From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Episcopalians: News Briefs

Date Thu, 13 Feb 2003 12:41:16 -0500

February 13, 2003


Episcopalians: News Briefs

NCC delegation to Paris surprises many opposed to Iraq war 

(NCCUSA) American church leaders in Paris apparently caught many 
in the French public by surprise this week when they spoke out 
in opposition to U.S.-led military action against Iraq. People 
had gotten the idea that the U.S. churches all supported the 
proposed war, the church leaders said.

The five-member delegation from the (U.S.) National Council of 
Churches met with French churches February 10-11 as part of a 
search for peaceful solutions to the Iraq crisis. "We are here 
representing the official position of the National Council of 
Churches--with 50 million members in 36 denominations--and the 
Roman Catholic Church, with nearly 64 million U.S. members," 
said the Rev. Michael E. Livingston, executive director of the 
International Council of Community Churches, an NCC-member 
denomination. "Large portions of the American population don't 
support this war."

"That's news here," commented John Briscoe, providing NCC staff 
support to the delegation, speaking by phone from Paris. He 
described the delegation's news conference and said, "The 
general impression in France is that the churches are all behind 

President Bush is a member of the United Methodist Church, which 
is one of the NCC's member churches. Said Briscoe, "Many of the 
questions kept circling back to, Bush is a member of a church 
that's a member of the NCC. The United Methodists and the NCC 
are opposed to going to war against Iraq. Yet Bush is pushing 
ahead. How is that possible?'"

The NCC is organizing visits to five European capitals as part 
of the U.S. ecumenical body's search for peaceful solutions to 
the Iraq crisis. The first delegation met February 5 in Berlin 
with counterparts from across Europe and with German Chancellor 
Gerhard Schroeder. Upcoming visits include London (February 
17-19), where Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair has agreed to 
meet the delegation on February 18; Rome (February 25-28), and 
Moscow and/or Madrid (to be announced).

The NCC delegation was hosted in Paris by the French Protestant 
Federation and its president, the Rev. Jean-Arnold de Clermont. 
With the group in Paris was Rudiger Noll, associate general 
secretary of the Conference of European Churches. Noll is based 
in Brussels. Representatives of the Council of Catholic Bishops 
of France also participated actively in the delegation's visit, 
"of significance in this largely Roman Catholic country," 
Briscoe noted.

Joining the news conference were the Ecumenical Officer of the 
Roman Catholic Church in France, the American Episcopal Bishop 
of Europe, and a representative of the Baptist Churches of 
France. The schedule also included a meeting with the staff of 
the French Protestant Federation and an ecumenical service at 
the Church of the Madeleine. The next day, church leaders met 
with Hubert Colin de Verdiere, General Secretary of the French 
Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The Rev. Daniel E. Weiss, immediate past general secretary of 
the American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A., described the broad 
spectrum of U.S. churches that are pressing for peaceful 
alternatives to going to war against Iraq. Both the National 
Council of Churches, with 36 Protestant, Orthodox, African 
American and Peace member churches, and the U.S. Conference of 
Catholic Bishops formally are on record in opposition to this 
war, maintaining that it does not meet criteria for a "just 
war." They especially cite the horrific toll on Iraqi civilians, 
already battered by 20 years of war and 12 years of economic 

"We don't like Saddam Hussein," he said, "but we feel there are 
much better ways to resolve the Iraq crisis that this." Agreed 
de Clermont, "What are we doing, tormenting children in Iraq and 
subjecting millions of innocents to sickness and suffering?"

In the meeting with U.S. and French church leaders, de Verdiere 
stressed that for Europeans, the growth of the European Union is 
a historical event of great significance--soon to encompass 25 
nations--which has been formed with a vision of what a "world at 
peace" could be like. That vision has produced peaceful 
relations among the nations of the world's once most-contentious 
continent, he said. And that vision is built on a commitment to 
the United Nations as a vehicle. However imperfect it may be, 
the United Nations holds out the best hope for bringing those 
peaceful relations to the nations of all the continents, he 
said. Therefore, the U.S. government's actions with respect to 
Iraq are seen as an ominous threat to the United Nations, said 
de Verdiere, resulting in European reaction that tends to be 
stronger than expected.

