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Top Religion Stories of the Coming Year

Other writers will look back at the year just coming to a close and offer judgment about the top religion stories of the year. Such a list will no doubt include things like the 9-11 memorial services, clergy sex scandals, and religion and violence. Rather than duplicate this retrospective analysis, I present here what could be the top stories of the year to come-events that could transform life for millions.

Churches Declare Moratorium on Construction
In a rare show of cooperation, Evangelicals, Protestants and Catholics have decided to postpone all church construction and instead pour millions of dollars into housing for the poor and homeless. Named the Advent Housing Initiative, at least 200,000 congregations will collaborate with Habitat for Humanity in the five year project.

Inklings Testify to Influence of Lewis
Thousands of university professors gather in scholarly cell groups in what an observer calls “the most significant campus religious movement in decades.” Commonly known as Inklings, these informal colloquia of prayer and learned conversation are named for the literary group of the renowned Oxford don C. S. Lewis, who died 40 years ago.

Ancient Hebrew Library Unearthed in Israel
Archeologists from Tel Aviv University held a press conference early this morning to announce the discovery of a library dating to King Solomon. Consisting of thousands of clay tablets, the unprecedented find at the ancient city of Aphek promises to revolutionize the study of the Hebrew Bible.

Muslim Clerics Call for End to Jihad
Muslim religious and political leaders launched the annual festival of Ramadan with a repudiation of jihad. In the stunning and unprecedented announcement, representatives of all elements of the Muslim religion vowed to excommunicate any Muslim who invokes the name of Allah to justify an act of violence.

Growing Evidence of Reconciliation Among Baptists
A grass-roots movement called “the fire of forgiveness” is sweeping through the nation’s largest but most fractious Protestant community. Long known for division and discord, the Baptists were challenged by one of their own, the aged evangelist Billy Graham, to “repudiate pride and practice humility.”

University Researchers Document Marriage Trends
Researchers at the University of Indiana offered reams of evidence for what they say is a revolution in marriage and family patterns. Divorce rates have fallen by 30 percent and out-of-wedlock births by even more, especially in minority neighborhoods.

World’s Richest Man Baptized, Renounces Wealth
Bill Gates, founder of the billion-dollar computer company Microsoft, was baptized at Christ Church Cathedral by the Anglican Bishop of Seattle. Gates testified he was inspired by the life of Francis of Assisi to give all of his money to foundations committed to medical and social relief for Third World nations.

Russian Orthodoxy Embraces Religious Freedom
The patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church ended all restrictions on the practice of religion throughout Russia and surrounding countries. The much anticipated speech was especially welcomed by Muslims, Roman Catholics and Evangelicals.

Pope Receives Marian Revelation
Pope John Paul II stunned an Ash Wednesday crowd with word of a personal apparition of the Virgin Mary. The episode, he testified, occurred on the Feast of the Annunciation and encouraged him to welcome women to all offices of the church, including the priesthood.

Musicians See End of Praise and Worship Trend
Christian music publishers meeting in San Diego concurred in their judgment that the two-decade dominance of the praise chorus is coming to an end. Popularized by the Jesus movement 30 years ago, the use of simple, repetitive lyrics often sung to guitar accompaniment is being supplanted by more musically and theologically sophisticated compositions.

Of course, there is only hope that these 10 events will become front-page news in 2003. But such hope itself is good and powerful, and when translated into prayer and work may bring to pass many such miraculous things. If so, it will be a very good year.

Dwight Moody is dean of the chapel at Georgetown College in Georgetown, Ky.