Church Times prints the queen-mother of dirty words
Church Times, the 138-year-old weekly Anglican newspaper, has created controversy in Britain through just one little word. To quote a line from A Christmas Story, the paper "didn't say 'fudge.' It said the word, the big one, the queen-mother of dirty words, the 'F-dash-dash-dash' word." Editor Paul Handley is defending the article, about growing hostility toward nuns. "It was too good to leave out," he tells The Daily Telegraph. "The anecdote shows how nuns are now exposed to that sort of thing and the days of a cuddly 'Hello Mother' have gone." The word is used to quote an angry bicyclist who shouted, "[Expletive]-ing nun!" to east London's Sister Helen Loder. The quick-witted woman immediately responded, "One or the other, but I can't be both!"

Senior Church of England clergyman banned from pulpit
Whether British churches really care whether Church Times prints a certain word is doubtful. But a Church of England parish in Uppingham, Rutland, clearly puts importance on another kind of Word. And because of this, it has banned local resident Derek Stanesby, a retired Canon who has repeatedly preached in front of the Queen, from ever stepping into the pulpit. "People talk about the Bible as the word of God," Stanesby preached in an Epiphany sermon published in the bulletin of the Society of Ordained Scientists. "That can be so misleading. … In fact, the elevation of the Bible to close on divine status had done more damage to the Christian message than all the slings and arrows of the sceptics. The Bible helps to point to the word of God, but it is not the word of God. … The Church is steeped in superstition and wishful and weak thinking."

Premarital sex off the sin list?
Meanwhile, on the other side of the planet, Australia's Uniting Church is alarmed by recent comments of one of the denomination's most senior officials, who argued that premarital sex should no longer be considered a sin. "That idea that people should only experience a full sexual relationship when married has obviously gone the way of the dinosaurs," said Alistair Macrae, moderator of the Victorian Synod. "A lot of Christians would say marriage is the only context for a full sexual relationship but realistically, it's unlikely that people are going to wait these days. … According to traditional teaching, those couples should be admonished and called on to repent their sinful ways. In reality, we certainly wouldn't be doing that. … The focus really should be what is the nature of the relationship. You can't assume that just because a couple's not married, they're not committed to each other." The national head of the Uniting Church quickly sent out a statement chastising Macrae. "The Uniting Church's view on marriage was clear cut—it opposes sex before marriage," said national Moderator James Haire. "The national church, of which I am the head, decides on doctrinal matters—state bodies do not … Mr. Macrae is stating a private opinion." Today's Sydney Morning Herald reports that the fray may damage ecumenical efforts between the Uniting Church and Australia's Anglican Church (which is embroiled in enough controversies of its own). Macrae himself says the article misrepresented his views: "I feel like I have been 'set up.'"

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