Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury (ABC), is not at all happy with the Episcopal Church’s resolutions declaring that partnered gay people can be called to all church offices and preparing the way for the church’s blessing of same-sex unions. In a letter issued from his palace yesterday, Williams charges ECUSA with 1) not having done the necessary biblical and theological work to justify its position; and 2) failing to properly abide by some kind of general consensus of Christendom:So long as the Church Catholic, or even the [Anglican] Communion (AC) as a whole does
not bless same-sex unions, a person living in such a union cannot
without serious incongruity have a representative function in a Church
whose public teaching is at odds with their lifestyle. These seem to this theological naif like pretty darned deep doctrinal and ecclesiological waters. But leave us pass on to consequences. The ABC envisages a future AC as a two-track entity–one, “covenanted” under his proposed Anglican Covenant and therefore kind of like a coherent church; the other, incorporating uncovenanted “provinces” (what he sometimes calls “local churches”) that are part of the family but don’t get invited to tea.
TORONTO (RNS) A group of Hutterites in the Canadian province of Alberta have lost their bid to be issued special driver’s licenses without photographs. The Supreme Court of Canada on Friday (July 24) ruled 4-3 to uphold provincial rules making a digital photo mandatory for all new licenses. Two Alberta Hutterite colonies had argued for an exemption for religious reasons, claiming that being photographed violates the Second Commandment, which prohibits graven images. Combating identity theft “is a pressing and important public goal,” Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin wrote for the majority, and trumps religious beliefs. Hutterites in Alberta had been exempt from having their photographs appear on licenses since 1974.
WASHINGTON (RNS) Mormons are the faith group most likely to say Hollywood threatens their values, followed by Jehovah’s Witnesses and evangelicals, according to a new study by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. The survey showed more than two-thirds of Mormons (68 percent) rebuffed the entertainment industry, followed by 54 percent of Jehovah’s Witnesses and 53 percent of evangelicals. Less than half (42 percent) of the general population said Hollywood threatens their values. In contrast, majorities of all other major religions disagreed that stars and the silver screen are a moral threat. The study did not delve into causes for the negative perception, but solid majorities of Mormons surveyed are conservative (60 percent) and 88 percent believe in absolute standards of right and wrong.
WASHINGTON (RNS) Religious leaders and advocates, not satisfied with the 70-cent rise in the federal minimum wage that went into effect on Friday (July 24), are calling on congressional leaders to hike it up to $10 by 2010. Even after the increase to $7.25 an hour, more than 600 interfaith leaders across the nation have signed a letter sponsored by a non-profit coalition whose aim is to raise the federal and state minimum wage to a “living wage.” Borrowing their name from a Bible verse that says “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an overflowing stream,” the Let Justice Roll Living Wage Campaign members are redoubling efforts to increase wages on pace with inflation. “We think this truly is a faith issue, a moral issue,” said the Rev. Steve Copley, board chairman of the Campaign. “People who’ve worked hard and played by the rules …
(UNDATED) Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams suggested Monday (July 27) that the Episcopal Church may have to accept a secondary role in the Anglican Communion after voting to allow gay bishops and blessings for same-sex unions. Williams, the spiritual leader of the world’s 77 million Anglicans, said “very serious anxieties have already been expressed,” about the pro-gay resolutions approved this month by the Episcopal Church at its General Convention in Anaheim, Calif. While “there is no threat of being cast into outer darkness,” Williams said, certain churches, including the Episcopal Church, may have to take a back seat in ecumenical and interfaith dialogue because their views on homosexuality do not represent the larger Anglican Communion. Many of the world’s Anglican churches oppose homosexuality as sinful and unbiblical. “It helps to be clear about these possible futures,” Williams said, “however much we think them less than ideal, and to speak about them not in apocalyptic terms of schism and excommunication but plainly as what they are — two styles of being Anglican …”
As religious groups line up on both sides of the health care reform debate, Oliver Thomas has an interesting look at what various scriptures say about caring for the sick and the needy. “Our Scriptures were written long before talk of deductibles, pre-existing conditions and single payers,” he writes. “But indirectly, the Christian, Hebrew and Muslim texts have much to say about the quality, availability and affordability of health care. ” See here for an examination of those texts.
After evangelist Tony Alamo was convicted on Friday of transporting girls across state lines for sexual purposes, a Southern Poverty Law Center expert explained why a verdict of this sort took decades to occur. “This man has been running around the country for decades getting away with doing awful things and hurtful things to people,” said Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center told the Associated Press. “Law enforcement is very reluctant to intervene in what looks like religion. You’ve got to be very careful when you are attacking people’s beliefs. There is a tendency to not want to violate people’s constitutional rights.”
