Billy Graham tops pastors’ list. Evangelist Billy Graham was named by American pastors as the United States’ most influential living preacher, according to a recent survey by LifeWay Research. The study, conducted last November, interviewed more than 1,000 Protestant pastors by telephone. The participants were asked to “name the top three living Christian preachers that most influence you.” Graham was cited as most influential by 21 percent, followed by pastor and author Charles Swindoll, at 8 percent. Charles Stanley, pastor of First Baptist Church, Atlanta, Ga., and Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., followed closely behind Swindoll with 7 percent of the vote each. The top 10 list also included John Piper, pastor for preaching at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, and Andy Stanley, pastor of North Point Community Church, Buckhead Church, and Browns Bridge Community Church, all in the Atlanta area.
Pope clamps down on annulments. Pope Benedict XVI has urged church judges to limit the number of marriage annulments they grant by encouraging couples to stay together if possible. Benedict made his remarks to members of the Roman Rota, the church panel with the highest authority in marriage cases, at a ceremony marking the start of the judicial year. The pope told the judges that if they “glimpse hope” of a positive reconciliation, they should “induce the spouses to affirm if possible their marriage and reestablish their conjugal cohabitation.” Under canon law, a marriage can be declared null and void for a variety of reasons, including impotence, a previous marriage or a lack of psychological maturity at the time of the union. A Catholic who divorces and remarries must obtain an annulment of the first marriage in order to continue receiving Communion. Most decisions on annulments are made at the diocesan level, and degrees of strictness vary.
Pagans get space at academy. The U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado will set aside worship space for followers of “Earth-centered” religions such as Wicca and Druidism. A stone circle atop a hill on the base in Colorado Springs likely will be dedicated in a ceremony March 10 and be available to cadets and other service members who live in the area. The base already has worship spaces for Protestants, Catholics, Muslims and Buddhists. The Air Force has been accused of allowing evangelical officers to openly proselytize and pressure cadets of other faiths. In 2005, the Air Force issued new guidelines pledging to “accommodate free exercise of religion and other personal beliefs.”
Catholic Charities offers syringes. Catholic Charities of Albany, N.Y., has launched a new program to provide free syringes to intravenous drug users—an unusual move for a church that preaches abstinence for overcoming drug addiction and stanching the spread of HIV/AIDS. After five years of studying the program, Project Safe Point began in two urban locations Feb. 1 in the Upstate New York diocese. The project will be funded by $170,000 in grants from New York State. While some secular social service agencies maintain syringe-exchange programs, the project is thought to be a first for a Catholic Charities agency.
–Compiled from Religion News Service reports.