Third World

Chopping that Anglican timeline

The resolution from the 1979 Episcopal General Convention in Denver inspired a small wave of headlines, even though it simply restated centuries of doctrine about marriage. "We reaffirm the traditional teaching of the Church on marriage, marital fidelity and sexual chastity as the standard of Christian sexual morality," it said. "Candidates for ordination are expected to conform to this standard."

However, 21 bishops disagreed, publicly stating that gay sexual relationships were "no less a sign to the world of God's love" as traditional marriages. These bishops -- including the Rt. Rev. Edmund Browning, who was chosen as America's presiding bishop six years later -- warned that since "we are answerable before almighty God ... we cannot accept these recommendations or implement them in our dioceses."

It was the start of an ecclesiastical war that has dominated the 70-million-member Anglican Communion for decades.

Then again, this conflict may have started in the 1960s, when Bishop James Pike was censured for his "offensive" and "irresponsible" views questioning the Virgin Birth, the divinity of Jesus, the Trinity and other ancient doctrines. And in 1977 a high-profile leader -- Bishop Paul Moore of New York -- created a firestorm when he ordained a priest who identified herself as a lesbian.

It's hard to understand this story without some grasp of this complicated timeline. However, news reports regularly chop off several decades, thus making it appear that these doctrinal clashes began with the 2003 consecration of V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire as the first openly gay, non-celibate Episcopal bishop.

"This whole conflict is actually about the Bible and how you interpret it," said the Rev. George Conger, a correspondent for The Church of England Newspaper. "The polite warfare has been going on for 30 or 40 years. The open warfare truly began in 1997, when the archbishops from Africa and the rest of the Global South met in Jerusalem and decided to let their voices be heard."

In addition to events in the late 1970s, other crucial dates on this timeline include:

* 1989 -- Bishop John Spong of the Diocese of Newark ordains the first homosexual priest who is openly living in a same-sex relationship.

* 1994 -- Spong drafts his Koinonia Statement affirming the ordination of gays and lesbians living in faithful, monogamous relationships -- with the support of 90 bishops. He also publishes his 12 theses for a liberal Reformation, rejecting belief in the transcendent, personal God of the Bible.

* 1996 -- An ecclesiastical court dismisses heresy charges against Bishop Walter Righter, after another controversial ordination. The court says Episcopalians have "no clear doctrine" clearly forbidding the ordination of persons who are sexually active outside of marriage.

* 1998 -- In a stunning defeat for the left, bishops at the global Lambeth Conference in Canterbury declare that sex outside of marriage, including gay sex, is "incompatible with scripture" and call for a ban on same-sex-union rites and the ordination of non-celibate homosexuals.

* 2000 -- Archbishops from Rwanda and Southeast Asia consecrate two American conservatives as missionary bishops, escalating global efforts to form an alternative structure for Anglican traditionalists in North America.

Since the consecration of Robinson, the Episcopal Church has made several attempts to appease the large, overwhelmingly conservative Anglican churches of Africa, Asia and other regions overseas. Meanwhile, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has attempted to calm nerves, while starting the process of creating a doctrinal covenant that he hopes will provide unity on issues of faith and practice.

However, early this week the U.S. House of Bishops voted -- by a 99-45 margin -- to allow dioceses to proceed with the selection of gays and lesbians for "any ordained ministry." This effectively overturned a resolution passed at the 2006 General Convention that urged dioceses to refrain from consecrating bishops whose "manner of life" would offend other churches in the Anglican Communion.

"The key question is whether this is a national story or a global story," said the Rev. Kendall Harmon, canon theologian for the conservative Diocese of South Carolina. "The way most people tell this story, America initiates things and then the rest of the world responds. Then America responds and you repeat this process over and over.

"You see, America is at the center of everything. It's the American church and its concerns that count the most. Meanwhile, Anglicans around the world are trying to tell a different story."

Religion futures market 2007

When it comes to statistics about religion, Europe is an urbane continent full of empty cathedrals, while America offers rows of suburban megachurches.

Consider what happens when the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life asks a basic "salience question" to determine the level of interest in faith-related matters around the world. Participants are asked to answer "yes" or "no" in response to this statement: "Religion is very important to me."

About six out of 10 in the United States say "yes," noted political scientist Luis E. Lugo, who has directed the research center since 2004.

