Sunday, December 31, 2006

2006 Top Stories Redux

The editors of Crosswalk's Religion Today ( offer their own list of "Top Ten" religion stories in 2006. Most of the items correspond to the earlier list printed. But, I thought you might appreciate the contrast.

10) Navy chaplain’s fight to pray in Jesus’ name
(See Also: Navy Chaplain now Fighting Forced Discharge)
“Chaplain Gordon James Klingenschmitt received a reprimand and a suspended fine for the conviction, but he says the conviction will effectively end his military career, possibly by the end of the year. But Klingenschmitt says he will appeal the decision using the argument that the order was based on an illegal policy put in place by the Secretary of the Navy. ‘When I went there and prayed in Jesus' name, I relied upon the Navy uniform regulations,’ Klingenschmitt explains. ‘But no, the judge ruled that those uniform regulations don't protect me because the Secretary of the Navy policy now has redefined 'public worship.' It's redefined 'religious observance.’’”
Taking this basic Christian tenet away from military chaplains not only begs the question of what other freedoms may be lost, but what brand of religion are our chaplains allowed to preach to our troops?

Darfur conflict ongoing; some Christian ministries leaving
(See Also: Safe Return of Darfur Christian Relief Worker)

“At a time when it would be hard to imagine a more deteriorated Darfur – the situation has indeed worsened, forcing many relief groups and individuals to finally relent and flee the human-caused wasteland. ‘It is unbelievable for any human being to imagine that the entire Darfur right now is unsafe even in the cities,’ said Motasim Adam, a Darfurian refugee and president of the Darfur People’s Association of New York.”

You know it’s bad when even the Church has to vacate. Hope seems far away.

8) Christian movies keep coming (
End of the Spear, The Nativity, Facing the Giants (and it’s PG rating))

A conservative advocacy group is bristling over the PG rating given to a new family film with a "pro-God theme." According to the movie poster, the theme of Facing the Giants is, "Never give up, never back down, never lose faith." But the movie poster also says parental guidance is suggested "for some thematic elements."

These films and others like them continue to receive their fair share of reviews from critics both religious and secular. The more Christians buy tickets to them, the more they’ll get made.

American Christians on the forefront of aid during and after Israeli/Lebanese conflict

“Evangelical Christians dug deep into their pockets to provide humanitarian relief to Israel during the war in Lebanon this summer, donating nearly $20 million dollars to help rebuild the north, according to estimates. Though largely overshadowed by the massive generosity of their American Jewish counterparts, the pro-Israel Christian community also rallied significantly in support of the north, with less fanfare.”

The war dominated headlines over the summer, but it never led to the doom some predicted. Out of the chaos came the reminder that many Christians are strong supporters of Israel.

6) Gnosticism Returns (
Gospel of Judas/Da Vinci Code film near-simultaneous release)

“Gnostic ideas did become popular later, and they are becoming increasingly popular now. The truth of the Gospel stands, and Christians will retain firm confidence in the authenticity of the New Testament and, in particular, of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Nevertheless, old Gnosticisms are continually repackaged and "rediscovered" even as new forms of Gnostic thought emerge in our postmodern culture. Informed Christians will be watchful and aware when confronting churches or institutions that present spurious writings, rejected as heretical by the early church, on the same plane as the New Testament.”

The Gnostic Gospels received renewed interest from seekers, scholars, and believers alike in April and May, as everyone wanted to know what to make of the claims of The Da Vinci Code, the histories of Mary Magdalene and Judas, and how to share the truth with their friends. For all the noise at the time, things sure have quieted down, thanks in part to the movie’s poor showing.

5) Muslims offended by
Danish cartoons, Pope’s speech
(See Also: Pope Apologizes for Speech)

“The leaders of various religious parties in a joint statement termed the Pope’s comments linking Islam with violence as the third attack on Islam this year after alleged sacrilege of Quran by US soldiers in Guantanamo Bay prison facility and publication of blasphemous caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad by western publications. ‘The Pope should tender apology to Muslims and take his words back,’ the NNI quoted the religious leaders as saying.”

If it’s tough for you to swallow how apologies to non-Christian groups are easily handed out, but apologies to Christians are almost never seen, just know you aren’t alone…

ECUSA/Bishop Jefferts-Schori fallout
(See Also: ECUSA to Lose Its Largest Congregation)

“Controversy has escalated in the Episcopal Church after the denomination that three years ago ordained an openly homosexual bishop chose a woman as its national leader -- a move that observers predict could signal a major global split within the larger Anglican Communion. Katharine Jefferts Schori, bishop of the Diocese of Nevada, is the new presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church after a vote by delegates to the Episcopal General Convention in Columbus, Ohio, June 18. Schori said she voted to confirm Bishop V. Gene Robinson in 2003, and she has said she does not believe homosexuality is a sin.”

Since Jefferts-Schori’s election, more congregations are deciding to split with the Episcopal church, including two of Virginia’s oldest and largest this past month. When the Word is compromised in the highest levels of church leadership, why should we expect it to thrive?

3) Rick Warren in the middle of divisive issues (
global warming, AIDS, Syria, Obama)

“I do think that evangelicals as a whole, we’re trying to broaden the agenda. There’s no doubt about that. The way I tell it to my people is the church is the body of Christ, and for the last 50 years, the hands and the feet have been amputated. And all we’ve been is a big mouth. And most of the time, we’re known for what we’re against. And frankly, I’m tired of that. I think the church should be known for what it’s for, not what it’s against.” –Rick Warren, on NBC’s Meet the Press Christmas Eve

Not everyone agreed with the themes of The Purpose-Driven Life. But neither could anyone have foreseen the polarizing effect the Saddleback pastor could have following his success. Consider for a moment the results of a poll we recently ran on Crosswalk, which asked: “Do you find yourself more in agreement or disagreement with Rick Warren's stances and actions?” Out of 282 respondents, 63 percent said they tend to disagree with what Pastor Warren says and does. Only 27 percent tend to agree with Warren right now.

Ted Haggard steps down from pastorate and NAE
(See Also: Haggard Scandal, Confession Shakes Evangelical Community)
Ted Haggard, former president of the National Association of Evangelicals and former pastor of New Life Church in Colorado Springs, has been in seclusion as the evangelical Christian community reels from news of his admission that he lied to conceal his "sexual immorality." Amid scandal involving allegations made by a male "escort," Haggard has stepped down from his posts and, in a letter to his church community, confessed his struggle of many years with "repulsive and dark" desires. According to reports, the former pastor denied in the letter that all of the allegations against him are true but said "enough of them are that I was appropriately removed" from church leadership.
The healing has hopefully begun. The media has used Haggard’s fall and that of other pastors as a springboard for hopes that maybe Bible-believing Christians will become more gay-friendly. But our true hope is that Haggard’s failure will remind all of us how easy it is to become ensnared by temptation, and that his admission will light the path for others in leadership who first need to get the log out of their own eyes.

And our top Religion Today story for 2006…

Amish response to Pennsylvania schoolhouse shooting
“The Amish have been reaching out to the family of the gunman, Charles Carl Roberts IV, 32, who committed suicide during the attack. Dwight Lefever, a Roberts family spokesman, said an Amish neighbor comforted the Roberts family hours after the shooting and extended forgiveness to them… Staring down the barrel of Charles Carl Roberts' gun, 13-year-old Marian Fisher and her 11-year-old sister, Barbie, bravely pleaded with the madman to shoot them and spare the eight other girls he was holding hostage. "Marian said, 'Shoot me first,' and Barbie said, 'Shoot me second,' " said midwife Rita Rhoads, who had helped deliver several of the victims. "They were really trying to save the younger girls. It is a real reflection of their faith’… At the behest of Amish leaders, a fund has also been set up for the killer's widow and three children.”

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