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Worldscan

• After a two-day conference with Pope John Paul II, 12 U.S. cardinals developed a “skeletal” outline for a zero tolerance policy for priests who molest children. Bishop Wilton Gregory, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the issue wouldn’t be finalized until the bishops’ general meeting in June. Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, archbishop of Washington, said it was “pretty clear that the Holy Father is calling for zero tolerance.” McCarrick said zero tolerance shouldn’t necessarily apply if it was “something that happened maybe 30, 40 years ago and has never happened since.” But Gregory said, “I would remove anyone who has ever had a credible accusation.”

Evangelical, Orthodox, Pentecostal, mainline Protestant and Roman Catholic leaders met April 4-6 in Chicago, provisionally calling themselves “Christian Churches Together in the U.S.A.” The group is inviting any denomination that confesses the Trinity and acknowledges Jesus as God and Lord to participate in a discussion about developing a common Christian witness in the United States. “The hope is that we’ll have an entity where much conversation and dialogue can take place that will represent a much broader spectrum than the [National Council of Churches] has traditionally done,” said Jon Enslin, interim ELCA director for ecumenical affairs. NCC members are mostly mainline Protestant churches. CCT-USA will meet again in January.

Christian Krause, president of the Lutheran World Federation, encouraged member churches in Indonesia, a predominantly Muslim country of 228 million, to promote peace and tolerance. It’s only when “we uphold a spirit of tolerance that we are able to ask the same of others,” he said. Indonesian church leaders are concerned about rising levels of corruption, economic mismanagement, poverty and Islamic fundamentalism. Violence has erupted from religious and other tensions in Ambon, Aceh, Irian Jaya and other areas, killing thousands and damaging hundreds of church buildings.

The 3.8 million-member Church of Norway invited its parish councils to respond to proposals that would loosen church-state ties, perhaps in 10 to 15 years. The proposals follow a four-year evaluation of church-state issues by a church-appointed commission. Suggestions include giving all members a direct vote in church elections and providing religious freedom and government support for all religious communities.

• In an April 30 statement, members of a National Council of Churches' peace delegation urged Israel to "cooperate fully" with a U.N. investigation in Jenin, and expressed objection "to the withholding of food, water and medical supplies" to those inside the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. The delegation stated: "We condemn equally and unequivocally both the suicide bombings and Palestinian violence against Israeli society and the violence of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories. ... Both societies are caught in a cycle of violence and revenge."

• Citing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, theLutheran World Federation moved its September council meeting from Jerusalem to Wittenberg, Germany. The LWF changed its plans—the second time in two years—with regret and an acknowledgment that meeting in Jerusalem would have shown support for Israelis and Palestinians. At presstime, the LWF Executive Committee still planned to meet in Jerusalem in June.

• A survey by Quinnipiac University, Hamden, Conn., found that 77 percent of 1,347 Americans surveyed favor the resignation of Roman Catholic bishops who did not report allegations of child sexual abuse by priests. The survey also reported that 34 percent those polled thought required celibacy and the prohibition of marriage for priests was a major factor contributing to abuse; 31 percent disagreed. Yet 93 percent professed trust in their priest, minister or rabbi.

An Action by Churches Together delegation traveled to Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia to investigate reports of sexual abuse and violence against refugee children. The group will try to ascertain the extent, causes and effects of the abuse. It will also look at how churches and faith-based organizations can combat abuse through healing and preventative measures. Several of ACT’s workers were implicated in the accusations.

Anti-Semitic violence increased in 2001 and 2002, according to a study by the Stephen Roth Institute at Tel Aviv [Israel] University. Arabs and Muslims in west European locations carried out most of the violencethe study says, attributing the this increase in violence to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the U.S. war against terrorism.

Anthony Okogie, Roman Catholic archbishop of Nigeria’s Lagos Archdiocese, offered to die in place of a Muslim woman condemned by Islamic Sharia law to be stoned to death for adultery. Okogie said he acted in protest of a legal system that deliberately persecutes Christians and poor people.

• The Sudanese government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army agreed to stop intentional air and ground attacks on civilian targets. Despite this agreement, the government imposed a flight ban in southern Sudan, where 1.7 million people need food, medical supplies or other aid, according to the U.N. World Food Program. The government also violated the agreement in the Upper Nile by destroying civilian food and seed supplies, leaving more than 60,000 people at risk of starvation.

• In May, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) laid off 66 (12 percent) full-time employees at its national offices to cut $5.7 million from its budget. The church needed to pay for a $3 million shortfall and $2.5 million in new spending. It also won’t fill 21 vacant national positions or rehire in 34 missionary posts where personnel are retiring or completing terms of service. The denomination is eliminating grants to several church bodies, including the financially troubled National Council of Churches.

• International Christian Concern, a group that raises awareness of abuses to religious freedom, says it found evidence of Vietnamese campaigns against Christianity. The Hmong Christian population, a minority within Vietnam, reported government interference, harassment and limitations of religious freedom. Government officials label Christianity a U.S. strategy for attacking communism; some TV and radio sources have reported a plan to eradicate Christianity from Vietnam entirely.

• At the March meeting of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, the Lutheran World Federation presented a statement rebuking the United Nations for omitting caste-based discrimination from the forms of racism discussed at the 2001 U.N. World Conference Against Racism, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance. The LWF cited 250 million dalits in South Asia, 3 million Burakumin in Japan, and an unknown number of minorities in Africa as targets of caste discrimination and called upon U.N. subcommittees to examine the issue.

Studies show Islam, Sikhism, evangelical Protestantism, mainline Protestantism and Roman Catholicism are experiencing an increase in involvement in Canada. University of Lethbridge study researcher Reginald Bibby found that weekly attendance is up 22 percent for Anglicans and 16 percent for Lutherans. The increase of worshipers in mainline Protestant and Roman Catholic churches ends a 30-year decline.

Churches in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, denounced a new law banning civil and religious public gatherings—with the exception of worship services—held without government authorization. Fifteen denominations, including Lutherans, signed a statement demanding the freedom to hold prayer meetings and suggesting the churches would defy the ordinance. The churches also opposed political violence and injustice in Zimbabwe, accusing police of unjustly applying the law to protect the current president’s political campaign.

• With $3.26 billion in revenue for 2001, Aid Association for Lutherans ranked 475 on the Fortune 500 list. Fortune magazine ranks the largest U.S. companies in order of revenue. Lutheran Brotherhood ranked 537 with a revenue of $2.7 billion.

• Ecumenical religious and civil groups in Guatemala hosted an April convention in Guatemala City to support struggling efforts to implement the 1996 peace accords meant to end more than three decades of civil conflict. A National Council of Churches delegation, which included Lutheran leaders and 50 Guatemalan leaders, participated. In 1992, the NCC, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Council of Churches and the Latin American Council of Churches met in Guatemala with the goal of forging lasting peace, engaging in a process of informal conversation and building relationships with Guatemalans from the military and civil society, guerrilla groups and indigenous people.

• The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, along with the Lutheran Church­Missouri Synod and other church bodies, submitted a brief to the California Supreme Court arguing that Catholic Charities should not be required to offer contraceptive coverage to female employees. Although the state law includes exemptions for religious organizations, a lower court ruled that Catholic Charities is not eligible based on stated criteria. The brief says requiring Catholic Charities to support the use of birth control, a practice the Catholic Church condemns, is an intrusion of the state into the autonomy of the church.

• Bishop Zephania Kameeta identified issues for the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Republic in Namibia to address: HIV/AIDS treatment for the 10 percent of Namibians infected with the virus, care for children orphaned by HIV/AIDS, and education to change cultural views that emphasize the power of men over women, a value Kameeta says is reinforced by Namibians of both genders and perpetuates violence against women and children.


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