Churches protest Islamic courts’ clause in constitution

Nairobi, 4 February (ENI): Church leaders in Kenya are rallying their followers against a draft constitution they say favours Muslims and will tear the country apart.

‘Christians will not relent in holding out this position as it is our national duty,’ said the Revd Peter Karanja, general secretary of the National Council of Churches of Kenya, on 1 February. Karanja spoke at a press conference in Nairobi in which the leaders released a statement warning that a clause in the proposed constitution amounts to a ploy to introduce Islamic Sharia law in Kenya.

‘It is possible to think Christians are being sensational, but if you look ahead at the next 50 years, 100 years or couple of centuries, when none of us is working on a new constitution, or the full impact of these decision is experienced, people will look back and ask: Were Christians so naïve to allow this to happen?’ said Karanja.

The church leaders also accused some Muslims of seeking to carve out an Islamic state within Kenya through institutions such as Sharia banking and insurance, a Halal bureau of standards, and now the Islamic judicial system or Kadhi courts. They want the issue resolved because they believe that the constitution is extremely important since it defines their nation, its principles and values.

‘It is therefore of great importance that these cardinal issues are dealt with, if the current constitution review process is to succeed,’ said the Revd Gerry Kibarabara, a Pentecostal bishop who chairs the Kenya Christian Constitutional Forum.

Although Kadhi courts have been in Kenya’s constitution since Independence, Christians filed a court case in 2004 demanding their removal. At the same time, Muslims are accusing church leaders of insincerity, saying the courts would protect Muslims’ religious rights, isolated by the current constitution.

‘The current constitution and the draft are largely based on British Common Law, which borrows from Judeo-Christian laws and traditions. The conduct of the State is Christian in nature,’ Ibrahim Isaac, the secretary general of International Da’awah Resource Centre, told journalists on 2 February in Nairobi. ‘No Kadhi courts. No constitution.’

Fredrick Nzwili

Ecumenical News International


Notre Dame ‘kiss in’

French homosexualist demonstrators had planned to have a ‘kiss in’ in front of Notre Dame cathedral in Paris this Valentine’s Day. But in response to the protests of a group of young French Catholics and patriots, it was moved away from the church of Our Lady.

The kiss-in was ostensibly meant to combat ‘homophobia.’ The organizer of the kiss-in, Arthur Vauthier, had nevertheless said that it was a ‘way to challenge the Church, to question the Church on the question of love and marriage between gays and between lesbians.’ He had furthermore boasted that he was ‘not afraid of a backlash.’

A number of Catholic and nationalist websites and blogs called on Catholics to ‘respond with courtesy and firmness to the provocation.’ French Action called on people to help resist the demonstration, stating that ‘France is not a nightclub.’

The police then advised the demonstration’s organizers to change its location because of a possible clash between the homosexualists and the Catholics. The event was moved to Saint-Michel, nearby. Some homosexualist demonstrators, however, decided to go ahead with their plan anyway. But a group of roughly 200 young Catholics had gathered by the time the homosexualists decided to start kissing each other in front of Notre Dame.

The group of Catholics started shouting at the demonstrators at which point the police stepped in between the two groups and moved the gay activists away from the church. A video shows the Catholics, after moving the demonstrators away from Notre Dame, chanting ‘Habemus Papam!’ (or ‘We have a pope’).

Similar kiss-ins at Catholic or Mormon places of worship have been performed successfully by homosexualists throughout the world.

Lite Site News


TEC leadership lashes out

A blizzard of winter weather on the Eastern seaboard was matched this past week by a flurry of activity from the Episcopal Church Center. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori travelled to Britain in order to lobby Church of England leaders against a motion favourable to conservative rivals in North America. At the same time, South Carolina Bishop Mark Lawrence revealed that the Presiding Bishop’s office had retained an attorney in South Carolina who was apparently laying the groundwork for a challenge to the diocesan leadership.

If the latter turns out to be correct, it marks the first time that the denomination has taken action against a diocese that has not announced plans to separate from the church.

