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Methodist Mission & Ecumenical
Newsletter December 2008 Secretary: John Roberts

Climate change a deeply spiritual issue in Pacific Islands

Christians from the Pacific islands have appealed for worldwide solidarity on climate change. At the 16-21 November United Nations Advocacy Week of the World Council of Churches (WCC) Asora Amosa, a Samoan-born pastor of the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand, spoke of the region's feeling of threat: “If icebergs break off and float past the south coast of New Zealand we wonder what is coming next.” Addressing a group of more than 100 representatives from churches and organizations. Amosa said it is time to take action together.

Baranite Kirata from Kiribati, one of the three Pacific island states which will lose their territory to the rising sea level in the foreseeable future, said his people will become refugees as the place they call home will disappear under rising waters. People in Kiribati have already lost their homes and livelihoods as floods have become more frequent and intense. Their health is threatened by diseases and extreme heat. The rising sea level leads to salt water killing the roots of trees and polluting wells; at the same time, rainfall, the second source of drinking water for the islanders, becomes scarce.

For the Pacific churches, the issue is not only political and economic, but deeply theological, ethical and spiritual. They feel that their place in God's creation is at stake. “The storms and waves eat away our beaches and as they continue they will some day eat us,” said Kirata. Those whose houses on the coast have been destroyed move further inland. It is clear, however, that this is not a lasting solution. “If we don't end up in the lagoon, we will end up fighting each other over land, food, water.”

Discussions in New York underlined the injustice that the populations hardest hit by climate change are those that have not contributed to the change. Jorge Domingues, a Brazilian from the United Methodist Church, called on Christians in the financial markets to adopt a shareholder advocacy policy and press companies on the climate change agenda. He added that churches also need to consider the carbon footprint of their own work.

Fe'iloakitau Kaho Tevi, general secretary of the Pacific Conference of Churches, said a series of actions the churches should advocate includes contributing to an adaptation fund based on the “polluter pays” principle and calculating each country’s greenhouse gas emissions and gross domestic product. Tevi also called for research into the cultural, legal and economic implications of a nation's sovereign territory disappearing.

The use of renewable energy, as opposed to non-permanent solutions like carbon capture or nuclear power (of which the Pacific islanders have bad memories), was promoted. With a mixture of realism and optimism Baranite Kirata explained that “it is now too late to do something for Kiribati, Tuvalu and the Marshall Islands; but together, we are the world, and it is not too late to do something for us all.”

WCC News 24 September 2008

Common ground for dialogue with Islam

Christian communities should improve their knowledge of Islam, be good neighbours to Muslims and bear witness to their faith in an appropriate manner, says an international group of church leaders and experts on Christian-Muslim dialogue who met in Geneva in October. They met to develop an ecumenical Christian theological understanding of dialogue with Islam.

The fifty church leaders well versed in Christian Muslim dialogue acknowledged a history of "mixed" relationships between the two religions, with both positive and negative dimensions. Christians have seen Muslims both as friend and rival, neighbour and stranger. They agreed that Christianity teaches love of neighbour regardless of race, gender or religion. They stated that Christian self-understanding is challenged and deepened through relationships with Muslims, while Christians themselves are renewed by entering into dialogue with them.

For this dialogue to be fruitful it needs to be sensitive, including a careful use of traditional Christian language like ‘mission, witness and conversion’. Church leaders and communities need to be educated in the knowledge of Islam as Muslims live and present it.

The consultation identified a range of issues to be addressed in further dialogue with Muslims: human rights, conversion, concepts of secularism, pluralism, and citizenship, and the use of religious symbols for political ideologies and religiously motivated violence. Participants also recommended further Christian-Muslim collaboration on issues such as social and economic justice, climate change, peace and healing of memories.

Organised by the WCC together with a number of Christian World Communions, the World Evangelical Alliance and the Roman Catholic Church, the consultation is a continuation of an ecumenical process launched by the WCC in response to "A Common Word," a letter signed by 138 Muslim scholars and addressed to Christian leaders around the world in October 2007.

WCC News 22 October 2008


20 years of World AIDS Day

Faith leaders "should shout from the rooftops that AIDS is not a punishment from God but a medical condition which is preventable", the former leader of South Africa's Anglican Church, Archbishop Njongo Ndungane told the World Aids Campaign. Marking the 20th anniversary of World AIDS Day observed annually on 1 December, the campaign says World AIDS Day is a time of "global solidarity for a pandemic that has led to over 25 million deaths, with an estimated 33 million people currently living with HIV worldwide. Ndungange said that AIDS is "manageable and treatable although not curable", as well as not being a punishment from God. He added, "Faith leaders should commit themselves to working towards achieving a generation without AIDS, and show loving care and support for those infected. They should develop and implement imaginative strategies to overcome stigma, ensure that infected people have access to essential needs like nutrition and medical care, as well as encouraging those not infected to stay uninfected."

Linda Hartke, who heads the Geneva based Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance, which campaigns for those who are HIV positive, said "We can be inspired by the committed efforts of people of faith all over the world who have for so long provided care and support & for a concerted global response that will reverse the spread of HIV, and eventually eradicate AIDS." She noted, that religious leaders living with or personally affected by HIV, and who have spoken out against stigma, discrimination and injustices that fuel the spread of HIV, have particularly strengthened and expanded effective faith-based responses."

Hartke says that with millions still infected each year "and with two-thirds of adults and 85% of children urgently needing treatment, we need full and committed leadership and action to reach universal access to prevention, treatment, care and support".

Ecumenical News international, 24 November 2008

News in brief

Samson Lowa re-elected in UCPNG

Rev Samson Lowa was relected as Moderator of the UCPNG at the church’s general assembly in October. He will be in office for the next four years. He first took office in 1998and was re-elected for a further two years in 2000, 2002, 2004 and 2006. The moderator of the United Church oversees the running of the church that has a membership of 700,000 people. There will also be 11 bishops working under him. Reverend Lowa is from Galilo village in West New Britain. He is married to Jessie. They have three children and three grandchildren.

Opening of new building at HGH

The opening of the new building for the Helena Goldie College of Nursing at Munda took place on 27 November. The building which contains a reception area, a multipurpose open space, a library space, a kitchen and toilet block, is a memorial to Davinia Taylor. Davinia served as a nursing sister in the Solomon Islands based at Munda from 1951 to 1956 and returned with her husband Phil from 1958 to 1964, again putting her nursing skills to good use. Funding for the building came from MWF groups, parishes and individuals in New Zealand. Phil and Barbara Taylor and other members of the family were present for the official opening.

Methodist Conference 2008

Among Mission and Ecumenical matters dealt with at the Methodist Conference held in Manukau 8-12 November were: affirmation of the continuing significant relationship with UCSI and UCPNG; encouragement to parishes to engage with issues surrounding HIV and AIDS using the resource pack distributed at conference; affirmation of ongoing discussion towards a possible new national ecumenical initiative; approval of a response to the World Council of Churches Faith and Order paper The Nature and Mission of the Church; support a Living Letters visit by WCC and Vatican representatives; approval of a response to the Common Word open letter issued by a team of international Muslim leaders in November 2007.

Season’s greetings to all from Methodist Mission and Ecumenical.

May you have a joyous Christmas and a good beginning to the New Year

Methodist Mission & Ecumenical
Newsletter November 2008 Secretary: John Roberts

News roundup

Ecumenical Dialogue in New Zealand

The second meeting of national church representatives to consider a possible future ecumenical arrangement took place in Wellington in September. Anglican, Baptist, Catholic, Christian Churches NZ, Methodist, Presbyterian, Quaker and Salvation Army representatives attended. A draft statement Towards a theology of ecumenism was considered as was a letter from the World Council of Churches commending the ecumenical gathering. The possibility of a Living Letters team visit by WCC and the Vatican Secretariat for Christian Unity representatives is being explored. The group will meet again in March 2009. Methodist representatives at the September meeting were President Brian Turner and Mission and Ecumenical secretary John Roberts.

Multifaith Conference held in Auckland

The trustees of the Maclaurin Chapel at the University of Auckland organised an excellent multifaith conference in September around the theme of Uni-Diversity. Paul Weller from the University of Derby UK outlined some basic principles for believers to live in harmony in a multifaith world: modesty, integrity, realism, and distinctiveness. Douglas Pratt of the University of Waikato said that interreligious dialogue is seldom taken seriously in this country and noted that it implies a radical revision of the stance of Christians to people of other faiths. Paul Morris of Victoria University of Wellington stated that religious conflicts demand religious resolution, that religions do have visions of peace and that they have a long history of being peacemakers. Manuka Henare of the University of Auckland observed that traditional religious practices such as those of Maori don’t disappear when a global religion (such as Christianity) is adopted. The conference laid a sound base for further interreligious activity in Aotearoa New Zealand.

