From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Episcopal News Service Briefs

Date Fri, 7 Dec 2001 09:41:05 -0500 (EST)


News Briefs

Christian leaders in Jerusalem oppose plans for mosque in Nazareth

     (ENS) In a joint statement released November 28, leaders of the Christian churches 
in Jerusalem underscored their opposition to a projected new mosque in Nazareth.

     The church leaders said that they "are alarmed" by the plans for a mosque on state 
land in front of the Shrine of the Annunciation, calling on the Israeli government to 
"revoke without further delay its decision." In the statement they said, "We are 
surprised and distressed to see that promises and assurances given us by the Government 
representatives have not been honored and that the requests, appeals and protests of 
the Christian churches in the Holy Land and throughout the world have been treated with 
virtual contempt."

     Bishop Riah Abu Al-Assal of the Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East 
joined his colleagues representing the Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Armenian 
Apostolic Orthodox, Coptic Orthodox, Syrian Orthodox, Marionite, Lutheran, Greek 
Catholic, Armenian Catholic and Syrian Catholic churches.

     The statement said that the mosque is "not welcome to the Muslim religious and 
national authorities themselves" and would make access to the Shrine of the 
Annunciation even more difficult. The statement alleges that the "ill-advised plan of 
certain Israeli political circles, who are making use of a marginal group of Muslims in 
order to sow division between Christians and Muslims in Israel and among Muslims 
themselves." The church leaders said that "we know for certain that a great majority of 
our Jewish friends, in Israel and elsewhere, are also firmly opposed to this 
incomprehensible Government decision." The plan also would have a "destructive" effect 
on the "fruits of decades of hard work to build up and expand the Jewish-Christian 

Cardinal says rise of fundamentalism makes interfaith dialogue more difficult

     (RNS) Cardinal Francis Arinze, an African often mentioned as a possible successor 
to Pope John Paul II, said at a meeting in Canada that the rise of religious 
fundamentalism around the world is making interfaith dialogue more difficult--but also 
more important than ever.

     When asked if it were possible to dialogue with Muslims who hate or persecute 

Christians, Arinze said that "it makes religious dialogue much more difficult but also 
much more important. Fundamentalists make problems for their own religion," he said. As 
president of the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, the cardinal 
has promoted dialogue with a wide variety of religions and helped arrange the pope's 
visit earlier this year to a mosque in Damascus--the first time in history for such a 

     Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, he has also organized numerous high-
level meetings between Roman Catholics, Jews and major Islamic organizations. He is an 
outspoken proponent of increased respect among all religions and cultures. While he 
rejects the belief that "all religions are equal," he does not think that Catholics 
should impose their religion on other cultures, preferring instead to believe that the 
transforming power of Christ can work through other religions. He is convinced, for 
example, that Muslims can be spiritually saved.

     "The church is not in favor of the imposition of the culture of one people on 
other peoples, in past decades by colonialism and today by powerful mass media which, 
by TV alone, quietly but effectively spread a whole philosophy of life that homogenizes 
culture," he said. "The church is challenging such negative cultural elements as 
superstition, rugged individualism, materialism, hedonism, permissiveness and 

World Council continues its dialogue with Orthodox members

     (ENS) The Special Commission on Orthodox Participation in the World Council of 
Churches met in mid-November in Hungary in an effort "to study and analyze the whole 
spectrum of issues related to Orthodox participation in the WCC" and "to make proposals 
concerning the necessary changes in structure, style and ethos of the council" to the 
WCC Central Committee.

     The Orthodox members have been critical of the direction of the WCC, especially 
some of its political positions, and have threatened to cancel or suspend their 
membership. The commission was appointed following the Eighth Assembly in Zimbabwe, 
with half its members coming from Eastern and Oriental Orthodox churches and the other 
half from other WCC member churches.