"There is not a place in Europe, even in Eastern Europe, that comes close to that kind of level of religious commitment," he said, during a religion-news seminar in Washington organized by my colleagues at the Oxford Centre for Religion & Public Life. Even Canada, he noted, now "looks like Europe on this question."

In Great Britain, 33 percent of those polled said religion was "very important" in their lives, compared with 27 percent in Italy, 21 percent in Germany and 11 percent in France. In Poland, the number was 36 percent, with Russia at 14 percent and the Czech Republic at 11 percent.

This rift between the old world and the new has existed for decades. Lugo said that when he discusses these statistics with Europeans they say, "Ah! See, we knew it. The United States is a very strange place. It's just full of religious zealots."

But then Lugo clicks to another chart as he describes what he calls the "religious futures market." The goal is to map the intersection of faith and demographics, including factors such as fertility rates and religious conversion trends in various nations. What happens when Lugo adds statistics from Latin America, Asia and Africa to his "salience question" chart?

The numbers are stark. In Guatemala, 80 percent of those polled said religion was "very important" in their lives. That number was 77 percent in Brazil and 72 percent in Honduras, but only 39 percent in Argentina.

And Asia? The "yes" total was 95 percent in Indonesia, 92 percent in India, 91 percent in the Philippines, but only 12 percent in Japan. And Africa? Senegal checks in at 97 percent, Nigeria is 92 percent and the numbers only declined to 80 percent in Angola.

Lugo said the typical response by Europeans to these numbers could be summed up in one word -- "Whoa!" Then there is nervous laughter.

So, when it comes to weighing the role of religion in world affairs, Europeans who worry about America have to ask: "Who looks strange now?"

"The world as a whole is even more religious than the United States," Lugo added. "So it is not the United States that needs explaining, in many ways, when it comes to religion, it is Europe that needs to be explained. Why this secular continent ... surrounded by a sea of religiosity?"

This global reality raises all kinds of questions, such as:

* Why are fertility rates linked to the fervency of religious beliefs? "The most secular parts of the world have the lowest fertility rates," he noted, "and the most religious have the highest fertility rates."

* How will Europe respond to high rates of immigration by religious believers, especially Muslims and Christians from Eastern Europe?

* Can the continent of Africa avoid being shaped by conflict between Islam and Christianity -- two growing, conversion-oriented faiths on that continent?

* How will the move of more Catholics into what Lugo called "high-octane Pentecostalism" -- inside the Church of Rome and in Protestantism -- affect Latin America, Central America and, finally, North America?

If researchers focus strictly on Europe and North America, they may conclude that secularism and liberalized forms of faith are on the rise. But if they look at the global numbers, said Lugo, they will see a completely different picture of the future.

"You don't have to be a genius to conclude that it is going to be more religious and less secular," he said. "There is not a European country, for instance, that is anywhere close to a replacement birth rate. Not even close. All of their populations are declining. ... So on that basis alone, you can predict that the whole religion question is going to become even more important, in terms of global affairs."

Episcopal chair fights

True connoisseurs of ecclesiastical humor can answer this question: "How many Episcopalians does it take to change a light bulb?"

The most popular answers sound something like this: "Ten. One to change the bulb and nine to start a newsletter about the irreplaceability of the original bulb."

Episcopalians do love their traditions, a trait that they share with everyone else in the Anglican Communion. Nevertheless, the reason the world's 77 million Anglicans fight so much is that many cherish some traditions more than others or sincerely believe that, in changing times, some traditions trump others.

Consider, for example, the recent letter from Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori to Nigerian Archbishop Peter J. Akinola, urging him not to visit the United States to lead rites installing a bishop here to minister to those who believe the Episcopal Church has veered into heresy.

That Episcopal status quo

When it comes to same-sex unions, the Episcopal Church has been using a kind of "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

The church's General Convention has never authorized an official rite to bless homosexual relationships. Bishops have, however, been allowed to approve blessings at the local level or simply look the other way.

The national church didn't ask and local bishops didn't have to tell.

The big question is whether this tactic will work after the latest meeting of the world's Anglican primates, which ended early this week in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. In a blunt communiqu

Pentecostal power 2006

Church historian Vinson Synan has made 20 trips to Latin America while studying the explosive growth of Pentecostal Christianity and he believes that it's time to state the obvious.

"We've reached the point where you're not going to be able to get along very well with many believers in the Third World unless you embrace the gifts of the Holy Spirit," said Synan, who teaches at Regent University in Virginia Beach, Va.

