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c. 2007 Religion News Service

Christian groups commit to greater understanding, cooperation

(RNS) More than 240 Christian leaders said they left an international summit in Kenya committed to building closer ties among the world’s various Christian faiths.

Leaders of the new Global Christian Forum, who met Nov. 5-9 near Nairobi, said they are committed to “promoting ever greater understanding and cooperation among Christians” while also leaving room for “the diversity of our identities, traditions and individual gifts.”

The meeting brought together Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox and Pentecostal and charismatic Christian leaders. It also assembled groups that had sometimes been at odds, including the World Council of Churches and the more conservative World Evangelical Alliance.

The Rev. Geoff Tunnicliffe, international director of the evangelical group, said the ongoing effort aims to “create greater understanding, dispel stereotypes and promote greater religious liberty.”

The forum was proposed by the Rev. Konrad Raiser, former general secretary of the WCC, in the 1990s. The WCC said the effort would feature “committed participation” rather than evolving into another “membership organization.”

“What one decade ago was … an idea that seemed fragile and almost impossible to achieve has led to a milestone in the ecumenical journey,” said the Rev. Walter Altmann, moderator of the WCC’s central committee.

Participants said the meeting allowed them to “repent of past failings to bear with one another in love,” and also knowledged age-old prejudices and stereotypes.

“We acknowledge that we have differing views on substantive issues such as ecclesiology, the scope of evangelism and mission,” the attendees wrote. “Here a new beginning was made for encounter and dialogue.”

_ Adelle M. Banks

Judge allows N.J. probe into civil unions flap to continue

(RNS) A federal judge has ruled that New Jersey officials can continue an investigation into whether a Methodist group violated the rights of two lesbian couples when it refused to rent a seaside pavilion for their civil union ceremonies.

U.S. District Judge Joel Pisano dismissed a lawsuit filed by the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association as a pre-emptive strike. The association claimed its constitutional rights would be violated were it forced to allow civil unions, which conflict with Methodist doctrine, to be performed at the pavilion in Ocean Grove, N.J.

Pisano said the Methodist group can raise that defense in proceedings before the state Division of Civil Rights, which has gotten complaints from two lesbian couples.

But in his decision, issued Wednesday (Nov 7), Pisano ruled it would be improper for him to block the division from investigating the lesbian couples’ complaints. He cited a 1989 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that requires federal judges to abstain from hearing cases that are already the subject of state judicial proceedings.

“It means we continue to do our job,” David Wald, a spokesman for Attorney General Anne Milgram, said.

Brian Raum, a lawyer with the Alliance Defense Fund, which is representing the Camp Meeting Association, said it intends to appeal Pisano’s decision not to hear the case.

“Federal courts really should be the primary venue for protecting constitutional rights,” Raum said.

_ Robert Schwaneberg

Study: Smaller dioceses report proportionally more new priests

(RNS) Urban Roman Catholic archdioceses may ordain priests in greater numbers, but a higher ratio of Catholics are joining the priesthood in smaller dioceses in the Midwest and Southeast, according to a recent study.

The Archdioceses of Chicago and Newark, N.J., led the way in ordaining 61 and 52 priests, respectively, from 2003 to 2006, according to a review by Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate.

But small dioceses boast more new priests per Catholic, the study found.

For example, Chicago produced one priest for every 38,393 Catholics. But Alexandria, La., offered up one per 4,004, having ordained 12 priests between 2003 and 2006.

The Georgetown center has reviewed the clergy data four times since 1993.

Two dioceses _ Fargo, N.D., and Lincoln, Neb. _ have landed in the top five of new-priest-per-Catholic ratio in every review. Five more _ Atlanta, Bismarck, N.D.; Omaha, Neb.; Peoria, Ill., and Wichita, Kan. _ have placed in the top five three times.

Between 2003 and 2006, six dioceses with a total of 450,000 Catholics had no ordinations, and another eight dioceses with almost 1.4 million Catholics had only one each, according to the review.

Rounding out the total ordinations top five from 2003 to 2006 are the archdioceses of Washington, D.C., with 34; St. Paul-Minneapolis with 33, and New York with 29.

_ Daniel Burke

Desmond Tutu honored by National Cathedral

WASHINGTON (RNS) Archbishop Desmond Tutu received an award at the Washington National Cathedral on Friday (Nov. 9) for promoting justice, tolerance and interfaith conversation.

The Very Rev. Samuel T. Lloyd III, dean of the cathedral, gave the retired South African archbishop the first-ever Cathedral Prize for Advancement in Religious Understanding to recognize his “rare example of Christian leadership in the civic realm.”

“In these divided times, we need role models who demonstrate for us the necessity and value of reconciliation in every aspect of human life,” Lloyd said.

Tutu, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for fighting apartheid, also served on South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which dealt with the apartheid era’s human rights violations.

Friday night’s black-tie, candle-lit gala was part of the cathedral’s centennial celebration.

_ Heather Donckels

Quote of the Day: Evangelical leader Leith Anderson

(RNS) “I had a wedding or a funeral, I can’t remember which. Anyway, I don’t pre-empt a wedding or a funeral for a presidential candidate. Because I’m a pastor.”

_ Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, in an interview with the Associated Press, describing how he reacted when contacted recently by a presidential campaign to meet with a candidate, whom he declined to name. The Eden Prairie, Minn., megachurch pastor says he’s a pastor, not a politician.

KRE/LF END RNS

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