Desmond Tutu on Gay Rights, the Middle East and Pope Francis

Desmond Tutu at Clowes Hall, Butler University. Photo via RNS/Butler University

Retired Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his fight against apartheid in South Africa, continues to speak around the globe on justice and peace. Butler University and neighboring Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis announced Thursday that they would name a center for the 81-year-old icon.

Just before the announcement of the new center, Tutu spoke with Religion News Service about faith and justice, Israel and Palestine and Pope Francis’ recent selfie and lifestyle choices. Some answers have been edited for length and clarity.

Church of England Drops Opposition to Gay Marriage Bill

Bishops in the Church of England, who had strenuously opposed a bid to allow same-sex marriage, signaled that they won’t try to derail the bill after an overwhelming vote of support in the House of Lords.

Church of England spokesman Steve Jenkins said that in the same way the church will eventually allow women bishops, England will eventually allow same-sex marriage.

“It doesn’t mean the Church of England is happy, but that’s where our government is going,” Jenkins said. “Now it’s about safeguarding people’s right to hold religious beliefs.”

Something to Celebrate on Religious Freedom Day

RNS photo courtesy Wikimedia

Portrait of Thomas Jefferson by Matthew Harris Jouett. RNS photo courtesy Wikimedia

Today is Religious Freedom Day — a day to celebrate the adoption of Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia Statute for Establishing Religious Freedom. Why celebrate it?

Celebrate because our government does not use our tax dollars to propagate religion, something Jefferson found “sinful and tyrannical.” This does not mean that you have a right to stop any government action that you happen to think violates your religious beliefs — a ridiculous claim repeated during last year’s battle over insurance coverage for contraceptives.

Episcopal Bishop Jane Dixon Dies at 75

Bishop Jane Dixon,  jaymallinphotos / Flickr.

Bishop Jane Dixon, jaymallinphotos / Flickr.

Bishop Jane Dixon, 75, died in her sleep on Christmas Day, according to the Episcopal Diocese of Washington. Dixon was the second woman consecrated as bishop in the Episcopal Church and the third in Anglican Communion.

A champion for justice and equality, Dixon was selected three times byWashingtonian magazine as one of the 100 most influential women in the Washington metropolitan area. In January 2002, she was named a Washingtonian of the Year. 

From Mariann Edgar Budde, bishop of Washington

Called to serve at a time when some refused to accept the authority of a woman bishop, Jane led with courage and conviction, and sometimes at great personal cost.  She demonstrated that same bravery and grace when she brought hope and healing to our country by officiating at the National Day of Prayer and Remembrance service at Washington National Cathedral following the tragedy on 9/11.   

Jane was a fighter for equality and social justice and this led her to speak at the White House against hate crimes and to stand for inclusiveness within the Episcopal Church.  

'Jane is a person who has the courage of her convictions but the grace and humility to know that none of us can equate our ways with God's ways, our thoughts with God's thoughts,' said the late Verna Dozier, Jane’s longtime mentor, in the sermon she preached at Jane’s consecration.

Dixon is survived by her husband of 52 years, David McFarland Dixon, Sr., her three children, and six grandchildren.



Archbishop of Canterbury Slams Christians Who Feel `Disgusted’ about Homosexuality

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams.

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.

Anglicans Celebrate Book of Common Prayer’s 350th Anniversary

Book of common prayer, Aleksei K /

Book of common prayer, Aleksei K /

"Ashes to ashes, dust to dust." "All the deceits of the world, the flesh and the devil." "Read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest."

Shakespeare? The King James Bible? Close -- the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, the liturgical and literary masterpiece that along with the playwright and the landmark Bible helped shape the English language, marks its 350th anniversary this year.

St. Paul's Cathedral in London celebrated the occasion on Wednesday (May 2) with a special service of evensong, or evening prayer, from the 1662 volume, often shortened to the BCP or Prayer Book. Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams was there, along with members of Prayer Book societies in Australia, Canada and the U.K. that are dedicated to keeping the work alive.

Breakaway Anglicans Ordered to Return Property by April 30

Altar image by ruskpp/

Altar image by ruskpp/

A Virginia judge has ordered seven congregations that broke from the Episcopal Church to return all property to the local diocese — from valuable land to sacred chalices — by April 30.

The Diocese of Virginia had wanted the properties returned by March 30, a week before Easter. But Fairfax County Circuit Court Judge Randy Bellows agreed to give the breakaway congregations more time.

In a closely watched case that reached the Virginia Supreme Court, Bellows ruled in January that congregations had the right to leave the Diocese of Virginia, but not to take church property with them.

Breakaway Anglican Bishop, Wife Found Murdered in Brazil

A conservative Brazilian bishop who broke away from his church over the consecration of an openly gay bishop in New Hampshire was found murdered with his wife in the northeastern town of Olinda, according to the diocese.
Bishop Robinson Cavalcanti and his wife Miriam were found dead on Sunday (Feb. 26). Their adopted son, Eduardo, is a suspect in the stabbing deaths, church officials said.
Conservative Anglican media sites reported that Cavalcanti was returning from a parish visit.
Cavalcanti launched the breakaway Anglican Church -- Diocese of Recife after Bishop V. Gene Robinson was consecrated as the Episcopal bishop of New Hampshire in 2003.

Splinter Churches Realign Mainline Protestantism

Photo via Getty Images.

Photo via Getty Images.

The question now is whether these breakaway groups signal a seismic shift in American Protestantism, or just a few fissures in the theological terrain.

In some ways, the rifts are nothing new. American Protestants have been splintering since Roger Williams left Plymouth Colony in the 1630s, said Nancy Ammerman, a sociologist of religion at Boston University.

Yet the schisms counter a 20th-century trend in which ethnic and regional Protestant groups merged to form big-tent denominations such as the ELCA and PC(USA). 

"What we may be experiencing at this point is the limit of that movement to draw a lot of diversity under one umbrella," said Ammerman, author of Pillars of Faith: American Congregations and Their Partners.