Top stories

With a focus on faith and values, I report on major news across the United States — and around the world.

From presidential politics to pedophile preachers, from race relations to refugees, from tornadoes to terrorist attacks, I cover important stories that matter. And human interest features, too.

Scroll down to read my top stories for The Christian Chronicle, The Associated Press, The Oklahoman and other major media — from Religion News Service to The Washington Post to USA Today.

— Bobby

Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

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In a Mexican resort city, Christians care for homeless ‘angels’ (reporting from Cozumel, Mexico): For two decades, this ministry has served orphaned, abandoned and abused children in Cozumel.  With related column.

A year later, Texas synagogue hostages cope, carry on (reporting from Colleyville, Texas): The trauma did not end with the FBI’s killing of the pistol-wielding captor.

‘It’s the same Jesus’ (reporting from Chicago): After a three-year pandemic delay, a unity service brings together Christians who worship in English, Korean and Spanish.

For Christians in Memphis, Tyre Nichols’ death a cause for concern, action (reporting from Memphis, Tenn.): Like the 29-year-old victim in the nation’s latest high-profile police brutality case, the five officers charged with murder are Black.

$50 million shrine to honor slain priest, first U.S. Catholic martyr (reporting from Oklahoma City): Three masked assassins killed the Rev. Stanley Francis Rother in his rectory during Guatemala’s civil war.

God and pot: Both sides cite faith in Oklahoma’s medical marijuana fight (reporting from Oklahoma City): State Question 820 would legalize adult use of cannabis and create a legal framework for expunging past marijuana convictions. With related story.

Asbury revival sparks prayer, reflection at Christian universities: “Y’all, pay attention to what God is doing,” a student worship leader tells his Generation Z counterparts.

Sacred Calling series

Building up the kingdom — one small, rural church at a time (reporting from Castle Rock, Colo.): Colorado initiative equips and encourages ministers, leaders and their families.

On a mission to fill empty pulpits (reporting from Denver): For John and Carla Moore, addressing the shortage of preachers in Churches of Christ is a priority. 

• • •


Mayfield tornado

For tornado-ravaged churches, rebuilding means rethinking (reporting from Mayfield, Ky.): A half-dozen historic churches were destroyed or heavily damaged in this western Kentucky community. 

Breaking down barriers — new and old — to help tornado victims (reporting from Mayfield, Ky.): As a Kentucky town recovers from a devastating storm, church members open an unlikely relief center. With related column from Mayfield, Ky.

War in Ukraine

In Alaska, a Russian-speaking church becomes a hub for helping Ukrainians (reporting from Anchorage, Alaska): Slavic immigrant congregation is helping feed and support families fleeing their homes. 

In rural Oklahoma, a Ukrainian priest prays for his mother — and his homeland (reporting from Jones, Okla.): As Russian tanks and troops drive deeper into Ukraine, the Rev. Stepan Bilogan asks God to bring peace.

Other stories

Amid crises, rural roots anchor Southern Baptists’ president (reporting from Farmersville, Texas): Small-town pastor and rancher Bart Barber elected to lead nation’s largest Protestant denomination. 

Pandemic and politics exacerbate challenges facing an Ohio church (reporting from Marysville, Ohio): The congregation’s experience reflects “the emotional tension that seems to be really big in the country as a whole.” With related story “Why are some Christians so angry?”

After yet another mass shooting, Tulsa church prays, reflects: Is there a solution? (reporting from Tulsa, Okla.): Two doctors, a receptionist and a clinic visitor were killed in a medical office attack. With related story “‘The mass shooting that would end mass shootings’ didn’t.”

In Georgia county with history of racial violence, Christians seek unity (reporting from Cumming, Ga.): “It’s mentally hard for a lot of folks to cross that county line,” Black minister says.

Bison’s relocation to Native lands revives a spiritual bond (reporting from Bull Hollow, Okla.): The Cherokee Nation is part of a nationwide resurgence of Indigenous people seeking to reconnect with the humpbacked, shaggy-haired animals.

At 50, TV’s ‘The Waltons’ still stirs fans’ love, nostalgia: The series about a Depression-era family in rural Virginia became one of prime time’s most popular and enduring programs.

‘Beautiful are the faces’ (reporting from Anchorage, Alaska): Delayed by the pandemic, Alaska’s first statewide lectureship in three years reunites — and reinvigorates — Christians in the Last Frontier.

In Texas, CEO leads Christian Care Centers through bankruptcy and sale (reporting with Natalie Walters from Mesquite, Texas): For a 75-year-old senior living ministry associated with Churches of Christ, COVID-19 problems accelerated financial difficulties. 

‘We only need one to live’ (reporting from New Bern, N.C.): Desperate to save a beloved older member, a church ran an ad seeking a kidney donor. A thousand miles away, a young believer felt God prick her heart.

Still the one: Alabama preacher marks 65 years with the same congregation (reporting from Roanoke, Ala.): Gerald Romine says he ‘never saw any reason to leave’ the Roanoke Church of Christ.

She’s a mom, Sunday school teacher — and prominent religious freedom attorney (reporting from Fairfax, Va.): Lori Windham teaches children’s Bible classes and argues cases in the nation’s highest courts.

Wanted: loving Christian houseparents (reporting from Mount Dora, Fla.): Children’s homes across the nation adapt as pandemic deepens staffing concerns. With related column from Orlando, Fla.

Virginia congregation helps an Afghan refugee family — and reaps its own blessings (reporting from Springfield, Va.): “It is a humbling honor and immeasurable gift they have given us to share their lives right now,” minister says.

Teaching the Gospel, via Zoom (reporting from Fairfax, Va.): Senior Christians in Virginia overcome technological fears to share Jesus around the world.

Worship in PJs or pews?: Two years into the pandemic, church leaders reflect on the blessings — and drawbacks — of livestreaming.

The truth of Brown v. Board of Education (reporting from Oklahoma City): Plaintiff’s daughter sets the record straight on landmark school desegregation case.

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A moving ‘reunion’ for descendants of Holocaust survivors (reporting from Westlake, Texas): Old photos help connect family members of men who survived 10 concentration camps together.

Tulsa Race Massacre prayer room highlights churches’ 1921 sins, seeks healing (reporting from Tulsa, Okla.): In advance of centennial commemoration, pastors sign joint statement decrying racism. With related stories from Tulsa and Broken Arrow, Okla.

