Meet Carol Stone
The Rev. Peter Stone has led services at St. Philips Church in Upper Stratton, Swindon, England, for four years. This week, however, the Rev. Carol Stone will be leading the Church of England congregation. Peter's wife? Sister? Nope. It's Peter—after a sex change. "I only have two vocations in my whole life," Stone says. "They are to be a priest and to be a woman." Forget the sexual ethics for a second—being a woman is a vocation now?

Christian schools resist anti-spanking law down under
Sutherland Shire Christian School, with more than 740 students, and Nambucca Valley Christian Community School, with 93 students, face deregistration by the Board of Studies in New South Wales, Australia, because they won't outlaw corporal punishment. "We are not cane-happy," Neville Pollard, state education director for Christian Community Schools, tellsThe Sydney Morning Herald. "We believe corporal punishment is biblically endorsed, but it's not the only method of discipline endorsed by the Bible … If given lovingly and caringly, it is a very viable method of punishment." Meanwhile, a bill to extend New South Wales' ban on corporal punishment in schools to parents is doomed to failure. (See more coverage by The Daily Telegraph and Ananova.)

Pope to meet Patriarch Alexy? Don't bet on it.
The news sounds good: "The leader of the Russian Orthodox Church said Tuesday that a meeting with Pope John Paul II would be possible if the two churches first settled some disputes." But Patriarch Alexy II has been saying that for years. Pray for reconciliation, but don't get too excited over this AP story. In related news, Pope John Paul II offered another step toward peace with the Eastern Orthodox world by naming Syriac Patriarch of Antioch Ignace Moussa I Daoud, an Eastern rite patriarch, as head of the Congregation for Eastern Churches. The post was previously held by an Italian.

Church of England—27 percent of it, anyway …
A poll by Britain's National Center for Social Research (NCSR) shows that 44 percent of adults in the United Kingdom say they have no religious affiliation. For 18-24 year-olds, that number rises to two-thirds. (To contrast, the number in the U.S. is around 2 percent and 11 percent, depending on the survey.) The Church of England is seeing the worst of it—the former state church, which represented 40 percent of the population in 1983, now represents only a quarter of those polled. Church of England spokesmen say they're not surprised.

500-year-old play to make its online debut
"The Martyrdom of Saint Stephen," a 15th-century play about the Christian church's first martyr, is being produced for the Internet by the Strasbourg drama association E-toile. Actor and director Yannick Bressan says there will be a way for viewers to interact with the play by clicking on squares to register their pleasure or displeasure with the performance. "If I have 80 percent of the viewers with me, I will not recite (the lines) in the same way as if I have 80 percent against me," he says, though he notes that "The martyr will still be martyred." The AFP reporter calls it "the world's first Internet theatrical production," but take that with a grain of salt. The play will begin at 1:30 p.m. CST. (That's 8:30 p.m. in Strasbourg.) And it will probably be in French. See more about the play here.

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