Religion News 21 May

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Pic: Ernie Branson, NIH

The Templeton prize for faith inspiring science has been won this year by the American scientist  Francis Collins, who led the human genome project and is now working on a coronavirus vaccine. He is the director of the National Institutes of Health in the United States and a Christian of 43 years standing. The prize is worth $1.4 million and is awarded annually to a person who ‘harnesses the power of the sciences to explore the deepest questions of the universe and human existence’.

Norma McCorvey, the American woman who was known as ‘Jane Roe’ in the infamous 1973 Roe vs Wade case which legalised abortion, was paid by right wing evangelical anti abortionists to come out against abortion in her later years. The stunning claim is made in a documentary to be broadcast this Friday on the FX television channel in America. In the programme, ‘AKA Jane Roe’, she says she received at least $450,000 from the anti-abortion movement and names two ministers involved. She joined the movement in 1995, converting to Christianity by baptism and becoming a Roman Catholic. In an interview recorded shortly before she died in 2017, she said: “I took their money and they’d put me out in front of the cameras and tell me what to say. That’s what I’d say. It was all an act. I did it well too. I am a good actress.” In the programme, she restated her changed position, supporting reproductive rights.

The Government’s taskforce on re-opening places of worship met for the second time on Wednesday. Those present included the Bishop of London Sarah Mullally, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, and the Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis. They were discussing a roadmap which would allow places of worship to open gradually and safely, for example, allowing individual prayer, small weddings and post burial or cremation rituals. No conclusions have been made public.

The former adviser to the Archbishop of Canterbury has criticised church leaders for closing churches during the Covid19 pandemic. Rev George Pitcher, Secretary for Public Affairs to the Archbishop in 2010, said bishops seemed “gripped by a contest to ban their flocks from collective worship”, telling vicars they couldn’t set foot in their own churches even on Easter Sunday. “Government ministers can take some comfort that however badly they mismanage a crisis, leaders of the Church of England can be relied upon to handle it even worse.” He says church members have missed each other and when churches re-open,  they should emerge emboldened as communal assets. In a Daily Express article he says:  “In recent years, some rural communities have reopened their lost post offices in churches for one or two days a week. The same goes for village shops that have closed. All the better if keep-fit classes and craft sessions can run alongside volunteers who are handling cash, to keep them safe. Churches can and should be drop-in centres, night shelters, venues for plays and concerts. Hubs of their communities. This is not Trendy Church – it’s more like the medieval model of church as communal asset. When we go back to church, it’s not about winning an argument, whether the church is a building or its people. To provide hope for recovering communities it really is going to have to be both. We have a chance again to be a people that lives out its faith both in the world and in its church.”

A pastor in Northern Ireland is preparing to lead a drive-in church service this weekend from the back of a potato lorry in the church car park.  Pastor Billy Jones, whose church is near the Giant Causeway, has past experience of this, having run services before in the car park which has capacity for 100 vehicles. He told Belfast Live that other ministers have been calling him for advice. The church musician will accompany hymns on a keyboard at a social distance.


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