01: The Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC), a conservative coalition of churches that have split from or were established apart from mainline Episcopal and Anglican bodies, has embarked on its own kind of ecumenism by openly appealing for the pope to restore Anglican unity with Roman Catholicism.
The TAC is said to be the largest of the Anglican groups outside of the jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Canterbury, with representation in 41 countries and approximately 400,000 members. Its largest expression in the U.S. is the Anglican Church in America. Last fall, the TAC sent a letter to the Vatican seeking full, corporate and sacramental union with Rome. It is said to be significant that the letter was sent to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith (CDF) rather than to its ecumenical office.
The head Vatican ecumenical official, Walter, Cardinal Kasper, is reported to be opposed to the idea of receiving groups—rather than individuals—of Anglicans into communion with Rome. The CDF, in contrast, and its former (though still influential) head, Pope Benedict XVl, is less opposed to promoting such an arrangement, according to observers.
The TAC believes that the liberal Anglican bodies are incapable of promoting church unity with Catholics due to their acceptance of such innovations as women priests and gay rights, and that it is now up to them to forge such unity. The TAC proposal was placed on the agenda for discussion and consideration at a Vatican meeting by the pope last November. (Christian Challenge, October 2007–January 2008)
02: In January 2008, the first episode of a new version of the Ramayana, the great Hindu epic, was aired on NDTV Imagine.
The previous TV version, aired on Indian national television channel Doordarshan in 1987–88, had a tremendous impact and is widely credited with having helped Hindu nationalism to spread at that time. While half of the Indian population today is too young to have watched the previous series in the 1980s, most observers don’t expect the new one to have similar consequences to those of its predecessor. The Ramayana series was the biggest success of Indian television in the 1980s, bringing the country to a standstill each week.
The 26 episodes of the new series produced by NDTV, which started on January 21, 2008, benefits from technical progress and more special effects. The producers also attempt to introduce some new concerns, for instance, environmental questions and women’s issues, giving a greater role to the perspective of Sita, the tale’s heroine. But will the series boost Hindu nationalism, with elections coming in India next year?
While this cannot entirely be discounted, one observer remarked that Indians get inputs from many more quarters than 20 years ago: beside national television, there are now 100 competing channels, and perceptions of a number of issues have also changed in the meantime. Nationalists may, however, still attempt to capitalize on the series, presenting Ram as a symbol of “national identity, unity and integration,” in the words of prominent nationalist leader L. K. Advani.
And the executive vice-president of NDTV Imagine said she felt that the time for reviving the tale was ripe in order to counteract “moral and social degeneration.”
(Times of India, Feb. 18; The Week, Feb. 3, http://www.the-week.com)
03: To reach young people is a concern for all religious groups; a Japanese Buddhist monk, Kansho Tagai, chief monk of Tokyo’s Kyojoji temple, has chosen to do it through using rap music, which he learned at the age of 47.
This allows the monk to come closer to a young audience. Another temple in Tokyo is reported to use samba music for the same purpose. A variety of other means have also been devised by other Buddhist monks, including interacting with people in bars. The purpose of all such initiatives is to “stop the drift of young people away from Buddhism.”
(DPA News Agency, Feb. 28)