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(RNS) Religion reporters chose the 2008 elections and the controversy surrounding President-elect Barack Obama’s former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, as the top story of the year.
Democrats’ outreach to faith communities, and the selection of GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, were chosen as the No. 2 and No. 3 top religion stories by members of the Religion Newswriters Association.
Obama was also named as the RNA’s top Religion Newsmaker of 2008.
The Top 10 list, in order, included:
1. Wright’s controversial sermons lead to the withdrawal of Obama as a member of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. Meanwhile, GOP nominee John McCain rejects the endorsements of outspoken evangelists John Hagee and Rod Parsley.
2. Democrats increase outreach efforts to woo faith-based voters and pay more attention to evangelicals at the Democratic National Convention. Obama and McCain take part in a faith-based forum moderated by California megachurch pastor Rick Warren.
3. Sarah Palin’s GOP vice presidential nomination renews some evangelical interest in the Republican ticket but also causes a dilemma for some religious conservatives who oppose women’s leadership roles.
4. The California Supreme Court’s legalization of same-sex marriage in May is overturned in November when voters approve a constitutional amendment. Gay marriage is defeated in Arizona and Florida polls as well.
5. Pope Benedict XVI brings a message of hope during his first U.S. visit, during which he meets with victims of clergy misconduct.
6. Conservative Episcopalians ask Anglican Communion officials to permit a new Anglican Church in North America that would permit unhappy conservatives to operate under the authority of a North American bishop.
7. Terrorism, believed to be motivated at least partly by religious fervor, results in the deaths of almost 200 people in Mumbai, India, in a three-day siege that attacked a Jewish center and resulted in the death of an American rabbi and his wife. Meanwhile, attacks on Christians continued in the eastern Indian state of Orissa and elsewhere.
8. China cracks down on Buddhists hoping for Tibetan independence in a prelude to a peaceful Olympics.
9. The crumbling economy and a related drop in contributions prompts many faith-based organizations to cut back on expenses, even as there is an increased need for social services.
10. Violence continues in Iraq, with Sunnis and Shiites attacking each other and Christians also being targeted. Chaldean Archbishop Paulos Rahho is kidnapped and murdered in Mosul.
The list was determined through a poll conducted among RNA members from Monday through Wednesday. About 38 percent of the nearly 300 active members of the organization participated.
By Adelle M. Banks
Copyright 2008 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

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