Baptist pastor gunned down while praying
Baptist minister Sergei Bessarab was shot 13 times with a Kalashnikov assault rifle Monday evening, apparently while he was praying in his church in the northern Tajikistan town of Isfar, near the borders of Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.

Reuters quotes officials saying that nothing was taken from the church and a motive is unknown. The Itar-Tass news agency says Bessarab was a missionary from the capital, Dushanbe, and the local leader of the Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists.

According to Operation World, Christians make up only 1.4 percent of Tajikistan's population, with only 4,000 Protestants (about .06 percent of the population). Baptists are the largest Protestant group in the country, with about 500 members and 1,000 affiliates in 20 congregations.

Forum 18, an Oslo-based persecution watchdog/news agency, reported earlier this month that its reporters were "told by some that an official campaign against Christian proselytism may soon be launched." Expect Forum 18 to have more on Bessarab's murder in the next few days.

That's about all Weblog knows at this stage: The only Sergei Bessarab on Google is a Russian landscape artist.

Washington Post: Conservative Episcopalians plan widespread disobedience to church law
"Episcopalians who oppose the consecration of a gay bishop are preparing to engage in widespread disobedience to church law in 2004, according to a confidential document outlining their strategy," Washington Post religion reporter Alan Cooperman reports in today's edition.

The main author of the six-page plan, Geoff Chapman, says the document is legit. "Our ultimate goal," he wrote, "[is a] replacement jurisdiction … closely aligned with the majority of world Anglicanism."

But it's a letter from Chapman, senior pastor of St. Stephen's Church in Sewickley, Pennsylvania, to Episcopalians who have contacted the American Anglican Council. Does it represent Chapman's views or those of the AAC? Likely the latter: Chapman, after all, was in charge of overseeing churches' applications for "alternative oversight" through the AAC.

The two-stage process that the document outlines, however, isn't all that surprising, given recent AAC actions. Phase one is already underway, as parishes say that their relationship with their diocesan bishop is "severely damaged" and apply for alternative oversight.

Phase two, which Chapman says is likely this year, will entail "negotiated settlements" over property and oversight. "If settlements cannot be reached, the document says, 'faithful disobedience of canon law on a widespread basis may be necessary,'" Cooperman writes.

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Expect more on this from such sites as Midwest Conservative Journal and Classical Anglican Net News.

More on Anglicanism:

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Jack Kelley troubles continue:

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Religious freedom:

  • Minority report: why Pakistan gets an F? | Minority rights groups in Pakistan are threatening to launch protests against the killing of two priests in the last six months, bringing the total number of Christians killed in the past four years to 46 (Indo-Asian News Service)
  • Make the tough decisions | Since September 11, world attention has focused on the dangers of Islamic extremism. Unfortunately, threats to human rights are tied to only one religion. The disturbing political trends in India — fueled by Hindu extremists and their allies in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led Indian government — have largely been ignored (Paul Marshall, The Washington Times)
  • Brazil: Settlers kidnap missionaries and attack indigenous people | Settlers have invaded a Catholic mission in an indigenous reserve in Roraima State, Brazil, in protest at government plans to guarantee the land to indigenous peoples (Amnesty International U.K., link via Christian Headlines)

Religious discrimination:

  • Health official, Yuba settle suit | Yuba County Health Officer Joe Cassady sued the county and others in September 2002, alleging that county employees were out to destroy his career because he's an evangelical Christian (Appeal-Democrat, Marysville-Yuba City, Calif.)
  • Council asked to replace Columbus Day with Orthodox Christmas | Orthodox Councilman has tried twice before, saying lack of holiday is discriminatory (Post-Tribune, Merrillville, Ind.)
  • The faulty logic of religious hate | If Mr. Khatami wants to look for religious hatred, he might find it by looking in the mirror (Chuck Brooks, The Mississippi Press)
  • Earlier: Parents get God back in 'God Bless the USA' | Angry parents got "God" put back in Lee Greenwood's patriotic anthem "God Bless the USA," which was changed to "I Love the USA" by the directors of a school show (Associated Press)

San Antonio church vandalized:

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Religion and politics:

  • Candidates should apply faith to all their policies | If morals and ethics don't affect political decisions, they're not really morals and ethics (Brian Lewis, The Tennesssean, Nashville)
  • State senator joins in Nativity scene | In one of the more bizarre Christmas mailings by a local pol, Tom Reynolds last month sent out a postcard of Jesus in the manger, but he substituted pictures of himself, his wife and their five children for key figures at the Nativity scene (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)
  • Hate speech and the American way | American tolerance for dissent that calls for the violent overthrow of the government and for racial hate is unique — but not absolute (Adam Liptak, The New York Times)
  • Politicians miss religion's middle ground | To define the separation of religious commitment and presidential politics only from the "God gap" angle is to ignore the gap between politicians and those Americans who are critical believers, who try to be both critical of and faithful to a religious tradition (Leo Sandon, Tallahassee Democrat, Fla.)
  • Politicians must wrestle with place of religion in political life | Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, a Catholic, recently took fire after quoting the New Testament while questioning some conservative lawmakers' commitment to the needy (Associated Press)
  • You do love God, right? | Piety, politics, and polls about religion (Steve Perry, City Pages, Minneapolis)
  • Talking politics, religion | For the second time in a month, a local religious leader visits the White House and meets Bush (St. Petersburg Times, Fla.)

Dean's religion and politics:

  • A wise Howard Dean will keep religion out of his politics | Dean isn't vowing to eat more soul food to prove how in touch he is with the black experience. Such a notion would be ridiculous and insulting. That's why his decision to acquiesce to the temptation to appear "more Christian" as his presidential campaign heads into the South strikes a false note with so many (Tony Norman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
  • Dean's pedicured foot firmly in mouth | Dean's explanations are weirder than the original gaffes (Jonah Goldberg)


  • Evangelicals press Bush on AIDS funding | A week before President Bush gives his State of the Union address, evangelical leaders Tuesday urged the president to make good on his promise to fight global AIDS by providing $3.6 billion in his budget proposal for 2005 (Religion News Service)
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Pledge of Allegiance:


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Life ethics:

  • Fla. court disallows guardian for fetus | A state appeals court upheld a decision that a guardian could not be appointed for the fetus of a mentally disabled rape victim, striking another blow to Gov. Jeb Bush's bid to extend guardianship rights to unborn children (Associated Press)
  • Beyond Terri's Law | What we can learn from the Schiavo case (Wesley J. Smith, The Weekly Standard)
  • Brain-damaged woman won't get guardian | Chief Judge David Demers ruled that he would not reappoint a guardian to the case, citing pending litigation over the constitutionality of the law that called for the guardian for Terri Schiavo (Associated Press)
  • Maryland abortion foes try new rules tactic | A group of lawmakers calling themselves the Pro-Life Caucus say they will introduce a bill to require free-standing abortion clinics to operate under the same licensing rules as other outpatient medical facilities (The Washington Times)
  • Roe, Roe, Roe their boats | When it comes to abortion, Democrats hate democracy (William McGurn, The Wall Street Journal)
  • GOP dominates antiabortion rally | Midlands residents at march say they'll back only candidates who oppose abortion (The State, Columbia, S.C.)

