March 8, 2005

The announcement that Prince Charles is at last going to marry Camilla Parker Bowles, his mistress, has prompted Cardinal Keith O’Brien of Scotland to renew an attack on the early 18th-century law that bars Catholics from the British throne. O’Brien did, however, congratulate Charles and Parker Bowles on their upcoming civil ceremony at Windsor Castle on April 8. Following the ceremony, the archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, will preside at a service of prayer and dedication for the couple. Williams said the arrangements “are consistent with Church of England guidelines concerning remarriage.” Because Parker Bowles is a divorcée whose husband is still alive, the Church of England would not sanction a church wedding. The prince, as king, would be the titular head of the church. The 1-million-member Evangelical Alliance gave qualified support, describing the planned marriage as a “serious move to put their relationship on a more moral footing.”

Fundamentalist Jerry Falwell has announced that the new dean for his Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary in Lynchburg, Virginia, will be Ergun Caner, 38, a Turkish-born Muslim who converted to Christianity in 1982. Caner wrote a book that year in which he claimed that the prophet Muhammad was a pedophile once possessed by demons. Caner said that Muhammad’s third wife, Aisha, was nine years old when the couple had sexual relations. Salam al-Marayati, executive director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, says the assertion is unfounded. Most Islamic scholars, he said, believe Aisha was at least 14 or 15 when she married Muhammad, an acceptable age to wed in those days.

J. Richard Butler, a United Church of Christ clergyman who served his denomination and Church World Service for decades, especially in the Middle East, died in his New York home January 25 of complications from prostate cancer. He was 74. Butler became CWS associate director in 1978 and served as executive director 1985-88.

Robert Stevens Baker, the dean of American organists and a towering figure in church music, died January 24 after a long illness at his home in Hamden, Connecticut. He was 88. Baker was the founding director of the Institute of Sacred Music at Yale University and a former dean of the School of Sacred Music at Union Theological Seminary in New York City.