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International briefing

[Episcopal News Service]   
  • AUSTRALIA: Historic ordination service brings hope and confidence
  • BRAZIL: World Council of Churches to focus on society of many faiths
  • ENGLAND: Ethical investment, women bishops, slave trade debated by General Synod
  • SOUTH AFRICA / ENGLAND: Tutu, Williams comment on offensive cartoons of Muhammad

AUSTRALIA: Historic ordination service brings hope and confidence

[ENS, SOURCE: Anglican Church of Australia] The largest ordination service ever held in the Diocese of Sydney took place in St. Andrew's Cathedral, Sydney, on Saturday, February 4, at 10 a.m. The sight of 47 young men to be made deacons, two young ladies being commissioned as Diocesan Lay Workers and two Sudanese ministers being licensed, sent a message of hope and confidence in the future of the Anglican Church in the Diocese of Sydney.
        The service was led by the Archbishop of Sydney, Dr. Peter Jensen. The Rev. Dr. Mark Thompson, Academic Dean of Moore Theological College, was the guest speaker and Bishop Hector Zavala of Chile was a special visitor at the invitation of Jensen.
        "The fact that Bishop Zavala is standing with us is a signal that we are committed not just to Sydney but also to 'all the world,'" Jensen said. "The Diocese of Sydney has a special relationship with the Diocese of Chile and provides support for theological education as well as people for ministry in Chile."

BRAZIL: World Council of Churches to focus on society of many faiths
By Stephen Brown

[ENS, SOURCE: Ecumenical News International] The complexity of a world with many faiths holding differing value systems will be a key issue for the forthcoming assembly of the World Council of Churches (WCC), says its general secretary, the Rev. Samuel Kobia.
        "All Christians are being challenged to look at their identity in the context of a new religious plurality," Kobia noted in advance of the February 14-23 gathering in Porto Alegre, Brazil, that will bring together more than 4,000 people from the world's major Christian traditions.
        "While the 20th century was dominated by confrontations between ideologies, 'identity' is emerging as one of the characteristic divisive features of the 21st century," said Kobia, who has been the church grouping's top executive officer since January 2004. When he assumed his post, Kobia said inter-faith dialogue would be important in his tenure.
        The Geneva-based WCC was founded in 1948 but the Porto Alegre meeting - the WCC's ninth assembly - will be the first to be held in Latin America, under the theme, "God, in your grace, transform the world." The assembly is the WCC's highest decision-making body and meets about every seven years.
        The assembly will also be meeting "at a time of widespread injustice, poverty and despair," Kobia noted. "Economic and cultural globalization, new forms of militarism and domination, and ecological destruction have rarely been so evident. The prevailing international economic and political models have failed to stem the tide of injustice and inequality."
        Previous WCC assemblies have met in Amsterdam, the Netherlands (1948); Evanston, United States (1954); New Delhi, India (1961); Uppsala, Sweden (1968); Nairobi, Kenya (1975); Vancouver, Canada (1983); Canberra, Australia (1991); and Harare, Zimbabwe (1998).

ENGLAND: Ethical investment, women bishops, slave trade debated by General Synod

[ENS] Ethical investment, women bishops and Britain's role in the 19th century slave trade were some of the issues raised by the Church of England's General Synod, which met February 7-10 in London, England.
        After extensive debate and six unsuccessful amendments, the synod carried a motion by 348 votes to 1 that welcomes "the options for removing the legal obstacles to the ordination of women to the episcopate," as recommended by the "Guildford Group" that was set up by the House of Bishops to assess a range of possible options. With this motion, the Church of England could consecrate women bishops as early as 2012. Details about "Transferred Episcopal Arrangements" for those opposed to the ordination of women bishops have yet to be finalized. [The full text of the motion can be found online at:]
        The Synod also carried a motion that supports "morally responsible investment in the Palestinian occupied territories," especially when dealing with companies "profiting from the illegal occupation." In a February 10 letter to England's Chief Rabbi, Dr. Jonathan Sacks, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams expressed his "deep regret" at the effect on "Jewish friends and neighbours" of how the Synod's decision had been perceived.
        He stressed, however, that the Synod vote did not intend or effect a disinvestment policy nor initiate a boycott, but was rather an expression of disquiet at the prospect of the church making financial profit from a controversial security policy.
        "Our response was ... to continue to examine our policy, to engage with companies about whom we had concerns and, specifically, to encourage a fact-finding visit to the Holy Land," Williams said. [The full text of the letter can be found online at:]
        In another move, the Synod, by unanimous vote, apologized for its role in the British slave trade in the 19th century, calling on the archbishops' council to address, with greater seriousness, the legacy of the trade.
        Williams said, "The Body of Christ is not just a body that exists at any one time; it exists across history and we therefore share the shame and the sinfulness of our predecessors," said Williams. 

Detailed reports about the Church of England's General Synod can be found online at:

SOUTH AFRICA / ENGLAND: Tutu, Williams comment on offensive cartoons of Muhammad
By Fredrick Nzwili 

[ENS, SOURCES: Ecumenical News International, Lambeth Palace] Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu has apologized to the global Islamic community over cartoons in a Danish newspaper caricaturing the prophet Muhammad, but urged Muslims incensed over the publication to exercise tolerance and forgiveness in their protests.
 "We would wish to send to the [Muslim] community the message of our distress, and hope they will be able ... in the end to forgive what has really upset them very deeply," said Tutu while attending the dedication of an All Africa Conference of Churches ecumenical centre named after him in Nairobi on February 9.
 In his message, Tutu, the former Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, said Christians would be distressed if someone had portrayed Jesus in an offensive way, and Jews if the holocaust was depicted in a dismissive manner.
 "We pray their hearts will be persuaded and if protests have to continue, we hope the protests would be peaceful and dignified, as it is befitting of people of faith," said Tutu, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 leading peaceful protests against South Africa's racist apartheid system.
 Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams made remarks about respect and civility at a February 7 dinner given by the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayor of London.
 "The controversies over free speech versus blasphemy and offence have cast quite a shadow over the prospects of increased trust between different cultures and faiths," he said. "The Western World likes to think that it is inviting other cultures into a peaceful and enlightened atmosphere of civility. But the 'strangers' invited in may well be dismayed to discover that this peacefulness and enlightenment seems to include license to express some very unpeaceful and unenlightened attitudes to minorities of various kinds. Just what kind of 'civility is this' the newcomer could ask."

Williams' comments can be found online at: