Religion news 20 November 2023

Image credit: Bihari Connect UK

CofE evangelicals announce alternative bishops against same sex blessings

The Church of England Evangelical Council (CEEC) is setting up an “episcopal panel”  of three bishops who will look after the spiritual needs of clergy who disagree with same sex blessings.  The leader will be the former Bishop of Blackburn, Julian Henderson, and the two others have yet to be named. CEEC said in a statement that it was not confident that the CofE discussions on structures for people who disagree would secure “orthodox life and witness” going forward, so it is setting up a structure itself. Today (Monday) it is also setting up its own alternative financial structure called “The Ephesian Fund” so that churches who disagree can pay into that fund to support like minded churches. In an interview for Sunday on BBC Radio 4, the CEEC national director, Canon John Dunnett said they were talking about large numbers of clergy who had lost confidence in the spiritual leadership of their bishops. He said the CEEC was providing temporary support, but it wasn’t a split or schism: “That is the narrative of the mischievous”. The detailed plans were made public on Friday – 48 hours after the synod voted for trial services for same sex blessings.

Jayne Ozanne resigns from synod

Leading evangelical LGBT campaigner, Jayne Ozanne, has resigned from the general synod saying there is callous disregard of the harm Church of England teaching causes LGBT+ people. She said the bishops’ unity at any cost agenda was “highly abusive”. Her decision announced on Friday followed a bruising debate at the general synod and a tense meeting with the Archbishop of Canterbury on same sex blessings.

TikTok told to “flip a switch” to counter antisemitism

Jewish celebrities including Sacha Baron Cohen have held a meeting with TikTok executives and employees, saying the platform is the biggest antisemitic movement since the Nazis. The New York Times reports that it has seen a film of the meeting when the celebrities pointed to comments such as “Hitler was right” or “I hope you end up like Anne Frank”, left under videos posted by Jewish users. They said TikTok could “flip a switch” to better counter antisemitism.

Companies pull advertising on Twitter/X after antisemitism concerns

Several companies have pulled advertising on Twitter / X after Elon Musk agreed with a tweet which has been regarded as antisemitic. Among the companies pausing advertising are Apple, Axios, IBM, the European Commission Lions Gate Entertainment, Disney, Paramount, Sony Pictures, Warner Brothers, Sky and NBC Universal owner Comcast. Musk has denied he is antisemitic and is taking legal action against this “fraudulent attack”.

Faith groups work together on Mitzvah Day

Hundreds of people took part in Mitzvah day yesterday, volunteering with food bank collections, soup kitchen cooking, cards for care homes and a variety of projects involving community action. Sir Keir Starmer supported the event at the JW3 Centre in north London, and other initiatives took place around England including in Manchester and York. The event brought together Jews, Muslims, Christians and Hindus who worked together providing practical help for their communities. It marked the end of interfaith week 2023.

Rise of Catholic freemasons in the Philippines

Reuters reports that the Vatican has confirmed a ban on Catholics becoming freemasons, “because of the irreconcilability between Catholic doctrine and freemasonry”. The Vatican’s doctrinal office responded to a letter from a bishop on the Philippines who said there was a rise in the number of Catholics becoming freemasons. Cardinal Fernández, who heads the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, repeated teaching that  active membership in freemasonry is forbidden on theological grounds, judging that Masonic doctrines foster pantheism, rationalism and a naturalist view of the world. Catholic Herald story here

Hindus celebrate the sun god in a vibrant festival in Northampton

More than 1,000 Hindu devotees celebrated the festival of Chhath Puja in a village near Northampton at the weekend. The festival honours the sun god, Surya Dev, and includes prayers at the rising sun, offerings to god, special food, a period of fasting and bathing. In the UK, this festival event was organised by Bihari Connect UK, which aims to unite people who trace their roots back to the state of Bihar, in north east India.


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