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Wallis Calls Bush Plan 'Criminal'

Plus: Dallas Morning News shuts its religion section, House vote on stem cells won't beat veto, and other stories from online sources around the world.

1. Many Christian pundits willing to say war is unjust, but few talking about troop increase
Call it an escalation, call it a temporary surge, call it whatever you want, but it seems clear that there's a new approach—in Jim Wallis's rhetoric on the Iraq War. "The war in Iraq was unjust; to continue it now is criminal," he writes in his latest online column. "There is no winning in Iraq. This was a war that should have never been fought—or won. It can't be won, and the truth is that there are no good solutions now—that's how unjust wars often turn out. … [W]e have already failed in Iraq." Wallis did not directly state that Bush should be charged with a crime.

Kudos to Wallis for being one of the few religious leaders directly addressing Bush's plan to send 20,000 additional troops to Iraq. Over at Newsweek/The Washington Post's On Faith blog, Richard Mouw Miroslav Volf, and others are calling the Iraq war unjust, but are not talking about the troop increase. (In fairness, they weren't really asked about it. The question was: "President Bush is preparing this week to send more troops to Baghdad. Do you believe there is such a thing as a 'just war'? Is the Iraq war 'just'?")

Associated Baptist Press asked several past supporters of the Iraq war whether they still support it. Charles Colson and Richard Land declined to respond directly, but Daniel Heimbach, professor of Christian ethics at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, was willing to say the war "was and continues to be, in retrospect, justified or justifiable" on the basis on enforcing the terms of Iraq's 1991 surrender. Heimbach didn't directly address the troop increase, but offered this calculus: "If it gets to the point that continuing to fight is costing more than whatever is at stake in winning the fight, then you should stop. Now, I for myself don't think that we're at that point. I think that we're making significant progress. While you shouldn't be engaging in a war lightly without counting the costs, neither should you quickly, after investing so much in terms of life and property, say, 'I'm just getting tired; let's get out.'"

2. Christians praise execution order
While Christian leaders were largely critical of the execution of Saddam Hussein, Nigeria's Christian leaders are chief cheerleaders for the execution of Emeka Ezeuko, a pastor who calls himself Reverend King. Back in July, the general overseer of the Christian Praying Assembly doused seven of his parishioners with gasoline and set them ablaze, making allusions to the flames of hell and his parishioners' "burning with lust." (Ezeuko claimed he had nothing to do with the incident; the judge cited "overwhelming evidence placing him at the scene.") The heads of the Methodist Church of Nigeria and the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria both praised Ezeuko's sentence: Death by hanging. "The law has taken its rightful course," says PFN's Bishop Joseph Ojo. "It shows that the Nigerian judiciary can be trusted. Nigeria would soon come out of the woods."

3. Weblog was kidding
"By all means, let's start having our governmental leaders weigh in by proxy on denominational disputes. Why aren't Clinton and Carter leading the debate on whether Southern Baptists should speak in tongues?"
Weblog, Jan. 4.

"Former presidents Carter and Clinton call for 'A New Baptist Covenant.'"
Baptist Press, Jan. 10.

I didn't know this was in the works. Hmm. … By all means, let's start giving big pay raises to the guy who runs the CT Weblog. Why aren't Christian millionaires leading the way on writing checks to Christianity Today to support this effort?

4. Dallas Morning News closes its award-winning religion section
The paper's award-winning section, much praised by Christianity Today and others, is disappearing as religion coverage "will move to the Metro section." It's a move that's widely seen as a cutback in religion coverage, though staff cutbacks happened quite some time ago.

The section "was topical, well-written and compellingly designed and won the top prize for best section from the Religion Newswriters Association five out of six years running," notes Lakeland (Fla.) Ledger religion editor Cary McMullen. "It was the zenith, the gold standard of what specialized reporting on religion in a secular newspaper could be."

News editor Bob Mong says the specialized reporting won't go away. "Our emphasis on religion's going to be strong," he told the local alternative paper. "It'll be different, but it'll be good. We just didn't get any advertising support for it. The core writers we have for it will continue to be there, and the amount of space we devote will be adequate for what we need, and it will let us do more Page One stories. As far as the devotion to the topic, it's important to me, and we're going to take it very seriously. It'll just be in a slightly different format." (Jeff Weiss and Sam Hodges will stay on the beat; religion editor Bruce Tomaso is being reassigned as his position is eliminated.)

