Matters of faith

North Korea mulls Christian service

"Purpose driven" pastor Rick Warren plans to travel to North Korea on July 17 to meet with both church and business leaders – and to make preparations to preach in the isolated nation in March 2007.

South Korean businessmen, who say they have gotten approval for the first public outdoor Christian service in the North in 50 years, have invited the influential head of California's Saddleback Valley Community Church to speak in a 15,000-seat stadium there.

"Regardless of politics, I will go anywhere I am invited to preach the Gospel," says the bestselling author of "The Purpose-Driven Life."

Dr. Warren has traveled widely in Africa and Asia, including dining with Chinese leaders. He says he hopes during his North Korean visits to promote religious freedom in a country where worship remains tightly controlled.

Bible commentary addresses Africa

African scholars of Evangelical churches have produced an African Bible Commentary aimed at highlighting the Good Book's relevance to peoples' immediate needs. Drawing on local proverbs and metaphors, along with verse-by-verse explanations, the commentary addresses such issues as ethnic violence, HIV/AIDS, tribalism, female genital mutilation, and witchcraft.

Compiled by the Association of Evangelicals in Africa, with contributions from 70 theologians from a range of Protestant churches, the commentary is being published in English and French, according to Reuters. Translations will eventually be available in several African languages.

Saying yes to female bishops

The role of women in leadership, as well as that of gays, continues to roil the global Anglican Communion. Steps just taken in England, Nigeria, and the US are likely to affect denominational unity and ecumenical ties.

The synod of the Church of England on July 8 voted, in principle, that consecrating women bishops is "consonant with the faith of the Church." The vote came after years of debate and just two weeks after the US Episcopal Church elected a woman bishop to be its top leader. (Only three of 38 Anglican national churches have women bishops, though 11 others allow for it.)

But some English traditionalists remain opposed. And the Roman Catholic Church, which insists there is no theological basis for ordaining women, warned that such a step would unalterably damage the Catholic-Anglican dialogue, which aimed at eventual unity.

A large majority at the Church of England synod backed the measure, but a complicated process to change church law will take time and require a two-thirds vote. Unless ways are found to accommodate clergy opposed to female leadership, some could leave the church.

In the US, since Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori was elected presiding bishop on June 18, seven Episcopal bishops in America have asked the Archbishop of Canterbury to arrange alternative oversight for them. Some oppose female leadership, while others say her support for gay bishops and same-sex ceremonies makes it impossible for them to serve under her.

Meanwhile, the synod of Nigeria has called for a global gathering of Anglican bishops for Africa in 2008. With 17 million Anglicans, the Nigerian church is second in size in the worldwide denomination to the Church of England.

Saying that churches in the West have failed to repent their missteps, and dissatisfied with the Archbishop of Canterbury's attempts at a remedy, the synod appeared to threaten a boycott of the once-a-decade Lambeth Conference already scheduled for that year in England. But the action may be a shot across the bow, with the African meeting coming before or after Lambeth.

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