From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
Episcopalians: News Briefs
Tue, 18 Jun 2002 12:24:11 -0400
June 18, 2002
Episcopalians: News Briefs
African religious leaders adopt AIDS declaration
(ENS) African religious leaders, meeting in Nairobi at the first
African Religious Leaders Assembly on HIV/AIDS and Children June
10-12, adopted a progressive declaration mobilizing action to
end stigma and expand programs to protect children affected by
AIDS, but couldn't agree on the use of condoms to prevent the
spread of the disease.
The meeting, organized by the World Conference of Religions
for Peace and the Hope for African Children Initiative, was a
forum for religious leaders to reflect on their role in the
fight against AIDS in Africa. Acknowledging past shortcomings
with regards to stigma, ignorance and denial, religious leaders
adopted a joint Declaration and a Plan of Action.
The Declaration called on religious leaders to re-examine
their traditions to allow all believers to fight the disease in
ways respectful of their consciences. "We recognize that all
people have a right to information on how the spread of the
disease can be stopped," explained Twaib Mukuye, deputy mufti of
the Uganda Muslim Supreme Council.
"When religious leaders work together on a major issue such
as AIDS, they not only improve their own capacity to respond,
but are in a better position to leverage increased commitment
from other leaders," Archbishop Winston Njongonkulu Ndungane of
Cape Town, an outspoken HIV/AIDS advocate, told the gathering.
"Some of the solutions to this crisis already exist at the
community level, what is lacking is the political will to make
AIDS a global priority and the financial resources that would
automatically come with that. So even though we are grateful for
all that has been done in the areas of AIDS and debt
cancellation, this is not enough."
Islamic, Christian, Hindu, Baha'i and indigenous religious
leaders joined in making specific demands for African
governments and the international community to respond urgently
to the AIDS emergency. "We call on our governments to abolish
school fees and immediately withhold debt servicing payments to
the World Bank, IMF, and wealthy G8 governments, and to commit
these resources to eradicate poverty and implement HIV/AIDS
interventions," said Hajia Katoumi Mahama, president of the
Women's Muslim Association of Ghana. "We call on the G8 to
donate $7-10 billion this year to stop AIDS."
While they agreed on strategy, some of the tactical issues
remained difficult. Stephen Lewis, the UN Secretary-General's
special envoy on HIV/AIDS in Africa, told the conference that
although abstinence is the surest way of avoiding AIDS, condoms
should be made available to stop the spread of the virus,
because many people could not remain celibate. Other leaders at
the conference disagreed with Lewis. Sheikh al Haji Yusuf Murigu
of the Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims said condoms were
acceptable only in marriage, where the partners used them to
protect each other against cross-infection. Roman Catholic
Archbishop John Onaiyekan repeated the position that condoms
were not acceptable to Roman Catholics. Other leaders said they
opposed the availability of free condoms to the unmarried and
advised couples intending to marry to go for HIV/AIDS tests.
"There is now a mandate to the World Conference of Religions
for Peace to establish its African Senior Religious Leaders
Council to make these commitments real in churches, mosques, and
temples across Africa," said William Vendley, secretary general
of the World Conference of Religions and Peace. "This leadership
structure will bring a new voice to the global and regional
efforts to ensure that every African child has hope for the
Tutu draws parallels between South African apartheid and
Middle East policies
(Herald Tribune) Retired Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South
Africa has drawn a parallel against the struggle against
apartheid and some Israeli policies in the Middle East.
"The end of apartheid stands as one of the crowning
accomplishments of the last century--but we would not have
succeeded without the help of international pressure," Tutu said
in an article in the International Herald Tribune. "There
is no greater testament to the basic dignity of ordinary people
everywhere than the divestment movement of the 1980s."
Tutu said that "a similar movement has taken shape recently,
this time aiming at an end to the Israeli occupation of
Palestinian territories." He noted that "moral and financial
pressure is again being mustered," pointing out that students on
American campuses are "demanding a review of university
investments." The tactics parallel the divestment strategy that
helped demolish the apartheid policies of the South African
"To criticize the occupation is not to overlook Israel's
unique strengths," Tutu wrote, "just as protesting the Vietnam
War did not imply ignoring the distinct freedoms and
humanitarian accomplishments of the United States. In a region
where repressive governments and unjust policies are the norm,
Israel is certainly more democratic than most of its neighbors."
Yet Tutu warned that "aggression is no more palatable at the
hands of a democratic power" and that "territorial ambition is
equally illegal whether it occurs in slow motion, as with the
Israeli settlers in the occupied territories, or in blitzkrieg
fashion, as with the Iraqi tanks in Kuwait."
"The Jewish people have always been on the side of the
voiceless," with deep and painful memories of "massive
round-ups, house demolitions and collective punishment," Tutu
wrote. "The occupation represents a dangerous and selective
amnesia of the persecution" they endured in their own history.
