The stories that made news in 2008
A panel of 39 people — including five Chronicle editors, the chairman of our national trustees and readers from 21 states — ranked the top 10 news stories of 2008.
The top story won in a landslide, earning No. 1 votes from 15 panelists. No other story got more than six No. 1 votes.
The final results:
• 10. Instrumental service at issue: Teachers quit over music document
A Christian school south of Nashville, Tenn., asked five teachers to sign an agreement not to participate in instrumental worship, calling a Good Friday service with instruments at the teachers’ home congregation “inconsistent” with school policy. The request followed weeks of effort by Columbia Academy leaders to work through controversy surrounding a Good Friday service at the Maury Hills church in Columbia.
• 9. Gulf Coast churches take hit from Ike (breaking news and print coverage)
Thousands of church members faced the grim task of rebuilding lives, homes and church buildings after Hurricane Ike wreaked havoc from the Gulf Coast to the Great Lakes.
• 8. Race and the church: Getting beyond the handshake
In a city split by racial wounds, Detroit area church leaders endeavored to promote reconciliation and cooperation through regular fellowship and joint ministry. The Unity for Christ effort organized a citywide unity service, joint service projects and pulpit exchanges.
• 7. Ministries count costs of global financial crisis
Church collections seemed to hold steady, but missions felt the pinch as a Wall Street crisis gripped the nation. Universities associated with Churches of Christ watched their finances and investments closely as the crisis took hold.
• 6. Games open doors for China ministry
The Summer Olympics highlighted the opportunities and challenges faced by Christians serving in the massive People’s Republic of China, a communist nation that imposes strict regulations on religious observances. The Peachtree City, Ga., church launched an officially registered body offering worship services for Olympic visitors at a Beijing hotel.
• 5. From Mombasa to Missouri, churches deal with price hikes
Drought, unrest and rising gasoline and food costs caused concern around the globe. In developing nations, churches struggled to meet the swelling sea of need. U.S. churches that operate food pantries and relief ministries also felt the pinch.
• 4. Fire ravages heart of campus at Christian college
Fire destroyed the Southwestern Christian College administration building, a 106-year-old structure where students prayed and sang praises to God daily. The Terrell, Texas, fire department estimated the building damages and loss of contents at $1.8 million, but Southwestern officials said it could take much more to rebuild.
• 3. Cascade’s closing strikes blow to Pacific Northwest (breaking news and print coverage)
Students at Cascade College in Portland, Ore., learned that the branch campus of Oklahoma Christian University will close in the spring. Church leaders in the Pacific Northwest described the closing of the small Christian college as a “huge blow” to the church in that region.
• 2. New England churches struggle to fill pulpits
Across the U.S., many church leaders voice concern about what they characterize as a less-than-adequate pool of qualified preachers. But small congregations far from the Bible Belt face a particularly difficult challenge filling pulpits, New England church leaders told the Chronicle.
• 1. Church members weigh in on presidential race (multiple online and print stories included)
Christians debated the role of faith in the presidential campaign, grappling over issues such as abortion, same-sex marriage, poverty, war and justice.
Students at Christian universities organized debate watch parties, put up campaign signs and discussed the issues in dorm rooms and coffee shops. The youthful Barack Obama created a buzz of excitement among some, while John McCain’s selection of Sarah Palin as his running mate energized others.