Meaning of YEAR IN REVIEW 1997: RELIGION: PROTESTANT CHURCHES in English
- YEAR IN REVIEW 1997: RELIGION: PROTESTANT CHURCHES
PROTESTANT CHURCHES: Baptist Churches. (For figures on Adherents of All Religions by Continent, see Table I; for Adherents in the U.S., see Table II.) During 1996 some prominent African-American church leaders in the United States joined with secular business interests to boost black spending power. Among those denominations urging their parishioners to buy the products of the Revelation Corp. of America were the National Baptist Convention, U.S.A., Inc. (7.5 million members), National Baptist Convention of America, Inc. (3 million), and the Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc. (2.7 million). According to the plan, if substantial numbers of parishioners cooperated, a portion of the corporation's profits would be funneled to local churches. The Revelation Corp. of America was a for-profit merchandising creation of John Lowery, a Memphis, Tenn., developer. The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), the largest Protestant denomination in the U.S., with 15,614,060 members, passed resolutions in its June meeting to boycott Disney enterprises because the Walt Disney Co. was providing health care benefits to companions of gay employees. The SBC also objected to Disney's "hosting of homosexual theme nights at its parks." At the same meeting, the SBC resolved to evangelize the Jews. The resolution criticized "an organized effort on the part of some either to deny that Jewish people need to come to their Messiah, Jesus, to be saved; or to claim, for whatever reason, that Christians have neither right nor obligation to proclaim the gospel to the Jewish people." The president of the National Baptist Convention of America, Inc., the second largest African-American Baptist denomination, rejected the SBC's recent apology for racism. Pres. E. Edward Jones told the 4,000 delegates at the denomination's annual meeting in Dallas, Texas, "The civil rights struggle is still going on and we need more than an apology." American Baptist Churches USA issued a call to prayer and concern for the churches being burned in the southern U.S. Grants and building loans were offered by the American Baptist Office of World Relief and the National Ministries' Office of National Disaster Response. At a recent gathering in Toulouse, France, the Baptist World Alliance was told that the organization was developing strategies to increase its membership significantly in predominantly Roman Catholic countries in Europe. Some 186 Baptist bodies worldwide were related to the Baptist World Alliance. Nilson Fanini, president of the Alliance, said, "Given our doctrinal differences, there will always be a need for Baptists to plant churches, even where there are many Catholic congregations." But Fanini cautioned that Baptists needed to exercise "courtesy and fellowship with those who have ploughed the ground before us and who believe in many Christian doctrines precious to Baptists." (NORMAN R. DE PUY) This article updates Baptist. PROTESTANT CHURCHES: Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). (For figures on Adherents of All Religions by Continent, see Table I; for Adherents in the U.S., see Table II.) Actions taken during summer meetings of racial and ethnic constituencies, along with a churchwide response to help rebuild burned African-American churches, highlighted much of 1996 for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). The North American denomination, based in Indianapolis, Ind., gave more than $60,000 to a special fund established by the National Council of Churches. In other action July assemblies of African-American and Hispanic Disciples released statements condemning the racism behind the arson fires. The fires were a sobering testimony "that racism continues to plague our land," said the Disciples' general minister and president, Richard L. Hamm, in a July pastoral letter. He also announced that the 1997 General Assembly would examine racism in North America. The assembly of Hispanic Disciples also criticized U.S. immigration laws, which it termed discriminatory. A first-time gathering of Asian-American Disciples and United Church of Christ members called for the removal of U.S. bases and personnel from Okinawa. Other highlights included national television appearances by two Disciples of Christ congregations; The Easter program, "Resurrecting Hope," featured the 8,000-member Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church in Memphis, Tenn., and renowned Disciples preacher Fred Craddock spoke from historic Beargrass Christian Church in Louisville, Ky., for a Christmas special, "Awakening the Quest." (CLIFFORD L. WILLIS) This article updates Disciples of Christ. PROTESTANT CHURCHES: Church of Christ, Scientist. (For figures on Adherents of All Religions by Continent, see Table I; for Adherents in the U.S., see Table II.) At its 101st annual meeting the church's first Latin-American president, Juan Carlos Lavigne, sounded the theme of reaching out to address today's growing demand for