1. CRC drops "male" requirement for church office
The Christian Reformed Church's biannual synod voted 112 to 70 to remove the word "male" from its requirements for church office. The denomination had earlier allowed its regional bodies (called classes) to "declare that the word male in … the Church Order is inoperative" and allow the ordination and installation of women as elders, ministers, and ministry associates. More than half — 26 of 47 — of its regional bodies had done so. Last night's vote essentially reversed this local option; while the national body has no gender restriction on offices, classes may "set restrictions on women serving as delegates" to their meetings. A separate vote this morning allowed women to serve as delegates to CRC synods.

2. Many votes at Southern Baptists meeting. Now comes the spin
One of the resolutions most discussed before the Southern Baptist Convention's annual meeting, Tom Ascol's call for "integrity in church membership," won't even come to the floor for a vote. Meanwhile, there was a fair bit of debate over a resolution on global warming, and no debate at all (just an "overwhelming" assent) to a resolution asking the denomination's executive committee to create a database of pastors who have been "credibly accused of, personally confessed to, or legally been convicted of sexual harassment or abuse." The Baptist coordinator of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), which has recently given special attention to the Southern Baptist Convention, praised the vote as very positive and a step forward.

But the big news so far is the passage, by a vote of 2,137 to 1,565, of this resolution:

The Baptist Faith and Message is not a creed, or a complete statement of our faith, nor final or infallible, nevertheless we further acknowledge that it is the only consensus statement of doctrinal beliefs approved by the Southern Baptist Convention and as such is sufficient in its current form to guide trustees in their establishment of policies and practices of entities of the Convention.

Interpretation of the resolution's significance varies widely. "The message is, 'Don't restrict what is or isn't a Southern Baptist beyond the Baptist Faith and Message,'" Parkview Baptist Church pastor Benjamin Cole told The Dallas Morning News. The paper reports that the vote "could lead to greater acceptance within the denomination of those who have a private prayer language, a form of speaking in tongues." (The International Mission Board and the leaders of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary have policies against hiring those who use a private prayer language or support the practice.)

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Bill Harrell, chairman of the SBC's executive committee, disagrees. The Baptist Faith and Message "has always been our guide," he said, and trustees will "still be able to answer the questions about whether to hire somebody or not. … I don't think [the resolution] will have a lot of significance, and I really don't think it is going to change much."

In other news, the election Jim Richards as first vice president of the denomination is largely being seen as a vote of confidence in the direction SBC leadership has been taking. His opponent, David Rogers, had lamented that the denomination has been "side-tracked on theological tangents that are not central to the gospel" and said he saw no reason in Scripture "why the biblical gift of tongues, as depicted especially in 1 Corinthians 12-14, has ceased."

3. Sudan says it will allow 20,000 UN and AU peacekeepers in Darfur
"African Union officials hailed the announcement as a breakthrough, but others cautioned that the Sudanese government had made similar pledges only to reverse itself," The New York Times reports. "Sudan has also set conditions for the deployment, including an insistence that a majority of the soldiers be African and that non-Africans be used only as a last resort, which may hamper efforts to raise the force to full strength."

4. Romney campaign announces religion advisers
I don't know the Mormon world well enough to know how many LDS members there are among the Romney for President National Faith and Values Steering Committee Chairs. But I do know the evangelical political world enough to be a little surprised. I'm not surprised to see former Council for Christian Colleges & Universities president Bob Andringa on the list, or American Center for Law and Justice head Jay Sekulow. Jack Templeton is more interesting than surprising. Mark DeMoss isn't surprising at all—the publicist apparently had a hand in launching Evangelicals for Mitt (the website's authors and editors are committee vice-chairs).

No. What surprises me is that the list includes Traditional Values Coalition president Lou Sheldon. I'm not surprised that Sheldon is backing Mitt. I'm surprised that Romney wants to be seen with Sheldon. As I've mentioned before, Sheldon has been accused by several other conservative Christian groups of taking bribes to lie. In 2003, this got him banned from meetings by conservative U.S. House members. In 2004 he admitted to CBS News that he's not good at actually reaching voters. In 2006, he said he knew "for a while [that Ted Haggard] had this problem. We weren't sure just how to deal with it. Finally the escort blew it out of the water."

