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Weekly News Summary on Tuesday 16 June 2020

Posted on: June 16, 2020 7:15 PM
Related Categories: Global

Burundian bishops express sorrow following death of President Pierre Nkurunziza

The House of Bishops of the Anglican Church of Burundi have expressed their “great sorrow” on the death of President Pierre Nkurunziza. The Bishops met on 10 June following the death of President Nkurunziza last Tuesday (9 June). Officials in Burundi say that the President died following a heart attack.

President Nkurunziza had announced his intention to stand down later this year, after 15 years in office, and he did not contest the country’s General Election last month. The President-elect, Evariste Ndayishimiye, was due to be sworn in during a handover ceremony in August. Following an emergency ruling by Burundi’s constitutional court, President Ndayishimiye will now be sworn in on Thursday (18 June). Both men are from the country’s CNDD-FDD party.

In a communiqué following their meeting last week, the Bishops expressed their condolences to President Nkurunziza’s family, the government, and all Burundians. They urged people to be calm and united as a tribute to the late President, who they said “always called people to seek for unity and social cohesion.”

In a statement, the Anglican Church of Burundi said that the House of Bishops appealed to other religious groups to join together in solidarity with the whole population in prayers during this hard time.

The Primate of Burundi, Archbishop Martin Blaise Nyaboho, issued the communiqué in the presence of the Bishops representing the nine Anglican dioceses of the province. In a television broadcast he said that they were grateful for all the good works that President Nkurunziza had done for his country during the last 15 years he was in power. He stressed that they will always remember what he achieved for the benefit and development of Burundi.

All nine bishops in Burundi visited the State House in Ntare Rushatsi to sign the book of condolence.

Dean Hosam Naoum consecrated as coadjutor Bishop of Jerusalem

The former Dean of St George’s Cathedral in Jerusalem, Hosam Naoum, was consecrated on Sunday (14 June) as Coadjutor Bishop of Jerusalem, in a stripped-down service at St George’s Cathedral in Jerusalem. Bishop Hosam will become the Anglican Archbishop in Jerusalem following the retirement of Archbishop Suheil Dawani next year.

Jerusalem holds a special place in the heart of all Christians and Anglicans from around the world would have been expected to attend; but Covid-19 travel restrictions meant that overseas visitors were kept to a minimum, with the service broadcast live over the Internet.

In his sermon, Archbishop Suheil spoke of the meanings of the two words in Hosam Naoum’s new title. “First of all, the title of bishop means that from today onward Dean Hosam will join the ranks of episcopal leadership not only here in this diocese, but also within the worldwide Anglican Communion,” Archbishop Suheil said.

“But the second meaning is equally as important. For the title Coadjutor means that, in due course, then-Bishop Hosam will succeed me as Anglican Archbishop in Jerusalem. At that same time, he will also become one of the Heads of the Churches here in the City of the Holy One. And so today is the first step towards his assuming a greater mantle of leadership within Christ’s One Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church here in Jerusalem.

“Hosam, in this coming year as Coadjutor Bishop, we must join our efforts, working hard at all levels: ecumenically, institutionally, and in our relationships with our sister churches and partners, both locally and internationally. This is the basic compass that will guide you in your future leadership.”

Archbishops of Canterbury and Westminster warn against West Bank annexation

The Archbishop of Canterbury and the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster have written to both the Israeli Ambassador to the UK, Mark Regev, and the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, to express their opposition to any move by the Government of Israel to annex West Bank territory after 1 July 2020.

These letters followed the recent warning from the leaders of Churches in the Holy Land that the Government of Israel’s proposed annexation of West Bank territory would “bring about the loss of any remaining hope for the success of the peace process” (see ACNS Weekly Summary on 12 May 2020).

In each letter they made clear they “unambiguously support the fundamental right of Israel’s citizens to live in peace and safety but these prospects can only be secured through negotiation rather than annexation.”

It is essential that both Israelis and Palestinians may live without violence or the threat of violence from each other or other armed groups, the Cardinal and Archbishop emphasised.

Archbishops of Canterbury and Westminster take part in pilgrimage as English churches open for prayer

Churches and other religious buildings in England are now able to open for private prayer, after the UK government relaxed some of the Covid-19 lockdown restrictions. The decision on whether to open individual churches for prayer will be down to local clergy and Parochial Church Councils, as they will need to satisfy health and safety regulations, including cleansing and the maintenance of social distancing.