New models for ecumenism in Asia

New paradigms and models of ecumenical work and engagement are necessary to counter a malaise in the ecumenical movement in Asia, a group of ecumenists from the region have stated. According to participants at a consultation on Revitalizing the Ecumenical Movement in Asia, the malaise is manifested in declining youth interest and participation, lack of visionary leadership and the region's inability to set its own agenda. In response, the Asian ecumenical leaders

identified a number of areas needing attention, including spirituality; inter-religious dialogue and solidarity; peace, reconciliation and justice; religious fundamentalism - both Christian and non-Christian - as well as ecumenical leadership development. The consultation was held in Dhaka, Bangladesh and was attended by WCC central committee members from Asia, the general secretaries of the region's National Christian Councils, the Christian Conference of Asia general committee. WCC News

WCC 60th anniversary

The 60th anniversary of the World Council of Churches was observed in Amsterdam on 22 August in the Nieuwe Kerk. At this event a book to mark the anniversary was launched. In the book The Ecumenical Movement at a Crossroads more than 20 people present their vision on the future of ecumenism. Albert van den Heuvel told the gathering that the future of the World Council of Churches lies in playing to its strength of giving those less fortunate in the world a voice. Expressing gratitude to the Dutch churches and ecumenical friends that planned the Amsterdam event, WCC general secretary, the Samuel Kobia said "Today the challenges of seeking visible unity appear to be even stronger but we, nevertheless, look to the next sixty years with hope and confidence as we are inspired by the spirit of our ecumenical ancestors who made Amsterdam 1948 [the place of the first assembly of the WCC] possible." Ecumenical News International

Call for environmental ethic

The Orthodox Churches Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople has recently called for an environmental ethic. The state of the planet is a matter of grave concern, Bartholomew says. He says climate change has the potential to disrupt and destroy the entire ecosystem and is the result of human choices and actions. It is a moral and spiritual problem. “Especially disturbing is the fact that the poorest and most vulnerable members of the human race are being affected by environmental problems which they did not create," says the Ecumenical Patriarch. Bartholomew stresses the need for an "environmental ethic, which must underline that the use of the world and the enjoyment of material goods must be Eucharistic, accompanied by doxology toward God". On the other hand, he says, "the abuse of the world is sinful both before the Creator and before humanity". WCC News

Project updates

Children & Youth Centre

This centre funded by Mission and Ecumenical for the United Church Solomon Islands, is being built on the old jubilee church site at Munda, Solomon Islands. The project has now reached tender stage and a construction contract is about to be finalised. A local architect based in Munda has completed drawings and will make inspections during construction which is expected to begin shortly.

Goldie College

It is with sadness we report the death of the United Church Solomon Islands college principal, Levi Davo, at Helena Goldie Hospital on 7 September. This is a big loss to the college, another setback following the fire in May that destroyed the staff and administration block. On a more positive note the science equipment, including the computing equipment requested following the fire, was recently shipped from Auckland and has now cleared customs in Honiara and is on its way to the college. Thanks to those who contributed to the special appeal for this project.

Seghe Theological Seminary scholarships

Scholarships for four students at Seghe theological Seminary were finalised in June. A development plan for the seminary is now underway.

Sasamugga Hospital

Following last years tsunami, Mission and Ecumenical has provided funds for the building of staff houses at this United Church Solomon Islands Hospital on the remote Choiseul Island. Fund raising for a canoe and outboard motor is underway to assist the hospital in its outreach to surrounding villages.

Copra project

This United Church Solomon Islands project based at Vonunu on Vella Lavella Island is well managed by Vincent Ghanny. Mission and Ecumenical provided a seeding grant and has assisted with a boat purchase. The price for copra is currently high so production is encouraging. More agents have been appointed. A major challenge is the rising cost of fuel to keep the boat operating. Project board members are providing good oversight of the project.

Helena Goldie Hospital

The Director of Nursing of this United Church Solomon Islands hospital, Chris Leve, whose salary is paid by Mission and Ecumenical, is currently studying for a nursing administration degree in Papua New Guinea. Funding has been provided to enable the hospital’s radiologist to receive six months advanced training at the National Referral Hospital in Honiara.

Nurse Aide Training School

Helena Goldie Hospital’s Nurse Aide Training School is in process of being upgraded to a College of Nursing and will train fully registered nurses from 2010. Mission and Ecumenical has funded the construction of the Davinia Taylor Memorial building which will provide teaching rooms, staff offices and provide a library space. The building will be officially opened on 27 November 2008. We have also funded the purchase of nursing texts for the new college.

Rarongo Theological College

Mission and Ecumenical continues to purchase books for the library of this United Church Papua New Guinea college that trains pastors and ministers. Scholarships have been provided to assist four students with their study.

Papuan Gulf Region UCPNG

The United Church Papua New Guinea recently inaugurated a new region - Papuan Gulf. Mission and Ecumenical has assisted the new regions by providing funds for the purchase of a canoe, outboard motor, life jackets and fuel tanks. This is a maritime region where access to most areas is only possible by boat. Mission and Ecumenical awaits proposals for further project assistance with the UCPNG.

Resources

Interreligious

Neighbours not Strangers: Methodists exploring relationships with people of other religions is a small book written by John Roberts and published by Mission and Ecumenical. It sets out to see if there is a Methodist theology of religions that can help us with our interreligious relations today by exploring the collective insights of John Wesley, five twentieth century pioneer Methodist scholars (James Moulton; Stanley Jones; D T Niles; Geoffrey Parrinder; Wilfred Cantwell Smith), and four contemporary scholars (John Cobb; Kenneth Cracknell; Wesley Ariarajah; Diana Eck). Available from Epworth Books, free phone 0800 755 355; E-mail sales@epworthbooks.org.nz. Cost: $15 plus $2 p&p.

HIV & AIDS

Crossing the Road: A resource for the church about HIV and AIDS will be available to parishes at no cost at the annual Methodist Conference in Manukau, along with Exploring Solutions: How to talk about HIV prevention in the church.

Immigration

Immigration Matters is the latest Hot Topic from the Churches Agency on International issues. It covers a range of issues relating to immigration and, refugee settlement and political asylum. Available at no cost from international@cws.org.nz or off the website www.cws.org.nz or telephone 03-366-9274.

Methodist Mission & Ecumenical
Newsletter October 2008 Secretary: John Roberts

News roundup


Ecumenical Dialogue in New Zealand

The second meeting of national church representatives to consider a possible future ecumenical arrangement took place in Wellington in September. Anglican, Baptist, Catholic, Christian Churches NZ, Methodist, Presbyterian, Quaker and Salvation Army representatives attended. A draft statement Towards a theology of ecumenism was considered as was a letter from the World Council of Churches commending the ecumenical gathering. The possibility of a Living Letters team visit by WCC and the Vatican Secretariat for Christian Unity representatives is being explored. The group will meet again in March 2009. Methodist representatives at the September meeting were President Brian Turner and Mission and Ecumenical secretary John Roberts

Multifaith Conference held in Auckland

The trustees of the Maclaurin Chapel at the University of Auckland organised an excellent multifaith conference in September around the theme of Uni-Diversity. Paul Weller from the University of Derby UK outlined some basic principles for believers to live in harmony in a multifaith world: modesty, integrity, realism, and distinctiveness. Douglas Pratt of the University of Waikato said that interreligious dialogue is seldom taken seriously in this country and noted that it implies a radical revision of the stance of Christians to people of other faiths. Paul Morris of Victoria University of Wellington stated that religious conflicts demand religious resolution, that religions do have visions of peace and that they have a long history of being peacemakers. Manuka Henare of the University of Auckland observed that traditional religious practices such as those of Maori don’t disappear when a global religion (such as Christianity) is adopted. The conference laid a sound base for further interreligious activity in Aotearoa New Zealand.

New models for ecumenism in Asia

New paradigms and models of ecumenical work and engagement are necessary to counter a malaise in the ecumenical movement in Asia, a group of ecumenists from the region have stated. According to participants at a consultation on Revitalizing the Ecumenical Movement in Asia, the malaise is manifested in declining youth interest and participation, lack of visionary leadership and the region's inability to set its own agenda. In response, the Asian ecumenical leaders identified a number of areas needing attention, including spirituality; inter-religious dialogue and solidarity; peace, reconciliation and justice; religious fundamentalism - both Christian and non-Christian - as well as ecumenical leadership development. The consultation was held in Dhaka, Bangladesh and was attended by WCC central committee members from Asia, the general secretaries of the region's National Christian Councils, the Christian Conference of Asia general committee. WCC News

WCC 60th anniversary

The 60th anniversary of the World Council of Churches was observed in Amsterdam on 22 August in the Nieuwe Kerk. At this event a book to mark the anniversary was launched. In the book The Ecumenical Movement at a Crossroads more than 20 people present their vision on the future of ecumenism. Albert van den Heuvel told the gathering that the future of the World Council of Churches lies in playing to its strength of giving those less fortunate in the world a voice. Expressing gratitude to the Dutch churches and ecumenical friends that planned the Amsterdam event, WCC general secretary, the Samuel Kobia said "Today the challenges of seeking visible unity appear to be even stronger but we, nevertheless, look to the next sixty years with hope and confidence as we are inspired by the spirit of our ecumenical ancestors who made Amsterdam 1948 [the place of the first assembly of the WCC] possible." Ecumenical News International

Call for environmental ethic

The Orthodox Churches Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople has recently called for an environmental ethic. The state of the planet is a matter of grave concern, Bartholomew says. He says climate change has the potential to disrupt and destroy the entire ecosystem and is the result of human choices and actions. It is a moral and spiritual problem. “Especially disturbing is the fact that the poorest and most vulnerable members of the human race are being affected by environmental problems which they did not create," says the Ecumenical Patriarch. Bartholomew stresses the need for an "environmental ethic, which must underline that the use of the world and the enjoyment of material goods must be Eucharistic, accompanied by doxology toward God". On the other hand, he says, "the abuse of the world is sinful both before the Creator and before humanity". WCC News


Project updates


Children & Youth Centre

This centre funded by Mission and Ecumenical for the United Church Solomon Islands, is being built on the old jubilee church site at Munda, Solomon Islands. The project has now reached tender stage and a construction contract is about to be finalised. A local architect based in Munda has completed drawings and will make inspections during construction which is expected to begin shortly.

