Words pastors fear saying to their flocks, part 1

The powers that be in professional sports know that it’s easier to fire embattled coaches than to push powerful athletes out the door.Pastors know that the same pattern usually holds true when push comes to shove in religious sanctuaries. The sad result is often a vicious cycle of fear, stress, doubt, despair, workaholism, frustration and fatalism.In his book “Counseling Christian Workers,” the late Dr. Louis McBurney — a Mayo Clinic trained psychiatrist known for helping clergy in time … [Read more...]

Thumbs down for Obama faith, again

For those keeping score, let it be noted that the White House transcript from the National Christmas Tree lighting ceremony says that President Barack Obama shouted "Merry Christmas" before adding "Happy holidays."In fact, Obama said "Christmas" eight times, twice as often as he mentioned "holidays." With his family at his side, the president also used an even more controversial word -- "Christian.""Each year we've come together to celebrate a story that has endured for two millennia," he … [Read more...]

Voices of unbelievers, in pulpits

On Sunday mornings, you will find him leading hymns in one of the independent Church of Christ congregations somewhere in South Carolina.Call him "Adam." He is a church administrator, a "worship minister" and a self-proclaimed "atheist agnostic." That last detail is a secret. After all, his wife and teen-aged children are devout believers and he needs to stay employed."Here's how I'm handling my job. ... I see it as playacting. I kind of see myself as taking on a role of a believer in a … [Read more...]

Palin’s pastor meets the press

The Sunday service had just ended and the Rev. Larry Kroon couldn't believe what he was seeing.A journalist was chasing Wasilla Bible Church members in the aisles, trying to convince somebody, anybody, to dish about his flock's most famous church lady. The craziness had started as soon as Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin became the GOP's nominee for vice president.Suddenly, there were satellite dishes out front and worshippers were trapped inside, trying to escape to the safety of their cars in the … [Read more...]

A holy kind of anger

Anyone who has turned on talk radio, scanned the headlines or visited Capitol Hill lately knows that millions of Americans are angry.Democrats are mad at Republicans who are mad about President Barack Obama's health-care plans. Democrats are mad at other Democrats who are raising questions about hot-button issues in the legislation, especially questions about tax dollars and abortions. Republicans are mad about lots of other things and they have YouTube videos to prove it.Right now, … [Read more...]

Twin rocking chairs for ELCA gays

There was no way for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to affirm the ministries of clergy living in "publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships" without attracting attention.After all, debates about the Bible and sexuality had rocked America's largest Lutheran flock since it was born in 1988 through the merger of three older Lutheran denominations. Similar fights have caused bitter divisions among Episcopalians, Presbyterians, United Methodists and other … [Read more...]

Hot 50 American rabbis

For those marking their calendars far in advance, the next celebration of Passover will begin at sundown on April 19, 2008.This means well-connected American Jews have almost a full year to lobby for their favorite rabbi to make the unofficial, but totally buzz-worthy, list of the nation's 50 top rabbis. The pre-Passover list in Newsweek was such a hit that the film-industry players who created it are already gearing up for the sequel.The goal was to jump start discussions about what it means to … [Read more...]

Why eulogies have changed

Seconds after American Airlines Flight 11 passed overhead, another Franciscan brother ran to Father Mychal Judge's room in the friary to let him know the World Trade Center was on fire.The veteran chaplain quickly changed out of his simple brown habit and into his fire-department uniform -- pausing only to comb and spray his hair. Judge was heading into danger, but he was also ready to face the cameras. Soon, a photographer captured unforgettable images of firefighters carrying the priest's body … [Read more...]