From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
John Rollins <email@example.com>
26 Oct 1998 20:31:43
Moravian Church Elects First Woman Bishop
(ENI) One of the world's oldest Protestant traditions has
elected its first woman bishop. Kay Ward, described her election
as bishop a "spiritual act" rather than a "political act,"
adding: "We need to celebrate and celebrating with us is the long
parade of foremothers who have served the church so well." Ward's
election as bishop was another step in a process that began in
1975 when the Moravian Church in America first ordained women.
Ward is one of two bishops elected in the Northern Province of the
Moravian Church in America, one of two US Moravian church
provinces. She is one of 16 bishops in her synod. Being a female
pioneer was not ultimately the issue, says Ward. She only wanted
to do what she looked for in other bishops, which was to be
faithful by "living out the faith in an authentic way, with
Zambia's Churches Condemn Formation of Homosexual Group
(ENI) Zambia's churches are protesting the formation of a
homosexual rights organization; Lesbians, Gays, Bisexual, and
Transgender Association (LEGATRA). Officials from most of the
country's main churches?Roman Catholic, Reformed, Pentecostal and
Evangelical?have issued condemnations of LEGATRA and its aims.
Homosexual practices are a criminal offence in Zambia. The
minimum penalty is 14 years in prison. Led by local human rights
activist, Gershom Musonda, homosexuals and lesbians have decided
to declare their sexuality "because of public pressure and
harassment." The group is preparing to obtain registration of its
organization, though high-ranking government officials have
indicated that the application for registration will be refused.
Foston Sakala, a Reformed Church cleric and member of
Zambia's Permanent Human Rights Commission, has said the "timing
for the formation of a group for homosexuals is completely wrong,
because at the moment many Zambians are completely intolerant of
the practice, and as such, they will face a lot of hostility.
Perhaps in 20 or 30 years' time, people here will be more
understanding than they are now. But as a clergyman, I condemn
homosexuality outrightly. It's an abomination in the sight of
God." But LEGATRA's manager told journalists, "If the Registrar
of Societies gets cold feet, we will take the matter to the High
Court. In a democracy you must be tolerant to views that are
Irish Roman Catholic Bishop Ordains Woman Priest
(ENI) On September 14, "Bishop" Pat Buckley, a maverick
Irish Roman Catholic cleric, ordained a woman, Frances Meigh, to
the priesthood. Miegh, a 67-year old former Anglican with an
annulled marriage who worked with Mother Teresa's order in India,
lives as a hermit in Whitby, England. Roman Catholic officials
insisted Patrick Buckley had no authority to minister as a bishop,
and that the ordination was unlawful. Of her ordination, Miegh
said: "It's the soul being ordained, not the body. Gender is
irrelevant." Buckley, who has a long history of dispute with the
Catholic authorities in Ireland, also plans to ordain six married
men, also normally forbidden in the Roman Catholic Church,
although as a matter of rule rather than dogma. He has also
blessed homosexual relationships, arguing that if the church can
bless farm animals, then gay couples can also be blessed.
Catholic reformist groups have been reluctant to give their
backing to Buckley's actions. A spokeswoman for Catholic Women's
Ordination said, "We are making no comment and no judgement on
Buckley. We work through the official channels." Bishop Buckley
replied, "I think many groups believe in pleading from within, but
I believe in doing the right thing and the rest will follow. We
have done at one fell swoop what others have been arguing about
for 30 years."
Clinton's Church Questions Commitment to the Christian Faith
(ENI) Harsh criticism of President Clinton's recent
admission of infidelity have come from leading members of his own
denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, who question the
president's commitment to the Christian faith. "A preponderance
of Southern Baptists are embarrassed by his presidency and are
quite ashamed of his connection [to the denomination]," said A.
