Religion Today Summaries, May 28, 2003

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries, May 28, 2003

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.  In today's edition:

  • Presbyterians Elect First Woman Pastor as Moderator
  • Global Prayer Effort for Iraq Launched
  • Anglican Primates Reaffirm Stance Against Same-Sex Marriage Rites
  • Aid Groups Protest Israeli Border Crossing Policies

Presbyterians Elect First Woman Pastor as Moderator
Kevin Eckstrom, Religion News Service

The Presbyterian Church (USA) has elected the Rev. Susan Andrews, a progressive pastor from Bethesda, Md., as moderator for the 215th General Assembly. Andrews, pastor of Bradley Hills Presbyterian Church, is the first woman pastor to serve as moderator. She will preside at the annual legislative meeting through this week (May 31) and serve as the church's top leader until next year's General Assembly in Richmond, Va. Andrews serves on the board of directors of the Covenant Network of Presbyterians, which wants to overturn the denomination's ban on actively gay clergy. However, Andrews does not support efforts at this year's meeting to rescind the ban. "That provision is unjust, but it's more important to keep the church together," she said, preferring to instead refer the matter to a blue-ribbon panel that is probing the church's theological diversity. Andrews dismissed complaints from conservatives that the 2.5 million-member church is in a "constitutional crisis" because of open defiance of church law. "We have always in this country believed in the right of people to civilly disobey when they believe a law or government activity is fundamentally unjust," she said, recalling her protests against the Vietnam War 30 years ago. "I believe it's legitimate to ecclesiastically disobey.

Global Prayer Effort for Iraq Launched
Mercedes Tira Andrei, Charisma News

Leaders of national Christian evangelical organizations launched a global prayer initiative for the Iraqi people yesterday and debunked criticism that Christian relief efforts in postwar Iraq aim to convert the predominantly Muslim nation to Christianity. Ted Haggard, president of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), announced Operation: Iraqi Care at a press conference in Washington, D.C. The initiative provides an opportunity for Christians worldwide to join as "prayer partners" in helping Iraqis rebuild their country. The Internet-based effort -- supported by the World Prayer Team, the Presidential Prayer Team, World Relief and the Christian Emergency Network -- provides a specific avenue for Christians "to encourage and bless the Iraqis" through the power of prayer and through the "adoption" of a specific Iraqi city to lift up in prayer, Haggard said. Recent criticism in the mainstream media of evangelical assistance to Iraq was "erroneous thinking, it's an erroneous assumption (that they will proselytize)," NAE Vice President for Governmental Affairs Richard Cizik told Charisma News Service. The NAE's aid arm, World Relief, which has 60 years of humanitarian service, and NAE member Samaritan's Purse, "understand the rules of the road and are well prepared and experienced to respond to social and humanitarian needs," Cizik added.

Anglican Primates Reaffirm Stance Against Same-Sex Marriage Rites
Al Webb, Religion News Service

Warning the issue is still too divisive; Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and other leaders of the Church of England have reaffirmed the Anglican Communion's stance against homosexual marriages. The new statement, issued in a pastoral letter at the end of the primates' meeting in Brazil, is an attempt to avoid schism over one of the most divisive issues facing the 70 million-member worldwide Anglican Communion. Some maverick bishops in Canada and the United States have defied the church's stance. The primates head the church's 38 provinces. They asked that the pastoral letter be read in churches on Pentecost, June 8. In the letter, the primates said, "the question of public rites for the blessing of same-sex unions is still a cause of potentially divisive controversy" in the church's ranks. "The archbishop of Canterbury spoke for us all when he said that it is through liturgy that we express what we believe, and that there is no theological consensus about same-sex unions." "Therefore," the Anglican primates said, lacking any such theological consensus, "we as a body cannot support the authorization of such rites." Meanwhile, a newly released biography of the recently installed archbishop of Canterbury, "Rowan Williams: An Introduction," by Rupert Shortt, says Williams himself still believes that the Church of England will one day accept homosexuality in the same way it accepts remarrying divorced worshippers.

Aid Groups Protest Israeli Border Crossing Policies
Elaine Ruth Fletcher, Religion News Service
Representatives of more than 30 international aid organizations demonstrated Monday (May 26) at the Israeli military checkpoint into the Gaza Strip, protesting tough new army regulations governing the movement of foreign aid workers. The groups say the policies are impeding efforts to bring vital humanitarian support to needy Palestinians. "If the current situation is not resolved soon, the 41 international non-government organizations with humanitarian aid and development programs in the Gaza Strip may be forced to cease their activities, adding to the deteriorating humanitarian situation there," the groups said in statement issued Monday and signed by more than 30 NGOs. "Many organizations have been forced to spend up to 50 percent of their working hours dealing with the growing restrictions," the statement said. "These have included time spent at checkpoints trying to gain access to project sites ... filing access requests and other liaison with the Israeli authorities and the international community on their continued inability to undertake their work in any kind of consistent or effective manner." The situation is even graver in view of growing trends of malnutrition among Palestinian children, said Dan Simmons, director of the Israel/Palestine branch of World Vision, the evangelical Christian aid organization.