Religion news 15 November 2023

Image credit: RMC

Day 40: War in the Middle East

A doctor at Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza says 200 patients have been buried in a mass grave. The US says it has intelligence backing up Israel’s claim that Hamas has a command centre underneath the hospital. BBC war headlines here

CofE synod battles attempts to delay prayers for same sex blessings

The General Synod of the Church of England is in the middle of a ten hour emotionally charged debate to progress prayers for same sex blessings. A number of amendments have been placed which have been described as delaying tactics, or even wrecking amendments, attempting to stall progress on a decision taken in February to press ahead with prayers of blessing.  In the opening hours of the debate yesterday, one amendment asked for the process to stop while synod considered the full legal advice given to the bishops. This failed by a narrow margin, with the total vote standing at 191 in favour and 219 against, with 8 abstentions. Synod resumes this morning and will vote on more amendments including a proposal to allow some standalone services for same sex couples on a trial basis.  

Bishops accused of walking the CofE towards a cliff edge

The emotionally charged debate yesterday lasted three and a half hours. Those who spoke in favour of progressing the prayers said it was right, just and fair, the church should “catch up with the Holy Spirit”, the synod should stop playing games with delaying tactics and should go forward rather than stagnate. Those against said marriage between a man and woman was church doctrine and synod had no right to change it, bishops were accused of rushing forward regardless, compromising with the world, tearing the fabric of the church, walking the church to a cliff edge and flirting with sexual immorality. The debate continues today, scheduled to run all day.

Compensation scheme plans approved by synod

The General Synod has approved plans for a compensation scheme for survivors of church abuse, which will provide financial payments, therapy, spiritual help, emotional support and an apology. The Church Commissioners have granted £150 million once the scheme is ready to roll out, but there will also be contributions from insurance companies and parishes, though this will be capped.

Biden “about to agree deal” lifting sanctions on Beijing police unit surveilling Uyghurs

Bloomberg is reporting that President Joe Biden is set to lift sanctions on a police unit that monitors Chinese Uyghurs in a deal with Beijing to crack down on fentanyl exporters. The drug is sent to suppliers in Mexico and then trafficked into the US, a problem which Biden says is one of his top priorities. Bloomberg says Beijing is asking the US government to end its sanctions on China’s forensic police institute, which has been accused of running mass surveillance on the mainly Muslim Uyghur people.  It’s understood that Biden and China’s president Xi Jinping will hold a bilateral meeting at the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation summit in San Francisco today.

Head of Catholic church in China makes historic visit to Hong Kong

Joseph Li, the head of the Catholic church in China, has begun a five day trip to Hong Kong at the invitation of the newly installed Cardinal Stephen Chow. It is the first official visit by a Beijing bishop in history. Li was installed in 2007, and since then the Vatican and the Chinese government have signed an agreement about future bishop appointments being mutually decided, but Beijing violated this earlier this year with their unilateral appointment of Bishop Shen Bin in Shanghai. This official visit to Hong Kong is seen as a gesture to strengthen Vatican ties with Beijing. Associated Press report here

UK’s first regional faith alliance launches strategy to prevent violence

The West Midlands Faith Alliance, which is a network of 430 members, has launched a three-year strategy to understand and prevent violence. It is the first regional network of its kind in the United Kingdom. At the launch event at the Nishkam Centre in Birmingham last night, the Alliance said its plan was to “make tangible and positive differences to the lives of young people and communities in the West Midlands and to contribute towards an overall reduction in violence across the region”. The launch date was chosen to fall within Interfaith week.

Two humanist university chaplains discuss chasm between faith and atheism

The lead chaplain at the University of Sussex, James Croft, who is a humanist, is in conversation with another American humanist chaplain, Chris Stedman, this evening to discuss a way for atheists and people of different faiths to find common ground and work together to “make the world a better place”. Their discussion at the University of Sussex, falls within Interfaith week.  The title is “Faitheist – building bridges between believers and non-believers”, based on Stedman’s book on a middle path between “the firm, opposing certainties of religious fundamentalism and intolerant atheism.”

National Trust Inclusion calendar causes uproar for omitting Christian festivals

An ”inclusion calendar” produced by the National Trust was at the centre of a storm of protest because it listed Diwali and Eid, festivals of minority British religions, but failed to include Christmas and Easter. A question at the annual meeting suggested this was deliberate omission and part of the National Trust’s woke agenda. But a spokesperson explained that the diary of events for all its properties already revolves around Christmas and Easter and the calendar was always meant to supplement existing diaries.


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