Meaning of YEAR IN REVIEW 1998: RELIGION in English

YEAR IN REVIEW 1998: RELIGION

Anglican Communion. (For figures on Adherents of All Religions by Continent, see Table I; for Adherents in the U.S., see Table II.) Debate over the morality of homosexuality dominated the Anglican Communion in 1997. In February delegates to the Second Anglican Encounter in the South, representing the church's South American, African, and Pacific provinces, adopted the Kuala Lumpur statement on sexual morality. Named after the Malaysian city in which the meeting was held, it declared that "all sexual promiscuity is sin," including "homosexual practices." Soon afterward, the Anglican church in Southeast Asia unanimously adopted the Kuala Lumpur statement and declared itself in communion only "with that part of the Anglican Communion which accepts and endorses the principles." Meanwhile, the bishops of the Southern Africa province issued a statement in March apologizing to homosexual people who had been hurt by years of "unacceptable prejudice" within the church. The General Convention of the Episcopal Church in the U.S., meeting in Philadelphia in July, adopted a similar apology. The Episcopal convention in the U.S. refused to ratify the Kuala Lumpur statement and referred it to an interim body for further study. The same convention gave dioceses the option to extend employee health insurance to same-sex couples but refused to authorize pension benefits for them. It also narrowly defeated a provision to develop liturgical rites for the blessing of same-sex couples. The Rt. Rev. Frank T. Griswold III, bishop of Chicago, was elected the Episcopal Church's presiding bishop for a nine-year term following his January 1998 installation. He succeeded the Rt. Rev. Edmond Browning, who served from 1985 to 1997. The Philadelphia convention approved the Concordat of Agreement, which would have established full communion with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. A month later, however, the Lutheran convention failed to ratify it in a vote that fell six votes short of the required two-thirds majority. The Episcopal convention also adopted a canonical change that required mandatory ordination of women in every diocese. The four dioceses that did not now ordain women (Quincy, Ill.; San Joaquin, Calif.; Fort Worth, Texas; and Eau Claire, Wis.) were given three years to implement the new requirements. An April survey in the Church of England reported that women constituted 10% of its clergy. Since the first ordinations in March 1994, approximately 2,000 women had been ordained in the church's 43 dioceses. About 400 of them were rectors or vicars in charge of parishes. In December 1996 the Nippon Sei Ko Kai (Anglican Church in Japan) adopted a statement admitting the church's responsibility and sin for supporting Japan's "war of aggression" during World War II. Instead of standing beside "those who are oppressed and suffering," the church made compromises with the "militarism that drove the war effort," the statement acknowledged. The Rt. Rev. John Elbridge Hines, the Episcopal Church's 22nd presiding bishop, died July 19 in Austin, Texas. He was presiding bishop from 1965 to 1974 and led the church through a stormy period of civil rights activism. (See OBITUARIES.) In late 1996 the Episcopal Church's national office reported errors in statistical reports that gave the impression the church gained 90,000 members between 1991 and 1994. The report acknowledged that the church actually lost 26,000 members during those years.DAVID E. SUMNER This article updates Anglican Communion. Baptist Churches. (For figures on Adherents of All Religions by Continent, see Table I; for Adherents in the U.S., see Table II.) Frustrated by the lack of results of an earlier protest, the Southern Baptist Convention at its annual meeting called for a boycott of the Walt Disney Co. by all of its 15 million members. On June 18, 1997, 12,000 delegates gathered in Dallas, Texas, urged the boycott to protest Disney's support of homosexuals, exemplified by the provision of health benefits for the partners of the company's homosexual employees. The convention's vote to support the recommended boycott was so overwhelming that a count of the vote was not taken. At the March meeting of the Baptist World Alliance in McLean, Va., representatives from Baptist bodies throughout the world gathered to report progress and challenges. It was reported that churches in Cuba had been packed, and at one service in the western part of the island, 100 young people responded to a call to the ministry. Samuel Fadeji, president of the All-Africa Baptist Fellowship, reported an increase in new churches to add to the 5,600 churches and more than one million baptized believers in the Nigerian Baptist Convention. In Azerbaijan Pastor Zaur Balayev and a deacon of the church in Aliabad were arrested. The two men allegedly were put in prison only because of their positions of responsibility with the Baptist Church. The Baptist general secretary, Karl Heinz Walter of the European Baptist