GENERAL CONVENTION 2003
Convention will wrestle with many global issues
by Sandra Moyle
(June 13, 2003 ENS) The war with Iraq is not the only international issue awaiting delegates to the 74th General Convention. The Standing Commission on Anglican and International Peace with Justice Concerns is bringing a number of concerns to Minneapolis, ranging from AIDS, poverty and injustice in African nations to criticism of American policy statements about North Korea.
The commission's Blue Book report is especially critical the Bush administration. "The Cold War has not ended." declares the commission report. "The damage done by President Bush's 'axis of evil' rhetoric is extensive and regrettableÃ–. Diplomacy is the way to handle ongoing tensions and concerns in North-East Asia. Confrontation, patronizing and demonizing do not solve any existing problems but rather exacerbate them."
Members of the commission acknowledge that the language is very strong but "you couldn't have been with the people we were with and not seen this," says Louie Crew who was a member of the subcommittee that visited Japan and Korea's demilitarized zone. The experience of "standing there and looking into the DMZ" gave them a "sense of what a flashpoint that part of the world is," observes The Rev. Canon Brian Grieves, director of the church's Peace and Justice Ministries. The subcommittee met with church, government and lay leaders and repeated heard them express concerns that "axis of evil" is not helpful terminology when trying to keep the peace.
Resolution A036 urges the "end of political demonization and militaristic rhetoric toward the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea and its leaders" in order to create climate more conducive to peace.
Churches can make a difference
"U.S. Policy," says the Blue Book report, "too often interrupts and destabilizes regional relationships and aspirations. The churches can make a difference in fostering people-to-people diplomacy, in supporting non-violent peace activism, and in urging citizen action with our own elected leadership in the United States." It also supports the Anglican Church of Korea in its advocacy for the peaceful reunification of the Korean peninsula. It urges the US government to provide for relief of humanitarian needs such as food aid, energy development, transportation, education and protection of human rights and the environment.
Resolution A037 asks the U.S. to insure the legal rights of Korean citizens and provide adequate compensation to those negatively affected by the US military presence, such as victims of weapons practice and testing; pollution of the environment and victims of personal abuse, especially of a "violent or sexual nature." It also urges that the eventual goal be the phasing out of U.S. military bases in Korea.
However, growing tensions between the U.S. and North Korea over nuclear arms could mean changes in the resolutions. Grieves says he wouldn't "be surprised to see some work done by the oversight committee to reflect this reflecting current situation" particularly on the resolution urging the phasing out of U.S. military bases in Korea.
Although relations among the countries of North-East Asia are delicate the committee finds signs of hope that Ã«doors can open which have long been assumed locked forever." In particular committee member Mary Miller was impressed with the time her subcommittee spent at Sung Kong Hoe University, an Anglican school that specializes in non-governmental organizations studies with the Ã«specific purpose of encouraging peace and justice in the world."
The committee is offering a resolution (A038) urging Episcopal colleges to also include a curriculum of peace and justice studies and training for non-governmental organization careers. "None of our Episcopal colleges in the United States are doing much in peace studies," says Miller, "and we wanted to lift up the idea and encourage Episcopal colleges to construct own peace programs."
UN millennium development
Commission members visited Uganda, Kenya, Sudanese bishops, Japan, Korea, Colombia and Brazil in the last three years. The commission's convention report concludes that "much of humankind continues to labor under the seemingly intractable problems related to poverty, a dearth of educational opportunities, grossly excessive rates of malnutrition and disease, the continuing oppression of women and the scandalously abusive squandering of the gift of millions of children."
The commission warmly embraces the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals as a Ã«relevant framework for the church to live out the Gospel of Jesus Christ through and with our Church partnersÃ–globally." General Convention Resolution A034 urges an active participation by the United States in the U.N. effort by providing leadership and resources.
The first two UN millennium goals seek to reduce poverty and hunger in the world by half and ensure universal primary and secondary education for all girls and boys. Globally, education, "especially for girls," is one of the "most effective ways to increase productivity and decrease poverty," Tom Hart, former director of the Office of Government Relations in Washington told the commission in January, 2001.
Maureen Shea, appointed director of the office recently, concurs because "we have found when women are educated they tend to be the ones who start small micro businesses and they are very effective." Mary Miller add that "when women, particularly in developing countries, are given access to education things change fast and deep."
