From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Episcopalians: News Briefs

Date 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."


Browse month . . . Browse month (sort by Source) . . . Advanced Search & Browse . . . WFN Home