spirituality: "To the degree that God's love becomes closer and more real to us, our capacity to love expands. It overflows the limits of individual affection, and we embrace our community and the world. . . . We begin to pray for others." Lavigne, a Christian Science practitioner and teacher from Argentina, conducted the June 3, 1996, meeting in Boston. About 3,000 members listened to officers' reports describing how the church was endeavouring to fulfill its mission as stated by founder Mary Baker Eddy--"to commemorate the word and works of our Master, which should reinstate primitive Christianity and its lost element of healing." In line with this, the church's clerk reported "encouraging signs of our membership renewing their healing careers" and the increasing involvement of young people in Sunday school and in Wednesday testimony meetings. New members were welcomed from 42 countries, and a Christian Science church was established in Russia for the first time in almost 70 years. Among the year's other noteworthy developments, Eddy's primary work, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, was being sold in bookstores throughout the United States, Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom, and Eddy was inducted into the (U.S.) National Women's Hall of Fame. The Christian Science Monitor received its sixth Pulitzer Prize, and an unusually large number of church members from around the world contributed articles to the denomination's religious magazines for the first time. In Boston the restoration of the Mother Church buildings reached the halfway point. Also during the year, the church launched three sites on the Internet: its own official home page, an electronic version of the Monitor, and a nondenominational Religious Freedom home page. (M. VICTOR WESTBERG) PROTESTANT CHURCHES: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (For figures on Adherents of All Religions by Continent, see Table I; for Adherents in the U.S., see Table II.) The seventh largest church in the United States, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) in 1996 crossed a demographic Rubicon: for the first time, it had more members living outside than inside the U.S. By the year's end the church had 10 million members in 156 nations and territories. The 50,000 full-time missionaries were recruiting approximately 300,000 new members per year. In addition to 4.8 million members in the U.S., there were 800,000 in Mexico, 600,000 in Brazil, 400,000 in Chile, 400,000 in the Philippines, 300,000 in Asia, and sizable numbers in Europe, Canada, and the South Pacific. An attempt was being made to universalize the LDS message and to draw attention to the Christian dimension of its theology. Rex E. Lee, who had served for seven years as president of Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, resigned for reasons of health (he died shortly thereafter) and was replaced in January 1996 by Merrill J. Bateman, formerly dean of business administration and management at the university and presiding bishop of the church. Simultaneously, Bateman was appointed a member of the First Council of Seventy, which marked the first time that a general authority of the church had served as president of the church university. Despite his age--he was 86 in 1996--the church president, Gordon B. Hinckley, visited large congregations in many countries throughout the world. He dedicated new temples in San Diego, Calif.; Hong Kong; and American Fork, Utah. By the end of 1996 there were 49 working temples throughout the world, 6 under construction, and plans announced for 6 more. The First Presidency also announced its intention to build a new meeting hall north of Temple Square in downtown Salt Lake City, Utah, that would seat 25,000 people. (LEONARD J. ARRINGTON) PROTESTANT CHURCHES: Churches of Christ. (For figures on Adherents of All Religions by Continent, see Table I; for Adherents in the U.S., see Table II.) A growing emphasis on benevolence, especially among the urban poor, characterized the Churches of Christ in 1996. The Prestoncrest Church of Christ topped the list of 18 large metropolitan churches in Dallas, Texas, in the total amount of help given to the disadvantaged, in both time and money; Prestoncrest earmarked 31% of its budget of $1.6 million for this purpose. Healing Hands International sent 23 shipments of medical aid, valued at $4 million, to 13 countries, including the Republic of Georgia, Guatemala, and Nigeria. Church of Christ Disaster Relief of Nashville, Tenn., and White's Ferry Road Relief Ministry of Louisiana coordinated relief in the wake of Hurricane Fran in September. E-mail and the Internet were used world-wide to contact mission points and develop teaching programs. National television ministries expanded, including Herald of Truth and "Key to the Kingdom." World Bible School correspondence courses, including a new edition in Arabic for the Muslim world, were used to convert thousands. Sunset International Bible Institute in Lubbock, Texas, conducted a seminar to consider ways to reach the Islamic world for