Goldie College

It is with sadness we report the death of the United Church Solomon Islands college principal, Levi Davo, at Helena Goldie Hospital on 7 September. This is a big loss to the college, another setback following the fire in May that destroyed the staff and administration block. On a more positive note the science equipment, including the computing equipment requested following the fire, was recently shipped from Auckland and has now cleared customs in Honiara and is on its way to the college. Thanks to those who contributed to the special appeal for this project.

Seghe Theological Seminary scholarships

Scholarships for four students at Seghe theological Seminary were finalised in June. A development plan for the seminary is now underway.

Sasamugga Hospital

Following last years tsunami, Mission and Ecumenical has provided funds for the building of staff houses at this United Church Solomon Islands Hospital on the remote Choiseul Island. Fund raising for a canoe and outboard motor is underway to assist the hospital in its outreach to surrounding villages.

Copra project

This United Church Solomon Islands project based at Vonunu on Vella Lavella Island is well managed by Vincent Ghanny. Mission and Ecumenical provided a seeding grant and has assisted with a boat purchase. The price for copra is currently high so production is encouraging. More agents have been appointed. A major challenge is the rising cost of fuel to keep the boat operating. Project board members are providing good oversight of the project.

Helena Goldie Hospital

The Director of Nursing of this United Church Solomon Islands hospital, Chris Leve, whose salary is paid by Mission and Ecumenical, is currently studying for a nursing administration degree in Papua New Guinea. Funding has been provided to enable the hospital’s radiologist to receive six months advanced training at the National Referral Hospital in Honiara.

Nurse Aide Training School

Helena Goldie Hospital’s Nurse Aide Training School is in process of being upgraded to a College of Nursing and will train fully registered nurses from 2010. Mission and Ecumenical has funded the construction of the Davinia Taylor Memorial building which will provide teaching rooms, staff offices and provide a library space. The building will be officially opened on 27 November 2008. We have also funded the purchase of nursing texts for the new college.

Rarongo Theological College

Mission and Ecumenical continues to purchase books for the library of this United Church Papua New Guinea college that trains pastors and ministers. Scholarships have been provided to assist four students with their study.

Papuan Gulf Region UCPNG

The United Church Papua New Guinea recently inaugurated a new region - Papuan Gulf. Mission and Ecumenical has assisted the new regions by providing funds for the purchase of a canoe, outboard motor, life jackets and fuel tanks. This is a maritime region where access to most areas is only possible by boat. Mission and Ecumenical awaits proposals for further project assistance with the UCPNG.


Resources


Interreligious

Neighbours not Strangers: Methodists exploring relationships with people of other religions is a small book written by John Roberts and published by Mission and Ecumenical. It sets out to see if there is a Methodist theology of religions that can help us with our interreligious relations today by exploring the collective insights of John Wesley, five twentieth century pioneer Methodist scholars (James Moulton; Stanley Jones; D T Niles; Geoffrey Parrinder; Wilfred Cantwell Smith), and four contemporary scholars (John Cobb; Kenneth Cracknell; Wesley Ariarajah; Diana Eck). Available from Epworth Books, free phone 0800 755 355; E-mail sales@epworthbooks.org.nz. Cost: $15 plus $2 p&p.

HIV & AIDS

Crossing the Road: A resource for the church about HIV and AIDS will be available to parishes at no cost at the annual Methodist Conference in Manukau, along with Exploring Solutions: How to talk about HIV prevention in the church.

Immigration

Immigration Matters is the latest Hot Topic from the Churches Agency on International issues. It covers a range of issues relating to immigration and, refugee settlement and political asylum. Available at no cost from international@cws.org.nz or off the website www.cws.org.nz or telephone 03-366-9274.

Methodist Mission & Ecumenical
Newsletter September 2008 Secretary: John Roberts

UN affirmation for faith groups working with HIV & AIDS

The work of faith-based organisations in the campaign against HIV and AIDS has been acknowledged. Dr Peter Piot, the executive director of the United Nations AIDS agency UNAIDS since its creation in 1995, has said his own attitude to religion has changed over the past 13 years. "When I started this job I saw religion as one of the biggest obstacles to our work, particularly in the area of prevention," Piot told a 5 August media conference at the 17th International AIDS Conference taking place in Mexico City. "But I've seen some great examples of treatment and care that came from the religious community, and lately in the area of prevention," he said. The 59-year-old scientist and researcher is known for his campaign to expand AIDS treatment and prevention in the world's poorest countries.

Likewise Craig McClure, executive director of the International AIDS Society, affirmed faith-based organisations for being among the first to care for children orphaned by the disease and for those dying from AIDS-related illnesses. In his opening remarks to an inter-religious AIDS gathering held just prior to the beginning of the International AIDS Conference on 3 August, McClure also identified a sometimes "significant tension between secular and faith-based responses" to the challenge. The most common tensions, McClure said, are found in views about homosexuality, same-sex marriage and sex outside of marriage. For Roman Catholics, the use of condoms, a practice that greatly reduces exposure to HIV, is also against church teaching. "Homosexuality and heterosexuality have existed throughout all time and they will continue to exist," McClure said. "Love between people must be honoured in whatever form it takes."

Kay Warren, an evangelical Christian and executive director of the HIV and AIDS Initiative at Saddleback Community Church in California, said that balancing religious beliefs while targeting HIV and AIDS can be "a pretty treacherous river to try to swim". She said, "HIV is a sexually-transmitted disease, and it doesn't come naturally for us in the Church to talk about sex but we've got to get good at it if we are going to make a difference." She is known for telling her audiences, "Anyone who has to ask how the disease was contracted before offering help is starting at the wrong end of the equation." Warren said she usually begins with an apology for a lack of sensitivity by the Church, and for the pain it has caused those who are HIV positive. "That tends to open doors," she said. "We will not deny what scripture says about human relationships but we will lead with an open embrace." Cheryl Heckler, Ecumenical News International www.eni.ch

Helping churches deal with HIV & AIDS

Representatives of ecumenical organisations meeting in advance of the 17th International AIDS Conference in Mexico City in August launched a global campaign to help churches become competent in dealing with HIV and AIDS. A first step will be a set of education and advocacy materials produced in time for World AIDS Day 2008, on 1 December. There will also be a resource to enable groups and communities to assess the quantity and quality of their response to HIV and AIDS.

Partners in the campaign will be the Ecumenical HIV and AIDS Initiative in Africa (EHAIA), Churches United Against HIV and AIDS in Southern and Eastern Africa, and the newly created International Network of Religious Leaders Living with or Personally Affected by HIV and AIDS. Other key church-related agencies are expected to join in. The agreement was reached during the "Faith in Action Now!" ecumenical conference sponsored by the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance. It brought together over 500 representatives of church and church-related organisations.

Dr Sue Parry, EHAIA regional coordinator for Southern Africa, says the concept of ‘HIV competent church’ refers to the ability of a given faith community to deal with the challenges posed by HIV and AIDS in an appropriate and compassionate manner.

Bishop Dr Johannes Ramashapa, Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Southern Africa, says "An HIV-competent church is able to build up a new community of God. A community that recognizes and responds to the social challenges that contribute to HIV and has leaders who can break free from unhelpful traditions and cultures - to overcome HIV,"

Karuna Roy, coordinator of the Synodical Board of Health Services in the Church of North India, says, "We all strive to develop a church fully informed on what HIV and AIDS is; which acknowledges people living with HIV as an integral and precious part of the congregation." WCC News

Note: Mission and Ecumenical will have an HIV & AIDS resource for parishes available at Methodist Conference 2008.

Christian Muslim dialogue

A recent dialogue held at Yale University in the United States brought together Muslim and Christian scholars, intellectuals, academics and religious leaders from across the world. The event was organised in response to the October 2007 open letter "A Common Word" sent by 138 Muslim scholars to Christians throughout the world. The letter invited them to dialogue about what they viewed as the common parts of their respective faiths.

The World Council of Churches (WCC), the National Council of Churches in the USA, the Roman Catholic Church and the World Evangelical Alliance were also represented. Since the letter was released, churches, councils of churches and Christian leadership from the Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant and Evangelical traditions have been working with Muslims to organise a series of dialogue events and consultations which are scheduled through 2010.

The Yale conference focused on fundamental issues bringing Christians and Muslims together: the love and unity of God and the love of neighbour. "Many Christians from all corners of the world have responded favourably" to "A Common Word", said Prof. Miroslav Volf, Director of the Yale Center for Faith and Culture, and the co-organiser of the conference. The goal of the present conference, he said, "is to contribute to the historic task of reconciliation between Muslims and Christians world-wide, to help us transition from clashes to mutually beneficial co-existence." "An agreement on the love of God and neighbour does not erase differences," Volf said. "It enables people to accept others in their differences, leads them to get to know each other in their differences, and helps them live together harmoniously notwithstanding their differences."

Among the practical outcomes of the Yale conference was a plan for setting aside one week every year where Muslim and Christian religious leaders are urged to emphasize the good in the others tradition. WCC News 11 August 2008

Jews and Christians should forge a common cause

Addressing more than 600 of the world's Anglican bishops, Britain's Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks has appealed to Jews and Christians to forge common cause and reach out to other people in a world dominated by politics and economics. "Though we do not share a faith, we surely share a fate," said Sacks on 28 July when addressing the Lambeth Conference.

"Whatever our faith or lack of faith, hunger still hurts, disease still strikes, poverty still disfigures, and hate still kills," Sacks told the bishops. He said that faith brings a "covenantal relationship" of cooperation to a world governed by economics and politics, which were based, he believed, on a logic of competition. "If there is only competition and not co-operation, if there is only the state and the market and no covenantal relationships, society will not survive," said Sacks. "What is the face religion all too often shows to the world? Conflict between faiths, and sometimes within faiths."

The Jewish leader said that globalisation and new information technologies were fragmenting the world, and creating "ever-smaller sects of the like-minded". At the same time, "globalisation is also thrusting us together as never before" in the face of challenges such as the environment, political conflict and poverty. Ecumenical News International www.eni.ch

Methodist Mission & Ecumenical
Newsletter August 2008 Secretary: John Roberts

Children living with HIV and AIDS

in Asia

The Asian Interfaith Network with participants from Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, India, Pakistan, Nepal, Indonesia, Philippines, Hong Kong, and Korea, met in Chiang Mai, Thailand in July 2008, in response to the increasing incidence of HIV and AIDS in children. The conference theme was, Reclaiming Rights of Children Affected and Living with HIV and AIDS.

Considering the situation of children affected by and living with HIV and AIDS the conference noted:

· parent-to-child transmission is the most common form of spread of HIV and AIDS in Asia. Services reach only a very low percentage of children and families in need;

· for children whose parents are sick and dying, or who are already orphaned, the lack of adequate support, care and protection continues to expose them to the dangers of exploitation, abuse, and poverty;

· the overall prevalence of children living with HIV and AIDS is comparatively low in the Asian region but the conditions exist for a rapid increase of the infection.

Participants acknowledged that their faith-based organisations have contributed to the rise in the incidence of HIV and AIDS through judgmental attitudes that have fueled stigma and discrimination of people living with HIV and AIDS. They also stated that some religious leaders are not open to help people living with HIV and AIDS, yet their sacred writings are a source of inspiration to restore human dignity and to reclaim the rights of children affected and living with HIV and AIDS.

The faith-based organisations represented at the conference reaffirmed their commitment to:

· work with more vigour to strengthen the presence of children at the centre of their faith-based initiatives and to address the increasing number of people living with and/or affected by HIV and AIDS;

· lobby and advocate for the implementation of the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child by their governments and to monitor their actual practices;

· offer their sacred spaces - temples, churches, chapels, mosques dedicated for prayers, spiritual meditation, and moral support - for use as safe spaces for people living with HIV and AIDS;

· provide a platform or forum for the engagement of faith leaders and members to promote greater awareness on HIV and AIDS.

· share and exchange resources on capacity building programs and conduct joint research.

CCA July 2008

Poverty fuels child exploitation in the Pacific

Beyond the palm-fringed beaches and cascading waterfalls of the islands of the Pacific is a sordid reality - child labour and commercial sexual exploitation of children. Rough estimates suggest that with growing poverty child workers make up an estimated 19 % of the labour force in Papua New Guinea and 14 % in the Solomon Islands.

Sex tourists in the South Pacific are also preying upon children. A report by the U.N. Children's Fund (UNICEF) Pacific – based on studies in 2004 and 2005 in Fiji, Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu - said that in each country child prostitution, child pornography, and child sex tourism and trafficking occurred. The report said that children in the South Pacific were at "high risk" of being traded for sex by family members and friends because of poverty.

Gabriela Koheler Raue, the head of the Social Section with the European Commission for the Pacific, says "Child labour is today still a real and pressing issue to be tackled by many countries globally in co-operation and partnership. Many children still miss out on school because they have to support their families and contribute to the household income by offering their labour on the market, often under harsh conditions."

According to Werner Blenk, the International Labour Organisation's director for the Pacific, "campaigning against child labour is really a campaign for proper education. We need a situation where children go to school, get proper qualifications, join the job market and lead healthy lives. We cannot have generation after generation of children working".

Pacnews/Pacific Media Watch Suva 11 July 2008

News roundup

Pacific antiviolence focus

Churches around the world will pray for the peoples of the Pacific as an international church initiative against violence focuses attention on the region later this year. Pacific churches themselves will pray and reflect together on how best to promote peace in their communities. This year, the ecumenical Decade to Overcome Violence, will highlight ways to overcome cultural and ethnic violence. It will also promote human rights in communities, workplaces, schools or homes. Inspired by the theme "Witnessing to the peace of God in Oceania", a number of activities and events are to take place during the year. The International Day of Prayer for Peace on 21 September 2008 will be an opportunity for churches, congregations and individuals to pray for the Pacific region. Prayer resources for this will soon be available on the internet (http://overcomingviolence.org/?id=1487)

Manual on social issues launched

A Christian education manual on HIV/AIDS, reproductive health and life skills was has been launched in the Solomon Islands. It has been compiled by Christian churches in the country. The manual was developed to help train, equip and empower the churches on how to tackle HIV and AIDS and other health issues from a biblical perspective. The manual is also sensitive to the local cultures. The manual will be used to educate youth about reproductive health, HIV and AIDS and related issues, and will provide adult facilitators with an evidence-based training resource that helps them communicate more effectively with youth about these issues, within the context of shared faith. Church leaders resolved that they needed an HIV manual to help them with the task of reaching youth and even adults, within church and community Settings. It took five years to complete the manual.

Solomon Star 1 July 2008

Solomons Pidgin Bible launched

Pidgin is the national language that unifies Solomon Islanders. It enables them to come together, share together and understand the word and God. The Solomon Islands Christian Association (SICA) together with Solomon Islands Translation Advisory Group (SITAG) has now completed a 13 year projectto translate the whole Bible into Pidgin. Governor General Sir Nathaniel Waena commended the tireless efforts of the translators and supporting groups in coming up with the complete Bible in the pidgin language.“In 1988 when Solomon Islands celebrated its 10th anniversary, we celebrated the successful translated pidgin version of the four gospels of the New Testament,” Sir Nathaniel said. “In 1993, the 15th anniversary, we celebrated the completion of the New Testament pidgin version. Now on our 30th anniversary we are celebrating the launching of the whole Bible.” Also present at the launching was Prime Minister Dr Derek Sikua who straight after the launching bought two copies.

Solomon Star 7 July 2008

United Church marks 40 yrs in PNG

The United Church in Papua New Guinea recently celebrated 40 years of work in Papua New Guinea. The celebrations were attended by Council of World Mission representatives from around the world, including the Pacific Island nations.

At a celebration dinner Deputy Prime Minister Dr Puka Temu gave thanks for the enormous work the church has done for the development of the nation. Celebration dances were held by members of the nearby villages of Central Province to welcome the dignitaries.

Post Courier 23 June 2008

Methodist Mission & Ecumenical
Newsletter July 2008 Secretary: John Roberts

Churches tell world leaders - 'Feed the hungry'


The world converged on Rome in the first week of June for an international summit on food security. The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation summit sought to tackle exploding food prices, food shortages, farming problems attributed to climate change, the use of grains in bio-fuel production, and rising energy consumption in emerging economies. The message from churches and faith communities was unequivocal: feed the hungry.

"Ensuring food security for all of the world's people is among the greatest challenges facing humanity in the early years of the 21st century," said the World Council of Churches WCC) in a statement to the summit. "The WCC views the primary cause of the current crisis as inappropriate human actions, which have induced climate change and skyrocketing food prices," said the WCC general secretary, the Rev. Samuel Kobia while the summit was still on. "Human actions that are driven by greed have created poverty, hunger and climate change. Humanity must be challenged to overcome its greed." The WCC head said that churches have an essential role to play on this issue, and to be effective they must face the global food crisis together.

Sushant Agrawal, director of the Church's Auxiliary for Social Action in India, said, "If God's will was done, no one would go hungry." Agrawal, who is also the moderator of the Geneva-based ACT International aid group, added, "The Lord’s Prayer highlights that having enough to eat is and has always been central to the Christian idea of a world shaped by justice and mercy."

"Give food to those who are dying of hunger because if you do not, you shall have killed them," warned Pope Benedict XVI.

While the summit was taking place in Rome, churches around the world shared information about their work on the underlying causes of the current desperate situation. The WCC, ACT International, ACT Development and the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance asked those associated with them how they were campaigning around the food crisis, along with any humanitarian or long-term development assistance. The Geneva-based groups said that at present 854 million people, representing one person in every eight, are hungry. The groups noted that, "The current crisis caused by rapid increase in food prices" could add another 100 million people to that count.

