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The head of the National Council of Churches in the United States, Dr. Bob Edgar, recently welcomed an overwhelming vote by US Catholic bishops to join the fledgling organization Christian Churches Together, CCT. If completed as planned, the CCT could encompass over 150 million Christians from scores of denominations in the United States. The CCT will be divided into five segments representing the major divisions of US Christianity: Evangelical/Pentecostal, Historic Protestant, Orthodox, Racial/Ethnic and Roman Catholic. Edgar welcomed the Catholic Church into the CCT, calling the addition “an important step in broadening ecumenical fellowship.”
Sudan and southern rebels promise peace as Christmas gift
In Sudan the government and the leader of the rebel group in the south of the country has promised to sign a comprehensive peace agreement as a 2004 Christmas present. Sudan has experienced 21 years of civil war that has taken as many as 2 million lives and forced the displacement of about 5 million people. Pastor Benjamin Alyuon of the Sudan Church of Christ told Ecumenical News International, standing outside the UN Offices in Nairobi where he had joined Sudanese refugees in a demonstration that "We are glad that the UN Security Council has focused on the Sudanese conflict".
Philippine churches look at how liturgy can become indigenous
In the Philippines it is often piano music that is the accompaniment to Protestant and Roman Catholic church services. But at one Protestant church in Baguio City, 250 kilometres north of Manila, the measured beat of tribal gongs has replaced the piano in what is dubbed an "indigenous worship service". And instead of the usual English or Filipino hymns, worshippers sing religious hymns not only in local dialects but also using tribal melodies, some of which use the tunes of native prayer chants. This according to Ecumenical News International
A recent warning issued by the religious humanitarian organization Christian Aid cautioned that antiretroviral drugs alone are not enough to slow the spread of HIV. Concerned over misconceptions regarding the virus, specifically the belief that drugs alone are enough to control HIV, Christian Aid challenged a plan by the World Health Organization to provide three million people with antiretroviral drugs by 2005, claiming it was not enough to battle the disease. Saying that the alleviation of poverty is the only way to curb the spread of HIV, Christian Aid called for wealthier countries to help cancel third world debt, allowing poorer nations more resources to train health care workers and provide adequate medication to fight HIV.
In Azerbaijan the Adventist church in Gyanja (GÄNCÄ) was raided by Police amidst a worship service. Two Adventist leaders were interrogated, they were finned and one was threatened with deportation. Director of Religious Freedom for the Worldwide Adventist Church Dr. John Graz comments:
Catholic clergy from Africa may soon be sent to minister in Europe, if a plan currently being discussed by senior bishops is put into place. An increasingly secular Europe has seen the number of available priests fall dramatically in recent years, while a highly religious Africa has an overabundance of priests in training. If the proposed plan were indeed adopted, hand-picked catholic priests from Africa would be sent to the clergy-starved United Kingdom while a few European priests would move to Africa to provide experience and theological education. The plan was introduced during a recent Vatican-backed meeting of 100 bishops and archbishops from Europe and Africa.
In America, some Christian churches have been experimenting with the combination of church and trade. This is a view that does not adhere to traditional Christianity. However, for Grace Capital Church in Pembroke, New Hampshire, this blend seems to be working well. The church recently installed a Starbucks coffee stand outside of their chapel and church leaders claim membership has grown as a result. Profits from the coffee stand will be donated to charity. Church leaders hope that as membership grows, so too will coffee-generated donations.
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