Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby

Church of England Formally Approves Women Bishops

Archbishop John Sentamu. Photo via York Minster (Flickr), via Wikimedia Commons

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.”

Vatican Editor Says England’s Female Bishops Vote 'Complicates' Relations

Giovanni Maria Vian, editor of L’Osservatore Romano since 2007. Creative Commons image by Premiosciacca.

The Church of England’s vote to allow female bishops threatens unity with the Catholic Church, according to the editor of the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano.

Giovanni Maria Vian, who is also a Rome historian, on Tuesday said the decision would have “an extremely negative impact” on steps to bring the churches closer together despite a positive meeting between Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Pope Francis a month ago.

“Clearly it’s a decision that complicates the ecumenical path,” Vian said in an interview with the Italian newspaper La Stampa published on Tuesday. “The problem is not only with Rome but also with Orthodox Churches, and that the Anglican Church is itself divided on the issue.”

After nearly 20 years of debate, the Church of England’s General Synod voted Monday to permit women priests to be ordained as bishops, overturning centuries of tradition in a church that has been deeply divided over the issue.

Former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey Supports Assisted Suicide Bill

Former Archbishop George Carey publicly voiced his support for assisted suicide. RNS photo courtesy George Carey.

Three leading Anglicans have entered an explosive debate about whether it is permissible for Christians to allow doctors in England and Wales to administer lethal doses of drugs to terminally ill patients given less than six months to live.

More than 100 members of the House of Lords, England’s upper house of Parliament, have asked to speak on the second reading of the Assisted Dying Bill on Friday.

The bill will be opposed by Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, who is expected to reaffirm the Church of England’s traditional hostility to any move that would endanger the Christian principle of the sanctity of human life.

Church of England Approves Women Bishops in Historic Vote

University of York, where the Church of England voted to ordain women bishops. Creative Commons image by Carl Spencer.

After 20 years of turmoil and angry debate, on Monday the General Synod of the Church of England said “yes” to women bishops.

The first could be named by the end of the year with the appointment of at least three additional women sometime in 2015, say senior church officials.

The General Synod is the three-tier governing body of the Church of England and it is made up of bishops, clergy, and laity.

At a meeting in York, the General Synod gave final approval to legislation introducing the changes by the required two-thirds majority.

Overall 351 members of the 433 Synod voted in favor of the measure.

At Angelina Jolie-Chaired Summit, Faith Leaders Work to End Sexual Violence

Attendees of the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict. Creative Commons image courtesy Foreign & Commonwealth Office

Religious leaders from across Africa and England came together Wednesday to discuss the role clergy should play in preventing and responding to sexual violence.

The panel was part of the three-day Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict co-chaired by Angelina Jolie, the special envoy for the U.N. high commissioner for refugees. Jolie made an unannounced appearance before the event, causing attendance to surge and preventing several dozen participants from entering the crowded conference room.

In a pre-recorded video message, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby started the session by describing some of the positive developments he observed firsthand on a recent trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“Historically there has been a culture of impunity,” he said. “Faith leaders are challenging that culture fiercely and saying that rape and sexual violence in war is absolutely unacceptable and will result in consequences.”

Archbishop of Canterbury: The Cross Has Become a Fashion Symbol

Madonna in her Confessions Tour, hanging from a mirrored cross in 2006. Photo: RNS/courtesy Oscar Rohena via Wikimedia Commons

The Christian cross has become little more than a piece of jewelry worn around the necks of celebrities, said Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby.

In the foreword to a new book about Christianity, the head of the world’s 85 million Anglicans presents the symbol of Roman torture upon which Jesus died as “the moment of deepest encounter with radical change.”

And he regrets that after 2000 years, the cross has become trivialized.

Baptism Rates Slide Despite High-Profile Boosts

The Rev. Frank Page baptizes Stephen Allmond in 2008, near Greenville, S.C. Photo via RNS/courtesy Rev. Frank Page.

The rite of baptism got big press as Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby christened Prince George, a future king of England on Wednesday.

Welby made it a teachable moment for a country where only one in six are baptized. In a YouTube video, he explains that by bringing their son forward for baptism, Prince William and Duchess Catherine are “bringing God into the middle of it all.”

Last month, Pope Francis gave the sacrament a boost when he called a pregnant, unmarried woman to encourage her faith and offered to baptize her baby. While his main message was anti-abortion, his call also reminded Catholics that children of unmarried parents are welcome in the church.