William Merrell, senior spokesman for the nation's biggest
Protestant denomination. Many Southern Baptists are unhappy with
Clinton's stand on abortion and homosexual rights, which have been
far more liberal than those held by many in his church. In a
statement issued after President Clinton's 17 August admission,
Paige Patterson, president of the 16 million-member denomination,
described Clinton's troubles as part of the "obvious materialism
and moral decadence of America." Richard Land, president of the
Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, at a
public forum in Washington DC the day after the Clinton admission,
criticized the president for not apologizing "to the American
people for lying to them."
Criticism of Clinton has also come from a leader of the
United Church if Christ, a Protestant denomination with a more
liberal stance on ethical issues. UCC president Paul H. Sherry
said Clinton's infidelity and the ensuing investigation had
injured the nation and undermined public confidence in the
integrity of all leaders. Sherry called for prayers for the
Clinton family, but also urged the nation to recommit itself to
"the personal discipline and compassionate vision required for
effective and faithful leadership." Sherry added, "Both the
president's actions and the investigation have distracted our
government form its most central concerns: care for the poor,
justice for the oppressed, protection of the environment and the
promotion of peace.
Latin American ecumenical leader calls for debt forgiveness
(ENI) Dr. Walter Altman, president of the Latin American
Council of Churches (CLAI), has added his voice to calls for debt
forgiveness for the world's poorest countries in the year 2000.
Speaking at a gathering in Buenos Aries, Altman pointed out that
many church organizations had already given their support to the
demand, including the Vatican, the World Council of Churches, the
Lutheran World Federation, the Lambeth Conference of Anglican
bishops, and the World Methodist Council. Altman criticized "the
dogma of globalization," which aimed to impose a model of the
world where the only important elements are "efficiency and what
each individual can produce and consume." Instead, Altman
proposed churches should "construct an alternative vision, where
solidarity is the priority." There was growing concern of a
deterioration of human life and ecology as a result of this "dogma
of globalization" and that churches could not remain silent any
longer, he said.
German church leader condemns broadcast of Clinton testimony
(ENI) Manfred Kock, chair of the council of the Evangelical
Church in Germany, strongly condemned the broadcast of the video
of President Clinton's grand jury testimony. Speaking just hours
before the 21 September airing, Kock appealed to German television
not to broadcast the video saying, the only possible reason for
broadcasting would be to please sensation-seekers and voyeurs.
"There can be no plausible public interest?especially in
Germany?in putting the video , or even parts of it, in the public
domain, he said." There has been widespread anger in Germany
regarding the broadcast. German railway authorities announced
that the broadcast could not be viewed over railway television
screens, as young people needed to be protected from any sexually
explicit content. According to Le Monde newspaper in Paris,
Desmond Tutu, former archbishop of Cape Town, has given his
support to an international appeal to support President Clinton.
The appeal warns that democracy is put at risk by the "flagrant
intrusion into private life, respect for which should be sacred in
all civilized societies."
South African churches react to military "invasion" of Lesotho
(ENI) Church leaders in South Africa have sharply rebuked
their government for its decision to send troops into neighboring
Lesotho to secure the ruling party's hold on power. Anti-
government protests in Lesotho have been growing since the
country's opposition parties rejected the results of May general
elections that returned the government to power. In terms of an
agreement of understanding between various southern African
countries in Southern African Development Community, Prime
Minister Pakalitha Mosisili asked South Africa and Botswana to
send troops into Lesotho to prevent a coup d'etat. The South
African decision to send troops was the first such military action
by the post-apartheid government
In a statement released in Johannesburg hours after South
Africa's intervention, the South African Council of Churches
expressed dismay. "Such an act cannot contribute towards a
peaceful settlement of the deep divisions within the nation," the
Council said in a statement. The act denies the independent
statehood of Losotho and "constitutes an invasion of that nation
on the part of South Africa." In a separate statement on
September 22, the synod of bishops of the Anglican Church of the
Province of South Africa (CPSA), which includes South Africa and
Lesotho, said they were appalled at the violence following the
arrival of troops from South Africa and Botswana. CPSA has
"consistently called on South Africa to reject situations of
conflict, and to work at what we do best?mediation, negotiation
CPSA called to dialogue and negotiation that would lead to a
lasting peace and offered to assist in this process.