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In an earlier National Review Online column, Ramesh Ponnuru pointed out that "In 1998, the TVC defended pro-choice Republican Senate candidate Matt Fong from the attacks of primary opponent Darrell Issa, who was running as a pro-life conservative — after Fong donated $50,000 to the group. In 1999, the Orange County Register reported that the gambling interests had given money both to TVC founder Lou Sheldon and his son in return for their lobbying support."

Mike Schwartz, a vice president of Concerned Women for America, told Ponnuru, "I am ashamed to be in the same business with these people. It is lying to the grassroots by people whom they believe are sincerely interested in the cause, not in payoffs to tell lies."

In other words, Sheldon is not the guy who want when you're trying to shore up your conservative bona fides. That Romney wants this guy on his team suggests to me that he doesn't really understand the evangelical base he's supposedly reaching out to.

5. Evangelicals and "religious threat"
We missed the February 2006 Journal of Politics, where Notre Dame's David E. Campbell argued that "the more secularists in their community, the more likely white evangelical Christians were to vote for Republican presidential candidates in 2000 and 1996." (He's building on the "racial threat" hypothesis —"that white voters feel 'threatened' by the presence of African Americans in their community, and consequently become more likely to vote for racially conservative candidates as the proportion of blacks in their community rises.") But today, Paul Waldman talks about Campbell's study in an American Prospect article. He's particularly interested that Campbell found that "secularists do not appear to respond to the presence of evangelicals in their environment."

Noting the rise of books attacking religion, Waldman writes, "The question now is whether non-believers will, in large numbers, begin to define themselves as a tribe of their own. In order to do so, they'll have to feel at least some measure of antagonism toward those on the outside. That's what makes a tribe a tribe, after all."

Quote of the day
"Ruth is my soul mate and best friend, and I cannot imagine living a single day without her by my side."
— Billy Graham, in a statement today that his wife "is close to going home to heaven." The Associated Press reports that Ruth Graham, 87, fell into a coma this morning.

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More articles

Christian Reformed Church | Southern Baptists | Atheism | Church life | Catholicism | Kidnapped priest in Philippines | Indonesia | India | Iraq | Africa's woes | Crime and abuse | Religious freedom | Church and state | 2008 campaign | Texas religion poll | More politics | Education | Marriage | Media | Exhibits and history | Other articles of interest

Christian Reformed Church:

  • CRC lifts barrier to female ministers | History came quietly to the Christian Reformed Church on Tuesday night, but progress remains to be made. That was the feeling of longtime advocates of women's ordination who watched the CRC Synod remove the word "male" from its requirements for church office (The Grand Rapids Press, Mi.)

  • CRC okays women for leadership roles | The synod decided to remove the word "male" from church language and allow women to serve in leadership roles (WOOD, Grand Rapids, Mi.)

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Southern Baptists:

  • Moderates push Southern Baptist measure | Southern Baptists voted on a motion backed by moderates in the church who say they are concerned about what they see as a dangerous rightward shift in their denomination. Opponents said the referendum was confusing and shouldn't be viewed as a significant statement about Southern Baptist identity. Results of Tuesday's vote, taken at denomination's annual convention in San Antonio, were to be announced Wednesday (Associated Press)

  • Southern Baptists hear a call for unity | Southern Baptist Convention president Frank Page said Tuesday the denomination needs to set aside internal differences and be both "right and relevant" to revive languishing membership trends (Associated Press)

  • Missionary nominated fails to be elected vice president | History was not made at the Southern Baptist Convention of Texas in San Antonio when the Rev. David Rogers failed to be elected its first vice president Tuesday. He would have been the first missionary to hold the position in the 162 years of the convention (Tyler Morning Telegraph, Tex.)

  • Southern Baptists' vote may be reformist victory | Results may bring greater acceptance of private prayer language (The Dallas Morning News)

  • Baptists eye sex-offender database | Panel will issue report next year (The Courier-Journal, Louisville, Ky.)

