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c. 1998 Religion News Service

Scottish church asked to rethink opposition to lottery

(RNS) The (Presbyterian) Church of Scotland is being asked to consider modifying its opposition to Britain’s National Lottery to allow local congregations to accept lottery money for such community projects or repairing buildings.

The recommendation comes from a special panel set up by last year’s General Assembly.

The church’s opposition to gambling has led the General Assembly _ the denomination’s top decision-making body _ to condemn participation in the lottery. The lottery was launched in 1994 and 28 percent of its proceeds are distributed to various charities.

The assembly’s condemnation of the lottery has been interpreted by the denomination’s Board of Practice and Procedure to mean the Church of Scotland”should have nothing whatever to do with the National Lottery in any manner, shape, or form.” If strictly interpreted, the board’s policy would require the church to withdraw from community partnerships benefiting from lottery funding. It would also mean the denomination would not be able to draw on money from a historic preservation fund underwritten by lottery funding to help maintain and repair its buildings.

The special panel noted that only the National Lottery provided”any realistic prospect of extra cash”for maintaining and repairing the denomination’s buildings.”Some well-known historic buildings owned by the church require repairs which would cost several million pounds,”it said.

A strictly enforced ban on lottery money would also prevent the Kirk, as the Scottish denomination is known, from developing its mission through community and arts projects and would kill many important current activities _ work often located in poor communities and neighborhoods.”It was generally agreed that the historic policy of the church on gambling was never intended to prevent funds such as those provided by the lottery from being used for community work, particularly if the work is carried out in partnership with others,”said the special panel.

It is therefore asking the General Assembly, when it meets in Edinburgh from May 16-22, to authorize the Kirk’s central bodies and local congregations to determine for themselves whether or not to apply for lottery funding in situations where no alternative sources of funding are available.

Two of the 15 members of the special panel dissented.

Update: Lutheran World Federation vows to keep presence in Rwanda

(RNS) The Lutheran World Federation has vowed to continue its reconciliation work and humanitarian aid in Rwanda despite the recent murders of three federation staff members and five residents of a resettlement community in the troubled nation.

The LWF is one of a few international non-governmental organizations with staff in the villages of Rwanda.”We are determined to stay with the communities and not leave them at this important crossroad,”said Jaap Aantjes, LWF representative in Kigali, Rwanda’s capital.”We have to remember that our success in our program is directly related to the fact that we are the organization with staff present on the ground with the communities.” Staff currently in the region may have to be moved around, he added. An extreme decision would be to no longer have staff living in the settlement areas.

The Bukora resettlement community was attacked during the evening and early morning of March 11 and 12 by about 30 men armed with machetes, guns and hoes.

About 500 families _ including both Tutsi and Hutu refugees _ are currently settled in the community, located not far from the Tanzania border. A total of 15 LWF staffers worked there.

LWF General Secretary Ishmael Noko sent a letter to Rwandan president Pastor Bizimungu requesting increased protection of the settlements.”It is senseless, brutal acts like this that nullify past efforts for reconciliation and destroy hopes for the future,”Noko wrote.”We are appalled that a settlement, constructed for peace and security, has become a murder scene.”

Update: Former Mormon part of Russian kidnapping plot, authorities say

(RNS) An ex-Mormon plotted the kidnapping of two Mormon missionaries in southern Russia, a Russian news agency has reported.

Travis Robert Tuttle of Gilbert, Ariz., and Andrew Lee Propst of Lebanon, Ore., both 20, were released Sunday (March 22) after being held for five days in Saratov, 450 miles southeast of Moscow.

Russian officials said one male and one female suspect were arrested and the pair have confessed to being involved in the kidnapping. A third suspect is still at large, the Associated Press reported.

Federal Security Service officials said a 44-year-old businessman was arrested Sunday. That suspect, whose name was not released, co-founded a branch of the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Saratov in 1993 and later left the church, according to the Interfax news agency.

The suspect asked a companion to invite the missionaries to his apartment and masked men there beat their heads with sticks.

The missionaries were forced into a van and moved to another apartment. At that site, the abductors took photographs of them and drafted a ransom note for $300,000. The note also said the two abducted men would be murdered if police were contacted.

The ITAR-Tass news agency reported that investigators said the suspect was motivated by financial reasons. The hostages were freed after four days without any payment to the kidnappers.

Propst and Tuttle have been questioned by police and transported to Mormon regional headquarters in Samara.

Gabrielle Sirtl, European spokeswoman for the church, said the two missionaries will be reassigned by the church.

Of the 57,000 mostly young men who serve as Mormon missionaries across the world, about 500 work in Russia.

Filipino Catholic bishops apologize for Catholics’ wrongful acts

(RNS) Catholic bishops in the Philippines have written a pastoral letter apologizing for the wrongful acts of”some church people”during the battle to end Spanish rule 100 years ago.

The letter comes as Filipinos are preparing to celebrate in June the 100th anniversary of their liberation from Spain.

In their letter, the bishops said while some clerics permitted Spanish authorities to use them to subjugate Filipinos, other priests took part in the revolution.”We, the bishops, apologize for the ambiguous stand some church people held during the revolution,”the letter reads.

The letter stressed the positive role of Christians in the social transformation, particularly the 1872 execution of three Filipino priests who allegedly supported a mutiny against Spanish troops, reported Ecumenical News International, a Geneva-based religious news agency. The executions sparked increased nationalist sentiments by Filipinos that contributed to the declaration of independence during the Spanish-American War.

Under the Treaty of Paris, however, the United States gained control of the Philippines. In July 1946, the Philippines Republic was formed.

Bishop Tomas Millamena, a leading Filipino Protestant, responded to the pastoral letter by recalling that indigenous Filipinos were discriminated against by some Catholic priests and the executions increased hostility toward the church because Spanish friars had forced indigenous people to build settlements.”While they (the Catholic bishops) were right in apologizing for these mistakes, we must (also) acknowledge that church leaders at the time worked with Spanish authorities,”said Millamena, general secretary of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, or Philippine Independent Church.

In addition to the apology, the pastoral letter declared that the Catholic Church had redeemed itself during the 1986″People Power Revolution,”which removed Ferdinand Marcos as president and replaced him with Corazon Aquino.

Cardinal Jaime Sin, Manila’s archbishop, had called people to action and about 1 million civilians gathered outside military camps where government officials had announced they were no longer supporting Marcos. Marcos fled the country four days later.

Pope reviles communists in Poland, lauds rights treaty

(RNS) Pope John Paul II on Wednesday (March 25) reviled the communist-era government of his native Poland, accusing the regime of trying to”eliminate the church from society”and submitting it to”systematic persecution.” The pontiff made the forceful remarks at a Vatican celebration with Polish Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek and other officials to mark Poland’s ratification of a concordat with the Holy See, which grants the church full religious freedom.

It’s about time, the pope said,”we had to wait 53 years.” The treaty was signed in 1993 by the conservative Polish government, but ratification was stalled until early this year, when a center-right coalition ousted reformed communists in elections last September.

The communists refused to ratify the pact for fear it would expand the already strong influence of the Roman Catholic Church.

The treaty gives the church new powers. It will provide for regular religious training for school children that will begin with kindergarten classes and make church marriages legally binding.

Pope John Paul is credited with having used his pulpit in protecting the Catholic Church in Poland during the Cold War and contributing to the ultimate collapse of the post-war communist era.

Since then, Poland has undergone enormous changes that have periodically angered the pope. The country has become more secular and young Poles have aggressively sought material wealth.

Poland”became a democratic state once again”in 1989, the pope said.”However, the process is not complete. Polish society needs a moral revolution, a well-thought out program of restructuring the state in a spirit of solidarity and respect for the dignity of the human person.” He added,”In this context, we cannot forget the totalitarian regime of government imposed in Poland, (which) wanted to eliminate the church from society and make its activity more difficult, submitting it to systematic persecution.”

Quote of the day: Chen Heng-ming, leader of God’s Salvation Church.

(RNS)”Because we did not see God’s message on television tonight, my predictions of God arriving on March 31 can be considered nonsense. But don’t call us liars. Keep watching.” _ Chen Heng-ming, the Taiwanese leader who heads God’s Salvation Church, acknowledging that _ contrary to his prediction _ God did not appear on TV Channel 18 in Garland, Texas, at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday (March 25) to announce an impending new era.


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