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International briefing

[Episcopal News Service]   
  • AFRICA: Launch of African voice to ensure delivery to continent's poor
  • AUSTRALIA: Advertising campaign to challenge Da Vinci Code film
  • CANADA: Brochure explains new residential schools agreement
  • CANADA: Bishops ask General Synod to help poorer dioceses
  • CENTRAL AMERICA: Martín Barahona re-elected Primate of IARCA
  • ENGLAND: 'Da Vinci Code' filming fee funds rebuttal at Winchester Cathedral
  • ENGLAND: Church calls for joined-up approach to help victims of human trafficking
  • KENYA: 'Gospel of Judas' sparks debate in Kenya
  • KENYA: Episcopal Relief and Development provides emergency assistance after drought
  • NEW ZEALAND: Anglican 'parliament' to meet in Christchurch, new leader to be elected
  • NIGERIA: Archbishop Akinola joins Pope Benedict XVI in Time's top 100
  • SOUTH AFRICA: Finnish Lutherans and Southern African Anglicans unite to address social ills
  • SUDAN: Lui and Missouri dioceses sign covenant, form companion relationship
  • SUDAN: Episcopal Relief and Development assists internally displaced in Darfur

AFRICA: Launch of African voice to ensure delivery to continent's poor

[Source: Church of the Province of Southern Africa] One of the strongest homegrown voices for African development, the African Monitor, will soon be lobbying the plight of the continent's people, the poor in particular, in the corridors of power all over the world.

African Monitor will press for urgent and effective implementation of commitments to Africa in ways that deliver tangible development at grassroots level.

The African civil society voice, described as the missing "fourth piece of the jigsaw," alongside existing stakeholders of donor governments and institutions, their African counterparts, and donor-
based NGOs and civil society, will be launched in Cape Town on May 3.

The launch will be a product of ten months of consultation, consolidation and project design.

With the backing of Anglican Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane of Cape Town, African Monitor will raise its voice to ask the powerful and influential if their promises of development are being kept, if such promises are making any difference at grassroots level and if the African marginalized masses are experiencing any real development.

Ndungane says the African Monitor came after a realization to maintain the development agenda set in 2005 through the "Year of Africa," prioritized by the Commission for Africa Report, the G8 Gleneagles Summit, and with the UN Special Summit and WTO Doha Round having a focus on development.

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AUSTRALIA: Advertising campaign to challenge Da Vinci Code film

[Source: Anglican Communion News Service] The Anglican Church in Sydney will launch a cinema advertising campaign this month aimed at challenging the claims made by “The Da Vinci Code” that Jesus was not God, did not die on the cross and that he married Mary Magdalene and had a family.

The cinema advert will screen on 250 screens across Sydney for four weeks from May 11.

"Our aim is to get people to discover the truth about Jesus," said Allan Dowthwaite, CEO of Anglican Media Sydney. "The concept for the cinema advert was to engage with the same questions raised by 'The Da Vinci Code,' but then also raise the question of how Jesus himself might respond to these claims."

The advert promotes a website, , developed by Anglican Media Sydney.

Bishop Robert Forsyth, chairman of Anglican Media Sydney, says that the campaign is important because "when it comes to Jesus, there is a huge information void for many people."

"Our concern is that 'The Da Vinci Code' will mislead people about the truth," said Forsyth. "We are not afraid of the film. We are not seeking to discourage people from seeing it. But we are well aware of the power popular films have in filling the information void about Jesus."

A key part of the strategy involves linking people back into local congregations. As a result, the site also encourages people to find out the truth about Christianity by visiting seminars run by local churches.

The advert was conceived and produced by Anglican Media Sydney and has a slightly tongue-in-cheek tone. The advert can be viewed online at

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CANADA: Brochure explains new residential schools agreement

[Source: Anglican Church of Canada] General Synod Communications of the Anglican Church of Canada has announced the publication of a new resource that describes the new Residential Schools Agreement recently negotiated with the federal government. The 2003 agreement, which capped the church's liability for residential schools litigation at CAN$25 million (US$22.6 million), was renegotiated after the federal government reached a more favorable agreement with the Roman Church.

Although most of the negotiations were carried out with the former Liberal government, the recently elected Conservative government announced in Parliament this week that the renegotiated terms had been accepted by all parties in the negotiations and that the government would move towards swift implementation.

Representatives of General Synod and the church's 30 dioceses have already approved the new agreement.

The new General Synod resource, titled "The Agreement in Brief – 2006" explains the differences between the new agreement and the one the church signed in 2003, and stresses that although financial terms of the new agreement are more favorable, the church's primary commitment to healing and reconciliation with indigenous people remains the same.

