Faith at Altitude

Religion and spirituality in the shadow of Pikes Peak

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Wilberforce of Nature

Christianity Today, an evangelical Christian magazine, just released its list of "The 10 Most Redeeming Films of 2006." The fact that "The Nativity" topped the list isn't exactly a press-stopper, but some of the other movies might surprise: "Children of Men," "The Three Burials of Mequiades Estrada" and "Charlotte's Web" all snagged places. And to illustrate what a new-release loser I am, I haven't seen a single film on the list. At least not yet.

I've already got a jump start on 2007's probable list, though. Last night I saw an advance screening of "Amazing Grace: The William Wilberforce Story," and I was pretty impressed.

Spoiler alert: William Wilberforce was a British Parliamentarian who, through eloquence, faith and pit-bull doggedness, pushed the British Empire to abandon the slave trade.

There, now you know.

But the point of the film is that everyone should know about this guy.

The film isn't exactly "Christian," in my estimation. This is a secular film that doesn't shy away from Wilberforce's Christian faith. It treats it as a powerful and legitimate motivator -- a prime mover in the elimination of one of Earth's prime evils -- but it's not out to proselytize. The film is produced by Bristol Bay Productions (the same folks behind the Ray Charles biopic "Ray") in conjunction with Walden Media, the Christian-tinged company that created the film adaptation of "Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe." Sure, Walden doesn't make films that run counter to its underlying values -- it'd never do a remake of "Scarface," for example -- but it's focus has always been on spinning a good yarn, not getting people to go to church.

And make no mistake, this is a darn good yarn -- in a PBS, men-wearing-wigs sort of way. I'll be writing a full review for The Gazette's Go! section closer to "Amazing Grace's" Feb. 23 release, but I'll give you an advancer: thumbs up.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007


One of my editors sent me this YouTube clip this morning. Check it out.

What, me retire?

I don't think retired pastors ever really retire. They just stop wearing those cool robes.

The Rev. James White, local liberal firebrand and retired senior pastor for First Congregational Church-United Church of Christ, is now acting director of the Pikes Peak Justice and Peace Commission. Never one to mince words, White told the organization it was "in trouble" during its annual meeting earlier this month. Last year the organization apparently dipped into its reserves to stay on budget, and White wants to get the organization back on stable financial ground.

But he definitely believes in the organization's mission. White said he wants to keep this liberal voice speaking and, in his view, educating the community around it.

"God knows we need an alert and knowledgeable citizenry!" White said. "And God knows we don't have it."

Monday, January 29, 2007

Will of Grace

Grace Episcopal Church and St. Stephen's Parish had its annual meeting at 10 a.m. Sunday. As The Gazette reported this morning, it was a rather tense affair -- tension fostered by the suspension of Grace's longtime pastor, the Rev. Donald Armstrong. Some parishioners have gravitated into factions: Those who think the Bishop was way out of line in removing Armstrong, and those who think that the church -- and Armstrong -- may well have been at fault.

But while the congregation may be factionalized, the two sides aren't as far apart as you'd think. Armstrong supporters acknowledge that perhaps there was some misapplication of funds -- akin to the mistakes many of us might make when filling out our own income tax forms. Some of those critical of Armstrong say the timing of the priest's removal is at least a little suspect. And there are likely lots of folks in the middle who aren't quite sure who to trust.

What most of these folks appear to REALLY want, though, is information.And the higher-ups who have the answers either can't talk or won't talk. That's a confusing and frustrating place to be.

As incoming vestry member Dr. Rip Hollister told me, it's as if the church has been told it has a "lump," but aren't told anything more. Go home, the doctors say. Don't worry about it and don't talk about it.

"We've even had the biopsy," Hollister said. "It's just taking too darn long to get the results."

Friday, January 26, 2007

Climbing the Mountasia of Faith

Saturday's Gazette features a story about a local Unitarian Universalist church (High Plains Church) moving into its new digs at Mountasia, a one-time family fun center located along Academy Boulevard.

According to High Plains' pastor, the Rev. Matthew Johnson-Doyle, UU leader Rev. William G. Sinkford will officially christen the church's new location this fall. That's a big deal: Sinkford is the first African-American to head one of the country's major denominations, according to Johnson-Doyle. He's bringing new visibility to a stream of faith sometimes misunderstood.

Unitarian Universalism is a fairly quirky denomination. Though it's been part of the American fabric since the country's earliest days -- many past presidents, in fact, have been Unitarians -- it's not precisely Christian.

