From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Episcopalians: News Briefs

Date Thu, 6 Feb 2003 11:58:26 -0500

February 6, 2003


Episcopalians: News Briefs

Columbia astronaut Brown was Episcopalian

(Beliefnet) "If I'd been born in space I would desire to visit 
the beautiful Earth more than I ever yearned to visit space. 
It's a wonderful planet," wrote Capt. David Brown to his parents 
in the last e-mail they'd receive from him. 

Brown was close to his parents, visiting their Virginia home 
often--once to deliver a computer so they could receive his 
e-mails from space. Raised Episcopalian, he was an acolyte at 
his Arlington, Virginia parish. His father is now an active 
member of Trinity Episcopal Church in Washington, Virginia. At 
the request of his father, Capt. Brown spoke to the church's 
Brotherhood of St. Andrew--a men's fellowship group--during one 
of his visits. "He made a wonderful presentation," recalls 
Trinity's rector, the Rev. Jennings Hobson. "I saw a truly 
happy, passionate, caring person." Brown was a member of an 
Episcopal church near his home in Texas, according to Hobson. 

Episcopal churches across the nation are mourning the loss of 
the shuttle crew; in Texas, several Episcopal churches are 
directly in the pathway of the debris. Many NASA employees and 
their families are parishioners at St. Thomas the Apostle in 
Nassau Bay, Texas, where a Saturday night prayer vigil was held. 

In Lufkin, Texas, the rector of St. Cyprian's included a 
dedicated Eucharist for the astronauts and their families in his 
Sunday service. The Collect for Burial was read from the Book of 
Common Prayer, and in many churches, the names of the astronauts 
were included in the Prayers of the People. 

Jerusalem's Anglican bishop threatens to sue Israelis over 
church bombing 

(ENI) The top ranking Anglican cleric in Jerusalem is 
threatening to sue the Israeli government if it refuses to pay 
compensation for the bombing of a church in Gaza City last 

Bishop Riah Abu El-Assal said he would have no choice but to 
take legal action if Israel did not fund the costs of repairing 
St. Philip's Episcopal Church, located within the Ahli Arab 
Hospital complex. "I am going to put a claim into the Israeli 
government and I hope that they will come to terms with 
compensating the church so that we will rebuild, renovate, 
repair the damage that was done," he told ENI. "But if they 
don't apologize and pay for the damage they have done, I will 
have to take them to court."

Riah was reacting to the strike against the church and the 
hospital on January 24. Israeli Brigadier-General Tzvika Fogel 
claimed that Israeli helicopters had fired five missiles at a 
suspected Palestinian weapons factory but that two of the 
projectiles had malfunctioned, one of them landing in the 
"vicinity" of St. Philip's.

Riah, however, took a different view of the events. "Well, 
certainly I was shocked, not because the missile missed its 
target and hit our church, but because we were targeted as a 
church," he said. He estimated the damages to be in the hundreds 
of thousands of dollars, including damages to the hospital. "The 
roof will have to be changed, the walls will have to be 
rebuilt," he said. "And with the [recent winter] rains and no 
roof, the damage will be far greater than when it was hit on 
January 24."

The bishop said the military strike had demonstrated once again 
how deeply the Arab Christian community was caught up in the 
Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Neither the church nor its 
followers were immune from the fighting, he said. 

Anglicans number only about 10 among the estimated 3500 Arab 
Christians living in Gaza, the bishop said, and it was a 
community worth fighting for. "Certainly they [Christians as a 
whole in Gaza] are a small minority. But the ministry in Gaza 
goes beyond its smallness, and the services are greatly 
appreciated, not the least of which is the hospital, which has 
been operating for more than 100 years," he said. 

The Anglican church is also active in other parts of the area, 
including Ramallah, where it runs a school, and it has a medical 
facility at Nablus, also more than 100 years old. There is also 
an Anglican school and cathedral in Jerusalem. Across the Holy 
Land, there are 34 Anglican institutions, employing about 1500 
people. The Diocese of Jerusalem, which includes Israel, Syria, 
Lebanon, Jordan and the Palestinian territories, embraces about 
7500 members.

Riah said the importance of the Anglican church operating in the 
troubled Middle East should not be underestimated. "We provide 
hope in a hopeless situation," he said.