"You just can't have a closed mind when it comes to healing and prophecy and speaking in tongues if you want to talk to people in places like Latin America, Africa and Asia. We?re talking about the whole church there -- almost all of the Protestants and many of the Catholics."

Synan has been saying this for decades in books like "The Old-Time Power" and "The Century of the Holy Spirit," and he isn't alone. Now, researchers at the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life ( in Washington, D.C., have released a wave of data from 10 nations documenting that the diverse 100-year-old movement called Pentecostalism has touched the lives of one in four Christians around the world.

The Pew team defined "Pentecostals" as members of older bodies such as the Assemblies of God, the Church of God in Christ and the International Pentecostal Holiness Church. Then there are "charismatics" who are Catholics, Anglicans and mainline Protestants who embrace healing, prophecy and other spiritual gifts, yet remain in their own churches.

Together, these groups form what many now call the "renewalists." According to this study, these believers -- to cite four eyebrow-raising examples -- make up 60 percent of the population in Guatemala, 56 percent in Kenya, 49 percent in Brazil and 44 percent in the Philippines.

"Renewalists, as a group ? tended to have a very high view of the authority of scripture. They tended to be very regular in worship attendance. They tended to uniformly believe that Jesus is the only way to salvation," said John C. Green, senior fellow at the Pew Center in religion and American politics.

"They tended to be quite conservative or traditional on moral beliefs such as sexual behavior, the consumption of alcohol, divorce and so forth. ... But even in those countries where majorities of the population hold very traditional beliefs, renewalists tend to hold those beliefs more intensely and more extensively."

Another interesting part of this study, said Synan, indicated that "glossolalia," or "speaking in tongues," may no longer be the spiritual gift that defines charismatics and even many Pentecostals. Within the Assemblies of God, for example, there has long been a gap between an "old guard" that believes this experience of ecstatic speech is always the initial sign that someone has been "baptized in the Holy Spirit" and a "third wave" of younger believers who see it as a gift that some experience and some do not.

What truly unites "renewalists" is their belief that miracles and other signs of God's power, especially acts of healing, are real and can be seen in modern life. There is no question that this emphasis on the supernatural causes tension in some churches touched by Pentecostalism, especially tensions between Protestant and Catholic leaders in America and Europe and their Third World counterparts.

Meanwhile, there are conservative Protestants -- especially Calvinists and Baptists -- who reject Pentecostalism and its emphasis on prophecy and "glossolalia." Leaders in the Southern Baptist Convention, for example, have decided to ban all foreign missionary candidates who confess that they practice a "private prayer language," another phrase often used to describe "speaking in unknown tongues."

Nevertheless, said Pew Forum Director Luis Lugo, "it is getting harder and harder to find non-charismatic Protestants in Latin America, Africa and many other parts of the world." Meanwhile, top Catholic leaders appear to have accepted the need for theological dialogue with the charismatics in their global flock.

At least, said Lugo, it's clear that some clerics in Rome can do the math.

"The Vatican knows that it will have to deal with this new reality and the trend there is definitely toward accommodation," he said. "The U.S. Catholic bishops have not been as open. But the growth of Catholicism in this country is among charismatic Catholics, especially among Hispanics and people moving here from Africa and overseas. There is simply no way to ignore that."

A word from Canterbury, finally

Thousands of Episcopalians believe the Sacrament of Marriage should be modernized to include same-sex unions.

Thousands of others across America disagree.

Many regional dioceses have become battlegrounds, with liberal parishes clashing with conservative parishes. At the national level, some bishops have tried, with little success, to convince their church hierarchy to repent after its 2003 consecration of the openly gay Bishop V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire. This war has rocked the 70-million-member Anglican Communion, where traditionalists hold a majority among the world's bishops.

So everyone has been waiting for a sign from the throne of St. Augustine. Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has been pulled in both directions, although his progressive views on sexuality are well known.

"What is the current tension in the Anglican Communion actually about? Plenty of people are confident that they know the answer," wrote Williams, in a letter this week to the Anglican primates. "It's about gay bishops, or possibly women bishops. The American Church is in favor and others are against -- and the Church of England is not sure (as usual)."

But this is a conflict inside a global, sacramental communion, he stressed. It cannot be debated in political terms.

Anglicans can even appreciate the role homosexuals have played in church life, he said, yet believe that this "doesn't settle the question of whether the Christian Church has the freedom, on the basis of the Bible, and its historic teachings, to bless homosexual partnerships as a clear expression of God's will. That is disputed among Christians, and, as a bare matter of fact, only a small minority would answer yes to the question."

Thus, Williams believes it's time for Anglicans to write a covenant that would bind the communion together on crucial points of ancient Christian doctrine and practice. Liberal churches that declined to sign would become "associate" members of the communion and remain linked by bonds of history and friendship -- but not "constituent" members at the legal and sacramental levels.

Anglicanism would split, along lines defined by the global majority.

"Some actions -- and sacramental actions in particular -- just do have the effect of putting a Church outside or even across the central stream of the life they have shared with other Churches," wrote Williams. "It isn't a question of throwing people into outer darkness, but of recognizing that actions have consequences -- and that actions believed in good faith to be 'prophetic' in their radicalism are likely to have costly consequences."

What would this look like in practice? The relationship, said the archbishop, would not be "unlike that between the Church of England and the Methodist Church," which broke away from Anglicanism in 1791.

The Episcopal Church posted the Williams letter on its website, without initial comment. However, activists on both sides quickly linked Canterbury's sobering epistle with the decision during their recent General Convention to change the church's name from the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America to the Episcopal Church -- period. This underlined the fact that it already includes small jurisdictions in the Caribbean, Latin America and Europe. Might it soon include Canada, New Zealand, Scotland other churches that reject a doctrinal covenant?

Money will be an issue as Anglican leaders write their covenant.

The older, richer churches control massive endowments, pensions, seminaries, properties and the ecclesiastical structures in their lands. They control the resources of the past and will use them to defend what they believe is the theology of the future.

However, traditionalists in the Third World and in some giant American parishes are thriving in the here and now. They believe they can use the resources of the present to defend the theology of the past.

It's crucial that Williams repeatedly stressed that changes are coming no matter what, said Father David Roseberry, rector of the 4,500-member Christ Church in Plano, Texas. This week, the parish announced that it would leave the Episcopal Church, while striving to remain in the Anglican Communion.

"I'm impressed that Rowan Williams is not willing to sacrifice the doctrine, discipline and worship of Anglicanism in order to accept the doctrine, discipline and worship of the modern Episcopal Church," said Roseberry. "In fact, it appears that he is sacrificing his own personal views in order to preserve the unity of the church. This is exactly what we believe a bishop should do."

Communion in the Anglican Communion?

The words change from continent to continent, but the world's 77 million Anglicans have always found unity around altars containing bread and wine.

In Ireland's new Book of Common Prayer, the modern rite proclaims: "Father, with this bread and this cup we do as Christ your Son commanded: we remember his passion and death, we celebrate his resurrection and ascension, and we look for the coming of his kingdom.

"Accept through him, our great high priest, this our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving; and as we eat and drink these holy gifts, grant by the power of the life-giving Spirit that we may be made one in your holy Church. ... Amen."

These familiar words failed to unite 38 archbishops when they gathered recently in the Dromantine Conference Centre in County Down, Northern Ireland. In fact, the Eucharistic table became the symbol of division.

The leaders of the Anglican Communion met for business, study and prayer, but could not share Holy Communion.

It's hard to gather at the same altar when bishops lack a common understanding of words such as "salvation," "resurrection," "marriage" and even "God," said Bishop C. FitzSimons Allison, an Anglican historian who is the retired bishop of South Carolina.

"You can't hold a church together with appeals to human emotions. You need stronger stuff than that," he said. "You can get by with bonds of affection at your local Rotary Club, but that won't work for us right now. ... You have to be of one mind on the doctrines that have united Christians through the ages."

In headlines around the world, the clashes behind Dromantine's high walls were caused by a familiar controversy -- the ministry of New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson, a gay man living in a same-sex relationship.

The primates released a five-page communique that, in its most quoted passage, urgently requested that the "Episcopal Church (USA) and the Anglican Church of Canada voluntarily withdraw their members from the Anglican Consultative Council for the period leading up to the next Lambeth Conference" of the world's bishops in 2008.

The North Americans quickly denied that they had agreed to stand down.

But reports circulated that conservatives, led by Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola and others, had moved beyond words into dramatic action. Before the meeting, Akinola wrote Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and warned that many Third World archbishops would not celebrate communion with U.S. Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold. There are 2 million Episcopalians and between 40 million and 50 million Anglicans in Africa alone.

Seeking compromise, Williams proposed bringing in a chaplain to lead a daily Eucharist.

"Archbishop Akinola responded it was not the worthiness of the minister that prompted their objections, but their belief that unity of doctrine preceded unity of worship. It was not a question of receiving 'from' Bishop Griswold, but 'with' Bishop Griswold," wrote the Rev. George Conger, in the Church of England Newspaper.

Williams relented, "formally recognizing the state of broken Eucharistic communion," wrote Conger. Some Third World archbishops, led by Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini of Rwanda, fasted for the four days.

Griswold was defiant, saying his church welcomes future opportunities to defend its actions on behalf of homosexual clergy, since its leaders believe they have "sought to act with integrity in response to the Spirit, and that we have worked, and continue to work, to honor the different perspectives very much present" in the church.

Yes, these are painful and sobering times, and Allison said he could understand the stance taken by Third World bishops.

After all, it has been a dozen years since he decided he could no longer, with a clear conscience, receive communion during meetings of the U.S. House of Bishops. During a Bible study, several bishops had said that they believed they worshipped a god that is "older and greater" than the God of the Bible. Others said they could not affirm this belief, but would not condemn it.

"This is apostasy," Allison said.

When it came time for all the bishops to go to the altar and receive communion, Allison declined.

"If you do not share the same faith, you cannot share the same communion," he said, recalling that moment. "When people start talking about new revelations and creating some kind of new faith, that's when the red flags have to go up."

United Methodists do the math

From coast to coast, United Methodists are doing the math.

America's third-largest flock just survived another quadrennial General Conference rocked by media-friendly fighting over sex. Now it's time to dissect the numbers.

Delegates voted 570-334 to affirm the historic doctrines of the Christian faith.

Efforts to back laws defining "marriage as the union of one man and one woman" passed on a 624-184 vote. Same-sex union rites fell -- 756-159. Should the church delete its "faithfulness in marriage and celibacy in singleness" standard for clergy? Delegates voted 806-95 to say "no."

The big news was a 579-376 vote against weakening the Book of Discipline's law that self-avowed, practicing homosexuals cannot be clergy because homosexuality is "incompatible with Christian teaching." Delegates also rejected a resolution from gay-rights supporters that said: "We recognize that Christians disagree on the compatibility of homosexual practice with Christian teaching." That vote was 527-423.

After three decades of pain, it seemed the numbers were stacking up for United Methodist conservatives, whose churches are thriving in the American Sunbelt and the Third World.

But a final plot twist remained in Pittsburgh. A key leader caused fireworks by saying it's time to end the war over the Bible and sex -- by separating the armies.

"Our culture alone confronts us with more challenges than we can humanly speaking confront and challenge. That struggle, combined with the continuous struggle in the church, is more than we can bear. Our people, who have been faithful and patient, should not have to continue to endure our endless conflict," said the Rev. William Hinson, retired pastor of the 12,000-member First United Methodist Church of Houston, at a breakfast for conservatives.

"I believe the time has come when we must begin to explore an amicable and just separation that will free us both from our cycle of pain and conflict. Such a just separation will protect the property rights of churches and the pension rights of clergy. It will also free us to reclaim our high calling and to fulfill our mission in the world."

To understand the roots of this move -- which parallels divisions looming in other oldline Protestant churches -- it helps to dig a little deeper into the United Methodist numbers.

Hinson is president of the "Confessing Movement," with 1,400 churches with 650,000 members. Gay-rights supporters have a Reconciling Ministries Network of 192 churches, with 17,000 members.

But there are 35,000 congregations in all, with 8.3 million members. Sickened by decades of decline -- membership was 11 million in 1970 -- the last thing Methodists in the institutional middle wanted to hear was the word "schism." Before the conference closed, delegates linked hands, sang a hymn and passed a symbolic call for unity, 869 to 41.

And there was another number that deserved study. General Conference voted by a narrow 455-445 to clarify which Discipline violations can lead to a trial. The list of chargeable offenses now includes failing to be "celibate in singleness or being unfaithful in a heterosexual marriage; being a self-avowed practicing homosexual; conducting ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions or performing same-sex wedding ceremonies."

