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December 26, 2012Culture

Top Religion News Stories of the Year

Last week, the Religion Newswriters Association released its top religious stories of 2012 along with its top news makers of 2012. As I have been doing my end of the year wrap up here at the blog, I thought it would be helpful to see where our LifeWay Research data or blog commentary intersected on these issues. The lists are below with links to my commentary or the LifeWay Research stories.

2012 Religion News Story of the Year

1. U.S. Catholic bishops lead opposition to Obamacare requirement that insurance coverage for contraception be provided for employees. -- I was in Washington, D.C., for other meetings the day the Supreme Court ruled on Obamacare and (sort-of) live-blogged the reaction from many in the faith community. LifeWay Research also reported that a majority of Americans support Obamacare.

2. A Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life survey shows that "nones" is the fastest-growing religious group in the United States, rising to 19.6 percent of the population. -- We dedicated an entire episode of The Exchange to "The Rise of the Nones." I also had an editorial in USA Today discussing the trend.

3. The circulation of an anti-Islam film trailer, "Innocence of Muslims," causes unrest in several countries, leading to claims that it inspired the fatal attack on a U.S. consulate in Libya.

4. Mitt Romney's Mormon faith turns out to be a virtual non-issue for white evangelical voters, who support him more strongly than they did John McCain, in the U.S. presidential race. -- LifeWay Research's election polling showed this to be true even before the election.

5. Monsignor William Lynn of Philadelphia becomes the first senior Catholic official in the U.S. to be found guilty of covering up priestly child abuse; later Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City, Mo., becomes the first bishop to be found guilty of it.

6. The Vatican criticizes the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, an umbrella group of U.S. nuns, alleging they haven't supported church teaching on abortion, sexuality or women's ordination.

7. Voters OK same-sex marriage in Maine, Maryland and Washington, bringing the total approving to nine states and the District of Columbia. Also, Minnesota defeats a ban on same-sex marriage after North Carolina approves one. -- President Obama came out in favor of homosexual marriage in the wake of the vote to ban it in North Carolina. I wrote on that here.

8. The Episcopal Church overwhelmingly adopts a trial ritual for blessing same-sex couples. Earlier, the United Methodists fail to vote on approving gay clergy, and the Presbyterians (USA) vote to study, rather than sanction same-sex marriage ceremonies.

9. Six people are killed and three wounded at worship in a Sikh temple in suburban Milwaukee. The shooter, an Army veteran killed by police, is described as a neo-Nazi. -- I had a chance to visit a Sikh Temple in London while on a trip with the Upstream Collective. You read see more about Sikhism and watch a short video of me and Daniel Montgomery at the temple in London here.

10. Southern Baptist Convention elects without opposition its first black president, the Rev. Fred Luter of New Orleans. -- I am encouraged about the growing diversity in my denomination. To think that a convention which began through a dispute over slave-holding missionaries would now elect an African-American president is a sign of God's continued grace to us.

2012 Religion Newsmaker of the Year

1. Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York becames a point man for Catholic objections to required coverage of contraception, sterilization and morning after drugs in Obamacare. -- I was encouraged by Cardinal Dolan's prayer to close out the DNC meeting in Charlotte earlier this year. You can read that prayer and see the video here.

2. Fred Luter, first black president of the sprawling Southern Baptist Convention, who is expected to help the SBC become more racially diverse. -- Again, the ethnic and racial landscape of denominations in America is changing...for the better.

3. Mark Basseley Youssef, an Egypt-born Christian whose work has been condemned by the Coptic Church, provoked rioting in the Muslim world with his film trailer "Innocence of Muslims." He was jailed in California on probation violations.

4. Mormon voters, who enthusiastically backed one of their own for president, acted in ways that helped overcome suspicions of them by other faiths. -- There was much said about Mormonism in the months leading up to the election. Some was helpful, most was not.

5. Pro football quarterback Tim Tebow, whose book about his faith was on the best-seller list, inspired the term "Tebowing" for kneeling in prayer and led to polarized discussions about the role of faith in sports.

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Top Religion News Stories of the Year