European church leaders at emergency meeting reject war on Iraq 

(ENI/NCC) A high-level emergency meeting of European church 
leaders in Berlin has rejected the use of military action 
against Iraq, saying that a war would have "unacceptable 
humanitarian consequences" including the possibility of 
unleashing a civil war and major unrest in the whole Middle East 

"We appeal to the Security Council to uphold the principles of 
the UN Charter which strictly limit the legitimate use of 
military force," said the church leaders in a statement 
presented in Berlin just hours before US secretary of state 
Colin Powell was due to address the Security Council in New York 
on the issue of Iraq. "We deplore the fact that the most 
powerful nations of this world again regard war as an acceptable 
instrument of foreign policy," said the church leaders from more 
than 10 European countries who were joined by church leaders and 
envoys from the United States and the Middle East.

The church leaders said military force was an "inappropriate 
means to achieve disarmament of any Iraqi weapons of mass 
destruction" and UN weapons inspectors needed to be given the 
time to complete their work. But they also called on Iraq to 
"comply with binding UN resolutions," destroy any weapons of 
mass destruction, co-operate with UN weapons inspectors and 
guarantee human rights for all its citizens. "The people in Iraq 
must be given hope that there are alternatives to both 
dictatorship and war," the church leaders said.

The Berlin meeting was convened by the Geneva-based World 
Council of Churches and hosted by the Evangelical Church in 
Germany (EKD), Germany's main Protestant body. The bishops, 
church presidents and officials who came to Berlin for the 
meeting gathered to pray for peace in a central Berlin church 
that had been destroyed in the Second World War and later 

The church leaders met with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, 
one of Europe's most outspoken opponents of military action 
against Iraq. Schroeder, whom the National Council of Churches 
delegation said spoke "frankly and clearly," reaffirmed his 
intention to maintain Germany's stance that there is no 
compelling reason to rush to war with Iraq. He emphasized that 
he "is no pacifist" but that Germany believes "war should not be 
just one more tool" to be used routinely, the delegates 

Schroeder reminded the church officials that he had staked his 
career on changing German foreign policy to allow the deployment 
of 10,000 troops now on the ground in Afghanistan and the 
Balkans, but that his government did not think the use of 
military force would be useful in the Iraqi case. The delegation 
said Schroeder emphasized that Germany is not taking an 
"anti-American" position, nor does it lack a commitment to 
fighting terrorism. He said Germany simply disagrees on the 
necessity of going to war with Iraq, they reported.

Meanwhile, news agencies reported that Germany's foreign 
minister, Joschka Fischer, will have a meeting February 7 with 
Pope John Paul II, who has said that a war with Iraq would be a 
"defeat for humanity."

"What was striking about this meeting was the complete and firm 
unity of the church leaders in opposing a pre-emptive war on 
Iraq. I hope the statement will receive the support and 
endorsement of many other European churches also," said the Rev. 
Keith Clements, general secretary of the Conference of European 
Churches, who will present the statement to Chancellor 

Speaking before the Berlin gathering, Manfred Kock, the head of 
the EKD, called on the international community and Iraqi leader 
Saddam Hussein to do everything in their power to avoid a war.

The church leaders who met in Berlin came from Austria, Denmark, 
Finland, France, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands, Norway, 
Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, the United States and 
from the Middle East. 

The Berlin meeting came amid continuing warnings from churches, 
church leaders and humanitarian organizations around the world 
about military action against Iraq. In Britain, the new 
archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, has also warned 
against war with Iraq, despite the strong support given to the 
US stance by Prime Minister Tony Blair. At the World Social 
Forum in Brazil in January, German Lutheran Bishop Margot 
Kaessmann said: "When US President Bush says that Iraq must 
disarm, I agree. But I would go a lot further than that: in fact 
the world must disarm, including the United States."

Believers worried new law could force churches to keep atheists 
on staff 

(ENI) Some Christians are aghast at possible legislation that 
could force churches in Britain to keep atheists or even 
Satanists on their staff.

The Equal Treatment Directive, a piece of European Union 
legislation that Britain plans to adopt later this year, bans 
employment discrimination on grounds such as religion, belief or 
sexual orientation. The legislation would allow churches to 
claim an exemption when appointing staff on the basis that 
Christian belief is essential to the ethos of the organization. 
The evangelical Christian Institute says, however, the exemption 
will not apply when dismissing staff--meaning that people who 
might lose their faith or take up another faith could not be 

Churches that refuse to appoint or promote practicing gays and 
lesbians will also be vulnerable to legal action, and even 
discussions of why homosexuality is seen as wrong could prompt a 
lawsuit for harassment, according to the institute.

Parish clergy will be exempt from the directive because they are 
not viewed as employees.

