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Christian Leaders Mostly Condemn Hussein Execution

Plus: Remembering Gerald Ford and Harald Bredesen, D. James Kennedy suffers heart attack, Colorado Springs loses evangelical luster, and other stories from online sources around the world.
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Today's Top Ten

1. Vatican: Execution punished 'a crime with another crime'
While the Islamic world's debate on Saddam Hussein's execution seems largely centered on its timing, initial responses from Christian leaders seem to largely recycle the longstanding debate on whether capital punishment can ever be used. The Vatican's line on the subject seems unequivocal. Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican's press office, issued this official statement:



Capital punishment is always tragic news, a motive of sadness, even when it's a case of a person guilty of grave crimes.
The position of the Catholic Church against the death penalty has been confirmed many times.
The execution of the guilty party is not a path to reconstruct justice and to reconcile society. Indeed, there is the risk that, on the contrary, it may augment the spirit of revenge and sow seeds of new violence.
In this dark time in the life of the Iraqi people, it can only be hoped that all the responsible parties truly will make every effort so that, in this dramatic situation, possibilities of reconciliation and peace may finally be opened.

The National Catholic Reporter has other Catholic officials' comments. Cardinal Renato Martino, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace said the execution answered "a crime with another crime. … No one can give death, not even the state."

"It's not that we don't recognize Saddam was guilty of horrendous crimes," an unnamed senior Vatican official said. "But we don't believe that the death penalty is justified, even in such cases."

The Catechism of the Catholic Church is a bit more nuanced:

The traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude, presupposing full ascertainment of the identity and responsibility of the offender, recourse to the death penalty, when this is the only practicable way to defend the lives of human beings effectively against the aggressor. … Today, in fact, given the means at the State's disposal to effectively repress crime by rendering inoffensive the one who has committed it, without depriving him definitively of the possibility of redeeming himself, cases of absolute necessity for suppression of the offender today … are very rare, if not practically non-existent.

Jonathan Gledhill, the Church of England's Bishop of Lichfield, seems to be the first—and perhaps only—mainline Christian leader to publicly argue that Hussein's execution was just. The Telegraph reports that Gledhill

said that anyone who deliberately murdered another human being "immediately forfeited his or her right to life."
The bishop said that there were good reasons to oppose the death penalty but Saddam's execution could not be criticized as unjust because he had been afforded a fair trial and an opportunity to appeal.

Gledhill's colleagues disagreed, with Bishop of Ripon and Leeds John Packer saying:

Maybe it will raise in the public mind how offensive and morally unacceptable this form of justice is. The element of forgiveness central to Christianity is lost in execution. … Humiliating a human being in this way can only lead to increased disrespect and increased violence. The photographs of the execution seemed inappropriate.

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams weighed in during a BBC interview before the execution:

I'm not a believer in the death penalty as a general principle. He's being tried under a jurisdiction which has the death penalty; he seems to be undoubtedly guilty of what he's been charged with but I think I'd have to separate out the morality of the death penalty from 'should Saddam Hussein be hanged?', because I don't believe in the death penalty. I think that Saddam Hussein is manifestly someone who has committed grave crimes against his own people and grave breaches of international law. I think he deserves punishment, and sharp and unequivocal punishment; I don't think that he should be at liberty, but I would say of him what I have to say about anyone who's committed even the most appalling crimes in this country; that I believe the death penalty effectively says 'there is no room for change or repentance'.

The World Council of Churches issued a statement that says, in part:

That a leader has been held responsible for one of his crimes is significant. However, the World Council of Churches is opposed to the death penalty. Each taking of a person's life is a part of a larger tragedy and nowhere is this more apparent than in a land of daily killings.

Weblog has not seen any comment from evangelical leaders so far. Perhaps that's because, in most evangelical circles there is little condemnation of capital punishment for far less notorious crimes.

Update: Evangelicals in Uganda, at least, are reportedly condemning the execution, too.