     "One of the most significant affirmations of the commission was that consensus is 
the appropriate decision-making method for WCC governing bodies," said a communiqui 
issued following the meeting. "This process intends to insure that all strongly held 
positions will be incorporated in the report or in the process of the meeting as a 
whole, thus contributing to a spirit of common work toward unity in the conduct of 
business by the council." 

     The commission offered a definition of the consensus style: "The consensus method 
is a process for seeking the common mind of a meeting without deciding issues by means 
of voting. A consensus is reached when one of the following occurs: all are in 
agreement (unanimity); the proposal expresses the general 'mind of the meeting' and the 
minority therefore gives consent; it is agreed that the matter be postponed; it is 
agreed that no decision can be reached."

     The commission's communiqui "affirmed the function of the WCC as a necessary 
instrument in facing social and ethical questions" because those issues "arise out of the 
life of the churches" so it makes sense that the WCC could respond to a request 
from its members to speak on their behalf.

     Permeating the discussion of a wide range of concerns was "the enduring question 
of how the churches understand themselves in relation to the one Church, the Body of 

     The commission will meet in Finland next May to prepare the final report for 
presentation to the Central Committee next fall.

One in five Europeans brought 'closer to religion' by September terrorist attacks 

     (ENI) A fifth of Europeans questioned in an international survey say the September 
11 attacks in the United States brought them "closer to religion," while almost half 
now claim to have "changed priorities." 

     Three-quarters of Europeans surveyed said their family was now "most important" to 
them, with 47 percent saying that they expected to be more "family-focused" in the 

     The survey, conducted by Euro RSCG Worldwide, an international advertising agency 
network based in New York, also found that 35 percent of Italians and 16 percent of 
Dutch people planned to "focus more on religion" over Christmas. 

     The survey was conducted as part of Euro RSCG's efforts to track consumer shifts 
and trends in the wake of the September attacks. It was conducted in early November on 
a representative sample of over 1,300 people in Britain, France, Italy, Germany and the 

     In an earlier US survey, 63 percent of Americans surveyed said they would also be 
"more family focused," while 18 percent planned to spend more time at home. 

     However, the survey suggested religious belief for Europeans still ranked well 
down on their scale of values, with only 5 percent of Britons and 2 percent of French 
citizens listing it as "most important" to them, compared to 79 percent and 74 percent 
respectively who cited the family, and 9 percent and 5 percent who gave priority to 
their country. 

     While almost three in five of all Europeans surveyed supported their country's 
involvement in the "war against terrorism," 30 percent of French and 12 percent of 
Britons said that the US had "definitely" or "maybe" deserved the attacks.

     Euro RSCG Worldwide describes itself as the world's fifth biggest advertising 
network, with agencies in 75 countries.

Canada's Anglicans celebrate 25th anniversary of women in ordained ministry 

     (ENI) Since 1976, when the first women were ordained as priests in the Anglican 
Church of Canada (ACC), more than 500 have entered the priesthood. Today, 16 percent of 
the church's active clergy, or 344 priests, are women. 

     The Anglican Communion was first invited to consider admitting women to the 
priesthood at the Lambeth Conference in 1968. In the early 1970s, an ACC task force on 
women's ordination issued a positive report, and on November 30,  1976, the first six 
women were ordained, in four dioceses, from Ontario in the east to British Columbia in 
the west. 

     But the ordinations provoked controversy. A dissenting manifesto was circulated 
and protest services were held even as the women were being ordained. While the 
dominant liberal segment of the ACC largely favored women's ordination, evangelicals 
pointed to places in Paul's epistles where women are told to be silent and not take 
leadership over men, and Anglo-Catholics argued that the role of the priest was to 
serve in the image of Christ, so the priest had to be male. 

     The ACC was not the first church in the Anglican Communion to ordain women. During 
the Second World War, a woman in Hong Kong was ordained to the priesthood in 1944, but 
this action was condemned in 1948 by Anglican bishops at the Lambeth Conference. She 
had to wait until 1970 for her orders to be recognized. The first officially authorized 
ordination of women to the priesthood took place in Hong Kong in 1971, followed by 
Canada in 1976 and New Zealand and the United States the following year. 

     "The reason women are being called by God into new roles in the church is that, 
not just the church, but the whole civilization in our western context is on the cusp 
of a radical watershed," said the Rev. Wendy Fletcher Marsh, academic dean and 
professor of church history at Vancouver School of Theology and author of two books on 
women's ordination. 

     Marsh claimed that, while many Anglicans continued to resist the admission of 
women into the ministry, those congregations that had engaged female clergy had been 
transformed. "What changed their mind," she said, was "lived experience, finding that 
women were bringing some interesting gifts to their work that their male colleagues 
were not." 

     Women priests are still not numerous in the church's higher offices, however. "In 
every profession it takes a fair amount of time before a conversion of attitude 
happens," Marsh said. In addition, "women are less willing to uproot their families and 
make other kinds of sacrifices for the job than their male colleagues." 

     Readiness to accept women in high office has been increasing, however. At the 
ACC's General Synod in 1986, only a dozen votes opposed their ordination as bishops. 
Among the ACC's 43 active bishops, two are women, but only one is a diocesan bishop, 
the other is a suffragan (assistant) bishop. 

Convocation of American Churches in Europe honors Rowthorns' ministry

     (ENS) Bishop Jeffery Rowthorn and his wife Anne were honored by the Convocation of 
American Churches in Europe with the establishment of the "Jeffery and Anne Rowthorn 
Endowment Fund for Mission in Europe." The creation of the fund was announced to 
approximately 200 people attending the Bishop's Dinner in the newly refurbished Joel 
Nafuma Refugee Center at St. Paul's Within the Walls, Rome, on November 16, 2001, 
during Rowthorn's final Convocation convention before retirement. 

     Rowthorn was overcome by emotion as he learned of the establishment of the fund, 
inaugurated with donations exceeding $120,000 from 317 individuals and groups. Gifts to 
the Rowthorn Fund will be received, held and managed by the Board of Foreign Parishes 
as a separate restricted fund dedicated to supporting development of new mission 
congregations in the Convocation and of youth ministry. Monies in the fund will be 
disbursed at the discretion of the then Bishop-in-Charge of the Convocation, with input 
from the Council of Advice and the Commission on the Ministry of the Baptized. 

     Grateful for the Convocation's demonstrated commitment to continue the work of 
mission that had been developed during their ministry in Europe, Rowthorn announced 
that he and Anne would also make a personal contribution to the endowment established 
in their names.

     With his retirement on December 31, 2001, Rowthorn completes eight years as the 
second full-time appointed Bishop-in-Charge of the Episcopal churches in Europe, since 
Edmond L. Browning served in this capacity from 1971-74.

Ugandan church to provide HIV/AIDS drugs 

     (New Vision/Kampala) The Church of Uganda's Diocese of Namirembe will start 
providing generic anti-retroviral HIV drugs, according to acting diocesan secretary 
Moses Matovu. Speaking during the diocese's World AIDS Day celebrations on December 2, 
Matovu said the drugs would be provided to members of the diocese who test positive 
with the HIV/AIDS virus. 

     "We are going to carry out a counseling and testing exercise this month. People 
who will participate in the testing will join the diocese's post test club," Matovu 
said. "Those who test positive will get drugs and treatment for the minor infections. 
We will not discriminate in religion. Every person in the diocese will benefit." Anti-
retroviral drugs are given to HIV/AIDS patients to boost their immunity and prolong 
their lives. 

     Matovu said a United Kingdom-based non-governmental organization, Christian Aid, 
will fund the program of providing HIV/AIDS drugs until March 2002. "As we provide the 
drugs, we shall also counsel the patients, teach them positive living skills and train 
them in income-generating activities. This will make the victims responsible and useful 
citizens," he said. 

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