Around the World Pic: Westminster Abbey in London for Some Good ol’ Anglican Times

Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey

No, I’m not in this photo, but I did take it (or my traveling companion at the time, Jennifer, took it – forget).

I love London – it’s a great city, and I may be moving there in the summer of next year (but we’ll see). Westminster Abbey is a central part of the Anglican Church and is actually the place that, traditionally, all of the English monarchs are crowned there.

It’s a neat place right next to the Parliament and Big Ben, on the Thames and in the center of this amazing city.

Have you ever been to Westminster Abbey? London? What’d you think?

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Read about and see more Around the World Pic posts.

Religion in the News: Anglicans Can’t Resolve Growing Tensions about Acceptability of Homosexuality

I know! I was also shocked to learn that religious institutions are concerning themselves with where people choose to put their private parts. But you read right.

The Issue

The Lambeth Conference, a once a decade event that assembles 670 Anglican bishops from around the world in Canterbury, is coming to an end, and one of the most contentious issues was how to deal with the presence of homosexuality within the church – both at the clergy and member levels. Apparently, there’s been a harsh division that’s only worsened since some homosexual clergymen were actually ordained.

The issue of homosexuality and its permissibility within the church was discussed at the conference, but apparently no conclusions were reached, perhaps due to the divided structure of the debate and discussion. Leaders who organized the conference think the inability to make decisions was positive since this issue is only moving towards an irreconcilable split within the Anglican Church.

My Thoughts

My dilemma here is whether or not to care if the Anglican Church splits over the issue of homosexuality. If it’s not obvious that I’m for letting people do that which makes them happy so long as they aren’t harming other people, I think I’ll go ahead and state that now, emphasizing that I think gay people should be allowed to do as they please. Why should I care? It doesn’t affect me and it’s not hurting others. What should anyone care?

Well, I imagine that religious fellows care because if they tolerate homosexuality and God really does turn out to hate homosexuals then these religious leaders fear that they will be sent to Hell for allowing it. I suppose that’s something to worry about if you’re convinced of such things. So since I’m not here to convince anyone to alter their worldviews, I have to return to what I can worry about: how much I care about the fate of the Anglican Church.

Why should we care at all what happens in the Anglican Church, you ask? Well, for one, if the church splits, it will become two separate churches, one fairly liberal (that tolerates homosexuality) and the other conservative (that shuns homosexuality). Currently, those factions keep one another in check and we have one institution that struggles internally with policy. That means people pretty much do what they want and though some people try to stop them, there’s no official policy backing their decisions.

On the other hand, if the Church splits, we will have one progressive religious institution (which I’m down with) but another institution that is dominated by religious conservatives and people who think that tradition is of the utmost importance. It’s basically the bishop’s call the way his territory goes; that means people in countries with fewer rights (e.g. African ones) will be subject to harsh persecutions for their life choices. People subject to the authority of this conservative “bent” will be screwed – but not by who they want. Already, some Nigerians have already had to flee their homes, seeking sanctuary in England, because the leaders of their church have sufficient power to hurt them.

This is my concern: that the conservative half of the church will become increasingly conservative and continue hurting and destroying the lives of people who are making their own decisions. Thus, I do care if the Anglican Church splits over the issue of homosexuality because the last thing I want is more conservative religious institutions in this world.

What do you think about this issue? Do you support the ordaining of homosexual bishops? Do you care if the Anglican Church splits over this issue? Are you Anglican and can you shed some light on this issue for us?

Click HERE to read about the Pope and his trip to Australia and HERE to read about some of the new changes starting this week at The Zen of South Park blog.

In the News: Protestants and Catholics Still Over Centuries-Long War

U.S. President George W. Bush has just gone to the Vatican where he was welcomed warmly by Pope Benedict XVI. That is, an evangelical leader of the free/WASP/non-Catholic world (perhaps that’s giving a lot of credit to Bush, but allow it for the sake of comparison, please) has met with the Pope, the spiritual leader of the world’s billion or so Catholics.

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to not the sixteenth century.

Now, of course, pope’s and U.S. presidents have been meeting for years now, and the Catholic Church and the Protestant world (though it isn’t so easily grouped in a unified way as Catholicism) have long since made amends…effectively. I for one, would like to state quite clearly how awesome that is.

We really take for granted in our day how wonderful it is that there is a relative amount of unity, a high degree of peace and a general disregard for the differences between Catholics and Protestants. The Christian world is pretty much A-ok on an inter-denominational basis. Sure, the Christian and Muslim worlds are effectively at war (though I neither believe that it is as ubiquitous as I have made it sound nor as dichotomized as Christian v. Muslim), but it’s great that Catholic-Protestant relations are at the height of their strength. Why am I harping on this issue, you ask?

Well, it really wasn’t like that for a very long time. The Puritan roots of this country can be traced back to a need to escape the Anglican Church because it was too close to and corrupted with popery – or Catholicism – Puritans claimed. People in the colonies hated, persecuted and banned Catholics in various places for a very long time. Life as a Catholic in America wasn’t easy for a while. Now, can I blame Protestants (back-in-the-day Protestants, that is), for being terrified of and hating Catholics? Considering the Church’s history and the way it treated dissenters, no, I really can’t, but let me be frank: relations never had to normalize.

Wars between Catholics and Protestants in Europe were on an unimaginable scale, comparable to parts of the crusades, in certain areas of Europe killing up to a third of the population (sometimes more deadly than the Black Plague), and many people believed that Catholic and Protestant countries would never be at peace with one another. Slowly but surely, however, countries realized that interests other than religion set them at odds with one another and unified them with each other, and today, in our post-industrial, post-Cold War, newly hyper-globalized world, issues like whether you are a Protestant or Catholic country are really not the issues at hand. And that’s spectacular.

But then again, we’re not talking about countries, per se. The Holy See may be a country, but at the end of the day, it’s the Roman Catholic Church through and through, and I still think it’s awesome that an evangelical Protestant leader and the pope can greet each other warmly and genuinely, get along, discuss their common goals and interests (even if, unfortunately, some of those happen to be banning abortion and stem-cell research and continuing to promote abstinence – issues we will get to in due time, I’m sure), and be so friendly. It’s important, and not what one would expect after a few centuries of animosity and wars. If in the seventeenth century you’d asked who a Christian’s biggest enemy was, he’d say, a Catholic – never a Muslim, a Democrat or Oprah Winfrey or anything like that (don’t you love topical humor!).

So, that’s my thouhgt: we shouldn’t take for granted that the Protestant and Catholic worlds are effectively at peace (save a few small pockets of course), and when U.S. Presidents and Popes are hanging out together, we should appreciate that we’ve come a long way since the Thirty-Years War.

Note about tomorrow’s post: I will be posting in the afternoon because tomorrow is Movie/Book review day and I am going to see a matinée of The Happening. I have pretty low expectations but a close friend is a screenwriter of horror movies so we’re going – let’s see if it can break the low bar I’ve set. Check back tomorrow afternoon for the review of The Happening.