Unitarian Universalism (actually two separate denominations that joined in 1961) is a sect that draws on lots of different beliefs: While it has its roots in Christianity (the first Unitarians just rejected the concept of the trinity), a UU pastor might as easily quote Buddhist scripture as the Bible, and its members observe whatever religious holidays that they take a fancy to. Members tend to be pretty eclectic: Some would consider themselves to be Christian. Others might not believe in a god at all, but like the idea of religion -- or, at least, the community that a church can provide.

But while a member's theology might run the gamut, their social ethics tend to be fairly uniform. The denomination openly welcomes gays and lesbians -- not only into its churches, but into its leadership. Many UU folks get pretty fired up about poverty and civil rights. The front page of their Web site commemorates the 34th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court case that legalized abortion nationwide.

Unitarian Universalism is, in some ways, a spiritual home for folks who like spirituality but have trouble swallowing any one faith creed. The cliche would be that UU adherents care more about what the questions are than what the answers are.

If you want to know more, check out the UU FAQ site here. It's a wealth of information. For those who want to check out a church in person, there are two in town: All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church downtown, and the previously-mentioned High Plains Church, currently meeting at Timberview Middle School at 8680 Scarborough Drive.

And for your Friday...

Religious-themed toy of the week: Nunzilla.

This wind-up figurine is about three inches tall, walks very slowly across one's desk, and, apparently, spews sparks from her mouth -- a nifty trick that, to my knowledge, only this toy and my editors have been able to master.

Colorado Springs' own EvolveFish outlet -- the company that outfitted so many of our car bumpers with those little fish with feet -- is selling Nunzilla for $5. But you can find it elsewhere for less than $4. Archie McPhee has the best price I found -- $7.50 for two. You could wind them both up, turn them to face each other and watch them go at it. Or keep one and give the extra to a friend, relative, or Colorado Springs religion writer.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Pelosi and her Friends

"I don't agree with the politics of a lot of evangelicals, but I do agree with them that you have to believe in something," Alexandra Pelosi told The Gazette's T.V. reporter Andrew Wineke. "'What do you believe in?' I was asked that question so many times on the road that we have to figure it out."

Pelosi, whose evangelical documentary "Friends of God" airs tonight on HBO, has publicly declared her sympathy -- if not allegiance -- with evangelicals in a host of published interviews. The documentary shows some of that sympathy, albeit with a heaping helping of "gee whilickers, look at what these crazy evangelicals do for fun!"

Pelosi's 60-minute film starts out almost exactly like "Jesus Camp," a much-buzzed about evangelical documentary that was released earlier this year: We viewers are in a car, listening to snippets of evangelical diatribe as Christian-themed billboards flash by the window.

But while "Jesus Camp" focused on one narrow and extreme snippet of the evangelical movement, Pelosi's film showcases more than a dozen evangelical churches, events and happenings -- from Joel Osteen's 35,000-member Lakewood Church in Texas to a Christian Hot Rod show.

The stop that's getting the most attention, of course, is Pelosi's visit to Colorado Springs' New Life Church, where she spends lots of time with the Rev. Ted Haggard. It's an odd and creepy segment in many ways, particularly when Haggard starts talking about what great sex evangelicals have. Haggard, of course, was dismissed from New Life just days after the documentary was completed because of his alleged relationship with a male escort.

But if one could somehow put aside Haggard's well-publicized fall, the former Colorado Springs pastor comes across pretty well. He points out that evangelicals aren't all that unusual and that, yes, many even live in Pelosi's hometown of New York City. The difference, he says, is that folks can see Midwestern and Western megachurches like New Life from the highway, thereby creating a more visceral sense of power. In New York, the visibility isn't as great, but that doesn't mean evangelicals don't live there. Evangelicals are part of a broader, national "we" -- not a "them," as "Jesus Camp" seemed to stress.

Pelosi, though, didn't take Haggard's lesson to heart. Here, evangelicals are still very much a "them." Throughout the film, we hear Pelosi say frequently "you'd never see THIS in New York." It's almost as if she takes viewers on a field trip through an evangelical zoo. "And over here, you see the Christian Wrestling Federation ..."

But in fairness, Pelosi goes through this zoo with sympathy and some disarming humor. She doesn't treat her subjects all that seriously, but she doesn't appear to take herself all that seriously, either. When Pelosi talks, she makes no pretention of being anything but a fairly liberal New Yorker in a culture completely foreign to her. She thinks her subjects are a little wacky at times. They think she's going to hell. But that doesn't mean they can't enjoy one another's company.