Separately, a coalition of more than 250 faith-based organisations attending the Rome summit called on the conference to launch an "effective, long-term multi-stakeholder process of discussion and action at national, regional and international levels, based on fundamental spiritual values in which civil society, including faith organisations, will play a full role". The groups circulated a statement to all delegations at the summit. Signatories included Roman Catholic religious orders, non-governmental organisations, various churches, and ecumenical inter-church aid networks.

Their statement said, "Every faith tradition invites us both to feed the hungry and care for our environment and its myriad life forms & We also recognise the need to ensure that policies enacted by elected representatives and relevant international organisations contribute to an improved quality of life for every human person, each made in the image and likeness of God, and to the sustainability of ecosystems on which every living creature depends."

After fractious debate, the summit pledged to take "urgent" action to halve global hunger by 2015 and double food production by 2030 by helping poorer farmers, with about US$6.5 billion dollars pledged. No agreement was reached over biofuels.

Peter Kenny, Ecumenical News International www.eni.ch


Spirituality Energises and Sustains Justice Movements


A wide array of justice movements around the world are challenging churches to create new kinds of spirituality that will sustain them as they struggle against a sense of empire at work in the world. That is the finding of an interfaith group of theologians, activists, pastors and educators from around the world who held a workshop 15 to 20 May in Cuba.

The Spirituality of Resistance, Liberation and Transformation workshop, which was held at the Protestant Theological Seminary at Matanzas, was sponsored by the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC), the Council for World Mission (CWM) and the World Council of Churches (WCC).

The participants met in response to the initiative of the Oikotree movement, an ecumenical project that attempts to identify and live out spiritualities that put justice at the heart of faith. In addition there were participants of the Muslim and Hindu faiths at the Matanzas workshop.

"We affirm that the problems of empire, amid which justice movements struggle, are not only political problems but spiritual challenges. Empire spawns its own destructive spiritualities, such as the religious right, and thus it seeks always to co-opt the powers of religion for imperial aims. New spiritualities are coming forth to oppose imperial spiritualities, and these should be supported," the group said in a communiqu?.

“Justice movements require a new solidarity among religious groups and all peoples of conscience (secular and religious) and thus we affirm and honour the full multiplicity of spiritualities that enliven such movements," the communiqu? continued.”

The workshop called for a recognition of the leading role that indigenous peoples are playing in ecological justice efforts, with their earth-centred spirituality, which focuses on the interdependence of body, mind, land, community and spirit. And they affirmed the struggle of first nations for their land and self-determination.

It also warned that the so-called war on terror has created a virulent form of Islamophobia that exacerbates other kinds of racism and therefore they called for new spiritualities that will stand with Muslims and work with them for justice.

WCC News Release 27 May 2008


News Roundup


Climate Change Threatens Solomons

Communities in Solomon Islands may lose their homes, culture, identity and way of life because of climate change, Minister of Environment, Conservation and Meteorology Gordon Darcy Lilo has warned when addressing a Climate Change workshop in Gizo on 17 June. On a daily basis climate change poses threats to food production and water supplies. All stakeholders were urged to work together in tackling the adverse effects of climate change. "We all have a role to play - different yet complimentary roles - in ensuring that we effectively tackle the challenges posed by a changing climate; to ensure that environmental degradation and man-made disasters that contribute to climate change are controlled or minimized."

Solomon Times Online 18 June 2008

Kabui is dead

Bougainville’s first autonomous government president Joseph Kabui has died following a massive heart attack. Kabui was premier of the province until the conflict started and then became the leading figure in the pro-secessionist Bougainville Interim Government which fought for independence from Papua New Guinea. After declaring a ceasefire in 1998, Mr Kabui and other rebel leaders signed the 2001 Bougainville Peace Agreement with PNG giving the province a high degree of autonomy with the promise of a referendum on independence in 10 to 15 years.

The man who once led the Bougainville Revolutionary Army in the region’s war-torn island was officially sworn in as the first president of the Autonomous Bougainville Government on June 15, 2005.

Post Courier 10 June 2008

Pray for Zimbabwe

Churches worldwide are being invited to a season of prayer for the people and government of Zimbabwe which is facing a critical time. This is an initiative of Christians within in the country as it faced the runoff election for the presidency."It is impossible to overstate the importance of this election, its fairness, its outcome and its aftermath", affirmed the World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia in a letter to the WCC member churches. "Events in the coming weeks will challenge the people of Zimbabwe and the world to find means of overcoming violence in the exercise of democracy, and the results will influence the future of the nation and the region", he adds.

WCC News release 17 June 2008

Methodist Mission & Ecumenical
Newsletter June 2008 Secretary: John Roberts

Tutu highlights social justice issues

Archbishop Desmond Tutu is known for speaking out about injustice and for his charismatic preaching peppered with heart-wrenching anecdotes. At the World Council of Churches (WCC) on 20 May the former leader of the Anglican Church in South Africa paid tribute to this grouping of 550 million Christians in 349 churches for taking a "moral and courageous" stand in supporting liberation movements that fought against his country's rulers during the apartheid era.

"I want you to know that in many ways we would not be free in South Africa today had it not been for the steadfast support we got from the World Council of Churches. You stood by what you believed was true," Tutu told cheering staff members as well as school students from France, who had gathered at the Geneva-based WCC. Tutu, who worked for the WCC back in the 1970s, noted that many Western governments had reviled the WCC for its support of African liberation movements that were accused then of being terrorists.

Tutu won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 at a time when black South Africans were rising up in revolt against his country's apartheid racist system of white domination, and he was a vociferous opponent of the regime. Yet, he also famously intervened to stop militants who were trying to kill a local member of a black community by setting fire to a gasoline soaked tyre and placing it around his neck, because he was suspected of being an informer.

The Nobel peace laureate said that people who were suffering under tyranny these days were in Zimbabwe, Burma and Tibet. The archbishop has condemned the totalitarian actions of the government of Zimbabwe led by President Robert Mugabe, and did so long before other church leaders dared to. He also fights his government over what he has labelled as their heartless policies for those living with HIV and AIDS.

When he visited the United Nations World Health Organisation, Tutu stressed the link between "faith and health". At the outset of his WHO appearance Tutu held up a T-shirt proclaiming, "HIV Positive Kids Need Treatment." In a speech to the 61st World Health Assembly, the archbishop highlighted what he said was the need to address the challenges faced in relation to HIV positive children.

"Children are dying of easily preventable diseases," Tutu stated. Around the world, almost 800 children die of AIDS-related illnesses every day. According to latest figures from UNAIDS, approximately 2.1 million children under 15 are living with HIV; nearly 90 percent of them live in sub-Saharan Africa.

"It is a Godly coincidence that nearby the World Council of Churches is also celebrating its 60th anniversary," Tutu, told his WHO hearers. "Together, the WHO and WCC share a common mission to the world, protecting and restoring body, mind, and spirit.” "You see, we – faith and health – have been together a very long time. Health is not only freedom from suffering and illness but, according to your Constitution, 'Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.' These words enshrine the fundamental reason you are here, and suggest something of what we share in our commitment to the world together," asserted Tutu.

He added, "Perhaps it would be good for us to include the recognition that there is an intrinsic relationship between God and humankind, which can be acknowledged as 'spiritual well being'? Perhaps one day this notion of well being can be included in the WHO definition of health?"

Peter Kenny Ecumenical News International 21 May 2008 www.eni.ch

‘Green Patriarch’ on ‘Time 100 list’

Bartholomeos I, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, has been named on the "Time 100" list, the people deemed by Time magazine to be the world's most influential people. In a tribute to the 68-year-old Bartholomeos, appearing in the 12 May issue of the US-based news weekly, Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury and leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion, praised the Eastern Orthodox Patriarch by noting Bartholomeos' commitment to addressing issues related to the environment.

"In a way that is profoundly loyal to the traditions of worship and reflection in the Eastern Orthodox Church, he has insisted that ecological questions are essentially spiritual ones," Williams wrote about Bartholomeos, who is sometimes called the "Green Patriarch", because of his public support for the environmental cause.

"He has stressed that a world in which God the Creator uses the material stuff of the universe to communicate who he is and what he wants is one that demands reverence from human beings," Williams wrote. "Probably more than any other religious leader from any faith, Patriarch Bartholomeos has kept open this spiritual dimension of environmentalism."

Istanbul-based Bartholomeos is not a well known figure in the West, a fact noted by Williams, who wrote: "The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople enjoys a resonant historical title but, unlike the Pope in the Roman Catholic context, has little direct executive power in the world of Eastern Orthodoxy. Patriarchs have had to earn their authority on the world stage, and, in fact, not many Patriarchs in recent centuries have done much more than maintain the form of their historic dignities."

But, Williams said, Bartholomeos has broken with that tradition, taking seriously the Ecumenical Patriarch's "pastoral responsibility for 'the whole inhabited world'". He noted, "This brave and visionary pastor has given a completely new sense to the ancient honorific."

Chris Herlinger Ecumenical News International 6 May 2008 www.eni.ch

Fire at Goldie College

In the early hours of the morning 9 May a fire at the United Church Solomon Islands Goldie College destroyed the administration block and staff room. The college awoke to students shouting and running towards the scene of the fire, by which time most of the building had already been consumed by the fire. College principal, Levi Davo says “there was nothing anyone could do but watch helplessly as the flames raged on to the end.” Following the fire the roof collapsed. Only the shell of the building remained standing.