Palestinians in West Bank and Gaza facing humanitarian crisis 

(ENS) According to the United Nations, Palestinians in the West 
Bank and Gaza suffering an economic collapse, growing 
unemployment and malnutrition are now facing a humanitarian 
crisis because western governments have not responded to an 
appeal for funds.

The UN said that the appeal has fallen flat, even though the 
facts on the ground indicate that the Palestinians have been 
driven to new depths of poverty. The people of Gaza, under a 
renewed curfew, are facing the most serious crisis. UN sources 
indicate that the food warehouses will be empty within a few 

"If we don't get money coming in soon we will have a rupture in 
the food distribution which will be very serious, as we already 
have malnutrition levels of 22 percent among children--and that 
is bound to rise if food aid stops," said commissioner general 
Peter Hansen. Two years ago the UN fed about 11,000 people in 
Gaza, mostly widows and those with no means of support. Today it 
feeds 715,000, more than half the total population. Child 
malnutrition is now being compared to the situation in the Congo 
and Zimbabwe.

Hansen warned that the situation will "increase tension and be 
very difficult to keep things under whatever control there is at 
the moment. It's going to be politically destabilizing." UN 
officials said that Gaza is the most crowded place on earth and 
rapidly becoming one of the poorest. "It's not just unemployment 
and disease," said Abdalhadi Abu Khousa, head of the Gaza 
section of the Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committees. 
"There's no hope. No hope for the peace process. No hope for the 
future. No hope the Israelis will accept us as human beings. 
These are the worst times Gaza has seen."

"This is a humanitarian crisis and help must be provided to keep 
people going," said Secretary of State Clare Short of Great 
Britain, a major relief donor. "But this crisis will not be 
resolved without a political solution."

Genocide suspects want inquiry into Rwandan Anglican bishop's 

(Hirondelle News Agency) Forty-eight genocide suspects at the 
United Nations Detention Facility (UNDF) in Arusha, Tanzania, 
have asked the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) 
to set up an independent commission of inquiry on the 
circumstances that led to the death of their colleague, Anglican 
bishop Samuel Musabyimana, on January 24 while in custody. 

The 46-year-old Musabyimana was accused of genocide and crimes 
against humanity in connection with the killings of ethnic Tutsi 
refugees at his Shyogwe diocese in the central Rwandan province 
of Gitarama. The killings took place between April and July, 
1994. The bishop was also accused of several other killings 
around the diocese. He denied all charges when he first appeared 
before the tribunal on May 2, 2001. 

The press release issued by the ICTR the day Musabyimana died 
mentions that the former Anglican bishop of the Diocese of 
Shyogwe "passed away after a long illness." 

In a letter dated January 27, addressed to the ICTR registrar, 
the inmates listed several allegations against the tribunal, 
including inefficiency in handling health and psychological 
problems of the bishop and the fact that he was denied a lawyer 
of his own choice to defend him. The signatories said 
Musabyimana was transferred to Nairobi (Kenya) twice for 
treatment and later was admitted to a hospital belonging to the 
Arusha International Conference Center (AICC) for one and a half 
months. They claimed that on January 13 he was taken back to the 
UNDF and alleged that such a decision denied him proper medical 
care and psychological attention. He was again sent back to AICC 
hospital and later to the Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Center 
(KCMC) in Moshi for further treatment. "If the doctors and the 
ICTR administration had not neglected him, the condition of the 
deceased would not have deteriorated," the detainees stated in 
their letter. 

ICTR spokesman Roland Amoussouga said that the tribunal did 
everything "humanly possible" to save the life of the bishop, 
including taking him to different hospitals in Tanzania and 
Nairobi at his request. "These are just allegations. The 
tribunal has done everything to treat the bishop. The facts are 
there to establish that," said Amoussouga. He elaborated further 
that Musabyimana was even given a specialist to help him with 
psychological problems. 

