Between the line
Sexual Promiscuity in Africa Called ‘Violence’
IDS in Africa has reached epidemic proportions, and an American clergyman told a gathering in Zimbabwe this winter that he knows one of the main reasons why: male sexual permissiveness. In his address to a session of the eighth World Council of Churches assembly in Zimbabwe last December, Rev. Eugene Rivers, a founder of the Boston-based Ten Point Leadership Foundation, decried the “political and spiritual violence” of male sexual permissiveness in Africa, linking it with the explosion of AIDS on the continent.
“We must expand the parameters of our notion of violence,” Rivers said in a speech that stirred up considerable controversy among delegates, “because unless someone can tell me something different, sexual promiscuity-and there is no other way to say it straight-now functions as a form of political and spiritual violence against women and children.”
During its assembly in Harare, the WCC challenged the churches of the world to work with Africa “to accompany those among us with burdens too heavy to carry alone,” including the explosion of HIV infections in Southern Africa and crushing international debt.
The assembly also supported the creation of a “Forum of Christian Churches and Ecumenical Organizations,” which could extend the organization’s ecumenical outreach beyond its 339 member churches. The proposed forum would bring together nearly all of the mainline Christian churches, including many non-WCC members such as the Roman Catholic Church and major pentecostal and evangelical bodies. Rev. Kathryn Bannister, 29, a United Methodist pastor from Kansas, was elected as one of eight WCC presidents-the first female North American WCC president under age 30.
Plowshares Activists Sentenced
Several peace demonstrators received prison sentences in early January for hammering on a B-52 bomber-symbolically enacting the biblical prophecy of Isaiah to beat swords into plowshares-during an “open house” last May at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland. Father Larry Morlan from Bloomington, Illinois, received a four-month sentence. Sisters Carol Gilbert and Ardeth Platte from Baltimore’s Jonah House and Father Frank Cordaro from Des Moines, Iowa, were sentenced to six months. Kathy Shields Boylan, a grandmother and mother of five from Washington, D.C.’s Dorothy Day Catholic Worker, was given a 10-month sentence.
Humanitarian Aid Voices in the Wilderness, an organization that seeks to end sanctions against Iraq, was notified by the federal government in early December that a penalty may be imposed against them and several supporters for violating the embargo. The proposed penalty for Voices is $120,000; four individuals may be fined up to $12,000 each.
“The ‘law’ we have violated is to take medicine and toys to our sisters and brothers without a license,” wrote Simon Harak, SJ, in a formal response to the notice. “We brought the medicines and toys because of the higher law of God’s love of the people of Iraq.” The group stated that it would continue to violate the sanctions. Claiming the need to use its resources to assist Iraqi people, the organization said it would refuse to pay any fine and will fight any attempt to confiscate or freeze its assets. For information about the penalties and other actions, see the Voices Web site at www.nonviolence. org/v itw.
Pickles and Football? hio State University head football coach John Cooper put himself in a pickle when he agreed to endorse a company that the Farm Labor Organizing Committee AFLCIO (FLOC) says engages in unfair labor practices. FLOC president Baldemar Velasquez invited Cooper to discuss his endorsement of the Mt. Olive Pickle Company, located in North Carolina, a company the union plans to boycott until a collective bargaining agreement is signed. In a letter to Cooper, Velasquez wrote that the company’s workers live and work in “squalid conditions” and are paid “less than one-third of what workers in Ohio and Michigan get for doing:y the same work.” They are regularly exposed to toxic and carcinogenic chemicals, Velasquez said, and they have no readily available health care. In 18 months, FLOC has signed up more than 2,000 migrant workers who harvest pickling cucumbers for the company. The union’s organizing drive is endorsed by more than 60 religious, labor, and community organizations that are now being contacted to support a pickle boycott scheduled to begin on St. Patrick’s Day,1999.
Church Unites to Shun Hate
wice in two months, a delegation from Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas, led by Rev. Fred Phelps, picketed Broadway United Methodist Church in Chicago with signs declaring “Fags die. God laughs.” Rev. Greg Dell, pastor of Broadway, awaits a church trial for holding a covenant service for a gay couple.
When Phelps arrived at the church last November, more than 1,500 people from the Chicago area were present to make a “Circle of Care” around the church. No violence occurred, but police removed Phelps and his colleagues after the second Sunday morning service began. When members of Phelps’ church returned in December, Broadway members and supporters decided to provide little direct response to the demonstrations.
“We felt, and the community agreed, that a second picketing by Phelps warranted an intentional shunning of the group to drive home the point that continued attention to hate really does feed it,” said Dell.
It’s Easy Being Green Environmentally responsible business practices don’t always lead to a decrease in profits. Professors Michael Russo and Paul Fouts examined the economic and environmental performance of 243 companies over a two-year period. They found that companies with superior environmental performance had higher returns on investment compared to their competitors. The study measured environmental performance as going beyond complying with regulations to prevent pollution at its source. Companies rated with superior environmental performances include Heinz, American Express, Ford, and Amoco. Christian Reformed Church Called to Repent he Committee to Give Direction about and for Pastoral Care for Homosexual Members encouraged Christian Reformed churches to repent for failing to minister to gay and lesbian members. The committee noted that the church’s 1973 guidelines, while calling for members to become heterosexual or remain celibate, proclaim that the church will be patient and loving. “The church at large has not attempted to create these kinds of conditions on anything like a broad scale,” says the committee’s report. “For this reason alone, it would be fitting for the CRC to seek God’s forgiveness.” -Molly Marsh and Andrew Schleicher
Copyright Sojourners Mar/Apr 1999
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