Nearly all the college’s important documents and records, office equipment, telephone, radio wireless, solar panel, typewriter, duplicating Machine, resource materials and furniture were lost to the fire. The principal says, “Despite all this, the school programme will continue as usual. However, we require immediate assistance if we are to continue to effectively implement the school curriculum.

Methodist Mission and Ecumenical is already assisting the science department of Goldie College with the provision of equipment. We have been asked to further help by providing two new computers. These will be sent soon along with a shipment of science equipment. Any donations to assist the school should be sent to the Mission and Ecumenical secretary.

RAMSI questioned

A report by the independent Australian organisation, AID/Watch, says resentment is growing in the Solomon Islands over the Regional Assistance Mission or RAMSI. The report says many of the aid workers, soldiers, police and contacted companies involved have a strong interest in keeping the operation going. While local people appreciate the improvement in security provided by the Australian and other regional military personnel and police, that support is being undermined by a growing feeling that Solomon Islanders are economically deprived, compared to enclaves of long-term and relatively wealthy aid workers. A senior lecturer in political economy at Sydney University, Dr Tim Anderson, who prepared the AID/Watch report, recommended that the mission should be wound down gradually. PF Net 1 May 2008

Methodist Mission & Ecumenical
Newsletter May 2008 Secretary: John Roberts

Tutu highlights social justice issues


Archbishop Desmond Tutu is known for speaking out about injustice and for his charismatic preaching peppered with heart-wrenching anecdotes. At the World Council of Churches (WCC) on 20 May the former leader of the Anglican Church in South Africa paid tribute to this grouping of 550 million Christians in 349 churches for taking a "moral and courageous" stand in supporting liberation movements that fought against his country's rulers during the apartheid era.

"I want you to know that in many ways we would not be free in South Africa today had it not been for the steadfast support we got from the World Council of Churches. You stood by what you believed was true," Tutu told cheering staff members as well as school students from France, who had gathered at the Geneva-based WCC. Tutu, who worked for the WCC back in the 1970s, noted that many Western governments had reviled the WCC for its support of African liberation movements that were accused then of being terrorists.

Tutu won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 at a time when black South Africans were rising up in revolt against his country's apartheid racist system of white domination, and he was a vociferous opponent of the regime. Yet, he also famously intervened to stop militants who were trying to kill a local member of a black community by setting fire to a gasoline soaked tyre and placing it around his neck, because he was suspected of being an informer.

The Nobel peace laureate said that people who were suffering under tyranny these days were in Zimbabwe, Burma and Tibet. The archbishop has condemned the totalitarian actions of the government of Zimbabwe led by President Robert Mugabe, and did so long before other church leaders dared to. He also fights his government over what he has labelled as their heartless policies for those living with HIV and AIDS.

When he visited the United Nations World Health Organisation, Tutu stressed the link between "faith and health". At the outset of his WHO appearance Tutu held up a T-shirt proclaiming, "HIV Positive Kids Need Treatment." In a speech to the 61st World Health Assembly, the archbishop highlighted what he said was the need to address the challenges faced in relation to HIV positive children.

"Children are dying of easily preventable diseases," Tutu stated. Around the world, almost 800 children die of AIDS-related illnesses every day. According to latest figures from UNAIDS, approximately 2.1 million children under 15 are living with HIV; nearly 90 percent of them live in sub-Saharan Africa.

"It is a Godly coincidence that nearby the World Council of Churches is also celebrating its 60th anniversary," Tutu, told his WHO hearers. "Together, the WHO and WCC share a common mission to the world, protecting and restoring body, mind, and spirit.” "You see, we – faith and health – have been together a very long time. Health is not only freedom from suffering and illness but, according to your Constitution, 'Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.' These words enshrine the fundamental reason you are here, and suggest something of what we share in our commitment to the world together," asserted Tutu.

He added, "Perhaps it would be good for us to include the recognition that there is an intrinsic relationship between God and humankind, which can be acknowledged as 'spiritual well being'? Perhaps one day this notion of well being can be included in the WHO definition of health?"

Peter Kenny Ecumenical News International 21 May 2008 www.eni.ch


‘Green Patriarch’ on ‘Time 100 list’


Bartholomeos I, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, has been named on the "Time 100" list, the people deemed by Time magazine to be the world's most influential people. In a tribute to the 68-year-old Bartholomeos, appearing in the 12 May issue of the US-based news weekly, Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury and leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion, praised the Eastern Orthodox Patriarch by noting Bartholomeos' commitment to addressing issues related to the environment.

"In a way that is profoundly loyal to the traditions of worship and reflection in the Eastern Orthodox Church, he has insisted that ecological questions are essentially spiritual ones," Williams wrote about Bartholomeos, who is sometimes called the "Green Patriarch", because of his public support for the environmental cause.

"He has stressed that a world in which God the Creator uses the material stuff of the universe to communicate who he is and what he wants is one that demands reverence from human beings," Williams wrote. "Probably more than any other religious leader from any faith, Patriarch Bartholomeos has kept open this spiritual dimension of environmentalism."

Istanbul-based Bartholomeos is not a well known figure in the West, a fact noted by Williams, who wrote: "The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople enjoys a resonant historical title but, unlike the Pope in the Roman Catholic context, has little direct executive power in the world of Eastern Orthodoxy. Patriarchs have had to earn their authority on the world stage, and, in fact, not many Patriarchs in recent centuries have done much more than maintain the form of their historic dignities."

But, Williams said, Bartholomeos has broken with that tradition, taking seriously the Ecumenical Patriarch's "pastoral responsibility for 'the whole inhabited world'". He noted, "This brave and visionary pastor has given a completely new sense to the ancient honorific."

Chris Herlinger Ecumenical News International 6 May 2008 www.eni.ch


Fire at Goldie College


In the early hours of the morning 9 May a fire at the United Church Solomon Islands Goldie College destroyed the administration block and staff room. The college awoke to students shouting and running towards the scene of the fire, by which time most of the building had already been consumed by the fire. College principal, Levi Davo says “there was nothing anyone could do but watch helplessly as the flames raged on to the end.” Following the fire the roof collapsed. Only the shell of the building remained standing.

Nearly all the college’s important documents and records, office equipment, telephone, radio wireless, solar panel, typewriter, duplicating Machine, resource materials and furniture were lost to the fire. The principal says, “Despite all this, the school programme will continue as usual. However, we require immediate assistance if we are to continue to effectively implement the school curriculum.

Methodist Mission and Ecumenical is already assisting the science department of Goldie College with the provision of equipment. We have been asked to further help by providing two new computers. These will be sent soon along with a shipment of science equipment. Any donations to assist the school should be sent to the Mission and Ecumenical secretary.


RAMSI questioned


A report by the independent Australian organisation, AID/Watch, says resentment is growing in the Solomon Islands over the Regional Assistance Mission or RAMSI. The report says many of the aid workers, soldiers, police and contacted companies involved have a strong interest in keeping the operation going. While local people appreciate the improvement in security provided by the Australian and other regional military personnel and police, that support is being undermined by a growing feeling that Solomon Islanders are economically deprived, compared to enclaves of long-term and relatively wealthy aid workers. A senior lecturer in political economy at Sydney University, Dr Tim Anderson, who prepared the AID/Watch report, recommended that the mission should be wound down gradually. PF Net 1 May 2008

Methodist Mission & Ecumenical
Newsletter April 2008 Secretary: John Roberts

Faith sustains Botswana's most precious

lady detective

Aexander McCall Smith’s African tales of Precious Ramotswe, the traditionally built first lady of crime-stoppers and private detectives in Botswana, have been best sellers all around the globe. Sales of his "No 1. Ladies' Detective Agency" have exceeded 15 million and it has been published in 42 languages. Now the novel that made the Zimbabwe born Scottish academic turned writer, Alexander McCall Smith, one of the world's most successful authors, is to appear as a BBC film broadcast on television.

The television version of his best-known book will feature not only the American rhythym and blues singer Jill Scott as Botaswana sleuth Precious, but also the Bishop of Botswana, the Rev. Musonda Trevor Selwyn Mwamba. The bishop will play a village priest enrolled by Precious to halt the spread of crime in diamond-rich Botswana, which neighbours South Africa. "Precious is first and foremost a Christian. It is her belief in God and Christ that sustains her, and which, for the most part, sustains all Africans," Bishop Mwamba, who said he was delighted to be chosen to play a part in the two-hour drama, told Ecumenical News International.

Botswana's attorney general, Athaliah Molokomme, agrees with the bishop's assessment of the work of the 59-year-old Scottish author who once attended a Christian Brothers' College in Bulawayo. Speaking at the end of a seminar on Botswana and Diamonds on 12 March in London, Molokomme said, "Sandy [Alexander McCall Smith] was my law tutor during my first degree at Edinburgh University in the late 1970s. He paints women in Africa just as they are, strong, resilient and proud.

"Precious is no caricature," Molokomme said. "In Botswana, women have always been strong and that's because we have democracy. It wasn't brought here by Christian missionaries. Before they came we had a system we called delegated authority, women had their own space and authority, especially in the home."