In city where George Floyd died, minister emerges as key champion for justice (reporting from Minneapolis): Russell A. Pointer Sr. thanks God for Derek Chauvin’s murder conviction but says the struggle goes on. With related story from Woodbury, Minn., and interview.

Picket signs, honking horns and sidewalk sermons: Inside an anti-abortion ministry (reporting from West Bloomfield Township, Mich.): Michigan church members say the Gospel, not politics, motivates them to gather at clinics and urge women not to end pregnancies. With related story on future of Roe v. Wade.

Flags, faith and fury (reporting with Hamil R. Harris from Washington): Christian nationalism on display in U.S. Capitol riot. With related column and Q&A.


In Canada, a reckoning after remains of 215 Indigenous children are found: Discovery at a former residential school offers a “painful reminder of that dark and shameful chapter” in the nation’s history.

Christians offer physical, spiritual help after historic flooding (reporting from Waverly, Tenn.): In hard-hit Tennessee town, donations pour in as a church provides shelter to displaced residents. With related story from Nunnelly, Tenn.

Saints and singers: The surprising ties that bind some of country music’s biggest stars to Churches of Christ.

Most Christians welcome COVID-19 vaccines, but some are skeptical: A majority view the coronavirus shots as an answer to prayer, a survey finds. With related column.

All in the family: baseball and Jesus (reporting from Montgomery, Ala.): For Faulkner coach and his wife, love for “adoption” extends from their home to the team’s players. With related column.

Serving Jesus and soft drinks — at 38,000 feet (reporting from Newnan, Ga.): From flight attendant to funeral director, secular jobs help pay the bills for bivocational ministers.

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Oklahoma City bombing

25 years ago, a prayer service gave hope to a shaken America (reporting from Oklahoma City): The vigil began the healing process for Oklahoma and millions of TV viewers around the world.

‘The world doesn’t stop’ (reporting from Moore, Okla.): Her 15-month-old daughter died in the bombing, but she lived on. With related column.

Tennessee tornadoes

Volunteer State (reporting from Cookeville, Tenn.): After Tennessee’s deadly tornadoes, churches play a leading role in the disaster relief effort. With related story and column.

After tornado, a teen serves her community while grieving her 4-year-old friend (reporting from Cookeville, Tenn.): “You don’t ever think that’s the last time you’re going to see somebody,” Izzy Stevens says. With related coverage.


George Floyd

Protests and prayers: Christians respond to George Floyd’s death with outrage, rallies and calls for justice.  

Why the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement is so controversial to many Christians: Some believers point to a radical, anti-Christian agenda. Others see racism at play in the slogan’s opposition. With related column.

History repeats: Civil rights hero’s great-grandson shows courage.

Texas church shooting

An emotional return: Worship center reopens at site of deadly Texas church shooting.

Two preachers. Two church shootings. An immediate bond (reporting from Henderson, Tenn.): Ministers discuss experiences as panel explores how to protect congregations from attacks. With related column and coverage of funerals for Richard White and Anton “Tony” Wallace.

2020 election

Ousted by Democrats, anti-abortion preacher runs as independent in Tennessee: As a teen, longtime state Rep. John DeBerry Jr. integrated an all-White high school and witnessed civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr.’s final speech before his 1968 assassination.

Why these 21st century David Lipscombs won’t vote for Trump or Biden: Turned off by divisive politics, some Christians see wisdom in the late preacher’s hands-off approach to government.

Trump vs. Biden: How to keep politics from dividing Christians.

Abortion vs. character: Which issue matters more to Christian voters?


‘Zoombombing’ lesson: Racist attack on church highlights online security concerns: A North Carolina congregation wanted to be seeker friendly during COVID-19, but then came internet trolls hurling slurs.

Serving amid COVID-19, husband and wife try to balance safety and compassion: He leads a disaster relief ministry. She works as an ICU nurse. Avoiding the coronavirus is a challenge. With related column.

COVID-19 challenges Christian disaster relief ministries’ response to spring tornadoes: Members of Churches of Christ adapt practices to serve storm victims during the coronavirus pandemic.


Going virtual again: Churches return online as COVID-19 cases surge: Record number of coronavirus infections prompt leaders to rethink in-person assemblies.

More churches resume in-person worship, but COVID-19 brings changes: From social distancing to individual communion packages, congregations take steps to prevent the coronavirus from spreading.

After the pandemic, will people return to church?: Some ministers fear the attendance decline will outlive the COVID-19 outbreak.

Other topics

Christian astronaut — and his communion cups — lifting off on space mission: Victor Glover will rely on his Bible and prayer to help with isolation at the International Space Station. With related story.

Forgiving Carla’s killers: Twenty-five years ago, a Harding University junior was raped and murdered. Her parents found peace by sharing their Christian faith with the men responsible.

Retired MLB slugger and his wife are on a mission for God (reporting from Florence, Ala.): Josh and Ginger Willingham lead a program to feed hungry children in their Alabama hometown. With related profiles of Lindy McDaniel and Rod Carew.

The journey that led a church to appoint female elders (reporting from Los Angeles): “It needs to be the whole body,” Sheila Bost says of men and women leading and preaching. With related story “Should women preach in a mixed-gender assembly?” from Arlington, Texas, and other in-depth coverage.

An eternal difference: Fifty years after the White’s Ferry Road School of Preaching’s founding, its legacy endures.

Family who survived Katrina by escaping to church balcony marks storm’s 15th anniversary (reporting from New Orleans): God used the 2005 hurricane, the Marsalises believe, to prepare them for what came next.

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Sex abuse in the church

A perpetrator in the pews (reporting from Uniontown, Pa.): Former youth minister’s presence at worship stirs discord in Pennsylvania congregation. With related interview, follow-up story and column from panel discussion.

Pennsylvania prosecutor fights clergy sex abuse as she maintains Catholic faith (reporting from Ebensburg, Pa.): When the local district attorney referred an abuse claim against her family’s erstwhile pastor to state authorities, she initiated a series of investigations that renewed the Catholic Church’s sexual abuse crisis nationwide.

Texas church shooting

Texas church grieves, prays, sings after deadly shooting (reporting from White Settlement, Texas): A day after two members were killed during the Lord’s Supper, congregation gathers to reflect and praise God. With related story

Texas minister reflects on shooting that shattered his congregation’s peace (reporting from White Settlement, Texas): Preacher Britt Farmer lost his best friend in the Sunday attack at a Church of Christ near Fort Worth. With related column on why minister granted his only interview to me.

