Religion News 27 July

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#NoSafeSpaceForJewHate 48 hour boycott of Twitter and Facebook

The Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis has written to the CEOs of Twitter and Facebook saying people around the world will suspend their social media accounts for two days in protest at antisemitic comments on both platforms that were not removed instantly. In letters to Jack Dorsey at Twitter, and Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook, he says when free speech is used to incite hatred and violence, social media companies have a responsibility to act without delay. But he said there had been a “woeful lack of responsible leadership” from both companies following tweets by the rapper Wiley. Twitter has now taken them down. #NoSafeSpaceForJewHate

Sheffield Cathedral will reflect urban community through Tudor music

A petition calling on the Dean and Chapter of Sheffield Cathedral to reconsider their decision to sack the choir, has reached 2500 signatures. The Guardian reports that the Dean of Sheffield has ordered an external investigation into allegations of bullying and harassment of music staff and volunteers; and that further complaints have been made to the Bishop of Sheffield. Three music directors have left in the space of five years.  A statement on the Cathedral website says the changes are being made to “create a music department and choir ready for the exciting future of the mixed urban community in which we live and work.” In an interview on Times Radio, when asked what music in the future would sound like, the Dean of Sheffield, Peter Bradley, said: “..We’ve sung very little of the sort of beautiful Anglican Tudor repertory. It’s very demanding. It’s very beautiful. And we sing some of it, but I want to bring all of it back into use. Repertory, say, by Purcell which is very beautiful.. and I think there are contemporary composers like say Panufnik, an English woman composer, really beautiful, we could be singing.”

Coronavirus deals shattering blow to church finances

The Dean of Westminster Abbey, David Hoyle, is appealing for special financial assistance because the coronavirus has dealt it a “shattering financial blow”. The annual cost of running the Abbey is £27million, but Dr Hoyle told BBC News that income will drop by £12 million this year and probably next.  Most income comes from visitors – 1,000 people an hour in the summer months.

The Association of English cathedrals says the pandemic has had a similarly extreme effect on finances of all Cathedrals, which rely on visitors. Our earlier report described the extent of the challenge. There are some novel fund raising responses such as a sponsored walk in Wells and  a “donate an angel” initiative for an art exhibition in Ripon.  

The wider impact of the virus on all churches is reported here. Some clergy have already been furloughed and there is a prediction that churches will close and dioceses will merge.

The Herald Scotland  says all Christian denominations are making urgent cash appeals following the coronavirus pandemic. It says Church of Scotland congregations were warned in May that they could lose around one-third of their income in 2020, totalling about £30 million, due to the shutdown. The church is encouraging people to give using standing orders and has furloughed half of its staff. The Roman Catholic Church in Scotland will also face financial losses and is encouraging gift aid schemes.

Faith leaders join mums’ climate change campaign

Bishops, faith leaders and celebrities have signed a letter to the Prime Minister appealing for the economic recovery to pay urgent attention to climate change. Organised by ‘Mothers Rise Up’, a campaign group of mums, the letter says they understand the need for the economy to rebuild, but “We also know that we can’t build our way out of one disaster by supercharging the next. If climate emissions are allowed to rebound to pre-pandemic levels the consequences for our children’s lives and livelihoods will be catastrophic – and it is children from the poorest and most disadvantaged communities here in the UK, and across the globe, who will be hardest hit. Put simply, we cannot afford to slide back into fossil fuelled business as usual.” The signatures included the former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the Bishops of Oxford, Reading and Dorking, alongside Carol Ann Duffy, Michael Morpurgo and Lorraine Kelly, to name but three.  

Barclays closes account of Christian gay counselling service

The Core Issues Trust, which offers counselling to people with unwanted same-sex attraction, has had its bank accounts closed. Barclays bank has given no explanation but the founder if the charity, Mike Davidson, says he believes it followed a social, media campaign. Facebook has taken down the charity’s films and mailchimp has withdrawn its services. The charity is accused of backing conversion therapy where people are forced to give up homosexuality. Mike Davidson says counselling is not forced on people who approach the charity and the bank’s action is “unfair” and will close access to support for people who need counselling. The conservative Christian group Christian Concern is backing Mr Davidson.


Bishop Michael Curry says soul of America is at stake

The presiding bishop of the American Episcopal Church, Michael Curry, says the soul of America is at stake. While dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, he said the country was also dealing with the pandemic of deep and entrenched racism and “othering” of people. He said President Trump had not helped. He has not provided moral leadership on issues of race, compassion, justice, decency and equality. In an interview on the BBC Radio 4 Sunday programme, he said: “We’ve got to make a decision. Are we going to be truly a democrat republic with equal rights for all, where truth and justice applies to all, or are we going to be an oligarchy, where there is only equality and rights for a few.”

Nantes Cathedral fire – man charged

A 39 year old volunteer at Nantes Cathedral has been charged with arson after fire which destroyed the organ, shattered stained glass windows and damaged other areas in the 15th century building.   His lawyer said he has admitted responsibility for a crime which could result in a prison term of 10 years.

Russian monk denying coronavirus fined for inciting hatred

A Russian Orthodox monk who denied the existence of coronavirus and locked himself away in a convent, has been fined 18,000 rubles – £200 – for inciting hatred. Father Sergiy was banned from ministry in April, but he has continued preaching and last month took charge of a convent he had founded outside Yekaterinburg, east of the Ural mountains. Associated Press reports that he has denounced President Putin as a “traitor to the Motherland” serving a Satanic “world government” and dismissed Russian Orthodox Church leaders as “heretics”. He has described the vaccines being developed against Covid-19 as part of a global plot to control the masses via chips.


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