c. 2000 Religion News Service
Anglican Church of Canada Cuts Staff to Save Money
(RNS) Faced with mounting legal costs and possible bankruptcy, the Anglican Church of Canada plans to lay off about a dozen employees on Monday (Aug. 14) to help keep the church financially solvent.
The church has been deluged with thousands of lawsuits filed by former students at Indian residential schools. Former students say they were subjected to emotional and physical abuse in state-sponsored schools run by the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches.
The lawsuits reach into billions of dollars, and the Canadian government also has been implicated in the growing scandal. Church officials say the litigation could bankrupt the church, which is already $500,000 short of its annual budget, the Reuters news agency reported.
As a way to save money, the church said Thursday (Aug. 10) that it will “downsize” and “restructure” by cutting about a dozen of its 125 paid staff positions.
The church also is trying to stem the flood of lawsuits by working with the Canadian government on how the cases are handled. The church has said it prefers a time of “healing” and “reconciliation” instead of costly litigation, Reuters reported.
“We believe that there are alternative ways to litigation and we’d like to see the government take a social policy approach to this rather than a litigation approach,” said Jim Boyles, general-secretary of the Anglican General Synod.
The abuse accusations all date to before 1969, and coincide with nearly 7,000 similar claims against the Canadian government.
Trask Elected Chair of World Assemblies of God Fellowship
(RNS) The Rev. Thomas E. Trask, U.S. general superintendent of the Assemblies of God, has been elected the new chairman of the World Assemblies of God Fellowship.
Trask was elected during the third triennial congress of the world’s largest Pentecostal denomination, which ended Thursday (Aug. 10) in Indianapolis.
“The value when the family joins together for the sake of projects and being a voice _ that’s powerful,” said Trask, the Assemblies of God News and Information Service reported. “It’s more than a single voice; it becomes the voice of the 35 million in the World Assemblies of God Fellowship, and that’s significant in the world in which we live today.”
A vision statement of the denomination’s goals in the 21st century was issued during the meeting, attended by more than 30,000 delegates from across the globe.
“Less than 90 years ago, the Lord raised up this fellowship with a group of 300 leaders,” the statement reads. “But consider what God has done! Together with our fraternal fellowships abroad, we have become a worldwide communion of 35 million people. We gather each week in more than 175,000 congregations. Who can forecast how greatly the Spirit will multiply this church in the years ahead, should Jesus tarry?”
The statement includes commitments to evangelism, helping the poor and seeking cooperation between churches.
“We will reach out to the oppressed and wounded _ to all who are marching blindly to everlasting death, numbed by the immortality, materialism and rampant decay of our society,” it reads.
Of the denomination’s 35 million members, about 2.5 million live in the United States. Almost half of the church’s membership _ 17.2 million _ live in Brazil.
New York Rabbi Threatens Lieberman With Excommunication
(RNS) FBI investigators are looking into possible death threats by a controversial New York rabbi directed at vice presidential candidate Sen. Joseph Lieberman for his position on the Jonathan Pollard spy case.
Lieberman, an Orthodox Jew, made history Tuesday (Aug. 8) when he was picked by Vice President Al Gore to be his running mate for the White House. Lieberman is the first Jew to be on a major party national ticket.
Rabbi Mordechai Friedman, president of the American Board of Rabbis, a small Jewish Orthodox sect, said because Lieberman does not support Pollard’s release from prison, Lieberman should be excommunicated from the Jewish faith.
Pollard is serving a life sentence on spy charges after he was convicted in 1986 of spying for Israel. Many Jews support Pollard’s release, but Lieberman has said the case should be decided on its merits, not political pressure.
On his televised talk show in July, Friedman suggested that Jewish law allows for the assassination of a Jew who turns over another Jew to non-Jews. Friedman has since called for Lieberman’s resignation and says he did not threaten Lieberman’s life.
Still, the FBI, Capitol Police and New Haven (Conn.) Police are beefing up security around Lieberman’s Washington office and Connecticut home, the Associated Press reported.
Friedman’s comments have outraged fellow Orthodox Jews who say his reading of Jewish law is dangerously flawed.
“The Orthodox Union unequivocally condemns the hateful speech directed against Sen. Joseph Lieberman,” said the group’s president, Mandell Ganchrow, in a statement. “Any suggestion that Jewish law supports such rhetoric, not to mention the actions proposed, is an unacceptable distortion of Judaism and its values.”
Report: Child Poverty Increased Over Past 20 Years in United States
(RNS) More children in the United States live in poverty today than 20 years ago, according to a study released Thursday (Aug. 10).
Nearly 19 percent (13 million) of the 71 million children in the United States live in poverty, concluded the study by Columbia University’s non-partisan National Center for Children in Poverty.
The center analyzed Census Bureau data from the years 1979 to 1998, the last year for which statistics were available. That number is 3 percentage points higher than 20 years ago, when about 16 percent of the nation’s 63 million children lived in poverty.
Still, the numbers represent a decrease from 1993, when the percentage of children living in poverty reached a high of 22.5 percent.
California is home to one in six poor children, the study concluded; from 1979 to 1998 the number of poor children in the state increased from 900,000 to 2.15 million.
The study found that child poverty rates have dropped dramatically in the South, where six of the nine states that have cut child poverty rates by at least one-third since 1993 are located.
Of six states whose poverty rates significantly eclipse the national rate, only two are located in the South: Louisiana and West Virginia, whose child poverty rates are 29 percent and 27 percent, respectively. By contrast, in 1979 the South claimed seven of nine such states.
“The progress in reducing poverty in the South … tells us that this is not an intractable problem,” said Larry Aber, director of the poverty center.
Anti-Abortion Group Plans to Sue Abortion Providers
(RNS) Claiming that abortion providers have withheld information about the procedure’s consequences from women seeking abortions, a Virginia anti-abortion organization says it intends to sue providers on behalf of women who have had abortions.
Women who choose abortion should be told that they may face depression, alcoholism and infertility after the procedure, said Theresa Burke, founder of a Pennsylvania branch of the group filing the lawsuits, the American Life League.
“The right to choose includes the right to know,” Burke told the Washington Times. “This information would have made a difference in the decisions of many women.”
She added: “Women have been led to believe abortion is a safety net when it’s a safety hazard. Women can sue abortion providers for not telling them this. There are millions of potential clients who can seek redress in the courts.”
Attorney John Kindley _ who represents a woman who has filed a lawsuit accusing a North Dakota abortion clinic of denying a link between breast cancer and abortion _ said he believed “there will be many more lawsuits along this line if that’s what it takes to bring justice.”
“Any woman who’s had an abortion can sue clinics for saying nothing,” he said. “Abortion clinics are expected to be medically conversant with all facets of abortion.”
Young Pilgrims Converge on Rome for Pope’s World Youth Day
(RNS) Young people from throughout the world were converging on Rome and the Vatican Friday (Aug. 11) for a week of religious exercises that will culminate Aug. 20 with a papal Mass for some 1.2 million pilgrims.
Although called World Youth Day, the event began in early August when the first arrivals visited parishes in cities, towns and villages throughout Italy before descending on Rome by plane, train, bus and car, on horseback, bicycle and foot.
Organizers said at a Vatican news conference Friday that pilgrims would come from more than 160 countries from Albania to Zimbabwe. Among them were 43 boys and girls from China’s underground church loyal to the Vatican and 753 young people from Israel, the Palestinian territories and Jordan, the largest such group ever to travel to Rome from the Holy Land.
The United States will be represented by more than 17,000 pilgrims from 130 dioceses, 45 bishops, and priests, nuns, deacons and brothers. In an unprecedented ecumenical gesture, the Scottish delegation of 300 will bring along 16 young members of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland.
Most arrivals came equipped with backpacks, sleeping bags and guitars,prepared for a night under the stars before the final Mass.
Formal celebrations open Aug. 15 with Masses in all of Rome’s parishes and welcoming addresses from Pope John Paul II to tens of thousands of youths gathered in the squares outside the Basilicas of St. John Lateran and St. Peter’s.
For the next three days, 323 bishops, archbishops and cardinals will conduct daily catechism classes and celebrate Mass in 32 languages at 160 locations around Rome. Some 2,000 priests will hear confessions and celebrate Mass at a “Feast of Pardon” in the Circus Maximus where ancient Romans raced chariots.
Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the pope’s vicar general for Rome and president of the Italian Bishops Conference, will lead a Way of the Cross procession the night of Aug. 18 at the Church of Santa Maria d’Aracoeli, which stands atop a tall stairway built in 1348 in thanks for Rome’s escape from a plague that ravaged the rest of Italy.
At midday on Aug. 19, bells will ring out from all the churches in Rome and its surroundings, and the young people will gather at a university campus at Tor Vergata, on the outskirts of the city, for a Saturday night vigil presided over by the pope.
The Vatican’s official estimate of the number of worshippers expected to attend the papal Mass on Sunday, Aug. 20, is 1.2 million, but Vatican officials said the number could rise to 1.5 million or more, swollen by parents and other pilgrims.
John Paul scheduled his 15th World Youth Day for Rome as part of the year 2000 Jubilee Holy Year celebrations. Earlier sites included Manila, Denver, the Shrine of the Black Madonna of Czestockowa in the pope’s native Poland, Paris, Buenos Aires and Santiago, Chile.
The young pilgrims were invited to stay in private homes and apartments, schools, churches and religious institutions. Some will be guests of cardinals and other members of the Roman Curia, and 15 _ three each from Tahiti, Sri Lanka, Congo, Canada and the Italian city of Pisa _ will move in with the pope at his summer palace in Castelgandolfo, a hilltown overlooking a volcanic lake in the Alban Hills south of Rome.
Hindus to Converge on London’s Millennium Dome for Festival
(RNS) Thousands of Hindus from all over Britain are expected to converge on the Millennium Dome at Greenwich on Aug. 15 _ the day India gained its independence in 1947 _ to celebrate the festival of Rakshaa Bandhan, the tying of the sacred thread symbolizing friendship.
The 48 Hindu organizations involved in planning the event will have 25,000 sacred threads ready for visitors to the Dome, which has a maximum capacity of some 35,000 visitors a day. There will be a two-hour program of worship, music, drama and dance repeated throughout the day. Tickets to the Dome are available at half price _ 10 pounds ($16) per adult as opposed to the usual 20 pounds ($32).
According to an brochure to be handed out to visitors to the Dome, the festival of Rakshaa Bandhan dates back to Vedic times.
“Raakhi, a coloured decorative thread, is tied by one to the wrist of the other _ sister to brother, priest to his congregational members, well-wishers to each other _ symbolizing blessings of protection (Rakshaa), good wishes and love,” says the leaflet.
It describes the festival as “a most auspicious occasion to recharge ourselves with the true spirit of service and sacrifice for the welfare of society, and find therein the highest spiritual fulfillment of human life.”
Quote of the Day: Lutheran Bishop Munib Younan of Jordan
(RNS) “If there is no Christianity in the Holy Land, then it will no longer be a holy land.”
_ The Rev. Munib Younan, bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan, speaking last month (July) at an international conference in Bethlehem that included members of his denomination and of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. He was quoted in an Aug. 8 report from ELCA News Service.