Other stories

Ebola survivor Dr. Kent Brantly returning to Africa as medical missionary (reporting from Fort Worth, Texas): Five years after contracting the deadly virus in Liberia, the Christian doctor will serve at Mukinge Mission Hospital in Zambia. With related story on Fox News plagiarizing my reporting.

Is the Holy Land the Promised Land? (reporting from Jerusalem): Leading evangelical supporters of President Trump tout the modern state of Israel as a fulfillment of biblical prophecy. Scholars in Churches of Christ take a different view. With related column.

From global justice champion to Christian university president (reporting from Malibu, Calif.): A Ugandan teenager imprisoned on false murder charges. An American law professor inspired to follow God’s calling. The story behind a life-changing meeting, an African nation’s reforms and Pepperdine’s surprising choice. With sidebar.

Guilty and forgiven (reporting from Searcy, Ark.): Botham Jean’s younger brother extends grace to fired officer convicted of murdering his loved one. With related interview of Jean’s parents (reporting from Dallas).

In New Mexico town, single parents get free rent, benefits — if they’ll go to church (reporting from Portales, N.M.): Faith-based program ties opportunities to behavior. With related story.

‘I don’t want to be the sacrificial lamb’ (reporting from Corvallis, Ore.): A minister transition can be difficult. An Oregon congregation seeks to make it work.

Ministry serves the poor in hard-hit steel town (reporting from Lorain, Ohio): Faith-based nonprofit in Ohio offers physical and spiritual support.

‘Champs’ meet Christ at camp (reporting from Zagreb, Croatia): In this once-communist nation, non-Catholic believers often face suspicion. But Churches of Christ report progress. With related column.

ECFA faces scrutiny over Harvest investigation: The delayed penalties for James MacDonald’s church have some evangelicals challenging the financial watchdog’s role and others defending it.

Cyntoia Brown, granted clemency, says Christian school’s program changed her life: While in a Tennessee prison for murder, Brown got a degree with the help of Lipscomb University.

One of my Christian Chronicle stories, picked up by Religion News Service and published in the Washington Post

Trust to distribute $35 million to Churches of Christ in Tennessee, Kentucky: Final court order deems non-instrumental congregations and related ministries as beneficiaries.

In border wall fight, compassion mixes with concern: Conservative Republican congressman who supports President Trump worships with a bilingual congregation in Kentucky. With expanded version and related stories on Republicans and Democrat.

Delaware churches — one white, one black — find new life by merging (reporting from Wilmington, Del.): Leaders see God in the circumstances that brought these two disparate congregations together.

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 Cult leader? ‘Sinful Messiah’? 25 years later, interest in David Koresh still strong (reporting from Waco, Texas): A quarter-century after the siege, interest in what happened outside Waco — and who’s to blame — remains immense. With related interview “Former FBI agent still haunted by Waco tragedy and David Koresh’s beliefs.”

Tears and fears: Church teen killed by Arkansas police (reporting from North Little Rock, Ark.): Loved ones struggle to understand why 17-year-old opened fire during traffic stop.

• After Botham Jean’s shooting death, his Dallas church intent on seeking justice (reporting from Dallas): “Why did it happen to somebody like him?” grieving fellow Christians demand to know. With related stories “Botham is singing with the angels,” “Christians ask God to bring #Justice4Botham” and “Fatal mistake.”

A new day for Puerto Rico (reporting from Arecibo, Puerto Rico): As hurricane-battered U.S. territory rebuilds, a Kentucky church sends help and encouragement.

18 wheels and a heart to serve (reporting from Panama City, Fla.): After Hurricane Michael, a retired Christian steers a big rig full of food and emergency supplies to hard-hit Florida.

• Billy Graham never lived in Texas but belonged to a Dallas church for 54 years (reporting from Dallas): Why did world-famous evangelist place membership at a church nearly 1,000 miles from his home in Montreat, N.C.?

When God wants your kidney (reporting from Tulsa, Okla.): An Oklahoma church member found himself in urgent need of a transplant. A minister’s wife answered the call — eventually.

• ‘Jesus loves me and my guns’: Faith and firearms touted at the NRA’s prayer breakfast (reporting from Dallas): No mention was made of recent mass shootings or the victims.

1,000 wells around the world (reporting from Akdesé, Haiti):  A Tennessee-based ministry that drills for clean drinking water in Haiti and other nations hits a major milestone. With related story “In Haiti, a calling — and a baby” from Tintanyen, Haiti.

Racial reconciliation series

Marshall Keeble’s ‘boy preachers’ still baptizing and saving souls (reporting from Los Angeles): Famous traveling evangelist mentored many of the most influential African-American ministers in Churches of Christ. With related story “Two legacies, 50 years later” (on Keeble and Martin Luther King Jr.) and column “‘Sister Keeble’ stayed strong in mind, faith.”

• Fifty years after historic meeting, race still divides Churches of Christ: “We still have two brotherhoods,” says longtime minister who helped organize 1968 conference.

• Once-segregated Christian university targets racism with launch of new research center (reporting from Abilene, Texas): Founding director urges churches to speak out against “situations that carry the foul scent of racial injustice.”

Other topics

Interfaith service blesses Oklahoma Democrat Kendra Horn for her new role in Congress (reporting from Oklahoma City): Horn pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the 2018 midterm elections, turning Oklahoma’s 5th Congressional District blue for the first time in 44 years.

Glitz and a surprise guest at the prom for those who often don’t get to go (reporting from Oklahoma City): In U.S. and beyond, Tim Tebow’s “Night to Shine” events inspire special-needs people and their families.

• In red-state Oklahoma, marijuana ballot question splits people of faith (reporting from Oklahoma City): Clergy on both sides of State Question 788, which would permit the distribution of medical marijuana, call it a moral issue.

‘Fixer Upper’ stars Chip and Joanna Gaines to host church for the homeless (reporting from Waco, Texas): A $300 million, multiyear widening project along Interstate 35 will displace Church Under the Bridge.

• Pompeo’s Kansas church asks God to ‘give him strength’ in Senate confirmation process (reporting from Wichita, Kan.): “Mike has enemies because of his faith who may try to paint him in a poor light and make it difficult for him to reach the Secretary of State position,” the pastor of nominee Mike Pompeo wrote to his congregation.