And there are moments of poignancy. In Tennessee, Pelosi visits a family that believes sex was created by God to procreate, and they've taken that to heart. They have 10 children. The mom, a one-time blond fashion plate who had ambitions of becoming a lawyer and politician, spends her days homeschooling her broad brood.

But when she says she has the best life of anybody she knows, we want to believe her. And, as a result, we -- like Pelosi -- have to ask ourselves what we believe in.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Colorado College: Faith Nexus

Colorado College has the rep among some folks as being a liberal secular outpost in the evangelical mecca of Colorado Springs. I can't speak to CC's political bent, but secular? Not lately, and not by a longshot. They've shown more willingness to wrestle honestly with issues of faith than, arguably, one or two pastors I've talked with.

Right on the heels of its four-day symposium on religion and politics, the college is bringing in two more high-powered, faith-oriented speakers.

First up is Arthur Zajonc, an expert in atomic physics and quantum mechanics who, like the dude I blogged on yesterday, seeks to bridge the gap between science and faith. Zajonc, whose CC talk is titled "Science and Spirituality: Breaking Common Cognitive Ground," appears to come at this whole debate from a more Buddhist point of view. He helps coordinate the Mind and Life dialogue featuring the Dalai Lama, and he co-edited "The New Physics and Cosmology: Dialogues with the Dalai Lama." So he's got that going for him. His lecture will be at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 1 in the Gates Common Room, 1025 N. Cascade Ave.

Less than a week later, CC brings in controversial feminist Camille Paglia who will speak on "Religion and the Public Arts." As for what she'll say about them, you'll have to wait for her 7:30 p.m. talk Feb. 6 at Armstrong Theatre, 14 E. Cache La Poudre St. But her favorite paintings can be found at

And be watching The Gazette in early February for a story on "The Civilians," a New York-based theater troupe that's working with CC students for a faith-and-politics themed play focusing, of course, on Colorado Springs.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Science and Faith

I read a fascinating interview with Francis Collins this weekend in the February issue of Discover magazine, a scientific publication written for folks who aren't all that scientific. Collins heads the National Human Genome Research Institute and is, by all accounts, a brilliant scientist. He's also a Christian who recently published a book called "The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief." He buys evolution and supports embryonic stem cell research -- probably the most interesting part of the interview, for my money -- but he takes scientists to task for sometimes belittling religious belief.

"Is there any dogma more unsupported by the facts than from the scientist who stands up and says, 'I know there is no God'?" Collins says in the interview. "Science is woefully unsuited to ask the question of God in the first place. So give the religious folks a break. They are seeking the kind of spiritual truths that have always interested humankind but that science cannot really address."

It doesn't look like Discover posted the interview online. But, if you run across a copy of this issue of Discover -- it has a fat naked guy on the cover -- you might want to pick it up.

Friday, January 19, 2007


I admit it: I'm a stat wonk.

I love stories where I get to toss around numbers and percentages and rates of incline or decline. I get into that stuff. Odd, considering I'd rather lose a couple of fingers than sit in an eighth-grade math class again.

So I find looking into the stats behind "Boomerang Believers" pretty interesting. The study most helpful to this particular story, I found, was one conducted by The Barna Group, an evangelical research company out of California. The primary poll I used can be found here.

But while it's true that folks tend to leave church following high school and often return once they have families of their own, that doesn't tell the whole story. While my article talks about some personal reasons why people tend to gravitate away from church during their 20s, it only briefly mentions that some of those folks don't come back again, and it doesn't get into all the sociological and theological factors at play for the folks who don't "boomerang."

Steve Watters of Focus on the Family talked about the other factors that might keep people from returning to church. For one, he suggests that as people wait longer to get married and have children, their time away from the church grows, too, making it less likely they'll go back. He believes that, in faith cultures where people tend to marry younger -- say, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) -- young adults are more likely to stay in church.

I don't have any stats to back up this hypothesis, but from what I've heard anecdotally from local Mormons, that's probably true. It's also worth noting that Latter-day Saints funnel huge amounts of time and effort into their youth, encouraging them to attend daily faith classes when they're in high school and then, often, shipping them off to serve as missionaries.

Latter-day Saints are taught during their teen years about the importance of their faith. In comparison, a study done by the University of North Carolina suggested that most teens just don't feel like religion is all that important: Yeah, they tend to go to church, but faith is something that ticks along in the background.