Federation, protested to the president of Azerbaijan, stating, "We can assure you that the members of Baptist churches have always been faithful citizens of the countries where they live, but at the same time have insisted on religious freedom for every person." In the United States the Alliance of Baptists, a moderate group formed in 1987 after disagreeing with the conservative leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention, reported that it had begun discussions with the United Church of Christ about ways in which the two might work together. The Alliance, which included Baptists from a variety of denominations, had changed from a protest group within the Southern Baptist Convention to an independent organization. Along similar ecumenical lines, Baptists in England, specifically members of the Covenanted Baptist Churches of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, joined in considering a proposal that the world's first ecumenical bishop be appointed. The bishop would be the head of five denominations, including the Baptists. In August it was revealed that the Rev. Henry Lyons, the president of the National Baptist Convention USA, Inc., had purchased expensive personal items with money that the denomination had earned from business deals. Documents indicated that Lyons and Bernice Edwards, the church's public relations director, had used at least $187,000 in church money toward buying a house, a Mercedes-Benz, and a time-share unit. NORMAN R. DE PUY This article updates Baptist. Buddhism (For figures on Adherents of All Religions by Continent, see Table I; for Adherents in the U.S., see Table II.) In December 1996 Burmese insurgents exploded time bombs at Kaba Aye temple near Yangon (Rangoon), where thousands flocked daily throughout the month to honour a tooth relic of the Buddha on loan from China. The blasts killed or maimed 22 Buddhists, including two government officials. Three Burmese monks were killed and 100 arrested during March 1997 after mobs in Mandalay smashed mosque windows and burned copies of the Qur'an (Koran). The rioting was sparked by reports that a Muslim had molested a Buddhist girl, though the deeper causes remained unclear. Some reports associated the monk-led violence with a recent decision by Myanmar's military government to prevent a rally protesting government mishandling of a temple-restoration project and also with the deaths of 16 monks in government prisons, though other reports that monks in the mob were seen wearing army boots bolstered government claims that conservative forces had incited the riots to discredit Myanmar's bid for membership in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. In January 1997 a number of high-ranking Sri Lankan monks quit the Supreme Advisory Council of the Buddha Sasana Ministry to protest the government's plans for resolving the civil war. In August Sri Lanka's main opposition United National Party called on citizens to tie yellow ribbons at Buddhist temples and churches as an expression of support for free and fair elections. During April and May, Sri Lankans joined Buddhists and Muslims throughout the world to demand preservation of the colossal Buddha image at Bamiyan, Afg., after a leader of the Islamic fundamentalist Taliban group threatened to destroy it. Taiwan welcomed the Dalai Lama for the first time in March and in September allowed him to establish an office in Taipei, despite harsh criticism from China, which in April also criticized U.S. Pres. Bill Clinton for meeting the Tibetan leader. In May China imprisoned a senior Tibetan monk accused of helping the Dalai Lama to nominate his own candidate for Panchen Lama, a young boy who was not seen after that time. Indian police arrested nine Chinese agents posing as Tibetans at the Dalai Lama's Kalachakra ceremony in Siliguri, India, in December 1996. Followers of an anti-Dalai Lama Tibetan sect were blamed for the February 1997 murder of three of his close associates in Dharmsala, India. Vietnam continued its crackdown on the opposition United Buddhist Church when security forces raided a central temple in Hue in November 1996 and arrested two church leaders. Vietnamese police also reportedly razed a pagoda near Dalat. In September 1997 the UN reported that forces of Cambodian strongman Hun Sen had used Buddhist temples as crematoriums for scores of political opponents executed since his takeover of the government in July. Cambodian patriarch Maha Ghosananda in August led more than 1,000 Buddhist monks, nuns, and laymen in prayers for peace on the streets of Phnom Penh. Later that month King Norodom Sihanouk returned to hold Buddhist ceremonies for reconciliation at Angkor Wat. Throughout the year U.S. Vice Pres. Al Gore fended off criticism of fund-raising activities at a tax-exempt Buddhist temple in California. During January scientists voiced concern about the ecological impact of popular Chinese Buddhist practices in New York City, especially releasing domesticated goldfish, birds, and turtles to gain merit. Thai monks combating deforestation celebrated the ordination of their 50 millionth tree in February 1997. JONATHAN S. WALTERS This article updates Buddhism. 