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Refugees package

• In Canada, refugees find love and hope (reporting from St. Catharines, Ontario): For these Syrians, church members have become “a second family.”

In rural Canada, churches that once shunned one another open their hearts to Syrian refugees (reporting from Dauphin, Manitoba): “The focus was very much on helping our neighbors in need,” one leader says.

Driven by faith, Texas mom advocates for refugees (reporting from Houston): Reda Hicks, attorney, community activist and military wife, helps displaced families start over in U.S. With related story on debate over Trump’s immigration orders.

Hurricane Harvey

• Faithful mobilize shelters for Hurricane Harvey flooding victims (reporting from Belton, Texas). With related story from La Grange, Texas, and column from Houston.

• Catholic faith moves Houston’s ‘Mattress Mack’ to shelter Hurricane Harvey victims (reporting from Houston): “How am I going to let my people drown? It’s as simple as that. I’m not going to let my people drown.”

• 18 vans, 150 volunteers, 465 miles, one goal: to help Harvey victims (reporting from Houston): “These people are amazing,” says an Iranian immigrant grateful for the love shown after his family’s home flooded. With related interview from Beaumont, Texas.

Other topics

Amid partisan din, Sen. James Lankford walks a fine line: Pastor and politician (reporting from Oklahoma City): Lankford’s emphasis on kindness and civility has kept him from fully embracing President Trump or the anger-fueled movement that propelled him into the White House.

No more ‘us and them’ (reporting from Detroit): At 50th anniversary of Detroit riot, two churches — one black, one white — model unity. With related story.

• The pope praised him for providing for his parents; now Texas may want to deport them (reporting from Fort Worth, Texas): A 21-year-old Houston resident — like thousands of Texas Catholics — worries about how the Lone Star State’s immigration enforcement crackdown makes him a target.

• Amid scandal, Baylor’s first woman president brings fresh start to Baptist university (reporting from Waco, Texas): Linda Livingstone has a history of bucking tradition. 

• Bible Belt state with nation’s highest execution rate considers death penalty flaws (reporting from Oklahoma City): The Oklahoma Death Penalty Review Commission recommends that the moratorium on the death penalty be extended.

• As major cities crack down on panhandling, many wrestle with their consciences (reporting from Oklahoma City): In a number of cities, the ordinances are sparking legal battles with civil liberties advocates, who accuse communities of treating the homeless as “human blight.”

A baptism, then a murder confession (reporting from Gatesville, Texas): Texas woman became a Christian, owned up to a slaying — and got a life sentence.

• For thousands of Nicaragua’s poor, mission ‘a gift from God’ (reporting from Jinotega, Nicaragua): Outreach that started with a small medical clinic has grown to meet needs ranging from education to water systems. With related column from Panama City.

Faith helped baseball coach Tony Beasley beat cancer (reporting from Arlington, Texas): Texas Rangers’ “inspiration” sings the national anthem on Opening Day.

‘Father Stan’s Our Man’ (reporting from Okarche, Okla.): Oklahoma farm town honors hometown hero on path to sainthood. 

South Carolina church battles opioids ’emergency’ (reporting from Surfside Beach, S.C.): Addicts find love and hope through recovery ministry.

• For survivors of Tennessee church shooting, healing will take time and patience: “You don’t ever get over those things. You just learn how to get through them,” says a minister familiar with tragedy.


In the GOP primaries, do politics Trump values and character? (reporting from Oklahoma City): Republican frontrunner’s personal background is an issue for some but not all. With related story Elephant in the pews and column GOP presidential politics, professional wrestling style.

 Thirsty souls: Churches help victims of Flint water crisis (reporting from Flint, Mich.): With residents angry and frustrated over lead contamination, Christians work to meet physical and spiritual needs.

In this Bible Belt state, Democrats call hot-button issues a ‘smokescreen’ (reporting from Oklahoma City). Even some Republicans in GOP-run Oklahoma say that abortion and transgender bills are a distraction.

After a deadly week, a somber Sunday (reporting from Dallas): Christians look to God for comfort and guidance after a sniper kills five police officers. With sidebar.

• He pitches with heart — a brand new one (reporting from Goddard, Kan.): Kansas high school senior calls life-saving transplant “an absolute gift from God.”

God in the rubble (reporting from Rowlett, Texas): “This world is not our home,” says family that lost house in Texas twister. With related profile of victim and personal column.

• Young man with autism has a heart for homeless (reporting from Camarillo, Calif.): California church member overcomes fears as he leads ministry that serves the needy.

• Amid massive biker rally, Bible camp thrives (reporting from Deadwood, S.D.): Deep in the Black Hills National Forest, Christians from the Dakotas and beyond renew ties and enjoy fellowship.

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The broken soul of Baltimore (reporting from Baltimore): After the rioting, church leaders seek to bring spiritual and social renewal to the city. With related profile of minister.

• Oklahoma State leans on faith after another tragedy (reporting from Stillwater, Okla.): Four people die and dozens are injured when a car crashes into homecoming parade crowd. With related narrative feature.

• Massacre puts focus on Muslims (reporting from San Bernardino, Calif.): Jihadist theology vs. mainstream Islam debated.

• From daughter to caretaker (reporting from Sylacauga, Ala.): Role reversal draws one woman closer to her parents — and to God. With sidebar.

• Forgiving a racist chant (reporting from Oklahoma City): Amid national outrage over a video referencing the N-word and lynchings, a Christian senator seeks to bring healing.

• A church for the broken and hurting (reporting from Fort Worth, Texas): In urban Fort Worth, a 123-year-old congregation enjoys a spiritual revival as it ministers to wounded souls. 

 The long road from Baghdad (reporting from Dearborn, Mich.): Wissam Al-Aethawi endeavors to take the Gospel to the epicenter of Arab life in America. 

• Why a Georgia church elder is making news at U.S. Supreme Court (reporting from Rome, Ga.): In a death-row murder case, all the potential black jurors — including Eddie Hood — were excluded. 

• Why Detroit Tigers pitcher Daniel Norris was baptized in his baseball uniform (reporting from Detroit): One of the major leagues’ top young prospects, Norris seeks to give all the glory to God. With related column.

• ‘God allowed us to make it through’ (reporting from New Orleans): At the 10-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, survivors keep counting their blessings. With related column.

