WCC calls for prayers, help for earthquake survivors in Indonesia

INDONESIA.jpg

As the death toll from an earthquake and tsunami in Indonesia soared above 800 on Sunday 30 September, World Council of Churches general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit urged all people of good will across the world to reach out in support, care, help and prayer to thousands of earthquake survivors coping with the aftermath.

“My prayers are with them and those who lost their lives, and their bereaved families,” Tveit said. “Our lives are vulnerable. Kyrie eleison. God, have mercy!”

The 7.5-magnitude earthquake struck on 28 September on the island of Sulawesi. On 30 September, officials said they expect the death toll to climb as rescuers sifted through the destruction. Aftershocks were still rocking the region, with more than 2.4 million people affected by the quake.

The quake comes weeks after a 5 August earthquake hit the Indonesian island of Lombok, killing more than 430 people. [WCC News]

New Zealanders celebrate 150 years of “glad tidings of great joy” – the Bible in Maori

 Leonard C Mitchell’s depiction of the first Church service in New Zealand, on Christmas Day 1814, as the Revd Samuel Marsden delivers a sermon on Luke 2:10 – “Behold, I bring you glad tidings of great joy.”

Leonard C Mitchell’s depiction of the first Church service in New Zealand, on Christmas Day 1814, as the Revd Samuel Marsden delivers a sermon on Luke 2:10 – “Behold, I bring you glad tidings of great joy.”

The 150th anniversary of the first printed edition of Te Paipera Tapu – the Bible in the Maori language – is being celebrated in New Zealand.

The work that led to the Maori language Bible began years before-hand, when Anglican priest Samuel Marsden, working as a Church Missionary Society (CMS) worker in Sydney, was given permission to establish a mission in New Zealand.

He preached at New Zealand’s first Church service on Christmas Day in 1814, introducing 300 Maori to the Gospel, using as his theme Luke 2:10 – “Behold, I bring you glad tidings of great joy.”

Edited versions of the scriptures – the books of Genesis, Exodus, Matthew and John – were printed in Sydney and shipped to New Zealand; before CMS arranged for a printing press and printer to be shipped to the islands from London. This resulted in the first ever book printed in New Zealand: a 16-page edition of Ephesians and Philippians in Maori, in 1835.

Between 1836 and 1837, the press printed some 5,000 copies of the New Testament in Maori, before the first full Maori Bible was published in 1868.

To mark the sesquicentennial anniversary, that first edition has been made available in digital form, “and this digitised version will be one of the many tools used to help produce a new translation in more contemporary language for today’s Te Reo Māori speakers,” the Bible Society in New Zealand said.

Since that original 1868 edition, three further versions were published in 1889, 1925 and 1952. In 2012 the 1952 edition was published in a reformatted version.

“Translation of any significance takes time, and anecdotal evidence suggests that contemporary Maori usage is already considerably different from the language of the current Maori Bible,” the Bible Society’s Translations Director, Dr Stephen Pattemore, said. “So we need to be pro-active.”

The Bible Society is developing a Maori language Bible app, which will feature the 2012 Maori Bible text, alongside English Bible translations for people who want to compare the two languages. The new app will launch early next year. [ACNS]

WCC honours the legacy of Kofi Annan

 WCC General Secretary Olav Fyske Tveit (left) with former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan  in 2013 (Photo: Peter Williams/WCC)  

WCC General Secretary Olav Fyske Tveit (left) with former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan  in 2013 (Photo: Peter Williams/WCC)
 

Calling Kofi Annan - who died on 18th August and was Secretary-General of the United Nations from 1997 to 2006 - a leader with hard-won wisdom and maturity in our time, the World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary gave thanks to God for Annan's life, which he described as a gift to the United Nations and the whole world.


“He will be recalled as the leader who acted to unify and transform the United Nations,” said Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, the WCC general secretary. Tveit added that Annan was a “liberator who by force of his personality inspired the political leaders and grassroots movement to work for just peace in the world.”


In her reaction to Annan's death, Dr Agnes Abuom, moderator of the WCC Central Committee, said, “We thank God for giving us Kofi Annan for 80 years. Through his life and works he has become an icon of just peace and freedom for all human beings.”


Abuom said: “We will remember Annan for his strong commitment to just peace and mutual accountability. We have lost a great leader and diplomat who served with humility and purpose of the task. As a mediator we in Kenya remember his historic role as he helped save Kenya from the brink of civil war in 2007/2008.  May God rest his soul in eternal peace.”


“Our prayer is all that Annan stood for may become part and parcel of our global values for justice, peace and dignity for the whole humanity,” added Abuom.


WCC President in Europe, Archbishop emeritus Dr Anders Weyryd commented: ”Kofi Annan was a credible and much needed revitaliser of the UN. His integrity and commitment arose respect and renewed the will of many to support the UN and its mission.”


Annan's life was also described by the WCC’s general secretary as “consistent with the best teaching of  nonviolent leadership”. Calling him one of the well deserved Nobel peace laureates, Tveit added that Annan's leadership ideals inspired a new generation and transformed the United Nations during his leadership. Annan also strengthen the role of religious leaders in peace building. [WCC News]

Rare 700-year-old Bible returns to Canterbury Cathedral, five centuries after it was removed

 The Lyghfield Bible returns to Canterbury Cathedral, much to the delight of (left to right) the Canon Librarian, the Revd Tim Naish; Head of Archives and Library Mrs Cressida Williams; and the Dean of Canterbury, the Very Revd Robert Willis. [Photo: Canterbury Cathedral]  

The Lyghfield Bible returns to Canterbury Cathedral, much to the delight of (left to right) the Canon Librarian, the Revd Tim Naish; Head of Archives and Library Mrs Cressida Williams; and the Dean of Canterbury, the Very Revd Robert Willis. [Photo: Canterbury Cathedral]
 

A rare medieval Bible has been returned to Canterbury Cathedral some 500 years after it was removed.

The Lyghfield Bible – named after the 16th Century monk who once owned it – was amongst a number of items removed from the cathedral’s monastic library at the time of the reformation.

The monastic community at Canterbury was one of many which were dissolved on the orders of Henry VIII as he attempted to assert his authority over the newly independent Church and plunder its assets.


The 690-leaf volume was purchased last month from a private seller at a specialist sale of manuscripts in London. The purchase was funded in part through a £96,000 grant from Britain’s National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF) and further funding from the Friends of the National Libraries, the Friends of Canterbury Cathedral and a private donation.


The purchase of the Lyghfield Bible and its return to Canterbury Cathedral means that the rare manuscript will remain in the UK.


“The Lyghfield Bible was written in the latter 13th century on high quality parchment or vellum which is almost tissue-like in quality,” Canterbury Cathedral said. “The fine Latin script and extensive and very fine illumination (decoration) was probably produced in Paris, one of the medieval centres for this type of work.


“The Bible is pocket-sized and as such was designed for personal use, possibly whilst travelling. The volume formed part of the collection of the medieval monastery of the Cathedral in the 16th century, but may well have been in Canterbury well before that time.”


The cathedral’s library and book collection were dispersed following the disbanding of the monastic community, with many volumes destroyed or taken apart for the reuse of their materials. Just 30 volumes of the original library remain at the cathedral.


The Lyghfield Bible is the only complete Bible from the medieval book collection which is now at the Cathedral and is part of a collection which is inscribed on the Unesco UK Memory of the World Register. It is said to be the finest example of a complete illuminated book from that collection.[ACNS]
 

Churches' delegation meets with the Austrian EU Presidency

 Austrian and European church representatives with Karoline Edtstadler in Vienna. [Photo: BMI/Berger]

Austrian and European church representatives with Karoline Edtstadler in Vienna. [Photo: BMI/Berger]

A delegation of Austrian and European church representatives met in Vienna on 23rd July with Karoline Edtstadler, Secretary of State for Home Affairs of the Austrian government, to exchange views on the priorities of the Austrian Presidency of the EU Council.

Regular meetings of churches with the rotating EU Presidency have been taking place for more than 20 years. They are an expression of the regular dialogue between the EU and churches, religious, philosophical, and non-confessional organisations as established in Article 17 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.
 
The starting point for this discussion was a working document entitled 'Austrian Presidency of the Council of the EU - Reflections and Recommendations of the Christian Churches in Europe'.

On the subject of Brexit, the church representatives emphasized the need for efforts to prevent a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Church representatives said that “a visible frontier that jeopardises the common achievement of reconciliation and peace, and divides citizens on both sides must be avoided.”

In the field of migration and asylum policy, the delegation invited EU leaders to work for a Common European Asylum System, and to make it an appropriate tool to manage migration. All participants agreed that Europe is in need of migrants for obvious reasons.

In this area, the church delegation presented to Secretary of State Edtstadler interesting proposals, such as “circular migration,” which should open up legal channels for low-skilled workers who meet the needs of receiving countries. They criticised the criminalisation of migrants and the poor respect for their fundamental rights, and called for their humane treatment in every phase of their journey, including when returning to the country of origin.
 
A final topic addressed during the meeting was climate change and the upcoming COP 24 meeting in Katowice in December. Churches and church relief agencies are profoundly involved in this upcoming United Nations climate summit. The churches hope for a further strengthening of EU leadership in the UN climate negotiations and a leading role of the Presidency in preparing an EU contribution to the climate summit COP 24 in December in Katovice. 
 
