FaithWorld

Leading African Anglicans denounce Church of England’s gay bishop rule

(Kenyan worshipers arrive at the All Saints Cathedral Church for a evening mass at the capital Nairobi, November 3, 2003. REUTERS/Anthony Niguna)

Senior African Anglican leaders have lined up to denounce the Church of England’s decision to allow celibate gay bishops, warning it would only widen the divisions within the worldwide Anglican Communion.

Archbishop Nicholas Okoh of Nigeria, effectively the largest province in the Communion, said such reforms “could very well shatter whatever hopes we had for healing and reconciliation within our beloved Communion.”

His comments on Wednesday followed similar denunciations on Monday by Ugandan Archbishop Stanley Ntagali and Archbishop Eliud Wabukala of Kenya, who is also head of the Gafcon group of traditionalist Anglican primates opposed to gay clergy.

The global Communion of 80 million Anglicans split deeply after Canada’s Anglican Church began blessing same-sex couples in 2002 and the Episcopal Church, its United States branch, ordained Gene Robinson as its first gay bishop in 2003.

from John Lloyd:

A church divided against itself cannot stand

The Church of England voted not to ordain female bishops last week, a move widely seen as defying the modern world. Much justification was given for this view.

Both the retiring and the incoming archbishops of Canterbury deplored the vote. The former, the scholarly (and “greatly saddened”) Rowan Williams, said, “It seems as if we are willfully blind to some of the trends and priorities of … wider society.” The incoming Justin Welby took a more upbeat view, one appropriate for a former senior oil executive. “There is a lot to be done,” he said, “but I am absolutely confident that at some point I will consecrate a woman bishop.” Still, Welby conceded that the vote was “a pretty grim day for the whole church.”

British Prime Minister David Cameron, pausing in the midst of his battle to reduce European Union spending, snapped that the church needed to “get with the program” and that his task was, while respecting its autonomy, to give it a “sharp prod.” A succession of clergy, men and women, lamented the decision, some crying demonstratively on the street outside the hall where the synod – the church’s parliament – met.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Pakistan and Egypt: between pragmatism and dogma

Both Pakistan and Egypt had much to learn from each other this week.

On the foreign policy front, if Pakistan ever had aspirations to play the central role as the leader of Muslim unity, it had a salutary lesson in the way Egypt played its cards. Barely a week ago, Pakistan was looking forward to hosting Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi, who was to be given the rare honour of addressing a joint session of parliament.

Mursi – the first president to emerge from the Muslim Brotherhood - was due in Islamabad for a summit meeting of the Developing-8 Islamic countries, which also includes Iran, Turkey and Nigeria among others.  The Jamaat-e-Islami (which sees itself as the ideological sibling of the Brotherhood - both were founded in the first half of the 20th century as anti-imperial Islamist  movements in British India and Egypt) proclaimed on its Twitter feed about how much it looked forward to greeting Mursi in Pakistan.

And then Mursi cancelled, his office saying he wanted to stay at home to monitor the ceasefire he had just brokered in Gaza.

New Anglican head Welby mixes conflict resolution role with business skills

The Bishop of Durham, and the newly appointed Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, smiles during a news conference at Lambeth Palace in London November 9, 2012.  REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

Rowan Williams once said the next Archbishop of Canterbury, spiritual leader of the fractious Anglican wing of world Christianity, needs “the constitution of an ox and the skin of a rhinoceros”.

He overlooked the calm and patient negotiating skills that probably helped his successor Justin Welby clinch the job.

Voices of Mideast Christians and Muslims about Pope Benedict’s visit to Beirut (pix)

(Pope Benedict XVI waves to the faithful from his Pope-mobile upon his arrival to conduct an open-air mass service at Beirut City Center Waterfront September 16, 2012. REUTERS/ Stefano Rellandini)

Whenever he travels abroad, Pope Benedict delivers a series of speeches that journalists scan for their relevance to the situation in the country he’s visiting. This aspect has been especially important here in Lebanon, a multi-faith country that suffered through a 15-year-long civil war (1975-1990) fought along sectarian lines and now watches nervously as Syria’s bloody civil war unfolds along sectarian lines only 50 km (30 miles) from Beirut. So the majority of our stories have focused on his calls for an end to the violence in Syria and greater efforts to promote peace and religious co-existence in the region.

Another part of the story is the enthusiastic welcome Christians and some Muslims have given the pope as a messenger of peace. We’ve quoted several of them in our news stories. But our journalists, especially Erika Solomon, an Arabic-speaking American, have gathered so many of these quotes that I wanted to post a large selection of them here. They give more of the human flavour of the visit and what it means for the Christians who hear the pope’s message.

