From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Episcopalians: News Briefs

Date Wed, 4 Dec 2002 17:00:23 -0500

December 4, 2002


Episcopalians: News Briefs

Committee drafting agreement on move of church center to 
seminary campus reports it has encountered difficulties

(ENS) The committee appointed to examine a potential move of the 
Episcopal Church Center to a new facility on the campus of the 
General Theological Seminary (GTS) has reported to Presiding 
Bishop Frank T. Griswold that it has encountered difficulties 
and that it does not seem possible at this time to "successfully 
complete a binding agreement that will be acceptable to both 

The three members of the subcommittee asked to draft the 
binding agreement--Dall Forsythe, Russell Palmore and Andrew 
McMaster--said that conversations with Griswold and senior staff 
members convinced them that "relocating the church's 
headquarters to GTS may result in negative synergy--in problems 
instead of possibilities." The memo added, "It is our 
recommendation that the project be scrapped." Among the 
reservations cited were differences in the mission of a seminary 
and the national church and "concern expressed about the loss of 
flexibility associated with a thirty year commitment and the 
difficulty in predicting the shape and size of the national 
church staff in years to come."

Griswold reported to council members that "the process will 
continue as we sort through the significant issues involved and 
you will be kept informed in preparation for our January 
meeting" in the Dominican Republic.

In other action, the Investment Committee "by unanimous vote 
strongly recommends against pledging a significant portion of 
the Unrestricted Assets of the DFMS Endowment for the purpose of 
obtaining financing" for the project with GTS.

In an amplifying letter to Executive Council members, 
Griswold said that his reservations "are rooted in my focus on 
the missional energies" that he sees "so wonderfully at work in 
our church and on how these energies might best be supported and 
expanded." He said that he had concluded that "relocating the 
church center and building a conference center do not respond to 
the missional energies of the church at this moment and the 
desire to focus these energies on reaching out to the world. I 
further believe that taking on this project would be an enormous 
distraction in our common life. Much of our financial and staff 
resources would be diverted to bricks and mortar rather than 
advancing our mission."

(Texts of the memos from the committees and Griswold are 
available on the web site of the General Convention Office at

Vancouver bishop agrees to delay rite for blessing same-sex 

(ENS) Bishop Michael Ingham of the Vancouver-based Diocese of 
New Westminster (Canada) has agreed to delay implementation of a 
rite for blessing same-sex relationships to honor a mediation 
process with eight parishes that are withholding funds in 
protest and asking for a "flying bishop" as an alternative to 
Ingham's oversight.

At an October meeting, the House of Bishops in the Anglican 
Church of Canada urged Ingham to seek reconciliation with the 
clergy who walked out of the June diocesan synod meeting where 
the rites were authorized and delay action until the church's 
General Synod meets next May.

Ingham told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) that 
he is not backing away from his decision while agreeing to meet 
with those in opposition. "Hopefully they can see there is 
nothing to fear in this as we move forward," he said. "I've 
invited them to meet with me and others in the diocese and I 
hope when we get there we can resolve this as well as we can."

In an interview with the CBC, Ingham compared the 
international controversy over the blessing issue with the one 
provoked over the ordination of women to the priesthood. He said 
that the "Anglican Communion worldwide is showing the same 
diversity of reaction that we're finding locally."

A special diocesan synod will convene on January 18 to deal 
with the financial situation. The eight dissenting parishes 
contribute about $330,000 a year or 19 percent of the diocesan 
budget. "Financial prudence speaks to the need of a review of 
diocesan finances," said treasurer Jim Stewart.

Canadian church activists ambivalent about oil company's 
withdrawal from Sudan

(ENI) Canadian church and human rights activists are claiming 
some credit for the decision of a leading energy company to pull 
out of Sudan in the face of persistent charges that they were 
fueling a 19-year civil war that has resulted in the deaths of 
almost two million people, many of them Christians living in the 

Talisman Energy of Canada announced in late October that it 
was selling its oil interests in Sudan for $750 million (US) to 
a subsidiary of India's national oil company. Talisman issued a 
statement saying that a drop in the company's stock price and a 
drain on human resources led to the decision--and Talisman 
president James Buckee said that "shareholders have told me that 
they were tired of continually having to monitor and analyse 
events relating to Sudan."

After a four-year campaign of pressure on Talisman, human 
rights groups were ambivalent about the decision. "Our approach 
to the whole issue was to try and pressure Talisman to take 
social responsibility seriously," said Gary Kenny, a human 
rights policy advocate for KAIROS, a coalition of 12 Canadian 
church organizations. 

