From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
Episcopalians: News Briefs
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
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
"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
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
(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
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
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
"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,
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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