The director of the Christian Institute, Colin Hart, said the 
British government was planning to "squeeze churches into a 
secular mould." He described it as "outrageous" that while 
churches would not be able to dismiss a staff member who became 
a Satanist, political parties could dismiss an employee who 
switched sides. Meanwhile, Paul Roberts, a lawyer in a Christian 
legal practice, believes the provisions of the Equal Treatment 
Directive could be used to muzzle churches which proclaim the 
faith. He said the directive's definition of harassment "raises 
the specter that reasoned presentation of evangelical Christian 
views could amount to harassment of, for example, a Muslim or a 

Professor Ian Leigh of Durham University, a human rights lawyer, 
said: "The government regulations place the modern concept of 
equality over and above religious liberty." 

US Christian leaders take step towards new church alliance 

(ENI) Christian leaders working to expand ecumenical unity in 
the United States have taken a further step towards creating a 
new national body of churches.

Fifty-five church leaders representing 30 denominations agreed 
at a meeting on January 29 in Pasadena, California, to form a 
new alliance, which currently is being called "Christian 
Churches Together in the USA." The new body is intended to 
include Episcopalian (Anglican), Evangelical, Orthodox, 
Pentecostal, Roman Catholic and Protestant churches.

Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, general secretary of the Reformed 
Church in America and a leading figure in the efforts to create 
the new alliance, told the Associated Press the Pasadena meeting 
represented "a remarkable breakthrough."

Neither the Roman Catholic Church--the single biggest church in 
the US--nor many Evangelical or Pentecostal bodies belong to the 
US National Council of Churches (NCC), the nation's main 
ecumenical grouping.

Robert Edgar, the NCC's general secretary, has made expanding 
the US "ecumenical table" a priority since he became head of the 
NCC in 2000, but it is still unclear how the creation of the new 
group will affect the NCC. Some church leaders have said they 
doubt there would be a need for the NCC if a broader ecumenical 
grouping were formed. An NCC spokesman told ENI it would require 
several more years of work to determine how the new group would 
operate, the form it would take and what role it would play. No 
decision has been made by the NCC on the matter.

The Pasadena gathering followed meetings in 2001 and 2002 and 
included a representative from the Southern Baptist Convention 
--the biggest US Protestant denomination--which is not an NCC 
member and up until now had not participated in the talks. 

Anglican-Baptist conversations continue in Caribbean setting

(ACNS) A Caribbean phase of international conversations between 
Anglicans and Baptists was held in Nassau January 26-28 2003. 
The regional meeting follows four previous phases held in 
Norwich (for Europe) in 2000, Yangon (for Asia/Pacific) in 2001, 
Nairobi (for Africa) in 2002, and Santiago, Chile (for Latin 
America) earlier in January 2003. Participants came from 
Bahamas, Barbados, Haiti, Jamaica, and Trinidad & Tobago, 
representing their respective churches and joined the members of 
the "continuation committee" which is conducting these regional 
gatherings on behalf of the Baptist World Alliance and the 
Anglican Communion.

On the first evening, the Most Rev. Drexel Wellington Gomez, 
Archbishop of Nassau and Primate of the Church of the Province 
of the West Indies, and the Rev. Peter Pinder, Baptist Regional 
Secretary for the Caribbean, welcomed the delegates on behalf of 
the local churches.

The Anglican and Baptist representatives gave an overview of the 
life of their respective communions in the Caribbean. Papers 
were presented on "Anglican Life in the Caribbean," "Baptist 
Life in the Caribbean," "Colonization, Liberation and the 
Mission of the Church in the Caribbean (Baptist and Anglican)," 
"Eucharistic Theology (Baptist & Anglican)," "Anglican 
Identity," and "Baptist Identity."

The plenary discussion drew together rich insights from the 
Caribbean context and related them to the themes emerging from 
previous regional conversations: continuity and story; 
recognition and acceptance; contextual mission and ministry; 
baptism and Christian initiation; membership and community; 
oversight and episcope; and confessing the faith. Many common 
concerns from Baptists and Anglicans were shared with regard to 
the "Caribbeanization" of witness and worship. In reflecting on 
the story of Baptist and Anglican life in the Caribbean, many 
perspectives were shared on the ways to choose which external 
influences to welcome and which to resist.

The meeting included shared prayer and devotions conducted by 
Baptist and Anglicans and also Holy Communion in Holy Trinity 
Anglican Church. The meeting was hosted by the Diocese of 
Bahamas and Holy Trinity Anglican Church, Nassau. The 
participants were guests for dinner at the home of Archbishop 
and Mrs. Gomez and also at the home of Ruby and Kendall Nottage.

The next phase will be held in September 2003 in North America. 
There is a continuing committee consisting of four Anglicans and 
four Baptists who will draft a report following the regional 
meetings to be submitted to the Anglican Consultative Council 
and the Baptist World Alliance by 2005.

