Adventists Apologize

The Silver Spring-based Seventh-day Adventist Church has apologized for the role of two of its members in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

"We acknowledge with sadness that some of our church members turned against their fellow members and their neighbors," spokesman Ray Dabrowski said in a statement Wednesday after the conviction of a church official and his son by a United Nations tribunal in Tanzania. "We are saddened that the accused did not act in harmony with the principles of their church. We offer an apology."

The tribunal ruled that Elizaphan Ntakirutimana, 78, at the time a regional president of the church, and his son, Gerard Ntakirutimana, 45, a physician at Mugonero Adventist Hospital, assisted Hutu gangs in killing Tutsis who had taken refuge at a Seventh-day Adventist complex in Mugonero and at a church in Bisesero. The April attacks resulted in the deaths of "a large number of men, women and children," the indictment said.

The father, who moved to Laredo, Tex., in 1994 and was extradited to Tanzania in 2000, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for aiding and abetting in genocide. The son received 25 years for participating in genocide and for crimes against humanity (murder).

The tribunal has convicted 10 people and acquitted one person of genocide-related charges, and it is pursuing cases against 20 others.

The Seventh-day Adventist Church has about 350,000 members in Rwanda and operates three schools, one hospital and nine clinics there, Dabrowski said. An estimated 10,000 members died in the inter-tribal conflict nine years ago.

-- Bill Broadway

Methodist Cleared

A special investigating panel of the United Methodist Church, the country's second-largest Protestant denomination, has dismissed a complaint against Chicago's Bishop Joseph Sprague, who was accused by a group of clergy and lay members of contradicting church doctrine in his teachings.

The panel asked the bishop to issue a clarifying statement, reaffirming his beliefs about Jesus. It said the 28 clergy and lay members who filed the complaint should "offer a public apology" because such allegations are supposed to be private.

The Dec. 30 complaint said Sprague's writings and a speech at Iliff Theological Seminary in Denver violated Methodist doctrine on the Trinity, salvation only through Jesus and the virgin birth.

A regional panel led by Bishop Bruce Ough of Worthington, Ohio, concluded that Sprague has evinced a satisfactory faith in Christ and intended to reflect "his personal journey of faith."

The Rev. Thomas Lambrecht of Greenville, Wis., spokesman for the complainants, told United Methodist News Service that the panel "did not objectively consider our perspective [and] was heavily weighted against our point of view."

-- Associated Press

Funding at Issue

The Southern Baptist Convention's Executive Committee has proposed the start of a global initiative to redirect 30 percent of the funding it has given to the Baptist World Alliance, an association of mission organizations based in Falls Church.

The recommendation, adopted Tuesday, comes at a time when the alliance is considering a request for membership from the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, a moderate group organized to counter the conservative direction of the Southern Baptist Convention. Last fall, the fellowship declared to the alliance that it is "fully independent" of the denomination.

The 16 million-member convention is the largest of 200 organizations in the alliance, which supports humanitarian and missionary efforts worldwide and has an annual budget of $2.1 million.

The proposal calls for redirecting $125,000 from the $425,000 that the Southern Baptists have allocated to the alliance in recent years but does not call for the denomination to withdraw its membership.

Alliance officials are saddened by the proposal but are "thankful they have made it clear that they are not planning to leave," spokeswoman Wendy Ryan said.

The funding change will be considered at the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in June in Phoenix.

-- Religion News Service