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  • Atheists think 'radical Christianity' a threat | More than half of atheists and agnostics think "radical Christianity" is just as threatening in the United States as "radical Islam," according to a new Barna study (Religion News Service)

  • Baptists see atheist books as sign of panic | A run of best-selling books belittling religious belief are a secular backlash that highlights the success of Christianity, Southern Baptist leaders and theologians said at a conference. "If you shoot down an alley and you hear a yelp, you know you've hit something," said Mark Coppenger, a professor at the Kentucky-based Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (Reuters)

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Church life:

  • NYC church seeks $1m for damaged organ | St. Bartholomew's Episcopal Church says its 89-year-old pipe organ, one of the largest in the Western Hemisphere, was damaged by steam escaping from beneath the adjacent street and sidewalk (Associated Press)

  • Livingston church dismisses its pastor | Minister, supporters start new church (Tuscaloosa News, Ala.)

  • Anglican coalition to force through breakaway | A powerful coalition of conservative Anglican leaders is preparing to create a parallel Church for conservatives in America in defiance of the Archbishop of Canterbury, provoking the biggest split in Anglican history (The Telegraph, London)

  • Kenyan primate to consecrate former Episcopalian as U.S. Bishop | The Most Rev. Benjamin Nzimbi, Primate of Kenya, has announced he will consecrate the Rev. Canon Bill Atwood as a suffragan bishop to oversee the U.S.-based congregations of the Anglican Church of Kenya (Living Church Foundation)

  • An eye-opening experience | For 11 weeks, more than two dozen homeless men and women lived under Lakewood United Church of Christ's roof. Some found work. A few did odd jobs around church property. Two died. Several were asked to leave. It was an eye-opening experience, said the Rev. Kim Wells (St. Petersburg Times, Fla.)

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Kidnapped priest in Philippines:

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Africa's woes:

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Crime and abuse:

  • Memorial held for slain Kansas teen | Copies of the New Testament, with blue cards carrying some of Kelsey Smith's favorite Bible verses tucked into them, were available after the service on tables that also bore bowls of Skittles, Smith's favorite candy (Associated Press)

  • Pastor's slaying probed | Investigators aim to piece together the final days, as police find the alleged weapon. (Berkshire Eagle, Mass.)

  • Teen is attacked outside church | Woman, 25, held; was it jealousy? (The Jersey Journal, N.J.)

  • Police seek possible victims of Eastside ex-church leader | Man charged with molestation, rape (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)

  • $12.6 million judgment levied in fund manager fraud case | Colorado regulators won a $12.6 million judgment in a case against a fund manager accused of bilking hundreds of investors, many evangelical Christians (Rocky Mountain News, Denver)

  • Lakewood Church burglar found guilty | Trevor McLain was charged with stealing more than $20,000 in equipment and furniture from the famed Lakewood Church (KHOU, Houston)

  • Jesus figure is back; did thief think twice? | When the church secretary arrived at Livingston United Methodist Church yesterday morning, she found Jesus leaning against the front door. Needless to say, the congregation was elated (The Columbus Dispatch, Oh.)

  • 'To reach out to these guys' | "Not only do the Bloods have to repent, but the church, which represents the blood of Jesus, must repent," says The Rev. Randolph Shaheed. "The Bloods will stand on a truce, and the church will stand on truth." (Ft. Worth Star-Telegram, Tex.)

  • Shaffer enters guilty plea in fed Internet case | A former campus minister and head of the Redmen For Christ ministry pleaded guilty Monday to sending an obscene picture over the Internet (Tahlequah Daily Press, Okla.)

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Religious freedom:

  • A purge of prison books | If the U.S. Department of Justice believes that its Bureau of Prisons should be rehabilitating inmates, then it should not be ordering such a sweeping removal of religious books from prison chapel libraries (Editorial, The Hartford Courant, Ct.)

  • Minnesota Muslims in culture clash at airport | "The increased penalties appear to have brought drivers into compliance," says airport spokesman (Associated Press)

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Church and state:

  • Church wants symbols removed | Members of an Elgin church argue that Masonic symbols on the side of the building they bought conflict with their religious beliefs. But a subcommittee of the Elgin Heritage Commission denied a request to remove the markings, citing their historical significance (Daily Herald, Chicago suburbs)

  • Tiny church is in big trouble | Condos set to displace Asbury house of worship (Asbury Park Press, N.J.)