For many papers, Religion Newswriters Association executive director Debra Mason said in an organizational newsletter, "the Dallas news is ho-hum. That's because hundreds of daily newspapers do not and never have had religion sections. Instead, religion news is integrated throughout the paper." There may be a lesson about format, but this is not "the beginning of the end for the religion beat. … We should not confuse religion sections with religion news as a whole. … If Dallas couldn't make money from its religion section, few others will be able to, either. No editor in the country staked more of his heart or reputation on religion coverage than Bob Mong. He fought hard for the section and continues to be a religion news champion."

Mason says she's more disheartened by the news that The Wichita Eagle has laid off religion editor Tom Schaefer—and that this is the latest in several newspaper religion cutbacks.

If you're sad about the Dallas Morning News, though, be of good cheer. The paper's religion blog is becoming a must-read. Reporters for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Chicago Sun-Times, Colorado Springs Gazette, London Times, The Oregonian, Mobile Press-Register, Greensboro News-Record, and other newspapers also have really good official and unofficial blogs that should be in your bookmarks or blog readers if you like the CT Weblog.

5. Who funds the National Council of Churches?
Back in 1983, the Institute on Religion and Democracy helped Reader's Digest ask the question, "Do You Know Where Your Church Offerings Go?" The article charged that the National Council of Churches "supports Marxist-Leninist movements in the Third World" both through advocacy and direct funds. This week, the organization looked at the flow of money into the NCC. "Mostly liberal foundations are donating as much if not more than the member churches that the NCC is supposed to be representing," the organization says. The NCC responds chiefly by noting that IRD is largely funded by conservative foundations. Get Religion's Mollie Hemingway asks:

Considering that the Institute on Religion and Democracy has programs designed to help conservative laypeople in Methodist, Episcopal and Presbyterian churches who oppose their liberal leadership and liberal political agenda, where exactly would one expect their funds to come from? Church headquarters? … The two groups have completely different claims and completely different approaches. NCC claims to be an association of denominations. IRD does not. Whether or not the NCC gets more than half of its funding from churches or liberal foundations is an interesting question. The IRD does not claim to be an association of churches. And again, only one of these groups actually lobbies Congress. The other lobbies churches, more or less.

Quote of the day
"I swear by my people and my country that will I not rest my arm or my soul as we build a new political system, a new social system, a new economic system. I swear by Christ, the greatest socialist in history, I will follow the wonderful mandates of this constitution, even if it costs me my own life and my own peace. Country, socialism or death, I swear it."

—Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, in his Jan. 10 inaugural address.

More articles

Iraq and Middle East | Church of the Holy Sepulchre | Sudan | Refugees | Military | Life ethics | Stem cells | Nigeria pastor to hang for murder | Crime | Religious freedom | Abortionist murder | Abuse | NPR series on abuse | Church life | Poland | Anglicanism | Baptists | IRD report on NCC funding | Money and business | Missions & ministry | Media and entertainment | Politics | Mitt Romney | Sexual ethics | U.K. protest against gay rights bill | U.K religion | Church and state | Education | Evolution | These kids today | People | Other stories of interest

Iraq and Middle East:

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Church of the Holy Sepulchre:

  • Row over sepulchre's safety exit | An unholy row is brewing in one of the holiest Christian shrines, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem's Old City, after the Israeli government found it violates health and safety rules because it has only one exit (The Telegraph, London)

  • Six denominations, one church, no way out | Jerusalem shrine said to be a firetrap; leaders squabble over emergency exit (The Times, London)

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  • Unprecedented activism has little impact in Darfur | Despite unprecedented global activism on behalf of the people of Darfur, Sudan in 2006, atrocities continue to occur daily in the region (Inter Press Service)

  • Proxy peace | New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson has brokered a new Darfur ceasefire. Will it help a bid for the White House? (Newsweek)

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  • Gates cleans house | New Pentagon chief is expected to oust Lt. Gen. William Boykin (Newsweek)

  • Judge won't block chaplain's discharge | A federal judge has refused to stop the Navy from discharging an evangelical chaplain convicted of disobeying a lawful order by wearing his Navy uniform to a press conference outside the White House last March (Navy Times)

  • Religion in the armed services | The executive director of the Christian Embassy responds to the Jan. 6 editorial "Questionable Mission" (Robert C. Varney, The Washington Post)

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Life ethics:

  • Appeals court to hear S.D. abortion case | A federal appeals court has agreed to rehear a challenge of a 2005 South Dakota law that would require doctors to tell women seeking abortions that the procedure ends a human life (Associated Press)

  • D.A.: Tiller properly reported abortions | George Tiller complied with the law in reporting underage girls who entered his Wichita clinic for abortions, the Sedgwick County district attorney said Wednesday (The Wichita Eagle, Kan.)

