Al Webb writes for Religion News Service.
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Roman Catholic Church in Scotland Campaigns to Stop Gay Marriage
The Roman Catholic Church has sent a letter to its parishes across Scotland protesting a political race to legalize same-sex marriage.
The letter was read Sunday (Aug. 26) by priests in 500 Catholic parishes urging Scotland's political leaders to "sustain rather than subvert marriage" and to reaffirm that "marriage is a unique, lifelong union between a man and a woman."
Scotland is caught up in a debate over whether it should become the first segment of Britain to legalize gay marriage, ahead of England and Wales.
After the letter was read out in churches Sunday, the Scottish government insisted that it intends to legalize same-sex marriages and religious ceremonies for civil partnerships because "it is the right thing to do."
The issue is still in the consultation stage in England and Wales.
Archbishop of Canterbury Slams Christians Who Feel `Disgusted’ about Homosexuality
LONDON — Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams criticized some Christians for feeling so "embarrassed and ashamed and disgusted" over homosexuality that they seem unwelcoming to outsiders and convey a lack of understanding.
Addressing a group of Christian teenagers at his Lambeth Palace residence in London, the spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion said Anglicans and other Christians are still in "quite a lot of tangles" about homosexuality. The confusion sometimes leaves the church "scratching its head and trying to work out," Williams said.
His comments came barely two weeks after he slammed the British government for its plans to legalize same-sex marriages — something that Williams said would be a mistake. The Anglican Communion itself has been deeply divided over homosexuality. The Episcopal Church, the communion's U.S. branch, allows gay bishops and sanctions same-sex commitment ceremonies, while more conservative leaders in Africa strongly denounce homosexuality.
Vicar Sentenced for Conducting Sham Marriages
A Church of England vicar has been sentenced to 4 1/2 years in prison for conducting hundreds of bogus weddings and illegally pocketing more than 30,000 pounds ($48,000) in fees.
The Rev. Brian Shipsides was convicted and sentenced Tuesday (April 3) for carrying out a "meticulously planned and orchestrated" immigration fraud over a 2 1/2 period at All Saints Church in east London.
Authorities said the vicar conducted the fake marriages of non-Europeans, mostly Nigerians, to European partners to try to obtain immigration rights to stay in Britain.
‘Covenant’ to Bind Anglican Communion Appears Dead
A proposed "Covenant" aimed at ensuring unity across the worldwide Anglican Communion appears to have failed, leaving the world's third-largest Christian body facing an uncertain and likely fragmented future.
The covenant, born of an idea in 2004 to try to set boundaries in belief and practice for the Communion's 40 members churches, appears dead after a majority of dioceses within the Church of England voted to reject it.
With results still being counted, supporters of the Covenant effectively lost their battle within the Church of England when the Diocese of Lincoln cast the 23rd vote against it last week.
"The covenant is either buried or disabled," said Simon Barrow, co-director of the independent British think tank Ekklesia, in the aftermath of the decision.
Archbishop of Canterbury Resigns and Speculation Quickly Turns to His Successor
LONDON — Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams said Friday he will step down at the end of 2012, setting the stage for the unique process of government officials appointing the new leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion.
Williams' surprise announcement stunned the religious world, even as the short list of prospective successors swiftly began to circulate. Williams, 61, has led the Church of England and the world's 77 million Anglicans since 2002.
Traditionally, the new leader is chosen by a church committee of Anglican clergy and laity, who then draft a short list of candidates to submit to the prime minister, currently David Cameron.
While Queen Elizabeth II is the supreme governor of the Church of England and formally appoints the archbishop of Canterbury, the decision is based on the final determination of the prime minister. That process could be dogged by controversy. In the recent past, some Church of England reformists have cast doubt on whether a political figure should be involved in picking a spiritual leader for 77 million Anglicans around the world.
The odds-on favorite, according to numerous observers, is Uganda-born John Sentamu, the current archbishop of York and the No. 2 official in the Church of England. Sentamu, the sixth of 13 children, fled his homeland and its dictator, Idi Amin, in 1974.
Atheists Likely Will Outnumber Christians in the UK by 2032
LONDON — Christianity is waning in England and could be outnumbered by nonbelievers within 20 years, according to a new study.
The study conducted by the British Parliament showed there were 41 million Christians in Britain, down nearly 8 percent since 2004. Meanwhile, the number of nonbelievers stood at 13.4 million, up 49 percent over the same period.
Researchers at the House of Commons Library concluded that Christianity had declined to 69 percent of the population while those with no religion increased to 22 percent.
"If these populations continue to shrink and grow by the same number of people each year," the study said, "the number of people with no religion will overtake the number of Christians in Great Britain in 20 years."
Police Evict Occupy London Protesters from St. Paul's Cathedral
LONDON — Police on Tuesday evicted scores of demonstrators from a makeshift tent city they had erected outside historic St. Paul's Cathedral more than four months ago as part of a global protest against capitalism.
After brief skirmishes in the operation that authorities launched before dawn, 20 protesters were arrested but most reacted largely peacefully as they were moved out.
Police dumped an estimated 150 tents and equipment into waiting garbage trucks. By midday, the former campsite was cleared and the last of its occupiers were leaving.
Church of England Goes High-Tech to Combat Copper Thieves
LONDON — The Church of England is spearheading a campaign to install high-tech movement sensors on scores of churches in a bid to stop a rash of lead and copper thieves who have targeted the roofs of religious buildings.
The stolen metals are fetching increasingly higher prices on international markets. The insurance firm Ecclesiastical, which provides coverage for 96 percent of Anglican churches in Britain, reported receiving a record 2,600 claims last year.
The new security campaign, called "Hands Off Our Church Roofs," is aimed initially at installing the alarms at some 100 churches in England, Scotland and Wales. The alarms trigger loud voices announcing that a burglary is in process and that security guards are on their way.
Renown Atheist Richard Dawkins Isn't Entirely Sure God Doesn't Exist
LONDON — A controversial Oxford University professor billed by many as the world's "most famous atheist" now says he is not 100 percent sure that God doesn't exist — but just barely.
In a 100-minute debate with Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams last week, Richard Dawkins surprised his online and theater audiences by conceding a personal chink of doubt about his conviction that there is no such thing as a creator.
But, to the amusement of the archbishop and others, the evolutionary biologist swiftly added that he was "6.9 out of seven" certain of his long-standing atheist beliefs.