The Adventist Review shares the following world news from Religion News Service as a service to readers. Opinions expressed in these reports do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Review or the Seventh-day Adventist Church. -- Editors
Germany’s Highest Court Rules
Against Sunday Shopping
Constitutional provisions that declare Sunday a day of rest mean German merchants will have to significantly rein in the number of days they are open for business, Germany’s highest court ruled December 1.
The ruling was prompted by protests from Catholic and Protestant churches in Berlin over laws enacted in 2006 that gave German states greater freedoms in determining store opening hours.
The Berlin city-state was one of the most enthusiastic adopters of the policy, allowing stores to operate for 10 Sundays a year, including the four Sundays of Advent leading up to the Christmas holiday. Other states had opted for fewer shopping Sundays; heavily Catholic Bavaria had opted for none.
In its ruling, the German Constitutional Court noted that the guarantee of Sunday as a day of rest was not only based in Christian tradition, but also served a vital societal function by giving workers a day off and giving families more chances to spend time together.
“A simple economic interest in profits by merchants and a general interest in shopping by potential customers are generally not enough to justify exceptions to the clear constitutional protections for breaks from work and the possibility of spiritual enlightenment on Sundays and holidays,” the court said.
The Evangelical (Lutheran) Church in Germany welcomed the decision, noting that it was a blow against commerce and for Sunday as a day of rest.
However, the court ruling does not entirely ban Sunday store openings. The ruling laid out prescriptions for Berlin to open stores on four Sundays a year, including two Advent Sundays, albeit with shorter hours. Additionally, Advent Sunday shopping will be allowed to continue for the remaining three Advent Sundays of 2009.
The Constitutional Court is the highest judicial body in Germany. Lawmakers could try to craft new legislation that does not contradict the constitutional protections.
Canadian Judge Rules Breakaway Churches Must Leave Property Behind
In a fight that mirrors church property disputes in the United States, a British Columbia judge has ruled in favor of a Canadian Anglican diocese in a legal battle with conservative dissidents.
The November 25 decision may set a precedent as other groups attempt to secede with property assets as they depart the Anglican Church of Canada in a global conflict over homosexuality and interpretation of Scripture.
Justice Stephen Kelleher of the British Columbia Supreme Court ruled the Vancouver-based Diocese of New Westminster may keep possession of four church properties worth a combined $20 million ($18.7 million US). One of the churches, St. John's Shaughnessy, is widely acknowledged to be the largest Anglican parish in the country.
Clergy and trustees of the four churches, which split from the diocese after its 2002 vote to authorize rites for blessing same-sex couples, had asked the court to give them control over their properties. The churches have joined a breakaway group called the Anglican Network in Canada, which is affiliated with the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone of South America.
In his decision, Kelleher wrote that a parish “does not have authority to unilaterally leave the Diocese” and parish property “effectively remains within the Diocese unless the Executive Committee and Bishop agree to mortgage, sell or otherwise dispose of it.”
Cheryl Chang, legal adviser to the ANiC, said the parishes' trustees and leadership would meet with their lawyers on Nov. 30 to examine the 98-page decision and discuss whether to appeal. The group has 30 days to decide whether to seek further action.
“We would need overwhelming consensus from the congregations and the trustees” before pursuing an appeal, Chang said.
Debates over human sexuality have isolated the Canadian church, and the Episcopal Church in the U.S., from sister Anglican churches around the world. On November 29, Episcopal Bishop M. Thomas Shaw of Massachusetts announced that clergy in his diocese may officiate at same-sex weddings, which are legal in the Bay State.
Meanwhile, the Canadian dissident group did not emerge empty-handed. Kelleher ruled a $2.2-million ($2 million US) bequest from a former parishioner at one of the churches be held in trust for the “building needs of the ANiC congregation.”
N.Y. Church Apologizes to Native Americans
Four hundred years after their spiritual ancestors took part in the decimation and dislocation of Native Americans in New York, one of the nation's first Protestant churches held a “healing ceremony” to apologize.
“We consumed your resources, dehumanized your people, and disregarded your culture, along with your dreams, hopes and great love of this land,” representatives from Collegiate Church said in a statement. “With pain, we the Collegiate Church, remember our part in these events.”
The Friday (Nov. 27) ceremony took place on Native American Heritage Day in lower Manhattan, where in 1628 Dutch colonizers built the first Collegiate Church, then known as the Reformed Protestant Dutch Church, at Fort Amsterdam. The Dutch West Indies Company treated Native Americans “as a resource,” Collegiate said in a statement, and “we were the conscience of this company.”
Collegiate now includes four churches in New York, including Marble Collegiate Church, where the late Rev. Norman Vincent Peale preached from 1932 to 1984.
Ron Holloway, who attended the ceremony as a representative of the Lenape people, said “the native populations were suppressed by a political and religious will of which they could never begin to conceive.” But, he said, he and other Lenape people “whole-heartedly accept this apology.”
At Friday's ceremony, Holloway embraced leaders from Collegiate, according to the Associated Press, and exchanged wampum, strings of beads symbolizing money or ornaments.
“After 400 years, when someone says `I'm sorry,’ you say, `Really?’” Holloway told the AP before the ritual. “There was some kind of uneasiness. But then you've got to accept someone's sincere apology; they said, `We did it.' We ran you off, we killed you.”'
Handwritten Bible Sells For $15,000
The first handwritten copy of the New International Version Bible sold on eBay this weekend for more than $15,000.
Zondervan's handwritten Bible Across America project marked the 30th anniversary of the popular New International Version translation. Zondervan went on a nine-month tour across the country to give people a chance to write one verse of the Bible for the edition.
One of the two original manuscripts was sold on eBay for $15,407.53. The other was intended to be donated to the Smithsonian, but Zondervan is now looking at other museum options. The Smithsonian Institution was unable to comment on the offer.
Printed copies of the hand-written Bible will go on sale December 1, including scans of the handwritten verses, photos of the tour and an index of the 31,173 contributors who penned a verse for the Bible.
Proceeds from the eBay sale will go to Biblica, the company that emerged from the merger between the International Bible Society and Christian distributor Send the Light, to support its global Bible translation and distribution efforts.