  • Kansas abortion prosecutor fired | The newly elected Kansas attorney general fired a special prosecutor Tuesday whom his predecessor had appointed to prosecute the state's most visible abortion provider (Associated Press)

  • Also: Morrison fires prosecutor McKinney (The Wichita Eagle, Kan.)

  • Nicaraguan activists try to block abortion bill | Human rights activists in Nicaragua on Monday asked the Supreme Court to block a controversial law that bans abortions for rape victims and women who risk dying in childbirth (Reuters)

  • Ghanaians risk death for abortion | Thousands of women in Ghana are seeking dangerous, illegal abortions every year with many ending in death or disability (BBC)

  • Church denies raped women morning-after pill | Sexually-assaulted women who seek help at Catholic-controlled hospitals cannot be referred to rape crisis centres that supply morning-after pills, under church policy (The Australian)

  • Update: Doctors want beliefs out of state hospitals | Doctors want state governments to stop contracting the operation of public hospitals to the Catholic Church unless it agrees to provide all services including IVF, abortions, sterilisations and rape counseling (The Australian)

  • China facing major gender imbalance | Traditional preferences for sons has led to the widespread - but illegal - practice of women aborting babies if an early term sonogram shows it is a girl (Associated Press)

  • Just how pro are these pro-lifers? | The Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion turns 34 years old this month, just as seven pro-life Democrats join the new majority on Capitol Hill. Here's what the power shift could mean for the pre-born (World)

  • Fatal faction | Some Democrats position themselves as moderates on abortion, but author Ramesh Ponnuru says don't be fooled (World)

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Stem cells:

  • Moving ahead on stem cells | A new study suggesting that broadly useful stem cells can be derived from amniotic fluid without destroying embryos in no way lessens the need to widen the array of embryonic stem cells available for research and ultimately therapy (Editorial, The New York Times)

  • Britain seeks opinion on stem cell study | Britain said Thursday it will conduct a public consultation on the issue of whether scientists should be allowed to create human stem cells from animal eggs (Associated Press)

  • Stem cell research bill resurfaces in Congress | In the House, voting will proceed on the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2007, which is identical to the one that was passed in the House and Senate last year and then vetoed by the president (USA Today)

  • Stem cell miracle? | An advance this side of Bush's moral line (Charles Krauthammer, The Washington Post)

  • Stem cell games | The ban on embryonic research is encouraging creativity but not necessarily scientific progress (Editorial, Los Angeles Times)

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Nigeria pastor to hang for murder:

  • Rev King to die by hanging | the convict who shook visibly, stumbled and nearly fell down in the dock yesterday, after standing for more than two hours while his judgment was being read, insisted that he was not afraid to die by hanging (This Day, Nigeria)

  • Makinde, Ojo hail ruling | Prelate of Methodist Church of Nigeria, Rev. Dr. Sunday Ola Makinde and the Secretary-General of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN), Bishop Joseph Ojo have hailed the death sentence passed on controversial cleric, Rev. Emeka Ezeuko by the Lagos High Court (Daily Champion, Nigeria)

  • Preacher to hang for sin burnings | A Nigerian high court has sentenced a Lagos preacher to death by hanging for setting fire to members of his congregation, killing one woman (BBC)

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  • Priests arrested over colleague's murder | Police are holding two Catholic brothers in connection with a cold blood murder of their colleague at a Marists Brothers Centre (Freres Maristes), in Kagarama Sector, Kicukiro District (The New Times, Rwanda)

  • Indonesian police arrest four over Sulawesi attacks | Indonesian police arrested four people on Thursday for their role in violence which followed the execution of three Christian militants in September, police said (Reuters)

  • Diocese theft called largest in years | $600,000 missing from 2 Catholic parishes in Louisa shocks diocese's attorney (Richmond Times-Dispatch, Va.)

  • Earlier: Louisa priest faces theft charge | A Catholic priest is accused of embezzling more than $600,000 from two Louisa County churches over five years (Richmond Times-Dispatch, Va.)