I ran across another stat that admittedly has no direct bearing on this story, but one I found interesting: According to Baylor University's comprehensive 2006 religion survey, 39 percent of folks between ages 18-30 say they are evangelical protestants -- significantly higher than the 33 percent of the overall U.S. population that would classify themselves as such. While the rising level of non-belief has deservedly gotten attention (18.6 percent of those 18-30 are "unaffiliated," more than double the rate of unbelief overall), that evangelical-centric stat may wind up being just as significant a decade or two from now.

It's worth a story, I think. So, when you read about it later, remember you read it here first.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

The Other Mother Teresa

Teresa, a chimpanzee living in Louisiana's chimpanzee retirement home Chimp Haven, has given birth. Odd, considering all the male chimps at Chimp Haven have been given vascectomies.

It seems like there's a comment to be made about evolution and/or the Immaculate Conception here, but I'm at a loss to know what it could be ...

The Sun and the Son

Environmentally-minded evangelicals are getting some significant traction, it appears. The nation may hear on Tuesday whether it's having an effect.

Hundreds of newspapers, including The Gazette, ran stories this morning about the alliance between scientists and some evangelical leaders over the issue of global warming. It's the latest, most tangible step for a growing environmental movement among evangelicals.

The evangelical community isn't standing lock-step behind this effort. In 2006, as many prominent evangelicals pushed to broaden their agenda to include global warming, some prominent conservative evangelicals, including a few at Focus on the Family, signed their own statement arguing the science behind it was uncertain and had been manipulated. Some just want the evangelical agenda to be tightly focused on its traditional core issues, such as abortion and human sexuality.

But some believe that the evangelical push may be having an affect on how President Bush thinks about such things. Bush will apparently address environmental issues during his State of the Union Speech Tuesday.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Screening Faith

The Parents Television Council recently released its latest study on how television portrays religion. Its conclusion: TV ain't doing so hot.

According to the PTC, negative references to faith outweigh positive references overall, with the biggest offenders being scripted television shows. Fox's "Family Guy" and "House" were particularly offensive, according to the survey, with an assist from another Fox show, "The Simpsons." UPN (now the CW television network) was the dial's most offensive outlet, but PTC cited few examples from the network: Apparently, not enough folks watched UPN to worry the PTC all that much.

By comparison, reality shows were havens (heavens?) for positive depictions of faith, according to the study.

All of this is pretty interesting and, on one level, enlightening. Most Americans say that faith is a big part of their lives, so it would make sense that reality shows might have a higher faith content than scripted shows. And certainly, some shows do more than their fair share of slamming spirituality: In one episode of "Family Guy," God apparently creates the world by farting and setting the ensuing gas on fire. I certainly don't think that's what's being taught in Sunday School.

Still, it's interesting to see what PTC marked as "positive," "negative" or "neutral."

The PTC slaps a "negative" label on an April 9 episode of "The Simpsons," wherein a Hindu tells Homer "In our system of beliefs there are many gods." The following week, as "The Simpsons'" pastor wonders whether getting into a debate over evolution and creationism might boost attendence, he says "our membership HAS been dwindling since the Episcopalians put in those vibrating pews." The PTC also considered that a "negative."

Positive remarks were reliably preachy. "American Idol's" Mandisa earned kudos from PTC after she forgave Simon Cowell for making a crack about her weight, because Mandisa cited Jesus as the reason she was able to be so forgiving. But some "positives" broke form: On "So You Think You Can Dance," a Jewish contestant says "sometimes I'll be in synagogue praying and I'll just, y'know, bust a move and people will start giggling." Another positive, according to the PTC.

Neutral? An example comes from the WB show "Reba," when a character receives a new television and says "Oh, thank the Lord! This is the best thing that's ever happened to me!"

Well, you can't say the PTC wasn't thorough.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Stop by the Welcome Center at the 16th Hole

High Plains Church, a Unitarian-Universalist congregation on the north side of town, is getting new digs: Mountasia Family Fun Center.

High Plains, one of two Unitarian-Universalist congregations in Colorado Springs, will open its church office at the 1825 Dominion Way site Feb. 1, and officials hope the rest of the church's activity will follow shortly thereafter.

