Missionaries rejected by International Missions Board over their pastor's sex
Don and Esther Gardner, members of Baptist Church of the Covenant in Birmingham, Alabama, were rejected as short-term missionaries by the Southern Baptist International Mission Board because their church's new pastor is a woman.

"They have to be consistent with the Baptist Faith and Message statement," IMB president Jerry Rankin told The Birmingham News. "They made it very clear that they supported women pastors. It was discussed with them, and they did endorse their pastor and there was disagreement."

"It sort of hurt," Esther Gardner told the paper. "We've been Southern Baptist all of our lives. It just hurt down deep in our gut . …They have the best missions organization in the world. I just disagree with their stand on the role of women."

But that view of women is enshrined in the denomination's revised Baptist Faith and Message, adopted in 2000. Earlier this year, some Baptist missionaries were outraged at Rankin's request that all IMB missionaries affirm the statement of faith. The Gardners told the News that he signed it—with lengthy addenda about what they disagreed with. Still, they said, they were willing to abide by the whole thing. "Every employer has the right to say, 'These are the guidelines, work within that,'" Don Gardner said. "If they want to force their theology on their people that work for them, I can live with that. I just stated that was not my personal belief."

The Gardners, retirees who have gone on several volunteer missions to Africa, will return to Swaziland anyway—albeit without the financial benefits of going with IMB.

"The people starving in Swaziland don't care that they have a woman pastor," says Sarah Shelton, who preached her first sermon as Baptist Church of the Covenant's pastor Sunday. "They just want someone to come help them."

Evangelical, charismatic church attendance grew considerably in 1990s
Many media outlets are covering the Glenmary Research Center's 2000 Religious Congregations & Membership study—a kind of religious census of the country that depends on denominational self-reporting. But most of those articles don't get it right.

"The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints grew at the fastest rate, with the Pentecostal denomination Assemblies of God following closely behind, the 2000 Religious Congregations & Membership study found," says the Associated Press report, which most papers carry today.

Likewise, The New York Times reports, "The study … found that the fastest-growing religious denomination in the last 10 years was the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints . …The denominations that recorded the next highest growth were the conservative Christian Churches and Churches of Christ … the Assemblies of God. … and the Roman Catholic Church."

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Indeed, the new study shows that Mormons experienced huge expansion in the 1990s, growing 19.3 percent over the 1990s to 4.2 million adherents.

But other evangelical denominations grew more percentage-wise, according to the survey. The Salvation Army is reportedly up 225.3 percent, the "Old" Missionary Baptist Associations 206.2 percent, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church 76.4 percent, the Evangelical Free Church of America 57.2 percent, International Pentecostal Holiness Church 53.3 percent, Wesleyan Church 46.9 percent, Baptist General Conference 42.3 percent, and the Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee) 40.2 percent. Granted, none of these have the millions of adherents that the Mormons or Catholics do, but it seems odd to dismiss these groups as irrelevant.

The Washington Post does better, saying "Catholics, Mormons, the charismatic Assemblies of God, and several small evangelical denominations were among the fastest-growing in the Washington region and nationwide," but still says the Mormons have "the fastest-growing church in the nation"

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American foreign policy:

  • End is nigh? | Perhaps Bush pursues war in Iraq so he won't be 'Left Behind' (Carroll Wilson, The Times Record News, Wichita Falls, Texas)

  • Catholic Bishops oppose a unilateral war on Iraq | The 60-member Administrative Committee of the Roman Catholic bishops conference drew a sharp line between U.S. military action over the last year in Afghanistan and a preemptive war with Iraq (Los Angeles Times)

  • Bush and clergy at odds on Iraq | Jim Winkler, general secretary of the United Methodist Church General Board of Church and Society, says president is acting "contrary to the teachings of Jesus Christ" (Boston Herald)

  • An evangelical group faults U.S. tilt toward Israel | Clerics' call for 'even-handedness' a break from pro-Sharon Christian Zionists (Forward)

  • Born-again Zionists | Christian conservatives are teaming with hard-line Jewish groups to transform American policy toward Israel (Mother Jones)

Faith after 9/11:

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  • Basic truths | The Christian right does not have a monopoly on religious devotion—or calls to respond to 9/11. Or anything else, for that matter (Margaret Downing, Houston Press)

  • Examining faith in the American experience | A bunch of new books on religion (The Washington Post)

Politics and law:

  • A conservative liberals should love | Confirming Michael McConnell would show that Democrats are interested in more than obstruction. (Cass R. Sunstein, The Wall Street Journal)

  • Also: Making ideology an issue | If the publications praised by Michael McConnell's colleagues for their wisdom and fairness block his confirmation, I fear for the confirmation process and the courts (Albert W. Alschuler, Chicago Tribune)

  • Faith-based bill close to Senate floor | Senate and White House negotiators were close late yesterday afternoon to reaching a final deal that would prevent Sen. Blanche Lincoln, Arkansas Democrat, from blocking a bill that is part of President Bush's faith-based initiative (The Washington Times)

  • Louisiana Republicans doubt candidate is pro-lifer | Susanne Haik Terrell accused of switched her stance on abortion out of political expediency (The Washington Times)

  • Religion a factor in Hawaii elections | Faith is affecting both voter assessments and candidate positions (The Honolulu Star-Bulletin)

  • Stockwell Day journeys from politics to pulpit | Says he relied on his spiritual beliefs for strength in the months before he was deposed as leader of the Canadian Alliance (The Gazette, Montreal)

  • Macedonia PM accepts defeat | Many hope the vote will help cement the peace process which brought an end to last year's conflict between Orthodox Christian Macedonians and the minority Muslim ethnic Albanians (BBC)

  • Earlier: From Lay Pastor to President | Macedonia's Boris Trajkovski uses both compassion and toughness to defuse a Balkan powder keg (Christianity Today, May 30, 2001)

  • Welfare promotes marriage | As White House and Congress debate more marriage promotion, states' efforts are working (The Washington Times)

  • Church leaders renew call for asylum changes | Christian leaders have again described Australia's system of dealing with asylum seekers as "inhumane" and "in crisis" (Australian Broadcasting Corp.)


  • Faith under fire | Christians in Pakistan face a wave of attacks that could escalate as the war on terror continues (San Diego Union-Tribune)

  • Hired goons burn church, kill two faithful in Kisii | The gang of about 100, armed with all sorts of crude weapons including arrows, simis and machetes, invaded the church at 12.30 pm attacking followers indiscriminately (The East African Standard, Nairobi, Kenya)

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  • Also: Church intact, say police | Kisii police boss Anderson Wambugu yesterday clarified that the Bogiakumu Catholic Church was not burned down during last Sunday's fracas that left two people dead (The East African Standard, Nairobi, Kenya)

  • Brooklyn church hit in bizarre graffiti attack | At the Good Shepherd Roman Catholic Church, swastikas were spray-painted in orange on the walls and doors while obscene messages—including the threat, "It's Getting Personal"—were sprayed across the windows (New York Post)

  • Also: Vandals spray church with symbols of hate (New York Daily News)

  • Catholics bemused by expulsions | Catholic church officials said last week that they were puzzled by the government's deafening silence and hints that President Vladimir Putin may have sided with the Orthodox Church (The Moscow Times)

  • Also: Russians battle for believers after Vatican brings in bishops | Five Catholic priests have been refused access to Russia so far this year, in a campaign denounced by the Vatican as "persecution" (Financial Times)

  • Also: Russia's antireligious ways | Can Russia achieve closer political and economic ties with the West while refusing equal rights for religious minorities? It seems the answer is yes. (John Hughes or Lawrence Uzzell, The Christian Science Monitor)

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