  • French National Library recovers stolen manuscript | Michel Garel, the former chief curator of manuscripts at the library, was convicted last March of stealing the 13th-century Hebrew Bible and sentenced to a two-year suspended prison term and a fine of 400,000 euros (The New York Times)

  • False priest arrested for selling Pope tickets | A man posing as a Catholic priest was arrested for selling phony tickets to get near Pope Benedict on his scheduled trip to Brazil in May, authorities said on Tuesday (Reuters)

  • Extradition sought of church leaders | The husband and wife who founded Brazil's Reborn in Christ Church are accused of taking parishioners' money and purchasing "mansions, real estate and other valuable assets worth millions of dollars both in Brazil and in the United States" (Associated Press)

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Religious freedom:

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Abortionist murder:

  • Kopp's own words work against him during trial | James C. Kopp sat quietly at the defense table in U.S. District Court on Thursday as damning statement after damning statement was made against him in the slaying of Dr. Barnett A. Slepian. They were the words of James C. Kopp himself, recalled by one of two Buffalo News reporters who interviewed him for an article that appeared in The News on Nov. 20, 2002 (The Buffalo News)

  • Jury hears Kopp saying he killed Slepian | A day after they heard James C. Kopp apologize to the widow of the man he is accused of killing, federal court jurors heard Kopp's own words Wednesday that he shot Dr. Barnett A. Slepian (The Buffalo News, N.Y.)

  • Abortion shooter apologizes to widow | "Mrs. Slepian, I just wanted to say I'm sorry. I respect you and your family," James Kopp, 52, said quietly to Lynne Slepian, wife of Dr. Barnett Slepian, after her testimony Tuesday at the start of Kopp's federal trial (Associated Press)

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  • Judge: Abuse suit against Vatican can proceed | A federal judge issued a "historic" decision Thursday by refusing to dismiss a lawsuit against the Vatican that alleges a cover-up to protect priests who molested American children (The Courier-Journal, Louisville, Ky.)

  • Insurers win access to church documents | The Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield, seeking coverage for dozens of claims of sexual abuse by priests, suffered a major setback in its lawsuit against several insurance carriers with a judge's decision that the diocese must turn over most of nearly 7,700 pages in church documents (The Republican, Springfield, Mass.)

  • Minister's death was self-inflicted | Investigators: Evidence against John Graler 'irrefutable' (Craig Daily Press, Co.)

  • Earlier: Youth pastor found dead | A Craig youth minister was found dead at his home Tuesday, a day after he was arrested on charges of sexual assault, the Moffat County Sheriff's Office reported late Tuesday (Craig Daily Press, Co.)

  • Public pressure puts teeth in church abuse policy | A policy passed by U.S. Catholic bishops to remove sexually abusive priests has no teeth to penalize bishops or dioceses that fail to do so, church experts say (The Grand Rapids Press, Mi.)

  • Attorneys ask for venue changes | A change of venue is in the works for three McDonald County church leaders facing child sexual abuse charges (Neosho Daily News, Mo.)

  • Churchgoers support ousted priest | About 500 members of Holy Family Catholic Church filled their sanctuary Tuesday to express support for a former priest forced from the ministry after admitting to sexually abusing a boy 35 years ago (The Grand Rapids Press, Mi.)

  • Also: Boy not touched, priest's letter says | The recently removed pastor of Holy Family Catholic Church admitted in a letter to parishioners he sexually abused a young boy, but insisted he did not touch him (The Grand Rapids Press, Mi.)

  • Priest who left Yakima resigns St. Louis post | A Catholic priest who was investigated in Yakima on suspicion that he viewed child pornography resigned Thursday from the Archdiocese of St. Louis (Yakima Herald-Republic, Wa.)

  • Diocese tells police of abuse | The Roman Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth has reported to police a 38-year-old woman's allegations of abuse by a priest who is a former pastor of churches in Bedford and Arlington, diocese officials said Wednesday (Ft. Worth Star-Telegram, Tex.)

  • Priests ask Vatican to punish Mexican cleric accused of child abuse | The Vatican has yet to rule on the request filed two weeks ago by Puebla priests against Rev. Nicolas Aguilar (Associated Press)

  • Church organist accused of porn | Richard W. Stocker, 60, of Glendale Heights worked as an organist during liturgical services from 1996 until 2005, said the DuPage County state's attorney's office and the Joliet diocese (Chicago Tribune)

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NPR series on abuse:

  • Abuse scandal still echoes through Catholic Church | Five years ago, The Boston Globe exposed widespread allegations of sex abuse by clergy in Boston and efforts by the Catholic Church to cover it up. The 2002 scandal marked a culmination of events in the works for decades (NPR)

  • Victims of clergy abuse wrestle with faith, past | The sex-abuse scandal that rocked the Catholic Church in 2002 first gained attention in Boston, but new victims have emerged around the country. Some seek solace through the courts; others, in mending broken ties to the church (NPR)

