The Vatican, in a ‘Final Declaration’ statement, warned that the world is facing a crisis in faith provoked in part by the feminist doctrine that men and women are absolute equals. "Generally throughout the world, there is evidence of a weakening of faith in Christ, as well as a distortion of some doctrines based on Scriptures and the early councils of the church," the statement said. Feminism, the statement continues, contributed to a permissiveness that created "great problems for Christian morality: indifference to the poor, racial prejudice and violence, abortion, euthanasia, the legitimation of homosexual relationships and other immoral forms of sexual activity."
The China Christian Council denied reports that 140 Chinese Christians were arrested in November in Henan Province. The council said provincial authorities detained five foreign nationals for violating a law regarding alien religious activity in China. After signing statements that they had broken Chinese law, the nationals, three from Finland, one from Switzerland and one from Sweden, were released. Television and radio stations airing religious programs are on the rise, according to the National Religious Broadcasters. There are 242 TV stations featuring religious shows, an increase of 51 over 1997. The radio stations with religious programming increased from 1,588 to 1,616 in the same time. The Evangelical Theological Society, a group of scholars, passed a resolution saying the Bible "teaches that homosexual conduct is always an abomination," but it criticized national media for "insubstantial, untruthful and hateful accusations" about evangelical Christians concerning Matthew Shepard, the gay student in Wyoming who was murdered. "We abhor the terrible sin of doing intentional physical harm to another human being for no reason other than hate," the statement says. "We equally abhor using the rhetoric of hate to prejudice the power of civil government against the open and complete proclamation of moral standards revealed in God's Holy Word-including both God's love for sinners as well as his judgment of sin." The Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Austria will allow women and men with experience in congregational work to be ordained to an honorary ministry, the church's general synod decided. The position does not mean the church will employ them as pastors. Honorary pastors can be chosen from people who after training did not get a job or people who did not complete theological studies but clearly have high theological qualifications. At its first joint conference, the Evangelical Church of the Lutheran Confession in Brazil, a Lutheran World Federation member, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Brazil, which is related to the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, signed an agreement to increase future cooperation between the two churches. The agreement included a proposal to launch a joint campaign for Reformation Day and to conduct a study on communion, paving the way for an agreement on worship and the eucharist. Ishmael Noko, general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation, and Milan Opocensky, general secretary of the World Association of Reformed Churches, supported proposals to foster common identity between the two organizations. Noko also backed an earlier suggestion that sites for future assemblies could be chosen jointly, that the participation of ecumenical partners in meetings and consultations should be widened, and that the cabinets of the two organizations should occasionally meet jointly. To combat the decrease in membership, the Evangelical Church in Germany is calling on Christians to join the church now. "The vacuum created by the present indifference does not immediately become visible," said Council Chairman Manfred Kock. "[But] once the structures have disappeared, it will be difficult to return to the proved values." Seabury-Western Theological Seminary, Evanston, Ill., is developing a program to equip clergy and lay leaders to reach out to the 18-32 age group in new ways. Beginning this fall the seminary will offer a master of theological studies degree in young adult ministries, as well as a young adult ministries focus in the master of divinity program, and one-year certificate program. Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service called on Americans to urge President Clinton to increase refugee admissions, which have dropped 41 percent from 132,000 in 1993 to 78,000 in fiscal year 1999. The organization cited several key factors, including more refugees and displaced people in Europe today than at any time since World War II (due to problems in the former Yugoslavia and Soviet Union), several of Africa's regional conflicts continue, Burma's military dictatorship is creating flight from oppression, Iraq's treatment of dissidents under Saddam Hussein and Iran's religious persecution. LIRS asked for the admissions level to be increased to 119,000 for fiscal year 2000. Britain's Caledonian Brewery became the first in Britain's history to appoint a chaplain. Canon Bill Brockie, the Episcopal rector of St. Martin of Tours church in Edinburgh, Scotland, and in whose parish the brewery is located, will make himself available to the company's workers.