The Conversion Agenda

"Freedom to convert" is counterproductive as a generalized doctrine. It fails to come to terms with the complex interrelationships between self and society that make the concept of individual choice meaningful. Hence, religious conversion undermines, and in extremes would dissolve, that individual autonomy and human freedom.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

The 25 Most Influential Evangelicals in America

February 13, 2005, 1:46 am

Time Magazine Feb. 7, 2005

There is no pope, no central ruling body. American Evangelicalism--with its home-schooling Fundamentalists and PTA-attending megachurch moms, its neo-Calvinists and Pentecostals, its multiple denominations and thousands of unaffiliated churches--seems to defy unity, let alone hierarchy. Yet its members share basic commitments: to the divinity and saving power of Jesus, to personal religious conversion, to the Bible's authority and to the spreading of the Gospel. Those same understandings unite the generation of influential leaders who channel conservative Christianity's overflowing energies. TIME's list of 25, composed with the help of preachers, politicians, scholars and activists, deliberately leaves out some familiar figures--Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Don Wildmon--whose stories are well known. Instead, we focus on those whose influence is on the rise or who have carved out a singular role for themselves. The following pages serve as a primer to their growing force in American life. --By
David Van Biema


America's New People's Pastor

These are heady times for Rick Warren. His book The Purpose Driven Life, which says that meaning in life comes through following God's purposes, has sold more than 20 million copies over the past two years and is the best-selling hardback in U.S. history. When he took the podium to pray on the final night of Billy Graham's Los Angeles crusade at the Rose Bowl in November, the 82,000 congregants cheered as if Warren had scored the winning touchdown. And on the eve of the presidential Inauguration, Warren, who pastors the 22,000-member Saddleback megachurch in Lake Forest, Calif., delivered the Invocation at the gala celebration. Later he met with 15 Senators, from both parties, who sought his advice and heard his plan to enlist Saddleback's global network of more than 40,000 churches in tackling such issues as poverty, disease and ignorance. And when 600 senior pastors were asked to name the people they thought had the greatest influence on church affairs in the country, Warren's name came in second only to Billy Graham's. Although Franklin Graham is heir to the throne of the Billy Graham organization, many believe that Warren, 51, is the successor to the elder Graham for the role of America's minister.


The Culture Warrior

James Dobson is tired of being misunderstood. The founder of Focus on the Family wants everyone to know that his sprawling campus in Colorado Springs, Colo., is devoted to his radio program, publishing empire and maintaining his 2.5 million--strong e-mail list of supporters. While it may be true that only a sliver of the activities there are political, Dobson stepped down as president of the organization in May 2003 so that he could become involved in politics. Now he's not only advocating policies calling for a ban on gay marriage and for restraint of the judiciary but also threatening to target Democratic Senators at the polls if they don't vote the way he likes on President Bush's judicial nominations.

It's not certain, however, whether Dobson, 68, can translate his considerable influence into political muscle. White House officials consider his demands too absolutist and impractical. "We respect him greatly," says a Bush aide, "but his political influence is not everything people might think." Indeed, Dobson seems to exercise greater sway outside the political arena, where the trained child psychologist has offered families a Christian alternative to modern mores. Says Dobson: "We're involved in what is known as a culture war that is aimed right straight at the institution of the family."


The Financiers

Money makes the Word go round, and this wealthy, conservative Republican couple takes a dizzyingly ecclectic approach to funding evangelism. The projects that savings-and-loan multimillionaires Howard and Roberta Ahmanson have paid for over the years through Fieldstead & Co., a private philanthropy in Irvine, Calif., form a cornucopia of faith-based activism, including an institute linked to the antievolution intelligent-design movement and a study of social endeavors by Third World Pentecostal churches. The couple have been accused over the years of having an extremist agenda, mostly because a onetime pet charity, the Chalcedon Foundation, advocates the Christian reconstructionist branch of theology that says gays and other biblical lawbreakers should be stoned. Howard distanced himself from those views and resigned from the foundation board years ago. The couple, both 55, now are warning powerful conservative Christians about the pitfalls of hubris in the aftermath of their victories over liberals last November. Says Roberta: "Christlike humility and [improving] the lives of human beings should be the goals."


A Think Tank With Firepower

When liberal Democratic Congressman Howard Berman of California called her last September seeking counsel, Diane Knippers, president of the conservative Institute on Religion and Democracy (I.R.D.), knew that her organization had become a major force. Berman was upset that the Presbyterian Church (USA) had voted to consider divesting from some companies doing business in Israel to protest the country's treatment of Palestinians. He wanted to confer with her because I.R.D. had issued a report criticizing such decisions, which it saw as singling out Israel while largely ignoring alleged serious human-rights abuses by Saudi Arabia and North Korea. "It was gratifying that he read and appreciated our work," says Knippers, 53. On another front, she was among the conservative leaders who helped persuade the Bush Administration to press for a cease-fire in the Sudan civil war and an end to the oppression of Christians there. But I.R.D., which receives major funding from the Ahmansons, can be a divisive force as well. Its championing of conservative reforms within more liberal Christian denominations has helped create deep fissures in those bodies, especially concerning homosexuality. "I.R.D.," says Randall Balmer, head of the religion department at Barnard College, "is starting to have the kind of impact that think tanks like the Heritage Foundation and the Brookings Institution enjoy." Knippers should expect more calls from Capitol Hill.


The President's Spiritual Scribe

For a White House speechwriter, coining flowery phrases for your boss is less important than accommodating his speaking style and deepest convictions. For Michael Gerson, 40, George W. Bush's chief scribe since the 2000 presidential campaign (he will become a policy adviser in the West Wing), breaking that code meant knowing as much about the New Testament as about Bush's Texas roots. That proved easy. The former journalist shares Bush's devout Christian faith and his view that the role of Providence in human affairs should be reaffirmed in the public square.

Though even some G.O.P. supporters have criticized the President for his regular religious references, such lines are not likely to disappear from his speeches. "Scrubbing public discourse of religious ideas," says Gerson, "would remove one of the main sources of social justice in our history."


Bushism Made Catholic

When Bush met with journalists from religious publications last year, the living authority he cited most often was not a fellow Evangelical but a man he calls Father Richard, who, he explained, "helps me articulate these [religious] things." A senior Administration official confirms that Neuhaus "does have a fair amount of under-the-radar influence" on such policies as abortion, stem-cell research, cloning and the defense-of-marriage amendment.

Neuhaus, 68, is well-prepared for that role. As founder of the religion-and-policy journal First Things, he has for years articulated toughly conservative yet nuanced positions on a wide range of civic issues. A Lutheran turned Catholic priest, he can translate conservative Protestant arguments couched tightly in Scripture into Catholicism's broader language of moral reasoning, more accessible to a general public that does not regard chapter and verse as final proof. And there is one last reason for Bush to cherish Neuhaus, who has worked tirelessly to persuade conservative Catholics and Evangelicals to make common cause. It's called the conservative Catholic vote, and it played a key role last November.


The Pentecostal Media Mogul

Even in a profession peopled with multi-taskers, Bishop Thomas Dexter (T.D.) Jakes stands out. Last year the African-American preacher's R-rated religious movie about sexual abuse, Woman, Thou Art Loosed, cracked the box-office top 10. His self-empowerment book He-Motions: Even Strong Men Struggle was a best seller. And his record label Dexterity Sounds/EMI Gospel won its first Grammy. Jakes' teachings of faith, family and financial prosperity reach far beyond the Potter's House, his 35,000-member suburban Dallas church. This year he has two more movies in the works and plans a business-networking cruise to Alaska, a leadership conference in London and the second annual Mega Fest, a gathering for families that is expected to draw 200,000 people to Atlanta in August. A master of pop psychology, Jakes, 47, represents a new wrinkle for Evangelicals, the neo-Pentecostals, who combine intense spirituality with a therapeutic approach. Dealing with critics of his popular style has taught Jakes a few lessons of his own: his latest book is titled Ten Commandments of Working in a Hostile Environment.