2. Ford's faith in focus
Most news articles on Ford memorial services have so far offered little information about the spiritual content of those services. Such religious memorial services—especially for heads of state—do tend to be more about the deceased than about God, but there are usually some nuggets about the kind of God the decedent worshiped.

It's a good thing, then, that we have Time and Newsweek. The former examines the relationship between the president and Gospel Communications founder Billy Zeoli, and also argues that Ford's intensely private (but intense) faith cost him the 1976 election. The latter's editor notes in The Washington Post that one time when Ford's religiosity was anything but private — in the religious language of forgiveness and grace he used to announce Nixon's pardon — was important in forming "America's public religion."

3. Harald Bredesen dies at 88
The Lutheran minister was one of the charismatic movement's most influential leaders. In fact, he coined the term "charismatic renewal" with his colleague, Jean Stone. Though his legacy is truly in the way he encouraged charismatic practices like speaking in tongues in mainline denominations (he once worked for the World Council of Churches) and brought a kind of respectability to the movement through his work with political leaders, most obituaries will be noting the way he promoted his former student assistant, M.G. (Pat) Robertson.

4. D. James Kennedy and Al Mohler hospitalized
Kennedy, the prominent and often political pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, suffered a significant heart attack Friday and was in grave condition for some time. He has reportedly shown significant improvement.

Mohler was hospitalized Wednesday and underwent abdominal surgery, during which scar tissue from an older operation was removed.

5. More on Mitt's Mormonism
Weblog will probably be linking to articles about Mitt Romney and Mormonism for a while, so we won't always make special note of them. But two stories over the weekend are particularly worth noting. Damon Linker's recent book The Theocons wasn't exactly an evangelical favorite, but his cover story in The New Republic will probably shape much of the coverage to come. "Whereas [John F.]Kennedy set voters' minds at ease by declaring in unambiguous terms that he considered the separation of church and state to be 'absolute,' Romney intends to run for president as the candidate of the religious right, which believes in blurring the distinction between politics and religion," Linker writes. "Romney thus needs to convince voters that they have nothing to fear from his Mormonism while simultaneously placing that faith at the core of his identity and his quest for the White House."

Skim Linker's New Republic piece. Clip and save Drake Bennett's Sunday Boston Globe article. "While few dispute the social conservativism of the LDS church and its members, it is also true that on some key issues they don't fall neatly into line with the religious right's priorities," he writes. On abortion, stem-cell research, the teaching of evolution, school prayer, and other issues, Mormon teachings aren't quite as conservative as the checklists of evangelical Christian political groups, Bennett writes. He wrongly presumes that evangelical believers are more uniform on these subjects than Mormons are, but watch this sentence appear elsewhere: on his culture war stances, "he seems more a conservative evangelical than a Mormon."

6. Colorado Springs paper: Are we still evangelical HQ?
Colorado Springs became "a right-wing Christian mecca" or "evangelical Vatican" as Ted Haggard's star rose, notes The Colorado Springs Gazette. Now that he's gone in a scandal, say several observers, the city's reputation will probably disappear, too. James Dobson can't save it, the paper's sources say. The 2006 election brought him low, too, they argue.

7. Rwanda's purpose-driven president
The Orange County Register's ongoing series on Rick Warren continues, with 19 installments so far. Sunday's Q&A was interesting (we had a similar interview), but we missed a harder hitting Christmas Eve article on the relationship between Warren and Rwandan president Paul Kagame. Here's the nut of Gwendolyn Driscoll's article:

The former director of military intelligence for neighboring Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has brought stability to Rwanda but also an authoritarian style of governance that worries nongovernmental organizations and human-rights observers. By working so closely with Kagame, they say, Warren and his teams of PEACE missionaries may be unwittingly playing politics.
The result of this relationship between the African leader and the evangelical pastor has implications for the effectiveness of faith-based initiatives such as the PEACE plan. It may also test Saddleback Church's ability to discern the character of a country and a culture that even Rwandans describe as notoriously opaque.

