Religion News Digest

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c. 1997 Religion News Service

Cuba to allow additional foreign Catholic priests and nuns

(RNS) Cuba will allow an additional 57 foreign priests and nuns to enter the island nation to help the country’s small Roman Catholic leadership prepare for the January visit of Pope John Paul II.

Some 28 priests and 29 nuns will come to the communist nation from Colombia, Spain and Haiti, the Associated Press reported.

Cuban television, which announced Wednesday (Nov. 19) that the priests and nuns would be coming, also broadcast a commemoration of President Fidel Castro’s visit to the Vatican last year.

With just 240 priests and about 400 nuns, the Cuban Catholic Church had urged the government to allow additional foreign church workers to come to the island. Late last year, Cuba said 15 foreign priests and 24 nuns would be allowed to enter the nation.

The pope is scheduled to visit Cuba Jan. 21-25. Cuba is the only Spanish-speaking nation in the Americas that he has not visited.

In 1962, Cuba officially became an atheistic nation and 132 foreign priests were expelled. Most were hostile to what was then the new Castro government.

This week, the Cuban government also began distributing fliers describing the purpose of the pope’s visit and the structure of the Vatican. The fliers described the pope as”not a tourist”nor”a politician of the left nor of the right.”He was described as coming”to promote a spirit of reconciliation among all.”

British Baptists appoint first female superintendent

(RNS) The Baptist Union of Great Britain, which has regularly ordained women since 1922, has appointed its first female area superintendent.

The Rev. Patricia Took, who for the past 13 years had been pastor of a church in northeast London, has been selected to become superintendent of the union’s metropolitan London regional jurisdiction. The region has 283 churches and is the largest of the Baptist Union’s 12 regional jurisdictions.

She will assume her new post Jan. 1.

Although the Baptist Union (which only covers England and Wales) has had women ministers for most of the century, the Baptist Union of Scotland still has a men-only ministry. Earlier this month (November), the Baptist Union of Scotland defeated a motion to accept women as ministers. Needing a two-thirds majority to pass, the motion gained only 60 percent of the vote.

Irish Presbyterians hold first Gaelic service this century

(RNS) Irish Presbyterians have held what is believed to be their first worship service in Gaelic this century.

The service was held Oct. 26 at Fitzroy Presbyterian Church in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and brought together Presbyterians, Roman Catholics and others attending a Gaelic-language festival, reported Ecumenical News International, a religious news agency based in Geneva.

In Northern Ireland, where Catholics and Protestants have long been at violent odds, the Gaelic service was seen as having political overtones.

Gaelic is the native Irish language, although it has largely been replaced by English. Today, the use of Gaelic is often associated with Irish nationalism and the uniting of Northern Ireland, now part of Great Britain, with the Irish Republic.

Since Irish Presbyterians primarily support the continued association of Northern Ireland with Great Britain, the Gaelic service”certainly raised some eyebrows,”said Derek Poots, acting general secretary of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland.”We were asked, `What’s it all about?’ But we are nonpolitical. We don’t involve ourselves in sectarian attitudes,”he said.”We respect the Gaelic culture of the island just as we respect the Protestant-English culture.” Irish Presbyterians are primarily descended from English and Scottish settlers. Since Gaelic was also the indigenous language of Scotland, many spoke the language and it was used in the Irish Presbyterian Church until the 19th century.

Southern Baptist mission board adopts cooperation guidelines

(RNS) The Southern Baptist Convention’s North American Mission Board has adopted guidelines for cooperation with other denominations that insist evangelism with non-Southern Baptist groups should only be done with groups that describe themselves as evangelicals.

Bob Reccord, president of the board, presented the guidelines because involvement with non-Southern Baptist groups has become a source of debate over the years. Questions arose about whether Southern Baptist employees should participate in an ecumenical reconciliation conference this year and in the drafting of an interdenominational statement in 1994 that dealt with relations between evangelicals and Catholics.

The guidelines spell out what the beliefs of cooperating groups should be:”They adhere to a conversionist theology that all people must be born again by faith in Christ alone in order to enter the Kingdom of God; and … they uphold the Bible alone as the source of God’s truth, and … salvation is by faith alone due to God’s grace alone having Christ alone as its object.” The guidelines note the need to emphasize the SBC’s stance with”groups advocating or practicing a non-Baptistic form of church government or baptism or where an indiscriminate use of `spiritual gifts’ is practiced.” Baptist officials appeared to seek a middle road between foregoing ecumenism completely and embracing it in all instances.”Lastly, it is the stance of the North American Mission Board that cooperation with non-Baptistic entities will not be engaged for the mere sake of popular ecumenism but will follow the above listed guidelines,”the statement concludes.”At the same time, while holding to our evangelical/biblical theology of salvation, we will not attempt to be `spiritual isolationists.'” The guidelines, adopted by the board Nov. 5, also affirm that the board”unapologetically”believes that the Bible is without error.

The mission board focuses on evangelism and the starting of new churches in North America.

Quote of the Day: Kay Thompson, neighbor of the Iowa septuplets

(RNS)”I’m not too concerned about them getting along. I know the Lord wouldn’t have given these babies to them without knowing there would be a lot of support.” _ Kay Thompson, next-door neighbor to Kenny and Bobbi McCaughey, parents of the Iowa septuplets, on how the McCaugheys will cope with their new responsibilities.

MJP END RNS

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