EXTRA — We Will Never Forget: At the 20th anniversary, reflecting on my seven most memorable stories on the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.

• • •


• ‘Worship is our protest’ (reporting from Ferguson, Mo.): In Ferguson, a predominantly black church focuses on healing its community by glorifying God. With sidebar.

• Inside the ‘Duck Dynasty’ church (reporting from West Monroe, La.): For home congregation, Robertson family’s celebrity a blessing and a challenge. With related column and story.

• His dad was a preacher — and a pedophile (reporting from Somerset, Pa.): After discovering his father’s secret, Jimmy Hinton strives to create awareness of sexual predators.

 Under a bridge, come to the feast (reporting from Tulsa, Okla.): Night Light Tulsa shows love for the homeless by preparing meals, washing feet and praying.

Cristo can move mountains, Spanish-speaking church believes (reporting from Elgin, Ill.): Part of the “One Nación Under God” special project. 

Stripping away the stigma (reporting from Colleyville, Texas): Ministries help women escape sex industry. Related stories on Christians fighting sex trafficking and a former sex slave.

50 years of Northern exposure (reporting from Wasilla, Alaska): Alaska annual meeting celebrates a half-century of promoting unity among Christians in the Last Frontier.

• In Kentucky, a dispute over church, state and taxpayer-funded foster care (reporting from Melber, Ky.): Rather than adhere to proselytization rules, a Christian children’s home gives up its seven-figure state funding.

• • •


• How the ‘faith-based FEMA’ are helping Moore move on (reporting from Moore, Okla.): As President Obama pledges recovery, Christian volunteers aid Oklahoma tornado victims based on what each denomination does best. With related column.

• Iowa church refuses to die (reporting from Montezuma, Iowa): 156-year-old congregation epitomizes the challenges faced by many small, rural Churches of Christ. With related story from Beallsville, Ohio.

• Mandela legacy in South Africa: All races worship freely: Anti-apartheid champion’s quest for equality and justice draws praise from leaders of Churches of Christ. With related blog post.

• Social justice vs. kingdom work (reporting from Colorado Springs, Colo.): Can Christians do good without sharing Jesus? With sidebar from Denver.

• Financial crisis strikes Southwestern Christian College (reporting from Terrell, Texas): Historically black Christian college seeks donations and prayers to “be able to survive.”

• In Guatemala, a celebration 50 years in the making (reporting from Guatemala City): The Pan American Lectureship returns to the Central American capital where it started in 1963.

• Fertilizer plant explosion rocks Texas church (reporting from West, Texas): After a deadly blast at a plant owned by a church elder, West Church of Christ members rely on faith, prayer and fellow Christians.

• • •


Photo by Bobby Ross Jr.: Church of Christ minister Bobby Lawson prays at a vigil at a federal deportation center west of Chicago. 

• • •


Illegal immigration pits law vs. mercy (reporting from Chicago): One minister’s passion for aliens.

Black, white and Gray (reporting from Nashville, Tenn.): Civil rights attorney who once challenged Lipscomb University in court receives the Christian university’s highest honor. 

A rocky road for Mexico missions (reporting from Aquiles, Mexico): Amid violence south of the U.S. border, many churches rethink travel plans. But safety concerns fail to deter some. 

• Faith, family and ducks: Behind the scenes of ‘Duck Dynasty’ (reporting from West Monroe, La.): For these reality TV stars, “holding Hollywood’s hand” presents a challenge as they endeavor to share Jesus. 

• From Rhode Island to Liberia, with love (reporting from Providence, R.I.): Immigrant church in the United States has big dreams for bringing hope and healing to its war-torn homeland. 

Pass the syrup, but religion gets sticky (reporting from Springfield, Vt.): Faithful persevere in secular Vermont. With sidebars on red state vs. blue state voting and one church’s vote for Jesus.

• Boston Movement growing again after crisis (reporting from San Antonio): A decade after “the roof caved in,” the International Churches of Christ change their leadership structure and discipling approach. 

• • •


Photo by Jennifer Glidden: Dorwan and Mavy Stoddard hold hands at a Mountain Avenue Church of Christ event in Tucson, Ariz. 

• • •


• ‘He was a hero to his church family’ (reporting from Tucson, Ariz.): Member killed, wife wounded when gunman opens fire on Arizona congresswoman. With related column.

• The war at home (reporting from Camp Lejeune, N.C.): 10 years later, the legacy of Sept. 11.

Healing a wounded town (reporting from Alsea, Ore.): After a string of suicides, a minister helps bring answers to a small Oregon community. 

Sex, money … pride?: Why pastors are stepping down might surprise you.

Big storms, bigger hearts (reporting from Joplin, Mo.): Christians reach out to help after killer tornadoes. With sidebar.

Ministry in Mormon country (reporting from Salt Lake City): For Churches of Christ in Utah, reaching a state dominated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints poses an immense challenge. 

Saving Sin City (reporting from Las Vegas): Meeting draws preachers, leaders to Las Vegas.

• • •


Photo by Bobby Ross Jr.: Tim M., an inmate at Limestone Correctional Facility in Harvest, Ala., is described as a dynamic soul winner.

• • •


• Faith behind bars (reporting from Harvest, Ala.): Ministries shine light inside prison walls.

Five years later, Katrina’s spiritual toll lingers (reporting from Mandeville, La.): Beyond physical losses, hurricane’s path of debris left some New Orleans-area churches facing unexpected challenges. With related column from Gulfport, Miss.

Faith-based fracas: From the White House to the courthouse, the battle escalates over whether Christian groups have the right to employ only Christians.

Christian education in hard times (reporting from Newark, Del.): Facing financial woes, more schools closing.

To recruit, Christian colleges casting wider nets (reporting from York, Neb.): Institutions drawing more students from outside Churches of Christ. With related story.

More precious than gold (reporting from Vancouver, British Columbia): This Canadian city will retain its international flavor long after the Winter Olympics end, as members of Churches of Christ can attest.

The Rookie,’ Part 2 (reporting from Abilene, Texas): Life of former major-leaguer Jim Morris takes more extraordinary turns.

• • •


Photo by Bobby Ross Jr.: Teenagers listen during the Southern Africa Bible College Lectureship in Benoni, east of Johannesburg. 

