Religion news 22 June 2023

Image credit: Philip Halling CCLicense2.0

Church of England sacks independent safeguarding board

The Church of England has sacked members of the Independent Safeguarding Board which looks into allegations of abuse in the church. It said it was “ending the contracts” of board members Jasvinder Sanghera and Steve Reeves, and the acting Chair, former Labour MP Meg Munn, though she will stay on in an interim basis until a new safeguarding structure is created. In a statement, the CofE referred to reports of a dispute between the Archbishops’ Council and two members of the board, who told The Telegraph that the church treated them with hostility and interfered in their work, and that they objected to the appointment of Ms Munn as acting chair. The CofE statement said working relationships between the board members  and the Council had broken down and it described their removal as “a reset”.  Both board members have taken to Twitter to protest .  Ms Sanghera said “This is absolutely appalling. We have spoken with truth & conviction, got on with what we were contracted to do. Now this?”. Mr Reeves said: “There’s no doubt that this is a deeply disappointing decision for those who want genuinely independent scrutiny of safeguarding in @churchofengland. Survivors, churchgoers, and the general public deserve better”. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, said: “We bitterly regret that we have reached this point” but there was no prospect of resolving the disagreement. Independent case review work would continue: “We recognise that this dispute has damaged confidence. But we believe this is the only way to get independent oversight of safeguarding back on track and move forward as quickly as we can”. The decision has provoked a vigorous storm of protest on twitter from people representing survivors of abuse.

Sandford St Martin awards

The Sandford St Martin awards for excellence in programmes on religion, ethics and spirituality, were presented at a ceremony in Manchester last night.  Executive Director Anna McNamee said this year’s entries were the highest standard ever received. TV dramatist Jimmy McGovern won the Trustees’ award “in recognition of his commitment to creating challenging, thought-provoking drama that never shies away from exploring what people believe”. The Rev Richard Coles’ Channel 4 film “Good Grief with Reverend Richard Coles” won the Radio Times Readers’ award. “Faith, Sex and Me” produced by Loftus Radio won the 2023 radio/audio award. “Children of Ukraine” by Renegade Pictures for ITV won the TV / Video award. And the Young Audience Award went to “Autism, Hinduism & Me” by CTVC for TrueTube, a website school resources. The Journalism Award Winner was “Beyond Belief: Putin’s Religious War” by BBC Religion & Ethics for BBCRadio4

Indian PM Narendra Modi leads mass yoga practice on United Nations lawn

The Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, aged 72, performed yoga poses on the United Nations north lawn, praising it as a way of life. The Associated Press has film showing him surrounded by a crowd of around one thousand people, taking part in breathing exercises, meditation, backbends and other classic poses. The event took place on the International Day of Yoga, designated by the UN, and during Modi’s state trip to the States, which will take in New York and Washington.  He told the crowd on the UN lawn that yoga was not just an exercise on a mat: “It is a very old tradition, but like all ancient Indian traditions, it is also living and dynamic”. The event set a Guinness World Record for the most nationalities — 135 — at a yoga lesson.

Scotland’s first minister renews campaign to releases Sikh blogger imprisoned in India

Glasgow Live reports that Scotland’s First Minister Humza Yusafhas written to the Prime Minister urging him to ask the Indian government to release Jagtar Singh Johal, a Sikh blogger from Dumbarton, who has been in jail there for more than five years. He was arrested in 2017 while in Punjab for his wedding, and faces the death penalty over his campaigning for Sikh human rights. The letter says Mr Johal is wrongly detained and points out that the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention concluded that his detention breached international human rights law. \the report quotes the Foreign Office saying it has raised concerns, including allegations of torture, with the Indian government on more than 100 occasions and will continue to do so.

Bible back on school library shelves in Utah

The Guardian reports that education leaders in Utah have reversed an earlier decision and will now allow the Bible to be placed in school libraries. They had earlier banned it because  it contained  episodes of “vulgarity or violence”, but now agree it has “significant serious value for minors” which outweighs the rest. The district is still considering a separate complaint seeking the removal of the Book of Mormon, the foundational text of the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Top Ten funeral hymn and song choices

Co-op funeral care has released the top ten funeral songs including classical and jazz ballads and traditional hymns. All Things Bright and Beautiful was the top choice hymn and “Time to Say Goodbye”, an English version of Andrea Bocelli’s song “Con te partirò”, sung by Sarah Brightman and Andrea Bocelli, was the top choice ballad.  The charts also show an increase n requests for “The Lord’s My Shepherd” and “The Day Thou Gavest, Lord is Ended”, which both featured in the Queen’s funeral.


Sign up for our news bulletin