Same Sex Unions in Canada, TNIV, Romania & Belarus

Same Sex Unions in Canada, TNIV, Romania & Belarus

In Today's Edition:

Canadian Anglicans First to Pass Rite for Same-Gender 'Blessings'
(Episcopal News Service) -- For the third and final time, Canadian Anglicans in the Diocese of New Westminster have voted to approve a rite for blessing same-gender relationships. The June 14 vote, held at the annual diocesan synod in Vancouver, was 215 in favor and 126 opposed, a margin of 63 percent. The vote makes the diocese the first in the Anglican Communion to authorize a rite for the blessing of same-gender unions. The ceremony carries no legal weight and does not resemble the Rite of Holy Matrimony, according to ENS. The measure allows priests to perform the ceremony if the priest and congregation agree.

While the original motion before the synod had asked for a rite for the blessing of same-gender relationships while still providing a "conscience clause" for those opposed, the movers withdrew it in favor of an alternative proposal by Ingham which included the appointment of an "episcopal visitor" for parishes and clergy which disapproved of the change in diocesan policy. No priest or parish will be forced to provide the rite for same-gender couples.

Immediately after the announcement of the results, the Rev. Trevor Walters of St. Matthew's in Abbotsford rose to withdraw his own motion asking for the creation of a non-geographical diocese within New Westminster, declared a state of "pastoral emergency" and led the walkout of nine conservative parishes. Walters said the nine parishes that walked out and "members of at least six other parishes" are in touch with primates of Anglican provinces worldwide and will decide their future soon.

A communications officer of the diocese said that while members of congregations are free to leave the church, parishes cannot. "If members leave, then the remaining members are the parish and they maintain the facilities. This is not a congregational church." -- By The Rev. Jan Nunley is deputy director of Episcopal News Service. Portions of this report were derived from CBC News Online and the Anglican News Service (Canada).


Forum of Bible Agencies (FBA) Issues Statement in Support of TNIV
One Christian organization recently stepped into the TNIV fray by issuing a last week by issuing a statement supporting the TNIV's adherence to established translation standards. The Forum of Bible Agencies (FBA) statement reads: "It is the consensus of the FBA that the TNIV falls within the Forum's translation principles and procedures."

"The FBA is a definitive source on Bible translation," said Scott Bolinder, executive vice president and publisher for Zondervan. "We hope their announcement will help correct misinformation about Today's New International Version."

"Having spent nearly 30 years studying biblical language, translation theory and the history of Bible translation, I am amazed and disturbed by the campaign against the TNIV," said John Kohlenberger, author of The Exhaustive Concordance to the Greek New Testament. "The claims made by CBMW (The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood) reflect some lack of awareness for the fundamentals of translation and for what has been acceptable throughout the history of Bible translation. Assertions that the TNIV distorts Scripture or caters to a particular agenda are absolutely false."

"I have read every verse of the TNIV," said Craig Blomberg, professor of New Testament, Denver Seminary. "And, I believe the TNIV's treatment of gender-inclusive language with respect to humanity is in every case defensible. Claims that the gender of God or Jesus is somehow tampered with are simply false."


Institute Urges Romanian Government to Return Seized Churches
The Institute on Religion and Public Policy is disappointed that the Romanian government has failed to respond properly to the request of Pope John Paul II to return Catholic Church properties confiscated by the Communist regime. According to a press release issued by the Institute, the Holy Father made the request the week of June 3rd during a meeting with the new Romanian Ambassador to the Holy See, Mihail Dobre.

Between 1948 and 1989, the Romanian authorities persecuted the Eastern Right Catholic Church on the false pretext of their allegiance to a power beyond the jurisdiction of the national government, the Pope. In the 13 years since the fall of Communist Dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, only 120 - less than five percent - of the seized churches have been returned.

Responding to the Holy Father, Romanian President Ion Iliescu said that the state "cannot interfere in restituting churches." He explained that it was a "complicated" matter because the government cannot involve itself in "the church hierarchy."

"I am dismayed to hear President Iliescu refer to this as a 'church hierarchy' issue. His comments make no sense, as the Roman Catholic properties had been confiscated by agents of the Romanian Communist Government. As the successor of previous Communist regimes, the government of Romania today is fully responsible for rectifying the errors committed in the past," Institute President Joseph K. Grieboski commented. "The possibility of the reversion of the churches to their rightful owner offers a perfect opportunity for the government to send a message to the world whether or not Romania upholds religious freedom. This is an issue that I hope will be taken into account in the decision-making process regarding Romania's bid to enter NATO and the European Union, the family of free, democratic nations."


Protestants Fast And Pray For Freedom in Belarus
(ASSIST News Service) -- Protestant Christians in Belarus on June 17 ended an intensive weekend of praying and fasting the adoption of a restrictive new religion bill in the former Soviet Republic. "If this law passes its second reading and is signed by the country's president, many of our congregations will run up against great difficulties in passing the obligatory re-registration," leaders of four denominations were quoted as saying by Keston News Service (KNS).

Bishop Nikolai Sinkovets of the Baptist Union, Bishop Sergei Khomich of the Pentecostal Union, Aleksandr Sakovich of the Full Gospel Association and Moisei Ostrovsky of the Adventist Church said the "law does not meet international norms." The bishops cited several articles as an attack on the area of freedom of conscience and religion. They supported the Minsk-based Freedom of Conscience Information Center, which urged believers to "pray at every service" and to hold "days of fasting" against the current version of the law on freedom of conscience and religious organizations.

KNS, which monitors religious persecution, said he draft of the religion bill includes a provision specifically recognizing the Orthodox Church as having a pre-eminent role. The draft law also requires that religious groups have to have had 10 registered religious congregations in 1982, at the height of Soviet restrictions on religion. Analysts say it appears that only the Orthodox, the Catholics and the main Jewish organization will thus be able to gain re-registration. (By Stefan J. Bos