The new resource is available in PDF format at:

CANADA: Bishops ask General Synod to help poorer dioceses
by Solange de Santis

[Source: Anglican Journal] Bishops of the Anglican Church of Canada, at their regular spring meeting, responded to a call for more support for poorer dioceses, asking that the cost of their attendance next year at General Synod be subsidized and discussing contributions to a proposed endowment fund.

Eleven less-populated and less-affluent dioceses, whose bishops meet semi-annually in an informal grouping called Council of the North, presented a report which noted that General Synod support for those dioceses has declined to CAN$2.37 million (US$2.14 million) for 2006 from $3.55 million (US$ 3.21 million) in 1993. There are 30 dioceses in the Canadian church.

The effect of this decrease, coupled with increases in the cost of living and the necessity of ministering to remote First Nations communities, has led to staff cuts in bishops' offices and cuts to many programs, including youth and evangelism, the report said.

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CENTRAL AMERICA: Martín Barahona re-elected Primate of IARCA

by Susana Barrera

[Source: Anglican Episcopal Church of El Salvador] Bishop Martín Barahona was re-elected as Primate of the Anglican Church of the Region of Central America (IARCA).

"For the good of the Province, we have smoothed things over and the voting was unanimous," said Bishop Sturdie W. Downs of Nicaragua. The election was ratified by the House of Deputies (clergy and laity).

"This is the path of our Province: we still are walking in the desert, looking for the promised land," said Barahona while thanking those present for his re-election.

Barahona, 63, is also bishop of the Diocese of El Salvador and has been elected for a period of four years.

For the same period of time, Bishop Julio Murray of Panama was elected vice-president of the Provincial Council and House of Bishops of IARCA.

The Rev. Glenda McQueen was elected president of the House of Deputies (clergy and laity). Vice president of the House is Ana Emilia Gómez.

-- Translated by the Rev. Canon Lee Alison Crawford, communications officer, Fundacion Cristosal

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ENGLAND: 'Da Vinci Code' filming fee funds rebuttal at Winchester Cathedral
By Martin Revis

[Source: Ecumenical News International] Proceeds from a reported 20,000 British pounds (US$36,800) paid by the Sony Corporation for permitting scenes from the "Da Vinci Code" to be filmed within Winchester Cathedral in southern England during October 2005, have funded an exhibition that responds critically to Dan Brown's ecclesiastical fictional thriller.

"Cracking the Code," which visitors can see as part of the standard four pound admission fee to the cathedral, opened on April 24 and will run until July 21 with a program of lectures expounding points of the Christian faith and pointing to mistakes in the book, which has sold 40 million copies worldwide.

Storyboards in an area filmed invite visitors to consider some of the ideas in the book, such as the role of Mary Magdalene, her purported marriage to Jesus, and suggestions she figures in Leonardo's painting of The Last Supper.

A spokesperson for Winchester diocese told Ecumenical News International the fee included some preparation costs for the filming, the mounting of a subsequent exhibition and educational program, so it was not possible to give a precise figure.

The Winchester Cathedral Chapter took the decision to allow filming after London's Westminster Abbey refused a similar request. It explained that the money would help defray cathedral maintenance costs which amount to 6,000 pounds daily.

A press statement at the opening said: "We want to offer visitors the opportunity to make their own minds up on The Da Vinci Code, to learn about some of the mistakes in the novel as well as something of the history of the Church, and to understand more about the great spiritual mystery lying at the heart of Christian belief." In an opening lecture, Professor Michael Wheeler, a lay canon, said the book was "good as a white knuckle narrative of the kind seen in action pictures" but it did not have much to do with religion. The prose was "stilted and often worse" and "even at the simplest level of accuracy, nobody has bothered to check the text for verbal slips."

ENGLAND: Church calls for joined-up approach to help victims of human trafficking

[Source: Church of England] The Church of England has welcomed steps being taken to support victims of human trafficking, in an official response to Home Office proposals for a UK action plan designed to tackle the issue.

"Trafficking, whether for sexual exploitation, forced labor or removal of organs, treats human beings abusively and oppressively as a means to the enrichment and gratification of others," Bishop Tom Butler of Southwark wrote in a paper that will add to calls for tougher action on those who perpetrate such crimes. "It is totally contrary to Christian teaching and deserves the same unremitting opposition as other forms of slavery."

The submission argues that an effective response to the problem will only be reached by targeting both the "supply" of and "demand" for trafficked people.

