• The National Council of the (Lutheran) Church of Norway asked its General Synod to allow people in same-sex registered partnerships to serve as bishops, priests, deacons or catechists. But the council also said a bishop who believes such action violates church teaching should be able to refuse to ordain clergy in same-sex partnerships. Council moderator Nils-Tore Andersen told the Vart Land paper the advice “does not mean the church will have two equally official views on this matter, but that we note the existence of two views.” Church policy currently states that people in same-sex partnerships can’t hold consecrated offices, but bishops in several dioceses have chosen not to discipline priests and deacons in these cases.
• Christians in Bangalore, in the southern Indian state of Karnataka, marched Sept. 22 to protest what they called an alarming increase in attacks on Christians and churches in the region. Hmar Tlomte Sangliana, a Presbyterian member of India’s parliament, led thousands of Christians on the march. Sajan K. George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians told Ecumenical News International that since January 2006 there had been more than 70 serious attacks on Christians in Karnataka.
• Congregations in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, are supplying city residents with water due to a shortage. Ray Motsi, convenor of Churches in Bulawayo, an ecumenical group, said congregations placed water containers at churches, police stations and city council offices. City authorities have imposed water-rationing measures that permit residents access to water for only a few hours every three days. Motsi said the most vulnerable and poor live in the city’s western suburbs. The government said it would not help with water shortages unless the city of 1.5 million agreed to hand over its supply to Zimbabwean ruler Robert Mugabe’s state-run water authority. Bulawayo’s water authority said it would refuse because the government agency is underfunded and can’t control water systems adequately.
• The 2.3-million member Protestant Church in the Netherlands apologized for negative attitudes Lutheran and Reformed Christians have had in the past toward Pentecostal churches. The church’s general secretary, Bas Plaisier, said at a Sept. 15 celebration of the 140,000-member Dutch Pentecostal movement that “even now one still can often sense an attitude of negativity and condescension.” Plaisier said members of his church’s predecessor bodies who left to join Pentecostal movements were often viewed as if they had committed a mortal sin. “I hope that with this centennial celebration we can put an end to this [negative] way of speaking and thinking about one another,” he said.
• Released Sept. 14, the annual U.S. State Department Report on International Religious Freedom said Iran suffers from “continued deterioration of the extremely poor status of respect for religious freedom.” Conditions, the report said, have worsened in Iraq, where insurgency “significantly” harms free practice of religion. The report highlighted China, which allegedly expelled more than 100 foreign missionaries in spring 2007 in an effort described by some nongovernmental groups as a “coordinated government campaign” ahead of the 2008 Olympics. Eight countries were designated as of particular concern: China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Myanmar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Uzbekistan. Serious problems were noted in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia.
• The Ecumenical Coalition on Tourism castigated the U.N. for its decision to hold World Tourism Day with the theme, “Tourism Opens Doors for Women.” Although there were instances “when women do benefit from tourism, this unfortunately does not apply to the majority of women involved in the world of tourism,” according to a coalition statement. Tourism, the coalition said, often results in the sexual exploitation of women, or less than fair payment for women who work in or produce crafts.
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