"More than 35 new settlements have been constructed this
year," Tutu added. "Each one is a step away from the safety
deserved by the Israelis, and two steps away from the justice
owed to the Palestinians. If apartheid ended, so can the
occupation, but the moral force and international pressure will
have to be just as determined."
UN official says voice of religion has been muted in fight
against AIDS pandemic
(ENI) In a blunt message to a gathering of 120 African religious
leaders in Nairobi to discuss the church's role in fighting the
HIV/AIDS pandemic, Stephen Lewis of the United Nations said that
the "voice of religion has been curiously muted." He challenged
the African leaders to "seize the leadership," arguing that they
had unique access to the grassroots and exceptional
opportunities to influence politicians.
"When AIDS has run its course--if it ever runs its course--it
will be seen as an annihilating scourge that dwarfs everything
that has gone before," said Lewis, the UN secretary general's
special envoy on the crisis in Africa. "We know certain of the
faiths have problems around sexual activity and the use of
condoms, and we know there are internal struggles around the
leadership roles of women," he said. "I want to suggest, in the
strongest possible terms, in the name of all children, infected
or affected, it is time to seize the leadership, reenergize the
struggle, and turn the pandemic around."
In a final statement the church leaders admitted that they
might have done more, that they had often "been reluctant to
speak openly about HIV/AIDS." The statement confessed that "too
often our own ignorance, fear and denial have held us back as
teachers about HIV/AIDS in our communities," they said, pledging
to fight the pandemic and make "its impact on children, young
people and families a priority."
Ecumenical patriarch and Pope sign declaration on the
(ENI) Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomeos I of Constantinople and
Pope John Paul II used a video hook-up to sign a statement on
June 10 urging increased efforts to protect the environment,
calling on Christians to proclaim moral values and educate
people in environmental awareness.
The patriarch, first among equals in the Orthodox churches,
was in Venice at the end of his fourth cruise intended to call
attention to the environmental problems of the Adriatic and
raise awareness of "the state of Europe's waters." He made
similar cruises on the Aegean Sea, the Black Sea and the Danube
River in recent years.
Observers suggested that the "shared concern for nature"
might help improve relations between Roman Catholics and the
Orthodox, strained in recent years over territorial issues,
especially in former republics of the Soviet Union. Bartholomeos
plans to send a delegation to Rome for an ecumenical ceremony
celebrating the feast day of Saints Peter and Paul, observed by
both churches on June 29, and the patriarch himself plans to
visit Rome next year.
During a June 9 angelus at the Vatican, the pope described
the joint declaration as "another example of that sharing of
intentions which is the prelude to a renewed and full
communion." The pope has spent considerable energy in recent
years reaching out to the Orthodox, with mixed results.
"It's not too late," their statement concluded. "God's world
has incredible healing powers. Within a single generation, we
could steer the earth towards our children's future. Let that
generation start now, with God's help and blessing."
Episcopalians and Presbyterians initiate new conversation
(ENS) Meeting at the Seamen's Church Institute in lower
Manhattan, a few blocks from the Ground Zero site of terrorist
attacks on September 11, representatives of the Episcopal Church
and the Presbyterian Church (USA) inaugurated a new round of
official dialogue, beginning with a Bible study and discussions
on gifts for ministry and common baptism.
Personal vignettes focused on how members in both churches
are living out their baptismal ministries and how the churches
understand the role of ordained ministries. Presbyterians
described the role of Elders who serve in full parity with
ministers of Word and Sacrament. Some discussion centered on the
meaning of Apostolic Succession and the Historic Episcopate,
with Episcopalians describing the role of bishops, priests and
"What is the way forward?" asked George Telford, a retired
professor of Columbia Theological Seminary, in the final session
of the June 6-8 meeting. Several participants suggested the
dialogue review what is happening in the broader international
family for both churches--the Anglican Communion and the World
Alliance of Reformed Churches. Another suggestion was to seek
voices from church members who are living on the edge of the
ecumenical frontier in cooperation and shared ministries,
looking at models for mission in racial/ethnic communities and
among youth ministries.
Evangelicals commit themselves to participation in liturgical
(ENS) The Episcopal Evangelical Assembly, meeting at Trinity
Episcopal School for Ministry near Pittsburgh at the end of May,
committed itself to "constructive participation in the process
of liturgical revision" in the church.
In a statement at the end of the assembly, meeting under the
theme "Truthful Speech and the Power of God," participants laid
out some principles that they said were "important in our vision
of liturgy and worship." Among the principles were an
understanding of the "current call for a variety of worship
expressions." The participants said that, while they embraced
the "call to liturgical diversity," at the same time they "wish
to maintain as the principle of common worship the whole of the
faith as expressed in Scripture."
As another principle, the statement said that "liturgy is to
carry forward biblical truths, acknowledging the reality of our
fallen human condition and our need for salvation through the
cross of Jesus Christ. This theme, which demonstrates God's
merciful initiative in addressing our human need, should be
reflected adequately in our central act of worship."
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