Church of Christ Endorses

Fiscal Pressure in Mideast

The United Church of Christ has decided not to immediately join a growing movement to divest in companies operating in Israel but has promised to use "economic leverage" in pursuit of Middle East peace.

On Tuesday, delegates at the church's General Synod in Atlanta rejected a rush to divestment and instead endorsed corporate pressure against companies that profit from violence committed by Israelis, Palestinians or neighboring Arab states.

If the church's actions -- which could include shareholder resolutions -- fail, the church could seek to divest from key companies, but only as a last resort.

Jewish groups pressed the United Church of Christ not to follow Presbyterians and Anglicans in seeking to divest from Israeli companies -- a move that the groups consider an ineffective, one-sided response to violence in the Middle East.

The church's resolution calls for investment in a "viable Palestinian economy," as well as investing in groups that are working for peace. The church called on Israel to dismantle its controversial separation barrier, which critics have said runs roughshod over Palestinian lands, and denounced violence on both sides.

The United Church of Christ called for separate, independent Israeli and Palestinian states, and its general minister and president, the Rev. John Thomas, said the church also rejected drawing parallels between Israel and South African apartheid, a comparison that has angered many Jewish groups.

-- Religion News Service

Islam Image 'Defamed'

Jordan's King Abdullah II has called on Muslims to redress the image of Islam as a religion of terrorism by rejecting those who "defame" it with violent acts.

"Let us confess that we Muslims have not always fulfilled our obligations towards our religion and towards ourselves," he said Monday at a gathering of 180 Islamic scholars and clergymen from 40 countries.

The International Islamic Conference was organized by Ahl Albeit Foundation, a semi-independent religious think tank run and partly financed by members of Jordan's ruling Hashemite dynasty.

"Some Muslims, or those who promulgate 'Islamic' slogans, have defamed Islam and Muslims, and harmed Muslims," Abdullah said.

Abdullah also criticized violent acts carried out against non-Muslims and urged the gathering to implement a Jordanian initiative -- dubbed the "Amman Message" and launched in November -- that calls on Muslims to reject extremism, embrace moderation and tolerate other religions.

The launching of an Arabic TV network to promote traditional Islamic teaching as a way to combat terrorism is one likely result of the conference hosted by Abdullah, according to the monarch's adviser for interfaith affairs.

-- Religion News Service

Ordination Ceremony

Nine Roman Catholic women plan to defy the Vatican by participating in an ordination ceremony outside the blessing of the official church.

The ordination ceremony for the eight Americans and one Canadian is scheduled for July 25 aboard a tour boat on the St. Lawrence River in eastern Ontario, after a conference on women as priests at Carleton University in Ottawa.

The nine women said the ceremony will make them the first female Roman Catholic priests and deacons ordained in North America. Organizers consider the location for the event to be in international waters, beyond the jurisdiction of any diocese.

Archbishop Anthony G. Meagher of Kingston, Ontario, said the jurisdiction issue is "irrelevant because there is no ordination." But the women contend that the ordination will be valid.

"They are following God's call to service," said Joy Barnes, executive director of the Virginia-based Women's Ordination Conference, one of several groups involved in the ceremony.

The event is modeled on a similar ceremony on the Danube River between Austria and Germany in 2002, when seven women were ordained by a schismatic bishop.

Two of the previously ordained women will be ordaining four women as priests and five as deacons at the Ontario ceremony.

The two said that they were made bishops in 2003 by Catholic bishops in good standing with Rome.

-- Religion News Service