The relationship, Driscol writes, is "uncommon because one of the five goals of Warren's PEACE plan is to 'combat egocentric leadership.' In general, Warren says, this means steering clear of Africa's often corrupt leaders. … For Warren, Kagame is the exception to the rule ."

8. Cleaving (and leaving) in the Church of England
A new report cited by The Times of London says that at least 51 Church of England priests, including four lesbians, have "married" in civil partnership ceremonies. George Curry, chairman of the evangelical Church Society, sounds disappointed but not surprised. "These figures expose the bishops' failure of leadership," he said.

9. Did you kill a possible Christian movie boom?
Perhaps you did if you skipped The Nativity Story, the Los Angeles Times suggests. "The soft $8-million opening … wounded its chances of becoming a big holiday hit and could damp Hollywood's enthusiasm for big-budget faith-based movies," Lorenza Muñoz writes. The film also "did not perform well in predominately Christian countries such as Italy or Spain or in Latin America." Still, the paper admits, it's no flop. It's just not making Passion bucks, either. Paul Asay, the Colorado Springs Gazette's religion reporter, notes in the paper's religion blog that "the film got stronger as December wore on."

10. Life can be cushy for those who support Scrushy
"Churches and religious groups received most of the $716,000 in donations handed out by the Richard M. Scrushy Charitable Foundation in 2005, the year pastors and leaders of those groups regularly attended the fraud trial that ended with the HealthSouth founder's acquittal," The Birmingham News reported Sunday. "In 2004, his foundation made donations totaling $882,000, around $700,000 of which was to predominantly black churches and groups that made up the so-called "Amen Corner" that showed up daily at his six-month trial."

Quote of the day
"The phrase 'science and religion' has been hijacked by the Intelligent Design people."

Pamela Thompson, vice president for communications for The Templeton Foundation, explaining the group's dropping of the phrase in favor of its new motto: "Supporting Science: Investing in the Big Questions." Thompson was quoted by The Christian Century.

More articles

Iraq | Life ethics | Australia's pregnancy helpline | Politics | Religious freedom | Muslim officials | Mitt Romney | Gerald Ford | D. James Kennedy | People | Ted Haggard | Sexual ethics | Anglicanism | Church life | Abuse | Crime | Witchcraft | Spirituality | New Year | Giving | Money and business | Missions and ministry | Higher education | Education | Books | History | Art, entertainment, and media | Sports | Other stories of interest

Iraq:

  • Vatican spokesman denounces execution | The execution is "tragic and reason for sadness," the Rev. Federico Lombardi said, speaking in French on Vatican Radio's French-language news program (Associated Press)

  • Saddam 'forfeited right to life,' says bishop | The Bishop of Lichfield, the Rt Rev Jonathan Gledhill, said that there were good reasons to oppose the death penalty but Saddam's execution could not be criticised as unjust because he had been afforded a fair trial and an opportunity to appeal (The Telegraph, London)

  • Was Saddam's execution on Sunni Eid illegal? | Section 290 of Iraq's Law on Criminal Proceedings (1971) provides, "death penalty cannot be carried out on official holidays and special festivals connected with the religion of the condemned person." (Religion Clause)

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Life ethics:

  • N.H. attorney general asks judge to keep notification | In the coming months, lawmakers will consider repealing the state's 2003 parental-notification law that requires a minor to tell a parent or judge before having an abortion. In the meantime, however, the court battle over the law's legality continues (Concord Monitor, N.H.)

  • Also: Future of abortion law up in the air | After sweeping Republicans out in November, New Hampshire Democrats have a chance to repeal the law, but it's not clear they will -- or even can (Associated Press)

  • Panel holds key to abortion bills | Most pre-session conversations are about priorities, but the interesting denominator this time from lawmakers is their attitude about the return of a bill echoing the abortion ban from last session. But voters defeated it, and a key committee that probably would be involved in that debate - Senate State Affairs - has a decidedly moderate makeup (Argus Leader, Sioux Falls, S.D.)

