From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Episcopalians: News Briefs

Date Mon, 30 Jun 2003 13:21:46 -0400

June 30, 2003


Episcopalians: News Briefs

Church groups rue and hail US Court ruling on homosexual conduct 

(ENI) A landmark US Supreme Court decision striking a ban on gay 
and lesbian sexual relations has been quickly championed by US 
religious liberals, while being severely condemned by Christian 
conservatives. Both sides, however, said the ruling would 
sharpen public debate in the United States over the issue of 
same-sex marriage. 

The 6-3 decision by the nation's highest court, announced on 
June 26, invalidated a Texas law that criminalized sexual 
conduct between adults of the same sex. Writing the majority 
opinion that, in effect, struck down remaining laws against 
sodomy in the United States, Justice Anthony Kennedy, appointed 
to the court by the conservative former President Ronald Reagan, 
said gay men and lesbians were "entitled to respect for their 
private lives."

"Liberty presumes an autonomy of self that includes freedom of 
thought, belief, expression, and certain intimate conduct," he 

Still, the ruling dismayed religious conservatives. The 
Christian Coalition said that a "homosexual act is not a 
fundamental right." In a statement, the conservative political 
action group said: "A battle in the war for our culture has been 

Almost immediately, both gay rights proponents and opponents 
said the court ruling--coming just weeks after the Canadian 
government announced it would legalize homosexual 
marriage--could have implications for same-sex couples wishing 
to marry. Single-sex marriage is currently prohibited in all of 
the 50 US states, though the state of Vermont permits same-sex 
"civil unions." Proponents say the court's affirmation of 
privacy for gays and lesbians could make it easier to legalize 
gay marriages.

However, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a Republican, said 
he would sponsor legislation seeking an amendment to the US 
Constitution prohibiting same-sex marriage. 

Conservative Christian groups vowed to fight any change in laws 
allowing couples of the same gender to marry. But Integrity, the 
Episcopal (Anglican) gay and lesbian organization, was buoyed, 
saying that "no longer can opponents of the public celebration 
of same-sex unions in our church use the argument that such 
unions are 'illegal' in many states." The court's decision, it 
said, had in effect "put an end to that reality."

Leader of Nigerian Anglicans explains wish to sever links over 
gay issue

(ENI) Amid continuing disagreement in the Anglican Communion 
over the issue of gay bishops and the blessing of same-sex 
unions, the primate of the Anglican Church of Nigeria has 
spelled out his reasons for wishing to sever links with dioceses 
that endorse homosexual relations. 

Archbishop Peter J. Akinola of Nigeria--the world's biggest 
Anglican province, with about 15 million members--said he 
considered ungodly the move by a bishop in the Canadian diocese 
of New Westminster to issue a liturgy for the blessing of 
same-sex marriages. 

He said ''convoluted reasoning'' had been behind the 
appointments of a gay man as bishop in Reading, England, and the 
election of a gay man as bishop in New Hampshire. Both 
developments, he contended, ran counter to Anglican 
teaching--especially since at a May meeting in Brazil, the 
Anglican primates had renewed their commitment to the authority 
of the Scriptures and had rejected same-sex marriage. 

Akinola said: "I personally think that this is an attack on the 
Church of God: a satanic attack on God's church because I cannot 
think how a man in his right senses would be having sexual 
relations with another man. It is so unnatural, so 

The archbishop suggested the recent developments amounted to a 

"As a communion we took a decision by an overwhelming majority 
in 1998 that we needed to uphold the authority of the 
Scriptures: that we must not deviate in the area of marriage or 
deviate from Biblical provisions," added Akinola. "What the 
Bible allows for is heterosexual marriage, a man to a woman. But 
where people have gone out of that and you have woman and woman 
speaking of love and you have man and man talking of sexual 
relationships, we feel this is unscriptural and not what we can 

In a reference to his threat to sever links with dioceses which 
back homosexual appointments or which carry out blessings of 
same-sex unions, he added: "We cannot continue to be in 
communion with people who have taken a step outside the Biblical 

He said the church had recognized that "quite a number" of 
members faced a delicate problem of sexual orientation and ''we 
are ready to accommodate them in the hope that through prayers 
God can intervene to change such people's orientation for the 

Young delegate at European meeting says church sexism like 

(ENI) European church leaders meeting in Trondheim have been 
challenged to consider parallels between the situation of 
churches under the former apartheid regime in South Africa and 
that of churches facing sexism today. 

"We are so good at naming difficulties and knowing what should 
be done when the problem is far away from us, like the case with 
racism in South Africa" under apartheid, Gyrid Gunnes, a 
theology student from Oslo said on June 27 at the 12th assembly 
of the Conference of European Churches, meeting in Trondheim. 
"But when discrimination happens due to a factor just as 
arbitrary as skin color, for example gender, the situation is 
suddenly very different," Gunnes said. The world condemned 
churches in the apartheid regime for using the Bible to make 
color "the only significant factor for determining a person's 
life," she noted. 

Gunnes, aged 24, spoke during a special youth session of the 

"Church is a context where gender to a great extent will limit 
and extend the possibilities of your life," she said. "If you 
are a man, you may become a priest and through that you are 
given access to a powerful theological and liturgical tradition. 
If you are a male, God is talked about in your gender." However, 
"if you are a woman, you are, in many churches, deprived of 
access to the priesthood. If you are a woman, using your gender 
as a metaphor for speaking about God is controversial." 

Some of CEC's more than 120 member churches--for example, the 
Orthodox churches--do not ordain women as priests or pastors, 
and some that do ordain women, such as the (Anglican) Church of 
England, do not allow women to become bishops. 

However, even in Norway, where the majority Lutheran church has 
both women priests and women bishops, gender considerations are 
still relevant, Gunnes told ENI. "We've had women priests for 30 
years and we have two women bishops, but still the majority of 
priests are men and there's a huge debate now if male priests 
can choose not to work with women priests," she said. "The issue 
of gender-inclusive language is also a major issue in Norway." 

Sex scandals spur Philippine prelate to advocate optional 

(ENI) A series of sex scandals that refuse to vanish from media 
radar screens have prompted an outspoken member of the 
Philippine clergy to push for "optional celibacy" for priests as 
he argues clerics can work more effectively if married--a stand 
rejected by his superiors. 

"We value celibacy, but it is preventing competent men who could 
be good pastors [from] serving God's people," wrote Roman 
Catholic Monsignor Nicanor Bautista in a recent local newspaper 
article. Bautista has no parish, but is a member of the Movie 
and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB), the 
national film and television regulator. He reiterated his 
position on optional celibacy after a 35 year-old secretary 
charged that Bishop Teodoro Bacani of the Novaliches diocese had 
sexually harassed her. 

The allegation has grabbed media attention since it emerged on 
June 8. Before Bacani departed for the US on June 9, he left a 
letter for his parishioners expressing "deep sorrow for the 
consequences of any inappropriate expression of affection to my 
secretary on the 26th of March (2003)." Papal Nuncio Antonio 
Franco, the representative of the Vatican in the Philippines, 
said that Antonio Tobias, bishop of the San Fernando de La Union 
diocese, had taken over Bishop Bacani's duties on a temporary 
basis from Saturday, pending results of an investigation into 
the allegations against him. 

Bacani's was the second scandal involving a bishop to make 
headlines in the past six months. The first was that of Bishop 
Crisostomo Yalung of the Antipolo diocese, who left his office 
last January after reportedly having sired a daughter. Christine 
Rances, who said she was Yalung's lover, said she delivered his 
second daughter. 