  • Religious Freedom Act clears Oregon House | The bill preserves the right, for example, of a Muslim woman to wear a headdress and modest clothing (Salem News, Ore.)

  • Spitzer proposes religious freedom bill | The Governor's bill, modeled after federal legislation, would ensure that state and local laws accommodate important religious practices (North Country Gazette, N.Y.)

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2008 campaign:

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Texas religion poll:

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More politics:

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  • GOP conservatives' wins in Va. Senate races set stage for Nov. | Determined to gain control of their Virginia GOP, fiscal and social conservatives sought revenge in yesterday's primary and unseated two moderate senators (The Washington Post)

  • Bishops exhort lawmakers on gay marriage | The four top Roman Catholic leaders in Massachusetts sent a letter to state legislators yesterday, urging them to vote in favor of a proposed ban on same-sex marriage at tomorrow's Constitutional Convention (The Boston Globe)

  • Cardinal sins | Despite what Cardinal O'Brien may say, millions of women are grateful for the legalisation of abortion (David Steel, The Guardian, London)

  • Got to have faith? | Labour's deputy leadership candidates answer questions from Labour Humanists on the role of religion in our society (Andrew Copson, The Guardian, London)

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  • All eyes on Planned Parenthood field trip | The school board voted early yesterday morning for an investigation of last week's field trip that brought middle school students to a Planned Parenthood office (Union Leader, Manchester, N.H.)

  • Also: School board upset over clinic visit | The city school board ordered an investigation into an after-school program run by the YMCA in which some middle school students were taken to visit a Planned Parenthood clinic. New Hampshire Right to Life, an abortion opponent, is now asking for equal time with the seventh and eighth grade students, as well (Associated Press)

  • Fight gay acts in schools—Orombi | "Acts of homosexuality and lesbianism have infiltrated our schools, especially secondary schools. I have personally joined the war against the vice and I want you to join me," Archbishop Henry Orombi has said (The Monitor, Uganda)

  • A more candid approach to sex-ed | Montgomery board approves lessons on homosexuality (The Washington Post)

  • Controversial chaplain plan still in the works | The Iowa State athletics council has begun the process of drafting a recommendation for university president Gregory Geoffroy regarding a proposal to make a chaplain available to Cyclone football players (Des Moines Register, Ia.)

  • Christian colleges to fill 40% from merit list | The managements of Christian educational institutions will follow the Government's merit list to fill 40 per cent of the seats in their self-financing professional colleges this year, the Inter-Church Council for Education said here on Tuesday (The Hindu, India)

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Exhibits and history:

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Other articles of interest:

  • Religion and the threat effect | Research shows that the more secularists there are living near evangelicals, the more politically conservative those evangelicals will be. Might the secular start developing this same kind of tribalism? (Paul Waldman, The American Prospect)

  • Postal prayer | Letter with "eye-opening Jesus" has caught the attention of the Better Business Bureau (KELO, Sioux Falls, S.D.)

  • History's greatest liar | Pope Benedict XVI explores the identity of Jesus Christ (Lisa Fabrizio, The American Spectator)

  • An industry of mutual degradation | A bishop confronts pornography's corrosive influence (G. Tracy Mehan, III, The American Spectator)

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Related Elsewhere:

I'm still soliciting comments on how to improve Weblog.

Our most recent Weblogs include:

Italian Priest Kidnapped in Philippines | Plus: 'Virtual desecration' of a famous cathedral, an important IVF finding, another pastor mariticide, Paris Hilton (of course), etc. (June 12)
Stem Cell Bill's Bad (Or Providential?) Timing | Plus: Surgeon general nominee's Methodist work under fire, Time interviews Rowan Williams, church building conflicts, and more. (June 8)
The God Debates of '08 | Plus: More tragedy for Iraq Christians, another blow to Iowa's faith-based prison program, America's new pilgrimage points, and other stories. (June 7)

See also the Christianity Today Liveblog.

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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