Religion news 1 February

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Muslim Council of Britain elects first female secretary-general

Zara Mohammed, a 29-year-old training and development consultant from Glasgow, has become the first woman to be elected secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain. A masters graduate in human rights law, she was formerly an assistant secretary-general for the council and succeeds Harun Khan, who has completed the maximum four years in the role. She says her vision is to build a truly inclusive, diverse and representative body driven by the needs of British Muslims for the common good.

Pope institutes world day for grandparents and the elderly

Pope Francis is instituting a world day for grandparents and the elderly, to be held on the fourth Sunday of July, close to the festival of Saints Joachim and Anne, the grandparents of Jesus. He said on Sunday that the voice of the elderly was precious: “Grandparents are often forgotten, and we forget this wealth of preserving roots and passing on what the elderly have received.”

Lord Carey: my treatment by CofE was brutal

The former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey says his treatment by the Church of England over allegations on safeguarding procedure had been brutal. He was banned from ministering while complaints were pursued that he had not acted properly on a report about the abuser John Smyth. He has always denied seeing it. He told The Daily Telegraph that he was far from alone in having fallen foul of a slow and secretive approach to disciplinary matters and the church’s unjust treatment of clergy had created a climate of fear.

Church report suggests ‘pruning’ clergy by up to 20 per cent

A document, Money People and Buildings, painting a stark picture of the post-pandemic Church of England, has been leaked to The Sunday Times. It suggests that the number of clergy could be “pruned” by up to 20 per cent, regular worshippers may not return after the pandemic and 5,000 parishes make a loss. It quotes a bishop promising that the parish system would remain, but may be organised in different ways. The CofE said: “The findings, based on research during the first lockdown last year, are incomplete in the context of a developing situation. The Church of England will continue to assess ongoing research and analysis to understand how the pandemic may shape the church in the future.”

The story caused a flurry of anxiety and comment on social media, with one noting that the Diocese of Chelmsford, which has already announced plans to cut the number of paid clergy by 60 in the next 18 months, has this week advertised for a new chief executive, salary range £85,000 to £90,000.

Clergy mental health worsens in pandemic

A survey of 200 church leaders has found that their mental health worsened since lockdowns began last year. Savanta ComRes, in partnership with the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (SPCK), found the number of people who said they had good mental health went down from 93 per cent to 85 per cent; and the number of people with poor mental health doubled from seven per cent to 15 per cent. They have faced real challenges, like everyone else, with complete change of activity and higher demand for spiritual and practical help.

No institutional antisemitism at Islamic Relief Worldwide

An independent commission into Islamic Relief Worldwide has found that there is no evidence of institutional anti Semitism in the organisation. The report, led by a former attorney,-general Dominic Grieve, was called for after two trustees and an executive resigned for posting antisemitic comments on social media. It said the organisation has a global income of  about £130 million a year and its senior staff were well respected by the Foreign and Commonwealth Development Office as a partner in delivering humanitarian aid. It had already begun to implement recommendations on governance and membership of the international board.

Jewish Republicans outraged at congresswoman’s ‘space laser’ comments

Marjorie Taylor Greene, the Republican congresswoman from Georgia who is a supporter of QAnon conspiracy theories, has caused further controversy by claiming that California wildfires were started by the Rothschild family using a space laser. The Republican Jewish Coalition has condemned the remarks, which were made two years ago and unearthed last week: “We are offended and appalled by her comments and her actions. We opposed her as a candidate and we continue to oppose her now. She is far outside the mainstream of the Republican Party, and the RJC is working closely with the House Republican leadership regarding next steps in this matter.”