While the Philippine Church was trying to cushion the impact of 
these scandals, Bautista put his case for optional celibacy to 
both print and broadcast media. But his advocacy riled Catholic 
officials. In a letter on June 19, Manila Archbishop Jaime 
Cardinal Sin admonished Bautista, telling him to "desist from 
making public pronouncements against church universal order and 

In reply, Bautista defended his own fidelity to his vow of 
celibacy: "It's [celibacy] not a walk in the park, but I thank 
God for sustaining me. May I reiterate, I have upheld the 
Church's teachings, I believe in celibacy, I live it, and I'm 
ready to die for it." But he said he still believed other 
members of the clergy could become more effective servants of 
God if they were given the option of marriage. 

European bishops on green cruise call for end to radioactive 

(ENI) A group of European bishops and church leaders who took 
part in a four-day cruise off the Norwegian coast to focus 
attention on environmental dangers facing the North Sea have 
called for an end to radioactive discharges into the sea. The 
demand came as Britain was facing pressure in northern Germany 
by European environment ministers over the operation of the 
Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant in northern England. 

The cruise from June 22-25 was organized by the (Lutheran) 
Church of Norway in advance of the 12th assembly of the 
Conference of European Churches (CEC) which opened in the 
northern Norwegian city of Trondheim on Wednesday. 

The British government on Monday imposed a nine month ban on 
discharges from Sellafield after traces of a radioactive 
substance called technetium 99 were discovered in salmon on 
supermarket shelves. 

"The UK government's moratorium on discharges from the 
Sellafield plant is a positive development, and we urge that it 
be made permanent," stated a declaration issued by the church 
leaders presented at the CEC assembly. The declaration 
highlighted dangers to the North Sea linked to "the daunting 
problems of threatened fish stocks, pollution from land-based 
activities, petroleum deposits, oil transport, and the 
consequent threat to local coastland communities."

Signatories included the Anglican bishop of London, Richard 
Chartres, as well as representatives of other churches in 
England, Finland, Iceland, Ireland, Norway, Scotland, and 
Sweden. "We were able to find a common form of words and we need 
now to turn it into common action," said Chartres at the 
presentation of the declaration. 

The discharges have become a big public issue in Norway, where 
coastal communities feel their health and livelihoods are at 
risk from pollution spreading across the North Sea. Bishops of 
the Church of Norway last year appealed to their counterparts in 
the Church of England to help them fight against the waste being 
discharged into the sea. 

Stig Utnem from the Church of Norway said his church had been 
inspired to organize the cruise by Orthodox Patriarch 
Bartholomeos I of Constantinople, who has hosted a number of 
cruises to focus attention on environmental problems, starting 
in 1995 with one on the Aegean Sea. Bartholomeos, nicknamed the 
"Green Patriarch" because of his commitment to environmental 
causes, joined participants on the trip around Norway's coast, 
which followed a cruise he had hosted on the Baltic Sea earlier 
in the month.

Church leaders urge former Kenyan president to talk about 

(ENI)Church leaders in Kenya have urged former president Daniel 
arap Moi to appear before a corruption regulator, the Kenya 
Anti-Corruption Commission (KACC), to answer questions on his 
involvement in a bank scandal, centering on state funds when he 
was in power. 

Euro Bank, a small local bank, collapsed in February taking with 
it public funds amounting to some 1.8 billion shillings [US $24 
million], most of it belonging to government parastatal 

A former Kenya Postal Corporation director, Francis Chahonyo, 
told the anti-corruption court last week that he was ordered by 
Moi to deposit the money in the bank. The anti-corruption police 
have since asked Moi to record a statement on this allegation, 
triggering protests. 

Anglican Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi appealed to Moi to appear 
before the commission to prove his innocence. "Leaders have 
responsibilities when they hold office," said Nzimbi. "The 
president should come forward to explain, the same way a father 
would do to his children." 

But the leader of the parliamentary opposition, Uhuru Kenyatta 
of the Kenya African National Union (KANU) has urged Moi not to 
record any statement with the police. "We are upset by the way 
the government is tormenting the former president," he told a 
press conference on June 19 in Nairobi. 

The government has held its stance that the former president 
should make a statement to clear his name of alleged corruption 
during his 24 years of rule.


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