Today's Top Five

1. National Association of Evangelicals gets attention, but doesn't address critical letter
At its board meeting late last week, the National Association of Evangelicals did not directly address a letter from non-member Christian leaders criticizing NAE vice president Richard Cizik's work against global warming. The board did, however, reaffirm its 2004 document on political engagement, "For the Health of the Nation: An Evangelical Call to Civic Responsibility." Among that document's seven emphases is "stewardship of creation," but it does not specifically call for action on global warming.

There are a few updates since Focus on the Family released the critical letter on its CitizenLink website March 1. Newsweek reported that Richard Land had been asked to sign the letter but refused. "I didn't feel that it was the most productive, most redemptive way to address the problem," he said.

A Saturday New York Times editorial criticizes those who did sign the letter for limiting "the definition of morality to the way humans behave among humans. … The greatest moral issue of our time is our responsibility to the planet and to all its inhabitants." That resonates with one of the thrusts of the NAE statement on creation care (e.g. "The Bible teaches us that God is not only redeeming his people, but is also restoring the whole creation. Just as we show our love for the Savior by reaching out to the lost, we believe that we show our love for the Creator by caring for his creation.") At the same time, one of the interesting aspects of Cizik's work, as well as the work of those behind the Evangelical Climate Initiative (from which Cizik withdrew his signature due to earlier pressure) is that they frame the global warming issue very much in terms of the way humans behave to other humans. The emphasis is on how climate change will, in the ECI statement's words, "hit the poor the hardest."

Los Angeles Times reporter Stephanie Simon, meanwhile, parses out the letter's critique that Cizik's views "seem to be contributing to growing confusion about the very term, evangelical." Simon writes:

In religious terms, an evangelical is a Christian who has been born again, seeks a personal relationship with Christ, and considers the Bible the word of God, to be faithfully obeyed.
But Dobson and his fellow letter-writers suggested that evangelical should also signify "conservative views on politics, economics and biblical morality."

Simon notes that most of the letter's signatories are "activists, not theologians," but the evangelical activists Weblog knows of have been eager to define evangelical theologically or sociologically and chafe at political characterizations. You can talk about evangelical political behavior, but that doesn't make it a political movement. Evangelicalism is no more a political movement than Mormonism is— and Mormons tend to vote between 80 percent and 90 percent for Republicans, compared to 60 percent to 70 percent of evangelicals.

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While we're speaking about numbers, it's also worth fact-checking the letter's statement that Cizik does not "articulate the views of American evangelicals on environmental issues." According to an August 2006 poll from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, evangelicals are indeed less likely than the general public to believe that there is solid evidence that the world is getting warmer. But 70 percent of evangelicals do believe it (compared to 79 percent of all Americans). Of those evangelicals who agree that the earth is getting warmer, a significant majority believe that it is the result of human activity such as the burning of fossil fuels. Still, while they're majorities separately, only 37 percent of all evangelicals agree that there's solid evidence that earth is getting warmer because of human activity, while one-half of all Americans believe it. 68 percent of evangelicals believe that global warming is a serious problem, and a plurality of evangelicals (47%) believe that stricter environmental laws are worth the cost (compared to 38% who say such laws would cost too many jobs and hurt the economy).

Back to the NAE for a moment. While it didn't say anything directly about global warming, it did release a statement on torture. Media coverage is starting to pick up on it, and we have a story in the works as well. More on that soon, as we'd like to focus on it more closely rather than treating it as a sidenote to the global warming fuss.

2. News alert: Pope still against gay marriage and abortion!
Pope Benedict XVI on Tuesday released a 130-plus-page document called Sacramentum Caritatis ("The Sacrament of Charity"). If you saw any news on it, you probably didn't bother to read beyond the headlines, let alone the papal statement. The New York Times headline: "Pope Reaffirms View Opposing Gay Marriage and Abortion." Reuters went with "Catholic politicians can't back gay marriage: Pope." Then there's the Associated Press' scintillating "Pope reaffirms traditional views."

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"The document released Tuesday contained no surprises," Ian Fisher of the Times reports, "repeating in a more comprehensive form positions that the church has long held and that Benedict frequently addresses." Well, yes and no. There are no surprises on marriage and abortion. But that doesn't mean there's no news here. As a document largely on liturgy, Benedict's statement has much to say on how Catholics worship. And the "worship wars" can be as fierce in Catholic churches as they are in evangelical Protestant ones.