Christ. Let's Start Talking, a student evangelistic ministry of English-language instruction using the Bible as text, marked its 15th year with 45 teams in 24 countries. The Russian Children's Bible was published by Eastern European Mission. Children and youth camps were held in Ukraine and Russia. Paid positions of ministry for women increased during the year. WINGS, a network ministry for women in need, using E-mail and telephone, was begun by the department of marriage and family therapy at Harding University, Searcy, Ark. A "Methusalah" conference for seniors emphasized their growing numbers and needs. (M. NORVEL YOUNG) PROTESTANT CHURCHES: Jehovah's Witnesses. (For figures on Adherents of All Religions by Continent, see Table I; for Adherents in the U.S., see Table II.) During an age when families were disintegrating, a journalist described Jehovah's Witnesses as persons who "live by Scriptures" and "stress family togetherness." To help persons live by the Bible, the Witnesses arranged a series of worldwide conventions beginning in 1996. During hundreds of seminars held in dozens of cities, the 192-page book The Secret of Family Happiness was released to the millions who attended. In less than a year, more than 14 million copies of this book, which explains how applying Bible principles can build strong families, had been published in 85 languages. The emphasis on living by the Bible contributed to the 170% increase in the number of Witnesses since 1986. As of 1996 they numbered 5,199,895 in 232 countries. During 1995 the Witnesses spent more than one billion hours obeying Jesus's command to spread his teachings to "people of all the nations." They distributed Bibles and Bible aids throughout the world and translated them into 303 languages. In 1995 the 32-page brochure Enjoy Life on Earth Forever was translated into 18 additional languages; this brought the total to 237 and made it the most widely translated publication of the Witnesses. During 1995 and 1996 their modern-language New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures was completed in Finnish and in Norwegian, and the New Testament of the Bible was translated into Chinese and four African languages, which brought the total to 29 languages. Thus, it was available in languages spoken by over 50% of the world's population. (MILTON HENSCHEL) PROTESTANT CHURCHES: Lutheran Communion. (For figures on Adherents of All Religions by Continent, see Table I; for Adherents in the U.S., see Table II.) The Council of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), meeting in Geneva in September 1996, heard reports from its president, Gottfried Brakemeier of Brazil, and its general secretary, Ishmael Noko of Zimbabwe, on the present state of this international body of 122 member church organizations. A major item on the agenda was the ninth assembly of the LWF, to meet in July 1997 in Hong Kong, soon after control of that city reverted to China. After some earlier difficulties with the Chinese government, it seemed clear that the LWF would celebrate its 50th anniversary with its first assembly in Asia. Resolutions adopted by the council included approval of sanctions against Iraq and affirmation of the human rights of children. The council approved a process to further develop a joint declaration between the member churches of the LWF and the Roman Catholic Church on the doctrine of justification. One result of this declaration, to be considered for final official approval in 1998, would be the recognition that certain condemnations that were made in the 16th century between Lutherans and Roman Catholics would now be regarded as invalid. In the Lutheran churches of Norway and Finland, the number of baptisms and confirmations increased. The constitutional separation of the Church of Sweden and the Swedish government continued; it was to be completed in 2000. Ecumenical progress between several Nordic and Baltic Lutheran churches and a number of Anglican churches in the U.K. moved forward. Lutherans held international dialogues with the Orthodox churches and the Roman Catholic Church and a theological consultation with the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Regional dialogues between Lutherans and Mennonites in Germany and between Lutherans and Moravians in the U.S. took place. In India, Hong Kong, and Switzerland, women were selected for major leadership positions. Lutheran churches in Germany, Finland, and the U.S. discussed human sexuality as a potential church-dividing issue. In Germany Lutherans marked the 450th anniversary of the death of Martin Luther. In the U.S. bishops of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and of the Episcopal Church in the USA held their first joint meeting. The ELCA was considering entering into full communion with the Episcopal Church and three Reformed churches in 1997, as well as accepting the "Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification" with the Roman Catholic Church. (WILLIAM G. RUSCH) This article updates Lutheranism. PROTESTANT CHURCHES: Methodist Churches. (For figures on Adherents of All