bout 3,000 Christians gathered at the Washington National Cathedral on March 16 before marching to the White Houseto protest the war in Iraq.
"This kind of a Christian witness was long overdue," said the Rev.Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners/Call to Renewal, one of three dozengroups represented in the Christian Peace Witness for Iraq.
"Just going to secular demonstrations wasn't enough for them. They wanted to express their faith on the Iraq war."
At the cathedral, attendees heard remarks from Wallis, the Rev. Bernice Powell Jackson, a U.S. representative of the World Council of Churches, and Celeste Zappala, a Philadelphia United Methodist whose son, a National Guardsman, was killed in Baghdad in 2004.
Most in attendance then took to the streets, as snow and wind subsided, and marched to the White House while holding electric candles. March organizers said 222 people were arrested and fined $100 each, charged with leaving their planned protest site at Lafayette Park and stepping across Pennsylvania Avenue directly in front of the White House.
Wallis said an additional 600 people watched a simulcast of the cathedral worship service at a Presbyterian church near the White House and later joined the march.
Rick Ufford-Chase, executive director of Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, another partner in the march, said he felt the event marked a turning point in Christian opposition to the war. "There was clear, strong resolve and consensus that Christians will not rest until this war comes to an end," said Ufford-Chase, a former moderator of the Presbyterian Church (USA).
He said representatives of the various partner organizations involved in the march plan to meet to determine their next steps. "I expect that something more will grow out of this," he said.
Close to 180 related Christian protests were planned across the country over the weekend, organizers said.
President Bush spoke from the White House Monday, on the fourth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, reiterating his commitment to the war. "It can be tempting to look at the challenges in Iraq and conclude our best option is to pack up and go home," Bush said, after several marches occurred in Washington over the weekend.
"That may be satisfying in the short run, but I believe the consequences for American security would be devastating. ... Four years after this war began, the fight is difficult, but it can be won."
Update: Episcopalians Void Election of South Carolina Bishop
Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has thrown out the election of a conservative bishop-elect in South Carolina, declaring that he did not receive the proper approval of a majority of Episcopal dioceses.
Although South Carolina announced that its candidate had been approved by a majority of Episcopal dioceses, Jefferts Schori said some of the "consents" were sent in electronically, which violates church rules.
On the eve of a crucial meeting of Episcopal bishops in Texas, the rejection may exacerbate tensions between church liberals and conservatives, who are already bitterly divided over homosexuality and the interpretation of the Bible. After a diocese elects a bishop, he or she must be approved by both a majority of active bishops and a majority of lay and clergy leaders in the Episcopal Church's 110 dioceses. The Episcopal Church has not rejected a candidate for bishop since the 1930s, according to several people who have studied the matter.
The Rev. Mark Lawrence, 56, who was elected by South Carolina last September, was approved by a majority of bishops and 57 dioceses, according to the Rev. J. Haden McCormick, president of South Carolina's standing committee.
However, some dioceses "thought that electronic permission was sufficient as had been their past accepted practice," McCormick said in a statement.
Jefferts Schori saw it differently, according to Episcopal News Service. "In the past, when consents to Episcopal elections have been so closely contested, the diocese has been diligent in seeking to have canonically adequate ballots submitted," Jefferts Schori told ENS.
Lawrence is a priest in the conservative diocese of San Joaquin, which has taken preliminary steps to leave the Episcopal Church. A number of Episcopal dioceses said they feared South Carolina would do the same under Lawrence. The diocese must now hold another election. "I hope that this tragic outcome will be a wake up call to both clergy and lay people throughout (the Episcopal Church) as to the conditions in our church," McCormick said.
Methodist Churches Say Merger Not an Option
Bishops from six U.S. Methodist denominations pledged to work together on common social justice goals but said a merger or union among them is not likely to happen any time soon.
Representing the United Methodist Church and the historically black African Methodist Episcopal, African Methodist Episcopal Zion, and Christian Methodist Episcopal churches, the bishops gathered in Atlanta March 11-13 for their quadrennial meeting. Two new members also joined the meeting: the Union American Methodist Episcopal Church and the African Union Methodist Protestant Church.
Noting that the gathering's goals do not include a "union" of the churches, the bishops agreed to change its name from "Commission on Pan-Methodist Cooperation and Unity" to "Pan-Methodist Commission," according to United Methodist News Service.
Bishop William Oden, the ecumenical officer for the United Methodist Council of Bishops, said there are several obstacles blocking a merger, including pension structures, how bishops are elected and concerns that the smaller denominations would be "swallowed up" by the 8-million-member United Methodist Church.
Still, Oden said that "we have more in common than we do differences. ... We have the same services of ordination, Communion and baptism."
The Methodist denominations have been working towards greater cooperation recently, with representatives from African-American churches serving on boards in the United Methodist Church, according to the UMC.
The bishops also appointed a committee to draft a statement calling for an end to the Iraq war; agreed to write letters in support of groups working on wage, health care and HIV/AIDS issues; and asked for research on AIDS in the U.S.
Jews Ask Why Neo-Nazis Were Assigned to Guard Jewish Leader
BY NIELLS SORRELLS ©2007 Religion News Service
German politicians and religious leaders are trying to figure out how three bodyguards with alleged Nazi sympathies ended up as bodyguards for the former head of Germany's Central Council of Jews.
Opposition parties in the German state of Hessen are demanding a parliamentary investigation into how the three men managed to become state policemen despite their neo-Nazi leanings. The story first broke in the Bild newspaper, one of Germany's major tabloids, and was soon picked up by other publications. According to a report in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper, the three state police officers assigned as bodyguards to Michel Friedman were initially investigated for suspicion of falsifying overtime statements.
During the course of that investigation, several incriminating items were discovered, including a photo of one of the men in a Nazi-era uniform, a home-made certificate in the name of the "Fuehrer" and right-wing songs stored on one of the men's computer.
Since then, one of the men has been removed entirely from the police force. The other two have been relieved of active duty. According to the original Bild report, one of the three officers stated that the state police force employs many people who are secretly right wing extremists.
Given the training and testing required to become a bodyguard, many people have questioned how the trio's leanings weren't discovered beforehand. Charlotte Knobloch, the current head of the Jewish council, said the affair will make people question the professionalism of Germany's security forces and whether such political leanings are overlooked as meaningless. "If these incidents are treated cavalierly, then the politicians, police, and the legal system are going to lose the trust of this ountry's democratic citizens."
Friedman said he never noticed any untoward behavior by the men.