From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
Episcopal News Service Briefs
18 Apr 2000 15:40:23
New task force promotes reconciliation
(ENS) Hoping to promote reconciliation among
Episcopalians, a layman and a priest have announced
formation of The New Commandment Task Force,
a group whose first mission will be to sponsor four
regional meetings designed to find reconciling ways
to deal with the church's internal disagreements over
issues related to homosexuality.
Dr. Louie Crew of Newark, New Jersey, and the
Rev. Brian Cox of Santa Barbara, California, said in
a joint statement posted on Crew's website that the
regional meetings do not themselves have any legislative
authority, but that they hope that the work produced by
the meetings will be helpful to the diocesan and national
legislative bodies of the Episcopal Church, including the
national General Convention and diocesan conventions.
They said that their plan has the support of Presiding
Bishop Frank T. Griswold, who told them that he welcomes
this initiative, noting that, as the Catechism teaches, "The
mission of the Church is to restore all people to unity with
God and each other in Christ."
Griswold, they said, has offered some financial
assistance to help the task force get started.
The men said the concept of the New Commandment
Task Force came out of the experience of "The Seattle 22,"
a group of Episcopalian laity and clergy--liberal, moderate
and conservative--that met in Seattle last November to
work on the issue of "Searching For Solutions to Potential
While that group did not complete the task of finding
agreed-upon solutions, the Seattle 22 experience convinced
the participants that better ways of dealing with serious
disagreements were possible, because Episcopalians have
far more in common than what is in dispute. The Seattle 22
effort was itself based on the reconciliation and group process
principles taught by The Reconciliation Institute in Santa
Barbara. The institute was founded by and is led by Cox.
The new group derives its name from two biblical
*John 13:34ff: "I give you a new commandment, that you love
one another. Just as I have loved you, you should love one
another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples,
if you have love for one another."
*John 15:12ff: "This is my commandment, that you love
one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than
this, to lay down one's life for one's friends. You are my
friends if you do what I command you."
Other members of the task force are the Rev. Ed Bacon,
rector of All Saints Church in Pasadena, California; the Rev.
Elizabeth Kaeton, canon missioner of the Diocese of Newark;
the Rev. Richard Kew, representing the Anglican Forum for
the Future; the Rev. Dorsey McConnell, rector of St. Alban's
Church in Edmonds, Washington, and Ted Mollegen, lay
deputy from the Diocese of Connecticut.
The first regional meeting will be held at Christ Church in
Short Hills, New Jersey, May 15-19. The second meeting will
take place June 12-16, and two more will be held in the early
autumn, at places yet to be determined. Members of the task
force are also available to assist any dioceses that want to
conduct diocesan meetings of a similar nature.
The task force has invited nominations for participation in
the four regional meetings. Nominees should be
Episcopalians who hold--or who have held within the last seven years
--elective church positions which involve them in regular
Episcopal Church activities beyond their parishes.
The Center for Economic and Social Rights releases report
(ENS) In preparation for a one day conference at Columbia
University in New York City on April 18, the Center for
Economic and Social Rights (CESR) released the findings of a
three-year research project of economic and human rights
conditions in the West Bank and Gaza
CESR's research documents a dramatic decline in living
standards and on-going human rights abuses for Palestinians.
After six years of the "peace process" between the Palestinian
Authority and Israel, Palestinians now suffer from a higher rate
of unemployment, a greater incidence of poverty and a
significant decline in gross national product.
"Six years of so-called peace have resulted in a downward
spiral of poverty, hardship and misery for the majority of
Palestinians," says Roger Normand, policy director of CESR.
Key research findings from the West Bank and Gaza
*Palestinian real per capita gross national product (GNP)
declined 21% since the beginning of the Oslo process,
despite over $3 billion in foreign aid.
*The number of unemployed Palestinians has increased
139% from an average of 33,900 during 1990-93 to an average
of 81,300 in 1994-98. Taking into account population growth
this represents a tripling of the core unemployment rate.
*Per capita consumption has declined by about 14.5%
Based on these findings, CESR reported it will release a
human rights report implicating Israel, the Palestinian
Authority and international donors in the decline in living
standards and on-going human rights abuses.
For more information contact Peter Wirth, GW Associate
315/476-3396 or go to the CESR web site at www.cesr.org.
Justice for Native peoples challenged in South Dakota
(ENS) The South Dakota Advisory Committee to the
United States Commission on Civil Rights recently released a
report titled: "Native Americans in South Dakota: An Erosion
of Confidence in the Justice System."
The most prominent issue that the report addressed was
the disparity within the justice system. For Native people, there
needs to be a way of taking on the responsibility of educating
the dominant culture to Native traditional ways. For the non-
Native culture that means listening to the stories that Native
people tell about who they are and where they have been in
their experiences of state/tribal relations. But change will not
come unless there is a commitment by the leaders of the
various tribes and state government.