So when the pope talks about "the importance of gestures and posture, such as kneeling during the central moments of the Eucharistic Prayer" and the need for "greater restraint in [the sign of peace] gesture, which can be exaggerated and cause a certain distraction in the assembly just before the reception of Communion," religion reporters should understand Benedict is talking about issues that are very deeply felt and often very contentious in parishes throughout the world. When he gives specific instructions on encouraging the use of Latin, passions are inflamed. Likewise, when he criticizes "generic and abstract homilies" and says, "Given the importance of the word of God, the quality of homilies needs to be improved," he's talking about something on which parishioners and preachers have strongly held opinions.

Honestly, I'm not sure that "Pope criticizes gay marriage and/or abortion" still qualifies as a news story. But "Pope criticizes abstract preaching" does. One of the points that Benedict emphasizes in Sacramentum Caritatis is that the liturgy—particularly the Eucharist—correctly orients our thinking. That orientation is not mainly a political one.

3. Klouda sues Southwestern
In January, we noted that Sherri Klouda had been denied tenure at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary because the Hebrew professor is a woman. She's now suing the school. But since neither she nor the school is saying anything about the suit right now, there's little new to say about it. There are many comments at Wade Burleson's blog (he broke the news of her tenure denial), but not much news.

In other Christian higher ed lawsuit news, transgender professor Julie Nemecek (formerly John Nemecek) and Spring Arbor University reached an undisclosed financial settlement Monday. "I'm smiling ear to ear," Nemecek told the Jackson Citizen-Patriot. The Free Methodist school had dismissed Nemecek when he started appearing in public as a woman.

4. 'Like requiring treated sewage for baptisms'
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals says the U.S. Forest Service broke the law—specifically the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA)—by allowing Arizona's Snowbowl ski resort to use artificial snow in an expansion on the San Francisco Peaks. The Navajo, Hopi, and other Native American tribes' case was less about the expansion or the artificial snow itself than about how the artificial snow is made—it's from treated sewage. The Forest Service allowed Snowbowl to drop up to 1.5 million gallons of effluent on the Peaks per day—more than 100 million gallons each season.

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"From time immemorial, [the appellant tribes] have relied on the Peaks, and the purity of the Peaks' water, as an integral part of their religious beliefs," Judge William A. Fletcher said in the court's decision. "To get some sense of equivalence, it may be useful to imagine the effect on Christian beliefs and practices — and the imposition that Christians would experience — if the government were to require that baptisms be carried out with 'reclaimed water.' … If appellants do not have a valid RFRA claim in this case, we are unable to see how any Native American plaintiff can ever have a successful RFRA claim based on beliefs and practices tied to land that they hold sacred."

5. Franklin Graham's youngest son injured in Iraq
Evangelist Franklin Graham's youngest son, Army Ranger Capt. Edward Graham, has been injured in the Iraq war. The 27-year-old grandson of Billy Graham "got shrapnel in his arms, legs, and back," Graham spokesman Jeremy Blume told The Charlotte Observer. "And he was recovering … in a hospital that can't be named for security reasons." As Blume explained to the Asheville Citizen-Times, "Rangers aren't allowed to disclose much information — even where he is." But, said Blume, "We know that he is fine and has asked for prayers for his men."

Quote of the day
"When the Secular Coalition asked me to complete a survey on my religious beliefs, I indicated I am a Unitarian who does not believe in a supreme being."

—U.S. Rep. Pete Stark (D-Ca.), the first member of Congress to publicly declare that he does not believe in God.

