* A bill has been proposed in Congress that would attempt to curb the persecution of Christians and other religious minorities in foreign lands by imposing economic and other sanctions. The bill, introduced by Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., and Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., also would create a senior White House position to monitor religious persecution abroad and expedite proceedings for those claiming asylum from religious persecution. Sudan, where Christians say they are sold into slavery and persecuted with the backing of the nation's Muslim rulers, was singled out in the proposed legislation for immediate sanctions. The "Freedom from Religious Persecution Act" would impose automatic sanctions if the director of the proposed White House Office of Religious Persecution Monitoring, who would report annually, found a nation guilty of religious persecution. In addition the Fox News Channel cable station has run 60-second ads urging White House, congressional and church action on the issue.
* A recent study shows that although the United Methodist Church has ordained women for nearly 40 years, just 1.4 percent of its churches with 1,000 or more members are served by women as senior or lead pastors.
* The World Council of Churches changed the dates of its next assembly, which now will take place in Harare, Zimbabwe, on Dec. 3-14, 1998.
* The Ethiopian government returned to the Ethiopian Evangelical [Lutheran] Church Mekane Yesus its former headquarters and buildings in Addis Ababa. The former Marxist regime had confiscated the buildings. The church is still seeking the return of additional confiscated properties.
* The Milwaukee Presbytery is the first regional jurisdiction in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to vote not to abide by a new church rule that critics believe is designed to keep homosexuals from ordination. The amendment requires ordained ministers, elders and deacons to adhere to "fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman or chastity in singleness." The church may expel any congregation that refuses to adhere to the rule.
* The Georgian Orthodox Church in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia is the first Orthodox church to leave the World Council of Churches. The synod cited the WCC's alleged "failure to take interests of Orthodox churches fully into account" as a reason for its decision. Some observers fear the decision will strengthen anti-ecumenical movements in other Orthodox churches.
* The Presbyterian Church in America and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church voted to sever ties with the Christian Reformed Church, citing the latter body's willingness to allow churches to ordain women to church office.
* Only unity will allow Christian churches to confront poverty, violence, corruption and unemployment, say two leaders of the Latin American Council of Churches. Walter Altmann, a Brazilian Lutheran theologian, and Felipe Adolf, the council's president and general secretary, said doctrinal differences separating the churches in Latin America were secondary compared to the serious problems facing the region.
* By the year 2002, England may have more adult Muslims actively practicing their faith than Anglicans who regularly attend Sunday services. A survey by London's Christian Research Association says England's practicing Muslim adult population is growing by 30,000 a year while attendance for the Church of England is dropping by 14,000 annually. If the trend continues, there will be 760,000 practicing Muslim adults and 756,000 Sunday church-going Anglicans by the year 2002.
* More than 65,000 books about Jesus or with Jesus as the main theme have been written worldwide, and an average of four more are published each day. More than 25,000 of the books have been published since 1970.
* Britain's new Labor government said it will destroy all of the country's anti-personnel landmines by 2005 and won't replace them with "smart-mines," which self-detonate after a certain period. Britain is also among more than 70 countries that are committed to the Ottawa Process, a Canadian initiative that will bring nations together in December to sign a treaty to ban production, stockpiling, export and use of mines. U.S. religious groups, including Lutheran World Relief, have lobbied Congress and the White House, urging the United States to join the effort.
* The Swedish government appointed Christina Odenberg as bishop of the diocese of Lund on June 5. She is the Church of Sweden's first woman bishop and succeeds K.G. Hammar, who is now archbishop of the Church of Sweden.
© 2014 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers