Baha'i News -- Episcopal News Service Briefs

Episcopal News Service Briefs

From Daphne Mack <>
Date Thu, 24 Oct 2002 13:36:08 -0400

News Briefs

Bush signs Sudan peace legislation

(ENS) Representatives of the Episcopal Church's Office of Government Relations were present October 21 when President George W. Bush signed into law a bill designed to pressure Sudan's Islamic government to end its military campaign against Christians, animists and moderate Muslims in the country's central and southern regions. The bill, called the Sudan Peace Act, threatens sanctions if the Sudanese government doesn't negotiate in good faith with the opposition.

According the Associated Press, the Khartoum-based government signed an agreement October 15 to suspend fighting during negotiations and lifted a ban on relief flights to the south, banned on August 31 after rebel forces overran the strategically crucial town of Torit. Civil war broke out in Sudan in 1983, and since then an estimated 2 million people have been killed, mainly through famine caused by the fighting, and another 4 million have been forced to flee their homes. Foreign companies drilling for oil in central Sudan have been a cause of intensified conflict in recent years.

The Sudan Peace Act represents a compromise from an earlier version, whose provision to bar companies from being listed on U.S. stock exchanges if they participate in oil development in Sudan, opposed by the Bush administration, was stripped from the final version. The compromise bill identified peace talks as the best opportunity to promote a "negotiated, peaceful settlement to the war in Sudan" and "commends the efforts of the Special Presidential Envoy to Sudan, Senator John Danforth, and his team in working to assist the parties to the conflict in Sudan in finding a just, permanent peace to the conflict in Sudan." Danforth is an Episcopal priest.

It requires the administration to report to Congress on the status of peace talks every six months to certify that the parties are negotiating in good faith. A negative report would trigger sanctions, including opposition to any new loans for Sudan, downgrading or suspending diplomatic relations between the US and Sudan, and denying Khartoum access to oil revenues to make certain that they are not used to obtain military equipment.

Another section calls for an annual report by the Secretary of State to Congress on sources of financing for the Sudanese oil business, construction of infrastructure and pipelines for exploration, effects on the inhabitants of the region of the oil fields, and the ability of Sudan to finance the war with oil proceeds. The report requires a description of the extent to which any financing was secured with involvement of US citizens.

Ottawa postpones same-sex blessing decision

(ACC) Four months after the diocese of New Westminster voted to permit a formal blessing ceremony for homosexual couples, Ottawa is the second Canadian Anglican diocese to consider the idea, but decided it needs more discussion and study.

Delegates at Ottawa's annual synod, October 18-19, considered a motion to ask their bishop to authorize clergy in parishes that wish to bless same-sex relationships. They also considered a competing proposal to adopt the existing positions of the Canadian house of bishops and of the 1998 Lambeth Conference, both of which have opposed blessing homosexual relationships. The synod voted to refer both motions to the diocesan executive committee and directed the committee to form a task force that will consider the implications of any decision concerning the blessing of same-sex unions.

"It's the first time this has come before this synod. I think this was a very generous conversation. People were really saying we need to discuss this and take more time," said diocesan bishop Peter Coffin at a news conference following a 45-minute debate on the motion. When asked if he would have approved the same-sex motion if it had passed, he replied, "No. That would be simplistic and premature. I'm hearing that people want more discussion. I want to help the conversation along. I want to listen more intently." Several of 16 speakers during the debate expressed a need for more information and discussion and a wide variety of opinion about homosexuality and the place of homosexuals within the church. Canon Garth Bulmer, who presented the motion, said he wanted "my church to say to gay couples that they are not perverted, sick or acting contrary to God's word and acknowledge that their relationships can be every bit as wholesome as heterosexuals." As to whether the issue is divisive, Bulmer noted that practices relating to the ordination of women vary throughout the worldwide Anglican Communion. "We have learned to deal with differences throughout our communion," he said. He also said he agreed with those who are calling for more discussion.

During the debate, the Rev. George Sinclair said that six passages in the Bible "speak clearly that same-sex sex acts are contrary to God's will." God "desires us to be faithful in heterosexual marriage or celibate in singleness. We can't bless people who have sex outside marriage or affairs outside marriage," he said. In an interview after the votes, Sinclair said he believes "Anglicans would like the issue to go away," and said it was odd that synod "didn't want to take a position with the Anglican house of bishops." In an interview, Ron Chaplin, a gay member of Bulmer's parish who was observing synod but was not a delegate, explained why a blessing ceremony is important for many gay Anglicans. "It is the recognition. There is a meaning. You are making a promise to each other before God. (Participants) have come to witness it and support it." Chaplin is a member of a group that was formed in 1997 at the direction of the diocesan synod to promote dialogue and discussion around the issue of homosexuality generally.

