Religion news 20 December 2022

Tribute to Sir Christopher Wren. Charles Robert Cockerell 1788-1863. Image credit: public domain

Church of England official jailed for defrauding city churches of £5.2million

A church official in London who defrauded the Church of England out of £5.2 million been jailed for five years. Southwark Crown Court was told that Martin Sargeant was given a second chance after stealing from previous employers in the 1990s, for which he was jailed for 21 months. In 2008 he was given a £86,000-a-year job with the Archdeaconry of London as clerk of the City Church Grants Committee charitable trust, responsible for 33 city churches. But he embarked on systematic fraud over 11 years from 2009 to 2019, spending money on a lavish lifestyle to the detriment of many city churches which fell into disrepair, leading some to close. His lawyer said Sargeant was genuinely sorry and was battling a gambling addiction. Diocese of London statement here

Jesuit refugee service will continue fight against Rwanda plan

The Jesuit Refugee Service has pledged to continue to fight the government’s plan to forcibly remove asylum seekers to Rwanda, despite the High Court judgment that the policy is legal. Sarah Teather, JRS UK director, said: “The fact that it has been deemed to be legal does not change the fact that it is immoral. It will create fear and trauma for people who deserve our care”. In a statement she said JRS UK has supported 28 men, including torture survivors, facing removal to Rwanda and it will continue to offer support, as the scheme carries a high risk of human rights abuses, ignores the UK’s responsibilities to refugees, and is both costly and ineffective.

Four main world faith traditions own $5 trillion in net assets

Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford has produced a report showing the world’s four main religious groups share $5trillion worth of net assets  and have the ability to make investments aligned to their faith and towards UN sustainable development goals, challenging climate change. One of the authors, Oxford Saïd Professor Alex Nicholls, said the research would help mobilise faith-based capital in philanthropy, impact investing, and environmental, social, and governance funds. Advisory Board member Omar Shaikh, Director and Board member of the UK Islamic Finance Council, said faith-based finance is a potential key contributor to tackle climate change as many faith communities have similar views on stewardship and interconnection with the earth. The research mapped 350 organisations in the Abrahamic and Dharmic traditions and found the following investment levels:
· Christian aligned capital – $260 billion
· Islamic sovereign capital – $3 trillion
· Islamic private finance capital – $1 trillion
· Dharmic capital – $300 billion
· Jewish capital – $16 billion

Report says schools should teach about contemporary anti Jewish hatred

The government’s antisemitism adviser, Lord Mann, has published a report saying schools in the UK should teach about antisemitism to tackle hatred in person and online. The report “Anti Jewish Hatred” explains that the Holocaust is a compulsory part of the curriculum in secondary schools but learning about modern antisemitism is not and schools should teach about contemporary anti-Jewish hatred. It says all schools must have policies to recognise and combat antisemitism and this should be part of teacher training.

Frank Houston, father of Hillsong founder, was a “serial paedophile”

The Australian Associated Press reports that the founder of Hillsong church, Brian Houston, has told a court he believes his father, Frank, was a serial paedophile, is likely to have sexually abused multiple children, and the extent of his crimes may never be known. Brian Houston is charged with covering up his father’s abuse after learning of the crime when his father confessed to him in 1999.

Top Vatican Cardinal sues sex assault accuser for libel

Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet, who holds senior roles at the Vatican, has announced he is taking legal action for defamation after being accused in August of sexual assault. He has firmly denied the “slanderous and defamatory accusations” made against him. The Cardinal is Prefect of the Dicastery for Bishops, overseeing bishop appointments, and President of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America. In a statement, he said Pope Francis has determined that there was not sufficient evidence to initiate a canonical investigation for sexual assault.

US anti abortion priest de-frocked

The Vatican has defrocked the anti-abortion American priest, Frank Pavone, for blasphemous communications on social media and persistent disobedience of his bishop.  The Associated Press reports that Pavone had been investigated by his then diocese of Amarillo, Texas, for having placed an aborted foetus on an altar and posting a video of it on two social media sites in 2016. He was and remains a firm supporter of Trump, whose supreme court nominees overturned the landmark Roe vs Wade decision guaranteeing a constitutional right to abortion in the US.

Brooklyn “bishop” charged with fraud after online service robbery

Lamor Miller-Whitehead, a self-styled bishop in Brooklyn, who was robbed of $1 million in jewellery during an online service, has been charged with fraud.  The Guardian reports that he was arrested yesterday on allegations that he solicited money from people using threats or false promises, including receiving $90,000 from a retired parishioner. Prosecutors allege he spent the money on luxury goods – the missing jewellery included a $390,000 Cuban link chain and a $75,000 Rolex. Miller-Whitehead, 44, of Leaders of Tomorrow International Ministries, denies the allegations and has promised to fight them vigorously.

Parthenon fragments returned from the Vatican to Greece

Three 2,500-year-old pieces of the Parthenon held in the Vatican museums for 200 years are to be returned to Greece. The fragments of a head of a horse, a head of a boy and a bearded male head, will be given to Archbishop Ieronymos II, the head of the Greek Orthodox Church and Greece’s spiritual leader. The Parthenon, dedicated to the goddess Athena, dates from the fifth century BC .

Christians should not give up on Britain despite falling numbers

Writing in The Telegraph, journalist Tim Stanley appeals to Christians not to give up on Britain, in spite of the 2021 England and Wales  census showed just 46 per cent of England and Wales say they are Christian. “The older I get, the more I’m convinced Christians need to shake off society’s perceptions about their faith – that it is soft, gentle, like mild, green Fairy Liquid. It is challenging; if it isn’t upsetting someone, it isn’t being preached properly. It is not, however, political. Conservatives too often present it as a cultural reaction, the Left as socialism, yet Jesus made it clear that his kingdom was not of this world but of the next – and it’s up to us, individually, to make things around us better”. The Telegraph article here.


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