To mark the relaxation, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, joined the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, the Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols. The two leaders attended the Roman Catholic Westminster Cathedral where they kneeled for prayer on either side of the main aisle.

They then walked the short distance to Westminster Abbey, the Queen’s own church opposite the Houses of Parliament, where they prayed on either side of the Shrine of Saint Edward the Confessor. Saint Edward, who died in 1066, was the founder of the Abbey and one of the last Anglo-Saxon Kings of England.

The relaxation of the regulations applies only to churches in England.

The bishops of the Church in Wales say that are working with the Welsh government on a protocol for re-opening churches there when it is safe to do so. “When the law permits, we envisage a gradual opening of churches based on a clear demonstration of compliance with the protocol and guidance – our primary concern is for the health of those that will use our churches again”, they said.

The Scottish Episcopal Church (SEC) has issued guidance to help its churches prepare for the move to Phase Two of the easing of lockdown regulations by the Scottish Government in. “We are not yet in Phase 2 and cannot yet restart the activities permitted in Phase 2 until the Scottish Government announces a date for this to take place, but the SEC guidance allows churches to prepare for that moment. Phase 2 is not currently expected to start any earlier than 18 June”, an SEC spokesperson said.

The Church of Ireland is an all-island Anglican province which includes Northern Ireland in the UK and the Republic of Ireland. Churches in Northern Ireland are already able to open for private prayer; and the Irish Government have announced that churches in its territory will be able to open for public worship from 29 June.

To help churches prepare, the Church of Ireland has produced a set of protocols which includes a nine-step plan. They start with communicating with workers and parishioners prior to opening on a specific date. “At all times, churches must comply fully with all relevant current legislation in their respective jurisdiction, and follow the advice of health authorities, particularly in relation to social distancing, hand hygiene, and respiratory hygiene”, a spokesperson said.

Disciplinary hearing held for Bishop of Albany over same-sex marriage refusal

[Edited extracts from a report by Egan Millard for the Episcopal News Service] The US-based Episcopal Church has held a disciplinary hearing for the Bishop of Albany, William Love, over his refusal to implement a decision of the Church’s General Convention to authorise same-sex marriage rites. Church lawyers argue that by prohibiting clergy in his diocese from using the same-sex marriage rites approved for churchwide use by General Convention, Bishop William broke the vows he took when he was ordained a bishop to “conform to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of The Episcopal Church.”

But Bishop William defended his actions, saying that they did not conflict with existing church canon law.

The hearing, conducted under the church’s Title IV disciplinary process, was originally scheduled to take place on 21 April in Colonie, New York, but was changed to a Zoom meeting due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Title IV hearings are held when members of clergy are accused of breaking their vows or violating the church’s constitution and canons.

During the hearing, presided over by Bishop Nicholas Knisely of Rhode Island, the church, represented by lawyer Paul Cooney, and Bishop William, represented by the Diocesan Chancellor Chip Strickland, did not dispute the facts of the case – or the theological validity of same-sex marriage – but presented arguments over whether Love’s actions violated church law.

Bishop Nicholas said that it may take several weeks for the panel to reach its decision. The panel can either dismiss the matter or issue an order, which could include suspending or deposing Love – essentially stripping him of his spiritual authority.

Provincial synods move online or delayed due to Covid-19 restrictions

The ongoing restrictions to prevent the spread of Covid-19 and continuing uncertainty about when – and how – lockdowns may be lifted has resulted in a number of provincial synod meetings being postponed or moved online.

The biennial meeting of the General Synod (Te Hīnota Whānui) of the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia was to be held in Nelson from 9 to 14 May. It has been replaced with a one-day virtual synod, on 25 July, to conduct urgent business only. A longer meeting is planned for later in the year.

The Church of England’s General Synod is a legal body established by the UK Parliament. A change in the law was required to postpone elections for the next quinquennium, which were due to take place after a group of sessions in York in July. Instead, current members will continue for an additional year following an Order in Council by Queen Elizabeth.

July’s meeting has been replaced with a one-day virtual sitting, which will include question time, a presidential address and a presentation on the Church’s response to Covid-19.