(Author’s note: I liked the way last week’s Faith Forum turned out, with a little more focus on and an exploration of a specific topic with a shorter list of links to other interesting news beneath it. If you like that format, too, please let me know in the comments.)
Update: apparently, my formatting got lost between writing and publication. I’ve edited the article to include handy things like line breaks and paragraphs. Enjoy!
In Paganism, we see groups form and dissolve fairly regularly. Certainly there are long-standing organizations under our faith umbrella, but I suspect that we can all recall that time when differences of opinion cause a group to split into smaller, separate groups. Sometimes, these separations are more public and resonate with the larger community, as was the case this past March when Yeshe Rabbit and the Amazon Priestess Tribe “[retired] from the Z Budapest lineage of Dianic Wicca in favor of forming an independent lineage,” but I suspect most are smaller, more intimate break-ups that affect only those involved in them.
But, I think we forget sometimes that this sort of event takes place in other faiths as well. This week, the South Carolina diocese of the Episcopal Church publicly disaffiliated from their (former) parent entity. The diocese’s official statement can be found on their website, but the split exacerbates a growing rift within the Episcopal Church over its support of for same-sex marriage and the ordination of homosexuals into the ranks of the priesthood.
Bishop Mark Lawrence leads the diocese and has a fairly interesting history. He was elected bishop in 2006 but failed to gain the approval from a majority of the dioceses because they worried he would lead South Carolina to split from the rest of the church. He was re-elected in 2007 and, this time, his election completed successfully but the Religion News Service (RNS) article linked above indicates that it was successful based on his “offering assurances that he would try to keep the diocese in the Episcopal Church.”
In the defense of Bishop Lawrence, try he did. He and Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori were in negotiation to try to keep the diocese within the church when a group of twelve lay Episcopalians and two priests in South Carolina brought charges against Lawrence within the church. The church’s Disciplinary Board for Bishops found him guilty of “abandoning the Episcopal Church and renouncing its rules” this past September.
The RNS reports that “dozens” of congregations and the dioceses in California, Texas, Pennsylvania, and Illinois have split from the Episcopal Church. However, the ownership of land, buildings, supplies, etc. for the church makes things a little more murky than what we in Paganism might be more familiar with. By which I mean to say that these splits have ended up in the court system.
While the disaffiliation was made and took place on October 2nd, the RNS article, however, showed up on my radar this week shortly after another article about divisions within a Christian denomination. Begun in 2009, but new to me and perhaps to you, the American National Catholic Church received some exposure on the Huffington Post Religion blog which was reprinting an article from the aforementioned Religion News Service. The ANCC’s website has a FAQ page detailing the differences and similarities between itself and the RCC. Among its difference are an inclusivity toward GLBT members, same-sex marriage, the ordination of women and GLBT memberrs, and allowing their priests to marry.
The ANCC is one of a few hundred independent Catholic organizations in the US but the majority of those organizations are conservative, according to HuffPo. As a place for progressive Catholics to find a home, the ANCC stands out among them. Maybe this is something for us to keep in mind as we think about the American religious landscape: it’s a lot more varied than we might expect.
In other religious news:
- The Roman Catholic Church canonized their first Native American saint as a patroness of the environment and ecology. Many see this as a way to heal old wounds between Native peoples and the RC Church but others feel differently.
- As Hindus throughout the world begin the ten-day celebration of Navratri, a celebration of the nine forms of Shakti/Devi, the CNN Photo site has a series of photographs showing artists crafting clay statues of Hindu deities as they have done at the Hooghly River for centuries. The CNN Photo site is, frankly, very hard to understand, but if you click the “X” to close the article, you’ll be presented with small navigation to view the photographs. You can also click on photos in the slider at the bottom of the site.
- America isn’t the only nation going through an election season. But, the nation of Bhutan announced a months-long ban on public religious activity ahead of theirs. Considering that this site deals entirely with religion and politics, I shudder to think the general outcry that such an action would create here!
- Religion Dispatches had an interesting article regarding the interaction between analytical thinking and religious belief.
- The Interfaith Observer took a look at how today’s youth use the Internet to bolster their spirituality focusing on the youth-created content at KidSpirit, an online magazine and community specifically for kids. Considering Paganism probably wouldn’t be what it is today without the Internet, this probably doesn’t seem like news to most of us.
- Remember how last week I mentioned state caucuses for religious freedom and my hopes that they wouldn’t be everything that I feared they would be. American’s United tells the story that I feared, though I can’t say that I’m surprised.
- Also mentioned last week is the Religion & Ethics Newsweekly miniseries called “None of the Above.” This week’s installment can be found here.
In addition to the Hindu holiday of Navratri mentioned above, this week had two other religious holidays. October 20th is revered as the Birth of the Báb, one of the central figures of the Bahá’í Faith. The Báb led a religious movement in the Middle East in the mid 1800’s that grew to include tens of thousands of supporters. It was, however, opposed by Iran’s Shi’a clergy and the movement was persecuted therein. The Báb was shot by firing squad at the age of 30 but his teachings went on to influence Bahá’u’lláh, the founder of the Bahá’í Faith. Second, in the Sikh faith the 20th is also revered as the date on which the ninth Guru ended the line of living Sikh Gurus and, instead, announced that the Guru Granth Sahib — the scriptural book of the Sikh religion — would replace, or perhaps follow is a better term, him as the source for spiritual guidance for Sikhs. This event is referred to (at least in English) as the “installation of Scripture as Guru Granth Sahib” though at this time, I’m not sure if a Sikh would term it thusly or not.