At least 11 Episcopal bishops have officially joined a fledgling “network” of conservative dioceses and parishes to oppose their church’s approval of an openly gay bishop. The new Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes will be headed by Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh and coordinated by the Washington-based American Anglican Council.
Continuing to preview his renamed The Passion of the Christ movie to people expected to praise it, actor-producer Mel Gibson got plaudits from Billy Graham, who was moved to tears, and reportedly secured favor from Pope John Paul II.
Following months of fierce debate in France, President Jacques Chirac has called for a law to ban Islamic headscarves and other “conspicuous” religious symbols from schools run by public authorities. A French Protestant leader promptly declared that such a prohibition would not only be hard to enforce but could also strengthen the cause of Islamic extremists.
Retrospective challenge: Joanna Jepson, an Anglican priest in Britain, is legally challenging an abortion that took place in 2001. The fetus, which had a cleft palate, was beyond the legal limit of 24 weeks. However, abortions are allowed in Britain beyond 24 weeks if there is a substantial risk of severe handicap.
Bishop V. Gene Robinson, elected in June as the first openly gay bishop of the Episcopal Church, was named the Religion Newsmaker of the Year by members of the Religion Newswriters Association. His approval and consecration, and the ensuing threats of schism in the U.S.
A study committee has recommended that the Southern Baptist Convention withdraw its membership and funding from the Baptist World Alliance. Its report cited the alliance’s “leftward drift” and concluded that “it is no longer wise stewardship to lend monetary support to an entity whose participants openly oppose many of our most cherished beliefs.”
In separate annual programs to give pastors sabbatical time and to reward programs that seek to sustain pastoral excellence, the Lilly Endowment has announced more than $31 million in grants to congregations and religiously affiliated organizations.
The State Department’s annual report on the status of religious freedom worldwide is out, and its chief villains have familiar faces. The report says China, Burma and North Korea remain among the world’s most egregious and systematic violators of religious liberty.
Cheers and criticism have followed a Food and Drug Administration panel recommendation that the so-called morning-after pill be made available over the counter. The panel voted 23-4 that the drug, also known as Plan B, should be made available without a prescription.