After centuries, Christians may soon see Christ's tomb
(ENI) British scholars have set the stage for Christian
leaders to open what is believed to be the tomb of Jesus, hidden
from public view for centuries. The group led by Martin Biddle,
professor of medieval archaeolgy at the University of Oxford,
completed a survey of the tomb and its surroundings that may lead
to the eventual restoration of the tomb inside the Church of the
Holy Sepulchre. Known as the Church of the Anastasis, it is
believed by many to have been built on the site of Jesus'
crucifixion, burial and resurrection. Exposing the tomb would
allow modern scholars to test the statements of the fourth century
A.D. eyewitness Eusebius, bishop of Caesarea, about the
consecration of the site under Constantine. Christian leaders at
the time appear to have been guided to the spot by a tradition of
praying there and the fact that the area was still known as
Golgotha, the place recorded in the Bible as the site of the
Attack on four nuns provokes anger and protests across India
(ENI) Roman Catholic schools and institutions in the central
Indian state of Madya Pradesh closed in protest following the rape
of four nuns in the rural district of Jhabua. Five people have
already been arrested in relation to the assault. The attack was
seen by commentators and organizations as part of rising violence
against Christians. The following day close to 30 nuns and
novices were terror-stricken in an attack of a northern India
Opposition political parties are pressing for an official
investigation into the assault and many political leaders have
already expressed deep concern. In a strongly-worded letter to
Indian government leaders, the president of the Catholic Bishops'
Conference of India said the Christian community was feeling
"insecure and disturbed at this increasing violence against them
in different parts of the country. The all India Catholic Union
has claimed these events are part of a conspiracy of coordinated
Christian theologian urges recognition of Mohammed as a prophet
(ENI) According to Dr. Jan Slomp, former official with the
Reformed Churches of the Netherlands, Christian theologians should
acknowledge Mohammed as a prophet as he was in many ways
comparable to the prophets of the Old Testament. This would boost
dialogue and cooperation with the Muslim world, he argued. Slomp
suggested some churches and missionary societies still hold
negative views of Islam and Mohammed. Its goal stems in part from
the fact that Islam is growing in the Netherlands and a belief
that Mohammed's teachings on poverty and social problems are
significant and instructive.
South African Church recants position
(ENI) The general synod of South Africa's predominantly
white Dutch Reformed Church (DRC)?a church that once supplied the
theological "justification" for apartheid?has denounced apartheid
as a "theological heresy." It declared apartheid as wrong and
sinful, not simply in its effects and operations, but also in its
fundamental nature. The decision means the church has now met all
the conditions to be restored to full membership of the main
international organization of Reformed churches?the World
Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC). WARC's general secretary
told the synod before it voted on the resolution, "If we miss the
opportunity, we probably will drift further away from each other."
The DRC is the main Christian denomination of Afrikaners,
the white descendants of Dutch settlers from the 17th century.
Historically, it was a white church, with separate churches
created for blacks and people of mixed race. In 1986, it opened
its doors to all races, but its congregations are still mainly
white. According to Associated Press, there are unconfirmed
reports that provincial branches of the DRC have threatened to
break away in order to retain segregation. A general synod
statement said it recognized that members were frustrated over
slow progress towards unity within the family of Dutch Reformed
Churches, "We wish to approach every stumbling block in the
process with faith, and confirm our intention to move forward with
enthusiasm," the statement said.
Church holds top-level meeting to solve Russian crisis
(ENI) In a meeting of high-level Russian politicians and
religious leaders called and chaired by Russian Orthodox Patriarch
Alexei II, the Russian Orthodox Church discussed means to solve
the nation's political and economic crises. Entitled "Russia:
The Path to Salvation," the gathering included military and police
chiefs, leading figures from the arts and representatives from
other faith denominations.