• • •


Post-apartheid era brings blessings (reporting from Benoni, South Africa): New signs of racial harmony can be seen among Churches of Christ in Nelson Mandela’s “Rainbow Nation.”

Prosperity Gospel on Skid Row: Difficulties of high-profile pastors may reorient movement — or reinforce it.

Death among homeless inspires soul-searching (reporting from Edmond, Okla.): Churches across the nation grapple with problem.

Saying goodbye to Cascade (reporting from Portland, Ore.): In the Pacific Northwest, a small Christian college closes amid a mix of tears and laughter.

Little church on the prairie (reporting from Gravelbourg, Saskatchewan): In a historically French Catholic prairie town, a 100-member Church of Christ thrives.

Special needs, special children (reporting from Raleigh, N.C.): Ministry shows love, shares Jesus.

Training Africa’s next generation (reporting from Accra, Ghana): In Ghana, dream for Christian college materializes.

• • •


Photo by Bobby Ross Jr.: Participants at the Unity Events for Christ in Southfield, Mich., visit at the conclusion of Sunday afternoon’s worship.

• • •


Race and the church: Getting beyond the handshake (reporting from Southfield, Mich.): In a city split by racial wounds, Detroit-area church leaders endeavor to promote reconciliation, cooperation through regular fellowship, joint ministry. 

New England’s place of refuge, fellowship (reporting from Raymond, Maine): Like many Christian camps nationwide, Gander Brook nurtures young people, brings together the faithful in its region. 

Presidential race engages students: Youthful Obama creates buzz of excitement for some, while Palin’s selection as vice-presidential candidate energizes others.

Faith and politics: Members in all 50 states weigh in on presidential election in Christian Chronicle survey.

Teens eager to show faith by serving (reporting from Mitchell, Ind.): Indiana youth group epitomizes spirt of action seen across the nation.

Immigration and the church (reporting from New York): Manhattan church reflects melting pot nature of New York City.

Drugs or Jesus? (reporting from Atlanta): Addicts find hope, healing through recovery ministry. 

• • •


Photo by Bobby Ross Jr.: Campus minister Seth Terrell, right, pauses at a memorial for the Virginia Tech massacre victims. 

• • •


Virginia Tech massacre challenges campus minister (reporting from Blacksburg, Va.): After the deadliest shooting in modern U.S. history, Seth Terrell faces the biggest ministry challenge of his young career.

Education as an outreach tool? (reporting from Pottstown, Pa.): Christian school hallways dotted with Baptists, Methodists, Catholics, Lutherans and even Muslims, Hindus and Jews. 

Rich in spirit, poor in funds for retirement: A sociologist’s study cites low pay, little savings and church-owned homes as factors contributing to ministers’ bleak financial outlooks.

Lift every voice and sing (reporting from Malibu, Calif.): The Ascending Voice, an international symposium of sacred a cappella music, draws hundreds of scholars, theologians, musicologists and singers to Pepperdine University.

For congressman, faith provides a foundation (reporting from Washington): The only U.S. congressman who lists his religious affiliation as Church of Christ is a staunch Texas conservative.

Population outpaces church: The U.S. population is growing. And fast. The nation’s 13,000 Churches of Christ are not. In a nutshell, that’s the challenge facing the fellowship, a Christian Chronicle study finds. First in a series.

Rural revival (reporting from Newport, Ark.): Once-dying Arkansas congregation discovers new life.

• • •


Photo by Bobby Ross Jr.: Charles and Angela Marsalis pose in the balcony of the Carrollton Avenue Church of Christ, where they fled as floodwaters rose after Hurricane Katrina. 

• • •


Surviving the storm (reporting from New Orleans): As Hurricane Katrina roars toward New Orleans, Charles and Angela Marsalis seek refuge at their church. Over the next week, they’ll endure a nightmare that will test their faith. 

Minister’s slaying, wife’s arrest deal double tragedy (reporting from Selmer, Tenn.): Under the glare of intense national media spotlight, small-town Tennessee church mourns preacher’s death and offers forgiveness to his jailed widow. 

At 100-year anniversary of split, ministers exchange Bibles at convention (reporting from Louisville, Ky.): After a century of division, some leaders focus on fostering better relations between instrumental and a cappella churches.

Churches in living rooms, coffee shops a growing trend (reporting from New York): It’s a movement that a leading pollster suggests could change the face of American religion.

Marriage group with church ties hit with lawsuit: Bush administration accused of violating the separation of church and state by funding a marriage enrichment organization associated with Churches of Christ. With related story.

Courage under fire (reporting from Clinton, Mo.): Church member from Missouri — a 22-year-old Army infantryman — relies on his faith and his family after losing both legs in his second tour of duty in Iraq.

A minister’s escape from sexual addiction: Like a cocaine addict in need of a fix, he’d close his church office door and drown himself in a sea of pornographic Web sites. 

• • •


Photo provided by Fred Gray: Longtime civil rights attorney and church elder Fred Gray talks with Rosa Parks, his friend and famous client. 

• • •


Faithful offer hope, help after Katrina (reporting from Mandeville, La.): A disaster that killed hundreds and left thousands homeless presents one congregation with an extraordinary opportunity.

After Katrina, Yelton again in the eye of the storm (reporting from Gulfport, Miss.): No electricity. No phone service. No church leaders waiting to greet him at the airport. None of those obstacles could stop this veteran disaster relief volunteer.

• No lights, but plenty of blessings (reporting from Jasper, Texas): Texas church deals with aftermath of Hurricane Rita.

Rosa Parks ‘changed America’: Her lawyer, Fred Gray, reflects on the “mother of the Civil Rights Movement” after her death at age 92.

In Kansas, a battle over the origin of the world (reporting from Arkansas City, Kan.): State school board chairman defends his faith and attacks evolution “dogma.”

Reporter shines light on state’s dark past (reporting from Jackson, Miss.): Church of Christ member Jerry Mitchell’s “dogged investigation of the sins of the past” brings Ku Klux Klan members to justice.

‘Lord Byron’ (reporting from Roanoke, Texas): At 93, golf legend Byron Nelson still faithful to God and the church.

