FaithWorld

GUESTVIEW: No king, no bishop? American Anglicans revolt

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Reenactment of the Boston Tea Party, 13 Dec 1998/Brian Snyder

The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the authors’ alone. Elizabeth E. Evans is a U.S. freelance journalist living in Glenmoore, PA who writes about religion.

By Elizabeth E. Evans

After King George III lowered the boom on Boston in the wake of the 1773 Tea Party rebellion, Virginian Theodore Bland wrote “The question is, whether the rights and liberties of America shall be contended for, or given up to arbitrary powers.” It didn’t take long at all for J. Jon Bruno, Episcopal bishop of the diocese of Los Angeles, to launch another, quintessentially American challenge towards Canterbury and other Anglican points anxious or angry about the election of the denomination’s first openly lesbian bishop on December 5.

“I would remind the Episcopal Church and the House of Bishops they need to be conscientious about respecting the canons of the church and the baptismal covenant to respect the dignity of every human being,” Bruno said.  “To not consent in this country out of fear of the reaction elsewhere in the Anglican Communion is to capitulate to titular heads.”

Within a day, Archbishop Rowan Williams responded to the election of Mary Glasspool as suffragan (assistant) bishop,  warning that it raised “very serious questions” not just about the role the Episcopal Church would play in the Anglican Communion, but for the Communion as a whole.

Maybe he doesn’t realize that, in the eyes of some Americans, he is virtually irrelevant.

Could Irish abortion case lead to a “European Roe v. Wade”?

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European Court of Human Rights,30 Jan 2009/Vincent Kessler

Ireland has defended its strict law against abortion at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg in a case that could overturn that ban if the judges agree with three women who said it endangered their health and violated their rights.  The women, two Irish and one Lithuanian living in Ireland, had travelled to Britain to have abortions because traditionally Catholic Ireland allows the procedure only when the mother’s life is in danger. Read our full story on Wednesday’s hearing here.

The three women, named only as A, B and C, argued they had to terminate their pregnancies due to medical and social problems, and that being forced to travel abroad for abortions meant submitting to inhumane treatment that violated their right to privacy. They also said the law constituted gender-based discrimination.

This has been described as “Europe’s Roe v. Wade case” (here and here) because a Court ruling would be an authoritative interpretation of the European Convention on Human Rights to which 47 European states are parties and with which they must comply.  “Domestic courts have to apply the Convention,” the ECHR’s FAQ says. “Otherwise, the European Court of Human Rights would find against the State in the event of complaints by individuals about failure to protect their rights.”

Sudanese woman in trouser case writes book, defies travel ban

lubnaA Sudanese woman who was punished for breaching (insert: what authorities say are) Islamic decency laws by wearing trousers has defied a travel ban by coming to France to publicise her new book.

Lubna Hussein was arrested in July and convicted of indecency charges in a case that made headlines worldwide. She was ordered to pay a fine or face a month in jail, but was spared an initial penalty of 40 whip lashes.

Her book, “Forty lashes for a pair of trousers”, has come out in French and will be translated into English, Arabic, Swahili and other languages.

Searching for clues from the Roman Catholic-Anglican summit

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There wasn’t much information in the official communique after Pope Benedict and Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams met at the Vatican on Saturday. The terse text mentioned “cordial discussions” about challenges facing Christians, the need to cooperate and their intention to continue bilateral theological dialogue. The only reference to the issue of the day, Benedict’s offer to take alienated Anglicans into the Catholic Church, was mentioned in passing as “recent events affecting relations between the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion.” Hmm, pretty thin pickings….
The Pravda-like opaqueness of the communique (read it here) prompted me to zoom in on the photographs we got from the Vatican daily L’Osservatore Romano for any other clues there. Let’s see if they help as we go along. The “pope’s paper” (here in PDF) published the communique at the bottom of its front page, below two articles on the pope’s meeting with artists and one on Iran’s nuclear program. An interesting hint at the Vatican’s priorities that day.

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Given this thin statement, our news story led off: “The archbishop of Canterbury and Pope Benedict agreed the need for closer ties between their churches on Saturday, in their first meeting since last month’s surprise Vatican offer to disaffected Anglicans.” Read the whole story here.

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Williams later spoke to the BBC (starting at 33:19) and Vatican Radio. He told the BBC that the meeting “went as well as I could have hoped, really.” He said he expressed Anglican concerns at the way the pope’s offer — officially called an “apostolic constitution” — was handled and the two then looked ahead to future ecumenical discussions.

France retreats from burqa ban plan amid burst of hot air

gerinFrench Communist parliamentarian André Gerin, a leading proponent of a ban on full facial veils here, is an old hand at avoiding answering unwelcome questions. One that has become increasingly difficult for him is whether France should prohibit Muslim women here from wearing the veils, known as burqas and niqabs, as a way to combat Islamic fundamentalism. He got a real grilling about this on Europe 1 radio today. After ducking the persistent question “will you propose a legal ban?” several times, he finally admitted that, well … uh … there wouldn’t be a ban after all. There would be “recommendations” that could be supported by Muslim leaders here, i.e. would not include the ban they oppose. (Photo: André Gerin supports striking firemen, 4 Feb 1999/Robert Pratta)

If you speak French, have a listen here.  Click here for our news story.

