Religion news 1 November 2023

Image credit: St Albans Cathedral & Association of English Cathedrals

Day 26: War in the Middle East
Fifty people killed in Israel’s strike on Jabalia refugee camp in Gaza. Sir Keir Starmer understands but refuses to back continuing calls for a ceasefire. BBC updated war headlines here

Emergency baptism for nine babies at Greek Orthodox church in Gaza

Nine babies, all those remaining associated with St Porphyrios Greek Orthodox church in Gaza, have been baptised together, amid fears that another attack could claim their lives. Nineteen Christians taking shelter at the church were killed in an Israeli strike a week ago, including three babies who were unbaptised. The church’s media spokesperson told the World Council of Churches that the hastily arranged service was a painful decision but the congregation felt they had no choice. They believed the baptisms would preserve the faith under all circumstances.  

Politicians stoking division and “fuelling Islamophobia in plain sight”

The Muslim Council of Britain has accused the Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, of divisive language, in saying that the people who took part in pro-Palestine marches were extremists. It says the Home Secretary’s language “underscores the Islamophobic bigotry that has taken hold in the Conservative Party”. Secretary General, Zara Mohammed, called for responsible leadership and said Ms Braverman should “stop stoking division with such irresponsible words”.

Evangelicals start network in favour of same sex relationships

The Church Times reports that a new network for evangelicals supporting same sex relationships, has grown to 1,000 members. Evangelicals in the Church of England have become associated with the idea that same sex relationships are forbidden, referencing verses in the Bible, and they are in t he forefront of strident opposition to same sex blessings. This new group, “Inclusive Evangelicals”, has a different reading of the Bible, believing it affirms equality and inclusivity, and saying that the evangelical tradition includes questioning and exploratory thinking. Its leaders are Rev Jody Stowell, Canon Kate Massey; Ven. Malcolm Chamberlain and Canon Simon Butler. Church Times article here. Facebook group here

American evangelist Mike Bickle facing sexual misconduct allegations

The American evangelist Mike Bickle, founder of the “International House of Prayer in Kansas City”, IHOPKC, is facing multiple accusations of sexual misconduct. The church’s leadership team issued a statement saying Mike Bickle had agreed not to preach or teach from the IHOPKC platform, attend its 24-hour prayer room, or engage on his social media channels while the situation is “assessed”. The allegations are said to span many years and involve several women. The church is known for its 24/7 prayer and worship channels and its emphasis on prophecy. Mike Bickle denies the allegations. Premier Christian News story here

Conservative Right background of the new US Speaker

The life and beliefs of the new US House Speaker Mike Johnson, before he rose to high office, is being pored over in the States, amid curiosity over a politician who is little known. A devout Baptist, he was appointed to open a law school within Louisiana College, but it never got off the ground after concerns over accreditation issues and he resigned. Research by Public Witness, a Christian publication in Missouri, finds he worked for conservative Christian organizations such as the Alliance Defending Freedom, the Liberty Institute, and Freedom Guard, groups which opposed LGBT rights and abortion.

UN committee criticises Qatar on its treatment of Baha’is

The UN’s Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural rights says it is concerned at  discrimination against Baha’is in Qatar and recommends that the government remove all obstacles blocking their human rights. Its comments follow a review of Qatar’s human rights record, which found Baha’is were not recognised and denied registration, exposing its members to the risk of deportation. The Baha’i International Community says “a growing number of Baha’is have been deported in Qatar in recent years—in many cases separating families for prolonged periods of time. Dozens of others have been blacklisted”.

Martin Luther for 2023 channelled by ChatGPT

The Evangelical Church in the Rhineland ran a one-hour live session on YouTube yesterday, “Reformation Day”, with a Martin Luther avatar answering questions sent in on YouTube chat. A painting of Martin Luther was transformed into a moving 3D version and questions put to him were translated by ChatGPT. Long answers covered questions about his views on witches, hell, Jews, the end of the world and the free church movement. View the one hour session, in German, here

All Saints in glorious technicolour at St Albans Cathedral

It’s All Saints day today in the Western Christian calendar, also known as All Hallows’ Day, or the Feast of All Saints, a day to honour of all the saints of the Church, known and unknown. Among the many services is choral evensong at St Albans Cathedral where girl choristers will sing against the backdrop of 19th century carved statues of the saints, brought to life in full colour by “reality capture” software and projection techniques. The 15th-century high altar Wallingford Screen and 19th-century statues are coloured based on historical research to within one millimetre accuracy. The Dean, Jo Kelly Moore, commented that the “Saints in Colour” project, makes people see the saints “as human beings just like us”.


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