Catholic pro-abortion politicians refused communion:

  • Bishop: No Communion for abortion backers | A Roman Catholic bishop who waded into politics with a decree that lawmakers who support abortion rights can no longer receive Holy Communion has ignited a debate over the separation of church and state (Associated Press)
  • Legislators can't have Eucharist, bishop says | Don't serve supporters of abortion rights, euthanasia, Burke says (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)
  • Separation of church and state | The Bishop's ban on Communion for politicians voting the abortion issue makes a mockery of the Catholic Church. When people elect representatives to Congress, they elect individuals who represent people of all faiths (Stuart James, The Chattanoogan, Tenn.)
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The Passion of the Christ and other films:

  • Gospel-tract authors put spin on Mel Gibson movie | The American Tract Society is weighing in on the controversy surrounding Mel Gibson's soon-to-be-released The Passion of the Christ with tracts that attempt to answer one question posed by the movie: Who is responsible for Jesus Christ's death? (Associated Press)
  • Also: Who is responsible for Jesus' death? | American Tract Society's "Passion" tracts answers controversial movie's question (Press release)
  • Also: Read the tract
  • The Gospel according to cinema | In the last few weeks Kansas City audiences have seen two overtly religious films playing in mainstream movie houses, and a third, more controversial movie opens early next year (Kansas City Star)
  • Scott's Crusades cameras banned from cathedral | The Catholic Church in Spain has refused to allow the filming of a new epic in a former mosque (The Daily Telegraph, London)


  • Preacher's conviction over anti-gay sign upheld | A preacher who held up a sign in a town square calling for an end to homosexuality, lesbianism and immorality was "properly convicted" of a criminal offence, the High Court ruled yesterday (The Daily Telegraph, London)
  • Legal battle over 'end homosexuality' sign | Two judges at the High Court in London were told the decision to convict the late Harry John Hammond, a "sincere" 69-year-old evangelical Christian, for displaying an "insulting" sign hit at the heart of freedom of expression and infringed human rights (PA, U.K.)
  • Lawmaker at 'homo-fascism' event unmasked | A gay rights group last month called for an investigation of the unnamed state senator who attended the 2003 International Conference on Homo-Fascism - a meeting of extremists opposing "the sodomite agenda." He's no longer unnamed (Cary Spivak & Dan Bice, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)
  • When types of discrimination compete for legal recognition | Should anti-gay religious practices be accommodated in the workplace? (Sherry F. Colb,
  • No gay tolerance in Africa's Anglican Church | Growing rebellion against liberal doctrines of U.S. (San Francisco Chronicle)
  • Gay 'civil union' not as divisive as 'marriage' | A majority (53%) opposes a law that "would allow homosexual couples to legally get married," while 24% favor it. But significantly fewer (41%) oppose "civil unions," giving homosexual couples "some of the legal rights of married couples" (USA Today)
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  • Coveting Luke's faith | My son found God. I can't help envying him — even if he is only 4 years old (Dana Tierney, The New York Times Magazine)
  • 'Evil': The 'E' word | The thoughtful investigation of evil in Lance Morrow's new book is so timely. Evil can help Americans think more clearly about an ancient question that is urgent in a new way (James Carroll, The New York Times Book Review)
  • Women find new ways to talk of God | Re-Imagining conferences end after decade of exciting discussion (The Charlotte Observer, N.C.)
  • Busting on the 'cult buster' | Self-styled "cult buster" Rick Ross stirred up a hornet's nest last week with his warning to Madonna's favorite presidential candidate, retired Gen. Wesley Clark, to keep his distance from Madonna's spiritual home, the Kabbalah Centre in Los Angeles (Lloyd Grove, New York Daily News)

Headscarf bans:

  • Belgium considers school headscarf ban | Belgium's interior minister, Patrick Dewael, has added his support to proposals in France to outlaw Islamic headscarves in state schools by saying he favored a similar ban in his country (Associated Press)
  • A religious symbol of secular conflict | France's latest national drama started with several thousand Muslim schoolgirls across the country demanding the right to cover their heads in public-school classrooms (The Washington Times)
  • Why Canada doesn't ban headscarves | France offers a half-open society that debates what citizens shall be required to do (John Robson, Canwest News Service)
  • Protests aimed at Europe, future | Muslims in the U.S. are taking steps to head off implementation of dress restrictions—such as a ban on women wearing head scarves in public—being considered in some parts of Europe (Chicago Tribune)

Church and health:

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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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