The delegation was composed of:
DDr Peter Schipka, Secretary General of the Austrian Bishops’ Conference;
Bishop Dr Michael Bünker, Bishop of the Protestant Church A.B. (Lutheran) in Austria;
Fr. Athanasius Buk, priest of the Greek-Oriental Metropolis of Austria;
Bishop Andrej Cilerdzic, Bishop of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Austria, Vice-President of the Austrian Council of Churches;
Dr Michael Kuhn, Deputy Secretary General of the Commission of Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE);
Rev. Sören Lenz, Executive Secretary of the Conference of European Churches (CEC).
 

[Conference of European Churhces News, abbreviated]

Church of England calls for renewed efforts on nuclear disarmament

 Church of England General Synod in session (Photo: Archbishops' Council)

Church of England General Synod in session (Photo: Archbishops' Council)

The General Synod of the Church of England has backed a motion calling on the Government to restate its commitment to the principles of nuclear arms control and eventual nuclear disarmament in a debate today at the General Synod.

Members of the General Synod urged the Government to ‘respond positively’ to the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, by setting out its strategy for meeting its obligations under Article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

The Bishop of Chelmsford, Stephen Cottrell, told the General Synod that the motion was not about a ‘binary choice’ between unilateral or multilateral approaches but sought instead to give fresh impetus to the debate about nuclear disarmament.

 “What we are voting for this evening is a new national debate about the retention and development of nuclear weapons,” he said.

“We have reached international agreements about other indiscriminate weapons such as chemical weapons and cluster bombs. These agreements are based on established principles in international law around the need for discrimination in conflict – so why can’t we fill the gap in international law and develop plans towards a world without nuclear weapons as well?”

General Synod heard from the Chaplain of the Fleet, Martyn Gough, who paid tribute to the men and women of the Royal Navy who work on the submarines that form the UK’s nuclear deterrent who ‘simply seek to serve God, the Queen and our country.”

“This is a complex and emotional subject, so please as you consider the rights and the wrongs of the nuclear deterrent, remember and pray for the men and women of the Naval Service who have for the past 50 years tried to keep our peace,” he said.

The Bishop of Portsmouth, Christopher Foster, also paid tribute to the ‘tens of thousands of fine young men and women in all the Armed Forces, who put themselves in harm’s way to keep us safe’.


The General Synod welcomed the 2017 UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, and the ‘clear signal’ it sends that nuclear weapons are ‘both dangerous and unnecessary’.

Members also backed work with Anglican Communion and other churches in addressing the reasons why Governments seek to acquire nuclear weapons and to efforts towards achieving a ‘genuine peace’ through their elimination.

The motion has been passed after 122 states voted a year ago to adopt the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, with the Treaty thought likely to be approved later this year at the United Nations General Assembly.

Under Article VI of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, the five recognised nuclear weapons states are permitted to possess nuclear weapons but only if they commit themselves to the principles of nuclear arms control and eventual disarmament. [C of E News]

Prince William welcomed by Archbishop in Jerusalem

 Prince William on a tour of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem (Photo: ACNS)  

Prince William on a tour of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem (Photo: ACNS)
 

By Gavin Drake

The Anglican Archbishop in Jerusalem, Suheil Dawani, has welcomed a visit by the Duke of Cambridge, Prince William, to the area, and the message of peace and harmony that he bought. Prince William completed his five day tour of Jordan, Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories yesterday morning (Thursday 28th June) in Jerusalem’s Old City, where he visited sites sacred to the three Abrahamic religions: the Haram al-Sharif, or Temple Mount, the Western Wall, and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where many Christians belief stands on the site of the crucifixion, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The visit was the first official visit by a member of the UK’s royal family to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

The Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, Theophilos III, invited Archbishop Suheil to accompany Prince William on his tour of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre because of the links between the royal family and the Anglican Communion, through their close connection with the Church of England.

The visit to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was the final stop on a whirlwind five-day tour for Prince William. After spending two days in Jordan, during which he visited a refugee camp housing Syrians fleeing the conflict there, he flew to Tel Aviv before travelling to Jerusalem
His first official engagement in Israel was a visit to Yad Vashem, the international holocaust memorial centre, museum and school. Here the Prince took part in a simple but moving wreath laying ceremony before Britain’s Chief Rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, recited the Jewish prayer for the dead – the El Malei Rachamim. He also met two survivors of the holocaust – two men who, as children, were put on specially chartered trains for Jewish children – the Kinder Transport – taking them to safety in the UK.