Bishop Creighton L. Robertson of South Dakota and an
enrolled member of the Sisseton-Washpeton Dakota Nation
said he agrees with the content of the report and the
recommendations of the committee. He also believes there is a
disparity of treatment in the judicial system and can say generally
that Native people in many instances are not treated with
fairness in many areas of our common life.
Robertson said the report did not include how the state
and tribes plan on finding ways that both cultures can work
together on issues that presently divide people.
He also said the Episcopal Church is committed to issues
of restorative justice in the State and will work with the entities
identified by the tribes and the state, who are willing to carry
forward the work begun by the Advisory Committee.
Nashotah House Foundation receives a challenge gift
(ENS) The Nashotah House Foundation, Inc., the fundraising
arm of Nashotah House, announced it has received a challenge
gift of $500,000.
The challenge gift, donated by Lawrence and Judith Moon,
when fulfilled, would create a permanent endowment fund for
the conservation and maintenance of the historic seminary's
buildings and grounds and will be called the Nashotah House
Mrs. Moon, who once took classes in the diaconal
formation program at the seminary and who has audited classes
since, has a fondness for the seminary's historic buildings and
grounds and wanted to establish a trust fund to help maintain
In writing to the foundation, the Moons said, "It is our hope
that this gift will become a challenge gift by which others will
contribute additional permanent endowment funds to the foundation.
Such additional contributions may be made to the conservancy
or to any other fund established by the foundation."
J. Carleton MacNeil, president of the Nashotah House
Foundation, said, "We are especially grateful for this generous gift
and will immediately begin soliciting additional gifts in order
to match the Moons' challenge. If we are able to meet their
challenge, we would increase the Foundation's assets by $1
million within the year."
The Rev. Gary W. Kriss, dean and president of Nashotah House
said, "The Moons' gift follows a longtime pattern of giving by
laypersons outside the seminary's immediate community who have
funded the building of the major structures on Nashotah's
158-year-old campus. By creating the conservancy, the Moons
give incentive to and may encourage others to support the historic
mission of the seminary."
Episcopal Church Foundation hires researcher
(ENS) With the appointment of the Rev. Dr. William Sachs
as its research director, the Episcopal Church Foundation (ECF)
hopes to answer questions like "Why does the church do what
it does?" "What are effective church systems and how do we
understand them?" and "Is the church a mirror or echo of the
Following up on the contributions of its Zacchaeus Project,
the foundation would continue taking the pulse of the church,
both locally and nationally and strengthen its research capabilities.
According to William G. Andersen, executive director of ECF,
"Post-Zacchaeus work provides a great opportunity for the church
to participate in finding answers to some of the clearly intriguing
questions of our times."
Sachs, who was a co-director of the Zacchaeus Project, said,
"Our goal will be to lift up the 'big questions', those things
that really deserve concentrated attention. For example, the
Zacchaeus Project found that Episcopalians are using networks
outside their church at an astounding rate. What can we learn
from that? What is the role of the episcopate in contemporary
church life? To what extent is the ordained ministry changing at
the grassroots level and how is the broader church responding?"
Andersen also said he believes that the foundation, which
has sponsored research on the state of the church beginning
with the Pusey Report on seminary life in the mid-'60s,
is a key church player in terms of neutrality.
"Quite simply, the foundation has no ax to grind," he said.
"Our role is to strengthen and support the work of the people
of God, particularly Episcopalians, and now we are broadening
our capability to go underneath--to invest time and money
in learning more about contemporary change so that all may
ELCA council declines study of ordaining gays and lesbians
(ELCA) The suggestion made to the Church Council of the
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) to initiate a study
on the ordination of non-celibate gay and lesbian persons was
declined at its April meeting.
In November 1999 the council asked the ELCA Department for
Research and Evaluation to prepare a "Draft Proposal on the
Feasibility of a Possible Study on the Ordination of Non-Celibate
Gay and Lesbian Persons in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in
America." The council received that report at this April
meeting and modified its recommendations.
The Church Council voted "to continue thoughtful, deliberate,
and prayerful conversations throughout the ELCA about
human sexuality, including homosexuality, and the inclusion of gay
and lesbian persons in our common life and mission, and to
encourage the participation of congregations, synods,
seminaries, and churchwide units in this process."
The council also asked various divisions and commissions,
as well as the ELCA Conference of Bishops, to report
annually to the council and churchwide assemblies through 2003
"on the nature and extent of their activities and conversations
regarding these issues."
Calling for continued conversation and annual reports were
portions of two recommendations from the draft proposal, said
Sally Young, council member from Waterloo, Iowa, after she made
the motion for the council's program and services committee.
