Letter on Sexuality Issue

Bishop John B. Chane of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington returned from the fall meeting of bishops in Spokane, Wash., this week and released a letter to clergy acknowledging "frank and painful debate" that took place on the issue of human sexuality.

He also noted the bishops' discovery of "the importance of listening to one another, especially at times of profound disagreement" and asked local dioceses to follow that approach in the disputes over the practice of blessing same-sex unions and last year's ordination of the Rev. V. Gene Robinson, an openly gay man, as bishop of New Hampshire.

Chane's letter noted two upcoming events "that I hope will demonstrate our diocese's willingness to deal gracefully and charitably with one another, even as divisions within our Church and [the worldwide Anglican] Communion become more rigid and intense."

The first is an address by Archbishop Peter Jasper Akinola, head of the Anglican church in Nigeria and an outspoken critic of same-sex unions and Robinson's installation, who will speak at All Saints' Church on Chevy Chase Circle at 6:30 p.m. Monday.

"He is unlikely to speak comfort to us," Chane wrote. "Nonetheless, I believe that he and we must listen to one another if we are to repair the fabric of our Communion and move forward in common mission."

The second event will be Robinson's first worship appearance in Washington since his consecration last November. He will preach Oct. 10 at the 11 a.m. Holy Eucharist at the Church of the Epiphany on G Street NW. Robinson and actress Jessica Lange will be in town to receive the National Equality Award from the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights advocacy group.

-- Bill Broadway

Rebuke of Candidates

In a stern rebuke to the Bush and Kerry campaigns, a top Lutheran bishop said both candidates had become bogged down in negativity and have ignored the most crucial issues facing the global community.

The Rev. Mark Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, told both candidates in an open letter that terrorism is not the only issue that confronts Americans or their role in the world.

"Yes, terrorism haunts our times, but so do hunger and poverty, corrupt and brutal political systems, harsh discrimination and social inequalities, civil wars, environmental degradation and epidemic diseases," Hanson said.

Hanson's frank letter was a rare -- and bipartisan -- rebuke from a major religious leader during an election year. He chided both campaigns for focusing on 30-year-old war records and casting all issues through the lens of terrorism.

As president of the Geneva-based Lutheran World Federation, Hanson also brings global credentials to his position. In a phone interview from Texas, Hanson said he shared frustration with colleagues in Central America and Europe that the campaigns have not addressed central questions about America's role in the world beyond terrorism.

"It just seems like we can't get on track with what I think are the central, substantive issues facing the world of which we are such a central part," he said.

-- Religion News Service

Holiday Postage Stamps

Holiday postage stamps celebrating Christmas, Hanukah and Kwanzaa will be issued next month, the U.S. Postal Service announced this week.

Christmas stamps will include one depicting the Madonna and Child and another depicting Christmas ornaments, while the Hanukah stamp will feature a dreidel, and the Kwanzaa stamp will feature seven characters in colorful robes.

The traditional Christmas stamp features a 1413 tempera painting by Italian artist Lorenzo Monaco. The first day of issue will be Oct. 14, with a ceremony at a postage stamp show in New York.

On Oct. 15, a ceremony will be held on the first day of issue for the Hanukah stamp, also in New York. It features a dreidel, a four-sided top with a Hebrew letter on each side, which children use in games during the holiday.

The Kwanzaa stamp will be issued Oct. 16 in Chicago. The seven figures on the design illustrate the seven principles of Kwanzaa, the African American holiday.

The modern Christmas stamps will be issued Nov. 16 at a ceremony in New York. The stamps will show hand-painted holiday ornaments from Germany.

-- Associated Press

Holiday stamps will celebrate Christmas, Hanukah and Kwanzaa.