  • The aftermath: The church responds | The so-called Dallas Charter was adopted in June 2002 and included a range of new rules. Here, an overview of the Church's response and the results so far (NPR)

  • Exposing scandal in the church: Key players | Five years have passed since Boston-area priest John Geoghan was convicted of sexually abusing a 10-year old boy. Here's an update on key personalities from the trial that started the sex abuse controversy in the Catholic Church (NPR)

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Church life:

  • Ice church pulls a crowd | Priests in Romania have been conducting services in the country's first ice church, built in mountains 2000m above sea level (BBC, video)

  • Removal of priest prompts questions from parishioners | The Rev. Carlos Bedoya, pastor of St. Clare Catholic Church in Deltona, was placed on leave in November "for personal reasons," according to the Diocese of Orlando (The Orlando Sentinel)

  • Shakespeare's church needs aid, repair | Adopt a gargoyle. Sponsor a spire. It could help save the 800-year-old Holy Trinity Church, where William Shakespeare was baptized and where he lies buried with his wife (Associated Press)

  • Single complaint could silence church bells | A village church could be forced to silence its clock, which has chimed for nearly 200 years, following a single complaint (Manchester Evening News, U.K.)

  • Also: Complaint silences church chimes | Villagers have collected a petition to save the chimes at the church, which dates back to the 13th Century (BBC)

  • Paulk plaintiffs want church foreclosure halted | BB&T, the bank that financed $755,000 in loans on the property near the church, advertised the land for sale this month because the church is months behind in interest payments and has paid nothing against the principal. With unpaid interest and fees, the church's debt now totals about $1 million, said BB&T attorney Martin Quirk (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

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  • Europe's Church, communism ties not rare | Records released in recent years allege involvement by dozens of priests — including two bishops in the Czech Republic and even the retired primate of Hungary, who voted in the conclave that elected Pope Benedict XVI (Associated Press)

  • In Poland, new wave of charges against clerics | New allegations of secret-police collaborators among Poland's clergy members have further sullied an institution considered spotless in the fight against Communism (The New York Times)

  • Priest leads push to expose clergy | The Rev. Tadeusz Isakowicz-Zaleski was tortured by Poland's communist-era secret police. Now he is leading the drive to expose clergy who cooperated with the secret services, saying the church must repent for the misdeeds of compromised priests (Associated Press)

  • Church faces 'more spying scandals' | Father Tadeusz Isakiewicz-Zaleski, who is about to publish a book on the role of the Church under communism, said that up to 39 priests in the Krakow area alone collaborated with the secret police, the notorious SB, four of whom are now bishops (The Telegraph, London)

  • In Poland, 'a feeling of a new beginning' | In most quarters, when something goes wrong with a bishop's appointment, there's a natural tendency to blame the pope. But On Monday, one of the country's leading dailies instead splashed the following four-word banner headline across its front page: "The Pope Saved Us!" What gives? (John Allen Jr., National Catholic Reporter)

  • The archbishop as collaborator | It takes decades to escape from the long shadows of a police state. This is a lesson that even Poland's Catholic Church -- the institution that most steadfastly resisted the communist reign -- is still learning (Editorial, The Boston Globe)

  • In Poland, the truth will out | The resignation of a Polish bishop who spied for communists is a positive step for the country (Timothy Garton Ash, Los Angeles Times)

  • A scandalous appointment | But all the right reactions (Raymond Arroyo, National Review Online)

  • Churchmen and the secret policeman's list | Poland is engulfed in the latest manifestation of what is called lustrace, a Czech word, of Latin origin, meaning "light," as in let us shine some light on a dark corner (Don Murray, CBC)

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  • Diocese won't extend pledge not to sue | Announcement dims hopes for amicable deal over property in breakaway parishes (The Washington Post)

  • Episcopal Church takes on dioceses dispute | The Episcopal Church plans to intervene in a property dispute involving two Northern Virginia parishes that voted to leave the American denomination last month, officials with the departing congregations said. The intervention would mark a dramatic shift in the relationship between the national church and individual dioceses. (The Washington Times)

  • Removal of priest protested | Parishioners 'upset' by action of Episcopal diocese, attorney says (Rocky Mountain News, Denver)

  • Panel backs diocese's gender policy | Women who want to be ordained as Episcopal priests may not be denied the chance by any diocese or church, but no diocese or parish will be forced to accept a woman priest, the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth was told Monday in an opinion issued by an international panel of the Anglican Communion (Ft. Worth Star-Telegram, Tex.)

