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International Briefing

[Episcopal News Service]   
  • ANGLICAN COMMUNION: Anglicans flock to Church for Christmas
  • ANGLICAN COMMUNION: Inter Anglican Standing Commission on Ecumenical Relations meets in Malta
  • BURUNDI: Province celebrates life of former Primate Samuel Sindamuka
  • CENTRAL AFRICA: Zambian Anglican priests call for women in leadership roles
  • IRELAND: Archbishop Robin Eames' New Year message
  • KENYA: Skip a meal to save a life, Archbishop Nzimbi urges citizens
  • LAMBETH PALACE: Archbishop of Canterbury's New Year Message
  • MIDDLE EAST: In shadow of security wall, Bethlehem celebrates festive Christmas
  • PAKISTAN: ERD continues to assist communities devastated by 2005 earthquake
  • WEST INDIES: Education fund to benefit young members of Anglican Church

ANGLICAN COMMUNION: Anglicans flock to Church for Christmas

[SOURCE: Anglican Communion News Service] Churches from around the Anglican Communion reported record attendance at their Christmas services. Carol Services and the traditional Midnight Mass found churches with standing room only, with some places having to turn people away for safety reasons. This was in contrast to news that some mega-churches denominations were closing on Christmas.
        The traditional all-night queue at Kings College Chapel of Our Lady and St. Nicholas, Cambridge, was again evident as hundreds tried to get into the traditional Nine Lessons and Carols, which is broadcast world-over each December 24. This is likely the most widely broadcast Christian worship service in the world.
        The Rev. Paul Lillie, writing from Jerusalem, said, "People were very faithful this year, as they have always been. The Jerusalem Episcopalians braved checkpoints, rainy weather, and brisk winds in order to greet the Holy Child of Bethlehem with their usual warmth and generous spirit. Masses on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were full despite the difficult conditions here." Busloads of Anglicans made their way to Manger Square to sing Carols as well.
        In Times Square, New York, St. Mary the Virgin was packed at Midnight as Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold preached at the Eucharist. At St. Paul's Cathedral, London, people were turned away at the Christmas Eve Carol service, presided over by the Bishop of London, as safety regulations would not allow more inside, thus well over 3,000 were in attendance. At Midnight the cathedral was full again for the Eucharist.
        Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, reported 6,000 people worshipped at the five services over the weekend. Carol Barnwell, Diocese of Texas spokesperson, said that all churches held services on Christmas Day and that Christmas Eve found "record crowds" in all the churches of the diocese.
        Carols at Canterbury Cathedral, Mother church of the Communion, also welcomed long queues and eager people on Christmas Eve afternoon for the service led by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Dean and the choir of men and boys.

Full story by Jim Rosenthal

ANGLICAN COMMUNION: Inter Anglican Standing Commission on Ecumenical Relations meets in Malta

[ENS, SOURCE: Anglican Communion Office] The Inter Anglican Standing Commission on Ecumenical Relations (IASCER) met in Valletta, Malta, from December 4-10, 2005. The Rt. Rev. Dr. Geoffrey Rowell, Bishop of the Church of England Diocese of Gibraltar in Europe, welcomed members, together with a warm welcome from the Rev. Canon Tom Mendel, Chancellor of St. Paul's Pro-Cathedral. The Commission joined the Anglican community for worship at the Pro-Cathedral on the Sunday. The Commission also had the opportunity to meet the Most Rev. Joseph Mercieca, Archbishop of Malta, and were invited to be present at a celebration of the Eucharist in the Co-Cathedral of Saint John, Valletta.
        The Most Rev. Drexel Gomez, Primate of the West Indies, chaired the meeting of the Commission, which is charged with reviewing the present international ecumenical dialogues involving Anglicans, and provincial and regional initiatives towards unity with other Christians. IASCER consists of representatives from each international dialogue involving Anglicans, including the multilateral dialogue of Faith and Order, and of certain other commissions and networks, and consultants who bring particular regional or theological expertise.
        Reports were received from all current bilateral theological dialogues of the Anglican Communion, as well as of developments from particular regions of the globe. The Commission re-
emphasized the importance of the Windsor Report, and urged the Communion to consult ecumenically, particularly as it responds to the proposal for an Anglican Covenant. It also devoted time to developing a response to the Lutheran document "Episcopal Ministry within the Apostolicity of the Church" as invited by the Council of the Lutheran World Federation. The Commission expressed concern over several developments within the Anglican Communion that appear to undermine the confidence that our ecumenical partners can place in the Anglican understanding of the episcopate. IASCER believes that Provinces and other ecclesiastical authorities should exercise extreme caution in taking any steps that appear to contradict the understanding of episcopal ministry expressed and developed over several decades of ecumenical dialogue.
        Canon Professor J. Robert Wright of the General Seminary and Historiographer of the Episcopal Church, said, "IASCER's recent meeting covered a wide range of ecumenical matters, and I think from the viewpoint of many in the Episcopal Church the greatest interest will center upon two resolutions in which IASCER expresses its concern on episcopal 'non-collegiality' across the Anglican Communion and the practice in some places of admitting the non-baptized to Holy Communion."
        Bishop Christopher Epting, the Presiding Bishop's Deputy for Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations, noted with pleasure that three of IASCER's members now are women priests, one from Canada, one from Uganda, and one from South Africa.