It looks like anything else said about this topic from here on in is simply hot air — and Gerin generated a lot of that, too. He first tried to brush off the Europe 1 questioner by responding that nobody appearing before the parliamentary inquiry he heads has spoken up for these head-to-toe coverings. Fine, but that’s not an answer. Behind this fashion of “walking coffins” was “a fundamentalist drift” he was determined to combat, he went on. The goal, he added with rising rhetorical stakes, was to launch “a great public action against the stranglehold Islamic fundamentalism has in certain areas of our country, especially over women.” The National Assembly should pass “a law of liberation (of women),” he declared. But it would only contain  “recommendations” that he didn’t elaborate on.

German Protestants pick first woman to head church

Bishop Margot KässmannGerman Protestants on Wednesday elected Margot Kässmann, a divorcee and the Lutheran bishop of Hanover, to lead their Church, the first woman to take the post and only the third woman to head a major Christian church.

Kässmann, 51, a regular on television talk shows and known in the media as the “pop bishop,” was considered something of a controversial candidate to lead Germany’s roughly 25 million Protestants because she is divorced. But she won 132 of 142 votes at a synod of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), an umbrella group for 22 Lutheran, Reformed and United Churches, in the vote to replace the retiring Berlin Bishop Wolfgang Huber, 67, as EKD chairman.

“The election sends a signal to the Church worldwide that God calls us to leadership without consideration of gender, color or descent,” Rev. Ishmael Noko, general-secretary of the Lutheran World Federation, told the Ecumenical News International news agency at the synod in Ulm.

October a busy month for Indian religious festivals

October is a busy month for Indian religious festivals in India. Here are Reuters videos from three of them.

Diwali, the five-day festival of lights, was celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs and Jains across the country with fireworks and prayers. It marks the return of Lord Raama to his kingdom Ayodhya after defeating Ravana, the ruler of Lanka, in the ancient epic Ramayana.

The three-day Chhath Puja, an ancient Hindu festival dedicated to Surya, the chief solar deity, concluded on Sunday with thousands of devotees offering prayers to Sun God across India. Most devotees are married women praying for their families.

How many Anglicans will switch to the Roman Catholic Church?

levadaDisaffected Anglican Dioceses in Papua New Guinea, the United States and Australia might consider switching to Roman Catholicism under a new constitution offered by Pope Benedict, according to Forward in Faith (FiF), a worldwide association of Anglicans opposed to the ordination of women priests or bishops. About a dozen bishops from the Church of England, the Anglican mother church, are also likely to convert, it says. (Photo: Vatican Cardinal William Levada announces offer to Anglicans, 20 Oct 2009/Tony Gentile)

The Church of England could not comment on numbers likely to convert, with one source adding: “It’s all guesswork.” But Stephen Parkinson, director of FiF, said a figure of 1,000 Church of England priests, reported in the media, was “credible.” Read our news story on this here.

Estimates of laity are “much harder,” Parkinson said.  “Inevitably if you say 1,000 priests you are then talking about several thousand laity.”

Global report shows abortion rates falling

abortionA new study into global abortion rates was released on Tuesday by the U.S.-based Guttmacher Institute, a think-tank which studies sexual and reproductive health.

Here are some of the main findings:

* ABORTION TRENDS:

– The rate of safe abortions dropped between 1995 and 2003 to 15 from 20 per 1,000 women aged 15-44, but unsafe abortions declined only slightly — to 14 from 15 per 1,000 women aged 15-44. The overall rate fell to 29 from 35 per 1,000 women.

– Globally around 70,000 women die each year from the effects of unsafe abortions, a figure that has barely changed in the last 10 years. An estimated 8 million women annually experience complications and need medical treatment, but only 5 million actually get that care.

Anglicans, in row, may cut women bishops’ powers

schoriThe Church of England could restrict the powers of some women bishops under a plan designed to end a rift between traditionalists who want to keep the all-male senior clergy and liberals demanding equality.  The proposal has reignited the long-running debate over a supposed ecclesiastical “stained-glass ceiling” that stops women from attaining the most senior roles in the church.

The Church of England body reviewing the law on women bishops, the Revision Committee, has voted to change the rules to remove certain powers from female bishops in dioceses where they face opposition from traditionalists. Specially-appointed male bishops would assume those powers and the new system would be written into British law, the committee said in a statement. (Photo: Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori of the U.S. Episcopal Church, 4 Nov 2006/Jonathan Ernst)

While Anglicans in the United States, Canada and Australia already have women bishops, conservatives in many other parts of the Communion strongly oppose them. They say there is nothing in the Bible or church history to support women bishops. Liberals, who argue that women should be treated equally, said the latest proposals to allow women bishops, albeit with reduced powers in some areas, risked creating a two-tier church.