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.) More than 8,400 members of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) gathered in Denver, Colo., in July 1997, passing resolutions restating the General Assembly's opposition to the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba, demanding increased police accountability, and asking congregations to monitor welfare reform. The decision-making body also lobbied for improved job training and employment opportunities for African-American males, called for removal of the U.S. military from Okinawa, Japan, and emphasized Jerusalem's importance to Christian, Muslim, and Jewish traditions. The assembly also initiated a test run of a discernment process, designed to help the church listen for God's will on divisive or controversial issues instead of seeking a majority vote. Biblical authority and racism were the issues discussed during the initial round. In other action voters elected the Rev. Michael W. Mooty of Lexington, Ky., moderator of the General Assembly through 1999. In keeping with the assembly's call for more accountability for law-enforcement officials, the denomination's general minister and president, Richard L. Hamm, issued a pastoral letter in August condemning the beating of a Haitian member of the Disciples by New York City police. "We must stand for zero tolerance of police abuse and for renewed commitment to public accountability of law enforcement officers and their agencies," said Hamm. In March approximately 300 volunteers gathered near tiny Chelford, Ark., to help rebuild an African-American church destroyed by arson in 1995. The Burned Churches ministry of the National Council of Churches later honoured the Disciples for the 10-day reconstruction of St. Mark's Missionary Baptist Church. The 35-member congregation held its first formal service in the new structure on Easter morning. CLIFFORD L. WILLIS This article updates Disciples of Christ. 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.) The increased demand for spirituality and healing was the focus of the Church's 102nd annual meeting in Boston. The church president, J. Thomas Black of Michigan, remarked to those present that this reach toward spirituality was changing the ways in which people think about theology, science, and medicine. Black saw this "spiritual hunger that now reaches across ages and races" as a reflection of humanity's "longing to know God's true identity." He said the church was well prepared to meet this longing because of the teachings of the Bible in the light of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer of Christian Science. "And the proof is in nearly 125 years of consistent healing based on these books," Black concluded. Other speakers discussed the beneficial effect of the increased distribution of Science and Health. A former registered nurse shared how reading Science and Health transformed her life from sickness to health, into the full-time practice of Christian Science healing; others talked about Christian Science lectures that had been held at a major medical school in the United States and at two large hospitals in India. The growing interest in the beneficial role of prayer for physical healing was demonstrated when a church representative served on the faculty at two major conferences in Boston (December 1996) and Los Angeles (March 1997) entitled "Spirituality and Healing in Medicine," sponsored by Harvard Medical School. Other significant events during 1997 included a favourable decision for the church when the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court endorsed the administrative and fiscal autonomy of churches and other public charities, an award from the Laymen's National Bible Association acknowledging the church's long-standing promotion of the Bible, and establishment of a restoration program to upgrade church facilities. VICTOR M. WESTBERG 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.) In 1997 the nearly 10 million-member Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints conducted a yearlong celebration of the entrance of their Mormon forebears into the Salt Lake Valley 150 years earlier. The festivities included theatrical performances, television documentaries, celebratory literature, special exhibits in the Church Museum of History and Art, and, above all, a reliving of the trek from the Missouri Valley to the Salt Lake Valley by hundreds of horse-drawn wagons and handcarts--a journey that required three months. The wagon trains were made up of volunteer men, women, and children, dressed in pioneer clothing, and included church members from as far away as Siberia, with a considerable number from Great Britain and continental Europe as well as from all parts of the United States and Canada. The finale was their entrance into the Salt Lake Valley on July 23, to participate in the giant sesquicentennial parade of July 24. July 19 was designated Pioneer Heritage