The response also welcomes recent Government action in responding to the plight of those caught up as victims of trafficking, and urges politicians to go a step further by signing up to Article 13 of the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings. This would require the Government to provide for a recovery and reflection period of at least one month to enable a suspected victim to escape from the influence of the traffickers and to take an informed decision on co-operating with the authorities: "We understand the Government's hesitation in signing up to these requirements, but we consider that on balance the need to provide unambiguous support to genuine victims in a situation of extremity outweighs the real risk of abuse of these provisions," says the bishop.

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KENYA: 'Gospel of Judas' sparks debate in Kenya
By Fredrick Nzwili

[Source: Ecumenical News International] The "Gospel of Judas," an ancient manuscript released in April and favorable to the disciple who, according to the Bible, betrayed Jesus, has triggered debate in Kenya, an East African nation where Christianity is on the upsurge.

"Anything that contradicts the established Christian values has the effect of twisting the truth and going against the Church," Anglican Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi told reporters regarding the recently discovered texts on Judas.

The new document replaces the portrayal of Judas as betrayer with a view that he was, in fact, Jesus' most loyal and steadfast disciple.

Some church leaders in Kenya fear the text, dating to the third or fourth century, could sway their followers, but others say it will have little impact on most Christians as they have long read in their Bibles that Judas was indeed a close disciple of Jesus before he betrayed him to ruling Roman authorities.

"It will raise heavy dust in the academic circles, but since most Christians in Africa are evangelical and conservative, it will be dismissed as concocted," Professor Zablon Thamburi, a former presiding bishop of the Methodist Church of Kenya, told Ecumenical News International. Still, he added, "It is a very important document to scholars."

The document was released in April by the Washington-based National Geographic Society, which announced plans to exhibit the manuscript and make it the centerpiece for a magazine article and a television documentary. The papyrus manuscript, probably written around AD 300 in Coptic script, is said to be a copy of an earlier Greek manuscript.

Roman Catholic Archbishop Raphael Ndingi Mwana a' Ndingi noted that when the Church set down the books that made up the Bible it included only the Gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. "Anything else is mere speculation and is not accepted, as it was not inspired by God," the archbishop told the Sunday Nation newspaper.

KENYA: ERD provides emergency assistance after drought

[Source: Episcopal Relief and Development] Episcopal Relief and Development (ERD) is providing emergency assistance to people in Kenya affected by severe drought. While parts of the country have received heavy seasonal rains, thousands living in districts in northern Kenya and millions in neighboring countries in East Africa, such as Tanzania and Somalia, continue facing food crises.

Nomadic herding communities are most at risk, with 70 percent of the animals dead. Many communities have lost two consecutive harvests and nearly all their livestock in the drought.

ERD is partnering with Action by Churches Together (ACT) to provide immediate food supplies and clean water to four districts in Northern Kenya: Machakos, Makueni, Kitui and Mwingi. Working with ecumenical partners, ERD will provide both emergency and long-term development support. The assistance will help clean earth dams, excavate and protect shallow wells, install a water piping system and construct sub-surface dams. Community members will be trained on effective management of water points.

"Our work will have a lasting impact on farmers' ability to withstand periods of drought and help bring a level of prosperity to farmers who are at the mercy of erratic rains," said Janette O'Neill, ERD's program director for Africa.

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NEW ZEALAND: Anglican 'parliament' to meet in Christchurch, new leader to be elected

[Source: Anglican Communion News Service] Key issues of leadership will be discussed by more than 110 Anglicans from all over the southern Pacific at a six-day conference in Christchurch beginning May 7.

The General Synod / Te Hinota Whanui is the biennial forum of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, involving 18 bishops, more than 90 delegates, plus youth stewards and officers from New Zealand's largest denomination.

Twelve international delegates will represent the Anglican Church in Samoa, Tonga and Fiji.

Topping the Synod agenda is the election of a new Primate (head) for the Church, and also the shape of the Primacy. The present Archbishop, the Most Rev. Whakahuihui Vercoe, is stepping down after completing his two-year term.

The Synod begins on Sunday, May 7, with a powhiri at 3.30 p.m. in Cathedral Square, outside the Cathedral. It re-convenes at 7 p.m. that evening at the Holiday Inn with an opening address from Vercoe.

The business sessions begin on Monday, May 8, and will run until Friday, May 12.

The meeting will be presented with three future leadership models, and most of Monday will be given over to debating the options.

Those options include leadership shared between the senior bishops of each of the three Tikanga, or cultural streams, within the Church. Whatever the model chosen, the results of the election that will follow will be announced, probably around Tuesday lunchtime.

At the "Service of Installation" on Thursday evening at the Cathedral, the new Primate -- or Primates -- will be sworn in.

There are three major tasks to be attended to at meetings of the General Synod -- to receive reports from the Church's many commissions, agencies and organizations; to elect people to the many bodies that carry out specialist and ongoing support work for the life of the Church; and to pass laws that will regulate the common life of the Church as a whole.

