Duck! Elderly patriarchs discussing doctrine!

This elderly patriarch's image is certainly striking, with his stern face and a gray beard that flows over his chest, contrasting with the colorful clothing typical of his flock and his unique line of work.Just before Christmas, he raised eyebrows with a blunt statement on one of today's most controversial issues.No, this wasn't the Duck Commander in Louisiana. This patriarch resides in the city his followers formally refer to as Constantinople-New Rome."The Lord appointed the … [Read more...]

What would Pope Francis pick as top 2013 news story?

Popes come and popes go, with a new pope elected every few years or decades.Thus, when viewed through the lens of history, the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI was a stunning event in the history of Roman Catholicism and, thus, all of Western Christianity. He was the first man to resign St. Peter's throne in 600 years. Surely this was the most important religion-news story of 2013?But when seen through the lens of the mainstream press, the bookish Benedict's exit was a mere ripple in the … [Read more...]

Telling the Nativity story, with help of two foster boys

Night after night, Jesse and Kelly Cone led their children through some of the most familiar verses in all of Christianity.The goal was to use the quiet pre-Christmas season of Advent -- or Nativity Lent in their Eastern Orthodox parish in Santa Maria, Calif. -- to help their young sons grasp the meaning of Feast of the Nativity, which begins Dec. 25th and continues for 12 days. This isn't easy in a culture in which the powers that be roll out the Christmas bandwagon with the Halloween … [Read more...]

Eye to eye with Mother Teresa (farewell to Scripps Howard)

Mother Teresa was having a bad press conference.Journalists gathered for her 1989 Denver visit seemed determined to ask a litany of questions about her views on every imaginable issue in world affairs and American politics. The soft-spoken, yet often stern, nun seemed confused and kept stressing that her Missionary Sisters of Charity would always focus on the needs of the needy and the sick, including those suffering from AIDS.One television reporter even asked if the day's main event -- … [Read more...]

Classic Billy Graham, at 95 years of age

The Rev. Billy Graham has been worried about the state of America's soul for a long, long time.So it wasn't surprising that -- when preaching what could be his final sermon -- the 95-year-old evangelist looked straight into the camera and talked about sin and tears, repentance and salvation. And the cross."Our country's in great need of a spiritual awakening. There have been times when I've wept as I've gone from city to city and I've seen how far people have wandered from God," said … [Read more...]

‘Backsliders’ and the ‘unchurched’ equal the ‘Nones’?

Old-school preachers used to call them "backsliders," those folks who were raised in the pews but then fled.Sociologists and church-growth professionals eventually pinned more bookish labels on these people, calling them the "unchurched" or describing them as "spiritual, but not religious."Pollsters at the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life and similar think tanks are now using a more neutral term to describe a key trend in various religious traditions, talking about a sharp increase in … [Read more...]

Unusual challenge from a Greek Orthodox bishop

It happens all the time: Church leaders stand at podiums and urge members of their flocks to go and share their faith, striving to win new converts.These speeches rarely make news, because they are not unusual. But something very unusual happened earlier this month in Brookline, Mass."You will surely agree that our mission ... is to lead our brothers and sisters -- both inside and outside the church -- to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ," said the featured speaker."This is becoming … [Read more...]

The pope, the media and balance on pro-life ministries

It was the telephone call heard around the world, because the pope made the call.On the other end of the line was a single woman in central Italy, who mailed Pope Francis a confused, anguished letter after learning she was pregnant by a man who turned out to be married. The man demanded that she have an abortion and she refused.Then a strange telephone number appeared on her caller ID screen. It was the pope, who called to say that she made the right decision because the "child was a … [Read more...]


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