Alas, the bumper-boat lagoon will probably not survive the transition. A release from High Plains says the pond will be filled in to make space for the church's youth programs. No word yet on the faux-rock, turquoise-blue waterfall that served as Mountasia's primary calling card along Academy Boulevard. Personally, I hope they keep it. If they were of another theological stripe, they'd be able to do baptisms there.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Jack and Jesus

Hey, I like '24' as much as anybody. I've nibbled away my nails for five seasons now, developing ulcers while watching uber-cop Jack Bauer save the world yet again through all means dubious and devious.

Little did I know that Jack Bauer -- yes, the same Jack Bauer who went all "Nosferatu" on an unsuspecting terrorist last night -- is the central figure in a 21st century Christian parable. Some Christian pundits say Jack is a stand-in for Christ, albeit one who cuts off fingers and has a college drinking game inspired after him.

Sure, Jack wants peace on earth. But only after he puts a serious Old Testament smack on the baddies.

At least one prominent local pastor referenced "24" in his sermons this weekend. Several bloggers have noted that the show's a favorite among many Christian leaders -- perhaps because Jack, like Jesus, is willing to sacrifice himself for a greater good.

Author Tim Wesemann wrote an entire Christian book on the topic, titled "Jack Bauer's Having a Bad Day." And that book focuses only on Season One -- more may be forthcoming.

Hey, the first time we saw Jack he even LOOKED a little like Jesus, with his beard and scarred back and all. Every season is Jack's own passion play, filled with oodles of pain and suffering and misunderstandings.

Still, the analogy can be taken only so far. I mean, what sort of lessons would true believers draw from such a show? Stabbing someone in the kneecap is OK if they have pertinent information? And, if Jack is Jesus, would Chloe be Mary Magdalene?

If you have any particularly faithful observations from either last night's or tonight's shows, give me a holler and let me know.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Faith, personal and presidential

This weekend, The Gazette will run a story about the Rev. Paul Peel, senior pastor for First Lutheran Church, and his correspondence with the late President Gerald Ford.

Peel's contact with Ford began as part of a research project Peel was doing in 1976, examining the faith of U.S. presidents. His research became the basis for a lecture he gave several times during that year's bicentennial celebrations, titled "Faith of our Fathers."

His 30-year-old notes are still pretty interesting. According to Peel, most presidents claimed to have faith -- it's nearly impossible to get elected if you don't -- but the presidential annals have very few folks who would qualify as zealous. The most pious were often fairly forgettable. Rutherford B. Hayes started Sunday-evening hymn sing-alongs at the White House in the late 1800s. His successor, James Garfield, was one of the only presidents to come from an evangelical denomination (the Disciples of Christ), and he actually served as a lay preacher. Herbert Hoover helped start a Quaker group in Washington, D.C. None of these folks are due to get the next spot on Mt. Rushmore.

The faith history of our best-loved presidents is mixed, though, according to Peel's notes. George Washington was the guy who first said "so help me God" after his inauguration, and kissed the Bible.

Thomas Jefferson was never affiliated with a church and is considered by many historians as a deist. He told a friend that "I have ever thought religion a concern purely between God and our conscience, for which we were accountable to him and not to priests."

Abraham Lincoln is also considered a deist by some historians, but Peel reports that Lincoln read the Bible constantly, and once wrote "I have often wished that I was a more devout man than I am. Nevertheless, amidst (the) greatest difficulties of my administration, when I could not see any other resort, I would place my whole reliance on God."

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, according to Peel, always kept the Bible and the Episcopalian Book of Common Prayer nearby.

Peel only got as far as Ford during his earlier research stint. Now he wants to study the presidents who came after Ford, and he suggests that it may become fodder for a new lecture or book. With religion and politics so closely intermingled these days, it should be interesting work.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Influence Waning? Ha!

The Church Report, a conservative Christian publication, unveiled its latest list of "most influential Christians in America." Our own James Dobson, head of Focus on the Family, came in at No. 5.

It was a pretty interesting list. The rest of the top four included: 1) Joel Osteen, pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston; 2) Billy Graham, evangelist; 3) Bill Hybels of Willow Creek Community Church near Chicago; and 4) Bishop T.D. Jakes of The Potter's House in Dallas.

Three of the top five were megachurch pastors. My guess is that an earlier draft had our own fallen megachurch pastor, Ted Haggard, in this list's top 10. And frankly, an argument could be made Haggard deserved a high spot even now. What Christian leader has been more talked about than Haggard this year?

