Religion news 14 July 2023

Matt Redman. Image credit: Labjunkie CCLicense3.0

Matt Redman, co-founder of Soul Survivor says he too is a victim of abuse

Matt Redman, the man who co-founded Soul Survivor with Mike Pilavachi, has issued a public statement saying he too was a victim of abuse in the movement. He said he had experienced the harmful behaviours now being investigated against Mike Pilavachi, such as physical, psychological and spiritual abuse, and he had spent years trying to heal from the experience. He and his wife had come forward when the abuse happened, but they were ignored, patronised or gas lighted. There had been a failure of care at Soul Survivor and it was important to get this current investigation right, he said.  Mike Pilavachi has resigned while two church investigations are underway into allegations that he had inappropriate relationships with young men, giving them full body massages or wrestling them to the floor. Soul Survivor once attracted tens of thousands of young people to summer festivals and runs an Anglican church in Watford. It has had extensive influence over the charismatic evangelical movement in the church.

Former Church of England safeguarding chair issues defensive statement

The former chair of the Church of England’s safeguarding board, Dame Maggie Atkinson has issued a statement saying she has been subject to “persistent misrepresentation bordering on defamation, threats to my professional reputation and personal wellbeing”, in documents outlining the events leading up to her stepping aside from the role in March this year.  She states that a data breach, for which she apologised, was not the cause of her leaving the job. This public testimony is just the latest in a series of angry disputes within the bureaucracy of the church’s national safeguarding process, and has inevitably been taken issue with on social media. Fractured relationships between the Independent Safeguarding Board and the Archbishops’ Council has led to the two ISB members being sacked, the resignation of Meg Munn, who was interim chair following Dame Maggie, a chaotic and angry synod session last weekend when supporters fought to allow the two ISB members to speak, and simmering anger spilling out on social media. Dame Maggie said in her statement that the synod session was a farce resembling a political or trade union rally, adding that “the un-Christian treatment of Meg Munn that afternoon” would have made her walk out too.  Thinking Anglicans has a resume of the safeguarding story here

Call for parliament to intervene in face of “complete collapse” of CofE safeguarding board

Labour MP Ben Bradshaw said the devastating letter of resignation from the Church of England’s interim safeguarding board chair, Meg Munn, leaves safeguarding in the CofE in “complete collapse” and Parliament’s Ecclesiastical Committee should intervene.  In her letter, Ms Munn explained that she was resigning after being concerned, dismayed and outraged at comments from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York at the general synod, when they reported their actions as the Independent Safeguarding Board fell apart amid acrimonious relationships with the Archbishops’ Council. Clive Billenness, a member of the Council’s audit committee, tweeted: “With all these different statements accusing one another, only a proper inquiry will ever get underneath this”.

“We don’t believe in this God anymore. We believe in Rupert Murdoch”

Reviewing the story about BBC presenter Huw Edwards, which has dominated the news this week, the Rev Giles Fraser reflects that the British public get the media they deserve. Writing for Unherd, he says morality has become a pretext for cruelty, with society “revelling in the prurient finger-pointing, pretending we’re part of some kind of high-minded moral crusade to root out hypocrisy”, liking nothing more than seeing the mighty fall. “We used to believe that God was our judge. A God who knew all the secrets of our hearts. A God who loved us nonetheless. We don’t believe in this God anymore. We believe in Rupert Murdoch. And it’s not been a happy swap”. Elsewhere, Roger Bolton, RMC Trustee, told BBC news that there were questions for journalists. “If the Sun is going to make serious allegations like this, it has to substantiate them”, he said. Later, in the Guardian he cautioned against a rush to judgment and observed that BBC journalists had swung into action determined to report fiercely and independently, “but in fact, it goes into overkill, to the point of self-obsession. Meanwhile, he said,  there is a tragedy for the various families drawn into the story.

BBC local radio religious programmes cut by a third threatens diversity goals

The changes to BBC local radio, with local programmes shutting to be replaced by regional shows, will seriously affect its ability to supply one of its key purposes – to represent and portray the lives of people in the UK and to raise awareness of different cultures and alternative viewpoints.  The warning comes from former senior BBC manager Dr Liam McCarthy in an article in Eastern Eye, where he discusses the impact on the east Midlands stations of Derby, Leicester and Nottingham, where non white populations vary from 4 to 48 per cent. He says a key concern is religious programming on Sunday mornings – 39 programmes are being cut back to just 13 regional shows. In the East Midlands, Dr McCarthy says it is difficult to see how the region’s 155,000 Muslims, 75,000 Hindus and 30,000 Sikhs will be served by a reduction in broadcast hours. He says the BBC’s executive board and new interim chair need to step in and rebuild trust with its staff and audiences across England. If not, Ofcom as the BBC’s regulator should intervene.

The media’s role in religious literacy

The Interfaith Network ran an online conference on “Educating for Religious Literacy”, where speakers addressed the importance of literacy in the workplace, the media, government and schools. Workshops led by academics considered the media’s role in conveying information and ideas and how interfaith week can be a platform for greater religious literacy. Dr Jasjit Singh, from the university of Leeds, and a RMC Trustee, said that in an increasingly non-religious society, the media is very important way for adults to gain greater religious literacy – not just through explicitly educational programming but also through wider programming, from news and documentaries to drama and soaps. But he warned the media against using tropes, stereotypes and unrepresentative images of religion, which perpetuate illiteracy.

Man who shot dead 11 people in Pittsburgh synagogue faces death penalty

The gunman who fatally shot 11 worshippers during an attack at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, has been convicted of more than 60 criminal counts and could face the death penalty. The Associated Press reports that Robert Bowers, aged 50, a truck driver from the neighbouring suburb of  Baldwin, killed members of three congregations at the synagogue in October 2018.  Three more people and five police officers were wounded.  The court heard that he had spent six months planning the attack and since expressed regret that he didn’t kill more people. His lawyers argued he was mentally ill and had a delusional belief that he could stop a genocide of white people by killing Jews who help immigrants.  Jurors reached their guilty verdicts after less than two hours of deliberation.

New Methodist Museum Opens in Norfolk

A Methodist heritage centre showing the contribution of Methodists in East Anglia, has opened in a former chapel in the seaside village of Wighton, north of Walsingham. The East Anglia Methodist Heritage Centre has notable pieces including a harmonium and rocking chair which belonged to the hymn writer the Rev Fred Pratt Green, who died in a nursing home in Norwich. The harmonium was already in the chapel and can be played. Other items have been donated locally including ceremonial trowels used for laying the first stone, certificates from Methodist Sunday schools, collecting boxes for overseas missions, items linked to the work of the Methodist Church during the World War II and a library with archive of historical documents. The project has been organised by the Wesley Historical Society and the Centre is run by volunteers.


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