The chief executive officer of the diamond mining giant De Beers Botswana, Sheila Khama, told Ecumenical News International says that Alexander McCall Smith and his books are boosting tourism in the southern African country. "We understand from the Swedish ambassador that over 500 people from that country will be visiting Botswana this year because they have read about Precious in Sandy's books," she said.

Richard Curtis, known for his screen writing in blockbuster films such as "Four Weddings and a Funeral" and "Notting Hill", has written the TV script for the "No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency. In an article in Time magazine of 12 March he said, "The high-wattage team behind the production is betting that Precious can help to recast the world's view of Africa."

Curtis worked for 20 years on TV programmes that fund raised for Africa, “And always, because we’re trying to move people into giving money, we’ve had to concentrate on some of the harshest things This film was a chance to show the other side of things – that people in Africa, when asked if they are happy, are more likely to answer yes than people in Europe or the U.S. I also believe that if people can believe in the rich, normal life of people in Africa, we won’t be happy to have millions die there.”

Film director, Anthony Minghella told Time “The books [of McCall Smith] don’t ask, ‘What’s wrong with Africa? What can we fix? They’re about what we can learn from Africa, not what we can teach it.”

ENI 17 March 2008 www.eni.ch

Mission projects update


United Church Solomon Islands

Children & Youth Centre

Plans for this building on the site of the old Jubilee Church at Kokeqolo are being finalised. As well as a large hall area with kitchen, ablution, and office space there will be a small guest house on an upper level. A local architect has been engaged to oversee the project. Thanks to all those who made donations towards this project in 2006.

Copra project

Work on the boat at Liapari shipyard is complete and it has completed a trial run prior to getting its certificate of seaworthiness. Project manager, Vincent Ghanny says “It has been a great achievement for us in the New Year 2008! & Your invariant support gives us the confidence and determination to do our utmost to make the project a great success for all of us.”

Seghe Theological College

Four students are to receive Mission and Ecumenical scholarships which cover tuition and accommodation fees. This is the first time we have assisted at Seghe Theological College.

Smethurst grant

A grant from the NZMWF has made it possible for Laeheng Sasabule, who is based at Munda, to attend the Girls Brigade Pacific Fellowship Conference being held in Auckland 26-30 April. Thank you NZMWF.

Goldie College Appeal

The 2008 special appeal for science equipment at Goldie College is off to a good start. In the two months since (17 March) its launch $9,060 has been received. Thanks to all who have donated.

Helena Goldie Hospital

Mission and Ecumenical pays salaries for Director of Nursing and for relieving nurses. These will continue to provide support at an increased level as salaries are being brought into line with Solomon Island government hospital scales. The Nurse Aide Training School is being upgraded to provide registered nurse training from 2010. We are assisting by funding the cost of a new teaching and library block (Davinia Taylor Memorial) and through the purchase of new text books.

Sasamugga Hospital

As of 2008 we are assisting at Sasamugga Hospital on Choiseul Island which was badly affected by the Tsunami of 2nd April 2007. Assistance will be for houses for nurses, outboard motors for canoes to reach isolated villages, a computer and printer, health planning kits for use by community leaders.

United Church Papua New Guinea

Rarorongo Theological College

We are providing ongoing assistance with book purchases for the library. Thanks to Keith Carley for the sterling assistance he has provided in this area. Four new students are on scholarship for payment of tuition and accommodation fees in 2008.

Other projects

New project initiatives are being negotiated with the UCPNG at this time.


Ecumenical Update


New ecumenical initiative

With the assistance of MCNZ president, Brian Turner, Methodist Mission and Ecumenical has started discussion with leaders of traditionally ecumenically minded churches on ways we can come together to explore what it means to be ecumenical in the 21st century.

WCC ecclesiology text

Mission and Ecumenical is working with Faith and Order to develop a response to the World Council of churches ecclesiology document “The nature and Mission of the church: A Stage on the Way to a Common Statement”.

WCC Ecumenical officers meeting

The Mission and Ecumenical Secretary, John Roberts, will be attending an ecumenical officers meeting at Bossey Ecumenical Institute, Geneva, in May.

Open letter from Muslim leaders

Mission and Ecumenical have been working with Faith and Order in making a response to an open letter “A Common Word between us [Muslims] and you [Christians]”from Muslim scholars addressed to all church leaders around the world.

Publication

Mission and Ecumenical have just published “Neighbours not Strangers: Methodists Exploring Relationships with People of Other Religions” by John Roberts. It surveys what Methodist scholars have been saying. Available from Epworth Books P O Box 17 255 Karori, Wellington 6033 (0800-755355) for $15 plus $2 p&p.

Methodist Mission & Ecumenical
Newsletter March 2008 Secretary: John Roberts

Call to confront differences honestly

Churches should be prepared to confront their differences honestly and to examine them in the light of the scriptures, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomeos I (the Istanbul-based patriarch considered by many to be the spiritual leader of Orthodox Christians) said at a service to celebrate 60 years since the founding of the World Council of Churches (WCC). "The bonds of friendship between divided churches and the bridges to overcome our divisions are indispensable, more now than ever. Love is essential, so that dialogue between our churches can take place in all freedom and trust," said Bartholomeos, preaching at Geneva's St Pierre cathedral during a meeting of the WCC central committee in February.

The WCC has 349 member churches, principally Anglican, Orthodox and Protestant. The Catholic Church cooperates with the Geneva-based church grouping in some areas.

Patriarch Bartholomeos I acknowledged the existence of turbulent periods in the life of the WCC, but said that dialogue that resulted from those difficulties has paved the way forward. He noted that in 1920 the Church of Constantinople had issued an appeal to churches around the world, "inviting them after the fratricidal First World War to form a League of Churches”. This coincided with similar initiatives by Anglican and Lutheran leaders in Europe and the United States. "It can be stated that the concerted action by Orthodox, Anglican and Reformation churches in the 1920s laid the foundations for the modern ecumenical movement," he said.

Patriarch Bartholomeos recalled that almost 60 years had passed since 23 August 1948, when the Archbishop of Canterbury, Geoffrey Fisher, in Amsterdam formally declared that the WCC was established. "This inter-church platform has been at the service of its member churches and dedicated to increasing the spirit of the Gospel, seeking Christian unity and encouraging cooperation by the churches in their social and diaconal work as they confront the acute pressing problems of humankind," the Patriarch said. "Are we today prepared, as member churches, to reaffirm the role of the Council as a privileged ecumenical space, where the churches will freely create networks for diakonia and for defending and promoting certain values?" he asked. "And where, by dialogue, the churches will continue to break down the barriers that prevent them from recognising one another as churches confessing a common faith, administering the same baptism, and celebrating the Eucharist together?"

Peter Kenny, ENI, www.eni.ch

News roundup

World Day of Prayer

This ecumenical event takes place around the world on the first Friday in March. The order of service for 2008 has been prepared by church women in Guyana with the theme “God’s Wisdom Provides New Understanding” World Day of prayer is a movement of prayer involving people of many denominations around the world, who observe a common day of prayer each year. It is initiated and carried out in 170 countries, bringing together various races, cultures and traditions in closer fellowship, understanding and action. Prayer is offered in more than 1000 languages beginning at dawn in the Tonga and finishing more than forty hours later in Alaska. Join your local World Day of Prayer Service on Friday 7 March.

UCPNG marks 40 years

The United Church in Papua New Guinea launched its 40th anniversary celebrations on 19 January in Port Moresby. The launching by Governor-General Sir Paulias Matane, marked the beginning of celebrations to be observed by United Church congregations throughout the country. Sir Paulias touched briefly on the history of the church, “Its history is a story of pain and gain, triumphs and trials. Let us look back over the 40 years of service to this beautiful country of ours and count our blessings with gratitude and humility.”

Year of the Bible in Solomon Islands

Following a meeting with a delegation from Solomon Islands Christian Association (SICA) and Solomon Islands Full Gospel Association (SIFGA), the Solomon Islands Prime Minister Dr Derek Sikua has endorsed 2008 as the Year of the Bible. The endorsement of 2008 as the Year of the Bible coincides with the planned launch of the Solomon Islands pijin bible this year. Martha Matzke of Solomon Islands Translation Advisory Group (SITAG) said “The pijin bible will give many Solomon Islanders access to God’s word in a language that is easy for them to understand The Solomon Islands Philatelic Bureau will honour the year with a stamp commemorating 30 years of Bible translation in this country.

Seasonal workers programme

The Solomon Star newspaper reported on 21 January that 103 workers from the Solomon Islands would be heading to New Zealand for seasonal work. Three New Zealand companies had recruited workers in Honiara. The companies recruiting agent stated that those selected would be in New Zealand for up to six months working in apple fields, factories and pack houses. The Solomon Star later reported that when the Solomons Prime Minister Dr Sikua visited New Zealand in late January he was successful in getting the New Zealand government to include the Solomon Islands in the category of Pacific Island nations to receive special treatment to facilitate the recruitment of such labour. In 2007 the Mission and Ecumenical secretary had unsuccessfully lobbied the Minister of Labour for the Solomon Islands to be given such treatment. It is good news that the government has now responded positively.

