From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Episcopal News Service Briefs

Date 21 Feb 2001 13:53:01


News Briefs

Series explores religious 'fault lines'

     (ENS) A six-part public lecture series entitled Religious Fault Lines in 
American Democracy begins February 22 at Union Theological Seminary in New York 
City. The series will be held bi-weekly on Thursday evenings from 7-9 p.m. 
Organizers say the series is designed to inform "mainline religious communities, 
whose historic social justice traditions are being targeted by the right." The 
series' co-sponsors include the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine and St. 
Mary's Episcopal Church of West Harlem.

     Scheduled speakers include:

     February 22: The Changing Landscape of Religious Conservatism, with C. 
Welton Gaddy, executive director of Interfaith Alliance; Alfred Ross, president 
of the Institute for Democracy Studies

     March 8: Religious Institutions Besieged: The Southern Baptist Convention 
and the Mainline Protestant Renewal Movements, Lewis C. Daly, senior program 
associate of the Institute for Democracy Studies

     March 22: The Catholic Right and the Global Culture Wars, Lee Cokorinos, 
research director of the Institute for Democracy Studies

     April 5: Feminism and Women's Rights in the Crosshairs of the Religious 
Right, Eleanor Smeal, president of Feminist Majority Foundation

     April 19: Racial Justice at Risk: Conservative Policy Agendas, James Lawson, 
lecturer in urban ministry of Harvard University Divinity School; former 
president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference 

     April 26: Challenging the Religious Right -- A Critical Crossroads in 
American Democracy, Beverly Harrison, professor emerita of Union Theological 
Seminary; Joseph Hough, president of Union Theological Seminary

     The concluding address will be followed by a banquet in honor of Dr. Beverly 
Harrison, beginning at 8:15 p.m., in the seminary refectory. Reserve dinner seats 
at $12.50 each (send check to IDS). For more information, contact Lew Daly at IDS 
(212) 423-9237, or e-mail at 

Ugandan bishops blast formation of Integrity chapter

     (ENS) The House of Bishops of the Anglican Province of Uganda said in a 
recent statement that it "categorically condemns the practice of homosexuality" 
and "deplores" the formation of a chapter of Integrity in Uganda. Integrity, 
which describes itself as "a lesbian, gay, and bisexual ministry in and to the 
Episcopal Church," has 70 chapters in the U.S., Canada and Australia. This would 
be the first chapter on the African continent.

     Acknowledging the formation of the chapter and the election of leaders, the 
bishops said, "We therefore strongly advise our public or citizens not to let 
this kind of un-biblical and inhuman movement to be established in our country." 
Pointing out that the Episcopal Church has not approved the ordination of non-
celibate gays and lesbians nor the blessing of same-sex relationships, the 
statement said, "Why then should we invite amongst us something we are not 
familiar within our country?"

     In a response, the Rev. Michael W. Hopkins, president of Integrity USA, 
stressed the fact that the chapter in Uganda "is entirely indigenous" and charged 
that the statement by the bishops "sends a message of fear and demoralization 
among lesbian and gay Anglicans in Uganda" by referring to the new chapter as 

     The February 15 statement called on the Ugandan bishops "to examine their 
statement in all humility and Christian conscience and find a better way to state 
their disagreement, one which does not question the fundamental humanity and 
dignity of members of their own church."

     In response, the Integrity Uganda's leaders said that they wanted to make it 
"categorically clear" that it is not an alien influence from the West. "It is 
simply a local initiative borne by a strong need amongst Anglicans in Uganda," a 
signal that Uganda has its own share of "diversity and pluralism which goes to 
the very root of her human identity and sexuality." The purpose of the chapter is 
"aimed at celebrating full human sexuality as a gift to be honored and cherished 
by all people of all ideologies, race and cultures. One of the beauties of our 
Anglican faith is, despite our different diversities, we still hold together…."

     The statement by Integrity Uganda said formation of the chapter was "a wake-
up call to all Church of Uganda bishops who are still playing the ostrich." They 
cited resolutions from recent Lambeth Conferences of the world's Anglican bishops 
that state the issue of sexuality is far from resolved and calling on further 
study, listening and understanding of the issue in light of Scripture.


25 Episcopal churches in 'top 300' list

     (Episcopal Life) A Lilly Endowment-funded nationwide study of local church 
excellence has identified the 25 Episcopal churches among the 300 outstanding 
Protestant congregations in the United States.

