Religion news 14 November 2023

Image credit: The Church of England

Day 39: War in the Middle East

The World Health Organisation says the Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza is “nearly a cemetery”, with bodies piling up inside and outside. BBC war headlines here

Archbishop: Israel’s siege of Gaza cannot be morally justified

The Archbishop of Canterbury has said that Israel’s “bombardment and siege of Gaza” cannot be morally justified and was a great wrong. He repeated calls for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire: “This bloodshed must cease, hostages must be released, and aid must reach those in Gaza in dire need.” He was speaking at the opening of the CofE’s General Synod, the church’s parliament, in London, and warned that the conflict was prising people apart in the UK. People should rebuke those “spreading vile anti-Semitic propaganda” as well as those engaged in “hateful Islamophobic attacks” and said Christians must build bridges between communities and pray: “Prayer can put the world back on its hinges.” His address ended with a two minute silent prayer for Israelis and Palestinians. Church Times report here.

Jerusalem archbishop asks international community to work for just and lasting peace

The Archbishop in Jerusalem, Hosam Naoum, addressed members of the General Synod by video link, urging the global community to work towards a peaceful resolution of the conflict, a ceasefire for humanitarian corridors, and for the protection of civilians. He called on the international community to work for a just and lasting peace for Israeli and Palestinian people. His diocese has 7000 Anglicans in 28 congregations across five countries, alongside hospitals, schools, clinics and rehabilitation centres.

Differences over same sex blessings “stretching the church to breaking point”

The Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell has said he is in favour of allowing “standalone” services where prayers of blessing can be said for gay couples, for an experimental period. The proposal is to be put forward at this week’s general synod, to break the deadlock between those who want same sex blessings, and a vocal conservative lobby against. The Archbishops said contradictory beliefs were stretching the church to breaking point. Clergy and parishes can opt in to be allowed to do this with pastoral guidance protecting those who disagree. The Bishop of London Sarah Mullaly indicated she too might vote in favour of this proposal. But the bishops are divided – the Bishop of Guildford Andrew Watson said prayers of blessing must be authorised by two thirds of the synod.  The contentious debate and votes start this afternoon.

Global Anglicans opposed to same sex relationships wait for CofE split

The Church Times reports that GAFCON, the global conference of Anglicans opposed to same sex relationships, is preparing to take in CofE churches that object to same sex blessings, if the measure goes through. The GAFCON primates held a meeting in Uxbridge last week extending the hand of friendship to all who oppose “revisionist doctrines”.

Resources to help children avoid antisemitism and Islamophobia

Solutions not Sides, a charity helping young people develop skills for dialogue and conflict resolution, says it is concerned at the impact of the war in Israel / Gaza on children in schools. It suggests the internet has become “catastrophic” for children with violent images, fake news, propaganda and misinformation, which require young people to develop critical thinking and know how to fact check. Resources for lessons and a guide on how to avoid antisemitism and Islamophobia when discussing Israel / Palestine, have been produced to help teachers navigate the subject. It says it is better for teachers to support students to discuss a difficult topic rather than shut it down. Yesterday the Board of Deputies, and Jewish Leadership Council put on the record that they support the charity’s work.

Christopher Lamb is CNN’s new Vatican correspondent

CNN has announced the appointment of Christopher Lamb as its new Vatican correspondent, based between Rome and London. He is currently the Rome correspondent for the Catholic weekly The Tablet, and freelances for other media outlets including the Religion Media Centre. He has been accredited at the Vatican for eight years and in 2020 published The Outsider on Pope Francis’ efforts to reform the church.


Sign up for our news bulletin