Episcopalians Weigh

Apology for Slavery

The Episcopal Church will be asked to apologize next year for its "complicity" in slavery, and could consider whether economic "benefits" -- what many call reparations -- should be offered to black Episcopalians.

A resolution approved Monday by the church's Executive Council asks the church's General Convention to express "profound regret" for its support of slavery, which was partially rationalized using Scripture.

The resolution calls on the church to "apologize for its complicity in and the injury done by the institution of slavery and its aftermath" and urges the church to mark a "Day of Repentance and Reconciliation."

Many of the country's founders were prominent Episcopalians and slave owners, including George Washington.

Some churches have apologized for their role in condoning slavery. In 1995, the Southern Baptist Convention issued a mea culpa that also regretted its opposition to the civil rights movement in the 1960s.

Another resolution would have the Episcopal Church investigate whether it profited from slavery and explore ways it could "share those benefits" with black members.

The Rev. Jan Nunley, a church spokeswoman, said it is unclear what those "benefits" would look like. However, she said some people question whether wealthy 19th-century parishioners contributed "tainted money" to the church that had been gained through the slave trade.

-- Religion News Service

Kan. Exhibit to Explore

Touchy Issue: Evolution

At a time of intense debate over how public schools teach evolution, a University of Kansas museum is planning a major two-year exhibit about the theory.

The timing of the Natural History Museum's exhibit, set to open Nov. 1 in Topeka, is a coincidence, Director Leonard Krishtalka said. "Is it an opportunity to foster awareness and change in Kansas? Absolutely," he said.

The State Board of Education expects to vote this year on proposed standards to be used to develop science tests for students. It would be left to local school boards to decide what is taught about evolution.

John Calvert, a retired Lake Quivira lawyer who helped found the Intelligent Design Network, called the exhibit "in-your-face evangelism."

"I think these exhibits are designed to promote evolution as a creed," he said.

The "Explore Evolution" exhibit -- and five others across the nation -- are financed by a three year, $2.8 million National Science Foundation grant. The universities of Oklahoma and Nebraska have opened exhibits, and the universities of Michigan and Texas plan to do so next year, as does the Minnesota Science Museum in Minneapolis.

The exhibits tackle such topics as the rapid evolution of the virus that causes AIDS, the genetic similarities and differences between humans and chimpanzees, and fossil evidence linking modern whales to four-legged ancestors.

Intelligent design holds that Charles Darwin's theory of natural selection cannot fully explain the origin of life or the emergence of highly complex life forms. It implies that life on earth was the product of an unidentified intelligent force.

-- Associated Press

French Stores Feature

Islamic Literature

Along with peas, pretzels and deck chairs, shoppers in French supermarkets can snap up another item this Ramadan season: the Koran.

Some 150 stores, including Carrefour, the French answer to Wal-Mart, are selling the Muslim holy book as part of a "Ramadan box" of Islamic literature, published by the Paris-based Editions Albouraq.

Albouraq first began promoting its Ramadan box to Paris area supermarkets two years ago. The initial results were promising, and last year the Muslim publishing house extended the offer to other regions of France. Today, nearly a half-dozen large-scale chains are selling the box of literature, which contains 24 different Islamic books.

Besides two editions of the Koran, the stores sell books on Islamic history, the prophet Muhammad, cooking and practical tomes on the Muslim faith. A sample title: "How to Pray, 400 Questions/Answers to Understand Islam."

Like many of Albouraq's publications, most of the books are written in French.

Indeed, making Islam accessible to France's 5 million-person Muslim community -- the largest in Europe -- has been the main mission of the family-owned publishing house, said Albouraq's French-Lebanese head, Mansour Mansour.

-- Religion News Service