• • •


• • •


• • •

Presidential campaign 

President Bush caps final day of 2004 campaign with Dallas rally (reporting from Dallas)

Crawford, Texas, rallies behind President Bush after hometown paper endorses John Kerry (reporting from Crawford, Texas)

People of faith ask: How would Jesus vote in 2004 presidential election? (reporting from Austin, Texas)

Dallas visit offers Bush chance to appeal to Catholics (reporting from Dallas)

AP exclusive: Son of late officer and others question Bush memos attributed to his dad (reporting from Dallas)

Former Texas House speaker says he’s ‘ashamed’ for helping Bush get into National Guard (reporting from Dallas)

AP enterprise: A rarity in Bush country: Voters split on presidential race (reporting from Daingerfield, Texas)

Texans fight for popular votes in Bush’s home state (reporting from Plano, Texas)


AP enterprise: American boy and his church share faith, friendship with Mexican orphans (reporting from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico)

AP enterprise: Children of Holocaust survivors find each other, and find answers (reporting from Southlake, Texas)

AP enterprise: 25 years later, passions still strong on Southern Baptists’ conservative takeover (reporting from Houston)

AP enterprise: Payout in Lutheran abuse case totals $69 million (reporting from Marshall, Texas)

AP enterprise: Megachurches put on megaproductions for the Christmas story (reporting from Plano, Texas)

Opening of Mel Gibson’s ‘Passion’ movie draws crowds across the nation (reporting from Plano, Texas)

Texas priest ‘unlikely leader’ in Episcopal conservatives’ fight against gay bishop (reporting from Plano, Texas)

From TV sermons to book, pastor Joel Osteen’s influence grows with flock (reporting from Houston)

AP enterprise: For Texas couple, caring for Sudanese ‘heart kid’ life-changing (reporting from Lubbock, Texas)

San Antonio archbishop steps into role as leading Hispanic cleric in the United States (reporting from San Antonio)

‘SoupMan’ offers food and hope to the homeless in Dallas (reporting from Dallas)

No doughnuts on Sunday? Churches confront nutrition, fitness (reporting from Grapevine, Texas)

During Gospel Music Week, Christian music reigns in Nashville bars, nightspots (reporting from Nashville, Tenn.)

Excommunicated Jehovah’s Witnesses speak out on church’s handling of child abuse victims (reporting from Tullahoma, Tenn.)

Breaking news

AP exclusive: Condemned Tennessee inmate says government, military control his mind (reporting from Nashville, Tenn.)

AP enterprise: 5-year-old’s torture, beating death brings questions (reporting from Chattanooga, Tenn.)

Police: Shooting deaths of four, including two high school football players, not random (reporting from McKinney, Texas)

Texas town prepares for long day of funerals after eight senior citizens killed in church bus crash (reporting from Eldorado, Texas)

Iraq war

Reaction as U.S. launches strike on Iraq shows nation still divided on war (reporting from Nashville, Tenn.)

Iraq war opponents hold rallies across Tennessee (reporting from Nashville, Tenn.)

Fallen Marine — first Tennessean killed in Iraq war — ‘laid down his life for his friend’ (reporting from Gallatin, Tenn.)

AP enterprise: Patriotism, sense of duty bind WWII veteran, son killed in Iraq (reporting from Corpus Christi, Texas)

AP exclusive: Woman who lost father in Iraq loses husband, too (reporting from Dallas)

Christian groups eager to help in Iraq, but critics wary their aim is conversion (reporting from Nashville, Tenn.)

JFK assassination

• Kennedy assassination still stirs memories, debate 40 years later (reporting from Dallas)

• Historians see similarities, differences in Kennedy, Bush (reporting from Dallas)

• Experts: Presidency more difficult after Kennedy (reporting from Dallas)


• Some dare to ask: Does Texas need an income tax? (reporting from Dallas)

 Sin taxes: Political genius or unstable way to fund schools? (reporting from Dallas)

• Future president? Three Tennessee politicians play prominent national roles (reporting from Nashville, Tenn.)

• Donning camouflage, scoping out doves, Senate candidates campaign with guns blazing (reporting from Kingston Springs, Tenn.)

Tennessee lottery

Lottery advocates, foes debate impact on education (reporting from Nashville, Tenn.)

Tennessee lottery supporters look to Georgia as model (reporting from Nashville, Tenn.)

Moral issue or not? Tennessee voters to decide whether to legalize state lottery (reporting from Nashville, Tenn.)

Victorious Tennessee lottery backers ponder next step (reporting from Nashville, Tenn.)

Tennessee hoping to soon keep lottery dollars at home (reporting from Franklin, Ky.)

Dub it Lottery 101: Tennessee officials seek tips on lottery startup (reporting from Atlanta)

On Georgia bus trip, Tennessee lawmakers discover the business of a lottery (reporting from Atlanta)


• AP enterprise: Click and buy: Internet becomes hot place for used car sales (reporting from Arlington, Texas)

• AP exclusive: Forgotten stock account helps Tennessee man reunite homeless woman, family (reporting from Nashville, Tenn.)

Child Protective Services

AP enterprise: Funding a key issue in Texas’ child protection crisis (reporting from Austin, Texas)

AP enterprise: Keeping children safe is a fast-paced, high-stress job (reporting from San Antonio)


AP enterprise: Schools learning new four-letter word: Mold blamed for illnesses, lawsuits and millions in maintenance (reporting from Nashville, Tenn.)

Sept. 11 anniversary

AP enterprise: Post-attack volunteerism: Lasting trend or a blip? (reporting from Nashville, Tenn.)

Tennesseans transformed by terrorist attacks (reporting from Nashville, Tenn.)

Small-town Tennessee volunteers help ‘fellow man’ after New York attacks (reporting from Smyrna, Tenn.)


Amid basketball scandal, Baylor tries to return to normalcy (reporting from Waco, Texas)

Dennehy case reopens wounds for Baylor basketball program (reporting from Waco, Texas)

AP exclusive: Car dealer says Baylor coach helped missing player find SUV (reporting from West, Texas)

Player’s disappearance another blow for nation’s largest Baptist university (reporting from Waco, Texas)

After 25 seasons, life as Texas Rangers baseball announcer still thrills Eric Nadel (reporting from Arlington, Texas)

In fight over proposed Cowboys stadium, some ask: Where’s Jerry? (reporting from Arlington, Texas)

• • •


• • •


Marriage and divorce in Oklahoma: In-depth series on Gov. Frank Keating’s taxpayer-funded initiative targeting the state’s No. 2-in-the-nation divorce rate.

Archbishop sees failure in abuse case: Evaluation of Duncan priest sought in 1994, he acknowledges in interview with The Oklahoman. Earlier story.

