From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Episcopalians: News Briefs

Date Wed, 19 Feb 2003 16:51:04 -0500

February 19, 2003


Episcopalians: News Briefs

Church leaders meet Blair in third NCC-led peace delegation

(NCC/ACNS) U.S. Christian leaders spent 50 minutes with British 
Prime Minister Tony Blair February 18 to convey a message of 
widespread opposition to war with Iraq and to explore 
alternatives. The visit was the third of five meetings with 
European leaders by delegations organized by the National 
Council of Churches, based in New York City.

The ecumenical delegations are finding strong support among 
European church leaders for the "Win Without War" approach 
advocated by most major U.S. faith groups. A February 5 visit to 
Berlin included a meeting with German Chancellor Gerhard 
Schroeder. In Paris (February 10-11), the delegation met with 
the French Foreign Ministry. Upcoming are visits to Moscow 
(March 3-5), including a meeting with President Vladimir Putin, 
and a multi-faith visit to Rome (February 25-27).

The Rev. Jim Wallis, editor and executive director of Sojourners 
in Washington, DC, described the meeting with Blair as a crucial 
step towards promoting "collective international efforts" when 
it comes to resolving situations such as the current conflict 
with Iraq. He said, "The British government is in a better 
position to shape the decision, more so than any other leaders 
in the world."

Bishop John Chane of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington 
reiterated Wallis' remarks, saying that Blair is a key person in 
resolving the issue and that they had not been able to engage in 
similar conversations with the Bush administration.

Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane of Cape Town in South Africa 
reported thousands protesting on the streets. He said that "the 
repercussions of war in Iraq would influence the distribution of 
resources to Africa," creating an adverse affect on poverty and 
the critical HIV/AIDS crisis throughout the continent.

The discussion was not only limited to Iraq. Anxieties were also 
expressed about the continuing hostilities between Israel and 
Palestine. Bishop Riah Abu El-Assal of the Episcopal Diocese of 
Jerusalem (which includes Jordan, Lebanon and Syria) said that 
the war in the Middle East is viewed as "another crusade" and 
that "if we don't address the cause then it could be 
catastrophic to the faithful flock throughout the entire 

When asked whether the delegation would support a war if the UN 
emerged with a resolution allowing disarmament by force, the 
Anglican Bishop of Bath and Wells, Peter Price, responded, "It 
is a very thorny question. What we are attempting to do is offer 
as many peaceful alternatives as we can in order to avoid that 

Peace still possible, says pope's envoy amid global anti-war 

(ENI) A special envoy of Pope John Paul II on a mission to Iraq 
left Baghdad on February 17 saying that "peace is still possible 
in Iraq and for Iraq," after weekend protesters around the globe 
resoundingly rejected military conflict. Cardinal Roger 
Etchegaray met with President Saddam Hussein on February 15 and 
then briefed the pope before a meeting between the pontiff and 
UN secretary general Kofi Annan in the Vatican. 

Prominent religious leaders and ordinary people of faith made 
their presence known at rallies and demonstrations held around 
the world to oppose a possible US-led war against Iraq. In about 
600 cities around the world, and dozens in the United States, 
demonstrators marched, chanted and carried banners against armed 
conflict over Iraq.

In New York, Desmond Tutu, the former Anglican archbishop of 
Cape Town, implored the US government to give United Nations 
inspectors more time to complete their search for possible Iraqi 
weapons of mass destruction and chemical armaments. Speaking at 
a multi-faith service prior to a rally that attracted at least 
400,000 people, Tutu said a rush to war would be a grave 
mistake, saying "God is weeping" at the prospect of war. 

The protests began in Asia and the Pacific where Australians 
turned out in the thousands for the largest protest since 
anti-Vietnam War marches 30 years ago. One of the world's 
biggest demonstrations was in London where crowds estimated at 
between 750,000 and 2 million people took part. 

The Rev. Jesse Jackson joined other speakers at the London 
demonstration to warn that war on Iraq could trigger a long and 
bloody conflict. "It is not too late to stop this war. Prime 
Minister Tony Blair, please take a stand back from war," he 
said, referring to Blair's support for possible military action 
against Iraq.