For more information, please contact:

Lloyd Ashton, Media Officer to the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia
Phone: +64 (09) 521-0192
Fax: +64 (09) 528-2219
Mob: +64 (021) 348-470

NIGERIA: Archbishop Akinola joins Pope Benedict XVI in Time's top 100

[Source: Ecumenical News International] Nigerian Anglican Archbishop Peter Akinola joins Pope Benedict XVI in making TIME magazine's list of this year's 100 most influential people.

The two Christian leaders join US President George Bush, Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk, Chinese environmentalist Ma Jun, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and Microsoft's founder Bill Gates and his wife Melinda.

TIME has lauded 100 people in different categories in its latest edition, and Pope Benedict, Akinola and Iraqi Muslim Shiite religious and military leader Muqtada al-Sadr are among the clerics.

They are named in the category "Leaders & Revolutionaries." TIME describes them as "dictators, democrats, holy men (and a TV host) -- these are the people with the clout and power to change our world."

Of Akinola, American evangelical pastor and author Rick Warren writes: "Peter Akinola captured headlines last year for leading the worldwide revolt of evangelical Anglicans against the ordination of a gay bishop in the US by the Episcopal Church. But to caricature his ministry with that one issue would severely underestimate his importance. Akinola personifies the epochal change in the Christian church, namely that the leadership, influence, growth and centre of gravity in Christianity is shifting from the northern hemisphere to the southern."

SOUTH AFRICA: Finnish Lutherans and Southern African Anglicans unite to address social ills

[Source: Church of the Province of Southern Africa] Anglican Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane met with a delegation from Finland, led by Archbishop Jukka Paarma of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, to strengthen ecumenical ties between the two churches and to continue discussions regarding an ongoing partnership.

Discussions have been focused on finding a mutually beneficial model of collaboration between Finland and South Africa, where some of the goals for development, specifically those that deal directly with poverty, may be addressed.

In earlier meetings between the two churches it was agreed that the principles for future collaboration should involve shared visions that include equal participation from the partners in South Africa and Finland.

Areas for collaboration include theological education, training for mission, liturgy and worship, capacity building, gender equity, youth empowerment, achieving the Millennium Development Goals and cultural exchange.

Ndungane said that the Christian church worldwide is being called upon to play an increasing role in nation-building and economic and social development. He said that unfortunately churches in Africa must operate in an environment that is characterized by relatively high levels of poverty, political instability, destructive ethnic conflicts, crime and violence, disease, famine and corruption. A partnership with churches like the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Finland are critical in the socio-economic development process, he added.

"Ultimately we seek socio-economic transformation that will empower all partners, while adding significant value to the global debate on poverty eradication," said Ndungane. This visit is a further step in consolidating the relationship."

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SUDAN: Lui and Missouri dioceses sign covenant, form companion relationship

[Source: Diocese of Missouri] Bishops George Wayne Smith of Missouri and Bullen Dolli of Lui in Sudan signed a covenant creating a relationship between their two dioceses on April 21 during a meeting of the Diocesan Synod in Lui. The relationship received a unanimous vote of approval from the synod. It had been approved by the Diocesan Convention in Missouri last November. The signing was celebrated with a Eucharist at which the Rev. Anne Kelsey preached. Kelsey is rector of Trinity Church in St. Louis and is in Sudan as vice chair of the Diocesan Council. Also on the trip were Ida Early, president of the diocesan Standing Committee, and the Rev. Dan Smith, canon to the ordinary. The Missouri delegation returned to the United States on April 27.

SUDAN: Episcopal Relief and Development assists internally displaced in Darfur

[Source: Episcopal Relief and Development] Episcopal Relief and Development (ERD) is providing emergency assistance to people displaced by ongoing violence and unrest in the Darfur region of Sudan.

The conflict, which began in 2003, has intensified as armed rebels, known as the Janjaweed, continue to destroy villages. In recent months, militias have driven more than 55,000 people from their homes in South Darfur. An estimated 400,000 people have died from violence, disease and hunger. Two million have been left homeless.

ERD is working with partners in Action by Churches Together (ACT) to provide basic supplies such as blankets, sleeping mats, and watering cans to 35 locations in South and West Darfur. The support will also help provide water and build sanitation facilities to prevent the outbreak of disease.

"The situation is dire. Immediate action is needed to prevent more deaths and suffering," said Janette O'Neill, ERD's Program Director for Africa.

ERD has been working with the Episcopal Church of Sudan and the Sudan Development and Relief Agency to begin rebuilding communities and provide skills training as well as other programs in the areas of food security and primary health care.

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