* Churches for Middle East Peace rejected conclusions that Israeli-Palestinian peace talks failed because officials discussed concretely for the first time how to share Jerusalem between their two nations and the three Abrahamic regions. "We are further encouraged because, in this course of the Camp David talks, Israeli and Palestinian officials met with Jerusalem's Christian Patriarchs and heard their perspectives on the need for an internationally guaranteed special statute for the Holy City," said Corinne Whitlatch of the Washington, D.C.-based organization. Jerusalem should be open to all and shared by all, according to the group's statement. The organization includes ELCA representation.
* In a 239-185 vote, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a $13.8 billion foreign aid bill that sets aside $225 million to alleviate or forgive the debts of 40 countries. The measure was more than the $82 million Republicans wanted set aside for debt relief, but less than the $472 million the Clinton administration had requested. "This is a real shot in the arm for the debt relief campaign," said Dan Driscoll-Shaw, national coordinator for Jubilee 2000, an international coalition of religious groups and activists campaigning for global forgiveness of debt by the world's poorest countries.
* On July 29, three unidentified assailants stabbed to death the president of the Andhra Evangelical Lutheran Church in India, Gangavarapu Emmanuel, 64. The president worked to unify the denomination after a church schism caused by a conflict between two past presidents. Under Emmanuel's leadership, the church began ordaining women. At presstime, the reasons for the attack were unknown, although police had at least one suspect in custody.
* United Methodist congregations in 12 western states, echoing a declaration by New England churches, approved a statement calling for the full inclusion of gays and lesbians in the church, despite the denomination's prohibition against same-sex unions and gay ordinations.
* Survivors of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and the 1998 Nairobi bombing in Dar Es Salaam met in Oklahoma City for the first part of an exchange program aimed at sparking discussion, healing, hope and reconciliation. The event hoped to find mutuality in survivors' experiences as they share stories from a similar past. Eastern Mennonite University, Harrisonburg, Va., sponsored the event and Church World Service, of which ELCA is a member, contributed $25,000 to the program.
* Bekure Daba of the Ethiopian Evangelical [Lutheran] Church Mekane Yesus, is Ethiopia's first ordained woman. Bekure, 39, has served the church in women's ministries since she graduated from Addis Ababa's Mekane Yesus Theological Seminary.
* Vashti McKenzie, pastor of Payne Memorial Methodist Church, Baltimore, was elected bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church — the first woman to hold the post in the denomination's 213-year history. "The stained-glass ceiling has been cracked, has been opened," she said. "Women are considered by gifts, talents, skills and what we call `the call of God' and out gender just happens to be part of who you are. It's not a barrier. It's not a limitation to your leadership."
* Iceland, whose population is 90 percent Lutheran, celebrated 1,000 years as a Christian nation with a gathering at Thingvellir. The Iceland 2000 Millennium of Christianity included 2,000 children singing a parade depicting events from the history Iceland for 1,000 years (see also page 61).
* Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam, who brought thousands of African American men together for the Million Man March five years ago, is calling for a multiracial, interfaith Million Family March on Oct. 16. "When there is no strong marriage and no strong family, there is no strong community," he said. About 10,000 couple are scheduled to be married and 1 million couples will renew their vows, Farrakhan added.
* Officials at Canterbury Cathedral turned down a request from Warner Bros. film company to use shots of the medieval building to portray Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry for the movie it is making of J.K. Rowlings' "Harry Potter" book series. Some conservative and evangelical Christians object to the book's use of magic and the occult. In the United States, some Christians have lobbied to remove the books from school library shelves.
* Religious leaders from war-torn Sierra Leone are backing calls for rebel leader Foday Sankoh to be tried for war crimes that include murder, rape and mutilation of civilians, during a military campaign that Sankoh funded by selling diamonds from rebel-controlled territories to the West. Solidarity from ecumenical bodies should continue, said Tom Barnett, president of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Sierra Leone, "to bring to the [attention of the] international community the very, very tough situation, the abuse of human rights, the insecurity that exists."
* Afghanistan's Taliban militia revoked an order that prohibited women from working for foreign relief agencies, said Eric de Mul, U. N. coordinator for Afghanistan, who helped negotiate the issue. Women in Afghanistan were ordered to stop working with international humanitarian groups July 6. Women have lived under strict controls in Afghanistan since the Taliban militia seized control of Kabul, the Afghan capital, in 1996.
* Nearly 40 percent of people shopping for Bibles leave the store without one, according to a Zondervan Publishing House study. Most either cannot make up their minds or don't find what they are looking for, the study showed.
* The Roman Catholic Church — along with the United States, France and the U.N. Security Council — bears some responsibility for the death of 500,000 Tutsis and Hutus in 1994 in Rwanda, states a report by an international panel formed by the Organization for African Unity. The panel wrote that Rwanda's genocide began with Roman Catholic missionaries and Belgium and German colonial rulers who helped promote the idea that the nation's majority Hutu population was inferior to the Tutsis. President Clinton, the Anglican Church, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the prime minister of Belgium have all apologized for not helping to end the massacre, but the French government and the Catholic Church have not.
* Admitting it used forced labor during World War II, Germany's Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) — made up of 24 Lutheran, Reformed and United regional churches — will contribute $4.7 million to a newly established reparations fund for survivors of Nazi atrocities. "There is evidence that forced labor was used by the church, particularly in areas such as forestry and in the churches' social services," said a spokesman for the denomination.
* General Mills apologized for including CD-ROMs of games in cereal boxes that, unknown to the company, included the Bible. "While inclusion of the Bible may be seen as added value by some, it is the company's policy not to advance any particular set of religious beliefs," says a statement by General Mills. But Rhinosoft Interactive of Wisconsin, the company that helped created the CD-ROM, said General Mills knew about the Bible's inclusion.
* Some Indonesian soldiers are taking sides in religious violence between Christians and Muslims in eastern Indonesia, said Rear Air Marshall Graito Usodo. "This is inevitable and we admit the existence of these cases," he said. Religious fighting has claimed 4,000 lives in eastern Indonesia's Maluku provinces since January 1999.
* Robert Runcie, 78, archbishop of Canterbury from 1980 to 1991, died July 11 of prostate cancer. In tribute to his successor, Archbishop George Carey cited Runcie's contributions to the church, including the 1985 publication of the Faith in the City report, which offered a damning indictment of deprivation and poverty in inner-city areas. Subsequently, Runcie oversaw the establishment of the Church Urban Fund to support anti-poverty initiatives.
* Presbyterian congregations have the right to protest churchwide policy but not to openly violate it, ruled the church's Permanent Judicial Commission. The decision stemmed from a dispute by Christ Presbyterian in Burlington, Vt., which chose to ignore churchwide standards requiring "fidelity in marriage and chastity in singleness." The Northern England Presbytery, which oversees Presbyterian churches in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, originally instructed the church to get into compliance, but then rescinded that order. The Permanent Judicial Commission found that presbytery was not doing enough to enforce church law.
© 2014 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers