Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey, 66, plans to step down this fall. In his 11 1/2 years, Carey led the Church of England through a troubled time of declining congregations, failed investments, disputes over ordination of women and bans on gay clergy and same-sex marriages. His successor will face similar battles, as well as decisions on whether women can become bishops and whether the church should agree to marry divorcees.
Lutherans in Argentina called for churches abroad to accompany them through the country's worst economic crisis in decades. The crisis results from monthly payments of $1.3 billion on a foreign debt of $132 billion. In a Jan. 12 statement, the United Evangelical Lutheran Church said it can't honor its financial obligations. Although credits exceed debts, "they are impossible to be collected in the short term," said UELC executive secretary Roberto Stein, adding that most members are families with low incomes that were diminished or lost in the crisis.
A racial discrimination lawsuit brought against the Christian Coalition by African American employees was settled in January. Workers will receive $325,000 in exchange for their agreement to drop the suit and permanently refrain from discussing the case. In the suit, the staff members said they were forced to use a back entrance to the Coalition headquarters and were excluded from an employee lunchroom and occasional social and religious events within the company.
Nine Protestant denominations, including three historically African American church bodies, met in Memphis, Tenn., in January to form Churches Uniting in Christ, a partnership that evolved from the Consultation of Church Union. Its goals include collaborative work to fight racism, theological dialogue, and mutual recognition of baptism and clergy. The ELCA, while not a member, pledged to be a "partner in mission and dialogue."
In Boston, Cardinal Bernard Law apologized to more than 130 victims of molestation by John Geoghan, a former priest in the Roman Catholic archdiocese. Geoghan spent 14 years in a Massachusetts parish despite church officials' knowledge of molestation reports. Law, who faces charges of negligence and deceit, announced a new "zero tolerance" policy on abuse.
Flooding in four districts of Malawi in late December and early January destroyed the crops of more than 4,000 farmers and displaced 220 people. The Evangelical Lutheran Development Program, which already was working in Chikwawa and Karonga, plans to offer relief in these two districts heavily affected by the flooding. Agencies already at work in Dedza and Salimawill offer aid to these remaining two districts.
The House of Bishops ofthe Episcopal Church will not discuss at its March meeting — as some conservative groups had hoped — a possible "flying bishops" program that might allow concerned parishes to be overseen by bishops from other geographical areas whose theology and policies more closely resemble the congregation's. They may discuss other options for alternative oversight for conservative parishes, however.
Ishmael Noko, general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation, and Munib Younan, bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan (and Palestine), were among representatives of various world religions called together Jan. 24 by Pope John Paul II for a day of prayer for world peace.
Israeli military forcibly entered and searched the Arab Evangelical School in Ramallah Jan. 18. Samira Nasser, director of the Episcopal school, was threatened with harm if she didn't leave. Soldiers stationed at the school's entrance prevented the rector and a nun from leaving. In response, the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem issued an urgent call for prayer, saying, "It is very serious indeed, when military forces forcibly enter church property."
Faith Works, a faith-based drug rehabilitation and job-training program for fathers in Milwaukee, lost federal funding after a U.S. District judge ruled on a lawsuit filed against the program by the Freedom from Religion Foundation. The court labeled Faith Works' funding from state grants unconstitutional, referring to the program's explicitly religious message as "indoctrination." A trial will examine the constitutionality of Faith Works' operation of a halfway house under contract with the state corrections department.
Flooding and excessive rain in southern Mauritania left 10 dead and 8,000 homeless in January. Many of Mauritania's poor live in mud-brick homes that can't withstand continuous rain. Lutheran World Federation-Department for World Service distributed blankets, clothing, soap and tents to 1,250 people most affected by the disaster.
Churches are protesting a law giving the Czech government greater control over religious life. The law restricts the income of churches to religious activities, rather than civil or social ones, and places the establishment of new church and religious communities under government jurisdiction. Leaders in the Czech Ecumenical Council and the Conference of Czech Bishops call the legislation unconstitutional and compare it to the treatment of religion under communism.
In response to a U.S. proposal,Sudan's government and the Sudanese People's Liberation Movement/Army agreed to a cease-fire in parts of Sudan that will be monitored by international efforts. The cease-fire will enable U.S. and U.N. groups to focus on relief programs for those who have been displaced or imprisoned in the conflict. Although the cease-fire has not yet occurred, Lutheran World Relief considers the agreement a "sign of hope."
On Vatican radio, Cardinal Roberto Tucci, an aide to Pope John Paul II, cautioned the United States against violating the human rights of Taliban members taken prisoner in Afghanistan. Addressing reports that the prisoners would be tried in U.S. military courts without a defense lawyer, Tucci said the United States and its Western allies "should show particularly in this struggle against terrorism that they ... don't accept the same mode of acting as their adversaries."
A Lutheran World Relief program offering aid to 2,000 victims of southern Peru’s June 2001 earthquake was assisted by a $20,000 grant from the Jose M. Garcia Foundation in Bergenfield, N.J. LWR was able to act soon after the earthquake because of pre-established relationships with the community. So far, LWR has helped reconstruct irrigation ditches, provide materials for rebuilding homes and replace livestock.
Indian Christians issued urgent calls for dialogue between India and Pakistan as tensions between the two nations mounted in January. “War is not a solution …,” said Geevarghese mar Coorilos, president of the National Council of Churches in India. Roman Catholic bishops in India, while pledging support for India’s counter-terrorism efforts against Kashmiri separatists, expressed serious concern about the “fallout of war,” arguing the “violence breeds more violence.”
A fall 2001 Barna poll found that while 90 percent of Protestant pastors rate themselves highly in preaching and teaching, 60 percent claim “poor” to “average” fund-raising abilities. Raising money was the only aspect of pastoral ministry to receive lower than “excellent” or “good” ratings from the majority of pastors surveyed. Pastors self-described as “liberal” in theology rated themselves more highly than those of fundamentalist or charismatic churches.
In December, ELCA International Disaster Responsecontributed $50,000 toward the Lutheran World Federation’s relief efforts in Angola. LWF has been involved in Angola since 1985, offering aid to the more than 3 million people displaced by civil war. The ELCA funds will go toward supplies for new camps. Health-care centers offering preventative health education also will be established.
A federal judge ruled Jan. 10 thatit’s not a violation of individual religious freedom for a judo contestant to bow to a picture of the martial art’s founder before a match. John Holm, a Bellevue, Wash., judo center operator and the stepfather of two teenage complainants, said he may appeal the decision. “We have a half-dozen Muslim kids who want to compete in the state championships … and they can’t compete because of their religious beliefs,” he told the Associated Press.
© 2013 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers