COI Gazette – 2nd June 2017

WCC delegation on two-day visit to Zimbabwe

Dr Olav Fykse Tveit (centre) in Harare leading a delegation of Church leaders from Europe, Africa and North America to Zimbabwe. (Photo WCC/Claus Grue)

Dr Olav Fykse Tveit (centre) in Harare leading a delegation of Church leaders from Europe, Africa and North America to Zimbabwe. (Photo WCC/Claus Grue)

A delegation of Church leaders, led by World Council of Churches General Secretary the Revd Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, was recently received on a courtesy visit in Harare by Zimbabwe Vice-President Emmersom Mnangagwa and government of cials.

The visit was part of a journey of solidarity upon invitation by WCC member-Churches in the country to support them and the people of Zimbabwe in their struggle for justice and peace.

Dr Tveit indicated that he was pleased by the opportunity to re-connect with the Churches and the people of Zimbabawe.

“As Christians we are committed to justice and peace. The WCC delegation is here to show that we support the Churches in Zimbabwe in their peaceful efforts for the well-being of the people of Zimbabwe, and their work for a national dialogue with the government, political parties and other organisations,” he said.



On 6th May last, Kim Hak-song, an American employed at North Korea’s Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST), an institution founded seven years ago with evangelical Christian support and the only private university in the country, was taken into custody. Concern was expressed by White House spokesman Sean Spicer who indicated that the US State Department is pursuing the matter through the Swedish Embassy with a view to the release of Kim Hak-song and three other Americans being held by the unpredictable regime of Kim Jong-un, one of the other three having been detained only several weeks before the latest detention. PUST teaches North Korea’s privileged elite and is mainly funded by evangelical sources in the United States and South Korea. The paradox is striking.

In 2014, the BBC’s Panorama journalists, Chris Rogers and Marshall Corwin, were granted permission to report on the university from the inside. They wrote: “Once inside the campus we hear the sound of marching and singing, not more guards but the students themselves. They are the sons of some of the most powerful men in North Korea, including senior military figures … There are 500 students here – dressed smartly in black suits, white shirts, red ties and black, peaked caps with briefcases at their sides. They are all hand-picked by Kim Jong-un’s regime to receive a Western education. The university’s official aim is to equip them with the skills to help modernise the impoverished country and engage with the international community. All classes are in English and many of the lecturers are American.”

The broadcaster identified the other three US detainees as:

• Kim Sang-duck, a lecturer who taught at PUST and was detained for allegedly attempting to “overturn” the government. South Korean media said he had been involved in humanitarian work in the North;

• Kim Dong-chul, who was sentenced to 10 years’ hard labour for spying; and

• Student Otto Warmbier, who was sentenced to 15 years’ hard labour for trying to steal a propaganda sign from a hotel.
Kim Hak-song, whom Reuters indicated had previously described himself in an online post as a Christian missionary, was detained on suspicion of “hostile acts” against the state, the North’s KCNA news agency said. Religion News Service’s Lauren Markoe reported that experts on North Korea consider the detentions “an attempt by the authoritarian North Korean regime to gain bargaining chips as it resists US pressure to rein in its nuclear program, with which it has threatened South Korea and the US”.

The situation in the region has become increasingly unstable as a result of provocative missile tests by Pyongyang and, of course, matters also became highlighted with President Donald Trump’s election campaign rhetoric. It is difficult to see just what can be done to restrain the North Korean regime because any military offensive would inevitably lead to a devastating reprisal, with South Korea being a prime target.

The only possible approach is by patient diplomacy. Perhaps that was what Mr Trump had in mind when he recently called Kim Jong-un “a pretty smart cookie”, a compliment of sorts, having earlier commented: “He’s 27 years old, his father dies, took over a regime, so say what you want but that’s not easy, especially at that age.” However, matters were not helped at the beginning of May by North Korea accusing the US and South Korea of jointly plotting to kill Kim Jong-un in a “bio-chemical” attack.

One can only hope that much of what we are witnessing is posturing, but it has serious tones and causes deep concern to very many citizens both in the region and further afield – and is certainly not easily dismissed by North Korea’s detainees.

However, Donald Trump’s apparently new found friendship with China’s President Xi Jinping is a welcome sign in such a confused and dangerous situation. One also notes the emphasis on promoting peace in Mr Trump’s 24th May meeting with Pope Francis in the Vatican. Indeed, it is ever the role of the Church to encourage the work of perseverance in peacemaking. Truly, the dreadful and shockingly cruel attacks last week in Manchester and Egypt, as with all acts of terror, reinforce that imperative. (President and Pope, page 9; Terror attacks, pages 6 & 12)

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Letters to the Editor

General Synod same-sex relationships debate

REGARDING the Revd William Press’s comments (Letters, 26th May), I would suggest that if we wish to discern God’s will for 21st century moral dilemmas, it is not sufficient to reach for so-called “proof texts” in Scripture that appear to support our personal or inherited positions.

Mr Press cites I Corinthians 6: 9b-10 as teaching that “those who act on homosexual desires” will be (according to St Paul) excluded from the kingdom of God.

We have to ask what type of behaviour and relationship Paul had in mind when he wrote the words translated in NRSV as “male prostitutes” and “sodomites” in this verse 9b). Was he really referring to the committed same- sex partnerships that many Christians recognise and affirm today?

After considerable research and pondering, I do not believe that he was. There have been many suggested translations of the unusual Greek terms, but space does not permit detailed discussion here.

We should also note that these are not the only people whom Paul considers will “not inherit the kingdom of God”: fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers and robbers are also on the list (vv 9b – 10).

Along with the variety of sexual sins (and remembering that Corinth was a port city harbouring more than the average amount of bad behaviour in this area), greed, drunkenness, reviling (scornful speech) and idolatry, the worship of anything less than God, are also condemned.

If we are to revere Holy Scripture as we should, is it not essential that we read it not only thoughtfully and prayerfully, but with rigorous attention to the original language and context, always mindful of Jesus’ love command, asking God what he is saying to us through it for the dilemmas we face today?

Ginnie Kennerley (Canon) Dalkey Co. Dublin

I WRITE in support of the Revd William Press (Letters, 26th May).

I was not present at General Synod 2017 but I was a clerical member in 2012 when a clear majority voted in favour of maintaining accepted Church teaching on the nature of marriage.

Subsequently, a member of the same-sex pressure group Changing Attitude, claimed publicly on radio that the vote was due to a northern majority being present on the day.

Reviewing the attendance figures for General Synod 2012, however, revealed the opposite

was the case (Letters, Gazette, 20th July 2012).

On the day of the vote the number of northern members had dwindled to some 23% less than their southern counterparts.

In the Gazette of 5th June 2015, Dean Tom Gordon demanded formal separation of northern and southern Church “identities” following the result of the Republic of Ireland’s referendum on same- sex “marriage”.

His claim that the Church of Ireland was fundamentally separated on this issue by the border could not be supported by the facts (Letters, Gazette, 31st July and 14th August, 2015).

There seems to be an attitude among some in the Church that we should follow the way of the secular world in respect of same-sex relationships and go even further and offer the Church’s approval.

The teaching of Scripture is clear in its condemnation. We reject the Bible and we lose our moral compass. Our efforts need to be on uniting, not dividing, our Church. PeterT. Hanna (TheRevd)

Innishannon Co. Cork

General Synod ‘Out of Order’ ruling

I REFER to the report, ‘Summary Out of Order Ruling’, in the Gazette dated 12th May.

If ruled ‘Out of Order’ at the opening stages of a speech in a General Synod debate for not addressing the subject, as happened to me, one should surely be given an opportunity, if disagreeing with the ruling, to explain how what one intended to say did in fact relate to the subject in hand.

On this occasion, the debate was on the report of the Commission on Ministry, but I was not allowed to explain why what I wanted to say was indeed relevant to this topic.

What I wanted to say was about the way in which the House of Bishops had not given an example in ministry by stubbornly withholding details of their meeting in the Portmarnock Hotel last November and episcopal costs in general. The Church has to be open about its finances and the purposes for which its funds are used.

The Bishops should be setting an example in ministry and showing all members of the Church that they must be open and also must be clear about financial matters.

Obviously, certain things must be kept confidential in ministry, but surely not the cost, agenda and entire business of a meeting over three days!

Colin Hall-Thompson (The Revd)
Senior Chaplain

Mission To Seafarers Belfast



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