Dispatches > In Brief

In Brief

"In Brief" Continued...

Issue: "Summer Books 2002," July 7, 2002

Theology matters

Sources in the Church of England last month leaked to The Times of London and other media that the next Archbishop of Canterbury will be a liberal, Rowan Williams, 52, Archbishop of Wales. He would replace the retiring George Carey, a keep-the-peace conservative. (Britain's monarch selects the titular leader of worldwide Anglicanism, based on strong recommendations from church leaders.) The report generated a barrage of protests by conservatives from across the far-flung 70-million-member Anglican Communion. Archbishop Williams is known for his support of the homosexual agenda, and he has ordained at least one priest he knew had a homosexual partner, according to a prominent evangelical in the church, Rev. David Holloway. He warned the selection of Archbishop Williams would split the church and the Anglican Communion. The vast majority of Anglicans in the global South, where the church has its greatest strength, are moral conservatives. Some observers said the protests have shocked government officials so much that the Williams name may be withdrawn in favor of someone less controversial. | Edward E. Plowman

Growing pains in the PCA

Formed in 1973 in a split from mainstream Presbyterianism, the conservative 308,000-member Presbyterian Church in America is still growing (with about 50 new church startups each year). Delegates at the PCA general assembly in Birmingham last month took steps the majority hoped would promote continued growth. Pastors and other leaders of larger PCA churches in recent years have complained that some PCAers are theological nit-pickers. The majority voted in effect to allow ordination candidates greater latitude in belief, as long as any differences aren't out of accord with "fundamental" doctrinal standards. And, to prevent a "small minority" from exercising "inordinate influence," they voted to increase to 10 percent the number of presbyteries needed to request denominational discipline of a minister. In other action, the assembly condemned the use of women as military combatants and inclusion of women as conscripts. Delegates also cautioned churches and members against use of the TNIV Bible, and called on the International Bible Society to refrain from further gender-neutral translations. | Edward E. Plowman

No other way, unless ...

Faced with increasing unrest among conservatives over theological uncertainty in the 2.5-million-member Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), delegates to the denomination's annual general assembly last month voted overwhelmingly to approve an eight-page defining statement on the lordship of Christ. It describes Him as "the only Savior and Lord" and says "no one is saved apart from God's gracious redemption in Jesus Christ." But it left wiggle room for universalists and other liberals who believe God may provide other ways to salvation: "We neither restrict the grace of God to those who profess explicit faith in Christ nor assume that all people are saved regardless of faith." | Edward E. Plowman

Addressing abuse

The 16-million-member Southern Baptist Convention last month took note of the homosexual-abuse scandal wreaking havoc in the Catholic Church, but they cast no stones. They recognized in a resolution "our own fallenness and the need to prevent such appalling sins from happening within our own ranks." The measure called on spiritual leaders to hold each other accountable, seminaries to emphasize integrity in ministerial training, churches to cooperate with civil authorities in the prosecution of abuse cases, and authorities to punish abuse by clergy and counselors "to the fullest extent of the law." Frank Ruff, Catholic bishops' liaison to the SBC, expressed appreciation for the "sensitive" wording and tone of the resolution. It wasn't a condemnatory "putdown," he said. In another resolution, the messengers lowered the boom on the new gender-revised TNIV Bible. Rejecting it as an unreliable translation, they urged the SBC-operated Lifeway bookstores not to sell it. | Edward E. Plowman

Closing down

President Musharraf of Pakistan announced new laws to ban the teaching of militancy and extremism in the country's 8,000 Islamic religious schools, or madrassas. Clerics who violate the laws will go to prison for two years. Many senior leaders of Afghanistan's former Taliban regime graduated from madrassas in Pakistan. Eritrea, formerly part of Ethiopia, recently ordered the closure of all churches not belonging to the Orthodox, Catholic, and Lutheran denominations. Muslims and the Orthodox make up 50 percent and 40 percent of the population, respectively. Some observers blame the move on pressure from these groups aimed at halting evangelical growth. | Edward E. Plowman

Personally opposed

Catholic bishop Edmond Carmody of Corpus Christi, Texas, sent a stern message last month to Catholic political candidates: Talk the walk. He banned Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tony Sanchez from speaking at churches in the Corpus Christi Diocese. Mr. Sanchez, a Catholic, was raised in the diocese. The ban also applies to John Sharp, the Democratic candidate for governor, who also is a Catholic. Both candidates say they personally oppose abortion but support its continued legalization. But that's being "schizophrenic," the bishop said. "That's saying, 'In my own home, I respect life, but when I'm in public office, I'm going to go with the pack.'" Under the diocese's guidelines since 1999, Catholics who say they support abortion cannot hold church positions or speak at any Catholic institution in the region. | Edward E. Plowman

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