U.S. bishops ask Keating to lead board (reporting from Dallas): Governor to oversee panel on clergy sexual abuse.

Gay rights group protests during Southern Baptist Convention (reporting from St. Louis): A dozen Soulforce members arrested as SBC president declares the denomination will not compromise.


Four spot news stories from Sept. 11, 2001: 1. National tragedy bitter reminder for Oklahoma City bombing victims. 2. City’s Muslims fear backlash of blame. 3. Faithful gather for prayer, support across Oklahoma. 4. Oklahoma professor’s daughter witnesses attack, describes scene.

First woman executed since statehood (reporting from McAlester, Okla.): Two-time killer Wanda Jean Allen dies by lethal injection, despite protests by Jesse Jackson and death penalty opponents.

Parole rates soaring (reporting from Lexington, Okla.): New members, changed attitudes alter pattern of recommendations, a review by The Oklahoman finds.

Washed in the blood: Trooper paralyzed by shooting finds new hope.


Execution day starts early, lasts 18 hours (reporting from McAlester, Okla.): Behind the scenes of capital punishment in Oklahoma.

Inmates obtain dignity in death (reporting from McAlester, Okla.): Cemetery is final resting place for orphaned prisoners.

Killer given hope:In precedent-setting case, state to consider clemency for inmate serving “life without parole,” The Oklahoman learns. Related story.Final decision.

Arbuckle wildfire leaves ruins (reporting from Davis, Okla.): A sign that hung in one mountain cabin warned visitors, “If you’re smoking, you better be on fire.”

High costs for inmate phone calls questioned:Hefty commissions charged on prisoners’ collect calls pump more than $1.5 million annually into the state Corrections Department, records show.

Racial tensions compound tragedy (reporting from Wynnewood, Okla.): High school football player’s death may have opened door for hatred.


Winners & Losers: School choice in Oklahoma: An investigative series based on a computer-assisted reporting project and two months of school visits and interviews.

‘They were in the house that’s gone’: Victims flood hospitals after killer tornadoes in Oklahoma City area.

Young throng revs spirits to greet pope (reporting from St. Louis): Arm-waving, hip-shaking crowd of 20,000 welcomes John Paul II. Other coverage.

Violence: Who’s to blame?: In the wake of a seeming epidemic of school shootings, society looks at media, entertainment sources.

Chartering new territory: Choice school scandals worry educators.


Colorado residents mixed on charter schools (reporting from Castle Rock, Colo.): Experience there offer lessons for Oklahoma.

Sources: Schools chief fighting to keep his job: At least three board members oppose extending his time with the Oklahoma City district, several central-office administrators and sources close to the board say.

• Test exemptions hide flunking schools, critics claim: Roughly three out of 10 Oklahoma City students exempted from high-stakes standardized testing, records show.

Bus rides’ integration role nearly over: After a quarter-century, Oklahoma City slams the brakes on the last vestige of court-ordered desegregation.

DHS investigator battles to keep day care safe: High caseloads make fulfilling state inspection requirements difficult, state records show.


A tale of three cities: Little Rock, Ark., Oklahoma City and Topeka, Kan., were desegregation battlegrounds.

Dying to be thin: Husband, children struggle with loss of anorexic mom.

Elvis Presley (reporting from Memphis, Tenn.): Faithful hordes still swarm the King’s castle 20 years after his death.

• Priest who killed himself carried unknown burdens: The Rev. Edward Joseph Moras’ spirituality and simplicity touched parishioners, but he was unraveling inside.


• 8-year-old’s death rattles Oklahoma (reporting from Little Axe, Okla.): The broken system that failed to protect Shane Alan Coffman pushes child abuse to the front of the state’s collective conscience.

Tears, prayers, bells, headlights offer tributes: Coverage of first anniversary of Oklahoma City bombing.

Enthusiastic crowd greets president (reporting from Edmond, Okla.): In Oklahoma to commemorate the first anniversary of the federal building bombing, Clinton touts anti-terrorism legislation as he addresses thousands.

Wounds to community’s soul may be slowest to heal (reporting from Edmond, Okla.): Ten years ago, Edmond’s name became synonymous with a tragic event — seemingly forever linked with the post office rampage that left 15 dead. With sidebar.

Uncle Sam repays state taxpayers: Federal government sends $1.10 worth of bacon for every $1 worth of pork Oklahoma contributes, records show. Related story.

Busing still provokes emotions: Many seek end to crosstown schools.


Oklahoma City bombing coverage

Neighbor cares for boys when mom doesn’t return: The children had clung to hope that Army recruiter Lola Renee Bolden, a 40-year-old single parent, survived the bombing. She did not.

Somber vigil taking toll on families: For a third straight day, family members of Rick L. Tomlin and scores of other missing bomb victims maintain an excruciatingly familiar routine: wait and hope.

Child’s ready smile, affection remembered: Upon arrival at the federal building daycare that tragic morning, 15-month-old Danielle Nicole Bell opened her eyes and leaned her head against her mother’s chest.

‘It just makes you scared’: A week ago, thunder meant thunder. Today, for Oklahoma City schoolchildren, thunder sounds like a bomb.

Injured fight to rebuild after bombing: Those fortunate enough to survive begin the difficult task of rebuilding their lives.

Compassion, closure draw record crowd: With rescue efforts over and the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building’s remains soon to be demolished, visitors view a somber piece of history.

Sightseers still drawn to bomb site: They come with cameras, pain and respect. They’ve seen it a thousand times in the news, but still they come to see it in person.

Six miracle children reunite: Youngest bomb victims attend Christmas party.


Road to justice: Behind the scenes of a high-profile, double-murder case unlike any in Oklahoma history.

Serial killer Dahmer slain in prison: Mass murderer found peace, Oklahoma minister says.

Number of elections questioned: The way some Oklahoma voters see it, the ballot box should come equipped with a revolving door.


Although rare, Edmond killers attention-getters: The extraordinary nature of recent homicides puts community in the spotlight.

Taxpayers foot bill for Edmond council: Officials contend it’s the opportunity for training, not tourism, that attracts them to the friendly skies.

Nightmare comes true for parents: Daughter killed by speeding driver who had just left a bar.

Edmond police chief quits; severance package questioned: My first story for The Oklahoman makes Page 1 above the fold.

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