  • Three Kitgum priests suspended | Kitgum Church of Uganda diocese has suspended three priests, accusing them of encouraging a group of Christians to rebel against the bishop (New Vision, Uganda)

  • African Anglicans to snub pro-gay rights US bishop | Africa's leading Anglican archbishops plan to snub their pro-gay rights U.S. counterpart at a key summit next month as a bitter battle over homosexuality intensifies in a world church on the brink of schism (Reuters)

  • Orombi criticizes politics in church | The Church of Uganda Archbishop said the Anglican Church had become problematic because people were no longer praying to God to choose leaders for them (New Vision, Uganda)

  • Church elects Harper as primate | The Church of Ireland has elected the Right Reverend Alan Harper as Archbishop of Armagh and primate of all Ireland (BBC)

  • Splinter group of Episcopal bigots bad sign | Cut through all the verbiage, and their issue is sex, specifically homosexuality in the church's leadership, with a side order of bias against women (Steve Gushee, Palm Beach Post, Fla.)

  • Out of Africa | Traditionalists in the Episcopal Church turn to a Nigerian archbishop for leadership -- and the New York Times gets the story wrong. (Faith McDonnell, The American Spectator)

  • Bigotry or obedience? | The media and the Episcopal Church (Charles Colson, Breakpoint)

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  • Carter, Clinton woo Baptists to new coalition | Former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton announced in Atlanta on Tuesday the creation of a Baptist organization they said would counter what they say is a negative image of their faith (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

  • Carter, Clinton back moderate Baptists | With the help of former President Carter, Baptists who have distanced themselves from the conservative Southern Baptist Convention announced plans Tuesday for a major meeting that aims to improve the Baptist image and broaden its agenda (Associated Press)

  • Former presidents Carter & Clinton call for 'A New Baptist Covenant' | Former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton have proposed the establishment of a broadly inclusive alternative Baptist movement to counter what they called a negative image of Baptists and to address poverty, the environment and global conflicts (Baptist Press)

  • Voodoo ecumenism: Bill Clinton & Baptist unity | It's not news then that President Carter is at the center of yet another attempt at fostering "Baptist unity," a "Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant" for various representatives of the Baptist left. But Bill Clinton? (Russell D. Moore, Baptist Press)

  • Mohler released from hospital; activities to be limited | Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. was discharged Jan. 10 from Louisville's Baptist Hospital East following a two-week hospitalization that included extensive abdominal surgery and a four-day stay in the intensive care unit due to blood clots in the lungs (Baptist Press)

  • For Baptists, spirit, spirits don't mix | While the subpanel of the Dallas Landmark Commission goes dry, there's some indication Baptists are loosening up a bit when it comes to alcohol. (Steve Blow, The Dallas Morning News)

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IRD report on NCC funding:

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Money and business:

  • Study says church giving lacks external focus | An annual study of church giving shows most offerings go to activities and needs within local congregations, and activities focused beyond the congregations increasingly go unfunded as donations decline (Religion News Service)

  • Is it moral to tithe when bankrupt? | Catholic Church's position not clear (Our Sunday Visitor)

  • Chaplains join the 'faith-friendly' workplace | Workplace analysts report that a growing number of American companies are hiring chaplains to minister to their employees, offering counseling services and helping with family crises (Morning Edition, NPR)

  • Church panel to review dubious sale | A church group charged by the Archdiocese of Boston with overseeing the sale and finances of closed parishes said yesterday it plans to review the real estate deal that netted a Southie photographer a $1.8 million profit on the resale of a closed East Boston church (Boston Herald)

  • African immigrants sue transportation firm, alleging bias | The suit against MV Transportation is mainly focused on one supervisor; the nine metro-area plaintiffs allege discrimination based on national origin and religion (Minneapolis Star-Tribune)

  • Gates Foundation to reassess investments | A decision to review its holdings for their social effects could lead others to rethink their policies (Los Angeles Times)

  • Nun shall benefit | Denying the impoverished pension credits simply because they are nuns amounts to discrimination (Diane Frewin, The Guardian, London)

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Missions & ministry:

  • Pastor to sue his charity's 'hijackers' | The strange case in which local and international donors have allegedly colluded to hijack local charity Christ Disciples Fellowship is going to result in legal action, according to founder Pastor Pascal Hakizimana (New Era, Namibia)

  • Witness the rodeo | Christian Youth Night provides alternative (Odessa American, Tex.)

