An advertisement with colour photos and text for packages of Christmas cards "complete with Compass Rose symbol [which] show images taken from Christmas cribs from around the Anglican Communion that have been exhibited at the Bethlehem Peace Center. All profits go to hands-on work with children; not agencies or offices. Two years ago Bishop Bob Jones, the then dean of St. George's College, and his wife, Mary Page distributed gifts to children on St. Nicholas Day. Can we do it again ?" Cards are ordered from Anglican Communion Office in London, England.
"The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, has urged Christians throughout the world to make efforts to visit Bethlehem as a place of pilgrimage and to remember the `struggling' town in their prayers. In a letter presented to Dr. Victor Batarseh, the Mayor of Bethlehem, marking the feast of the Epiphany, Dr. Williams expressed his concern for the fate of the area." Article includes text of letter.
"My favourite Christmas carol is `O Little Town of Bethlehem'. Written by Philip Brooks, former Episcopal bishop of the Diocese of Massachusetts, it captures so eloquently and beautifully the magic of Christmas. He composed it following a never-to-be-forgotten visit to Bethlehem in 1868." "Bethlehem is very much on my mind at the moment. The carol speaks of `peace' -- but there is little peace in the Holy Land at the present time. I find myself asking: `Are we doing enough to support our brothers and sisters in this land, loved above all others ? Are we praying enough for Muslims, Jews and Christians to live in harmony one with another ? How many others will have to die violently before the leaders of all parties realise that there will never be peace until the land belongs to all ?"
The Rev. Dr. Hamilton Fuller is the Project Co-ordinator for the Anglican Communion's participation in Bethlehem 2000. Celebrations of the millennium will take place from December 1999 through to Easter 2001. In Bethlehem pilgrims now enter the Church of the Nativity through the Peace Center which was built by the Swedish government and furnished by the Anglican Communion with "artistic, theological and educational materials and programs, creating a whole new environment for faith development and peace". In addition the Center for Peace will have a video presentation on the birth of Jesus, history of Bethlehem and development of the faith which will be viewed by all visitors. It will be produced by the Rev. Dr. Robert Browne of Houston, Texas, who also produced `The Many Faces of Anglicanism'. As well the Center houses a Nativity Museum in which Christmas cribs from around the world will be displayed. The center will also include other artistic work from photographs to sculpture and a web site
"The Bethlehem Peace Center, on the town square, houses a display of crib scenes given by the Anglican Church and collected from the Anglican Dioceses world-wide. The Peace Center, originally built to educate tourist[s], has become a community centre for Bethlehem in the absence of tourist[s]. As the crib display was unveiled, Anglican World Magazine had its Christmas Appeal, which was designated for the Children of Bethlehem". In March 2002 the fund had a second distribution of toys and dried milk to 80 children and their families.
"The events of September 11  have spoken to me of the importance of refusing to make God narrow -- that our vision of God must be a generous one, and that we must help other people, both Christian and non-Christian, to hold such a vision as well. Perhaps we as members of the Anglican Communion, which often sees itself as having a `bridge' role, have a particularly important part to play here. I believe in the months and years to come that NIFCON will play an increasingly important role in helping to coordinate the activities of our Communion in this area -- sharing experiences, supporting churches that are struggling and perhaps suffering persecution, and reaching out in humility to listen to our neighbours of other faiths".
The Secretary General reports that they have received a press release from the organization in charge of the Bethlehem 2000 Project saying that "This year, Bethlehem will not be able to celebrate Christmas as planned and there will be no Christmas Festival". "It is simply too dangerous to gather together. Strict regulations will be in force for everyone. The unveiling of the Anglican Communion Crib Exhibition `Come to the Manger' in Manger Square, Bethlehem, has been disrupted by the scenes of shooting, explosions and all manner of violence."
"Bethlehem today experiences fear, violence and division. Security fears of one community leads to division and alienation from its neighbours; the enormous wall built right through the City, consolidates division and marginalization. The promise of peace from of old is still unfulfilled in this City which lies at the heart of our Christian faith. We took the Christmas decorations down weeks ago, to be put away for another year. Yet we should not forget Bethlehem and all its people, Christians, Muslims and Jews, who live the daily reality of fear and division, and we should pray for them and for their leaders continually that all may be led into the way of peace".
The Anglican Communion will have the great privilege to join with other Christian Churches, with the blessing of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem and its bishops, the diocese in which Bethlehem is located, and at the bidding of the Palestinian National Authority including President Arafat and Mayor Freij, to help prepare a town plan and to renovate Manger Square. The Anglican Consultative Council Meeting in Panama endorsed this programme as a Millennium project" to be known as Bethlehem 2000.
The tenth meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council took as its theme "Witnessing as Anglicans in the Third Millennium". The work of the Council [was looking] to the future in worship, looking to the future in Ministry, looking to the future in communicating our beliefs.
In his remarks, the Secretary General John Peterson, announced two new programmes for the Communion: 1) the Anglican Investment Agency, a unit trust mutual fund which would allow Anglicans to make ethical investments; and 2) the Anglican Communion Friends Programme, which would encourage support from individuals and congregations.
The meeting examined a draft version of provocative "The Virginia Report", produced by the Inter Anglican Theological and Doctrinal Commission, which "calls for major changes in communion operations and looks at new ways for the Church to work as it faces the future. Archbishop predicted that the 1998 Lambeth Conference would be a defining moment in Anglicanism and urged a greater voice for the laity.
The Council also voted to participate in the Bethlehem 2000 Project. "The churches involvement would help alleviate the problem that many tourists and pilgrims come to Bethlehem, Jerusalem and Nazareth and never meet the indigenous Christian population."
Bishop Simon Chiwanga, Bishop of Mpwapwa, Tanzania, was elected Chairman of the Council, and Bishop John Paterson, of Auckland, New Zealand, was elected Vice Chairman.
Council also heard a report on homosexuality from Bishop Richard Harries, of Oxford, who reviewed the debates on the subject throughout the Communion.
The Bishop of Lahore, the Rt. Rev. Alexander Malik, of the Church of Pakistan, chaired the hearing on Islam.
The Council also passed a resolution which declared vacant the sees in Rwanda whose bishops had fled the country and refused to return even after repeated visits from officials including Bishop David Birney, the Archbishop of Canterbury's special envoy. The Anglican Church of Canada was thanked for the help they provided in response to the crisis.
Bishop Samir Kafity called for the Council to "work for peace and reconciliation as Christians and Moslems seek their rightful place in Jerusalem, the Holy City, sacred to Christians and Moslems as well as the Jews".
The Council passed fewer resolutions than usual but these included the call for a Anglican Congress, perhaps in 2001, as a major celebration of our Anglican heritage and also affirmed the observance of 1997 as "The Year of Uprooted Peoples" and the work of the Anglican Refugee Network.