Religion news 16 November 2023

Moment after the historic decision on same sex services. Image credit: RMC

CofE trial services of blessing for same sex couples get the go ahead

The Church of England has agreed to introduce standalone services for blessing same sex couples, for a trial period, following a marathon 10 hour debate at the general synod. But the close vote showed the church is deeply divided on the issue, with the final voting was bishops 23-10, clergy 100-93, and laity 104-100. The debate revealed more work needs to be done on whether this is a change of doctrine, and the bishops acknowledged they needed to produce pastoral guidance for those who disagree. Prayers of Love and Faith may be available to use from mid December, but the stand alone services will take longer to agree. The proposal for a trial period of services was put forward by the Bishop of Oxford, Dr Steven Croft, who said it was a positive way forward that could come into effect quickly, with clergy able to opt in. Church Times report here

Church of England Evangelical Council warns synod decision will tear parishes apart

The Rev Canon John Dunnett, National Director of the Church of England Evangelical Council has said synod’s decision is a “watershed” moment” confirming that “the Church of England no longer sees Scripture as our supreme authority”. In a statement released one hour after the vote, he said  the proposals would have a devastating impact on churches in England and beyond. “It will tear local parish congregations apart, damage the relationship between large numbers of clergy and their bishops and cause churches across the dioceses to feel as though their shepherds have abandoned them. It may also serve a final blow to the unity of the Anglican Communion”.  The statement is here

Factsheet: Sexuality timeline in the Church of England here

Shadow faith minister and three prominent Muslim Labour MPs defy the party line on a ceasefire in Gaza

Eight Labour front bench MPs resigned or were sacked after defying the party whip and voting for a ceasefire in Gaza. They included shadow domestic violence minister Jess Phillips, shadow faith minister Sarah Owen, and prominent Muslim MPs Afzal Khan, Yasmin Qureshi and Naz Shah. Many MPs have come under pressure from constituents demanding Labour back a ceasefire. In total, 56 of Labour’s 198 MPs – 28 per cent – defied the whip. Locally, 11 Labour councillors have resigned in Burnley and 10 in Oxford over the same issue. Sir Keir Starmer has argued for humanitarian pauses to allow aid to get through, and for the adherence to international law.

Jesuit Refugee Service welcomes Supreme Court ruling on Rwanda

The Jesuit Refugee Service and the Catholic aid charity Cafod, have welcomed the Supreme Court decision against government plans to send asylum seekers to Rwanda. Sarah Teather, director of JRS UK, is quoted in The Tablet saying: “JRS UK has consistently opposed this cruel and unworkable policy. We now call for the government to abandon it”. She said the policy caused profound trauma to refugees, violating their basic rights and trashing the UK’s global reputation. She urged people to work towards a more compassionate system.

Vigil in Whitehall by people from all faiths and none, for the victims of war in Israel and Gaza

A vigil without placards or flags has been organised on Whitehall to remember the lives of all those who have died in Israel and Gaza in the war. The “Humanity not Hatred” vigil included MPs alongside Muslim, Christian and Jewish faith leaders, who lit lanterns in memory of all the lives lost.  The organisers say they are deeply concerned by the unprecedented rise in antisemitism, islamophobia and hate in the UK. They believe in peace in Israel-Palestine and stand against all forms of hatred against any group.

India’s foreign minister ends visit to Britain praising diaspora

The Indian Foreign Minister Dr S Jaishankar, has ended a five-day visit to the UK which included meetings with the Foreign Secretary, David Cameron, to discuss global issues including the situation in Israel and Gaza and the war in Ukraine. The Guardian says that they also discussed India’s reported request for details of Sikh suspects involved in a demonstration outside the Indian High Commission. The Sikh Federation says British Sikhs have been writing to their MPs concerned at the Indian National Investigation Agency’s activities in the UK amid heightened fears after the killing of a Sikh activist in Canada, in which India was accused of being complicit, which it denies. While here, Dr S Jaishankar also celebrated Diwali at the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Neasden, the largest Hindu temple in Europe. He told Hindus there that a large part of the reputation of India lay with the diaspora and said the Indian community abroad “is our real strength”.


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