Russian Orthodox Church speaks on social issues, ecumenism

The church's Council of Bishops released two important documents yesterday. One is the church's first "social doctrine," summarized by The New York Times as one "that condemns genetic engineering, homosexuality, euthanasia and abortion, approves of the concept of private property and reconfirms the church's close relationship with the military." The other document outlines the church's relationship with other Christian bodies. Carefully denouncing the concept of an "invisible church" of all believers in Jesus, the document makes absolutely clear that the Orthodox Church is the only true bride of Christ. It also criticizes "destructive missionary activity," and accuses missionaries of bribing Russians away from Orthodoxy. But the church's document also says Orthodox Christians should cooperate with other churches on social matters and work toward unity. Igor Kowalewski, chancellor of the Roman Catholic Curia in Moscow, tells The Moscow Times that the decisions are as momentous as his church's Vatican II Council. "I was particularly pleased by the spirit of mutual dialogue and by acceptance of a measure of grace in non-Orthodox Churches," he says. The deputy chairman of the Union of Evangelical Christian Baptists expressed similar delight in the document. (The documents have been posted on the Russian Orthodox Church's official Web site, but apparently not yet in English.)

Canada's deputy prime minister to meet with Anglican Church of Canada leader

"The churches want the government to implement a program for validating and compensating claims out of court, rather than letting each case drag through the legal system," explains The National Post. "Federal leaders have been mostly silent on the subject, however, and Cabinet ministers have said little in response to the churches' cries of looming bankruptcy. The reason for this, says a former Conservative cabinet minister, is that there is deep division in the federal bureaucracy--and in the cabinet--over how to proceed " (see a related National Post editorial here). Meanwhile, the United Church of Canada withdrew its statement expressing its "support, solidarity and prayers to the Anglican Church of Canada and its staff during this painful time of staff cuts, financial crisis and overall anxiety."

Tony Campolo speaks of criticism and lessons learned in counseling the president

"These days, it is a rare night that I do not wake and pace the floor, praying that our ministries will not suffer because of what I have decided to do," says Campolo, who was one of Bill Clinton's spiritual advisers during the Monica Lewinsky scandal. He also laments that his speaking to the press, even though he didn't reveal anything about the talks, "chipped away at … efforts to maintain perfect pastoral confidentiality." Campolo's remarks appear in "What's God Got to Do With the American Experiment?" which is being excerpted on Beliefnet. Also appearing on Beliefnet are Richard Mouw's thoughts on Clinton's appearance at Willow Creek. "The Bill Clinton who talked to us about his failings did so haltingly and softly," writes Mouw. "This was not a scripted performance. He came across as … well, as a person a lot like the rest of us there: broken sinners, embarrassed about the awful things we have done in our lives, and yet wanting to reach out to others in the context of a community that knows something about a God who pursues us with mercy, even when we offend Him over and over again."

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Evangelicals to protest "Harry Potter" cathedral

Saying the children's books promote witchcraft, evangelicals are trying to stop Warner Brothers from filming the Harry Potter movie at Gloucester Cathedral. But Nick Bury, Dean of Gloucester, thinks the efforts are misplaced. "They are splendid books," he tells The Times. "They emphasize that truth is better than lies, good overcomes evil and the use of gifts should be responsible. They are extraordinarily wholesome books and children should be encouraged to read them."

Georgia churches battle over Mother Teresa

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta and the Missionaries of Charity, founded by Mother Teresa in 1950, are suing Mother Teresa Parish because some of the church's teachings conflict with Roman Catholic doctrine. "I didn't think that a church per se can own a name," says Richard Roberts, who helped start the parish, part of The Old Roman Catholic Church in North America. "Whether someone is doing good works or not shouldn't be locked into an association with one denomination or another." The church only has a dozen or so worshipers. (See a profile of Mother Teresa from Christianity Today sister publication Christian Historyhere.)

Missed opportunity.

Yesterday, I should have linked to this New York Times story about Roger Cardinal Mahony's invocation at the Democratic National Convention. It's far superior to the AP story in yesterday's Weblog.

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