Responding to the issue of setting up a commission of inquiry, 
the spokesman said that a commission can be ordered by the 
president of the tribunal if a detainee dies while at the UNDF. 
He said the tribunal followed all the legal procedures about the 
issue and that if anyone was not satisfied there was a 
possibility of appealing the decision. 

Sudan Council of Churches monitors future of the peace talks

(ACNS) Sudanese church leaders have been monitoring events 
following the resumption of peace talks between the Government 
of the Sudan (GoS) and the Sudan People's Liberation 
Movement/Army (SPLM/A) in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. "The 
gross violation of the Memorandum of Understanding regarding 
cessation of hostilities by the GoS, resulting in the attack of 
SPLM/A positions in Upper Nile and the subsequent capture of 
Leer town on January 26, is an apparent indication of a flagrant 
attempt to jeopardize the peace talks," said the New Sudan 
Council of Churches in a statement issued February 6.

"In order to sustain the peoples' hope, we appeal to the warring 
parties to cease hostilities and give peace a chance. The Sudan 
peace talks have reached a crucial stage with renewed 
enthusiasm, as the international community is watching with 
great expectations. We therefore urge the negotiators to 
maintain the momentum of the peace talks by negotiating in good 
faith," the statement said.

The council also appealed to the international community, 
especially the facilitators of the Sudanese peace talks, to 
"commit the negotiators to serious discussion that will 
culminate in a just and durable peaceful settlement to the 
twenty-year-old conflict."

Sudanese church leaders challenged the two parties to "respect 
and commit themselves" to a Memorandum of Understanding signed 
in October between the GoS and the SPLM/A on the cessation of 

"The Sudanese people have paid dearly with their blood in this 
war. It is therefore high time that they should reap the 
benefits of peace and tranquillity in their lifetime," the 
statement concluded. "May the grace of God almighty be upon the 
peace negotiators so that as they discuss peace they should put 
humanity first before anything else."

Pennsylvania bishops urge funding for public schools

(ENS) The five Episcopal bishops of Pennsylvania want lawmakers 
to increase state funding of public schools to end the gap 
between wealthy and poor school districts. The bishops issued a 
pastoral letter, read in Pennsylvania Episcopal churches 
February 9, encouraging parishioners to support more state 

"As public education has increased its reliance on local taxes, 
the Commonwealth's funding for our children's education has 
decreased from 55 to 35 percent. The practical result is an 
unforgiving gap--up to $8,500 difference per child--in the 
amount wealthy and poor districts provide for public education," 
the statement said. "The gap suggests that we tolerate economic 
segregation, that a substandard education is adequate for the 
poor and near poor."

The letter, "Seeking Justice in Funding Public Education," 
challenged parishioners to "support a system of taxation that 
decreases reliance on local property or wage taxes and returns 
the state to at least a 50 percent partnership in the funding of 
our public schools."

"Our participation in the movement, Good Schools Pennsylvania, 
to support, strengthen and reform our public schools is based on 
both our religious belief that every person is created in God's 
own image and our civic responsibility to provide our children 
with equal opportunity in public education," the statement 
concluded. "For the love of God and for the sake of the children 
who have been left behind, please join us in attempting to 
reverse this spiral of inequity."

The letter was signed by Bishops Charles E. Bennison Jr. 
(Pennsylvania); Clarence N. Coleridge (Assisting, Pennsylvania); 
Michael W. Creighton (Central Pennsylvania); Robert W. Duncan 
(Pittsburgh); Paul V. Marshall (Bethlehem); Robert D. Rowley, 
Jr.(Northwest Pennsylvania); and Henry Scriven (Assisting, 

US group investigates religious liberty in Russia

(ENI) A US government advisory group is investigating freedom of 
religion in Russia following the leak of a Russian government 
report that suggested Roman Catholics, Protestants, Muslims and 
new religious movements threaten national security. The 
document, leaked in December, was a draft drawn up by Russian 
Nationalities Minister Valentin Zorin and the Moscow-backed 
Chechen leader, Ahmad Kadyrov. 