     The two-year study, headed by Paul Wilkes, a professor at the University of 
North Carolina at Wilmington, said, "We looked for churches that nurtured the 
spirit, welcomed and yet challenged, both preached -- and more importantly --
lived the Good News," Wilkes said.

     "These churches we found are simply wonderful places to be," he added. "They 
not only take care of their members and the newcomer, but reach out generously 
into the world."

     The Rev. Mark Beckwith, rector of All Saints Episcopal Church in Worchester, 
Mass., was astonished, but proud, that his parish was chosen among the top 17 on 
the list and the first among Episcopal churches.

     "I think the ouija board fell on us," Beckwith said, suggesting that good 
fortune accompanied the commendation. "In no way do we aspire to be anything more 
than faithful."

     The congregation at All Saint's, a parish of about 600, is culturally mixed, 
inclusive and economically diverse. The church is involved in ecumenical feeding 
programs and is a participant in the Interfaith Hospitality Network, providing 
housing for homeless families. The downtown church, first established in 
Worcester in 1835, has strong ties to the neighborhood, providing facilities for 
community meetings, a Head Start program for 80 children and a summer Bible 

     "The parish has done tremendous work on all fronts," said Bishop Gordon 
Scruton. "It has always been the mother church of Worchester, which is the second 
largest city in New England. "It has been a central place of witness to the 
Gospel for the city."

     Scruton said parishioners have been visible in the neighborhood with 
processions, prayer vigils at murder sites and outreach to single parents.

     "It's a holistic congregation. There's a healing group, a prayer and praise 
team that reaches out in the community. The parish offers retreats and study 
groups to help people grow spirituality."

     In explaining the criteria for making his choices, Wilkes said the amount of 
resources, location, or denomination was not relevant. "It's really a matter of 
having faith in God, faith in each other and a sense of imagination."

     The most successful, he said, are those parishes willing to take risks - 
with leadership, liturgy and programs. "They are also welcoming to newcomers who 
don't look or act like themselves."

     His findings will be summarized in a book, Excellent Protestant 
Congregations: the Guide to Best Places and Practices, to be published this 
spring by Westminster John Knox. The study also identified 300 excellent Roman 
Catholic parishes. 


Souper Bowl means more than beer, chips

     (Episcopal Life) On Super Bowl Sunday, more than $3.5 million was raised 
from 12,500 congregations in 50 states and Canada in an effort to help hungry and 
needy people.

     More than 300 Episcopal churches reported participating in the Souper Bowl 
of Caring on Jan. 28, raising $88,000. In all, 40 denominations participated in 
the annual event, and donations are still pouring in, according to Souper Bowl 

     The effort, which began in the Senior High Youth Fellowship of Spring Valley 
Presbyterian Church in Columbia, S.C., in 1990, involves parishioners giving $1 
each, or one canned good, as they leave worship on or close to the day of the big 
football game. Young people from congregations in all parts of the country stand 
at sanctuary exits and receive the donations in large soup pots. All the money 
and any food collected are then sent directly to a charity selected by each youth 

     Thom Chu, officer for ministries resources at the Episcopal Church Center, 
represents the presiding bishop on the Council of Stewards for the Souper Bowl. 
"It's a great grass-roots effort, which involves a lot of young people on a day 
for sports, yet it helps people to focus on something more than just the game," 
said Chu. "This is a moment when people can focus on the needs of others."


Anglicans and Orthodox continue their dialogue

     (ACNS) The official dialogue between the Anglican Communion and 
representatives of the Orthodox churches continued with a mid-February meeting in 
Greece. The dialogues were established in 1973 to explore and, if possible, 
reconcile differences between the two churches. It published two documents of 
agreements, the first in Moscow in 1976 and another in Dublin in 1984.

     Now in its third stage, the International Commission of the Anglican-
Orthodox Dialogue has produced interim statements in 1998 on "The Trinity and the 
Church," another on "Christ, the Spirit and the Church," and "Christ, Humanity 
and the Church."

     At its meeting in Greece, the commission began its examination of ordained 
ministry in the church and its relationship to the unique high priesthood of 
Christ and the royal priesthood of the whole Christian community, according to a 
communiqué issued on February 15. It will continue that discussion at its meeting 
next year. It also approved an agreed statement on "Episcope, Episcopos and 

     The commission is chaired by Metropolitan John of Pergamon for the Orthodox 
and Bishop Mark Dyer, the retired Episcopal bishop of Bethlehem (Pennsylvania).


Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches available on CD-ROM

     (NCC) The National Council of Churches (NCC) recently announced that all 68 
"Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches" editions from 1916 through 2000 are 
now available on CD-ROM. This new format, which will preserve all statistical and 
essay pages, is the latest enhancement under a three-year, $635,000 redevelopment 
grant from the Lilly Endowment and the Robert Johnson Foundation.

     "Lilly was concerned that the yearbook's one-of-a-kind body of information 
collected since 1916 be preserved and made available to social scientists, church 
leaders and historians, journalists, libraries, seminarians and other scholars 
and the general public," said the Rev. Eileen W. Lindner, NCC deputy general 
secretary for research and planning. "The new CD-ROM is an enduring contribution 
to the study of American Christianity," she said. "Until now, the yearbook's 
corpus simply was unavailable to all but the very few researchers who could find 
their way to our offices and spend time pouring through increasingly fragile 

     The cost of the "Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches Historic 
Archive" CD is $29.50. To order, call (888) 870-3325 or email


Vatican to give Internet its patron saint

     (ENS) Pope John Paul II is about to name St. Isidore of Seville as the 
patron saint of computer users and the Internet.

     The proposal for such a move was made in 1999, with Spanish Catholic bishops 
advocating St. Isidore as the best candidate on the grounds that in the 7th 
century he produced one of the world's first databases in the form of a twenty-
volume encyclopedia called The Etymologies.

     The Web is known to be high on the list of the Pope's concerns, and the 
Vatican has had its own website since 1996, powered by three computers dubbed 
Raphael, Michael and Gabriel. A Vatican spokesman said that the Holy See was 
receiving a growing number of requests to name St. Isidore, and the matter was 
"under active consideration."


Left Behind left behind at box office

     (Albuquerque Journal) Across the country, Left Behind: The Movie has been a 
box office flop.

     Based on the best-selling book by evangelist Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, 
the movie was only the 17th most popular movie in the country for the week ending 
February 4, earning only $2.2 million in comparison with $6 million earned at the 
same time by a film about bank-robbing cheerleaders called Sugar and Spice. 

     The movie, described by Christian fundamentalists as an end-of-the-world 
scenario, was supported by a guerrilla marketing effort in which evangelical 
Protestant churches across the country paid at least $3,000 apiece to sponsor the 
film's theatrical release in their cities. The goal was to give moviegoers some 
old-time religion with their popcorn, and to show the film industry there is a 
market for faith-based films.

     But not all churches think the film or the books on which it is based are a 
good idea. A Presbyterian group representing 23 churches in southern New Mexico 
passed a resolution in January against the "Left Behind" book series and movie 
after church members read some of the books and became alarmed. "It's crazy 
business," said the Rev. Jon Shannon Webster, executive presbyter of the Sierra 
Blanca Presbytery in Roswell. "This interpretation of the Bible is foreign to 
most mainstream denominations."

     The resolution asks the national Presbyterian Church to take a stand against 
the books and the film, which Webster said are based on "false theology," and to 
provide materials and resources to Presbyterian churches across the country to 
"educate people about what the Book of Revelation really says."


NCC survey finds more Americans in need since welfare reform

     (NCC) More Americans are working as a result of the 1996 welfare reform 
legislation, but many of them are poorer than before, according to faith-based 
social service providers and advocates polled by the National Council of Churches 

     The survey, released on February 15 during a related NCC-sponsored 
consultation, said that working families are the fastest growing category of 
people in need, and are coming to faith-based organizations seeking food, rent or 
mortgage assistance, utility payments, child care, job training and placement.

     "Florida voters may have left a lot of dimpled chads, leaving ballot 
counters puzzled at their intent, but survey respondents were clearly outraged at 
the increase in numbers of working poor," said Mary Cooper of the NCC's 
Washington office, who tallied the results. "They jabbed at the survey form and 
put multiple checkmarks as they described working people struggling to stay 
housed but unable to pay their utilities and turning to the church for help. This 
winter it's going to be terrible for people trying to pay for heat."

     The survey results were pieces of the NCC's broader, 10-year "Poverty 
Mobilization" launched in November 2000 to explore initiatives in such areas as 
health care, children, environment, education, and housing, with the aim of 
identifying achievable goals for combating poverty in the United States.

     Under 1996 legislation, people leaving welfare often are forced to take any 
job that is available without regard to their family needs, the survey confirmed. 
"Jobs people take when they lack education and training often don't pay enough to 
support a family," respondents said, "and in many states they lose Medicaid, food 
stamps, child care, and housing subsidies when they get a job, or the value is 
sharply reduced. The result is they are poorer working than they were when they 
were on welfare."

