Religion news 30 August 2023

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CofE clergy urging change in doctrine on sex

A survey of Church of England clergy by The Times has found that a majority want the church to significantly change its doctrine on sex, and that there is a substantial view that efforts to stem the decline in attendance will fail, leading to its extinction. The findings are based on 1,185 respondents chosen at random for the first such survey since Prof Linda Woodhead’s in 2014, a period of rapid change with church attendance declining by 15 per cent. Some findings:

  • 62.6 per cent thought the church should drop its opposition to premarital sex
  • 64.5 per cent backed an end to the teaching that homosexual practice is incompatible with scripture
  • Nine years ago 51 per cent declared same-sex marriage to be wrong, but in this survey 53 per cent would allow clergy to perform same sex weddings according to their conscience
  • 80 per cent would back the appointment of a woman as Archbishop of Canterbury, while two thirds want an end to the system that allows parishes to reject female leaders
  • Three quarters said Britain could no longer be regarded as a Christian country.
  • There was a high degree of stress with almost one third saying they had considered quitting in the past five years due to pressures and workload
  • Two thirds of clergy thought that efforts to stop the decline in attendance would fail

Professor Woodhead said the shift in belief about same sex marriage was a fascinating change in attitudes. She told The Times: “This survey shows the clergy take a more moderate position than their leaders. [Frontline priests] are more in touch with their congregations and ordinary people. If they had been listened to more by leaders . . . the church might be in a better place today.” Survey findings and summary in The Times here

School in India is shut down after viral film of teacher telling pupils to slap a Muslim boy

A private school in central India’s Uttar Pradesh state, has been shut down after a video of a teacher asking students to slap their 7-year-old Muslim classmate went viral and sparked outrage. The video showed three boys hitting him, as he stood crying, while the teacher said: “Why are you hitting him so lightly? Hit him harder”. CBS reports the police saying the teacher told students to hit the boy for not remembering his times tables, but also mentioned the boy’s religion. There is growing tension between Hindus and Muslims in India. The boy’s parents have moved him to another school, the police have registered a case against the teacher and now Uttar Pradesh government officials have shut down the school, with all students set to be transferred elsewhere.

Denmark proposes law to stop burning of the Quran

The Danish government is to propose a law to make illegal the desecration of any book of religious significance to its community, following several episodes when the Quran has been burned. Justice Minister Peter Hummelgaard said actions in a public place would be punishable by fines or up to two years in prison.

Vatican clarifies Pope’s comments on “the great imperial Russia”

The Pope has come under criticism for off the cuff remarks to Catholic young people in Russia about their heritage: “Never forget this inheritance. You are the heirs of the great Mother Russia. Go forward. And thank you. Thank you for your way of being, for your way of being Russian”. His comment provoked fury from Ukraine’s Greek Catholic leader, His Beatitude Sviatoslav Shevchuk, who said the words could be taken as encouragement of nationalism and imperialism. The Vatican was forced to issue a statement saying the Pope never intended to encourage modern-day Russian aggression in Ukraine, but merely to praise the positive aspects of Russia’s spiritual and cultural history. In his prepared text he encouraged the young people to be “artisans of peace” and to sow reconciliation in this “winter of war”.

UK offshore energy chaplain pledges to encourage respectful dialogue

The new chaplain to the UK offshore energies industry, has pledged to encourage respectful dialogue  between people with differing views on fossil fuels. The Rev Michael Mair, a Church of Scotland minister, said “The role that UK oil and gas will play in the future energy provision of Scotland and the wider UK is an emotive issue, with a range of well-held beliefs” in and outside the church, but he hoped to enable conversations to provide a useful and helpful interchange.  The Church of Scotland has no share-holdings in oil and gas companies and is committed to supporting a vision of a low carbon future and tackling the climate crisis. He said he will remind the church to be pastorally sensitive to people working in the industry. He is currently the minister at St David’s Broomhouse Parish Church in Edinburgh.

Liverpool’s Jewish community mourns loss of couple who died in flood

The couple who died when their car was trapped in a flood in Liverpool, have been named as Philip and Elaine Marco, long-standing members of the city’s Jewish community. The Jewish Chronicle reports that Rabbi Avremi Kievman has paid tribute to them, explaining that Philip ran the kosher catering firm, Marcos Catering, serving the community at weddings and bar mitzvahs. He said: “It is a terrible loss that will leave a mark on the whole community.” Their family including four children and ten grandchildren are arriving from America and Australia to mourn their loss.

New York City allows call to prayer broadcasts without permits

Mosques in New York city will be allowed to broadcast the call to prayer on Fridays and at sundown during Ramadan, without a special permit. New guidelines announced by the mayor Eric Adams, said this would promote inclusivity.  The police department’s community affairs bureau will ensure that the sound does not exceed 10 decibels.

Spanish football president’s mother on hunger strike in church supporting her son

The mother of the Spanish football president Luis Rubiales is on hunger strike locked inside the parish church of their home town, in protest against her son’s treatment after he kissed the Spanish footballer, Jenni Hermoso, on the lips at the World Cup final. The Independent reports that Angeles Bejar messaged a Spanish TV station saying she was willing to die for justice because her son is a decent person and his treatment is unfair. He has been suspended and there are calls for him to resign. The protest has turned into a family affair, with Rubiales’ aunty joining his mother inside the church in Motril, southern Spain, and his cousin Vanessa Ruiz, telling journalists outside that the mother was a woman of great faith who sought refuge in God. The family want the footballer to “tell the truth”, that the kiss was not forced.


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