  • Also: 'Fatigue' may dim abortion legislation | Lawmakers in the 2007 Legislature likely will not see anything similar to last year's HB1215, an abortion ban that passed the session but failed at the ballot box, an abortion opponent says (Rapid City Journal, S.D.)

  • Group recommends Down syndrome testing | It's not just a question of whether to continue the pregnancy, says Dr. James Goldberg of San Francisco Perinatal Associates. Prenatal diagnosis also is important for those who wouldn't consider abortion, because babies with Down syndrome can need specialized care at delivery that affects hospital selection (Associated Press)

  • Missouri's stem-cell mistake | Embryonic stem-cell research corrupts science, the law, and the sanctity of human life (David Prentice, The Christian Science Monitor)

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Australia's pregnancy helpline:

  • Abbott defends Catholic role in abortion helpline | Federal Health Minister Tony Abbott says he is confident a Catholic church agency will be able to provide professional and independent advice to women with its new helpline service (The Australian)

  • Pro-lifers 'may hijack pregnancy advice' | Two anti-abortion Catholic support services that will help formulate advice for pregnant women are facing accusations of conflict of interest (AAP, Australia)

  • Dismay over anti-abortion 'bias' | The decision to award a government pregnancy counselling contract to the Catholic church is an example of continued bias toward anti-abortion groups, Australian Democrats senator Natasha Stott-Despoja says (AAP, Australia)

  • No counselling from Catholic agency | A Catholic welfare agency said today its involvement in a government-funded pregnancy counselling helpline was small and it would not be providing counselling services itself (AAP, Australia)

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Politics:

  • The pastor and the president | In Paul Kagame, Rick Warren says he has found a partner for his PEACE plan. But the Rwandan president may have another purpose (The Orange County Register, Ca.)

  • Bush has quietly tripled aid to Africa | Increase in funding to impoverished continent is viewed as altruistic or pragmatic (The Washington Post)

  • Trounced at polls, Kansas GOP is still plagued by infighting | Party puts ousted official in his opponent's old post (The Washington Post)

  • Two parties in the pews | The Dec. 1 appearance of US Senator Barack Obama at the World AIDS Day summit signals one possible, and hopeful, future for American politics (Alan Wolfe, The Boston Globe)

  • Religious leaders embrace Patrick | Setting aside their differences over same-sex marriage, many of the leading black ministers in Boston plan on Tuesday night to praise and to pray for Governor-elect Deval Patrick, laying their hands on his head in the ancient Christian ritual symbol of blessing (The Boston Globe)

  • Religious groups promise to keep governor in prayers | Interfaith service kicks off inaugural events Granholm's priest talks about jobs, health care needs (Lansing State Journal, Mi.)

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Religious freedom:

  • Himachal Pradesh passes anti-conversion legislation | The Congress-led government in the state passed the legislation during its four-day winter session held at the newly constructed Vidhan Sabha (State Legislature) in Dharamshala on Friday (ANI, India)

  • Chinese church official denies crackdown | A senior official in China's state-sanctioned Catholic church on Saturday denied his association was cracking down on churches loyal to the Vatican following an unconfirmed media report that nine priests were arrested this week (Associated Press)

  • Judges uphold law on inmate religion | In a ruling favorable to an inmate who sued after a Virginia prison denied his request for kosher meals, a federal appeals court on Friday upheld a federal law that protects the religious rights of incarcerated people (Associated Press)

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Muslim officials:

  • Muslim mayor avoids mixing politics, religion | Mohamed Khairullah set a precedent in November by becoming the state's first elected Arab-American Muslim mayor. Now he's all about proving that, like any good politician, a Muslim can serve the public without mixing religion into it (NorthJersey.com)

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Mitt Romney:

  • Imperfect fit | When Mitt Romney's religion is mentioned these days, we often hear that Mormons and evangelicals, despite theological differences, are on the same page politically. But while Mormon voters are among the country's most conservative, there are key issues on which they don't line up neatly with the religious right (The Boston Globe)