She said the church was not "ready" to tackle the volatile issues
related to such a study.
The conversation of the 1999 Churchwide Assembly was one
of "concern and respect," she said. "We want to hold on to that;
keep that going."
Pioneering efforts planned on AIDS and other development
(ENS) The World Bank and the Council of Anglican Provinces
of Africa (CAPA), a group of 150 senior Christian leaders from
20 African nations, announced that they plan to work more closely
together to fight poverty and spur economic and social development in
The agreement was unveiled in March at the end of a week-
long poverty consultation in Nairobi, marking the first time
the bank has partnered on a regional level with the church.
Through the new partnership, the bank and church will aim to
work together in the following areas:
*Women and assets
*Children and youth
*Education and health
*Governance, leadership and corruption
*Enterprise, debt and economic growth
"We have all been delighted by our mutual enthusiasm and
openness to explore and develop this partnership," said the Rev.
Robert Okine, archbishop of West Africa and chair of the
(CAPA). "We commit ourselves to develop our partnership
with passion, compassion and professionalism so that our
joint work produces results for the poor. We stand together for
life and dignity."
"We are preparing for this special year of the Jubilee by
working with Church leaders to place poverty on the forefront
of the international agenda and build on an international plan to
relieve the debt of the world's poorest countries worthy of a
millennium celebration," said Callisto Madavo, vice president of the
World Bank's Africa region. "This is the beginning of a process
that brings us together on the basis of our common concerns
for raising the incomes of the poor and promoting empowerment,
security and opportunity."
The World Bank plans to hold a follow-up workshop with
African Muslim leaders in 2001, and an interfaith conference in 2002.
Irish church rule on clergy couples prompts refuge in U.S.
(ENI) An Anglican clergy couple, who have been married for
30 years, have moved from Ireland to the United States so that
they can live together.
According to a report, Christopher and Paula Halliday,
rectors in the Church of Ireland since 1994, were required
by canon law to live within their separate parishes, which
were 55 kilometres apart. The Hallidays relocated to the state
of Maryland because the Episcopal Church of the USA has
no rules about where priests should live. So they are settling in
together at Mr. Halliday's rectory in Valley Lee. Mrs.
Halliday's parish is in Leonardtown, just 16 kilometres away.
Both pointed out that in the U.S. congregations were not
based on geographical areas as was the case in Ireland and
England, so the question of the priest living in the midst of the
community did not necessarily arise.
"People choose a church that seems like home, where they
feel valued," they explained. This applied also to Americans'
choice of religious affiliation. " Most worshippers in Episcopal
churches are not cradle Episcopalians," said Mr. Halliday.
Mrs. Halliday declined to complain about the Irish church's
rule and also declined to say whether the U.S. system is better.
"It's just a difference," she said.
However she added that "geographical parishes give the
worshipping community a sense of intimacy, which you don't
quite get here." But she felt that with priests increasingly
serving multiple parishes the church might "have to look at
Before deciding to emigrate, the Hallidays did summer
parish duty in the U.S. Mr. Halliday said: "Americans expect
a great deal from their professionals, but are prepared to
give a great deal of time and effort supporting them."
Pope John Paul II apologizes for church's sins
(ENI) At a March 12 service of penance in St Peter's
Basilica in Rome, Pope John Paul II made history by begging
pardon of God for the sins committed by members of his church over
the past 2000 years, especially those which caused division among
The Pope's bold attempt to cleanse the conscience of the
church as it enters its third millennium has generally been
"Repentance, whether on the part of individuals or of
churches, is essential if the visible unity of Christ's church is to
be advanced, and almost all significant ecumenical documents
acknowledge this," said Dr. Robert Edgar, general secretary
of the National Council of Churches (NCC). "Pope John Paul
II has articulated a message of repentance from the Roman
Catholic Church. Any concern that such a word of repentance
had come earlier or been more specific should not overshadow
the profound ecumenical significance of what has occurred
recently in Rome."
But some conservative Catholics complained that the
apology undermined the church's authority, while others,
including some Jewish leaders, said the Pope had not gone far
enough. The papal confession was made in general terms, and
many wanted to hear more specific mention of the church's failures,
especially regarding Catholic attitudes towards Jews during the
Second World War.
The Pope also pointed out that Christians had been
subjected to violence at the hands of others. "As we ask
forgiveness for our sins, we also forgive the sins committed
by others against us."
The goal of examining the church's past and asking forgiveness
for its mistakes has been one of Pope John Paul's main
ambitions in recent years. This act of confession was based on a
long document, "Memory and Reconciliation, the Church and the
faults of the past", released on March 7 by the Vatican's
International Theological Commission. According to the document,
the church remains holy, but is stained by the sins of its children.