Jefferts Schori’s trip to London coincided with a meeting of the CofE’s Synod, which was considering a motion introduced by an evangelical lay leader. Lorna Ashworth’s motion stated that ‘this Synod express the desire that the Church of England be in communion with the Anglican Church in North America.’

In preparation for Synod debate, the Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs issued a series of talking points to TEC allies in the CofE, seeking to dissuade the Synod from adopting Ashworth’s motion. The points criticized the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) as not a legitimate member of the Worldwide Anglican Communion and questioned ACNA’s size relative to TEC.

Leaders of the rival North American church also sent representatives, including Canadian bishop and ACNA Dean Donald Harvey, and Dr Michael Howell of Forward in Faith North America.

Following two-and-a-half hours of debate, the Synod adopted an amended version of the motion, which read:

That this Synod, aware of the distress caused by recent divisions within the Anglican churches of the United States of America and Canada,

‘(a) recognise and affirm the desire of those who have formed the Anglican Church in North America to remain within the Anglican family;

(b) acknowledge that this aspiration, in respect both of relations with the Church of England and membership of the Anglican Communion, raises issues which the relevant authorities of each need to explore further; and

(c) invite the Archbishops to report further to the Synod in 2011.

The amended language passed by a 309:69 margin, with seven abstentions, supported by both the Archbishops of Canterbury and York. Some conservatives criticized the motion, calling it weak or watered-down, while others praised it.

ACNA Archbishop Robert Duncan thanked Ashworth for bringing forward the motion. ‘We are very grateful to Mrs Ashworth and the scores of other friends in the Synod of the Church of England for all they did to give us this opportunity to tell our story to the mother church of the Anglican Communion. It is very encouraging that the synod recognizes and affirms our desire to remain within the Anglican family,’ Duncan said in a statement.

The Episcopal News Service interpreted the result differently, trumpeting the headline ‘Church of England says no to full communion with breakaway entity,’ despite the fact that Ashworth’s original motion merely expressed a desire to be in communion, something that the Synod itself did not have the power to enact.

Most observers agreed, however, that the adopted motion provided a positive acknowledgement of ACNA and would lead to further conversation in the Synod when the archbishops reported back. Conservatives pointed to failed attempts by TEC allies to shelve or delay the motion as evidence that ACNA had scored a win.

Jeff Walton


Church writes off $78 million

The Church of England stands ready to lose about $78 million invested in the largest real estate deal in American history after Tishman Speyer Properties announced it was turning over two Manhattan apartment complexes to creditors.

Tishman Speyer partnered with BlackRock Realty in 2006 to complete the $5.4 billion purchase of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village on Manhattan’s East River. The deal has since lost $3.5 million and the firm decided to surrender the properties after falling behind on loan repayments, according to reports. The Church of England’s £40 million investment in Stuyvesant Town was brokered in June 2007, right at the top of the property market, months before the ensuing global economic crisis set in.

‘Stuyvesant Town offered the opportunity to invest in a large residential complex in a major international city with Tishman Speyer, a respected world-class manager,’ Ben Wilson, senior media officer for the Church of England, told ENS.

‘In doing so we believed that the investment would provide strong financial returns and investment diversification. We undertook detailed due diligence in conjunction with external professional advisers and the fund manager, including an assessment of the identified investment risks.’

But Wilson acknowledged that the investment was ‘affected by the sharp fall in residential property values, and a legal ruling that many apartment rents would continue to be regulated regardless of value or the income of residents.’

News about the property investment loss comes on the eve of a Trinity Institute conference in Manhattan that will bring together leading economists and theologians, including Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, to address the theme ‘Building an Ethical Economy.’ Williams serves as chairman of the Church Commissioners.

‘The commissioners are looking carefully at the lessons to be learnt from the loss, as well as from the impact of the financial crisis generally,’ Wilson said. ‘This loss comes against a background of the commissioners’ property portfolio outperforming its peer group by an average of 4.6% every year over the last 10 years, and returning an average of 12.1% each year.’

The newspaper predicts that although the firm’s reputation might suffer, collateral damage was ‘expected to be minimal.’

Matthew Davies Episcopal News Service ND