Religions by Continent, see Table I; for Adherents in the U.S., see Table II.) The quadrennial General Conference of the United Methodist Church was held in Denver, Colo., in April 1996. Delegates voted to retain the United Methodist Church's Book of Discipline's prohibition of the ordination of "self-avowed practicing homosexuals." The conference approved the establishing of a commission to create a plan for the possible union of four Methodist churches: the United Methodist, the African Methodist Episcopal, the African Methodist Episcopal Zion, and the Christian Methodist Episcopal Churches. The conference also voted to become part of the Consultation on Church Union covenanting community, which aimed to promote spiritual rather than structural unity. The 17th World Methodist Conference took place in Rio de Janeiro in August. Some 2,700 delegates assembled from Methodist churches throughout the world. Under the broad theme "Holy Spirit: Giver of Life," the conference explored the nature and gifts of the Holy Spirit in the life of the church. During the conference the World Methodist Council, consisting of 500 elected representatives from the 71 member church organizations, held meetings. The council welcomed into membership the Church of South India and the Methodist Church of Paraguay, adopted a statement on "Wesleyan Essentials of Christian Faith," approved Methodist participation in ecumenical planning for the celebration of the 2,000th anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ, received the report "The Word of Life: A Statement on Revelation and Faith" from the Joint Commission of the Roman Catholic Church and the World Methodist Conference, authorized the establishment, in cooperation with His Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch, of an international dialogue with the Orthodox churches, and adopted a report of the Anglican-Methodist International Commission. Other resolutions included a call to daily prayer at noon, whenever possible, asking for the guidance of the Holy Spirit in transforming the world away from violence and injustice, and a call to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank to celebrate the millennium by canceling the debt of the less-developed countries. The council also adopted resolutions instructing the officers and the executive committee to review the structure and role of the council and its relation to the conference. The 1996 World Methodist Peace Award was given to Bishop Stanley Mogoba, the presiding bishop of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa, for "his consistency in never advocating violence . . . in the struggle against apartheid; his courage in seeking reconciliation." (JOHN C.A. BARRETT) This article updates Methodism. PROTESTANT CHURCHES: Pentecostal Churches. (For figures on Adherents of All Religions by Continent, see Table I; for Adherents in the U.S., see Table II.) During 1996 a revival at the Brownsville Assembly of God church in Pensacola, Fla., attracted news and visitors on a scale experienced only by the "Toronto Blessing" in 1995. By August the number of visitors totaled more than 700,000, while the "professions of faith" totaled 25,000 persons. By the end of the year, the Brownsville meetings were spawning similar revivals in other churches throughout the U.S. In April the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel (founded by Aimee Semple McPherson) reelected John R. Holland to a third four-year term as president. The Church of God (Cleveland, Tenn.) in August elected Paul Walker as general overseer. For decades Walker had served as pastor of the largest congregation in the denomination, the Mount Paran Church of God in Atlanta, Ga. In July Pentecostals in the U.S. mourned the passing of C.M. Ward, the longtime ABC network radio preacher on the Assemblies of God national broadcast known as "Revivaltime." The new Pentecostal/Charismatic Churches of North America met in September in Memphis, Tenn., to "revisit" the "Miracle of Memphis," which brought black and white Pentecostals together in 1994. There was discord between Pentecostals and Roman Catholics in Brazil in January, when the 3.5 million-member Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, led 200,000 members into the streets to protest verbal attacks by the government and a Catholic-owned television station. On the other hand, healing and harmony made news in April when 60,000 Italian Catholic charismatics met in Rimini, Italy, and pledged cooperation with the many Protestants, pentecostals, and charismatic observers in the sessions. (VINSON SYNAN) PROTESTANT CHURCHES: Reformed, Presbyterian, and Congregational Churches. (For figures on Adherents of All Religions by Continent, see Table I; for Adherents in the U.S., see Table II.) Western theology is no longer the universal form for understanding the Christian gospel, according to the international consultation on gospel and cultures organized by the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC) in Indonesia in February 1996. The sense that a fundamental theological shift had taken place