Father and Son In the Spirit

He has had the ear of Presidents for five decades, but except for his public disavowal of racial segregation, Billy Graham, 86, has stuck to soul saving and left the political proselytizing to others. He explained his self-imposed separation of church and state in the language of a Gospel preacher: "It's not what I was called to do." His son Franklin, 52, the anointed successor to the Graham evangelical empire, has no such reticence. "As a minister, I have every right to speak out on moral issues," he says. And he has, frequently and freely opining on subjects ranging from homosexuality ("I don't believe in the lifestyle") to the Iraq war ("I don't advocate war, but it's important to support our government"). Some suggest the difference in approach is the result of temperament and target audience. "Dr. Graham, having [ministered] to many Presidents, is more private about his counsel than Franklin, who speaks more to average Americans than their leaders," says Rod Parsley, pastor of the World Harvest Church in Columbus, Ohio. "But we're thankful he's raising his voice on issues central to our faith."


A Feminine Side Of Evangelism

It is the stories from her personal history--her abuse as a child, her failed first marriage--that resonate with Pentecostal Joyce Meyer's predominantly female audience. Based in Fenton, Mo., Joyce Meyer Ministries teaches Bible to a virtual congregation. She is a traveling road show with a multimedia connection to followers. Meyer, 61, offers a gospel of prosperity that promises that God rewards tithing with his blessing. But her own conspicuously prosperous lifestyle--which, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, includes a $2 million home and a $10 million jet--concerns some Christians. Meyer's spokesman says 93% of the $8 million her ministry takes in each month goes to more than 150 charities worldwide, but the Christian watchdog group Wall Watchers has asked for an IRS investigation into the ministry's finances. Meyer says an investigation does not worry her, and she continues to deliver her uplifting message on more than 600 TV stations and 400 radio stations as well as in 70 books and scores of stadium-filling appearances.


The Point Man On Capitol Hill

The Senate's third-ranking Republican may be a Catholic, but he's the darling of Protestant Evangelicals. Pennsylvania's Rick Santorum, chairman of the Senate Republican Conference Committee, is the standard bearer of social conservatives on the Hill, regularly and vocally taking the point position against gay marriage, abortion rights and judges who defend either. He speaks monthly with evangelical leaders, hearing their concerns and briefing them on the status of legislation, while his staff regularly taps evangelical broadcasters and activists to help mobilize support for their common agenda. In the new congressional session, that includes pushing laws aimed at limiting access of minors to interstate abortions and giving legal rights to fertilized eggs in utero. Though highly controversial for his verbal attacks on gays and supporters of abortion rights--he once likened homosexual sex to bestiality--Santorum, 46, is said to have presidential ambitions. "Never say never," he says--music to evangelical ears.


Bringing Latinos To the Table

In the summer of 2000, a fleet of dark, unmarked vehicles pulled up to the North Philadelphia office of the Rev. Luis Cortés Jr. As neighbors watched in amazement, armed men hustled a mysterious visitor inside. What happened next launched the remarkable ascent of a Hispanic Baptist minister until then little known outside Philadelphia. The visitor was G.O.P. presidential candidate George W. Bush, on a low-profile visit to woo Cortés and other Hispanic leaders. Over the next few hours, Cortés and Bush formed a bond that has vaulted the minister to the top tier of the fast-growing Hispanic Protestant community. With grants from Bush's Faith-Based Initiative and the cachet that comes from his Bush connection, Cortés, now 47, has expanded his two-decade-old organization, Nueva Esperanza (New Hope) nationwide, building houses in poor communities, offering start-up loans to Hispanic businesses and launching an AIDS-awareness program. In 2002 Cortés established the National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast, addressed annually by Bush and attended by a bipartisan slate of political heavyweights. "Part of integrating is understanding power," says Cortés. "Our people have power, but they have never used it." Now he's showing them how.


