‘Tis the season for best-of-the-year lists, and the Religion Newswriters Association has gotten in on the action with their list of 2009’s top ten religion stories. They compiled the list by surveying more than 100 religion journalists, about 36 of whom responded to the survey:
For the second year in a row, activities of Barack Obama topped the list of religion stories for 2009, according to a survey of more than 100 religion journalists.
The president’s June speech—in which he pledged a new beginning in Muslim-U.S. relations during a visit to Cairo—was voted the No. 1 religion story of the year.
The speech at Cairo University last spring was widely viewed as a contrast to the approach of previous administrations. During his talk, Obama invoked the Qur’an, Talmud and the Bible while declaring that America was not at war with Islam.
The No. 2 religion story was health care reform and the role of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and other faith groups played in shaping the debate.
Rick Warren, the California megachurch pastor who gained attention with his presidential Inauguration Day invocation and comments in the aftermath of Prop. 8, was named 2009 Religion Newsmaker of the Year. Warren also continues to have a major effect in Africa through AIDS relief and other humanitarian activities.
“The Obama inauguration solidified his status as America’s most influential evangelical and putative successor to Billy Graham as America’s Pastor,” said Jeffery L. Sheler, author of the new Warren biography Prophet of Purpose. “On the flip-side, it also has made him a formidable target of critics and has exposed him to some withering attacks. How he handles the continuing onslaught will be a supreme test of his character.”
Warren beat out Pope Benedict XVI; Archbishop Robert Duncan, who heads a new theologically conservative Anglican church; Jim Wallis, Sojourner’s editor and outspoken advocate for social justice issues; and Mark Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America throughout its long debate on ordaining gay clergy.