(UNDATED) For Jarvis Masters, his Buddhist journals bring peace from the panic he feels on death row in California’s San Quentin State Prison. An article entitled “Life in Relation to Death” by a Tibetan Buddhist lama helps him learn the Buddha’s ways. He wears a string of 108 beads, called a Mala, around his neck to help him concentrate on his meditations. Masters, 47, adopted Buddhist practices shortly after he was convicted of murdering a prison guard 25 years ago and sentenced to death. Awaiting execution, he relies on the sparse copies of Buddhist materials in the prison’s visiting room to come to terms with his fate.
…completely. Roger Cohen, in his powerful piece on Iran in the current New York Review, tries to capture the mix of anti-clericalism, religiosity, and secularism he witnessed during last month’s post-election protests:In that moment, the crowd seemed irresistible, too large to be harmed,
too strong to be cowed, and it was as if the whole frustrated
centennial Iranian quest for some form of democratic pluralism, some
workable compromise between clericalism and secularism that denies
neither the country’s profound Islamic faith nor its broad attraction
to liberal values, had welled onto that broad avenue.What Cohen witnessed was “a fundamental battle between
nationalist-revolutionaries and reform-minded internationalists…stirred by President Obama’s overtures.” His bottom line: A great desire and a great rage inhabited those rooftop cries. I hear
them still. Iran, thanks in part to the revolution, now has many of the
preconditions for democracy, including a large middle class, broad
higher education, and a youthful population that is sophisticated and
To subsidize coverage of abortion services or not to subsidize, that is the question. Pro-life activists and legislators don’t want health insurance reform to provide a back door for federal funding of abortions. However, not only could that make it impossible for some taxpayers to obtain coverage for abortion services that private insurers now offer, but it could also run up against legal requirements in some states that abortions services be available to women who can’t afford them. The answer: federalization.As Ezra Klein argues, the core of the reform proposals making their way through Congress is the health insurance exchange, a regulated market where consumers can go to purchase the best plan for them. The exchange would require providers to meet certain standards for marketing and coverage, and permit them to compete on price and additional coverage offered.
For 30 years, abortion has been the keystone of the culture wars. It is the issue that galvanized the religious right as a national political force and brought evangelicals and conservative Catholics together. If gay rights has been a moving target that wise conservative heads see as a losing cause, abortion stands solid, as divisive an issue today as it was in 1980. Politically, the Ryan-DeLauro “Reducing the Need for Abortion and Supporting Parents Act” threatens to remove the abortion keystone by promoting policies that arguably would reduce the number of abortions without restricting women’s access to abortion services (aka “reduce the need for abortions”). Democrats and their allies in both the pro-choice and pro-life camps are all on board.
CANTERBURY, England (RNS/ENI) Fears about the spread of the H1N1 virus, also known as swine flu, are curtailing religious activities of both Christians and Muslims as they worship and express their faith, especially in Britain. Health authorities believe that the H1N1 flu pandemic is having a greater impact on Britain than on other European countries, with at least 31 deaths from the virus, in part because Britain is an international travel hub. Christians in Britain have had to introduce health measures at Communion services and in the use of holy water that some use to bless themselves when entering churches. Leaders of the Church of England wrote bishops on July 23 to recommend suspending a shared Communion chalice. The archbishops of Canterbury and York said the church’s worship needed to “take into account the interests of public health during the current phase of the swine flu pandemic.”
DEAL, N.J. — This wealthy seaside town might not have a Syrian Jewish community at all if it hadn’t developed as a summer escape for Brooklyn’s Syrian Jews, more than 10,000 of whom visit each summer. Indeed, in the Syrian Jewish community, Deal is known as “Brooklyn South,” and the approximately 1,000 who stay here year-round have built a dozen or so Orthodox synagogues, several religious schools and a wide selection of kosher restaurants. On Thursday (July 23), federal agents arrested five rabbis, two New Jersey state legislators, three mayors, and dozens of others in a political corruption and money-laundering probe that spanned from Hoboken to Israel. The sting has brought an unwanted spotlight to the Syrian Jewish community, which has long tended toward insularity. “These are only allegations.
OREGON CITY, Ore. — Jurors on Thursday (July 23) acquitted two parents accused in the faith-healing death of their infant daughter on all but one count, a stunning legal victory in a case that pitted religious freedom against parental responsibility. Carl and Raylene Worthington were charged with second-degree manslaughter and criminal mistreatment after their 15-month-old daughter, Ava, died on March 2, 2008 when the couple chose faith-healing over conventional medicine. Prosecutors claimed the girl died a “needless death” caused by pneumonia and a blood infection that could have been easily treated with routine antibiotics. Defense lawyers said the parents genuinely believed their daughter was on her way to recovery.