The Christian Power Couple

In his role as minister and organizer, the Rev. Tim LaHaye, who will turn 79 in April, somehow never achieved the name recognition of, say, Jerry Falwell--or for that matter of his wife Beverly LaHaye, 75, founder of Concerned Women for America, one of Washington's most influential antiabortion and anti-gay-marriage organizations. But it is a measure of Tim LaHaye's reach that his role in founding Falwell's Moral Majority is only his second most notable venture. (Falwell was inspired to start the group in 1979 after seeing how LaHaye had organized scores of fellow pastors to work for conservative political causes in California in the '70s.) It wasn't until 15 years later that LaHaye got the idea for a novelized account of the Second Coming. The result, Left Behind: A Novel of the Earth's Last Days (1995), launched a literary empire. The book and its 11 sequels have sold more than 42 million copies (not counting spin-offs like kids' books, CDs and greeting cards) and set the image that many people--believers and non-believers alike--now have about how the world will end. "In terms of its impact on Christianity," says Falwell, "it's probably greater than that of any other book in modern times, outside the Bible."


Reborn and Rehabilitated

The spectacular Christian rehabilitation of Charles Colson--the man who once advised Richard Nixon to firebomb the Brookings Institution, a liberal think tank--began after Colson's Watergate prison term, with his best-selling conversion narrative, Born Again. His resurgence accelerated as he founded Prison Fellowship Ministries and built it into a $50 million organization that operates in all 50 states and 110 countries. His ministry's success (a University of Pennsylvania study found that graduates of the prison program were 60% less likely to be reincarcerated than was the average con) and his campaign for humane prison conditions helped define compassionate conservatism and served as a model for the faith-based initiatives that Bush favors.

Colson, 73, is now regarded as one of evangelicalism's more thoughtful public voices. And, says Ted Olsen, online managing editor of Christianity Today: "If he gets on a bandwagon, it's likely to move." After decades of relative abstention, Colson is back in power politics. He helped cobble together an alliance of Evangelicals and Catholic conservatives, advised Karl Rove on Sudan policy and put his prestige behind an anti-gay-marriage lobbying body, the Arlington Group. And he has recouped one more lever of power: in 2000 Florida Governor Jeb Bush reinstated the rights taken away by Colson's felony conviction--including the right to vote.


The Stealth Persuader

Many people think Congress is the host of the gala annual National Prayer Breakfast, which takes place this week. It is not. The breakfast is organized by 33 members of Congress who belong to a well-connected but secretive Christian group called the Fellowship Foundation, which is run by Douglas Coe. Coe, 76, has been called the "stealth Billy Graham." He specializes in the spiritual struggles of the powerful.

Several members of Congress live in rooms rented in a town house owned by a foundation affiliated with the group. Coe and his associates sometimes travel (on their own dime) with congressional members abroad and--according to investigations by the Los Angeles Times and Harper's--have played backstage roles in such diplomatic coups as the 1976 Camp David accords. Yet Coe also befriends dictators. "He would still hold out hope that these people could be redeemed and try to work through them to help the people over whom they have authority," says Richard Carver, president of the Fellowship's board of directors. Some skeptical Evangelicals criticize Coe's indiscriminate alliances and his downplaying of Jesus' divinity in favor of his earthly teachings--which allows Coe to pray with Muslim and Buddhist leaders. But few turn down an opportunity to confer with him.