More articles

NAE and environment | NAE and torture | Life ethics | Politics | Immigration | Scottish politics | Newt Gingrich | Romney | Other Republican candidates | A "nontheist" member of Congress | Church and state | Snowmaking RFRA case | Land disputes | Cell phone towers in churches | Church conflicts | Homosexuality | Anglicanism | Mark Lawrence | Catholicism | Church life | Jerry Johnston's First Family Church | Crime | Abuse | Killing at church | Sudan | China | Israel and Palestine | Iraq | Missions and ministry | BattleCry returns to San Francisco | Stephen Prothero's Religious Literacy | Education | History | Books | Media | Sports | Art and entertainment | Money and business | Spirituality | People | Other stories of interest
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NAE and environment:

  • Evangelicals battle over agenda, environment | Global warming and other causes stray too far from battles on abortion, gay rights and similar 'great moral issues,' some leaders say (Los Angeles Times)

  • Evangelical body stays course on warming | Conservatives oppose stance (The Washington Post)

  • Evangelical group rebuffs critics on right | Board members say that the notion of censoring Mr. Cizik never arose last week at their meeting in Minnesota, and that he had delivered the keynote address at their banquet (The New York Times)

  • BeliefWatch: Tree hugger | What has Rich Cizik done to make Jim Dobson so mad? (Newsweek)

  • Christians called to save Earth from global warming | Are Americans of faith ready to put aside their squabbles and begin working together to solve the greatest moral issue of our day? Nothing less than the fate of God's creation depends on our answer (J. Matthew Sleeth, Lexington Herald-Leader, Ky.)

  • Evangelical board split on global warming | Board member worries that the NAE is losing sight of its mission (CitizenLink, Focus on the Family)

  • Keep the faith, help the Earth | There once was a time when Dobson and his supporters could get away with this sort of naked power politics. How much better for both heaven and earth that such a time seems to have passed for most open-minded people (Editorial, Times Herald-Record, Middletown, N.Y.)

  • Evangelical environmentalism | The greatest moral issue of our time is our responsibility to the planet and to all its inhabitants (Editorial, The New York Times)

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NAE and torture:

  • Evangelicals condemn torture | The National Association of Evangelicals has endorsed an anti-torture statement saying the United States has crossed "boundaries of what is legally and morally permissible" in its treatment of detainees and war prisoners in the fight against terror (Associated Press)

  • U.S. evangelicals slam torture in war on terrorism | A major U.S. association of evangelical Christians has condemned torture by the U.S. military and reaffirmed its commitment to environmental activism, positions that highlight broader splits in a movement associated with conservative causes (Reuters)

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Life ethics:

  • MP fights for change in law on teenage abortion | A Conservative MP is trying to get the law changed to give parents the right to know before their under-age daughters are given contraception or are having an abortion (Reuters)

  • Beyond the pleasure principle | Given that 18- to 25-year-olds are the least Republican generation (35 percent) and less religious than their elders (with 20 percent of them professing no religion or atheism or agnosticism), it is curious that on abortion they are slightly to the right of the general public (The New York Times Magazine)

  • Who cares about abortion? | Political realities (Rich Lowry, National Review Online)

  • Kroger to its pharmacists: No refusing morning-after pill | Georgia woman claimed she was denied the so-called "morning after" pill at one of the company's stores (Associated Press)

  • Helping make Life Choices | Agency offers support in pregnancy decisions (Commercial Appeal, Memphis)

  • Law change to allow cell cloning | Victorian scientists will be able to clone human embryos for medical research under controversial new legislation that is expected to divide the state's politicians, religious leaders and ethicists (The Age, Melbourne, Australia)

  • Stem cell research gains ground in Catholic church | 10 Catholic hospitals in New Jersey have signed contracts with blood repositories for public banking of umbilical cord and placenta blood. The stem cells from those donations will be stored at the not-for-profit Elie Katz Umbilical Cord Blood Program facility in Allendale, set to receive $10 million in state aid, and the Coriell Institute in Camden, also to receive state funding (The Star-Ledger, Newark, N.J.)

  • Oregon takes stock of 'right to die' law | 292 patients have died with aid of physicians since the law went into effect in 1998, new figures show (The Christian Science Monitor)

  • Euthanasia trial for French pair | A doctor and a nurse have gone on trial in southern France accused of poisoning a terminally ill cancer patient (BBC)

  • Another kind of appeal from death row: kill me | Of the more than 1,000 executions in the United States in the last three decades, 124 inmates have chosen not to fight their death sentences (The New York Times, sub. req'd.)

