Friday, July 16, 2010

The Identities of Faith

A lot has been going on in the worlds of religion in the past week!  At least, a lot has been going on in the worlds of religion that I follow: Catholicism, Anglicanism, and Judiasm.  As a Jew who studied Christianity, those three are the only faiths I feel comfortable commenting on - luckily for me (and you, dear readers) there's a lot of commenting to do this week!

Alana Newhouse has an op-ed piece in the New York Times today about an bill in Israel, approved by parliamentary committee, that, if passed by the Knesset, would give ultra-Orthodox Israeli rabbis almost total control over conversions to Judaism.  (Find the AP article about it here.)  Of this bill, the AP writes, "The Reform and Conservative movements, which are the largest Jewish denominations outside Israel but wield little clout inside the Jewish state, fear the new bill could increase the influence of Orthodox rabbis at their expense and undermine their own legitimacy and connection to Israel."  Honestly, I don't know enough about the current political/religious situation in Israel to comment coherently on this issue, and so I urge you to read the both the article and the op-ed.  I can say, though, that I don't like the idea of a tiny cohort of Jews (this sect of the ultra-Orthodox is a minority even in Israel) telling me that I'm not Jewish.

The General Synod of the Anglican Church just voted in favor of legislation to allow women to become  bishops.  (The Episcopal Church consecrated its first female bishop in 1989.)  The traditionalists are up in arms, of course, but I think this is very exciting.  There are further steps to be taken before women can be ordained as bishops, but the ball is rolling down the hill and is certainly gaining momentum.  The question is, of course, what kind of schism this might lead to within the Church - 450 clergymembers left the Church in 1994 when women began being ordained as priests.  (Find the BBC News article and analysis here.)

Contrarily, as the Catholic Church is wont to be, the Vatican has declared the ordination of women priests a "grave offence."  (The Catholic Church has also declared sex abuse to be a "grave offence," but claims it is not equating the two.  Yeah, whatever.)  I actually did a lot of research while completing my MA on the ordination of women in the medieval Catholic Church - the paper turned into a study on the teaching of women by men, and as a result I don't remember much of what I discovered, but suffice it to say that this is not a new issue; it's just disappointing that the Catholic Church has to annunciate its views in such a harsh way.

Interestingly, each of these issues have something to do with the leadership and identity of faith.  But why does it seem as though as soon as someone takes a step forward, steps must be taken back elsewhere?


  1. Betsy, re religion: the myths are interesting; the creeds and rules are absurd; and when the fundamentalists grab hold, everyone is in danger. But you knew that, right?


  2. Betsy-lou, where is your thesis?! I wants to reaaaaad itttttt.


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