In Glasgow, thousands gathered for a rally supported by the 
Church of Scotland just hours after Blair had addressed a 
conference of the governing Labor Party in Scotland's largest 
city, telling delegates he wanted to use the United Nations to 
resolve the situation in Iraq. "The moral case against war has a 
moral answer: it is the moral case for removing Saddam," said 
Blair. "Ridding the world of Saddam would be an act of humanity. 
It is leaving him there that is in truth inhumane."

In Italy, where crowds estimated at between 600,000 and 2 
million demonstrated in Rome against war with Iraq, Tariq Aziz, 
Iraq's deputy prime minister, took part in a silent vigil at the 
tomb of St. Francis of Assisi after a meeting the preceding day 
with the pope. Speaking to journalists, the Vatican 
spokesperson, Joaquin Navarro-Valls, said the Holy See had told 
Aziz, a Chaledean Christian, of the need for Iraq "to respect 
faithfully, with concrete commitments, the resolutions of the 
United Nations Security Council."

Church activists welcome US Navy plan to leave Vieques 

(ENI) The announced departure of a US Navy military base from 
the small Puerto Rican island of Vieques has been hailed by 
church leaders and others who have for years protested against 
the base's bombing range. "Thanks to the religious leaders who 
knew how to be authentic pastors walking with their people and 
defending their people, David has once again overcome Goliath," 
said the Rev. German Acevedo-Delgado, a United Methodist 

The US Navy began its last training operations on Vieques at the 
beginning of February, and has promised to leave by May 1, 
having used the eastern third of the Caribbean island for 
military maneuvers since 1947. The navy, which is moving its 
maneuvers to Florida and other areas on the US mainland, has 
said it will turn the Vieques base over to the US Department of 
the Interior for use as a wildlife refuge. 

A widespread coalition of Puerto Ricans from all walks of life, 
including church ministers, nuns, bishops and the general 
secretary of the Puerto Rican Bible Society, as well as US 
Congressmen, had steadfastly opposed the naval base on the 
37-kilometer-long island, which has a population of about 9,000. 
Tens of thousands of protesters have taken part in 
demonstrations against the base, and about 1500 have been 
arrested in the past four years. Protesters often occupied the 
bombing beaches until US marshals and troops dragged them off. 
On one occasion, an ecumenical chapel was built on the bombing 
range, only to be torn down when military forces retook the 

Residents of the island, part of the United States Commonwealth 
of Puerto Rico, are worried the navy is leaving them to deal 
with an environmental mess, and have demanded that the US 
government clean up any toxic remnants of military exercises. 
Decades of bombing have left islanders with elevated cancer 
rates, say the residents, who are concerned that the military's 
legacy of depleted uranium shells and heavy metals will leave 
them suffering for years. A Pentagon report has confirmed that 
the navy also tested chemical weapons simulants on the island in 
the 1960s, news agencies reported on Wednesday.

After six decades of vicious feuds with the navy, Vieques 
residents are skeptical about the military's exit. "We do not 
trust the navy or the federal government, so we will be 
steadfast in our struggle, attentive to any plan to continue 
using and abusing Vieques," said Nilda Medina, spokesperson for 
the Committee for the Rescue and Development of Vieques, which 
has been campaigning against the military exercises.

World Council of Churches, IMF and World Bank discuss 

(ENI) The World Council of Churches (WCC), noted in the past for 
its criticism of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the 
World Bank, invited officials of the two institutions to its 
Geneva headquarters to start a discussion on development 

"For both sides it was not self-evident to begin a dialogue," 
said WCC general secretary Konrad Raiser in a message read on 
his behalf February 13 at the opening of a two-day seminar 
between representatives of the WCC, the IMF and the World Bank. 
"The World Council of Churches has been known for having 
articulated critical views of the international financial system 
and the policies pursued by the two leading international 
institutions," said Raiser.

The seminar was intended to be the first in a series to discuss 
fundamental matters concerning development and may lead to a 
meeting between leaders of the three organizations. One of the 
main objectives, said the WCC in a statement, was to enable 
participants to review the role their institutions have played 
in shaping the world's economy and improving the lives of people 
in poor countries. It dealt with issues such as the creation of 
wealth, social justice and the privatization of public goods, 
with special emphasis on the subject of drinking water.