  • A Mormon in the White House | Mitt Romney says he takes his Mormonism seriously. Maybe the rest of us should, too (Damon Linker, The New Republic)

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Gerald Ford:

  • No pomp for a president in repose | A prayer service Friday for Gerald Ford was attended by his widow, Betty, and other immediate family members (The New York Times)

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D. James Kennedy:

  • Prominent pastor suffers heart attack | The Rev. D. James Kennedy, the longtime pastor of Fort Lauderdale's Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church and a driving force in the national religious conservative movement, was in serious condition Friday (South Florida Sun-Sentinel)

  • Prayers pour in for Coral Ridge pastor | His condition said to be improving after heart attack (South Florida Sun-Sentinel)

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People:

  • Lutheran minister Harald Bredesen dies at 88 | Helped shape ministry of Pat Robertson (Los Angeles Times)

  • Albert Mohler recovering from abdominal surgery | He was admitted Wednesday to Baptist Hospital East in Louisville after experiencing abdominal pain (Associated Press)

  • Seeing the light -- of science | Ronald Numbers -- a former Seventh-day Adventist and author of the definitive history of creationism -- discusses his break with the church, whether creationists are less intelligent and why Galileo wasn't really a martyr (Salon.com)

  • Not everybody loves Patricia | For those familiar only with Patricia Heaton's light comedy or political profile, her gale-force performance in the play "The Scene" may come as a surprise (The New York Times)

  • Faith is a guiding light in Knight's long career | Like so many of the great female R&B singers, Gladys Knight grew up in gospel music. The woman who famously sang "Midnight Train to Georgia" still lifts her voice up for her faith. But to the surprise of some fans, the forum for that faith these days is Mormonism (Los Angeles Times)

  • Hard rock preacher | Jay Bakker, Jim and Tammy Faye's prodigal son, has come into his own as an alternative preacher, a pilgrimage chronicled in a Sundance Channel reality-TV series (Minneapolis Star-Tribune)

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Ted Haggard:

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Sexual ethics:

  • Gay marriage outcome today uncertain | Supporters of same-sex marriage are scrambling to hold together a shaky coalition of lawmakers today in hopes of blocking a vote on a proposed constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage in Massachusetts (The Boston Globe)

  • Pro-gay marriage Mass. lawmakers ask lawsuit be found "frivolous" | Lawmakers targeted in a $5 million federal lawsuit by an anti-gay marriage group shot back on Friday, giving the group 21 days to withdraw the suit on the grounds that it is "frivolous" (Associated Press)

  • The expanding circle of rights | This mean-spirited ban does not belong in the state constitution, which has never been used to restrict civil rights. We urge legislators to reject the amendment and the costly, divisive circus of a campaign that would doubtless follow its appearance on the 2008 ballot (Editorial, The Boston Globe)

  • Premarital-sex study exaggerated | I'm betting the impact of the study would be significantly different if a few more questions were asked (Bob Lonsberry, The Washington Times)

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Anglicanism:

  • Archbishop faces clash over gay marriages of 50 priests | The Church of England is facing a new rift over homosexual clergy with the disclosure that more than 50 gay or lesbian priests have "married" in civil partnership ceremonies (The Times, London)

  • Episcopal bishop to Christ Church: Pay up or get out | Debate escalates between conservative congregation and the Episcopal Church (Savannah Morning News, Ga.)