But leaders on both sides noted that about 20 percent of the delegates this year came from Africa, Asia and Latin America -- where churches are more conservative. Efforts to enforce the Discipline's teachings might fall short, if left to delegates from North American churches. United Methodist progressives also continue to dominate the church's bureaucracies and seminaries.

So be it, said theologian Thomas Oden, a former United Methodist liberal who now is a conservative strategist. The key during the next four years is for local church leaders to weigh options for how to end the national warfare over the Bible and sex.

"We don't particularly care about the powers that be. What we care about is the doctrine and the Discipline in our church," he said. "That's were our focus is and that's where it will stay. ... But the actual enforcement of those teachings remains a problem for us, as it is for most Protestant churches today.

"We know that we will be struggling with that issue for decades. That's the question: We know what our church teaches, but do we have the will to enforce it?"

2003 -- Divided by the Sacraments

The atmosphere could not have been tenser as the world's Anglican archbishops gathered in the privacy of Lambeth Palace in London. The world was watching. Conservative Anglicans -- most from Third World altars -- were furious that the U.S. Episcopal Church and its allies were ignoring global calls not to enthrone a noncelibate gay bishop in New Hampshire.

No doubt about it, the consecration of Bishop V. Gene Robinson grabbed headlines and easily won the Religion Newswriters Association poll to determine its top 10 events of 2003. More than 80 percent of the religion-beat specialists named Robinson as Religion Newsmaker of the Year, beating out Pope John Paul II and deposed Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore.

But there was much more to this story than the election of one bishop in a tiny Episcopal diocese and the development of same-sex union rites for Anglican altars in North America. After all, there are 2 million Episcopalians. There are between 40 and 50 million Anglicans in Africa, alone.

Robinson's consecration raised a question that could no longer be avoided: How can the Anglican Communion remain intact when it is divided by sacraments, rather than united by them?

Consider a symbolic moment in the Lambeth Palace summit, when traditionalists learned that Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams would open that October meeting with the Holy Eucharist. Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria quickly informed Williams that several primates could not take part, since they no longer considered themselves in Communion with U.S. Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold.

"They did this privately, as a courtesy, because they didn't want to create a scene," said an American priest active in debriefing sessions with the archbishops.

Williams was horrified, his face flushed. The archbishop of Canterbury pleaded with Akinola and members of the Third World coalition to receive Communion.

"Rowan asked them to receive since they remained in Communion with him," said another activist close to the African archbishops. "They did so. If they had not had the discussion about not receiving, they would not have been able to produce the tough statement that came out of the meeting. "If they had not received, the meeting would have been over."

Williams drew a sacramental line at the altar and demanded that the Third World archbishops cross it. But will they continue to do so? For how long?

Anglicans are not alone in wrestling with these moral, doctrinal and sacramental questions. Just ask the Presbyterians, Lutherans and United Methodists.

Their answers will affect everything from the number of bodies in pews, to the number of dollars in offering plates, to the number of lawyers on denominational payrolls.

Here are the rest of the top 10 stories in the RNA poll:

(2) The war in Iraq divided some religious communities, with the National Council of Churches and other mainline churches opposed while most evangelical Protestants supported the White House. Some relief efforts also caused controversy.

(3) Clashing definitions of "marriage" continued to cause controversy as the Massachusetts Supreme Court overturned a gay-marriage ban. Meanwhile conservatives debated how to word a proposed constitutional amendment on marriage. A sharply divided U.S. Supreme Court ended a Texas ban against homosexual sodomy.

(4) Amid a flurry of protest and litigation, a Ten Commandments monument was removed from Alabama's Judicial Building. Justice Moore was removed from office.

(5) The Roman Catholic Church earned both praise and scorn as it tried to implement plans to combat priestly sex abuse. Bishop Sean Patrick O'Malley of Palm Beach succeeded Cardinal Bernard Law in Boston and earned high marks. Convicted sex-abuser John Geoghan was killed in prison.

(6) The pope celebrated the 25th anniversary of his election, while growing concerns about his health fueled renewed speculation about his eventual successor.

(7) A tough economy and, in many cases, strife in pews caused red ink and budget cuts in many denominations.

(8) After intense debate, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) retained its "fidelity and chastity" standards for clergy sexual behavior.

(9) The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a California case challenging the inclusion of the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance.

(10) The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod overturned the suspension of New York President David Benke for participation in an interfaith service after Sept.11. Further debate on interfaith worship is expected in 2004.