pervaded the consultation as it recognized that many issues look quite different from the perspectives of different cultures. Another kind of universality came under attack in the WARC consultation on Reformed faith and economic justice, held in Geneva in May, when it protested against the exclusion of millions of people from a world economy that was supposed to meet their needs. The two consultations were part of an intense process of preparation for the 23rd WARC General Council, scheduled to take place in Debrecen, Hung., in August 1997. Its theme was to be "Break the Chains of Injustice." Meeting in Detmold, Ger., in August, the WARC executive committee agreed on new guidelines for international dialogue. A first round of international Reformed-Pentecostal dialogue took place in Torre Pellice, Italy, in May. At the Reformed Ecumenical Council (REC) meeting in Grand Rapids, Mich., in August, delegates from churches in Asia and Africa challenged the council to accept the implications of the gospel of Jesus Christ in a world of poverty and pain, where ecological crises, military dictatorships, proliferation of arms, and crushing international debts impoverish peoples' lives. REC had been founded in opposition to WARC in 1946, but by 1996 the two organizations had moved closer together. The REC General Assembly reaffirmed its desire to establish a joint committee with WARC, with a view to promoting better understanding and fostering areas of cooperation. Nine churches were admitted to WARC membership in 1996: the Congregational Federation of Australia, the Isua Krista Kohhran and the Reformed Presbyterian Church (Northeast India), the Gereja Toraja Mamasa (Indonesia), the Iglesia Presbiteriana Asociada Reformada (Mexico), the Ekalesia Kelisiano Tuvalu and the Ekalesia Niue (Pacific), the Reformed Presbyterian Church in Uganda, and the Korean Presbyterian Church in America (U.S.). By late 1996 WARC linked more than 70 million Christians in 208 churches in 102 countries. (PRAIC RAMONN) This article updates Reformed and Presbyterian church. PROTESTANT CHURCHES: Salvation Army. (For figures on Adherents of All Religions by Continent, see Table I; for Adherents in the U.S., see Table II.) During 1996 the Salvation Army invested in its future strength and growth. The first meeting of the International Spiritual Life Commission took place in July. It reviewed methods by which Salvationists could further develop and maintain spiritual life. The International Forum on Youth was scheduled for 1997. Entitled "Breakthrough Generation," it was planned by Gen. Paul A. Rader to focus the energy, passion, and commitment of Salvation Army youth on the continuation of their mission. Touring South Korea, Pakistan, India, Australia, and the U.S., General Rader strengthened the Army's worldwide presence and forged new spiritual links. Setting an example of altruism, retired general Eva Burrows received the 1996 Living Legacy Award from the Woman's International Center, San Diego, Calif. Humanitarian care and uniting to overcome disaster remained vital to the Army's concept of "active" Christianity. The murders of a teacher and pupils at Dunblane (Scot.) Primary School and of 35 people in Port Arthur, Tas., shocked the world. Salvationists joined other denominations in comforting and later helping to rebuild those communities. Salvation Army emergency relief teams provided assistance following an explosion in London's Docklands, and after an earthquake in Yunnan province, China, the Army provided aid. Royal Navy Lieut. Tony Brooks embarked on a 19,300-km (12,000-mi) charity bicycle ride from London to the Bering Straits, Siberia. His aim was to raise funds for a Salvation Army detoxification and rehabilitation unit. Epitomizing Salvationist philosophy, the journey was unofficially dubbed "Life Cycle." (CHARMAINE FLETCHER) PROTESTANT CHURCHES: Seventh-day Adventist Church. (For figures on Adherents of All Religions by Continent, see Table I; for Adherents in the U.S., see Table II.) Meeting in Costa Rica, the Annual Council of the church's executive committee voted in 1996 to restructure the Asia-Pacific division of the world church. Instead of one administrative unit stretching from Korea to Indonesia, the region would have two units, a northern one with headquarters near Seoul, S.Kor., and a southern one with headquarters near Manila. The restructuring reflected the growth of the church in the region, particularly in China. With these changes the worldwide Seventh-day Adventist Church comprised 12 divisions, with a membership (as of Dec. 31, 1995) of 8,812,555 from 208 countries. Plans were laid for a four-year emphasis on the message and mission of the church among Adventists worldwide. For 1997 the theme would be "Experience the Joy of Salvation in Christ." The year also was marked by the largest evangelistic outreach in the church's history. A five-week program of meetings originating in Orlando, Fla., was transmitted via satellite to about 3,000 sites in North America, Central America, South America, and Europe. The meetings were made available in 12 languages