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  • At the end of life, a racial divide | Religion also appears to be a key factor. A part of the Harvard study that focused on 230 patients and was published last month found that religious people are much more likely to want to keep fighting at the end of life and that religion tends to play a particularly important role for minorities (The Washington Post)

  • A place to turn when a newborn is fated to die | Families whose babies suffer from fatal conditions are turning to specialized hospice programs for help (The New York Times)

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  • Seeking security, Dutch turn to Bible Belt | A small political party long associated with the Dutch Bible Belt, the Christen Unie, is benefiting from a surge of support outside its rural heartland triggered by nostalgia for a more moral, compassionate society (Reuters)

  • Rhetoric or true believer? | When Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich invoked God while pitching his tax-increase-for-health-insurance plan last week, it raised a few eyebrows. It also led several lawmakers to criticize Blagojevich, not previously known very much for religion, as a phony (Eric Krol, Daily Herald, Chicago suburbs)

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  • Call to take Christian refugees | The Reverend Fred Nile says Australia should give priority to Christians fleeing persecution in Muslim countries and stop Muslim immigration for a decade (The Courier Mail, Australia)

  • Also: Muslims dominating communities: Nile (AAP, Australia)

  • Also: Nile's Muslim moratorium | Clearly not a man to turn the other cheek, Fred Nile from the Christian Democratic Party has called for a moratorium on Islamic immigration (Damien Murphy, The Sydney Morning Herald)

  • Immigration raids split families | When illegal-immigrant parents are swept up in raids on homes and workplaces, the children are sometimes left behind — a complication that underscores the difficulty in enforcing immigration laws against people who have put down roots and begun raising families in the U.S. (Associated Press)

  • Also: DSS urges release of 21 more detainees | Some immigrants ill or have children (The Boston Globe)

  • At revival, Catholic Hispanics pray for those caught in raids | There was music, preaching and jokes about bumbling Protestant proselytizers, but the festive atmosphere at yesterday's Roman Catholic revival quieted briefly as thousands of worshipers joined hands and raised them high (The Washington Post)

  • Expert explains immigrants' rights at forum | People who are arrested don't have to answer police questions, lawyer tells packed church (Daily Pilot, Newport Beach, Ca.)

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Scottish politics:

  • Labour lacks Christian values, says bishop | A Catholic bishop is urging his flock not to vote for Labour in next month's elections for the Scottish Parliament, claiming that the party is "devoid" of Christian values (The Telegraph, London)

  • Labour and the turbulent priests | The bishop's intervention is not a lone cry. Several other senior Catholics are understood to be preparing to speak out, and a pastoral letter, to be read out in Catholic churches before the election, is being prepared (The Scotsman)

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  • Christian soldier takes up arms as hustings near | Onward Christian politics, marching to the Holyrood elections. Bishop Joseph Devine, one of Scotland's leading Catholics, has put the religious cat among the Labour Party pigeons when he said that he would not vote in protest at the new law on gay adoption (The Herald, Glasgow)

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Newt Gingrich:

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Other Republican candidates:

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  • Are pro-lifers ready for Rudy? | Abortion opponents may not think the best choice is a Planned Parenthood Republican (W. James Antle III, The American Spectator)

  • McCain: Keep 2008 spotlight off gossip | Republican presidential candidate John McCain, who remarried one month after his 1980 divorce, said Friday that the personal lives of White House hopefuls shouldn't become an issue in the 2008 campaign (Associated Press)

  • Practical issues weigh on GOP | That conservative evangelical voters are even considering these candidates as presidential prospects is a sign of their political maturation and their more pragmatic view of what can be expected from politics and politicians (Cal Thomas, The Sacramento Bee)

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A "nontheist" member of Congress:

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Church and state:

  • Zimbabwe police accused of torture | Top opposition leaders were assaulted and tortured by police who broke up a prayer meeting planned to protest government policies, colleagues of the activists said Monday (Associated Press)

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  • Religious groups get a waiver | Government officials will amend new regulations on nongovernmental organizations to exempt religious groups when it comes to accounting for services and donations, Kommersant reported Friday (The Moscow Times)

  • The custody battle for the heart of the Czech Church | After six months of being owned by the cash-strapped Church, the cathedral had been ordered back by the country's Supreme Court in to the custody of the more affluent State—and the management of the president's private office (The Times, London)