  • Petaluma congregation severs ties | A Petaluma church has voted to sever its relationship with the Episcopal Church, the latest in a growing list of defections prompted by the national church's stance on gays and lesbians (San Francisco Chronicle)

  • The Archbishop | Devout politician Desmond Tutu muses on the state of South Africa (Tunku Varadarajan, The Wall Street Journal)

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Church life:

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Abuse:

  • Erie judge: Comments to pastor out in molestation case | Prosecutors cannot use comments a man accused of child molestation made to his minister about the allegations, even though the minister volunteered the information to police, a judge ruled (Associated Press)

  • Priest's suspension is over | Archdiocese will reassign Kiffmeyer to clergy work (The Cincinnati Post)

  • Also: Ohio priest accused of abuse reinstated | The Vatican has reinstated a priest suspended in 2002 over allegations of sexual misconduct and will allow him to return to active ministry after undergoing counseling, the Archdiocese of Cincinnati said (Associated Press)

  • Former pastor's probation may be revoked | According to court documents filed Tuesday, former Baptist minister Jeffery Heberlein violated the terms of his probation by refusing to continue a polygraph test given on Dec. 5 at the Illinois State Police Division of Forensic Science Laboratory in Springfield (The Telegraph, Alton, Ill.)

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Crime:

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Witchcraft:

  • Alleged African witches still outcast to camps | Belief in witchcraft remains widespread in Africa, the world's poorest continent, where Christianity and Islam rub shoulders with animist religions, and where witch doctors wield great power in tribal societies (Reuters)

  • A pastor saved from witchcraft | Pastor Michael Kimuli of Christian Discipleship Ministries, Namungoona, says his dream was to become a reverend. So he is not surprised to see himself as a pastor even though he comes from a family of witchdoctors (New Vision, Uganda)

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Spirituality:

  • Beliefwatch: Blasphemy | 'Hi my name is Lindy and I deny the existence of the Holy Spirit and you should too.' (Newsweek)

  • Humanity is keeping the faith, despite its doubters | Institutional religion may be faltering in western Europe, but it is flourishing in many other parts of the world. How can this be? (Ron Ferguson, The Herald, Glasgow)

  • Why our Christian legacy gets an each-way bet | Our disdain for authority, fascination with what's new and preference for self-expression count against traditional faith as they count against other institutions we once instinctively respected (Tony Abbott, The Sydney Morning Herald)

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New Year:

  • Ending 2006 with 'amen' | Many celebrations across region focus on religion rather than spirits (The Washington Post)

  • Pope urges worldwide peace in new year | The pontiff, who wished tens of thousands of pilgrims crowded into St. Peter's Square "peace and well being" in 2007, prayed that people would develop a "sacred respect for every person and the firm repudiation of war and violence" (Associated Press)

  • At the party, urging a sin-free new year | Robert Ephrata, a fundamentalist preacher, has become a fixture of New Year's Eve on the Las Vegas Strip for the past four years (The New York Times)

  • Holy but not silent | A pastor and his church-based band will pump up the volume on their pop and rock music at Fullerton's New Year's Eve blowout (The Orange County Register, Ca.)

  • Rick Warren offers inspiration for 2007 | Prominent Pastor encourages Americans to have faith in the new year (Good Morning America, ABC)

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Giving:

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Money and business:

  • God, mammon, and casinos | Leaders of houses of worship near planned gambling houses debate the potential damage vs. the millions in casino charity (The Philadelphia Inquirer)

  • Savvy marketers target 'Faith and Family' flock | Cracking U.S. Christian—particularly evangelical—markets demands differing strategies, one expert says, but the payoff can be 'a very loyal audience' (National Post, Canada)

  • Ruling expected soon in Christian health care case | Franklin County Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate could rule within the next two weeks on whether Medi-Share can continue to operate in Kentucky. The Kentucky Department of Insurance has asked Wingate to ban the program because it is not subject to the same laws and regulations that govern conventional health insurance companies (Associated Press)

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Missions and ministry:

  • Christian crusader starts major soul-saving effort | The leader of the Global Pastors Network plans a drive to save 1 billion souls worldwide. (The Orlando Sentinel)

  • Religious passion draws students | Passion 07 event is designed like a colossal youth worship service, including speakers, contemporary Christian music and breakout sessions where participants ask hard questions about the challenges of being a young Christian. (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

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Higher education:

  • A new testament to the power of technology | Fuller Theological Seminary plans to add its first chapels, along with video and audio gear to connect with Internet-savvy students (Los Angeles Times)

  • Amen for a Catholic campus | With only one student still attending classes at soon-to-close Ave Maria College, in Michigan, the president and the few remaining faculty members tie up boxes and loose ends (The Chronicle of Higher Education, sub. req'd.)