to a combined audience of approximately 250,000. Humanitarian services continued to be provided by ADRA, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency, which worked in 143 countries. The Annual Council in Costa Rica gave particular attention to the challenge presented by AIDS, stressing the need for education as well as help to victims. A second round of consultations with representatives of the Lutheran World Federation was held near Toronto. Discussions focused on justification by faith, law, and the Sabbath. The church also engaged in official dialogue with the Worldwide Church of God. (WILLIAM G. JOHNSSON) PROTESTANT CHURCHES: The Religious Society of Friends. (For figures on Adherents of All Religions by Continent, see Table I; for Adherents in the U.S., see Table II.) After Quaker women from the economically deprived part of the world returned from the UN Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995, they urged Quakers throughout the world and in their home communities to make positive changes in the cultural attitudes and customs that continued to keep women second-class citizens in many countries. They reminded their audience that Friends' Christian testimony on equality needed to be lived at home by means of participatory decision making. The Friends World Committee for Consultation Asia/West Pacific Section held its triennial representatives meeting in July 1996 at Darwin, Australia. Delegates from the region were excited to see the variety of work and witness of Friends in this large section, particularly in Vietnam, Cambodia, and India. In late August 57 leaders and pastors representing 19 African Quaker groups and 12 Mission and Service agencies working in Africa met to worship and to listen and learn from one another. They sought to further develop their strengths, one of which was a growing convergence between Mission and Service through a better recognition of their underlying unity. In focusing on the horrifying situation in Rwanda and Burundi, the group was moved by the presence of Friends from those countries, most of them now refugees. They told of the fear and hatred around them but also of the sheltering of God's love in desperate circumstances. Some had lost close family members, others their homes. Although some church buildings had been destroyed, no one as of late 1996 had been killed in a Friends church. The meeting concluded with a call for better communication and united positive action, including the gathering and sharing of information on the growing arms trade within Africa. (THOMAS F. TAYLOR) This articles updates Friends, Society of. PROTESTANT CHURCHES: The United Church of Canada. (For figures on Adherents of All Religions by Continent, see Table I; for Adherents in the U.S., see Table II.) The United Church's December 1995 pastoral letter on the economy continued to draw considerable response in 1996. Media interest in the letter generated both criticism and support for the church's call to its members to find ways "to stop a growing war against the poor." Shifting spending priorities, the impact of costs related to the relocation of the national offices in 1995, and lower-than-anticipated revenues combined to result in organizational restructuring and staff layoffs in 1996. The total amount of money raised for all purposes in United Church congregations was Can$311,855,276. Of this, Can$30,291,561, less than 10%, was directed to the national funds of the church. The United Church remained Canada's largest Protestant denomination, with some three million known members and adherents in 1996. Like other institutions within Canadian society, the United Church continued to deal with sensitive legal issues, including those related to claims by former residents of a now-closed Indian residential school. Clergy employment disputes and claims of sexual harassment were the predominant cases that came before both the church and civil courts in 1996. For the first time in many years, the church had a surplus of clergy. Unfortunately, this was happening at a time when the financial viability of some congregations to support full-time or multiple ministry was in question and when the number of congregations was in gradual decline. A churchwide study was beginning to assess this development. The denomination's new hymnal, Voices United, was published in April to widespread acclaim. Also during the year, the Ethnic Ministries Council met for the first time and began its program of supporting ethnic ministries throughout the church. (DOUGLAS L. FLANDERS) PROTESTANT CHURCHES: Unitarian (Universalist) Churches. (For figures on Adherents of All Religions by Continent, see Table I; for Adherents in the U.S., see Table II.) Vitality and growth continued to characterize North America's Unitarian Universalist movement in 1996. Local church budgets climbed 63% from 1993 to 1996, membership was increasing at an annual rate of 4%, and the denomination's presence on college campuses had quintupled since 1994. The annual General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations, June 20-26, 1996, drew more than 3,100 registrants to Indianapolis, Ind. Dedicated to the theme "The Future Is Now" and emphasizing youth issues, it attracted the largest gathering of young people in the denomination's history. Resolutions for study or final acceptance dealt with problems of economic injustices, environment, energy conservation, and racial and cultural diversity. Overwhelming support greeted resolutions in support of same-sex marriages and those expressing outrage over the violence inflicted upon African-American churches. The Canadian Unitarian Council, concerned about the loss of the nation's social safety net, passed a resolution on economic justice in a time of financial uncertainty. Its professionally produced video, "Sharing Our Vision," was shown on the Vision TV network nationally and was being used by congregations. The (U.K.) General Assembly of the Unitarian and Free Christian Churches held its 1996 meetings in Glasgow, Scot. Resolutions on social issues included calling on the government to introduce tighter control over handguns by requiring their owners to submit to an annual test of psychological fitness, and to reform the national lottery in order to alleviate its perceived worst effects on society. Around the world, Unitarian congregations were formed as far apart as Russia (Moscow, St. Petersburg) and Ushuaia, Arg., near the southern tip of South America. The 200th anniversary of the Unitarian Christian Church of Madras, India, was observed in 1995. (JOHN NICHOLLS BOOTH) This article updates Unitarianism and Universalism. PROTESTANT CHURCHES: United Church of Christ. (For figures on Adherents of All Religions by Continent, see Table I; for Adherents in the U.S., see Table II.) In 1996 the United Church of Christ celebrated the 150th anniversary of the American Missionary Association, a historic church mission agency that engaged in prophetic service and action with African-Americans, Puerto Ricans, Native Americans, Appalachian whites, and people moving to the United States from many nations and cultures. The AMA founded churches, schools, and hospitals and was involved in community development and publishing. Work to reshape the structure of the church in the U.S. intensified during the year. This new structure, to be implemented in 1999, was to include three ministry units--Local Church, Justice and Witness, and Wider Church--along with an Office of General Minister and President. This would be the first comprehensive national reshaping since the formation of the 1.5 million-member church in 1957. Critical theological deliberation continued within the church, sparked to a significant degree by the ongoing Seasons of Theological Reflection and the introduction in 1995 of The New Century Hymnal. The editors of the hymnal stated that "one of the great gifts to our time is the spirit . . . calling us to affirm the fullness of God, the goodness of creation, and the value of every person. The search for language and metaphor to express that breadth and richness marks this book." Spirited deliberations about the theological appropriateness of the language and metaphors used in the hymnal were ongoing. The church strengthened its efforts to implement its commitment to be "a multiracial, multicultural church," remained active in the public realm primarily through support of poor and exploited people throughout the world, and furthered its involvement in a number of ecumenical relationships. Continued attention was given to evangelism and stewardship concerns in light of continued membership losses and reduced financial support. (PAUL H. SHERRY) ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH (For figures on Adherents of All Religions by Continent, see Table I; for Adherents in the U.S., see Table II.) Violence against Roman Catholic clergy was particularly evident in 1996. The Chinese government agitated against memorial services for Bishop Peter Joseph Fan Xueyan, a leader of the underground, pro-Vatican Chinese church that could number as many as 10 million members; the bishop had died in 1992. Political intimidation turned into outright violence as the government sought to weaken the underground church while promoting the so-called Patriotic Church, the government-sanctioned Catholic Church. In Nicaragua Sandinistas and their sympathizers carried out raids against clergy and churches to protest the papal visit in February. In Ghana Christian-Muslim strife had cost some 2,000 lives in 1995, and struggles continued well into the new year. Muslim extremists in Algeria murdered seven aged Trappist monks in May and then killed Bishop Pierre Lucien Claverie in August. In Rwanda and Burundi antagonism between warring Hutu and Tutsi did not spare clergymen. In September Archbishop Joachim Ruhuna of Burundi, a Tutsi, was ambushed and killed, presumably by Hutu. Earlier, Bishop Simon Ntamwana, a Hutu, was threatened but proclaimed his intention to stay. Throughout the world various bodies of Catholic clergy carried on struggles with the secular culture. In South Africa bishops opposed a gay rights initiative. The bishops of Argentina and of the Philippines complained about birth control campaigns launched by the governments of those countries. The Chilean bishops attacked efforts to loosen divorce laws, while the bishops of former East Germany objected to government efforts to minimize religious instruction in public schools. In the United States, Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz of Lincoln, Neb., announced that persons belonging to organizations that opposed official church teachings would be automatically excommunicated. He had in mind Catholic reform groups such as Call to Action as well as organizations that had no official connection with the church. Catholics in Hong Kong were attempting to take a more vigorous role in political life and to gain representation in the eventual provincial legislature. In South Korea 61 Catholics were elected to the 299-member legislature. Alterations in ecclesiastical administration paralleled these more evidently secular trends. New dioceses were created, or boundaries were substantially altered, in Kenya, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Uganda, and Brazil. The church's awareness of its growing presence in Africa and Asia was reflected in its decision to beatify two missionaries, one to Africa and one to China, and to canonize a missionary to China. As the church continued to struggle against the secularism of many modern cultures, it also faced dissent within its own rank. In 1995 some 500,000 Catholics in Austria had signed petitions calling for the ordination of women, an end to obligatory priestly celibacy, the election of bishops by laypeople, a "more humane church," and "acceptance of the value of sexual relationships." These petitions were consistent with a survey of U.S. Catholics that found 69% favouring married clergy, 65% supporting local election of bishops, and 78% insisting on more voice for ordinary believers. Joseph Cardinal Bernardin of Chicago (see OBITUARIES) issued a document entitled "Called to Be Catholic" that spoke of "a time of peril" for the American church and instituted a committee to discuss the painful issues dividing Catholics in the U.S. Cardinal Bernardin was forced to retreat when some of his brother bishops, especially Bernard Cardinal Law of Boston and James Cardinal Hickey of Washington, said that there was no room for dissent from "revealed truth" and that dissident Catholics should be encouraged to abandon their opposition to official teachings. In Rome the existence of this contention was acknowledged in a number of subtle ways. Whereas 1995 was a year of extraordinary activity, with encyclicals and pastoral letters being issued almost every month, there were few major pronouncements in 1996. In the apostolic constitution Universi Dominici Gregis (February 23) the pope made technical adjustments in the procedures for electing a pope but basically affirmed the existing system. The Vatican in March issued an "apostolic exhortation" entitled Vita Consecrata that commented in detail on the history, importance, and duties of the consecrated religious life. In October the pope issued a formal statement in which he said, "Fresh knowledge leads to recognition of the theory of evolution as more than just a hypothesis." If these major documents responded only obliquely to challenges faced by the church, other means were used to respond more directly. The pope employed many of his Sunday Angelus messages to affirm traditional Catholic education and to stress the role of the parents as the primary educators of the young. In his addresses to bishops' delegations in Rome for their required periodic visits, the pope repeatedly emphasized the need for bishops to hand on church teachings unchanged and unblemished and to preserve traditional moral norms. An unsigned essay in Osservatore Romano (Feb. 7, 1996) criticized a collection of essays published in Germany and critical of the 1993 encyclical Veritatis Splendor. The tenor of the essay was that truth must never be regarded as contingent or relative. It seemed clear that Rome had decided on a widespread effort to insist that much of the struggle in the contemporary Catholic Church was attributable to poor education and weak leadership. Despite constant press reports about his allegedly poor health, the pope maintained a vigorous schedule of routine activities in Rome and of travels outside Italy. The year found the pope in Central America in February, in Tunisia in April, in Slovenia in May, in Germany in June, and in France in September. The latter visit occasioned some controversy because some of the sites selected for visitation were meant to recall the 1,500th anniversary of the baptism of Clovis, whom some regarded the first king of France. The point of the commemoration was to highlight the deep roots of French Catholicism. In October the pope had his appendix removed; his physicians announced that no new or serious illness was discovered during the surgery. See WORLD AFFAIRS: Vatican City State. (THOMAS F.X. NOBLE) This article updates Roman Catholicism.
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