“By visiting the Old City . . . he really sent a very strong message for the three religions and the two communities – the Israeli and the Palestinian communities – that I am here really just to emphasise the need for harmony and peace amongst all the religions and communities who live in this city,” Archbishop Suheil told the Anglican Communion News Service last night. “This is what we need and this is part of our mission of reconciliation.”

“I believe that he did his best to accomplish a mission for peace and reconciliation; first of all amongst the governments – the Israeli and the Palestinian governments – and, I think, between different communities and religious communities here.

“Yesterday (Wednesday) at a reception in the British Consulate, I saw Jews, Christians and Muslims together, attending the ceremony. . . It is a gesture that this man is here for peace and reconciliation.”

During his visit, Prince William met with the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin in Jerusalem; before travelling to Ramallah to meet Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. He also visited a Palestinian refugee camp. Throughout his time in Jordan, Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Prince William met with many young people taking part in cultural and sporting projects. [ACNS]

A happy celebration of centenary of Midwives Act

 Members of the Royal College of Midwives who organised the Midwives100 service in Belfast Cathedral earlier this month (Photo: Joe Paulin)  

Members of the Royal College of Midwives who organised the Midwives100 service in Belfast Cathedral earlier this month (Photo: Joe Paulin)
 

Midwives from across Northern Ireland recently attended a special Choral Evensong in Belfast Cathedral, celebrating 100 years of the Midwives Act in Ireland.

Midwives Acts across the UK were the birth of a regulated profession and established standards for education and training.

Around 150 serving and retired midwives, family, friends and others connected to midwifery, attended the very happy Belfast Cathedral service.

Organised by the Royal College of Midwives, it was one of a number of events celebrating this milestone in the history of midwifery and giving thanks for midwives everywhere.

The address was given by the Dean of Belfast, the Very Rev Stephen Forde, and Gill Walton, Chief Executive of the Royal College of Midwives, read a lesson.

There was music from the Choir of Belfast Cathedral. During the service a candle was lit in memory of all Irish midwives who have died. Intercessions were led by serving and former midwives.

Those attending the service enjoyed the opportunity to browse an exhibition of memorabilia of midwifery in Ireland over the years.

Belfast Cathedral parishioner Hazel McCalister, a midwife of 40 years, was one of the organisers of the Midwives 100 service. She said that midwife means ‘with women.’ “I love the privilege of being present for new life. It is such a privileged job,” she said. [Church of Ireland Press Office/Royal College of Midwives]

News from Eco–Congregation Ireland

 A green street scene, College Square, Belfast

A green street scene, College Square, Belfast

The latest edition of the Eco–Congregation Ireland newsletter highlights events, case studies and suggested activities to help parishes take a greater interest in the environment. This issue includes coverage of the Church and Society Commission’s seminar on climate change, environmental initiatives at General Synod, and an Eco–Congregation Ireland Award for the Roman Catholic and Church of Ireland parishes in Westport.

Eco–Congregation Ireland is an initiative of the Irish Inter-Church Meeting, and includes members from the Roman Catholic Church, Church of Ireland, Presbyterian Church, Methodist Church and Religious Society of Friends.

Visit www.ecocongregationireland.com [Church of Ireland Press Office]
 

Conference of European Churches' Assembly message

Novi-Sad-Assembly.jpg

From the Assembly of the Conference of European Churches to the churches and peoples of Europe
 
You shall be my witnesses: Acts 1:8   From east, west, north and south the member churches of the Conference of European Churches travelled to the crossroads of Europe. We came with vision and hope for the future of Europe.1 We came together in Serbia, thankful for and blessed with the hospitality of our host churches and acknowledging their challenges.  We gathered at a time of uncertainty for Europe where many experience a loss of dignity, exploitation, destitution and the abuse of power.  By the banks of the Danube in Novi Sad, where bridges were destroyed in conflict and rebuilt in peace, we united in prayer. We brought our thirst for justice; our deep concern for people, our continent and our world.  We came to share the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ the bringer of healing and peace. We affirm that we have heard Christ’s command to be His witnesses and we choose to live in hope.  Following Christ Himself, we pledge to be bridge builders through the transformational power of faith.  As a living testimony of faith, we respond to Christ's call and declare:
 
We shall witness to Christ

• By proclaiming Christ’s offer of saving love and grace to the world:
• By coming together to enjoy our ecumenical fellowship and to receive its richness as God’s gift to us.
• By affirming that each person is created in the image and likeness of God and has inherent dignity as a result.
• By being an inclusive community, committed to the flourishing of women and men, welcoming people and protecting the human dignity of all people
• By being an intergenerational community, valuing the voices of young people who are our present and not only our future. 
• By practising solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Christ in Europe and beyond.  
 
We shall serve Christ by seeking and practising justice

• By urging individuals, institutions and churches to work for the end of violence, persecution and discrimination, upholding freedom of religion or belief.
• By seeking reconciliation and the peaceful resolution of conflicts.
• By standing with, empowering and listening to those who find themselves silenced or in the margins of our churches, our communities and our world.
• By caring for God’s creation and working for ecological and climate  justice and a sustainable future for our planet.
 
We shall serve Christ by offering and accepting hospitality          
• By offering a generous welcome to refugees and strangers of all faiths or  beliefs.
• By engaging in dialogue, sharing our Christian faith and learning from each other. 
• By raising our voices to overcome division, exclusion and marginalisation and advocating human rights and socio-economic justice for all.
• By recognising the hospitality given to us by God in the created world and by working towards the integrity of creation. 
 
We call on our member churches and all people to join us in shaping a Europe where we build bridges for the good of all in our continent and world.
 
Let us proclaim together ‘we shall be your witnesses”.  [CEC News]

Global Christian Forum urges Christians to take up the challenge of “Mutual Love”

 Some of the participants at the Global Christian Forum’s Third Global Gathering at Bogota, Columbia (Photo: Albin Hillert/WCC)  

Some of the participants at the Global Christian Forum’s Third Global Gathering at Bogota, Columbia (Photo: Albin Hillert/WCC)
 

The third gathering of the Global Christian Forum has called on Christians around the world to take up together the challenges of peace, unity and costly discipleship. The Forum connects the broadest range of global Christianity. Its third global gathering took place from  24-27 April in the Colombian capital Bogata. Some 251 church leaders from 55 nations took part in the event, representing almost all streams of global Christianity – including from the Anglican Communion.

“Against the backdrop of growing division in the world, the ‘meeting itself became a message’ of careful listening and respectful engagement across barriers of old enmities and historic separations,” the World Council of Churches said.

“In recognition of the churches of the host nation, the Message said participants ‘have listened to, and been inspired by, witnesses working for peace. We pray that the peace process may continue in Colombia and bring hope and reconciliation to those who are suffering and struggling.’”

Anglicans present at the gathering included Bishop Francisco Duque-Gomez from Columbia; the former Bishop of Christchurch in New Zealand, Victoria Matthews; the Bishop of the Cape Coast in the Province of West Africa, Victor Atta Bafoe; and the suffragan Bishop of Toronto in Canada, Jenny Andison.

Also present was the Archbishop of Canterbury’s ecumenical advisor, the Revd Dr Will Adam; the director of the Church of Ireland’s Theological Institute, the Revd Canon Dr Maurice Elliot; Dr Paulo Ueti, regional co-ordinator for the Anglican Alliance; and the Anglican Communion’s director of Unity, Faith and Order, the Revd Canon Dr John Gibaut.

Other participants came from the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, the Pentecostal World Fellowship, the World Council of Churches, the World Evangelical Alliance and many other Christian World Communions and international Christian organisations.

“The existence of the Global Christian Forum as a place where churches and church leaders who are often strangers to each other to come together in ‘mutual love’ is a realisation of the shared yearning for healing in the wounded body of Christ,” the GCF’s secretary, the Revd Dr Larry Miller, said.

Dr Miller said that GCF participants repeatedly affirmed the Forum as “an indispensable instrument for promoting Christian unity and engaging in conversation on the challenges Christian communities worldwide face today,” the WCC said.

“This gathering . . . has been a moment of tremendously improved relationships between all the participants, which reflects a new era of collaboration among the churches,” Bishop Brian Farrell, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, said. “I think the Global Christian Forum has shown that we do have a way forward, which is that we must not use our differences to stay apart and refuse collaboration. We need to see them as a certain contribution of richness to the whole Christian mission in the world.”

The Associate General Secretary of the World Evangelical Alliance, Dr Thomas Schirrmacher, described the Bogota gathering as “the Global Christian Forum at its best!”

He said: “To hear in small groups the personal faith stories of high-ranking Christians from all confessions – a mark of the GCF – was moving and eye-opening.

“At the same time, plenary presentations by the major expressions of Christianity on the future of ecumenical relations proved how much more friendly our relationships have become. We have matured to the point where we are more eager than ever to overcome major differences, yet without compromising our identities and biblical convictions.” [ACNS]

WCC condemns terror attacks on churches in Indonesia

  Mayor of Surabaya Tri Rismaharini visited the relatives of the victims of the Surabaya bombings (Photo: Surabaya Municipal Police)

Mayor of Surabaya Tri Rismaharini visited the relatives of the victims of the Surabaya bombings (Photo: Surabaya Municipal Police)

World Council of Churches (WCC) General Secretary, the Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, has condemned the suicide bombing attacks at three separate churches in Surabaya, East Java, Indonesia, last Sunday.

The East Java police revealed that separate explosions had taken place at Santa Maria Tak Bercela Catholic Church, Diponegoro Indonesian Christian Church and Surabaya Pentecostal Church in and around Surabaya. The death toll from the attacks has reportedly risen to 11 people, while at least 40 others have been injured.


Dr Tveit offered “heartfelt condolences to the people who lost family members and friends".
He added, “It is shocking that this attack was directed against people who were gathered for worship, and that this attack comes on the heels of ongoing violence and persecution. In the face of this brutality, the human family, all people of faith and of good will, must stand together to recommit to respecting and caring for one another, to protecting one another, and to preventing such violence."


The WCC has appealed to Joko Widodo, President of Indonesia, to religious leaders and to governments across the region “to act swiftly and boldly to safeguard the fundamental religious rights of worshippers of all faiths, to ensure security in the face of violence and to guarantee justice for all people," adding: "Places of worship representing many different faith traditions have been targets of violence by extremists.“


Dr Tveit said that “government action must be matched by solidarity among Christians, Muslims and people of all faiths as they interact at the local level and together denounce any violent attack.”


He called for prayers, urging the WCC fellowship and others across the world to remain steadfast in their quest for peace and justice for Christians and all who are persecuted.


“Through prayer, action and unity, we can bring a powerful force of love in the wake of terror and violence,” he said.


One of the attacked churches is a parish church of a WCC member church, Diponegoro Indonesian Christian Church. [WCC News]

WCC reiterates calls for immediate ceasefire in Syria

 Photo: Peter Williams/WCC

Photo: Peter Williams/WCC

In a 16 April statement, the World Council of Churches (WCC) urged the international community to find a way to break the cycle of violence in Syria. The statement comes two days after the USA, France and the UK carried out missile strikes following a suspected Syrian government chemical weapons attack.


“A just and sustainable peace for all Syrians can only be brought about through a political solution,” the WCC statement reads. “It is intolerable that atrocities are still being perpetrated against civilians. The UN Security Council has repeatedly failed to adopt sufficiently strong and consistent measures to put an end to these atrocities, to implement a durable ceasefire, to ensure respect for international law and accountability for all those who have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity, including the use of chemical weapons.”


With the escalation of conflict, the WCC reiterated its previous calls for an immediate ceasefire, unconditional humanitarian access to all regions in Syria, the commitment of all parties to respecting international law and to seeking peace through dialogue and a political process rather than by armed force, the resumption of the UN-led Geneva peace process, and the prompt return in safety and dignity for all civilians who have been forcibly displaced from their homes and lands.


“WCC member churches in Syria and the region will have an important role to play in healing wounded memories and in bringing all Syrians together in a common narrative, for the preservation of Syria's rich diversity and the restoration of social cohesion,” the statement concluded. “In this, the WCC assures the churches in Syria that the ecumenical family will accompany them together with the whole people of Syria on this path, in working for a just peace and for human dignity.” [WCC News]

GDPR: What is it all about?

 www.freeimages.com

www.freeimages.com

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a new regulation which aims to harmonise data privacy and protection laws across Europe. It is coming into effect on 25th May and will impact us all; it will also continue to apply in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland following Brexit.

GDPR aims to ensure that our personal data is used in a lawful, transparent and fair way. Personal data is any information about a living individual that can identify them such as their name, address, date of birth, PPS or National Insurance number, and phone number. Sensitive personal data includes very private and confidential information about an individual and must be treated with the utmost respect. It includes information about a person’s racial or ethnic origin, political opinions, religious belief, and physical or mental health, and also data relating to children aged under 16.

Each organisation within the Church of Ireland, including every parish unit, will need to:

1. agree who is in charge of managing data protection;
2. become accountable by reviewing all the personal information held;
3. develop policies, processes and notices; and
4. communicate – be informed and talk to staff, parishioners and other contacts.

The Representative Church Body is currently holding a number of seminars on GDPR and parish accounts. [Church of Ireland Press Office]

Bishop of Cashel in favour of Republic of Ireland abortion law change

 Bishop Michael Burrows

Bishop Michael Burrows

In a letter to his diocese, the Bishop of Cashel, Ferns & Ossory, the Rt Rev Michael Burrows, has said that he will be voting for the repeal of the Republic of Ireland Constitution's 8th Amendment (on abortion) because he believes that "the text of the Eighth is incorrigibly flawed". 

He adds: "While I may be anxious about what may happen next, I believe sufficiently in parliamentary democracy to hand the matter to legislators and indeed to trust them – that is their duty and their vocation. 

"As I said at the Citizens’ Assembly, it would be tragic if the cynicism that often seems (largely unfairly) to surround politicians made us less than mindful of the privilege of living in a parliamentary democracy. 

"It has always been the practice of the Church of Ireland to pray unceasingly for our legislators – in the coming months they may need that prayer perhaps more than ever."

Archbishops oppose Dublin government propoals for abortion law

 Leinster House, Dublin

Leinster House, Dublin

The following statement has been issued by the Church of Ireland Archbishops of Armagh and Dublin, Drs Richard Clarke and Michael Jackson:


‘We offer the following remarks for the consideration of members of the Church of Ireland:

‘We have previously expressed our concern that the forthcoming Constitutional referendum is being understood as something akin to an opinion poll on the complex issue of abortion. However, now that the Government has made known the general scheme of a Bill which it would introduce should the referendum on the repeal of Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution of Ireland be passed, voters face a stark decision.


‘Although it is true that the present provision under the Constitution has proved less than satisfactory in some respects, and we suggested the possibility of a modification to the present Constitutional position, what is now being proposed by the Government – if the Article is repealed – is unrestricted access to abortion up to twelve weeks of pregnancy.


‘As we have said before (in our statement of 5th February – and we also refer to the wider comments made in that statement about the need for pastoral care for women, their partners and their families, and for improved support services and greater investment in medical and mental health services), unrestricted access to abortion in the first twelve weeks of pregnancy, or indeed at any stage, is not an ethical position we can accept. There is, for Christians, a very clear witness in the Scriptures that all human life, including before physical birth, has a sacred dignity in the eyes of God.


‘We therefore ask Church members to think through the issues involved carefully and with prayer over these coming weeks.’ [Church of Ireland Press Office]

Anglican Churches in sub-Saharan Africa praised for anti-Malaria fight

 Community health volunteers are helping to tackle the spread of Malaria (Photo: Anglican Alliance)

Community health volunteers are helping to tackle the spread of Malaria (Photo: Anglican Alliance)

Anglican bishops from Zimbabwe, Zambia, Namibia and Angola have taken part in a round-table discussion with health ministers, scientists and field-staff to discuss ways of curbing malaria, a preventable disease which kills more than 400,000 people a year.

The two-day meeting in Victoria Falls was organised by the Isdell:Flowers Cross Border Malaria Initiative, which has been working for almost a decade to support malaria control and elimination programs in “last mile” communities.

Its co-founder, J C Flowers, the US-based investment manager and philanthropist, stressed the important role of Anglican Churches in eliminating malaria from hard to reach communities, saying: “There is still much work to do, but the extensive focus on community engagement and ownership by the Anglican Church here in sub-Saharan Africa has contributed to significant advances in the fight against malaria.”

The Director of Zimbabwe’s National Malaria Control Programme, Dr Joseph Mberikunashi, urged the round-table participants to curb the recent resurgence of malaria in the region. “There is great need to develop new tools and more importantly make use of the new technologies as they becomes available,” he said.

The Bishop of Lusaka, David Njovu, said that the Church was able to mobilise people around malaria prevention and treatment because of its active presence in communities most affected by the disease.

Anglican Churches have been effective in engaging thousands of malaria volunteers who are responsible for delivering malaria education, testing and treatment services, he said, adding: “The Church is found in most communities of Zambia. This gives it a comparative advantage in the fight against malaria in the sense that people who volunteer to participate in the fight do so because they are motivated by love but also to protect their own community.”

The round-table was attended by Bev Jullien, chief executive of the Mothers’ Union, and Rachel Carnegie, co-executive director of the Anglican Alliance. After the meeting, Rachel Carnegie said: “It was profoundly impressive to see how the volunteers in this malaria programme were extending the reach of the health services to eradicate malaria.”

The Isdell:Flowers Cross Border Malaria Initiative focuses its efforts on border communities in Namibia, Angola, Zimbabwe and Zambia in partnership with community and traditional leaders, Anglican Churches and faith-based communities, national governments and multilateral donors. [ACNS]

Korean church leaders welcome news of US-North Korea summit

  Candle-light vigil for peace in the Korean peninsula. Photo by Paul Jeffrey/WCC, December 2017

Candle-light vigil for peace in the Korean peninsula. Photo by Paul Jeffrey/WCC, December 2017

On 9 March the National Council of Churches of Korea (NCCK) commented on the news that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), while agreeing to cease missile tests, has requested a summit meeting with the United States, and that President Trump has agreed to a meeting with the DPRK by May.


