The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


December 21, 2005

Top religion stories of 2005

The death of Pope John Paul II and the election of Pope Benedict XVI headed a list of top religon stories in 2005, released Dec. 13 by the Religion Newswriters Association (www.rna.org). The list is compiled each year by association members—U.S. journalists who write about religion. The RNA lists the top stories of 2005 in this order:

1. Pope John Paul’s death.

2. The Roman Catholic cardinals’ election of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as Pope Benedict XVI.  

3. National controversy in the U.S. around the case of Terri Schiavo, a Florida woman who died amid debate about the removal of her feeding tube.

4. Religious efforts to respond to such natural disasters as Hurricane Katrina in the U.S. and the December 2004 tsunami in southeast Asia and parts of Africa.

5. Continuing debate over homosexuality within Protestant churches, including the ELCA’s defeat of a recommendation for ordination of gays.

6. Debate within the U.S. on the merits of evolution and the theory of “intelligent design.”

7. The U.S. Supreme Court’s approval of posting the Ten Commandments outside the state capitol in Texas and disapproval of posting them inside Kentucky courthouses.

8. Religious reaction to President George W. Bush’s nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court, including evangelical opposition to the nomination, later withdrawn, of Harriet Miers.

9. The Vatican’s release of a statement on homosexuality.  

10. Evangelist Billy Graham’s last crusade in New York City.

11. Various faith-based groups praising Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip as a major step toward Middle East peace. Jews and conservative Christians criticizing the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the United Church of Christ for moving toward divestment from companies said to be contributing to Israeli acts against Palestinians.

12. Church leaders call for immediate withdrawal of U.S. and other troops from Iraq, and reports of Quran-trashing by U.S. troops, later found inaccurate, spur riots in Afghanistan.

13. Same-sex marriages are approved in Canada, while moves are made in several U.S. states to ban such marriages within state constitutions. While the governor vetoes a bill to approve them in California, a ban on same-sex unions fails in Massachusetts. Connecticut OKs civil unions.

14. California megachurch pastor Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose Driven Life, takes the spotlight, especially after Ashley Smith uses his book to help her escape from an accused quadruple-killer in Atlanta.

15. Catholic dioceses continue to struggle with clergy sex abuse payments. A report by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, New York, indicates 5,000 priests abused nearly 12,000 minors, with estimated costs topping $1 billion. The Portland Diocese (the first to declare bankruptcy) releases its reorganization plan.

16. Stem-cell research continues to be debated in Congress and two-thirds of the state legislatures.

17. The U.S. Air Force develops guidelines on religious activity after complaints about evangelizing by staff at its academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.

18. Brother Roger, 90, founder of the Taize community in France, is stabbed to death by a woman during an evening prayer service.

19. Democrats, looking to 2008, hold conferences on rethinking how to reach out to people of faith.

20. Interest in C.S. Lewis’ life and thought rises with the release of the Disney film The Chronicles of Narnia.

Elizabeth Hunter edited this article for The Lutheran.

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