Church of Uganda commissions a $10 million project

(ACNS) The Church of Uganda has commissioned a $10 million 
project expected to guarantee the welfare of Christians and 
clergy of the Church. Until now, church workers in Uganda have 
had to retire without any pension or retirement benefits. The 
president of the Republic of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni, who was 
also the chief guest at a gathering that brought together civic, 
political and religious personalities, contributed $170,000 
towards the project.

During his talk at the ground-breaking ceremonies, the 
Archbishop of the Church of Uganda, the Most Rev. Livingstone 
Mpalanyi-Nkoyoyo, called for the unity of all God's people as 
they work on various projects such as the new Church House.

Drawing from the sad history of the murder of his predecessor, 
Archbishop Janani Luwum, who laid the foundation stone of the 
Church House in 1977 to mark 100 years of Christianity in 
Uganda, Nkoyoyo said, "Janani was a remarkable servant of God. 
His humility grew as he recognized and responded to the darkness 
through which his people were travelling in those days."

Janani devised the Church House project as a way for Christians 
to respond to the world. "This was meant to serve as a symbol of 
our unity," said Nkoyoyo, "as we face what [former] Archbishop 
Carey has wisely called, the 'nitty-gritty changes and chances' 
of this fleeting world."

Nkoyoyo also recalled Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams' 
words in an essay on "Different Christs." "'In the Church,' 
Williams said, 'There is a strong temptation to draw lines in 
the sand and regard those who disagree with us as beyond the 

"But this is not the Christ who calls us," Nkoyoyo said. "The 
Christ who calls us instructs us to love our enemies, and, as 
Archbishop Williams says, ' love even what may seem the 
pale shadow of his face in other people's minds, because 
compared with the light of his glory all our thoughts are 

Cyprus and the Gulf issue statement on Iraq

(ACNS) The Synod of the Diocese of Cyprus and the Gulf met last 
week and unanimously affirmed the following statement about 

The Synod of the Diocese of Cyprus and the Gulf, representing 
the Anglican Churches within the region, can find no theological 
or humanitarian justification for the proposed invasion of Iraq. 
We strongly disagree that is the solution to the present stance 
of the Iraqi regime or for the suffering of the Iraqi people. 
The Diocese of Cyprus and the Gulf encourages people of all 
faiths within the region to work together for lasting peace and 
justice for Iraq. 

Alpha takes to the screen

(God TV) The internationally acclaimed Alpha Course will be 
screened on Sky Digital on Friday evenings beginning February 7. 
According to statistics compiled by the Christian Research 
Organization, more than 1.3 million people in the UK have 
already completed the Alpha Course. Now satellite TV viewers 
will be able to watch it on the GOD Channel (Sky 671).

The Alpha TV series, which will run for 15 weeks, follows the 
same topics as those discussed in the 24,000 Alpha groups 
running world-wide, helping viewers to explore the meaning of 
life. The screening of the complete Alpha Course follows the 
success of an ITV 10-part documentary hosted by Sir David Frost, 
who described it as "a phenomenon--an extraordinary story."

Presented by the Rev. Nicky Gumbel, the Alpha series on the GOD 
Channel kicks off with "Christianity: Boring, Untrue and 
Irrelevant?" and includes such questions as "How can I make the 
most of the rest of my life?"

"We have heard so many wonderful stories of people whose lives 
have been changed through Alpha in churches of all 
denominations," he said. "I'm delighted the Course is to be 
broadcast on the GOD Channel. It is a partnership which I 
believe will give many more people the opportunity to explore 
the meaning of life."

Alpha is aimed at people who don't go to church, offering a 
practical introduction to the Christian faith. It has swept 
Europe, Africa and the USA and is now in 130 countries around 
the world. For more information about Alpha, visit For more information about the GOD Channel, 

ERD helping families impacted by World Trade Center disaster

(ERD) Episcopal Relief and Development is continuing its 
commitment to help people affected by the September 11, 2001 
tragedy through the Long Island Council of Churches. The council 
is providing financial support to households economically 
impacted by the World Trade Center tragedy. 

"We learned soon after the terrorist attacks that numerous 
households directly impacted by the tragic events of September 
11 did not qualify for assistance from other agencies," said 
Sara Weiss, director of development for the Long Island Council 
of Churches. "These are people such as airline employees, limo 
drivers, people employed in the financial or information 
technology industries before 9/11, or people who worked for 
small businesses in lower Manhattan," said Weiss.

Episcopal Relief and Development has given a $20,000 emergency 
grant to the Long Island Council of Churches to provide housing, 
food, utilities, medical prescriptions, and other basic needs 
for individuals and families economically dislocated by the 
September 11 attacks.


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