Rev. Haekjib Ra, chair of the NCCK Reconciliation and Reunification Committee, said the NCCK remains convinced that dialogue is the only way to resolve military conflict on the Korean Peninsula peacefully.


“Therefore, we request that the two countries, US and North Korea, use this summit meeting to find the correct path to reconciliation and peace,” Ra commented. “Furthermore, we truly hope that the two sides will build trust with each other without threat of invasion and that this might become an opportunity to conclude a peace treaty that guarantees mutual peaceful coexistence.” [WCC News]

Billy Graham had 'important role for many people'

 Billy Graham visits the Ecumenical Institute at Bossey, in June 1955.  

Billy Graham visits the Ecumenical Institute at Bossey, in June 1955.
 

The death of the Rev. Dr Billy Graham marks a milestone in the landscape of churches worldwide, as he was a highly respected church leader and preacher of the gospel in the USA and around the world, reflected Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary the World Council of Churches (WCC).


Dr Graham died on 21 February at age 99.


“He has played an important role for many people in their encounters with the gospel and with Christian faith,” said Dr Tveit. “He was an evangelist at heart.”


While Dr Tveit never met Billy Graham personally, Dr Tveit’s predecessor former WCC general secretarythe  Rev. Dr Konrad Raiser, did. So did former WCC general secretary Willem Visser ‘t Hooft, as Dr Graham visited the Ecumenical Institute at Bossey in the mid-1950s.


Dr Tveit continued: “The World Council of Churches and Billy Graham were not always in agreement on questions of how Christianity should contribute to work for peace and justice in the world, but he respected a clear position and worked sincerely on a wide range of issues.”


Evangelical Christians in particular have much to thank Graham for, Dr Tveit said. “He gave Biblical depth and weight to the evangelical context – something that is dearly needed, not least in our time today – in the US and elsewhere.” [WCC News]

Visiting WCC, Archbishop of Canterbury speaks on “ecumenism of action”

 (Photo: Peter Williams/WCC)

(Photo: Peter Williams/WCC)

During a visit to the World Council of Churches (WCC) in Geneva on 16 February, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby spoke on an “ecumenism of action” as he also congratulated the WCC on its 70th anniversary.


“Bi- and multi-lateral theological dialogue over the course of the twentieth century bore much fruit but at times it could be appear to be akin to diplomatic renegotiation of borders: the barriers to communion still exist but not where we thought they did,” said Archbishop Welby.

“The underlying problem with these discussions, however, is that they are what I would call negotiation of the frontiers.”


The negotiation of the ways in which frontiers are set down, and in which they are crossed, is one of the most difficult aspects of international relations at times of tension, he continued.


“Frontiers imply difference,” he explained. “They say that on one side of the frontier there is the ‘other’.”


Ecumenism that looks as though it is about the negotiation of frontiers is an ecumenism that is based on theological foundations of sand, he said. “Indeed, one might argue that it is not based on foundations at all,” he said. “Negotiated frontiers start with barriers.”


One of the great gifts of the ecumenical movement is that it has allowed Christians from different denominations, who might once have kept separate from one another, to get to know one another, the Archbishop reflected.


“There were times before, say, the 1960s, when people of one denomination might never have entered the church building of another,” he said. “In England today, and I am sure it is similar in other parts of the world, many congregations are made up of people who started their Christian life in other denominations.”


The result of this is that traditions, ideas and worship styles from one church are brought into the other, he noted. “The wind of the spirit which has brought such movements into reality, is blowing ever more powerfully,” he said. “In many places it is becoming a hurricane.”


He added that an ecumenism of action says that faced with evil, we come together in love and show that we are one.


“There is a great danger that the ecumenism of action turns into the ecumenism of being useful,” Archbishop Welby  cautioned. “We can easily fall into the trap of believing that if we cannot agree, then we can at least do something together that is nice and useful.”


But this is massively to understate and to misrepresent the nature of the ecumenism of action, he said. “The world is crying out in need,” he said. “We can become too pragmatic about this, forgetting its theological foundations.”


The ecumenism of action is also based in this reality that need does not wait for theological agreement, but for the compassion of Christ, he added. “When non-believers meet missionaries who do not agree among themselves, even though they all appeal to Christ, will they be in a position to receive the true message?” he asked. “It is not the case that an ecumenism of action leaves theology outside the room.”


One of the genius characteristics of the WCC was, from very early on, to hold together the theological, diaconal and evangelistic ecumenical movements, the Archbishop concluded.


“Theological dialogue and discussion brings people closer together and sets up the framework for joint action,” he said. “Joint action brings people closer together, and sets up the relationship that enables theological dialogue and discussion.” [WCC News]