Ban on Communal Cup

As Americans rush for a limited supply of flu vaccine, the Roman Catholic bishop of Vermont has told his priests not to allow parishioners to drink from a common Communion cup or exchange a sign of peace.

Bishop Kenneth Angell of Burlington, in a brief message sent to priests Oct. 25, said the ban will remain in effect through Easter as a "protective measure."

Angell's directive is thought to be the first in the country as many Americans plan to go without vaccinations in the flu season. Vaccine supplies were slashed after a British laboratory that supplied most of the vaccines was shut down because of unsanitary conditions.

"Because of the flu vaccine shortage, I am requesting that, as a protective measure . . . we do not give the 'Sign of Peace' or the chalice for Communion starting Sunday, October 31, 2004, and remaining in effect until Easter Sunday, March 27, 2005," Angell said.

Last year, parishioners in three California dioceses were asked not to hold hands during the Lord's Prayer, and priests were instructed not to place Communion wafers on worshipers' tongues. Similar changes were made in the Diocese of Colorado Springs.

In April 2003, during an outbreak of the SARS virus in Canada, Catholic officials discouraged a handshake during the sign of peace and told worshipers not to kiss the crucifix as a sign of veneration during Holy Week.

-- Religion News Service

Anglican Training

African Anglican bishops, who condemn same-sex marriages and the ordination of gay people, are to strengthen local training colleges to distinguish their teaching from that of North American churches that have embraced homosexuality.

In a communique on the last day of a landmark conference of African Anglicans in Nigeria, bishops representing more than half the world's 70 million Anglicans said the move was born out of the failure of Western theology to relate to socio-political and economic challenges in Africa.

"We need well-resourced, highly rated and contextually relevant theological institutions that can engage intelligently with our peculiar challenges from an African perspective," the communique said.

An Anglican official said the decision did not mean African priests would no longer train abroad, only that African theological colleges would be strengthened.

African bishops delivered an ultimatum to pro-gay churches in North America last week, saying failure to repent for consecrating a gay bishop and approving homosexual marriages would mean they had chosen to follow another religion.

"God created us male and female and we cannot sacrifice truth for any revisionist agenda which leans on a faulty understanding of Christian unity," the communique said.

-- Reuters

Biblical Art Museum

An art gallery at the American Bible Society in New York City has closed but will reopen in the spring as an independent museum with a new name: the Museum of Biblical Art.

The new institution, inhabiting space recently occupied by the Gallery at the American Bible Society, will be the first scholarly museum of art and the Bible in the United States, said Ena Heller, who has served as the gallery's director and will head the museum.

The museum hopes to create a space that explores "the meaning of religious art and artifacts in culture," though the museum's work will continue to be grounded in the biblical traditions of Christianity and Judaism, the museum announced.

The new museum will still be based within the American Bible Society's building in Manhattan, located on Broadway near the city's Lincoln Center arts complex. But the space for the new facility will be expanded to include additional exhibition room and an educational center. A second gallery will be constructed.

Although the society is funding the planned expansion and renovations, the new museum will be independent of the society as its own nonprofit corporation and will have its own board of directors.

The decision to become an independent institution was prompted in part by a desire to raise the gallery's profile and expand its educational mission, Heller said.

-- Religion News Service