The Patriarch said that millions of Russians were appealing
to the church to help them cope with the economic crisis, which
had seen the value of the ruble fall dramatically, causing panic
in Russia. The meeting took place two days after tens of
millions of Russians across the country went on strike and took
part in rallies demanding President Boris Yeltsin's resignation
and the payment of their salaries, many have not been paid for a
year or more. The Patriarch justified the church's action in
calling the meeting by saying the church was fulfilling its
mission of peacemaker in a society with deep political divisions.
Surveys find male priests are "tender," women priests "assertive"
(ENI) Surveys of more than 1000 Anglican clergy show many
Church of England priests share personality traits associated with
the opposite sex, with male priests showing above-average levels
of tenderness, and women priests showing above-average
assertiveness. David Muston, an Anglican priest in Licnolnshire,
has recently completed the surveys as part of two separate
academic studies. Muston said, "My biggest surprise was how
empathetic the male clergy were; deciding matters on feelings
rather than hard facts. This is a good quality for people
involved in counseling and personal crisis."
He said it was possible that the women showed "masculine"
characteristics because those were needed to break into the
previously all-male environment (The Church of England ordained
its first women priests in 1994). The male study surveyed 441
clergy and showed Church of England priests more intelligent,
emotionally stable, outgoing, conscientious, tender-minded,
imaginative, apprehensive and tense than the general British male
population. A number of striking differences emerged between
Anglican clergy in England and American clergy (not specifically
Anglican) measured in studies using the same research method.
English clergy were more imaginative, sincere, adaptable, genuine
and group-dependent, while the American clergy were more outgoing,
trusting accommodating, self-assured and relaxed.
The results of Muston's study of male clergy were published
in the latest edition of the Journal of Personality and Individual
Differences. He expects to announce the detailed findings of the
second study of women and men clergy early next year.
New London "superchurch" can hold 4000 worshippers
(ENI) At a time when Britain's major church denominations
suffer from falling attendance, a black-led church has opened with
more seats that the country's biggest, traditional church
buildings. Officially opened for worship on August 23, the
Kingsway International Christian Centre in Hackney, East London,
was a former warehouse and can accommodate 4000 worshippers.
Westminster Abbey has seating for 2000, by comparison.
Kingsway, part of the flourishing Evangelical movement, says
it needs the space for its booming congregation. Kingsway's
senior pastor, Mathew Ashimolowo, from Nigeria, puts its success
down to the "family feeling" at the church and to the power of
prayer. "One of the problems with church [in the West] is the
loss of power and passion in their ministry. They now have a
synthetic, not an authentic Gospel. The only was to preach
adequately is to go back to prayer, which is the source of power."
Peter Brierley, a leading analyst of religion in Britain stated
that Evangelicals were the only group of churches to increase
their support in the decade to 1989. An English Church Attendance
Survey launched this month would confirm whether the trend had
'Faith has nothing to fear from reason,' Roman Catholic Church
(ENI) In his 13th encyclical, released on the eve of his 20th
anniversary as leader of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope John Paul
II has called for the reconciliation of faith and reason, which
have been at odds in Western thought since the Enlightenment.
"Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human
spirit raises to the contemplation of truth," wrote the Pope in
Faith and reason (Fides et Ratio). The document is sharply
critical of Western philosophy for spreading a culture of despair
and also for railing to address the fundamental questions of life:
"Who am I? Where did I come from and where am I going? Why does
evil exist? What happens after this life?"
At a press conference on October 15 in Rome to launch the
document, the archbishop of Lublin, Jozef Miroslaw Zycinski, said
that the encyclical was offering an alternative to New Age
thinking. "A flight to facile irrationalism is today being put
forward in the name of protest against the great ideas developed
by the philosophical systems of the past. Naive faith in UFOs,
astrology and New Age is meant to replace the philosophical
questions of the past about the meaning of life and value systems.