In fitting with the Report's conservative and evangelical leanings, mainline leaders were absent. Not even Katharine Jefferts Schori, the first woman to lead the Episcopal Church and a controversial figure in her own right, managed to make it on the list. Even middle-of-the-road evangelicals didn't do that well: Rick Warren, head of Saddleback Church and arguably the most influential megapastor in America, wound up 16th on the list.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


In the midst of catching up following a couple days off, I ran across this article about the growth of Christian Orthodoxy -- that ancient brand of faith associated with icons, incense and long beards.

According to the story, Orthodoxy is booming in America, with younger believers attracted to the sect's tradition and mystique. That seems to be holding true locally, where the biggest Orthodox church (Saints Constantine and Helen Orthodox Church, located on the city's west side) is thriving, and lifetime adherents rub elbows with 20-something converts.

I've spoken with the Rev. Anthony Karbo, the senior pastor over at Constantine and Helen, and he believes the secret to their success is their unwavering commitment to two millennia of tradition.

The church traces its roots back to Christianity's earliest days, and the faith split with Roman Catholicism a few hundred years before Martin Luther got around to nailing his Theses to a Wittenberg church door. The church has no worship band, no big screen. Services -- which can sometimes last three hours -- are much the same as they were 800 years ago, and Karbo says they'll hopefully be the same 800 years from now. The theology is much the same, too. Even artists who create Orthodoxy's renowned icons adhere to the same time-honored style. If the church is now hip, it's because it consciously avoids being so.

If you're ever looking for a cultural field trip but don't want to leave town, check out a service at Constantine and Helen.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Support strong for Armstrong

As the state's Episcopal diocese takes a look at some financial improprieties allegedly committed by the Rev. Don Armstrong of Colorado Springs' Grace Episcopal Church, some folks think the charges amount to a big bunch of hooey.

The support comes from the conservative wing of the Episcopal Church, of which Armstrong was -- and is -- a driving force. The head of the American Anglican Council said in a press statement that he expects Armstrong's "full exoneration."

“Father Armstrong is a strong leader for biblical orthodoxy, and the AAC stands in support of him as the investigation into the actual facts of the situation is expanded,” said the Rev. Canon David C. Anderson, AAC President and CEO. “It is curious that these claims have arisen at this time, when other revisionist bishops across the nation have exhibited great hostility toward priests and churches within their respective dioceses who have taken similar stands to Fr. Armstrong’s in support of historic Anglicanism and biblical Christianity.”

Whether Armstrong will be exonerated or not, time will tell.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

What's news, what's not

I've gotten some pretty strong reaction to the story on the Rev. Donald Armstrong, the priest suspended from his work at Grace and St. Stephen's Episcopal Church while the state diocese takes a look at the church's finances. Lots of rumors, lots of whispered allegations and counter-allegations. Some wonder why it was worth a story at all: "Why can't you leave these churches alone?"

Fair enough. Each round of allegations requires a fresh look to see whether it's worth a story. The fact that Armstrong had been temporarily removed from his church made this story news from the get-go. He's a prominent pastor with a large flock, and certainly some outside the church would've heard rumors as to why he wasn't there anymore. Allegations that Armstrong may have "misapplied" funds, well, that adds another layer of newsworthiness to the story -- simply because it encompasses such a wide range of potential wrongdoing, from an accounting error to embezzlement.

But, while many people have their theories as to what that misapplication (or lack thereof) might mean, I've not heard definitively from someone who would be in a position to know. The church leadership isn't talking about this. Neither is the diocese. The person (or people) who leveled the allegations haven't come forward publicly. And churches are not under the same guidelines as many other entities, in that they don't have to reveal any financial info to the public at all.

We'll continue to follow this story as it develops, of course. We'll see where it leads us. And, if you have any information, feel free to drop me a line.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

New Year, New Jerusalem?

On Sunday, Dec. 31, Dave Philipps and I published what amounted to a year's worth of work: The headline was "Haggard's mecca materialized, but vision may now be fading." When we were working on it, we called it, simply, "New Jerusalem."

OK, so maybe it doesn't look like a year's worth of work. Dave and I did write a couple of other stories when we weren't working on this novella. Still, if any of your friends pipes up and asks "so, how the heck did Colorado Springs get so religious, anyway," explain to them that it's not all that religious and then point them to this story. It'll help.

But I'm not writing this blog to pat myself on the back. Mainly, I want to post a link to what I think is the coolest part of the story -- an online map of the countries some of our local ministries are involved in. Take a look. It's sweet.