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The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship anonymously appointed two couples to serve as missionaries in regions considered hostile to Christian evangelism. At the commissioning service, the couple sat almost unnoticed while surrogates stood in for them and gave testimony by proxy. The couples, who will serve in the Middle East and North Africa, are the first missionaries to be appointed in this manner in the five-year history of the moderate Baptist group.

Bob Dole received much less presidential campaign support from TV evangelists than Ronald Reagan and George Bush, according to a survey conducted by Stephen Winzenburg, a professor of communications at Grand View College, Des Moines, Iowa. "Pat Robertson, host of the `700 Club' reflected the attitude of most TV evangelists when he said on the air that the `moral message was fumbled' by the Dole campaign," Winzenburg said.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu threatened to resign as chair of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission if the African National Congress refuses to seek amnesty for its acts of violence under apartheid. ANC leaders said they will not apply for amnesty for what they consider to have been acts of war against the apartheid regime. But Tutu said, "If parties grant themselves amnesty unilaterally, what is the point of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission?" People on both sides who have committed crimes with a political purpose would be granted amnesty but only after admitting their guilt.

The Anglican Church of Canada is calling for its country's vacationers to boycott U.S. travel destinations this winter and instead vacation in Cuba to protest the U.S. economic embargo of the Fidel Castro regime. "Many Canadian Christians, along with many Canadians, feel the U.S. assault on Cuba has been extremely damaging to ordinary Cubans who have nothing to do with political issues," said Vancouver Anglican Bishop Michael Ingham, who helped draw up the resolution adopted by the Council of General Synod.

Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey, leader of the Anglican communion, and Pope John Paul II remained at an impasse after two days of talks over issues that divide their churches, including women's ordination, gay marriages and the supreme authority of the pontiff. "I'm a realist, and the realistic part of my response is to recognize that there are still deep divisions," Carey said. "Nevertheless, this meeting certainly strengthened that feeling that we have traveled a long way together. In spite of recent difficulties that both of us have spoken about, the commitment to go on fills me with hope."

In the first of what is expected to be a significant number of layoffs, five employees of the Southern Baptist Radio and Television Commission lost their jobs. The terminations are a result of a restructuring and downsizing of the nation's largest Protestant denomination's national agencies, including a merger of three agencies into a single North American Mission Board.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry official warned Pope John Paul II to "stop interfering in China's national affairs." The unidentified spokesman was responding to the pope's appeal that China legalize the Roman Catholic Church. The spokesman also said China wanted to have diplomatic relations with the Vatican, but in order for that to happen the Vatican must first break its official ties with Taiwan.

The state-controlled Catholic Church in China has ordained as priests 50 graduates of one of the nation's biggest seminaries in Beijing. Catholics in China are allowed to worship publicly only if they belong to the state-sponsored Catholic Patriotic Association, which appoints its own bishops and does not recognize the pope as spiritual leader. Though the state-controlled church claims at least 4 million members, unknown numbers of other Catholics are aligned with the underground church in China, which does recognize the pope's authority.

The Episcopal Church has closed the book on the Ellen Cooke scandal, announcing that all but about $100,000 has been recovered from the $2.2 million embezzled by its former treasurer. The total loss to the church was $422,094, including $320,000 in costs associated with the case. "We promised that we would make a full report of the situation, and I consider this a closing of the door on that chapter," said Presiding Bishop Edmond Browning.

Nancy Sherman, a professor of ethics at Georgetown University, will fill the newly created ethics chair at the U.S. Naval Academy, the Navy's education institution that has been scarred in recent years by incidents of cheating, drug use and sexual harassment. Sherman is a specialist in ethics and character development.

Representatives of the Brazilian [Roman Catholic] Bishops' Conference met with leaders of the Evangelical Church of the Lutheran Confession in Brazil to analyze the draft of a global declaration on the doctrine of justification. The draft resulted from years of dialogue between the Lutheran World Federation and the Catholic Church, and it's expected to be accepted by mid-1998.

A national survey of U.S. family physicians done by the Yankelovich Partners of Norwalk, Conn., found that 99 percent of those polled think religious belief contributes to the healing of their patients. An equally high percentage believe spiritual or religious practices, such as personal prayer and meditation, can speed or help the medical treatment of those who are ill.


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April issue

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