Theological Traffic Cop

When it comes to doctrine, Evangelicals practice the equivalent of states' rights. Encompassing huge, philosophically distinct denominations like the Southern Baptist Convention, the Pentecostal Assemblies of God and thousands of independent "Bible churches," the movement has no formal arbiter. Nonetheless, J.I. Packer, 78, an Oxford-trained theologian, claimed the role informally with his 1973 book, Knowing God, which outlined a conservative Christian theology deeper and more embracing than many Americans had encountered. It did real justice to hard topics such as suffering and grace. And, says Michael Cromartie of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a Washington think tank, "conservative Methodists and Presbyterians and Baptists could all look at it and say, 'This sums it all up for us.'"

That appeal led to Packer's current role as a doctrinal Solomon whose pronouncements as executive editor at the magazine Christianity Today exert influence beyond its 340,000 readers. Mediating debates on everything from a particular Bible translation to the acceptability of free-flowing Pentecostal spirituality, Packer helps unify a community that could easily fall victim to its internal tensions.


The Lesson Planner

Even before he got directly involved in politics, David Barton was a major voice in the debate over church-state separation. His books and videotapes can be found in churches all over the U.S., educating an evangelical generation in what might be called Christian counter-history. The 51-year-old Texan's thesis: that the U.S. was a self-consciously religious nation from the time of the Founders until the 1963 Supreme Court school-prayer ban (which Barton has called "a rejection of divine law"). Many historians dismiss his thinking, but Barton's advocacy organization, WallBuilders, and his relentless stream of publications, court amicus briefs and books like The Myth of Separation, have made him a hero to millions--including some powerful politicians. He has been a co-chair of the Texas Republican Party for eight years, is friends with House majority leader Tom DeLay (whom he has advised on the Pledge Patriot Act, which seeks to keep the phrase "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance) and was tapped by the Republican National Committee during its election sprint as a liaison to social conservatives. Those elected as a result of his efforts need not feel lonely in Washington: Barton conducts tours of the Capitol, during which he shows his rare copy of the Bible that Congress once printed--for use in the schools.


The Intellectual Exemplar

The scandal of the evangelical mind," Mark Noll wrote a decade ago in a book bearing precisely that title, "... is that there is not much of an evangelical mind." Noll wasn't subscribing to the old caricature of conservative Protestants as Scripture-handcuffed rubes. True, he was merciless in describing the anti-intellectual streak that led many mainstream arbiters to put quotes around the term evangelical scholarship. But his book went on to argue that the problem was not intrinsic--that a "high" view of the Bible and high-level participation in American intellectual life could coexist.

Noll is proof. His powerful yet evenhanded work on the evangelical role in American history earned him a guest professorship at Harvard. The Atlantic Monthly, another blue-chip validator, called his book America's God "almost certainly the most significant work of American historical scholarship" in 2002. He has also been an institution builder, co-founding the Institute for the Study of American Evangelicals at Wheaton College, a leading Christian school, and helping corral millions in grant money for other intellectual outposts. The community as a whole, he says, has not overcome its general torpor. But he is encouraged that ever more scholars are surmounting this to do what he calls "first-rate work" by anyone's standards. "And hundreds of younger people," he adds, "are coming along."


A Global Mission

With his impassioned call in 1974 for Christians to serve the world's "unreached peoples" by looking beyond national borders, Ralph Winter revolutionized what remains (even today) the true lifeblood of Evangelicals--missionary work overseas. Even at 80, Winter generates new strategies from his California-based Frontier Mission Fellowship. Trained as a civil engineer, linguist, cultural anthropologist and Presbyterian minister, he describes himself as a "Christian social engineer." Working through the William Carey International University and the U.S. Center for World Mission, which he founded, he is producing a new generation of Christian message carriers, some native, ready to venture out to places with such ready-to-be-ministered flocks as Muslim converts to Christianity and African Christians with heretical beliefs. Says Winter: "It's this movement, not the formal Christian church, that's growing. That's our frontier."


God's Lobbyist

You can chart Richard Land's clout by his phone log. The 58-year-old Texan, the Southern Baptist Convention's main man in Washington, recalls that the Reagan Administration returned his calls promptly; the first Bush White House less so and Clinton's staff (eventually) not at all. Now? The men around his longtime friend George W. Bush don't sit around waiting for Land's call. They reach out to him, individually and as part of a weekly teleconference with other Christian conservatives, to plot strategy on such issues as gay marriage and abortion.

Land, who helped engineer his 16-million-member convention's 1979 shift from moderacy to hard-line conservativism, has a hand in most of its key policies, from its 1995 apology for having supported slavery to its 1998 statement that wives should submit to the leadership of their devout husbands. Since arriving in Washington in 1987, Land has cultivated dozens of sympathetic members of Congress. Princeton- and Oxford-educated, he is as formidable a public spokesman as he is in Washington's corridors and regularly battles culture-war foes on venues such as Meet the Press. "People think they're going to be dealing with some bootstrap preacher," says Larry Eskridge, associate director of the Institute for the Study of American Evangelicals at Wheaton College. "But he can match pedigree and training with the best of them."


Keeper of "The Faith"

Invitations to the White House are becoming regular occurrences for Stephen Strang. The former journalist, 54, has been a Bush favorite ever since his homegrown Christian publishing house, Strang Communications, released The Faith of George W. Bush, the first spiritual biography of the President, in 2003. "We didn't write it to help Bush, but it no doubt helped elect him," declares Strang.

In the world of Christian publishing, Strang combines a sense of mission with sharp business acumen. Over the past 30 years, he has built his company, based in Lake Mary, Fla., into a $33 million business that churns out seven magazines and 100 books a year. Niche offerings like The Bible Cure health series are wildly successful, but the company is seeking more crossover hits like G.P. Taylor's Shadowmancer, which has been hailed as Harry Potter's "Christian cousin." Strang's lead publication, Charisma, chronicles the fast-growing charismatic movement and has become powerful enough to wrangle a Bush interview last year.


Opening Up the Umbrella Group

At a meeting with President Bush in November 2003, after nearly an hour of jovial Oval Office chat, the Rev. Ted Haggard, 48, got serious. He argued against Bush-imposed steel tariffs on the grounds that free markets foster economic growth, which helps the poor. A month later, the White House dropped the tariffs. Haggard wasn't alone in faulting the policy, and he doesn't claim to be the impetus, but as president of the National Association of Evangelicals, he gets listened to. He represents 30 million conservative Christians spread over 45,000 churches from 52 diverse denominations. Every Monday he participates in the West Wing conference call with evangelical leaders. The group continues to prod the President to campaign aggressively for a federal marriage amendment. "We wanted him to use the force of his office to actively lobby the Congress and Senate, which he did not adequately do," says Haggard. He is also working to broaden his group's agenda. A document issued last fall offered a theological justification for civic activism by U.S. Evangelicals, calling on them to protect the environment, promote global religious and political freedom and human rights, safeguard "wholesome family life," care for the poor and oppose racism. Says Haggard: "With the growth of Evangelicalism worldwide, we have to be involved in political and social action to impact the culture worldwide."


A High-Fidelity Messenger

Long before Rush Limbaugh proved that radio listeners would flock to unapologetically opinionated chat, 10-year-old Stuart Epperson was reading Bible verses from a radio station his brother built in their family's Virginia farmhouse. By age 36, Epperson had bought an AM station in Roanoke, Va., that would be the beginning of a religious and political broadcasting powerhouse. Salem Communications, the company Epperson, now 69, later founded with his brother-in-law Edward Atsinger, owns 104 radio stations in 24 of the top 25 U.S. markets and reaches an estimated 5 million listeners a week. The broadcaster's stations offer Christian music and teaching, as well as conservative talk shows that engage listeners not just to consider hot-button issues like abortion and stem-cell research but also to weigh in with letter-writing campaigns and phone calls to politicians.