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Media and entertainment:

  • Left Behind Games praises support | Publisher of Christian-themed RTS says "numerous ministries" have endorsed its game; Left Behind author calls it "the greatest invention … to reach this generation." (GameSpot)

  • Lithuanian Catholic Church to Sue MTV over 'Popetown' | Lithuanian Catholics are not amused by "Popetown." The Catholic Church in the country is planning to sue MTV over the irreverent cartoon satire (Der Spiegel, Germany)

  • The New York Times to publish "house afire," a 3-part series on the city's fast-growing Pentecostal movement | Metro reporter David Gonzalez will examine the rise of Pentecostalism — the world's fastest-growing branch of Christianity — among Hispanics in New York City (Press release, The New York Times)

  • Guilt for the ages | It only took PBS one hour to uncover the causes of anti-Semitism, now in an alarming heyday. In "Antisemitism in the 21st Century: The Resurgence," narrated by Judy Woodruff, PBS offered the answer: The reason for Jew-hatred, now widely promulgated among Muslim populations, is, well … Jews! Israel! Even Christianity! (Diana West, The Washington Times)

  • God, Mom and country: A filmmaker's odyssey | Documentary filmmaker Alexandra Pelosi's latest work is a road trip into the world of evangelical Christians (The New York Times)

  • Religion is important to readers | There are signs that even news organizations committed to in-depth, informed and intelligent coverage of religion are struggling to maintain that commitment (Cary McMullen)

  • End times | Why Dallas' only daily is ditching the religion section, so help you God (Unfair Park, Dallas Observer)

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  • Dobson targets lobbying-reform bill | Focus on the Family founder James Dobson's influence is felt whenever he summons his radio listeners to flood Congress with comments or complaints. Now the `conservative Christian leader sees that very vehicle under attack, so on Wednesday he put out the call once again: Contact your U.S. senators (The Denver Post)

  • Campaign contributions from churches | Democrats and Republicans both get funds from congregations (KEYE, Austin, Tex.)

  • Dark art of religious wedge politics | Christians like Rudd demonstrate a double standard by treating non-religious viewpoints with disrespect, if not outright contempt. Even as they call for tolerance when it comes to their own beliefs, they accuse the rest of us of being amoral (Emily Maguire, The Sydney Morning Herald)

  • The great respecting | It doesn't mean liberals play fair, but they pay attention (Marvin Olasky, World)

  • Through a glass, darkly | How the Christian right is reimagining U.S. history (Jeff Sharlet, Harper's)

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Mitt Romney:

  • Romney says he was wrong on 1994 issues | A 1994 videotape mysteriously posted on YouTube.com prompted Republican Mitt Romney to declare Wednesday, "I was wrong on some issues back then," while also insisting to social conservatives key to his presidential campaign that he is one of them (Associated Press)

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Sexual ethics:

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U.K. protest against gay rights bill:

  • British Christians protest gay rights | In March, Britain's High Court will hear an attempt by a Christian group, the Christian Institute, to overturn a gay rights law that they contend will force them to promote and condone gay sex (Associated Press)

  • A thousand Christians join rally at Parliament | About 1,000 Christians sang hymns, prayed and waved banners in a torchlit protest outside Parliament last night. They were opposing legislation being debated in Parliament that is designed to outlaw discrimination against men and women on the ground of their sexual orientation (The Times, London)

  • Peers back gay rights laws despite protest | Peers crushed attempts last night to block new homosexual rights laws despite fears that they are "a charter for suing Christians" (The Telegraph, London)

  • Jesus fish comes out full circle | The Ministry and Lesbian and Gay Catholics who hope its newly unveiled rainbow fish pin will be worn as "a sign of recognition of our lesbian and gay sisters and brothers." (Emil Steiner, The Washington Post)

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U.K religion:

  • Calm your outrage | The way to combat bad religion is with good religion (Mark Vernon, The Guardian, London)

  • Hate the sin, not the sinner | The contempt shown by liberals like Polly Toynbee and AC Grayling for all religious sentiment sounds as blinkered as the bigots they berate (Dave Hill, The Guardian, London)

  • If they preach the cause of the poor, they're my people | Aggressive secularism on the left is bizarre given that religious leaders are now among the few ready to speak out against injustice (Neal Lawson, The Guardian, London)

  • Saving the world before breakfast | I'm quite partial to a rant about religious extremism, but some of the current atheist reaction against religious faith is short-sighted (Francis Sedgemore, The Guardian, London)

  • New militants | Secularists like Richard Dawkins are behaving like bullies, pilloring religious followers and trying to eradicate their beliefs and values from public debate (Tobias Jones, The Guardian)

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Church and state:

  • Council axes Christian prayers | Prayers held before council meetings in one of the nation's oldest boroughs have been scrapped to allay fears they may offend other religions (Daily Express, U.K.)