Day, and each local congregation throughout the world was asked to contribute a minimum of 150 hours of community service. Perhaps as many as 10,000 local service projects were completed on this and following days. The church's women's organization, the Relief Society, conducted a worldwide campaign to improve literacy. A special event in San Francisco celebrated the 238 men, women, and children who traveled west on the ship Brooklyn, which landed in Yerba Buena (San Francisco) in 1846. Church president Gordon B. Hinckley conducted services in many parts of the world in connection with local history celebrations, the dedication of temples, the opening of visitors centres, and the holding of area conferences. He made special visits to major cities in Europe, Asia, Central and South America, and Australia and New Zealand. Church authorities began construction of a "great hall" across from Temple Square in downtown Salt Lake City to accommodate 21,000 persons for religious services and other church purposes such as the presentation of sacred pageants and community cultural events. The building, scheduled for completion in April 2000, was expected to cost approximately $240 million. LEONARD J. ARRINGTON Churches of Christ. (For figures on Adherents of All Religions by Continent, see Table I; for Adherents in the U.S., see Table II.) "Africans Claiming Africa," an evangelistic conference, drew to Harare, Zimb., 1,745 leaders of the Churches of Christ from 17 African countries, speaking 47 languages. Participants reported that there were 9,398 Churches of Christ congregations in Africa, an increase of 34% in five years. They attributed this growth to two factors: the growth of brotherhood schools and the World Bible School correspondence courses. The church celebrated the 100th anniversary of its establishment in Zimbabwe. Four books written by members of Churches of Christ were on the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association best-seller list during 1997, including two by Max Lucado, God's Inspirational Promises and In the Grip of Grace. Two scholarly books with great impact were The Church of Christ: A Biblical Ecclesiology for Today (1996) by Everett Ferguson and Reviving the Ancient Faith: The Story of Churches of Christ in America (1996) by Richard T. Hughes. "Saving the American Family," a national conference in San Antonio, Texas, highlighted a major emphasis in the Churches of Christ in 1997. This included training in spiritual leadership for men at a rally in Tulsa, Okla., that drew men from 14 states. Abstinence-based sex-education programs for young people were gaining in popularity. M. NORVEL YOUNG HINDUISM (For figures on Adherents of All Religions by Continent, see Table I; for Adherents in the U.S., see Table II.) As the 50th year of India's independence, 1997 was marked by close scrutiny of the nation's record in meeting the goals of a secular and classless society that were set forth by the framers of its constitution. The unprecedented election in 1997 of a member of the lowest Hindu class as India's president dramatically underscored the momentous strides taken by the nation toward achieving those goals, whereas ongoing communal conflict pointed to the need for further change. On January 30 the remaining ashes of the venerated Hindu champion of Indian independence Mohandas Gandhi were deposited by his great-grandson, Tushar Gandhi, into the Ganges River at the point of its confluence with the Yamuna at Allahabad, one of the holiest sites in India. Assassinated by a Hindu fanatic on Jan. 30, 1948, Gandhi was cremated and, in accordance with Hindu practice, his remains were distributed to the Indian states for deposit in sacred rivers. Mysteriously, the urn of ashes sent to Orissa remained in a bank vault for nearly 49 years until Tushar Gandhi was able to gain release of the urn by court order. The ritual immersion of the ashes was conducted by Hindu priests and attended by representatives of various religions. In March a convert from Hinduism was named as a successor to Mother Teresa. Sister Nirmala ("Pure"), whose Hindu parents sent her to a Roman Catholic missionary school in order for her to learn English well, converted to Catholicism at the age of 24 and became one of Mother Teresa's first missionary sisters to work with the sick and poor in Calcutta. The conversion of Hindus, particularly from the lower castes, to Christianity had been denounced repeatedly by Hindu nationalists as a threat to their efforts to achieve a "pure" Hindu nation ("Hindutva"). On July 11 the nation witnessed one of the worst outbreaks of communal violence in recent years. More than 2,200 people were arrested, scores severely injured, and at least 12 killed when members of the lowest caste rioted in Bombay (Mumbai) and throughout Maharashtra state in response to the desecration of a bust of B.R. Ambedkar, the architect of the Indian constitution and a vigorous proponent of a secular state and the welfare of the lowest caste, of which he was himself a member. While Gandhi taught that the lowest members