  • Church battle targets loos | An ablution block has become the focus of a marathon legal battle between the eThekwini Municipality and one of the oldest churches in Chatsworth (Sunday Tribune, South Africa)

  • The law is for Christians too | New Zealand has freedom of religion. The law endeavors to treat all religions equally, and to regard citizens' religious beliefs - or lack of them - as something that is no concern of the state. That is a sound principle (Editorial, The Dominion Post, New Zealand)

  • Muslim inmates demand equality on their plates | The inmates claim that they are not able to adhere fully to their faith because county jail officials have declined to meet their demands in one area: Their diet (The New York Times)

  • Monument could have companion | The Ten Commandments monument standing outside Fargo City Hall may be getting a nonreligious neighbor (The Forum, Fargo, N.D.)

  • Council will pray beforehand | Coatesville resolution, unanimously adopted last night, states that the prayer shall not be an agenda item and that no council member, city employee or person attending the meeting will be required to participate (The Philadelphia Inquirer)

  • Also: Council approves prayer policy (Daily Local News, Pa.)

  • Church, state, and taxpayers | It would be most unfortunate if the Supreme Court imposed severe limits on taxpayers' ability to question whether their money is being used in violation of the Constitution (Cass R. Sunstein, The Boston Globe)

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Snowmaking RFRA case:

  • Fake snow out for Snowbowl | Appeals court overturns ruling that OK'd treated effluent to extend skiing (The Arizona Republic)

  • Court blocks snowmaking at Indian sites | Thirteen tribes, along with environmentalists, had appealed the decision to allow spraying of treated wastewater on mountains considered sacred (The New York Times)

  • Plan for snow from sewage struck down | The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Arizona resort's project for peaks held sacred by tribes was a violation (The Denver Post)

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Land disputes:

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Cell phone towers in churches:

  • Threat to church phone masts 'that relay porn' | The Church of England is facing an embarrassing test case over whether mobile phone masts on steeples are illegal because they can relay pornography (The Telegraph, London)

  • Bells may fall silent in mobile dispute | A Church's bells may fall silent for the first time in 500 years due to a dispute over a mobile telephone mast. The bellringers are worried about potential health risks. (The Telegraph, London)

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Church conflicts:

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  • Catholic church tells gay couple communion won't be available | Recently Lynne Huskinson and her spouse Leah Vader were told they will no longer be allowed to take communion in the Catholic Church because of their open public opposition to Senate File 13 and their marriage that is not recognized by the church (News-Record, Gillette, Wy.)

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  • Episcopal bishop has faith that controversy won't split church | Episcopalians need not worry about a break with their Anglican brethren, said the Rev. Don Taylor, bishop vicar of the Episcopal Diocese of New York (Times Record-Herald, Middletown, N.Y.)

  • First female bishop in state | Election of Katharine Jefferts Schori as presiding bishop said to be encouraging votes for more women bishops (The Hartford Courant, Ct.)

  • A more positive approach to sexuality | Fidelity, faithfulness and commitment are virtues of which homosexual and transgendered people are capable, just as much as heterosexuals. The church needs to open itself to new knowledge, and to the experience of all its people (Michael Ingham, The Globe and Mail, Toronto)

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Mark Lawrence:

  • Episcopal nominee at center of storm | The combination of the Rev. Mark Lawrence's conservative theology and a determined effort by church liberals to block his confirmation have caused Episcopalians to characterize the vote as a bellwether of where the 2.2 million-member church is headed (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

  • Bishop-elect debate mirrors larger struggle | Conservative Episcopal leader waiting for votes to be consecrated (The State, Columbia, S.C.)

  • Episcopal leader closer to securing bishop post | Mark Lawrence is now one vote shy of receiving the 56 votes needed from dioceses from around the country (The State, Columbia, S.C.)