The other UN millennium goals are to reduce world child and maternal mortality rates by 2/3rds, reverse loss of environmental resources such as safe drinking water and significantly improve the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers by 2020. Finally, the UN intents to develop a global partnership for meeting the needs of least developed and developing countries including debt relief and trade policies.
Grieves points out that the church is already working towards the UN millennium goals, citing the church's successful lobbying efforts on behalf of the $15 billion dollar international HIV/AIDS relief bill recently approved by Congress and the $90 billion dollar debt relief initiative passed two years ago.
The Episcopal Church is also a member of the Anglican Environmental Network and participates in the international ecumenical Bread for the World ministry. However, officially partnering with the United Nations will "give us more clout," says Crew, "because we are not inventing something on the fly" but joining in an established international effort.
"Africa desperately needs the continuous attention of our churches, while Americans need to be challenged to act out of our abundance to generate much larger financial contributions," according to the International Peace and Justice Convention Report.
The commission commended Anglican churches in Congo, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Burundi and Rwanda for being very effective instruments in combating AIDS, poverty and injustice in the Great Lakes Africa region. Resolution A035 calls on the Episcopal Church at all levels to partner with the Anglican Churches in Africa and other agencies and to commit financial resources through the Partnership Office for Africa to support a churchwide campaign to implement humanitarian development goals in Africa. One of those goals is to not only halt but reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS that has already left 10 million children orphaned.
While offering no new resolutions the commission continues to urge the church to give the highest priority to advancing a just peace in Sudan which has the longest uninterrupted civil war in the world. Bishop Daniel Deng Bull told commission members, "I was born in the war, and I am getting old in the war. Many of our children for generations have had no schooling. We are losing our language, our culture, because we have been at war for almost half a century. When is the world going to come and rescue us?"
Seeking an end to persecution
The Commission's Blue Book report indicates without further comment or resolution that in each site visited "the commission witnessed examples of the worldwide persecution of gay and lesbian Christians" and the need for the conversations called for by the resolutions passed at the 1998 Lambeth Conference."
Crew, who was on two of the site visits to Uganda, Kenya, Japan and Korea, says, "We saw it in Colombia, in Japan, and in Korea. It is a societal and governmental attitude." It is not the first time this issue has come before the General Convention. In 2000 the convention approved a resolution supporting the Cambridge Accord in which Anglican Bishops affirmed that no homosexual persons should ever be the object of persecution or violence or deprived of civil rights because of his or her sexual orientation.
Other international peace and justice resolutions are call for an awareness campaign for the domestic and international problem of trafficking in women, girls and boys, and support for Palestinian and Afghan women and children by earmarking contributions to Jerusalem 2000 or Episcopal Relief and Development. Resolution A020 urges development of generic HIV medications for thousands who desperately need them in developing countries but cannot afford the high costs.
The Diocese of California has submitted a resolution calling for an end to the cycle of violence in the Middle East. It strongly urges encouragement of Israel and the Palestinian Authority to end their disputes, bring all acts of violence to an end, the work together to live in peace and that the Presiding Bishop to lead the dialogue among the Anglican Communion to support peace initiatives that include recognition of both Israel and Palestine as independent nation states
International Peace and Justice issues are on the agenda for five simultaneous conversations on five different topics taking place at the convention site on Wednesday July 30 from 7pm to 9pm. One of the topics is "Muslims, Jews, and Christians. How can these three widely diverse communities speak and work creatively together in the world as it is now? What do we have to say to one another?"
Another will focus on the theme of the Convention, "Receive, Repent, Reconcile, and Restore" with discussions on what new models Christians need to become agents of forgiveness and healing.
Office of Government Relations:
Global HIV/AIDS legislation:
Episcopal Peace and Justice Ministries:
Standing Committee on Anglican and International Peace with Justice Concerns:
Standing Committee on Anglican and International Peace with Justice Concerns
Blue Book Report:
Resolution # 2000-C043:
--The Rev. Sandra Moyle is rector of St. Mark's in Jacksonville, Florida, a former televion news reporter, and a member of the electronic news team at the 74th General Convention in Minneapolis.
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