The stories that made news in 2006
By BCS, of course, I mean the “Biggest Chronicle Stories” of 2006.
A panel of 22 people — including four of my Christian Chronicle colleagues and a variety of ministers, Bible professors and church members nationwide — accepted my invitation to rank the top 10 news stories of the year.
I tallied the results:
• 10. We go to church.
No, really, we go to church. Americans who give their religious affiliation as “Church of Christ” are more likely than any other group to attend weekly worship services, according to a Gallup Poll released in April. Sixty-eight percent of members interviewed by Gallup said they attend services at least once a week or almost every week.
• 9. Miss America is one of us.
Three months after her baptism at the Skiatook, Okla., church, 22-year-old Jennifer Berry was crowned Miss America in January.
• 8. Cracking the code.
From California to Florida, congregations offered special sermons, classes and seminars aimed at separating fact from fiction in The Da Vinci Code, the best-selling novel by Dan Brown that opened as a major motion picture in May.
• 7. The Exodus Movement.
A much-heralded effort by Churches of Christ in the 1960s to evangelize urban cities in the Northeast was revisited as the Stamford, Conn., church and the Garretson Road church in Bridgewater, N.J.,
celebrated their 40th anniversaries.The Exodus Movement involved large groups of Christians in the South and Southwest forming ready-made congregations hundreds of miles from home. Despite the initial promise, the concept did not last long. But several Exodus Movement congregations remain.
• 6. Non-traditional churches.
Some call it simple church. Others refer to it as organic church, house church or micro church. Whatever the term, the idea is much the same: Reach new believers and people disillusioned by institutional religion by creating faith communities small enough to meet in a living room, coffee shop or break room. The trend gained momentum among Churches of Christ in 2006, as we reported in July.
• 5. Immigration debate.
Debate over immigration legislation in Congress and the deployment of National Guard troops to the Mexican border heightened sensitivity to the issue in many congregations. Minister Cecil Price of the Village Meadows church in Sierra Vista, Ariz., church discussed the complexities faced by Christians who live near the border: “There can be a ring or a knock at the door, and it’s someone trying to get some water, making the crossing. Our problem as Christians is trying to obey the law and yet show benevolence. These are people wanting the Lord, but these are people breaking the law.”
• 4. The war in Iraq.
Like most Americans, Christians debated the war in Iraq as the death and injury tolls mounted. Most preachers avoided the topic from the pulpit, but congregations reached out to members touched by the war. In this issue, we report the inspiring story of how soldiers “worship in a war zone” and the heartbreaking news of former Harding University football player Micah Gifford’s combat death in Baghdad.
• 3. The Winkler case.
The April shooting death of Selmer, Tenn., minister Matthew Winkler and the arrest of his wife, Mary, on murder charges set off a national media frenzy. The saddest quote of the year came from Wilburn Gene Ashe, an elder at the Fourth Street church in Selmer, who boiled down the tragedy this way: “There are three little girls, we know, that do not have a daddy right now and, for all practical purposes, they don’t have a momma.” Mary Winkler is free on bond awaiting trial, working behind the counter at a McMinnville, Tenn., cleaners and attending the Central church, where her husband once served as youth minister. Her children remain with Matthew Winkler’s parents, Dan and Diane Winkler. Dan Winkler is minister of the Huntingdon, Tenn., church.
• 2. Rebuilding after Katrina.
For churches in the New Orleans area and along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, the post-Hurricane Katrina recovery effort continued. All along the coast, stories abound of Christians’ compassion opening doors. But physical and spiritual needs remain immense. “We are a long way from being even close to normal, and we still need a lot of help,” Fred Franke, an elder at the Carrollton Avenue church in New Orleans, said at the one-year anniversary.
• 1. Unity efforts 100 years after split.
The Abilene Christian University Lectureship in Texas, the Tulsa International Soul Winning Workshop in Oklahoma and the North American Christian Convention in Louisville, Ky., all focused on fostering better relations between a cappella and instrumental churches. But a debate at Freed-Hardeman University in Henderson, Tenn., focused on what still divides the Restoration Movement churches. Such were — and are — the disparate views 100 years after a 1906 federal religious census first reported the a cappella and instrumental churches as separate bodies.
So, there you have it, the top 10 news stories of 2006.
Disagree with our picks? That’s part of the fun! Agree with them? Hey, that’s even better!
May God bless you in the new year.
CONTACT BOBBY ROSS JR. at [email protected]. Check out his personal blog at www.bobbyrossjr.blogspot.com.