  • Local pastor hoping to take role of bishop | A schism in the U.S. Episcopal Church had a Bakersfield pastor on pins and needles Monday as he waited to find out if he will become bishop of the church's South Carolina diocese (The Bakersfield Californian)

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  • Catholic politicians can't back gay marriage: Pope | The Church's opposition to gay marriage is "non-negotiable" and Catholic politicians have a moral duty to oppose it, as well as laws on abortion and euthanasia, Pope Benedict said in a document issued on Tuesday (Reuters)

  • Document: Sacramentum Caritatis (

  • Pope's envoy hails Putin meeting | A meeting between Pope Benedict XVI and Russian President Vladimir Putin next week will benefit Russia's small Catholic community, the pope's envoy to Moscow said on Vatican radio Saturday (Associated Press)

  • Vatican delegation wraps up visit to Vietnam | A high-level Vatican delegation wrapped up its weeklong visit to Vietnam with the two sides proposing the formation of a working group on bilateral ties, officials said Monday (Associated Press)

  • Also: Vatican says Vietnamese Catholics are hoping for a visit by the pope | It is unusual for the Vatican to speculate about a papal visit, particularly to a communist country which has had strained relations with its influential Catholic community over the years (Associated Press)

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  • Vatican watchdog eyes Spanish Jesuit | The Vatican office that safeguards doctrinal correctness is examining Jon Sobrino, a Spanish Jesuit who is a prominent champion of liberation theology, a Vatican official said Monday (Associated Press)

  • Sainthood exam for John Paul II ends | The Rome diocese has wrapped up its examination of Pope John Paul II's virtues and life, an important step in the Catholic Church's process that could lead to sainthood for the late pontiff (Associated Press)

  • They go where the spirit takes them | A Catholic priest travels from Poland to find and minister to his Romani flock, wanderers once shunned by the church (Chicago Tribune)

  • Navy officer relieved of duty amid anti-Semitic accusations | Lt. Cmdr. John Sharpe leads the Legion of St. Louis as well as IHS Press. He says he's Catholic, not anti-Semitic (The Virginian-Pilot)

  • A marriage made in heaven? | When Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo rejoined the wife chosen for him by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, the Catholic Church excommunicated him. But Milingo says it's all part of a divine plan (Peter Manseau, The Washington Post)

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Church life:

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  • Inside Pastor Patience Rwabogo's church | This is not your everyday church with the conservative architecture, rather snow-white tents at the residence of the senior pastor and second daughter to President Yoweri Museveni, Ms Patience Rwabogo. The church is well organised and there is no rush of humanity as in other Pentecostal churches (The Monitor, Uganda)

  • Churches to be used as rural post offices | The proposed scheme may be extended to include local services, such as dry cleaners and grocers, that face closure, particularly in rural areas (The Telegraph, London)

  • Couple drowns after baptism | As she emerged from the water after baptism, Nomatter Kambewu reportedly got into a trance, turned and grabbed her husband, Thomas Moyana, by the waist. Asst Insp Kasoso said Moyana also became possessed, resulting in the couple drowning (The Herald, Zimbabwe)

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Jerry Johnston's First Family Church:

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  • Judge orders inquiry into diocese abuse case | A circuit judge on Friday refused to approve an agreement to settle claims of sexual abuse against the Catholic Diocese of Charleston, instead ordering an investigation to determine whether there was a cover-up of additional abuse cases (The Post and Courier, Charleston, S.C.)

  • Also: S.C. judge orders church sex abuse probe | A judge ordered an investigation Friday into whether there are unreported cases of sexual abuse involving the Roman Catholic Diocese of Charleston (Associated Press)

  • Seeking closure | When S.D. diocese filed for bankruptcy, woman lost day in court over sex-abuse case that tore her family apart (San Diego Union-Tribune)

  • Diocese loses bid to seal abuse documents | Accusers' names to be kept private in bankruptcy case (The Boston Globe)

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Killing at church:

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  • Sudan orchestrated Darfur crimes, U.N. mission says | A U.N. human rights mission on Monday accused Sudan's government of orchestrating and taking part in war crimes in Darfur and called for urgent international action to protect civilians there (Reuters)

  • Report condemns Sudan over Darfur | UN investigators have accused Sudan's government of "orchestrating and participating" in crimes in Darfur that include murder, mass rape, and kidnap (BBC)

  • Darfur's aid groups on the front lines | Their tireless commitment in the face of severe security threats deserves thanks and support (Editorial, The Christian Science Monitor)

