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British Jews Object to Ultra-Orthodox Sect’s Decree Banning Women from Driving
Two prominent leaders of England’s Jewish community and a representative of the chief rabbi have joined in repudiating rabbis from an ultra-Orthodox Jewish sect in London that have banned women from driving.
Rabbis from the small Belz community have decreed that as of August children would not be allowed to study if their mothers drive them to school.
The decree was motivated out of a desire to keep “the traditional rules of modesty in our camp,” the rabbis said, according to a report in The Jewish Chronicle.
Ireland’s Gay Marriage Referendum a Sign of Roman Catholic Decline
“In Ireland,” says a character in a 1904 George Bernard Shaw play, “the people is the Church, and the Church is the people.”
But not so much anymore.
On May 22, voters in this once deeply Roman Catholic country will decide whether the country’s constitution should be amended to allow for gay marriage. If the amendment passes, Ireland will become the first country to legalize same-sex civil marriage by popular vote.
Plans Announced for England’s First Women-Only Mosque
The country’s first women-only mosque will open in Bradford, a 19th-century industrial boomtown and one of the most heavily Muslim-populated cities in the U.K., the Muslim Women’s Council announced.
The plan seeks to provide women with a platform where they can play a larger role in the religious life of their community, a role that would include women leading prayers on Fridays and the introduction of female imams.
Church of England Loses No Time, Appoints Third Woman Bishop and First to Oversee a Diocese
The Church of England’s commitment to advance the cause of women took another step forward March 26 with the appointment of Rachel Treweek, 52, as the next Bishop of Gloucester in the southwest region of England.
That makes three women bishops in the space of three months since the church overcame its long-standing opposition to women bishops late last year. On March 25, the church appointed its second woman bishop, Alison White, 58, as suffragan bishop of Hull.
But Thursday’s announcement was even more dramatic. Treweek will be the first to run a diocese on her own. She will be one rank below archbishop and will become the first woman bishop to sit in the House of Lords, the British Parliament’s Upper House.
Twenty-six “Lords Spiritual” — all Anglican, all male — sit in the House of Lords.
In a statement, Treweek said the appointment was “an immense joy and privilege.”
Catholics and Anglicans Prepare Ecumenical Burial Fit for a King
Tens of thousands of people in Leicester — England’s most religiously diverse city — are getting ready to honor the memory of a long-despised English king with a ceremony that testifies to the already warm relationship between the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church.
The bones of King Richard III — who was slain in battle in 1485 and vilified in the writings of William Shakespeare, who described him as a “poisonous bunch-back’d toad” — will be interred at Leicester Cathedral on March 26 at a ceremony led by Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and attended by leading Catholics, Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, and Jews, as well as members of England’s royal family.
Richard was the last king of England to die in battle while attempting to defend his throne from Henry VII. The latter went on to establish the Tudor dynasty, whose most memorable monarch was Henry VIII.
After the battle, Richard’s remains were hastily buried by Franciscan monks. In 2012, archaeologists digging in a parking lot found his remains and had the DNA checked with a known survivor of the king’s family.
British Ponder Charitable Tax Relief Status of Controversial Exclusive Brethren Schools
Schools run by a conservative Christian sect called the Exclusive Brethren are under investigation following claims by former teachers that they were required to use science textbooks with pages ripped out, prevent boys and girls from talking to one another outside classrooms, and tolerate bullying, racism, and homophobia.
Life at Britain’s 34 Brethren schools is under the microscope following a decision last year to grant them charity status, which allows the group to avoid taxes estimated to be worth millions of pounds every year.
The Exclusive Brethren includes about 17,000 members across England.
After their first bid for charitable status was rejected, the sect fought back with supporters writing thousands of letters to the Charity Commission, which regulates charities in England and Wales.
The sect’s leader is an Australian named Bruce Hales (followers call him “the Prophet”).
Over 200 members of Parliament supported the Brethren’s charity status. But new disclosures have changed the public image of the group.
Eight former teachers have spoken to the media and described school buses segregated by gender, classroom racism, and textbooks with pages on evolution, fossil fuels, and sexual reproduction ripped out.
Church of England Names Its First Woman Bishop; Libby Lane to Assume Historic Role
The Church of England announced on Dec. 17 that Libby Lane, a parish priest from Hale, a small village outside Manchester, would become its first woman bishop, ending centuries of all-male leadership in this country’s established church.
The announcement from Downing Street, the prime minister’s official residence in London, came just a month after changes to canon law making it possible for women to assume the role of suffragan and diocesan bishops.
Lane, 48, a mother of two and the wife of an Anglican vicar, will be consecrated as the eighth bishop of Stockport, in the Diocese of Chester, at a ceremony at York Cathedral on Jan. 26. Her appointment is as a suffragan bishop — a bishop subordinate to a metropolitan or diocesan bishop.
On her surprise appointment, she said: “This is unexpected and very exciting. I’m honored and thankful to be called to serve as the next bishop of Stockport and not a little daunted to be entrusted with such a ministry.”
Archbishop Justin Welby: Anglican Communion May Not Hold Together
In a lengthy interview in The Times of London, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby predicted that the Anglican Communion might not hold together because of strong disagreements on the ordination of women as bishops and full rights for LGBT people.
The candid interview came at the end of Welby’s visits to the 38 provinces (or country-states) that make up the Anglican Communion.
Welby said that although individual churches remain “strong, resilient and thriving,” the differences among them remain profound.
“I think, realistically, we‘ve got to say that despite all efforts there is a possibility that we will not hold together, or not hold together for a while,” he said. “I could see circumstances in which there could be people moving apart and then coming back together, depending on what else happens.”
“If, as an Anglican, you believe more or less the same things but you just can’t reach agreement on something that is terribly divisive, you do go your separate ways. That will mean that the heads of various Anglican churches around the world won’t be able to meet together and say ‘Look, we’re all united’ in the same way they did in the past.”
Church of England Formally Approves Women Bishops
Twenty years after women were ordained as priests, the Church of England is set to appoint its first woman bishop by year’s end or at the start of 2015.
On Nov. 17, the church’s two most senior leaders, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Archbishop of York John Sentamu, signed the change into church, or canon, law after asking the General Synod, made up of bishops, clergy and laity, to signal their approval by a show of hands.
The shattering of what’s called “the Church of England’s stained-glass window” marks the culmination of years of campaigning for reform.
In July, the synod, voted overwhelmingly in favor of legislation to create women bishops.
Hilary Cotton, chairwoman of Women and the Church, an advocacy organization, told reporters she is now hopeful the reform will lead to “changing the culture of the church.”
U.S.–born Christian Rees, a member of the synod’s House of Laity, said the Nov. 17 ceremony would change the public perception that the Church of England has “a problem with women.”
Top Anglican Calls for Lifting Seal of Confessional in Child Abuse Cases
Anglican priests should no longer be bound by the centuries-old principle of confidentiality in confessions when they are told of sexual crimes committed against children, the Church of England’s No. 2 official said.
Speaking at the end of an internal inquiry on whether senior church officials ignored abuse allegations involving children, Archbishop of York John Sentamu said that “what happened was shameful, terrible, bad, bad, bad.”
He said that the Church of England must break the confidentiality of confession in cases where people disclosed the abuse of children. “If someone tells you a child has been abused, the confession doesn’t seem to me a cloak for hiding that business. How can you hear a confession about somebody abusing a child and the matter must be sealed up and you mustn’t talk about it?”
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