Boko Haram Islamists, after hitting churches, warn of more attacks on media

(Burnt newspaper copies are seen in the rubble of a destroyed This Day newspaper building in Abuja April 28, 2012. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde)

Islamist group Boko Haram released a video late on Tuesday celebrating its bombing of a Nigerian newspaper and warning of more attacks on local and foreign media if they published reports that were biased to the sect or insulting to Islam.  Suicide car bombers targeted the offices of This Day in the capital, Abuja, and northern city of Kaduna last Thursday, killing at least five people in apparently coordinated strikes.

Boko Haram has been fighting a low-level insurgency for more than two years and has become the main security threat facing Africa’s top oil producer, although most attacks have been in the largely Muslim north, far from southern oil fields. The sect, which wants to impose an Islamic state on Nigeria’s more or less evenly mixed population of Muslim and Christians, has been blamed for hundreds of killings since its uprising against the government in 2009.

from The Great Debate:

How to tackle the child marriage crisis

By the end of today another 25,000 young children will have been robbed of their childhoods, cheated of their right to an education, exposed to life-threatening health risks, and set on a path that often leads to a life of servitude and poverty. Their plight is the result of widespread and systematic human rights violations. Yet the source of the injustice they suffer is hidden in the shadows of debates on international development: They are child brides.

Each year, 1.5 million girls -- many just starting their adolescent years -- become child brides. It was shocking for us to discover the sheer scale of the problem and to understand its impact on human rights and the life cycle of opportunities, and most tragically of all, on maternal and infant death rates.

Early marriage is a hidden crisis. Because the victims are overwhelmingly young, poor and female, their voices are seldom heard by governments. Their concerns do not register on the agendas of global summits. But early marriage is destroying human potential and reinforcing gender inequalities on a global scale. It is subjecting young girls to the elevated health risks that come with early pregnancy and childbirth. It is reinforcing the subordination of women. And it is holding back progress toward the United Nation’s 2015 goal of universal primary education. Without educating girls who are not in school today and preventing them from marrying, we cannot ever hope to meet the Millennium Development Goals.

Would-be presidents court Senegal’s holy kingmakers

(A woman walks past a mural of Senegalese Mouride Brotherhood's figurehead and spiritual guide, the late Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba Mbacke, in Dakar, January 19, 2012. REUTERS/Joe Penney )

It is not everyday that Senegal’s octogenarian president Abdoulaye Wade lets the television cameras into his bedroom. But Wade, seeking a new term in next month’s election, was quick to usher them in when his visitor was Serigne Abo Mbacke, a leader of the Mourides, 129-year-old Sufi order of Islam that counts millions of devotees in his West African country.

The ensuing images of two men demurely perched next to each other on a king-size divan may not have made great television. But the photo opportunity was not lost to voters as proof of the intimate link between Senegal’s Sufi fraternities and the body politic of this Muslim but staunchly secular state.

Frankincense production is doomed, scientists warn

(Foreign visitors extract perfumed gum from a frankincense tree the Socotra island March 27, 2008. Socotra that is located in the Arabian Sea, 380 km (238 miles) south of mainland Yemen and 80 km west of the Horn of Africa. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah)

Trees that produce frankincense, a fragrant resin used in incense and perfumes and a central part of the Christmas story, are declining so fast that production could be halved over the next 15 years, scientists said on Wednesday.

In a study published in the British Ecological Society’s Journal of Applied Ecology, ecologists from the Netherlands and Ethiopia looked at large-scale field studies and predicted that tree numbers could decline by 90 percent in the next 50 years. If fire, grazing and insect attack, the most likely causes of decline, remain unchecked, then frankincense production could be doomed altogether, they warned.

Pope Benedict expresses shame for Christian violence in history

(Pope Benedict XVI (C), Wande Abimbola (R) of Nigeria, Rabbi David Rosen (2nd R), Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams (L) and Ecumenical Patriarch of Orthodox Church Bartolomeo I attend the "Prayer for Peace," a inter-religious meeting in the Italian pilgrimage town of Assisi October 27, 2011. REUTERS/Giampiero Sposito)

Pope Benedict, leading a global inter-religious meeting, has acknowledged “with great shame” that Christianity had used force in its long history but said violence in God’s name had no place in the world today. Benedict spoke as he hosted some 300 religious leaders from around the world – including Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Zoroastrians, Taoists, Shintoists and Buddhists – in an inter-faith prayer gathering for peace in the city of St Francis.

“As a Christian I want to say at this point: yes, it is true, in the course of history, force has also been used in the name of the Christian faith,” he said in his address to the delegations in an Assisi basilica on Thursday.  “We acknowledge it with great shame. But it is utterly clear that this was an abuse of the Christian faith, one that evidently contradicts its true nature,” he said.