Encounters between the three bodies are expected to question the 
consequences of the dominant economic system in the world today, 
while enabling the WCC to have a clearer understanding of 
development practice as seen by the World Bank and the IMF, 
noted Rogate Mshana, who coordinates the WCC economic justice 
program. The next seminar of the three groups is expected 
towards the end of the year in Washington.

Raiser said in 2000 that the WCC was "hesitant" about 
participating in an initiative launched by the World Bank to 
promote dialogue with religious communities, explaining that he 
was concerned such dialogue might legitimize World Bank 
policies, although he did "not necessarily think that this is an 
explicit intention" on the part of the bank.

Row erupts as Zimbabwe church official censures pro-Mugabe 

(ENI) The Anglican bishop of Harare, Norbert Kunonga, is facing 
increasing public confrontation with church leaders over his 
controversial support for Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe. 

A long-simmering row burst into the open again February 16 when 
prominent lawyer and Anglican chancellor of the Harare diocese, 
Bob Stumbles, publicly accused Kunonga of acting "contrary to 
the laws of the church" and of falsely accusing members of his 
congregation of plotting his assassination.

In a 20-page letter to Kunonga made public, Stumbles enumerated 
a long list of complaints against the bishop. Among them was the 
banning of Harare Cathedral's Shona choir and Kunonga's court 
action against 12 Anglican councilors and two churchwardens who 
had, said Stumbles, "been elected legitimately." 

"This is contrary to the laws of the church," wrote Stumbles, 
adding, "Enquiries reveal that the diocesan board gave no 
permission to you to institute these proceedings."

Kunonga, who is close to Mugabe, is condoning the violent 
seizure of white-owned farms by supporters of Mugabe's Zanu-PF 
political party. He is banned from travel in the United States 
under sanctions imposed on Mugabe and his closest associates.

Stumbles said in his letter that the bishop last year told 
police that some members of the Harare congregation were 
"plotting his assassination." The church chancellor also 
complained that Kunonga had removed "colonial relics" from the 
Anglican cathedral, apparently without seeking the church's 
permission. Kunonga had also refused to recognize the elections 
of churchwardens, an issue that had erupted late last year. "I 
must strongly register my protest in this connection," said 
Stumbles. "You are now saying in effect that you refuse to 
accept what was carried out in accordance with the laws and you 
will not comply with them."

Kunonga had also appointed the former dean of the Harare 
diocese, Godfrey Tawonezvi, as bishop of Masvingo in southeast 
of Zimbabwe, even though Anglican authorities had twice passed 
votes of no confidence in him.

Canadian Anglican dioceses approve agreement on residential 
schools lawsuits

(Anglican Church of Canada) All 30 dioceses of the Anglican 
Church of Canada unanimously have now ratified an agreement with 
the government that caps the church's liability in litigation 
over its operation of residential schools for indigenous youth 
at $25 million (Canadian).

The terms of the agreement require the dioceses to contribute to 
the settlement fund it creates. The church announced the 
creation of a separate corporation, called the Anglican Church 
of Canada Resolution Corp., that will administer the settlement 
fund. Under the agreement, 30 percent of compensation will be 
paid from the fund to former residential school students who 
have proven claims of sexual or physical abuse. The remaining 70 
percent will be paid by the government.

If compensation for the claims exceeds the $25 million the 
government will pay the rest and, if the awards fall short of 
that amount, the money will be returned to the dioceses. The 
dioceses made individual decisions on how they would find the 
money to contribute their share to the settlement fund.

In the Diocese of Toronto, for example, Archbishop Terry Finlay 
asked each church member to contribute $100 in an effort to 
raise a total of $5 million (Canadian). Anglicans in Alberta 
will sell a church residence to raise money. Other dioceses 
dipped into reserves or decided to mount campaigns to cover both 
contributions and to fund local projects.

The agreement was intended to move litigation out of the courts 
and into a form of alternate dispute resolution. Thousands of 
lawsuits have been stressing the legal system and costing a 
great deal of money, threatening to bankrupt the General Synod.

Archdeacon Jim Boyles, general secretary of General Synod and 
chief negotiator with the government, said that he was "very 
pleased with the way dioceses have responded so quickly and so 
positively to the agreement. It shows the strength of the 
Anglican family in Canada." He said that the formal documents 
will now be sent to dioceses for signatures and that national 
church leaders and government officials could sign the agreement 
by March 11.


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