     Welfare reform has worked best, according to the survey, where states 
provide significant literacy and job training and continue supportive services.


Diocese of Virginia sets goals

     (ENS) At the 206th Annual Council of the Diocese of Virginia, over 400 
clergy and lay delegates unanimously passed Resolution R-1, which calls for a 
diocesan-wide capital and planned giving campaign to expand the mission and 
ministry of the church.

     The campaign will support the following four initiatives:

     *Strengthening existing congregations

          *Expanding youth ministries

          *Expanding outreach to our local and global neighbors in need

          *Establishing new churches in the diocese

     While no monetary goal has been set, the resolution outlines $53 million in 
needs, including $20 million for the church planting initiative. Northern 
Virginia is an area of exponential population growth and 30-35% of the population 
does not have a church family.


U.N. preparing for special session on HIV/AIDS in June

     (ENS) In preparation for a special session on HIV/AIDS in June, the United 
Nations has released a report, calling the global community to an intensified, 
coordinated action to deal with an epidemic that is "the most formidable 
development challenge of our time."

     Secretary General Kofi Annan said that "leadership is fundamental to an 
effective response…vital if the nature of the epidemic is to be clearly 
understood throughout society and a national response mobilized."

     By the end of last year, over 36 million people around the world were living 
with HIV or AIDS and almost 22 million had died from the disease. Last year there 
was an estimated 5.3 million new infections globally and over three million 
deaths, the highest yearly total ever. An even greater epidemic can be prevented, 
according to the report. Large-scale prevention programs have clearly 
demonstrated that the spread of HIV can be reduced, especially among young people 
and hard-to-reach populations.

     "AIDS has become a major development crisis," said Annan. "It kills millions 
of adults in their prime. It fractures and impoverishes families, weakens 
workforces, turns millions of children into orphans, and threatens the social and 
economic fabric of communities and the political stability of nations," he added.

     "Collective experience with HIV/AIDS has evolved to the point where it is 
now possible to state with confidence that it is technically, politically and 
financially feasible to contain" the epidemic and "dramatically reduce its spread 
and impact," Annan said in the report.

     Successful responses will have their roots in communities, the report 
argued. Empowering young people and women is essential and an approach taking 
into account human rights is fundamental. It is also necessary to combat the 
stigma that accompanies the disease, fighting denial and shame that are major 
obstacles in discussing and confronting the epidemic.


     Austin Cooper civil rights champion

     The Rev. Austin R. Cooper, Sr., 67, died of heart attack February 14 while 
driving home from a meeting of the Southeast Florida Episcopal Foundation, of 
which he was a board member. The son of Bahamian immigrants, Cooper, a native of 
Miami who began his ministry there, returned from Cleveland, Ohio, upon 
retirement last year.

     He served in parishes in the dioceses of Southeast Florida, Florida, Central 
New York, Rochester, and Ohio and was headmaster of an Episcopal parochial school 
in Dallas.

     Cooper represented the Episcopal Church on the communion-wide Anglican 
Consultative Council and was a co-founder, charter member and first secretary of 
the Union of Black Episcopalians. He was a staunch supporter of the church's 
black colleges and in 1991 was instrumental in the establishment of the Episcopal 
Legacy Fund to make visible the church's efforts to combat racism by providing 
scholarships for minority students. 

     In 1979, the Greater Cleveland Interchurch Council and two newspapers 
honored him in recognition of his civil rights work. During his time as president 
of the NAACP in Cleveland, shots were fired into his home and his life was threatened.

     He leaves his wife, Patricia; son Austin Cooper Jr.; daughters Dr. Angela 
Cooper-Carty and Kimberly; brothers Clement and William, and sister Leona Baker.
Arizona educator co-founded order
     The Rev. Mother Virginia Russell Schofield, 92, who helped found Episcopal 
schools for nearly half a century, died February 5. She was head of Tucson's Tuller 
School, a co-ed day and girls' boarding school for 200 students from kindergarten to 
Grade 12, and was mother superior of the Episcopal order of the Teachers of the
Children of God from 1968 until 1997.

     She was co-founder of the teaching order of nuns with the Rev. Mother
Abbie Loveland Tuller, who died in 1972. The nuns also started other schools in 
Alaska, California, Connecticut, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island and the 
Navajo Reservation at Window Rock, Arizona.

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