Pioneering Mass Appeal

Where do pastors go to learn how to make a stirring performance for their flock? There is an oracle of the presenters art, and his name is Bill Hybels. Founder of the Willow Creek Community Church in the Chicago suburb of South Barrington, Ill., Hybels was a pioneer in attracting an upscale, youthful following with an informal yet rousing and contemporary service. Now 52, he leads a network of 10,500 churches and trains more than 100,000 pastors each year. But, he says, spawning a movement that helped fuel the rise of Evangelicalism wasn't his intent when he took an entrepreneurial approach to overhauling the average church service 30 years ago. His goal was simply to hook nonmember "seekers," who dropped by on Sunday hoping for spiritual connection. His formula of live bands' performing contemporary Christian tunes, easy-to-follow sermons, short services--and free child care--now attracts 17,500 worshippers each week, and membership has grown to more than 6,000. Some conservative Evangelicals denounce megacongregations as devotion lite, delivering plenty of entertainment but asking for little commitment. However, for the millions of worshippers who want relevant spirituality delivered with the same custom-fitted, on-demand convenience they get from secular merchants, Hybels' creation is the answer to their prayers.


Paradigm Shifter

Asked at a conference last spring what he thought about gay marriage, Brian McLaren replied, "You know what, the thing that breaks my heart is that there's no way I can answer it without hurting someone on either side." You might call his a kinder and gentler brand of religion. At a mere 48, McLaren, a nondenominational Maryland pastor, qualifies as elder statesman of a movement called the "emerging church." Its disciples, mostly 35 or younger and including mainline Christians and Catholics, have in recent years moved from cyber bulletin boards to pulpits of their own. Their goal: to deconstruct traditional church culture yet remain true to Scripture. A typical emergent church service is likely to include digital imagery and open dialogue.

McLaren's 2001 book, A New Kind of Christian, resonated with ministers worldwide and is enormously popular in seminaries. If his movement can survive in the politicized world of conservative Christianity, McLaren could find a way for young Evangelicals and more liberal Christians to march into the future together despite their theological differences.


The Almighty's Attorney-at-Law

If God is heading to an appeals court, Jay Sekulow is likely to be sitting at the counsel table. His Washington-based American Center for Law & Justice has argued and won several high-profile religious-freedom cases, including Supreme Court decisions that allowed Bible-study clubs on public-school campuses and that protected the right of antiabortion demonstrators to rally outside abortion clinics. Sekulow, 48, who was raised Jewish but converted to Christianity in college and now considers himself a "Messianic Jew," formed the law center with a group of other conservative litigators in 1990. Today the 700,000-member center has become, with a budget of $30 million, a powerful counterweight to the liberal American Civil Liberties Union. The group's latest battles are supporting the congressional ban on partial-birth abortions and pushing, in an unusually bold and public way, for President Bush's judicial appointments. "The President has shown the kind of nominees he likes for the courts," explains Sekulow, "and I'm very comfortable with that." --By Cathy Booth-Thomas/Dallas, Massimo Calabresi and John F. Dickerson/Washington, John Cloud and Rebecca Winters/New York, and Sonja Steptoe/Los Angeles. With reporting by Amanda Bower/New York, Rita Healey/Denver, Sean Scully/Philadelphia and Elaine Shannon/Washington


Inspiration Across the Sea

Although his home base is All Souls Church Langham Place in London, John Stott is one of the most respected and beloved figures among believers in the U.S. Stott, 83, was present at the creation and is a principal framer of the 1974 Lausanne Covenant that sketched out what was then called neo-Evangelicalism. Stott practices a pious austerity that, were he Catholic, might be called saintly. He plunges the rich royalties from his more than 40 unassumingly brilliant books into a fund to educate pastors in the developing word. He lives in a two-room flat, except for four months a year spent writing in a Welsh cottage that until 2001 was lit by gaslight. His ministry board fitted it with electric lights, but most Evangelicals would have said he was sufficiently enlightened--and had enlightened them--already.


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