of Hinduism's caste system are "Harijans" ("children of God") and that Hindus must abandon the practice of ritual impurity, or "untouchability," in order to achieve a just society, today's "untouchables," who called themselves "Dalits" ("The Oppressed"), regarded Gandhi as a Brahmin elitist committed to the continuation of the caste structure. Ambedkar, on the other hand, was regarded by Dalits as the champion of a truly casteless society and virtually an incarnation of deity. The draping of a garland of leather shoes around his image in a Bombay slum by an unknown culprit was, therefore, for the Dalits tantamount to sacrilege and provided further evidence of their oppression in modern Indian society. In sharp contrast to the bloody riots, on July 25 India for the first time inaugurated a Dalit as its president. Vice Pres. K.R. Narayanan, a scholar and one-time ambassador to the United States and to China, was chosen for the largely ceremonial post by an overwhelming majority of federal and state lawmakers. (See BIOGRAPHIES.) Overcoming every obstacle, he made his way from a primary school in his Kerala village to achieve highest honours at the London School of Economics and then entry into the Indian foreign service. Dalit leaders expressed their hope that President Narayanan would prove to be a new Ambedkar, bringing freedom from oppression to the members of his caste, who constituted one-quarter of India's population. H. PATRICK SULLIVAN This article updates Hindusim. Islam (For figures on Adherents of All Religions by Continent, see Table I; for Adherents in the U.S., see Table II.) Two trends noticeable in recent years remained conspicuous during 1997: outbreaks of violence, including attacks by some Muslims against governing authorities in a number of countries, and the continually increasing awareness in Western European nations and in North America of the presence there of Muslim communities and the need for authorities to be sensitive to that presence. Violence, seemingly unabated, continued in a number of places. In Algeria there were bloody attacks on civilians, as there had been during the previous five years; these attacks, by Muslims against other Muslims, were aimed at bringing down the Algerian government, which had set aside the election results of January 1992, in which the Islamists apparently had been voted into power. Elections in Algeria in June, in which moderates were returned to power, did not stop the violence. In August there was an especially ferocious outbreak during which some 300 persons were killed; by the end of September, more than 600 people had been reported to have been killed in a two-month period. Since 1992 outbreaks of violence in Algeria had killed more than 60,000 people, almost all of them civilians, including women and children. Violence also erupted sporadically in Egypt, South Asia, and the Xinjiang region of China. Violent incidents, bombings, and confrontations marked the year in and around Jerusalem, the West Bank, Gaza, and adjacent areas in Israel. The civil war continued in Afghanistan, where the ruling Islamist Taliban forces could not bring the northern part of the country under their control, and in the southern Sudan, where a guerrilla force of non-Muslims continued its insurgency against the Islamic-dominated Sudanese government. In Turkey an Islamist party had formed a parliamentary coalition to govern the nation in June 1996 and began to carry out its program of increasing Islamic influence. The Turkish military, however, continued to purge its ranks of Islamists and increased its pressure on the government during the winter and spring of 1997; in June it forced the prime minister out of office and then oversaw the installation of a secular government. Elections in Iran in May brought a moderate, Mohammad Khatami (see BIOGRAPHIES), to the presidency; there were no apparent important changes in religious policies in that country. The increasing visibility of Muslims in Western European countries and in the United States could be noticed in a number of different ways. Public-school systems in the Washington, D.C., area found it necessary to recognize the needs of Muslim schoolchildren during the fast of Ramadan in January. The Board of Education in New York City in June agreed to the display of Muslim symbols in certain school settings where Jewish and Christian symbols were already present. Also in June, Nike Inc. agreed to withdraw a brand of basketball shoes that bore a logo that could be interpreted as the name of God in Arabic; the company apologized to Muslims for any offense it may have caused. In May the U.S. publisher Simon & Schuster withdrew a children's book that portrayed the prophet Muhammad in a derogatory way. In Hartford, Conn., the Hartford Seminary, long interested in Christian-Muslim interfaith dialogue and study, and the University of Hartford appointed the first incumbent of a newly endowed chair: visiting professor in Abrahamic religions. The visiting appointee was Sulayman Nyang, a Muslim and professor of African Studies at Howard