- Canadian Anglicans Sort Out Same-Gender Blessing Decision
- Institute Calls on Prime Minister to Dismantle French "Anti-Cult" Ministry
- World Vision Fighting Famine in Africa
- Door-to-Door Proselytizing Protected by Supreme Court
Canadian Anglicans Sort Out Same-Gender Blessing Decision ... (ENS) -- Canadian Anglicans are sorting out the implications of a decision by the Diocese of New Westminster at its meeting in Vancouver June 15 to bless committed same-gender relationships. According to a report from James Solheim, director of the Episcopal News Service, "Reaction immediately following the vote was swift and visceral." A group of delegates and visitors walked out of the meeting after Bishop Michael Ingham announced the results.
"This is a tragic moment in history," fumed the Rev. Trevor Walters. "We must declare a state of pastoral emergency." He called the vote schismatic and said that parishes opposed to the action were consulting with the primates of other churches in the Anglican Communion.
A group of 13 Canadian bishops issued a statement expressing "regret" over the decision, which they said is "in conflict with the moral teaching of Holy Scripture and the tradition of the universal Church." They said that "matters of moral teaching and Church order and discipline are beyond the jurisdiction of a single diocese acting alone...It can only cause confusion for a local expression of the Church to purport to bless that which Anglicans globally and nationally have decided they cannot bless." They called on the diocese to "withhold implementation" of the motion.
And a letter signed by five current and two retired primates from the Anglican Communion, sent before the vote, warned, "It is important that you understand that the adoption of blessing of same-sex unions by your diocesan synod would be viewed not only as a grave affront but will also set in motion deliberations on breaking communion" with other dioceses around the world.
Institute Calls on Prime Minister to Dismantle French "Anti-Cult" Ministry ... The Institute on Religion and Public Policy has issued a press release saying it "heartily celebrates and welcomes" the resignation of French anti-cult minister Alain Vivien. Vivien, 63, presided over the Inter ministerial Commission to Battle Sects and Cults (MILS) since its creation in 1998. His resignation was made public two days after the victory of the right at the legislative elections.
"Alain Vivien has used his position to export a vicious anti-religiosity throughout Europe and the rest of the world," announced Institute President Joseph K. Grieboski "We have long worked to eradicate the misinformation and negative attitudes promulgated by Vivien. His resignation is a great vindication for us. However, this is only the beginning. I have sent a letter to Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin asking him to serve on the right side of history by not appointing a successor to Vivien and dismantling the MILS organization, thus demonstrating France's commitment to liberty, equality, and fraternity by standing for freedom of conscience."
The MILS was created by a decree signed by Lionel Jospin and Jacques Chirac, following an observatory that had been created in 1996 after a parliamentary report warned of "cult" activities in France. Although there is no definition of the word "cult" or "sect" in French law, over 170 groups were added to a discriminatory list - including several mainline churches and religious groups in the United States.
In an Agence France Presse article, Vivien congratulates himself on the role played by MILS in the adoption of two laws - voted almost unanimously by Members of Parliament - one permitting greater oversight of private schools, and the other aimed at more effective suppression of the illegal activities of cults. "The laws Vivien pushed have been used by totalitarian dictatorships globally to persecute religious minorities," Mr. Grieboski continued. "Vivien should be very proud of himself that the Chinese have used the laws as a basis to persecute Christians and Falun Gong. That is a true badge of honor."
World Vision Fighting Famine in Africa ... Mission Network News (MNN) reports that war, drought, crop failures, poor policy decisions and AIDS have created a food shortage in six South African nations. World Vision's Bruce Wilkinson details the severity of the food crisis. "What we're finding is that market prices are already escalating; in terms of food prices, people are selling off their assets. These are all early indicators that famine is imminent, unless we take immediate action. We have over 1, 200 people actually working in these six countries, and are bringing help and relief to families who are short on food."
Wilkinson says their outreach is one of the best ways to reach a massive number of people with the hope of Christ. "All of our workers are actually motivated by a faith commitment to be out there serving others. We certainly are working through other faith organizations, the church, and we partner with so many others in that way. So, World Vision really is demonstrating by our actions that we do love people. We're extending the love of Christ to these people and helping them in a time of need."
Door-to-Door Proselytizing Protected by Supreme Court ... (ABP) - According to report from Associated Baptist Press, the U.S. Supreme Court decided June 17 that anonymous door-to-door proselytizing is protected by the Constitution. In an 8-1 decision, the high court ruled that communities can't require religious groups to obtain a permit before witnessing door to door.
The justices sided with Jehovah's Witnesses, who challenged an ordinance in a small Ohio town requiring canvassers to register with the city, obtain a permit before engaging in door-to-door solicitation and produce the permit if a resident asks. Leaders of the village of Stratton, Ohio, said the ordinance was needed to protect elderly residents against harassment by solicitors and fraud by con artists going door to door. The town's Jehovah's Witnesses refused to apply for a permit, however, saying it was tantamount to forcing them to get permission from the government before preaching to their neighbors.
"It is offensive -- not only to the values protected by the First Amendment, but to the very notion of a free society -- that in the context of everyday public discourse a citizen must first inform the government of her desire to speak to her neighbors and then obtain a permit to do so," Justice John Paul Stevens wrote in his opinion for the majority.
The Supreme Court had previously ruled that people may remain anonymous in spreading non-commercial political messages, in order to protect supporters of unpopular views from retaliation. The new ruling extends the same protection to religious speech.