From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
Episcopal News Service Briefs
Fri, 7 Dec 2001 09:41:05 -0500 (EST)
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
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
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
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
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
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
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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