The report prompted a visit to Moscow in January by the US 
Commission on International Religious Freedom, set up in the 
United States under the 1998 International Religious Freedom 
Act. Felice Gaer, the commission's head, told journalists during 
her visit that the state of religious liberty in Russia was 
"fragile." But she said she would refrain from making any 
conclusive statements until the commission published its annual 
report in May. 

"Russia attracted the interest of the commission from the very 
start," Gaer said. "Not because it requires a special concern, 
like Sudan--it was not the severity of the problem but the 
fragility of religious freedom and all freedoms in Russia." Gaer 
said before the Moscow visit that the leaked report reflected "a 
disturbing trend in Russia that includes the exclusion of 
representatives of the [Roman] Catholic Church, restrictions on 
the rights of new and minority religious movements, recurrent 
anti-Semitic incidents, as well as the equation of Islam with 
terrorism." In a January 15 letter to the US secretary of state, 
Colin Powell, Gaer urged him to raise his country's concern "at 
the highest levels of Russian government." 

Gaer said in Moscow that commission members had asked Russian 
officials during talks why a dozen or so Catholic and Protestant 
clergy had been denied visas last year. "We've been told that 
reasons to deny visas is something governments never provide 
information about," she said. "We have raised that issue. The 
number [of denials] is significant enough that it can't be 
accidental. We think it is a serious development." 

During the trip, the commission also looked into claims of 
religious discrimination in Russia's regions, violence against 
minority groups, whether the government has a tendency to get 
involved in internal religious disputes and whether the 
government cooperates with the Russian Orthodox Church to the 
detriment of other faiths. "We can say that the picture looks 
fragile," Gaer noted. 

Last year, the commission recommended that the State Department 
designate North Korea, Laos, Saudi Arabia and Turkmenistan as 
"countries of particular concern." But the State Department 
added only North Korea to its watch list, which also includes 
countries such as Myanmar, Iran, Iraq and Sudan.

Initiative enables Church of England churches to rediscover 
community role 

(Restoring Hope Press Office) A major initiative to arm parish 
churches with a fresh vision and to enhance their position at 
the heart of their communities was announced on February 10.

Restoring Hope, which has the support of both the Archbishop of 
Canterbury and the Archbishop of York, encourages congregations 
to take a fresh look at their primary calling, namely 'To love 
God and to love our neighbor as ourselves.'

Archbishop of York David Hope, describing Restoring Hope in 
terms of serving the local community, said, "The project is not 
just about restoring hope in our churches, but restoring hope in 
our communities, helping people to recognize something of the 
image and likeness of the eternal God in them."

Under the Restoring Hope initiative, every Church of England 
benefice is to be sent a free resource pack this Easter. Packs 
include a 40-minute video presented by Tom Wright, the 
distinguished theologian and canon of Westminster Abbey, 
recently appointed Bishop of Durham. The video will feature 
comments from senior Anglican leaders, including both 
archbishops, Dr. Christina Baxter, and Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali 
of Rochester.

Addressing a range of subjects, it will lay out a vision for the 
church in the 21st century, as well as giving an honest 
assessment of the challenges facing churches today and a call to 
reflect prayerfully on the spiritual characteristics of the 
early church.

A set of booklets accompanies the video, including the two 
successful Springboard workbooks: Growing Healthy Churches and 
Discerning Church Vocation. These aim to take churches through a 
process of evaluation, encouragement and assessment, enabling 
each congregation to discern together their own vision for the 
future. The third booklet will point churches toward a range of 
additional resources where they can find further inspiration and 
practical help.

Support for this initiative has come from across the Anglican 
community, including sponsorship from a number of major Anglican 
mission agencies, such as Springboard, the Church Army, the 
Church Mission Society, the Church Pastoral Aid Society, the 
Mothers' Union and the United Society for the Propagation of the 


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