  • Course explores the changing meaning of miracles | A University of Notre Dame news release lauding this course mocked secular explanations for what the Christian faiths hold as miracles (The Chronicle of Higher Education, sub. req'd.)

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Education:

  • Bible study elective in schools debated | Michigan Atheists says class is unconstitutional; curriculum committee will review the course (The Detroit News)

  • School fury over 'land grab' by Church of England | A top grammar school is accusing the Church of England of an evangelical land grab after local bishops persuaded the Government to hand it over to Anglican control (The Times, London)

  • Creationism gains foothold in schools | The government has cleared the way for a form of creationism to be taught in Britain's schools as part of the religious syllabus. (The Times, London)

  • A strange silence in Kearny | It is truly disturbing that so few school officials and community residents seemed bothered by a Kearny teacher who blatantly crossed the church-state boundary (Editorial, The New York Times)

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Books:

  • Songwriter's death leads to suits against preacher | On her Web site, Darlene Bishop promises that her book, Your Life Follows Your Words, reveals "how God healed her of breast cancer" and a brother of throat cancer. Nowhere, though, does she mention, that the brother, Darrell Perry, a successful country music songwriter whom everyone called Wayne, died from the cancer a year and a half ago (The New York Times)

  • Interfaith approach to forgiving trespass | Amy-Jill Levine shows how frequently and disastrously inaccurate beliefs about Jesus and early Judaism produce distorted relationships in the present. Julie Glambush reviews The Misunderstood Jew (The New York Times)

  • Also: Misusing Jesus | How the church divorces Jesus from Judaism (Amy-Jill Levine, The Christian Century)

  • Conversion story | Garry Wills insists that both Paul of Tarsus and Jesus opposed "religion" — and that they were in fact both killed by it. Damon Linker reviews What Paul Meant (The New York Times Book Review)

  • History textbook gives religion its due | No dry academic exercise, the flowing narrative makes Unto a Good Land an enjoyable read for anyone seeking a broad overview of American history (Associated Press)

  • Something worth fighting for | Books on religion and politics show that for millions, God isn't dead (The Baltimore Sun)

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History:

  • Pontiff-to-be helped rescue thousands of Hungary's Jews | Newly discovered records document the role of Monsignor Angelo Roncalli, a Vatican diplomat in Istanbul during World War II who later became Pope John XXIII, in helping rescue thousands of Hungarian Jews from the Holocaust (The Washington Times)

  • £1m bid as Bard's church crumbles | Campaigners are making an urgent appeal to raise up to £1m to repair the crumbling church where William Shakespeare was baptized and buried (BBC)

  • Unraveling the myths about Mary | Mary is a near-total cipher in terms of documented biography; like her son, she is a canvas on which different cultures and generations have painted their own notions. (Rich Barlow, The Boston Globe)

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Art, entertainment, and media:

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Sports:

  • Ex-NFL star now hauls in lost souls | The stadiums where he once spent his Sundays were still filling with fans as kickoff neared all over the N.F.L., but the Rev. Irving Fryar had already broken a sweat at the pulpit of his new church (The New York Times)

  • God is my quarterback | NFL chaplains battle player self-doubt (Bloomberg)

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Other stories of interest:

  • Templeton Foundation fights ID tag | "The phrase 'science and religion' has been hijacked by the Intelligent Design people," says Pamela Thompson, Templeton's vice president for communications, explaining the foundation's new motto (The Christian Century)

  • Priest's death shows Russia's rural rot | The 31-year old priest and his family were seen as a beacon of hope in the grim reality of joblessness, decay and alcoholism that characterizes rural Russia (Reuters)

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