Sympathizers with alternative cultural models suggest that the
place that has been occupied until now by a 'rational animal'
should be taken by a brainless 'homo ludens' who puts irony and
happenings before reflection," he said.
In London, Cardinal Basil Hume, told reporters: "The Pope,
far from seeking to suppress or condemn the exercise of reason, is
seeking precisely the opposite. Faith has nothing to fear from
truth, and everything to gain from the exploration of it. So
reason is not the enemy of faith, but its partner."
PB's Fund sends emergency relief
(PBFWR) The Presiding Bishop's Fund for World Relief has
released $83,000 in emergency relief funds to aid victims of
raging floods, civil unrest and food shortages. It sent $25,000
to the Diocese of West Texas, hit hard in the wake of tropical
storm Charlie. Shelters and medical supplies were needed for
those left homeless and who fact the risk of disease. Flood
victims in China also received emergency assistance from the Fund
through the China Christian Council. More than 240 million people
have been affected and more than 2,000 have died from the flooding
that has swept the country for more than two months.
Immediate support of $15,000 will assist refugees from
Senegal and Guinea-Bissau in the West African Diocese of the
Gambia, as more people are forced to take refuge in the face of
increased fighting in these regions. The Fund also responded to a
food emergency in the Diocese of Alaska. The chum salmon that
serve as a food source in the upper Yukon and Tannin have returned
this fall in numbers too low to meet the needs of the villagers.
The emergency grant of $23,000 will aid in the immediate
transportation, freezing and storing of a supply of hatchery fish
Church urged to do more to promote women leadership
(NYTimes) A committee of Roman Catholic bishops stated
recently that church authorities ought to do more to promote
qualified women to positions of lay leadership in the church. In
a statement titled "From Words to Deeds," issued by the bishops'
Committee on Women in Society and in the church, the committee
stated, "We emphasize the need to appoint women to positions that
entail substantive responsibility and influence, so that the
church may reap the full benefit of their talents." It also
called for collaboration between men and women in the church, but
did not discuss the church's restriction of the priesthood to men
The statement declared "We assume that all roles in the
church are open to women, unless stated otherwise by canon law."
The distinction is critical especially since Pope John Paul II has
said the issue of admission of women to the priesthood is
definitive and closed to discussion. The statement, says
Auxiliary Bishop John C. Dunne, chairman of the committee that
wrote it, "is saying to the Church, to all of us, 'Let's be open
to what women can be.'" The statement, which is advisory to
dioceses, was written to follow up a pastoral message on the role
of women in the church issued by the bishops' conference in 1994.
It also comes at a time when many dioceses are confronted by a
growing shortage of priests.
Flooding Devastates Diocese of West Texas
(ENS) Even while the west Texas town of Del Rio was digging
out from massive flooding in August, huge portions of the Diocese
of West Texas were suffering from unprecedented rains that fell
over the area since Friday, October 16. Twenty counties of south
central Texas was declared a disaster area by President Clinton,
part or all of which fall within the Diocese of West Texas. In
San Antonio, the see city if the diocese, as much as 20 inches of
rain fell in some places. Wide-spread damage to homes was avoided
in the city of more than a million because of a recently completed
flood-relief tunnel that runs below the downtown area. Towns
surrounding San Antonio were even harder hit because the
Guadeloupe River crested at nearly 50 feet, well over its 20-foot
flood stage. The damage in south central Texas is expected to
reach $400 million. The death toll was at 22, with at least four
still missing. The Diocese of West Texas has received a grant
from the Presiding Bishop's Fund for World Relief and is now in
the process of collecting money and goods to help victims.
Washington National Cathedral
(ENS) Just over 3,000 acolytes from across the United States,
Canada and Mexico gathered at Washington National Cathedral on
Saturday, October 10, for the annual acolyte festival. Presiding
Bishop Frank T. Griswold preached and the Rt. Rev. Ronald H.
Haines, Bishop of Washington, and the Very Rev. Nathan D. Baxter,
Dean of the Cathedral, served as co-celebrants.
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