University, Washington, D.C. Such a chair was a rarity and represented a significant intellectual and religious point of view. The three faiths Judaism, Christianity, and Islam were increasingly being seen by many scholars and others as a continuous religious development and thus meriting the term Abrahamic faiths. In Europe, unused church buildings were increasingly being turned into mosques and used by Muslim congregations. REUBEN W. SMITH This article updates Islam. Jehovah's Witnesses. (For figures on Adherents of All Religions by Continent, see Table I; for Adherents in the U.S., see Table II.) On May 29, 1997, the European Court of Human Rights rendered an important decision in favour of the plaintiffs in the cases of Tsirlis and Kouloumpas v. Greece and Georgiadis v. Greece. The plaintiffs were Jehovah's Witnesses ministers, who as Christian clergy were exempted from military service by Greek law but who claimed to have been wrongfully denied that status. The court ruled in favour of the ministers, setting a precedent for future cases concerning conscientious objection. Earlier that month Jehovah's Witnesses again promoted the importance of adhering strongly to one's principles. On May 15 the videotape Jehovah's Witnesses Stand Firm Against Nazi Assault was screened publicly in Moscow and was simultaneously aired on television in St. Petersburg. The documentary recounts the little-known story of the courageous stand of Jehovah's Witnesses during the Hitler era. By late 1997 it had been viewed at more than 160 public showings in Germany and was being used in classrooms in the United States. Regarding the integrity of Jehovah's Witnesses, Swiss Protestant theologian Theophile Bruppacher said, "Not the great churches, but these slandered and scoffed-at people were the ones who stood up first against the rage of the Nazi demon and who dared to make opposition according to their faith." MILTON HENSCHEL Judaism (For figures on Adherents of All Religions by Continent, see Table I; for Adherents in the U.S., see Table II.) Late in December 1996 Pres. Ezer Weizman of Israel came under fire from gay and lesbian groups, who alleged that he had attacked homosexuals in answering questions from students at a Haifa high school. Though the furor eased, it highlighted a major rift among Jews. The Orthodox unreservedly condemned homosexual acts, in accordance with biblical law, even if they might show some measure of compassion to homosexual individuals. Reform assemblies remained divided on the issue; an English Reform rabbi, Elizabeth Sarah, resigned her post in March after having come under constant pressure as a result of her proposal, announced months earlier but never implemented, to perform a "commitment" ceremony for two lesbians. Tensions between religious and secular Jews and between the religious denominations continued to cause concern, particularly in Israel. Especially important was the issue of conversions to Judaism of persons in Israel, on which the Orthodox claimed a monopoly. When the Israeli Knesset (parliament) reopened in November, the (Orthodox) religious parties hoped for the enactment of a law codifying their de facto monopoly. The Israeli government appointed a committee to find a solution to the crisis generated by the proposed bill. In October the committee proposed establishing a "conversion institute" with Reform and Conservative participation and with all conversions performed by the Orthodox; the Orthodox rejected this proposal. Relationships between Orthodox and non-Orthodox Jews deteriorated still further when non-Orthodox groups praying at the Western Wall in Jerusalem were pelted with stones and excrement by extremists. During the Shavuot and Tisha be-Av observances, on June 11 and August 12, respectively, Reform and Conservative Jews praying at the back of the plaza of the Western Wall were dispersed by the police, whom they charged with the use of excessive force. The Orthodox complained that these prayer groups were provocative because they consisted of men and women and because of the content of some of the prayers; such groups, especially at what the Orthodox regarded as their holiest site, were deeply offensive to them. Among Orthodox leaders deeply critical of extremist tendencies was Yehuda Friedlander, rector of Bar-Ilan University, Tel Aviv. In an outspoken statement in August, he warned of the danger of civil war in Israel if religious extremism was not curbed. The conversion bill and the disturbances at the Western Wall raised fears that non-Orthodox rabbis would call for a boycott of the United Jewish Appeal for funds for Israel. The central Jewish fund-raising establishment in the U.S., therefore, agreed in September to help raise money for Reform and Conservative institutions in Israel in exchange for a pledge of solidarity from their leadership; this was an indication of the growth of non-Orthodox forms of Judaism in Israel. On the interfaith front, major meetings included the Colloquium of the International Council of Christians and Jews, held in Rome in September and addressed