Human rights anniversary

2008 marks the 60th anniversary of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Participants at an international ecumenical consultation called by the World Council of Churches last December were told it will be a "fantastic opportunity" for churches to re-connect with the endeavour of protecting and promoting human dignity. "It will be a 'kairos' - an appropriate time - for the ecumenical movement to re-connect with the cause of human rights” said Peter Prove, of the Lutheran World Federation. The 60th anniversary can be an opportunity for human rights evangelism, he said. According to Prove, churches have moral authority, broad reach, capacity for education and ability to build bridges with other faiths and civil society. “All that puts them in a unique position to make an impact on international mechanisms for the protection of human rights.”

Persevering towards unity

Speaking during the recent Central Committee meeting of the World Council of Churches, moderator Rev. Dr Walter Altmann issued a renewed call to "visible unity" in the church. Unity in Christ, Altmann said, is a gift from God. Receiving that gift and responding to it "in the koinonia of brothers and sisters in the one church," he said, is the primary purpose of the ecumenical movement.

A decision of the Methodist Church of New Zealand Conference 2007 acknowledged the completion of work by a Strategic Thinking Group towards a new ecumenical commitment in Aotearoa New Zealand. With no consensus from churches on the way ahead, the Mission and Ecumenical Committee is working on another strategy. It hopes to encourage leaders of traditionally ecumenically minded churches to come into an ecumenical space to see if it is yet possible to find new ways of relating to each other and seeking greater cooperation between churches.

Climate change – act now!

The World Council of Churches Central Committee has again spoken out on the pressing issue of climate change, urging member churches and others to "Be stewards of God's creation" and to “take action now”. As stewards of God's creation, churches and religious communities "can take key leadership roles" for what is "both an environmental issue and a matter of justice". The statement urgently calls the churches to strengthen their moral stand on the issue and calls for a profound change in the way humans relate to the earth. It encourages the sharing of knowledge and experiences and urges churches to set aside a special time to have prayers and action related to the stewardship of creation. It proposes 1st September as an annual date. Theological schools and seminaries are asked to "teach stewardship of all creation" as part of their curriculum.

40 years of occupation

“Palestine: 40 years of occupation” This is the latest in the Hot Topic series of the Churches Agency on International Issues. It covers: our reluctance to act; illegal Jewish settlements; children in prison; the Hafrada wall; Jerusalem – Holy City? the siege of Gaza; Christian Zionism; non-violent protest; and taking action for justice. It can be downloaded from www.cws.org.nz, with hard copies available on request from Christian World Service, P O Box 22652, Christchurch 8142; e-mail international@cws.org.nz

Methodist Mission & Ecumenical
Newsletter February 2008 Secretary: John Roberts

No room for complacency on HIV and AIDS

In 2008 Mission and Ecumenical highlight the issue of HIV and AIDS in the Pacific including Aotearoa New Zealand. The newsletter begins the year with three articles in this topic.


Faith-based campaigners and religious leaders say churches should not relax their efforts to deal with the HIV and AIDS pandemic despite United Nations figures showing a drop in the number of people worldwide living with the virus.

"This is not the time for complacency nor apathy," said South African Anglican Archbishop and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Desmond Tutu in a 30 November statement released by the World Aids Campaign to mark World Aids Day on 1 December 2007. "It is the time for compassionate leadership."

Statistics released in November by UNAIDS and the World Health Organization have revised the estimated number of people living with HIV down from nearly 40 million to 33.2 million. "We welcome any indication that fewer people are living with HIV, whether it is through more accurate statistics or because a strong response in some areas is making a positive impact," said Linda Hartke, coordinator of the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance. "But in no way can we relax our efforts. HIV remains a devastating disease not just for individuals, but for families, communities and nations."

In London, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, who is leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion, also said there was no room for complacency and that churches needed to be honest about their own failures in language and practice. "The churches have not always challenged as they should the stigma that is attached to HIV and AIDS in many countries," he said. "They have failed to say that those living with HIV and AIDS are God’s beloved children, with dignity, liberty and freedom."

The Rev. Hielke Wolters, the WCC's director of justice, diakonia and responsibility for creation, noted that the majority of the 33 million people living with HIV are believed not to know they are HIV positive. "These reductions in estimates cannot lower our commitment and our focus to overcome this preventable and treatable disease," said Wolters, adding that the rate of 6800 new HIV infections every day particularly in low and middle income countries and among women and youth demonstrated that urgent and intensive actions are still needed.

"Numbers are important as one factor that give an indication of the extent of the problem and the scale of the response needed," said the Rev. Christo Greyling, chair of the African Network of Religious Leaders Living With or Personally Affected by HIV and AIDS. "Lower prevalence numbers for people living with HIV does not reduce the stigma which prevents people from accessing services and affects the lives of children and adults affected with HIV."

ENI News www.eni.ch 30 November 2007


Awareness raising in Solomon Islands


People in the Solomon Islands Western Province are seeking voluntary HIV testing. The tests were carried out at Munda and Noro as part of events to mark World Aids Day on 1st December 2007. “In the fight against stigma and cultural norms, seeing people engage in voluntary testing is a huge step forward for the community,” said counsellor Joyce Gumi. Ms Gumi is a member of the HIV and AIDS committee set up at Helena Goldie Hospital (HGH) to raise awareness in the communities. Ms Gumi said their awareness programme culminated with a drama, a video show and provision of free HIV tests. “This year’s events were a huge success and met with enthusiasm by the communities involved,” she said.

World AIDS Day has been celebrated in Munda and Noro for the past two years. In 2007 things got bigger and better. Awareness programmes took an entire week. Six touring teams began educating in November, each one conducting awareness in a different village every day. With teams in Munda, Noro, North New Georgia, Vona Vona Lagoon, Rendova and Roviana Lagoon, touring covered all of the major population centres in Health Zone 3, an area HGH is responsible for.

“Having found generators and DVD players in many of the villages, teams also showed documentaries on the AIDS crisis next door in Papua New Guinea,” Ms Gumi said. “With Solomon Islands in the unique position of still being able to prevent an epidemic, it is important that people now begin routine testing in addition to stopping risky behaviour. “This was communicated clearly, with emphasis on the immediate availability of free testing in Munda and Noro.”

On World AIDS Day in Munda, a song competition drew a crowd of between 300 and 400. A large stage was built and decorated in the centre of the market for Friday and Saturday’s activities, and the sound system carried youth’s songs about prevention far into the night. Four judges scored participants on musical ability, performance and relevance to HIV and AIDS.The winner walked home with $500 and a new guitar, the second $300 and third $200. “Cheap fish barbecue, heartfelt entertainment, and a cool, clear evening all made this year’s competition a monumental success in making HIV a part of Munda’s community dialogue,” Ms Gumi said.

Solomon Star 7 December 2007

Leading from the pulpit in PNG


There are signs of many churches abandoning their ingrained reluctance to address the subject of HIV and AIDS and to pull their weight in the community. It has always seemed remarkable to us that a country such as Papua New Guinea (PNG) with its loudly trumpeted network of Christian believers and church organisations should have been so appallingly slow to address this issue. HIV and AIDS, its spread and its sufferers would seem to be the ideal opportunity for all churches in this country to demonstrate a co-ordinated and proactive approach.

But most churches have proven to be deplorably slow in reacting to the epidemic. It seems that many church leaders found the subject distasteful, or even in some cases, proof of God’s power to destroy the wickedness in our midst. The latter belief, although thankfully not widespread, has created a sub-culture of PNG believers who accept that extraordinary notion and image of Christianity.

A workshop ended in the capital last week and in winding up proceedings, the National Capital District Governor Powes Parkop told the churches to “take ownership of HIV and AIDS”. We applaud that comment and only hope that the church representatives present, mainly pastors and their wives, absorbed the full impact of his remarks. He told the delegates that AIDS must be a subject to be preached from the nation’s pulpits. This echoes a concern often expressed in The National. The many hundreds of pulpits of this nation would seem to be the ideal source of information and appropriate Christian attitudes towards this illness and its victims. Instead, many ministers and pastors have flatly ignored the subject, whether through personal embarrass-ment or fear of a backlash from their congregations, it is impossible to say. Is that the measure of Christianity? It is not – and even the most superficial knowledge of the foundations of the Christian faith make that abundantly clear.

In another context, we have repeatedly pointed out that by downgrading women, trashing their public arena aspirations and treating them as objects and possessions rather than as partners, we savagely limit PNG’s capacity to move forward and claim a place as an honourable and widely admired nation. And if our churches choose to dismiss or ignore the issue of AIDS in our midst, we deny the very love and healing power of the Christian religion that is supposedly one of the very foundations of this country.

So let there be sermon after sermon thundered from each and every pulpit in the land. And let that message lead to alerted congregations made suddenly aware of the huge task that lies unattended at their doorsteps. And may that awakening awareness lead to a new approach to this disease and to those who often, through no moral fault of their own, have fallen victim to its clutches.

It is 20 long years since AIDS claimed its first victim in our country. An observer exposed to the reactions of some of our people might be forgiven in assuming that the disease had only just struck PNG. The PNG churches should be leading the fight against AIDS and against community antagonism, stigma and apathy. Let them show by their actions the true love of God.

The National 18 January 2008 (Editorial)