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  • China's global go-getters | Wenzhou's spirit of capitalism might have been further nurtured by the spread of Christianity in the city in the same way the Protestant work ethic pushed America's economic development (Los Angeles Times)

  • Unholy shame | China should respect religious liberty if it wants to be a world power (Doug Bandow, National Review Online)

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Israel and Palestine:

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  • German bishops' remarks on West Bank are denounced | Jewish groups are condemning comments that drew a link between the plight of Palestinians in the West Bank and Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto during World War II (The New York Times)

  • Also: German bishops rile Holocaust memorial | The director of Israel's Holocaust memorial has said he was "appalled and surprised" by comments three Roman Catholic bishops from Germany made that compared conditions in the West Bank to the Holocaust (Associated Press)

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Missions and ministry:

  • Crank calling for Jesus | A "family values" media watchdog group called the Dove Foundation hopes to clean up Hollywood by making vaguely sinister computerized phone calls to millions of people all around the country (Wired)

  • On a mission to reduce world poverty | Is any Christian against ending world poverty? If not, why is the Rev. Ian T. Douglas, a professor at the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, evangelizing about the Christian obligation to help poor countries? (Rich Barlow, The Boston Globe)

  • Church organist required for jungle meteorite hunt | Church organists are rarely an essential part of expeditions into the Amazonian rainforest, but a team of scientists about to embark on a journey to a far-flung meteorite impact site in Bolivia believe that one will be key to achieving their mission (The Times, London)

  • Ex-Muslim tells how he became Christian | Daniel Shayesteh is one of a handful of former Muslims working to mobilize the Western church to make converts of Muslims living next door and overseas (Lexington Herald-Leader, Ky.)

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BattleCry returns to San Francisco:

  • Christian teens flock to BattleCry | More than 22,000 evangelical teenagers prayed, sang and screamed at AT&T Park on Saturday during BattleCry -- a mix of pep rally, rock concert and church service (San Francisco Chronicle)

  • Christian teens give voice to BattleCry | Event in San Francisco brings more than 20,000 youths to worship (Contra Costa Times, Ca.)

  • Dueling world views in San Francisco | By the tens of thousands, Christian teens poured into proudly liberal San Francisco on Friday for a two-day evangelical extravaganza where they would rock, pray and provoke progressives, who accused the movement of working toward a theocracy endangering "San Francisco values." (San Jose Mercury News, Ca.)

  • Teens 'embracing the coolness of Christ' at BattleCry (San Jose Mercury News, Ca.)

  • Christian right invades 'gay capital' | It is the type of event that cities usually salivate over. But when the group in question is a Christian ministry from Texas that condemns homosexuality and the place is San Francisco, the civic welcome wagon collapses pretty quickly (Scotland on Sunday)

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Stephen Prothero's Religious Literacy:

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  • Justices to hear landmark free-speech case | Defiant message spurs most significant student 1st Amendment test in decades (The Washington Post)

  • Controversy over suspensions grabs national attention | Administrators at Heritage High School repeatedly asked the students not to pray in the busy commons area and offered them room where they could meet before school. The students refused, triggering a showdown that ended with 11 suspensions (Religion News Service)

  • Religion policy questioned | Meeting sought with Wake board (The News & Observer, Raleigh, N.C.)

  • Bowing to Sikhs' call, California wants textbook change | The textbook contained a depiction of the founder of the Sikh religion wearing a crown and was deemed offensive (The New York Times)

  • O.C. Catholic teacher is fired | Officials won't say why, angering many students and parents at Santa Margarita Catholic High School (Los Angeles Times)

  • Threat to close schools | The Government is threatening to shut down two Christian schools unless they say whether staff are illegally hitting children (The Dominion Post, New Zealand)

  • Back to Ghana, to bear gift of education | Couple, who met in Africa, are raising money to build a school that will include girls (The Washington Post)

  • Church opposes education on sex | The Catholic Church voiced concern over the ongoing talks to introduce sex education in the current system of education as a way of curbing immorality, which is rife among the youth (The East African Standard, Kenya)

  • Not just the Bible | A bill that would allow public schools to teach a Bible course has been introduced in the Legislature, and already it has run into opposition from those who say the text book could lead young readers astray. Republicans are concerned it's a ploy by Democrats to "out religion" the GOP (Editorial, Times Daily, Florence, Ala.)

