  • Fighting HIV with faith | "There is someone in our midst called Mary who is HIV positive," boomed the voice from one of the many loudspeakers at Uhuru Park, Nairobi. "Mary, the Good Lord wants to cure your illness and end your suffering. Please, step forward." (The East African, Kenya)

  • Ink for the soul | At least one tattoo artist estimates that religious art makes up 20 percent of tattoos (San Antonio Express-News, Tex.)

  • Deliverance from evil? | Universal Church of the Kingdom of God comes to town with controversial reputation (Nashville Post)

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  • And on the seventh day, it snowed | On which day did God create the wintry mix? (John Kelly, The Washington Post)

  • A terribly inconvenient conversion | How San Francisco writer, activist and lifelong atheist Sara Miles unexpectedly found God (San Francisco Chronicle)

  • The Klan is still dead | Both the KKK and its foes hype the Klan's strength, but evidence is weak (David J. Garrow, Los Angeles Times)

  • Defined by our religion | It often says more about our traditions than our faith (Janice Byrd, The Dallas Morning News)

  • Give up giving up | This is going to sound odd coming from a religious person, but I've never quite seen the point of Lent (Gordon Cheng, The Daily Telegraph, Australia)

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What is Weblog?

See our past Weblog updates:

February 26 | 14 | 2
January 24 | 19 | 17 | 12 | 9
January 5 | 4 | 2
December 29 | 22
December 18 | 15 | 12
December 8 | 6 | 1
November 21 | 17 | 16 | 15 | 13
November 6 | 3 | 2

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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