Trevor Grundy, Religion News Service

Trevor Grundy writes for Religion News Service.

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Anglican Leaders Downplay Censure of Episcopal Church

Archbishop Justin Welby with protesters. Image via REUTERS/Toby Melville/RNS

The Anglican Communion’s worldwide leaders, finishing up four days of heated discussions, sought to project a sense of unity despite a move to exclude the Episcopal Church from key policy decisions over the American province’s acceptance of same-sex marriage. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, overall leader of the global body, stressed at a news conference on Jan. 15 that the church had chosen to remain together, albeit effectively as a house divided.

As Anglican Leaders Gather, Future of Denomination in Question

Image via Anglican Communion News Service / The Press Association / RNS

Various factions within the Anglican Communion are jockeying for position as bishops of the world’s third-largest Christian tradition gather in Canterbury for the start of a six-day meeting to discuss the future of their communion.

But averting a split may not be possible.

Critics Outraged by British Theater's Cancellation of Play About Muslim Radicalization

Image via National Youth Theatre/RNS.

Prominent artists and human rights campaigners have criticized the National Youth Theatre in London for canceling a play because its theme is the radicalization of young British Muslims and their attraction to terrorist organizations such as the militant Islamic State group.

There is growing concern the play, Homegrown — by British–born Omar El-Khairy — was shut down before its scheduled opening on Aug. 15 because of pressure from the British police.

report in The Times by Jack Malvern, the paper’s arts correspondent, quoted Nadia Latif, the play’s director, saying the police had asked to see the final script of Homegrown before the play opened at a school in Brixton, a part of South London with a large Muslim community.

All-Day Sunday Shopping May Be in the Cards in Britain

REUTERS / Suzanne Plunkett / RNS

Pricing signs hang on clothing outside a shop in London on June 3, 2015. Photo via REUTERS / Suzanne Plunkett / RNS

The move would bring London into line with Paris and New York, where no restrictions on Sunday shopping exist.

Strict anti-Sunday shopping laws came into being in the 19th century, under Queen Victoria.

In 1986, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher tried to do away with them but she met stiff opposition from traditionalists and Christian churches.

Two decades later a compromise was reached, and most shops are now allowed to open for six hours on Sunday.

British Jews Object to Ultra-Orthodox Sect’s Decree Banning Women from Driving

Photo via REUTERS / Baz Ratner / RNS

Ultra-Orthodox Jews watch a wedding ceremony in Jerusalem on June 10, 2014. Photo via REUTERS / Baz Ratner / RNS

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

Photo via REUTERS / Cathal McNaughton / RNS

A poster supporting the Yes vote is displayed in Dublin on May 19, 2015. Photo via REUTERS / Cathal McNaughton / RNS

“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

Photo via Bana Gora / RNS

Bana Gora, chief executive of the Bradford-based Muslim Women’s Council. Photo via Bana Gora / RNS

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

Photo courtesy of REUTERS / Yui Mok / Pool / RNS

Rachel Treweek, the archdeacon of Hackney. Photo courtesy of REUTERS / Yui Mok / Pool / RNS

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

Photo via Chris Gordon / Diocese of Leicester / RNS

The coffin goes around the center of Leicester during the ceremony. Photo via Chris Gordon / Diocese of Leicester / RNS

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

Textbooks in storage. Image via Kw_thailand/shutterstock.com

Textbooks in storage. Image via Kw_thailand/shutterstock.com

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.

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