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  • Bones of contention | Those who argue that finding Jesus' bones would change nothing about the faith have a faith that is cordoned off from history (Editorial, The Christian Century)

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  • Talking about life | Radio host Krista Tippett finds conversation easily intersects with religion (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

  • Onward Christian content | Local Web site's TV shows are wholesome (Boston Herald)

  • Cyber church | Pastor Mike Furches' The Virtual Pew aims to draw people into discussions about spirituality (The Wichita Eagle, Kan.)

  • A miracle worker? | Shore man, 25, an answer to churches' tech prayers (Asbury Park Press, N.J.)

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Art and entertainment:

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  • His monastery documentary brings order to life | "Into Great Silence" director Philip Gröning waited 16 years for permission to film the Carthusians, a strict order of monks founded in 1084 (The Boston Globe)

  • Collectors still groove on vinyl | Tim Harris' crates of quirkier finds included subgenres of "outsider music," "loner folk," "spiritual jazz," "Christian ventriloquist" and "Christian pirate" music. That last category, he explained, typically involves former biker guys who got into bad accidents, lost limbs, and got into singing Christian music (The News & Observer, Raleigh, N.C.)

  • What are we singing? | The Church of England's sidelining of old hymns is cultural vandalism (Christopher Ohlson, The Guardian, London)

  • These mocking artists have no principles | They talk about a free society and love attacking our leaders, but religion makes them run (Nick Cohen, The Guardian, London)

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Money and business:

  • Charities boost pay to lure talent | Salaries for top executives at nonprofits have climbed 25% to 50% since 2000 (The Wall Street Journal)

  • Putting faith in religious mutual funds | More and more mutual funds are investing according to religious principles (Morningstar)

  • Grocery chains face wrath of God | Diocese of Exeter has waded into the debate over whether Tesco and other British supermarkets have grown too large (The Telegraph, London)

  • OPM's ruling on charity drive draws protest | The controversy involves a decision by the Office of Personnel Management, which administers the Combined Federal Campaign, to drop a requirement that charities spend no more than 25 percent of their revenue on fundraising and other overhead expenses (The Washington Post)

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  • Faith everlasting? | More than ever, Americans are questioning their religious identities to find what fits them best, a study says (Religion News Service)

  • Religion vs. spirituality | If you don't want to practice organized religion and you do want to practice a good life, that's fine. I know lots of people who live virtuous lives without going to church. I just question folks who justify their claim to be spiritually connected to a God when they cannot make the sacrifice of spending a few hours a week doing something they should do, not everything they want to do (Tim Gallagher, Ventura County Star, Ca.)

  • Clapping hands in church can be a way to praise God | I can't deny Scripture. As long as people are led by the Holy Spirit, clapping in honor and in praise of God appears to be appropriate. But I probably won't do it (Lonnie Wilkey, The Tennessean)

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  • Pastor gives up his daily bread | Cedric Portis has lost 80 pounds in the last 18 months as part of a commitment to the congregation of Third Presbyterian Church (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

  • The popular pastor | The Rev. Alyn Waller leads the fast-growing Enon Baptist church (Philadelphia Daily News)

  • Robert MacNeil and the cudgel of culture | At speech, he went so far as to compare Islamic fundamentalism with Jewish and Christian fundamentalism."I am not for a moment suggesting that our fundamentalists harbor any violent intentions," he said, "but the initial psychology is similar to that which inspires Islamic reformers." (Philip Kennicott, The Washington Post)

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Other stories of interest:

  • WTC search could find church relics | The search for the remains of Sept. 11 victims has moved across the street from the site of the World Trade Center to the lot of the destroyed St. Nicholas' Greek Orthodox Church, where important relics, including the bones of three saints, may also be buried (Associated Press)

  • Beyond stones & bones | The new science of human evolution (Newsweek)

  • Slaves among us | Nearly 400 years since the British ban, slavery still extends to all corners of the world -- developing and advanced (John Miller, Los Angeles Times)

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What is Weblog?

See our past Weblog updates:

March 9 | 2
February 26 | 14 | 2
January 24 | 19 | 17 | 12 | 9
January 5 | 4 | 2
December 29 | 22

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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