The diocesan task force is to report through the executive committee to the next regular session of synod, next October in Cornwall, Ontario.

Carey cautions primate on same-sex issue

(ACC) Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey, who retires this month, has warned Canadian primate Michael Peers and the house of bishops to go slowly in deliberations on same-sex blessings and to consult with the Anglican Communion. The house of bishops meets on October 25 in Mississauga and will discuss last June's decision by the diocesan synod of New Westminster to allow blessings of same-sex unions.

"It has to be faced," Carey said in an interview while in Toronto to receive an honorary degree from Wycliffe College of the University of Toronto, which is celebrating its 125th anniversary. "It has to be faced and in a generous context of understanding that there is a very strong orthodox position that prevails in the world today," he said. He repeated his earlier predictions that dioceses going it alone on controversial issues risk causing schism.

"The local option," he added, "is not the Anglican way of doing things. That's what I was saying at the Anglican Consultative Council (in Hong Kong) three weeks ago." At that meeting Carey publicly censured New Westminster as well as a U.S. and an Australian diocese for making controversial decisions alone.

Any deviation from the orthodoxy of the Roman Catholic, Anglican, and Greek Orthodox churches on issues of sexuality is "going to have major ecumenical consequences," he added. "Any deviation from the Lambeth resolution (on sexuality) is going to destabilize the communion." Carey acknowledged that "homosexuals have had a very bad deal in the church. I'm aware of their pain and I am aware of pain within myself. I am a generous person and I wish I were able to say yes, I could bless (same-sex unions) but I can't bless what God doesn't." He defended his criticism of Bishop Michael Ingham and New Westminster at the ACC meeting. He insisted that a motion he presented, which said that all dioceses should consult widely on controversial issues, was "not about sexuality but about how we handled disagreement...It was interesting that all three or four people (we named) spoke up and said 'hey, why are you picking us out?' I was quite happy that we probably got it about right when everyone was twitchy." He said that Ingham had not consulted widely enough in the Anglican Communion before consenting to same-sex blessings. "If he had consulted widely, he would have consulted with me as one of the fundamental instruments of unity, with the primates' meeting, with the inter-doctrinal commission." Carey also had a warning for the primate. "I understand there are 13 bishops (in Canada) who are deeply unhappy. If I were the primate I'd be very worried in case a great fissure opened in the church of Canada, which would be sad." Church leaders in Philippines lament public apathy to anti-war drive

(ENI) Church leaders lament that public support for an anti-war campaign has been lukewarm after a series of terrorist bombings in the Philippines.

"Public support for the anti-war campaign had been lukewarm, despite the clear anti-war positions of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines and the National Council of Churches in the Philippines," Bishop Allan Ray Sarte of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines told reporters on October 24.

Government critics see the bombings as a reaction to their government's all-out support for a possible United States war against Iraq. The National Council of Churches, which groups mainline Protestant churches, and the Roman Catholic bishops issued separate statements earlier this month advising the government of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to rethink its support for a possible US intervention in Iraq without United Nations sanction.

Many religious groups and churches are talking to parishioners and others, trying to drum up support for a campaign "officially rebuking an imminent American military campaign against Iraq and the Philippine government's subservience to the US agenda," Sarte said. But despite these meetings many Filipinos are simply indifferent, he noted. The Rev. Israel Rada of the Philippine Independent Church explained the apparent apathy, saying: "Filipinos participate only if they are directly affected." Elections give Kenyan opposition a chance, churches urge peaceful process

(ENI) Uhuru Kenyatta, the son of Kenya's founding president, on October 23 launched his presidential campaign and asked for prayers, while at the same time African church leaders pleaded for peace in elections that could see the ruling party lose for the first time. Kenyatta, President Daniel arap Moi's favorite, was chosen as the candidate for the ruling Kenya African National Union (KANU), despite the opposition of some senior party members, several of whom defected after he was nominated.

"This is formally the start of my presidential campaign, and I ask for your blessings and prayers as I go into the political battlefield," Kenyatta said near the ancestral home of his father, the late Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, not far from Mount Kenya in the country's central highlands.

Moi is standing down after 24 years in power, and the election, set for December, is seen as the best chance the opposition has of ousting the ruling party from power since the country's independence 40 years ago.

The All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC), a grouping of 168 member churches in 39 African countries representing 80 million Christians, prefaced the campaign by urging Kenyans to preserve peace in the build up to the East African country's third multi-party elections. "It is our prayer that this image of Kenya will be maintained in the trying moments when electioneering tends to provoke violence in many countries," said the AACC's interim general secretary, Melaku Kifle, in a statement on October 21.

Kenyan church leaders had earlier expressed fears that Moi might try to thwart the implementation of a new constitution being debated in Kenya, the draft of which was unveiled last month by the Constitution of Kenya Review Commission (CRCK). The draft constitution considerably reduces the power of the presidency and suggests radical changes for the judiciary. The parliament would be able to vet the appointment of cabinet ministers, now the prerogative of the president. But Moi dismissed the draft document as unsuitable for Kenyans and only workable in Europe.

The Reverend Peter Njoka, senior minister at All Saints Cathedral in Nairobi, said: "The Anglican Church of Kenya wants the forthcoming elections held under a new constitution," noting that the process for it was unstoppable.

Scottish church guides children to safe surfing on the Internet

(ENI) Worries about children unwittingly "talking" to strangers on the Internet and giving out vital personal or family information have prompted the Scottish Episcopal Church to launch a children's guide to safe surfing.

The church's four-page leaflet offers advice on enjoying the Internet without risk, and net-savvy children and their parents are being encouraged to download the information (at

The church, which is part of the Anglican Communion, has distributed the leaflet to its 350 churches throughout Scotland. "There has been a lot of demand for this material," said Barbara Steele, the church's child protection officer. "The subject keeps coming up. People are generally very worried about what children can come across on the Internet." Children as young as nine are using chat rooms, says Steele, who is worried that they are not being as careful about giving out information in chat rooms as they are in the street. She told ENI: "Children, particularly the hearing-impaired and those who can't communicate in other ways, find chat rooms incredibly liberating, but they may not have thought it through." In the leaflet she advises: "If an adult you didn't know met you in the street, you wouldn't give them any personal details. You should treat people you meet on the net the same as someone you met in the street." Youngsters are urged to use nicknames in chat rooms, not their real names, and to tell an adult they trust if they have got in too deep. "The person you met on the net will probably say you shouldn't tell anyone because you will get into trouble, or your parents or carer will throw you out. This won't be true," says the leaflet.

As a backup to other sources of help, Steele has included her own phone number for children to use. She said: "I'm not expecting floods of calls, but we'll see. Part of my life is to be on call." Inter-faith leaders adopt peace declaration in South Africa

(ENI) Representatives from seven major religions and 21 African countries have adopted an historic declaration committing themselves to working for peace on the African continent.

The great variety of delegates to the Inter-Faith Peace Summit--among them South Africa's Chief Rabbi Cyril Harris and Benin's High Priest of Voodoo, Houna Agbessi Daagbo Hounon--underlined the summit's achievement in forging a common dedication to peace. Harris, Hounon and Ishmael Noko, general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation, were among the more than 100 delegates at the week-long summit, which ended with a closing ceremony October 20. They represented African traditional religion, the Baha'i faith, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism and various ecumenical and peace bodies.

Delegates declared Africa a "continent of faith," but also noted it was one of conflict and violence, causing "intolerable human suffering," which "undermines prospects of a better future in many countries and the continent as a whole." They adopted a plan of action calling on religious leaders to take "immediate" action in areas of conflict such as Sudan, Cote d'Ivoire, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Religious leaders acknowledged that they had at times neglected to promote peace, been intolerant of one another's beliefs and failed to speak up and act against injustice, corruption, poverty and dictatorial leadership.

Noko described the declaration as a "landmark and a cornerstone." He said the gathering had been "an opportunity to listen to one another for the first time on a pan-African level," and to identify common values. Now, said Noko, he had the "courage to speak with my Muslim brothers and sisters" on the issue of the Nigerian Muslim woman who is due to be stoned for committing adultery. "Until now it would have been difficult to do so." "Africans are to be continually enveloped in fire unless we can do something about tolerance," he said. "We have to emphasize the positive things about religion, and one of those things is tolerance." Religious leaders, as elders of the African community, were ideally placed to mediate conflicts he said, such as that between British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe. "[They] will never make it on their own. We have to play a role," said Noko, who is Zimbabwean.

Among the other South African religious leaders attending the conference were Bishop Mvume Dandala, presiding bishop of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa and president of the South African Council of Churches; Bishop Antonious Markos of the Coptic Orthodox Church; Cardinal Wilfrid Napier from the Roman Catholic Church; and Ntate Kgalushi Koka, representing African Traditional Religion.

©Copyright 2002, Episcopal News Service Briefs

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