Kenny noted that a different company halfway across the world 
had assumed Talisman's role--and little had changed for the 
Sudanese living in the region near the oil fields. "They are 
still vulnerable to the same kind of attacks," he said. He and 
others have argued over the years that Sudan's Islamic 
government has used oil revenues to buy arms to use in the 
country's civil war pitting Khartoum against the population in 
the south, mostly Christian and animist. Most of the deaths are 
attributed to famine triggered by the war.

A United Nations report issued in October pointed to "the 
continuation of grave human rights abuses linked to oil 
exploitation, aimed at depopulating oil-rich areas to ensure 
[government] control." Kenny said that KAIROS would continue to 
call for suspension of all oil development until a peace 
agreement is achieved.

Germany's Jewish community getting status equal to 

(ENI) Jewish leaders have welcomed as a milestone a plan by the 
German government to grant them status equal to the main 
Protestant and Roman Catholic churches. 

"This is a historic event," said Paul Spiegel, head of the 
Central Council of Jews in Germany, at a news conference 
attended by Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. "That Jews live here 
once again in considerable numbers is a fact that those who 
returned after 1945 can hardly imagine."

Under the plan, the government will make a formal agreement 
with the Jewish council to increase funding of Jewish schools, 
legalize Jewish religious education in schools, and finance 
other Jewish institutions, such as hospitals and kindergartens. 
The plan creates a pact similar to one the government has with 
the churches.

The accord recognizes the rapid growth of the Jewish 
population in Germany from 30,000 in 1990 to over 100,000 today. 
Most Jewish immigrants come from Eastern Europe and the former 
Soviet Union. Before the Holocaust there were an estimated 
600,000 Jews in Germany.

Swiss churches hail defeat of proposal to tighten asylum laws

(ENI) Switzerland's churches have expressed relief after voters 
rejected, by a tiny margin, a proposal that would have made the 
country's asylum laws the "most restrictive" in Europe, 
automatically turning back anyone seeking asylum from another 
country that was deemed safe. It was defeated in a referendum 
November 24 by just over 3,000 votes out of a total of 2.24 

"Despite the close result, our country must continue to be 
guided by solidarity in thought and deed with human beings who 
are fleeing situations of crisis," said that council of the 
Swiss Protestant Church Federation in a statement. The council 
said that although "the state has the duty to protect itself 
against abuses of the right to asylum," the existing policies 
were "by and large sufficient."

Switzerland's Conference of Roman Catholic Bishops also 
welcome defeat of the proposal, saying in a statement that 
"common sense has prevailed." Underscoring the close vote, the 
statement added, "Switzerland, which is one of the richest 
countries in the world, must continue to be one of the most 
generous. It is a question of conscience." 

The proposal, launched by the right-wing populist Swiss 
People's Party, was opposed by all the main political parties, 
the government and parliament, as well as the churches. The 
Swiss parliament will vote soon on a revision of the country's 
asylum laws and, as a local newspaper pointed out, the "close 
result will not encourage the parliament to show an excess of 
compassion toward asylum-seekers."

The Swiss cantons where the population speaks French or 
Italian rejected the proposal while support was strongest in the 
German-speaking heartland.

War could seriously disrupt relations between Christians and 
Muslims in Iraq

(ENI) Christians in Iraq are expressing fears that a war would 
seriously alter what have been peaceful relations between them 
and the Muslims. 

Muslim fanaticism increased in the years following the Gulf 
War in 1991, Christians said, but this did not have a major 
impact on Christian communities. "We have had no religious 
problems until now," said one man. "There has never been any 
harassment of us as Christians."

Although Christians downplay fears about their relations with 
Muslims, freedom of speech and movement in Iraq cannot be taken 
for granted and all evangelical work is forbidden. Yet most 
Christians said that, despite the threat of war, they didn't see 
problems in their immediate neighborhoods where everyone knows 
everyone else.

Yet some Christians said that they felt some vulnerability as 
a minority and reported that some of their children had been 
asked by Muslim students to convert to Islam. They also remember 
that, during the Gulf War, Christians were accused by Muslims of 
being allies of the United States.

In the southern part of the country, which lies in the "no 
fly" zone established by the United Nations, both Christians and 
Muslims are feeling pressure, much of it attributed to bombings 
by American and British aircraft. In a once-prosperous city like 
Basra, the city was still suffering from heavy destruction 
during the Iran-Iraq war of 1980-86 when it faced a new round of 
destruction during the Gulf War. Now jobs are virtually 
non-existent for most people. Mothers and children are often 
seen begging on the streets and drinking water is scarce, 
according to recent visitors.

"The churches already support some of these people, 
Christians and Muslims, with meager means at their disposal," 
said one Christian. "But if there is a war, these people will be 
the most vulnerable."


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