However, Father Thomas Reeves, editor of a Jesuit
magazine, America, told the New York Times: " The document
should have put it in bold print that 'children of the church'
includes popes, cardinals and clergy, and not just people in the pews.
The pope had a great idea that some in the Vatican are
obscuring with a fog machine."
Edgar said that he would be encouraging the NCC's 35
Protestant and Orthodox member communions to study the
pope's statement. "If other churches respond positively to the
Pope's message," he concluded, "it could be a major contribution to
ecumenical advance in this new century."
World Council of Churches says cancel Mozambique's debt
(ENS) In a March 13 letter George Lemopoulos, acting
general secretary to the World Council of Churches (WCC) asked
its member churches in G8 countries to appeal to their governments
to forgive their bilateral debts with Mozambique and to advocate
with multilateral creditors, especially the World Bank
and the International Monetary Fund, for "the immediate, total
and unconditional cancellation of the money owed by Mozambique."
This appeal was made in response to the situation caused by
the floods that devastated large parts of Mozambique in
February and March.
"You and other member churches," the letter said, "have
accompanied the churches and people of Mozambique during their
costly struggles for independence before 1975. We have remained
with them during the crippling the years of subsequent drought
and famine that claimed a million lives. We have continued to
support the churches' courageous peace and reconciliation
efforts leading up to and since the 1992 peace agreement.
Thus we know well the terrible waste of civil war and the
economic instability that haunted the country even before the
Lemopoulos' letter said the appeal for debt relief for a
specific country is something new. However, since the 1970s, the
global debt crisis has been a priority for the WCC, which on several
occasions has spoken in solidarity with the victims of indebtedness.
It is because the recent floods further undermined an extremely
fragile economy that the "dramatic situation now in
Mozambique" warrants immediate urgent action.
We must halt America's gun scourge, says ecumenical leader
(ENI) Declaring that the United States must end the "scourge"
of gun-related violence which has brought a series of multiple
killings in recent years, the National Council of Churches (NCC)
has come out in support of legislation in the U.S.
Congress aimed at limiting the ownership of guns.
Expressing support for a new interfaith campaign for gun
control, Robert Edgar, NCC general secretary, said that because
gun violence affected the lives of children--many of whom
have been killed in the recent attacks--his agency had decided
to make the issue one of its top advocacy and legislative
priorities this year.
"We are aware that new laws alone will not end the wave
of gun violence sweeping the nation," Edgar said at a news
conference in Washington, D.C., on March 15, which was
organized to announce the campaign, the Interfaith Call to End
Gun Violence. "But we are convinced that the number of shootings
will be reduced by making it harder for individuals to purchase the
kinds of guns which have no function except to injure and kill
The U.S. Congress in Washington is considering proposals
that include waiting periods for the purchase of guns, along
with mandatory background checks before purchases can be
approved. The "Interfaith Call" supports these proposals, but goes
further by supporting efforts to ban the sales of handguns and
In light of the recent Michigan killing and other school
shootings, and the polarization in Congress over the issue, it
was time, Edgar said, "for a broad faith-based coalition to
move in new directions. This is the time we in the faith
community have to make a stand."
He pointed out that the interfaith appeal was supported
by representatives of mainstream and evangelical Protestant,
Roman Catholic and Jewish groups.
"People are fed up," said Edgar. "A majority of Americans
believe stronger gun control legislation is needed, and the fact
that some politicians and the NRA are setting the agenda
has got to stop."
English cathedrals seek to boost attendance
(ENI) The English Church Attendance Survey, published in
January, revealed that in the past decade average church
attendance on Sundays had dropped by one-fifth or more across most
mainstream denominations. Yet officials of the principal churches of
the two biggest denominations--Canterbury Cathedral (Anglican, in
Kent, southern England) and Westminster Cathedral (Roman
Catholic, in London)--said that attendance on Sundays had been
holding up for several years.
At Wells, a medieval Anglican cathedral, the main Sunday
service has had to be moved out of the quire, seating about
200, into the body of the church, to accommodate about double
that number of worshippers, administrator John Roberts told
"To ask about Sunday attendance is, however, to some
extent to ask the wrong question," he said. "Cathedrals are being
used more and more for a huge range of activities, not only
At medieval Canterbury Cathedral, the mother church of the
Anglican Communion, Sunday attendances are keeping "level."
Spokesman Chris Robinson said: "As well as the quality of
worship, including singing and liturgy, people are drawn by the
historical nature of the building. The space gives a sense of
Wells was solidly booked for more than a year ahead, he
added. An additional 32,500 people were drawn to the
cathedral last year for the Advent and Christmas period, between
Advent Sunday and Boxing Day (December 26).
For more information contact:
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