by Pope John Paul II. Earlier in the year Vatican officials had announced that the pope had instructed a commission to examine the persecution of Jews in the Inquisition, as part of a program in which the church aimed to seek pardon for past mistakes. Toward the end of September, French bishops offered a formal "repentance" for the Roman Catholic Church's failure to condemn the persecution of Jews during the Vichy regime that governed France during much of World War II. The centenary of the First Zionist Congress, convened by Theodor Herzl in Basel, Switz., was celebrated in August there. The Basel city council expressed the hope that the centennial events would "have a positive influence on the current discussions of the role of Switzerland in the Second World War." In October the bicentenary of the death of Elijah ben Solomon, the "Vilna Gaon" ("excellency"), was marked with, among other events, an academic conference in Vilnius, Lithuania, devoted to the work of this major scholar and teacher of the Jewish religious world. Interesting theological issues were raised by the publication and rise to best-seller status of Michael Drosnin's The Bible Code (1997), based on the work of mathematicians Eliyahu Rips, credited as the discoverer of the code (who denounced the book), Yoav Rosenberg, and Doron Witztum. Scholars debated as to whether biblical text encodes detailed knowledge of future events and names and, if so, whether that would demonstrate its divine origin. There were others who believed that any such discussion would debase scripture and distract attention from its important teachings. NORMAN SOLOMON This article updates Judaism. Lutheran Communion. (For figures on Adherents of All Religions by Continent, see Table I; for Adherents in the U.S., see Table II.) The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) celebrated its 50th anniversary by holding its ninth assembly in Hong Kong on July 8-16, within days after the handover of that city to China. The assembly, the LWF's highest decision-making body, normally meets every six years. Representatives from 122 member churches took part in the event. The assembly reviewed the work of the LWF since the last conference (in Curitiba, Braz., in 1990) and heard addresses on human rights, mission, the church in China, and Christian unity. Edward Cardinal Cassidy of the Vatican delivered an encouraging report on the proposed joint declaration between Lutherans and Roman Catholics on the nonapplicability of the 16th-century condemnations by the Roman Catholic Church of the doctrine of justification by grace through faith. A final decision on the joint declaration by Lutherans and Roman Catholics was expected in 1998. Hong Kong's chief executive Tung Chee Hwa greeted the assembly and gave a commitment to freedom of religion in the Hong Kong special administrative region. After some debate the assembly decided not to make a statement on human rights in China. This decision subsequently became a matter of some controversy, particularly in regard to criticism raised by some in the German media. In a break with tradition, the assembly elected a president from outside the region of the meeting, selecting Christian Krause, a bishop from Brunswick, Ger. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada reelected Telmor G. Sartison as its bishop and took official action to develop closer ties with the Anglican Church in Canada. The Evangelical Lutheran churches in Germany and the Mennonites agreed to provide occasional eucharistic hospitality to each other's members. The Church of Sweden, the largest Lutheran church in the world, elected Christina Odenberg as its first woman bishop; Bishop K.G. Hammer became the archbishop of Uppsala, Swed. In the U.S. the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod celebrated its 150th anniversary. The biennial assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), the second largest Lutheran church in the world, was dominated by ecumenical decisions. With 81.3% of the delegates voting "yes," the ELCA approved a relationship of full communion with three Reformed churches: the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Reformed Church in America, and the United Church of Christ. By a vote of 958-25, the ELCA adopted the joint declaration on justification, stating that a consensus on this doctrine existed between Lutherans and Roman Catholics. This decision was now shared with the LWF as it sought to determine if a consensus existed among its member churches. The ELCA rejected the proposal for full communion with the Episcopal Church by a vote of 684-351, just short of the required two-thirds majority. WILLIAM G. RUSCH This article updates Protestantism, history of. Methodist Churches. (For figures on Adherents of All Religions by Continent, see Table I; for Adherents in the U.S., see Table II.) Figures published in 1997 showed a 14% increase in the membership of churches belonging to the World Methodist Council (WMC) compared with 1992 (the last census). Total membership was 33,011,100, with the largest