Anglican Council

To Weigh Divestment

Leaders of the worldwide Anglican Communion are scheduled to consider a proposal to follow the Presbyterian Church (USA) in divesting from companies doing business with Israelis who "support the occupation of Palestinian lands."

The Anglican Consultative Council, a policy steering committee for the 77 million-member Anglican Communion, will consider the proposal when it meets June 19-28 in Nottingham, England.

It is not clear, however, what impact such a policy would have on the Anglican Communion's 38 autonomous provinces, which include the Episcopal Church in the United States and the Anglican Church of Canada.

The divestment plan could meet resistance within the Church of England, where the church commissioners, who are responsible for administering the church's inherited wealth, historically have shown an independent streak.

In September, after a weeklong visit to the Middle East, the committee issued a statement sharply critical of Israeli occupation, and several church leaders indicated that they supported economic pressure against Israel, including divestment.

Jewish groups have said divestment is unfair because it does not apply equal pressure against Palestinian terrorists.

In the United States, the United Church of Christ will consider a divestment proposal when it meets July 1-5 in Atlanta.

-- Religion News Service

Transgender Pastor

Appointed in Minnesota

A transgender pastor will begin a two-year appointment as an outreach minister at Plymouth Congregational Church in Minneapolis.

The Rev. Malcolm Himschoot, 27, is one of only a few openly transgender clergy members in the United States. Plymouth Congregational is an independent liberal church that has 1,800 members.

"It speaks to us of the self-insight and courage that he has, but it was not the driver in our decision," said the Rev. James Gertmenian, Plymouth's senior minister. "He's got exceptional academic credentials. . . . We were impressed he spent a year doing urban ministry in Denver, and he impressed us with the depth of his own spiritual vision."

For the past year, Himschoot has been associate pastor at Denver Inner City Parish, where he worked with students, senior citizens and former prisoners.

He is the subject of the documentary "Call Me Malcolm," about his sex change and seeking acceptance. The film, which has been screened in Los Angeles and Cleveland, was produced by the United Church of Christ, which ordained Himschoot.

At Plymouth, Himschoot will work on affordable housing and at a drop-in center for the mentally ill and will preside at weddings, funerals, baptisms and other church events.

Himschoot said that he is looking forward to moving to the Plymouth area with his wife, Mariah Hayden, and it was "a credit to the church that they looked at all applicants, including the transgendered one, equally."

-- Associated Press

Muslims Denied

Tribunals in Quebec

The Canadian province of Quebec has denied its growing Muslim population the right to use Islamic legal tribunals to settle private disputes.

In a rare unanimous vote last week, Quebec's National Assembly passed a motion rejecting the use of Islamic sharia law in the province's legal system. The move was seen as a preemptive strike to stop a growing movement among some Muslims to have religion play a role in family law and private disputes.

In December, neighboring Ontario, which has a religious-based arbitration system for Jews and Ismaili Muslims, issued recommendations that the province should continue to allow disputes to be arbitrated using religious law, provided certain "safeguards" are observed.

The Ontario report said faith-based tribunals must conform to Canadian law and human-rights codes. The tribunals, which include the Jewish Beth Din, are permitted under Ontario's Arbitration Act, which allows parties who wish to avoid the courts by choosing private arbitration to resolve family law and inheritance issues.

Muslim leaders in Montreal were shocked by the Quebec decision.

"It is total bigotry or total ignorance of what Islam is," said Salam El Menyawi, president of the Muslim Council of Montreal.

But Toronto-based Homa Arjomand, an activist who is leading the Canadian campaign against sharia tribunals, called the decision "great news, a great achievement."

-- Religion News Service