  • Also: Council axes prayers at meetings | A tradition of saying Christian prayers before a Devon town's council meetings has been axed (BBC)

  • Dominican evangelicals question elimination of NGO funds | The Dominican Evangelical Church feels that the reduction of budget allocations for non-government organizations (NGOs), is equivalent to discrimination (Dominican Today, Dominican Republic)

  • Focus on religious freedom | Museum exhibit does not try to say what's right or wrong--it's more interested in feedback from visitors (Chicago Tribune)

  • Decision on Cowboy Church, Bedford County dispute be more than a year away | The Cowboy Church of Virginia in Moneta and Bedford's Department of Community Development are waiting for a decision from the Department of Justice to determine whether Bedford's zoning laws are in violation of a federal act that protects religious land use (The News and Advance, Lynchburg, Va.)

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  • 3 Capo Unified trustees want 'Christmas' put back in the vacation | They say they're just calling it 'what it is.' Some parents are offended by the proposal (Los Angeles Times)

  • Also: 'Christmas' comments revive religion claims | New trustees in Capistrano have denied religious backing, but critics see danger in holiday label (The Orange County Register, Ca.)

  • Courses on Bible up for vote | State Board of Education members are expected to give preliminary approval to new academic courses on the Bible, allowing Georgia's public high schools for the first time to offer taxpayer-funded classes devoted to the "Good Book." (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

  • Board of education approves new sex-ed curriculum | The Montgomery County Board of Education approved new sex-education lessons yesterday for the eighth and 10th grades that teach what it means to be homosexual but say little about how people become gay, resisting pressure from a divided community to define homosexuality as nature or nurture, right or wrong (The Washington Post)

  • Also: School board approves revised sex-ed courses | Montgomery County's school board yesterday unanimously approved a revised sex-education curriculum that teaches middle- and high-school students about homosexuality and condom use, despite opposition again from parents (The Washington Times)

  • Yoga in school poses a problem for Christian mom | "Yoga isn't just a stretch," she said. "It's an ancient Hindu religion that has been practised for a few thousand years. There's a strong spiritual belief which accompanies these stretches or poses" (The Globe and Mail, Toronto)

  • Bishop slams end of term church services | Swedish schools' end of term church services are a relic of the past and should be scrapped, says a Church of Sweden bishop (The Local, Sweden)

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  • ID needs to offer a competing theory | The absence of any proposed mechanism for speciation is a fundamental deficiency for any scientific explanation for evolution, and accounts for why intelligent design is not taken seriously within the scientific community. (Kenneth Pidcock, Centre Daily Times, State College, Pa.)

  • Loving the enemy | I thought creationists were monsters, until I married one (Tatiana Hamboyan Harrison, Newsweek)

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These kids today:

  • A portrait of "Generation Next" | One-in-five members of Generation Next say they have no religious affiliation or are atheist or agnostic, nearly double the proportion of young people who said that in the late 1980s. And just 4% of Gen Nexters say people in their generation view becoming more spiritual as their most important goal in life (Pew Research Center)

  • Praise pit to faith | In Australia, the band of the moment is the Planetshakers, named after the fastest growing Christian youth movement in the country Shaking the Planet. Its members are trying to do just that, from a praise pit rather than a mosh pit (The 7:30 Report, Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

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  • That's Gov. Crist: C-R-I-S-T | Through no fault of his own, Florida's new governor is having a tiny bit of trouble with separation of church and state. Gov. Charlie Crist's Web site briefly referred to his aides as the "Christ Team." The misspelling was quickly corrected. And in fairness, some Florida newspapers have also mistakenly referred to Governor Christ (Morning Edition, NPR)

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Other stories of interest:

  • Stepping it up | A '20s black frat dance is being revived in schoolyards, churches, and in a new movie (The Boston Globe)

  • France 'no longer a Catholic country' | A poll published in Le Monde des Religions yesterday showed the number of self-declared French Catholics had dropped from 80 per cent in the early 1990s and 67 per cent in 2000 and to 51 per cent today (The Telegraph, London)

  • Onward, Christian Zionists | Calev Ben-David reviews A Match Made in Heaven by Zev Chafets (The Jerusalem Post)

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