Full report

BURUNDI: Province celebrates life of former Primate Samuel Sindamuka

[SOURCE: EAB Burundi] Family and friends, bishops and clergy, the first vice-president representing the Government, and Christians from around the Province of the Anglican Church of Burundi and from other denominations -- including the Roman Catholic Archbishop -- were led by Archbishop Bernard Ntahoturi in giving thanks for the life and ministry of the Most Rev. Samuel Sindamuka at the funeral service held December 29, 2005, in Matana, Burundi.
        On arrival in Matana, Sindamuka's body was taken first to his home where people were able to pay their last respects, offer prayers, and express sympathy to the family. Clergy then carried the coffin towards St. Peter's Cathedral for the service and burial.
        Ordained in 1974 and consecrated Bishop in 1975, Sindamuka became the Archbishop of the Francophone Province of Burundi, Rwanda, and Boga -- Zaire -- in 1987. In 1992, he became the first Archbishop of the newly formed Province of the Episcopal Church of Burundi.
        He led the Church through many difficult years of conflict and civil war in the history of Burundi, and remained strongly opposed to all forms of division, whether ethnic, regional, or other, seeking instead to strengthen faith and love between people.

Full story

CENTRAL AFRICA: Zambian Anglican priests call for women in leadership roles
By Moses Chitendwe

[SOURCE: Ecumenical News International] A senior priest at Lusaka's Cathedral of the Holy Cross, the Rev. Derrick Muwina, has, with the support of two other Anglican clerics, challenged the Anglican Church in Central Africa to start encouraging women to take up positions of leadership in the church.
        Muwina, an assistant priest to Canon William Vwapu, was reported in The Weekly Angel newspaper of December 12-18 urging the younger generation to redress gender imbalances in the church in the southern African nation.
        "We must deliberately encourage a policy in which women are not looked down upon. The problem is that in the Anglican Church, we look down on women as is the case in secular society," said Muwina, cited places like Britain and the United States where women are allowed to serve as lay leaders and in formal leadership roles, including that of priest.
        The (Anglican) Church of the Province of Central Africa includes Botswana, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe. In Zambia, Anglicans represent about two percent or 225,000 people out of a population of 11.2 million.
        The province is among 13 out of 38 churches belonging to the worldwide Anglican Communion that do not ordain women as priests.
        "The time has indeed come for the Provincial Synod to change the system of gender segregation in the Anglican Church," said Muwina. "We are hoping that in no distant future, we can witness women serving as priests in Zambia, Malawi, Botswana and Zimbabwe."

IRELAND: Archbishop Robin Eames' New Year message

[SOURCE: Church of Ireland] The Most Rev. Robin Eames, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, has issued the following New Year message:

"As a new year dawns, hope and confidence must be key words for our whole community.
        The problems which confront us are many -- but so are the possibilities for progress at every level. No one can deny the lessons we have learned from our past of failed initiatives at a political level. No one can take pride in failure -- but we can all benefit from the knowledge of why those attempts failed. Let us pray that fresh efforts to find stability in government and administration of this Province will make real progress in 2006.
        But at the personal level reconciliation cannot be enforced. It comes from hearts and minds which want to move forward with confidence, justice and openness. History will not judge us kindly if we allow old animosities to dictate how we regard each other. Memories run deep throughout this community. But it is how we deal with memories which will determine our future.
        May God guide and strengthen us all as we try to move forward in 2006."

KENYA: Skip a meal to save a life, Archbishop Nzimbi urges citizens

[SOURCE: Catholic Information Service for Africa] Primate of the Anglican Church in Kenya, Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi, has urged Kenyans to skip a meal to save lives of those currently hit by famine.
        Launching his church's famine relief fund, Nzimbi appealed to the international community, the church at large and all Kenyans of goodwill to lend their support to alleviate suffering of those starving.
        "I call on all Kenyans to selflessly share what they have with their needy neighbors in the spirit of love and unity if we are to effectively manage this disaster," he said.
        The Catholic Church has made a similar appeal. About 2.5 million Kenyans are in need of food aid.
 More than 50,000 prisoners across the country kept their promise to skip lunch on New Year's Day and donated 300 bags of maize, beans and rice to famine relief.
        "To provide famine relief today will only be a temporary solution. There is, however, need to exhaustively address this perennial problem through laid-out mechanisms and tested policies as a long-term measure," Nzimbi said.

Full story

LAMBETH PALACE: Archbishop of Canterbury's New Year Message

[SOURCE: Lambeth Palace] Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has issued the following New Year message:

"It's not easy being on your own in a city anywhere; and being on your own in London is pretty challenging. There are all kinds of reasons for people being on their own, of course. Look around here, at this club and drop-in centre in Deptford, and you'll find young people with issues around drugs and employment and homelessness – but you'll also find older people, who've been widowed, or who've been seriously ill, or who've just lost the energy for the struggle in one way or another. The issues are so varied and so deep-rooted. You're bound to ask, 'Just how much can anybody do for anyone else'?
        But this isn't a place where you expect to chalk up a series of dramatic success stories. Those who work here will tell you that the point isn't to solve the problems but chiefly to say to everyone who comes through the door that they don't have to face them alone. They're trying to close the gap that so readily opens up between people. They have realized that at times the most we can do for each other is to say, 'I can't promise to keep you safe, but I'll do all I can to make sure that there's someone with you in the worst moments.
        When disasters and tragedies come on us thick and fast – and this last year has seen so many horrors of suffering, natural and man-made – it's painful to accept that we can't just do something straight away to set it all right. So we need to see that the one thing anyone can do is to try and close the gap, to let others know that they're not on their own."

Full message

MIDDLE EAST: In shadow of security wall, Bethlehem celebrates festive Christmas
By Michele Green

[SOURCE: Ecumenical News International] Bethlehem has celebrated its most festive Christmas since a Palestinian uprising began in 2000 with the largest turnout of pilgrims visiting the town of Jesus' birth for more than five years, Ecumenical News International reports.
        More than 30,000 pilgrims descended on the Palestinian-ruled West Bank town for the festive holiday. The number was twice that of 2004 but far short of the 150,000 visitors who inundated Bethlehem for Christmas in the 1990s.
        Braving chilly weather and pouring rain, pilgrims and local Christians crowded along Manger Square -- bedecked with Christmas decorations -- to watch the traditional Christmas Eve procession by church leaders from Jerusalem to Bethlehem.
        Bethlehem's restaurants, souvenir shops and hotels were crowded with pilgrims, spending well-needed tourist dollars in a town where the economy has suffered a deep recession since the uprising began in 2000.
        Michel Sabbah, the Latin patriarch, conducted Midnight Mass and Christmas Day Mass at St. Catherine's Church, adjoining the grotto revered as Jesus' birthplace.
        "Leaving all violence, all vengeance, freeing political prisoners and putting the past behind can create a new land in which we can assure security for Israelis ... and give Palestinians liberty and an end to occupation," Sabbah, the first Palestinian to serve as the Roman Catholic Church's highest representative in the Holy Land, said in a homily.
        The bells of the Church of the Nativity peeled as local scout bands played Christmas carols, underscoring the holiday atmosphere.
 Still, it was the first Christmas celebrated in the West Bank town since Israel completed construction of a barrier that it says is intended to prevent Palestinian suicide bombers infiltrating into its cities.
        The barrier is mostly fence, but in Bethlehem it is composed of towering concrete walls. As he passed by on his arrival from Jerusalem, Sabbah urged Israel to tear the barrier down.
        Many Palestinians say it has turned the town into a virtual prison and cut off residents from their fields as well as friends and relatives in adjacent Jerusalem.

PAKISTAN: ERD continues to assist communities devastated by 2005 earthquake

[SOURCE: Episcopal Relief and Development] As heavy snow and rain fall in areas of Pakistan impacted by last October's earthquake, Episcopal Relief and Development continues its support aiding communities most affected by the deadly earthquake. Nearly 80,000 people were killed and approximately 3.5 million people, 85% of who are from rural communities, have become homeless. It destroyed over 203,000 dwellings and almost 300,000 are uninhabitable due to damage. An estimated 400,000 people are now believed to be aid-dependent in the highland zone.
        ERD is working with dioceses in the Church of Pakistan to provide relief supplies, shelter materials, and medical care to underserved and isolated areas.
        In Peshawar, ERD's partnership with the Diocese of Peshawar is supporting a field office and static basic health unit in an army tent camp near Bala Kot which is serving approximately 2,400 persons. ERD's support is providing transportation for mobile relief units into upper regions of the mountains and a vehicle that will be converted into an ambulance.
        In Azad Kashmir, ERD's partner, Diocese of Sialkot, is providing medical care through a static unit in Ghaziabad, Bagh District, where more than 100 patients seek care and treatment each day. The unit is staffed by one doctor, two nurses, and a health worker who live at the site. Since the earthquake, the diocese has given medical treatment to 3,500 people and treated wounds of another 1,200 patients.

Full story

WEST INDIES: Education fund to benefit young members of Anglican Church

[SOURCE: Jamaica Gleaner] The Diocese of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands is to establish an education fund to assist with the training of 100 young members of the Anglican Church, who are entering the teaching profession. The training will take place during a five-year period.
        Philip Hamilton, director of Anglican Schools, told The Gleaner yesterday that his church took the decision to set up the fund because there are a number of students who want to be trained as teachers but do not have the funds to finance their education.
        The Rev. Michael Allen, director of Christian Education for the diocese, said that there is a need for more Christian teachers to instill values and discipline in the education system.
        "Like all Jamaicans, we are concerned with values and attitudes in our country and we believe that as a church, we can make a greater contribution in our schools," said Allen. "We would like our church, through our members, to play an active role in our school community so that our school community can make a difference."
        The Anglican Church owns more than 100 learning institutions in Jamaica, 11 of which are high schools and one a teachers' college.
        The Anglican Teacher Education Fund will be launched on February 3 at a fund-raising banquet at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, New Kingston.

Full story by Petrina Francis