increase--89%--being in Asia. There were 14,767,000 Methodists (45% of the total) in the United States. The European Methodist Council, meeting in Copenhagen in September, discussed a paper suggesting various options for its future, as did the Executive Committee of the WMC meeting in Rome later the same month; there, members were being asked to decide on the role and function of the council appropriate for the new century. Both bodies expressed concern over the restrictions to religious liberty in Russia that would result from the new legislation regarding freedom of conscience and religious association. The new law introduced a two-level system for religious associations, with only those in the first group--religious organizations that had been active in Russia for 50 years and were represented widely geographically--enjoying full rights and therefore able to operate in a normal way. The European Methodist Council sent a letter to Russian Pres. Boris Yeltsin, and the WMC Executive Committee agreed to a letter inviting fellow Christians in Russia "to enter a mutual dialogue so that we may recognize the ties that bind us together and such common ways for the proclamation of the gospel." The Methodist Church in Hong Kong published a pastoral letter to its members supporting Hong Kong's change to become a special administrative region within China but also emphasizing that the new government has responsibilities for upholding and defending the sovereignty of the nation, serving the people, and defending their dignity and rights. For the first time, the World Methodist Peace Award was given not to an individual but to an organization, the Roman Catholic community of St. Egidio, a volunteer service group organized along the lines of Catholic lay movements of Renaissance Italy. After 20 years of discussions, the Orthodox and Methodist churches moved from a preparatory to an official stage in order "not only to enjoy sisterly relations, but also to bear joint witness to the Gospel before the world." Ecumenical discussions between Methodists and Roman Catholics continued during the year. Leaders of the World Methodist Council Executive Committee met with Pope John Paul II, who gave "thanks to God for the progress made in the official dialogue between our two communions." JOHN C.A. BARRETT This article updates Methodism. Oriental Orthodox Churches (For figures on Adherents of All Religions by Continent, see Table I; for Adherents in the U.S., see Table II.) At the Second European Ecumenical Assembly, held in Graz, Austria, June 23-29, 1997, the first ranking hierarch of the Armenian Church, the Catholikos of Etchmiadzin Karekin I, expressed severe criticism against "some Western European churches" for proselytizing in Orthodox lands. He specifically condemned them for taking advantage of the disorder that occurred after the dissolution of the Soviet Union to enlarge their own churches. He maintained that a policy supportive of the Orthodox would have expressed the ecumenical spirit. In July Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople conducted an official visit to the Armenian Orthodox Church. He was welcomed by Karekin I and members of the Armenian Holy Synod. Early in February Islamic fundamentalists attacked a Coptic Orthodox Church youth meeting in St. Mary Guirguis Church in Al-Minya province, 255 km (160 mi) south of Cairo, killing 10 and wounding 5. A month later, on March 13, at the predominantly Coptic village of Ezbet Dawoud, masked Islamic terrorists randomly killed 13 villagers. In April Mustafa Mashoor, the leader of Egypt's largest Islamic fundamentalist group, called for a purge of Christians from the Egyptian army and for the reimposition of the "head tax" on Christians and Jews that had been collected in the Ottoman Empire. In the meantime, the spiritual renewal fostered by Coptic Patriarch Anba Shenouda III, who attracted thousands to his weekly Cairo Bible studies, contributed to the revival of Christian monasticism in Egypt, where it had begun 1,700 years earlier. STANLEY S. HARAKAS Pentecostal Churches. (For figures on Adherents of All Religions by Continent, see Table I; for Adherents in the U.S., see Table II.) Pentecostals and charismatics were heavily involved in the largest religious gathering in the history of the United States on Oct. 4, 1997, when as many as 1.5 million Christian men, who belonged to the organization Promise Keepers, gathered on the Mall in Washington, D.C. Leaders from the charismatic tradition, such as Promise Keepers founder Bill McCartney and pastors Jack Hayford and Joseph Garlington, were prominent on the platform. Other groups also served as host for large gatherings. A week earlier the world conference of the Assemblies of God reported that more than one million persons had attended the conference's final rally in So Paulo, Braz. In June, after Pat Robertson sold his television company, the Family Channel, he gave $150 million of the proceeds to Regent University, Virginia Beach, Va., which

Britannica English vocabulary.      Английский словарь Британика.