Religion news 1 July 2024

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Archbishops appeal to people to vote on Thursday

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have issued statements urging people to vote in the general election on Thursday 4 July.  Posting on Twitter / X, Justin Welby said “In these last few days before the election, let us pray for all candidates taking part in this most essential act of democracy. Let us encourage courteous and kind debate and not use personalised abuse. Let us carefully consider issues and the common good, and above all vote”.  And writing in The Yorkshire Post, Stephen Cottrell said: “Decisions are made by those who show up. Democracy requires participation. So, set your alarm, put a reminder on your phone, tie a knot in your handkerchief and remind your friends and family. But, most of all, turn up. Have your say. And cast your vote on Thursday”.

The Religion Media Centre is holding its last election briefing on Tuesday 2 July 1200, on how the incoming government should liaise with faith representatives and organisations after the election. Guests include Sir Stephen Timms, chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Faith and Society and representatives from major political parties. Details from [email protected]

Sunak: UK is world’s most successful multi faith democracy

The Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, told the congregation at a Hindu temple, that the UK is the “world’s most successful multi-ethnic, multi-faith democracy”. He took part in prayers at the Neasden temple in north London before addressing hundreds of Hindus in the hall, on Saturday, the last weekend of campaigning for the general election on 4 July. A priest said it had been a “matter of great pride for the British Hindu community to have seen a practising Hindu and his family become residents of No 10”.

Alternative CofE “overseers” to be sworn in on 12 July

The Church of England Evangelical Council is organising a service when “overseers” will be commissioned to give spiritual oversight to people in the church who object to same sex marriage, taking the place of the bishop in this regard. The service is at All Souls, Langham Place, on Friday 12 July, days after the General Synod debates the process to try to keep the church united despite deep disagreement on same sex relationships. The CEEC explains the project on its website, saying that people feel isolated by having bishops overseeing them who agree with same sex marriage. So the alternative overseers will hold a “biblical and Anglican view of marriage”. A panel led by the former Bishop of Blackburn, Julian Henderson, will appoint the overseers “as a stepping-stone to the formal and permanent provision which we hope and pray will be agreed as part of a new structural arrangement and settlement”.

The CEEC was one of the signatories on a letter to the Archbishops of Canterbury and York threatening to set up a parallel “province”, where bishops against same sex marriage would give pastoral oversight to clergy and congregations opposed to the proposal. The letter was signed by the leaders of Holy Trinity Brompton, a large, wealthy, evangelical charismatic church in London which runs the Alpha course and supports a network of around 100 churches in England. Thinking Anglicans has links to copies of all the letters issued and various comment pieces including  a blog by Prof Helen King, explaining the proposal before the synod this week.

Ultra Orthodox protest in Israel turns violent

A protest against an Israeli Supreme Court decision that ultra-orthodox men must enlist for military service, turned violent this weekend. AP reports that tens of thousands of men attended a rally and then moved to central Jerusalem where rocks were thrown, and a car was vandalised. Police used water cannons to disperse the protesters.  A long standing arrangement allowed ultra-orthodox to attend religious seminaries instead of being enlisted, but the war in Gaza has killed 600 Israeli soldiers and thousands of reservists have been called up. Netanyahu’s governing coalition relies on ultra-Orthodox parties and there are suggestions that the judgment will collapse the government.

Hindu temple leader sued for grooming and rape

A leader at a Hindu temple in Coventry is at the centre of a High Court case, accused by former devotees of grooming and raping them over 30 years.  Coventry Telegraph reports that four women are seeking damages from Rajinder Kalia, accusing him of exerting undue influence on former worshippers at the Baba Balak Nath temple in Bell Green, Coventry.  He is alleged to have claimed to be divine, an incarnation of God, and said that the world outside was evil and his followers must only trust him. An attempt to have the case dismissed failed last month and it will be heard at the High Court. Mr Kalia denies all allegations saying they are baseless.

New Methodist president says don’t abandon people living in poverty

The Methodist church has inducted its president and vice-president for the forthcoming year. The new president is the Rev Helen Cameron, currently the Moderator of the Free Churches Group and President of Churches Together in England. In an address to the Methodist conference meeting in Leeds, she urged the church to listen to people living in poverty and learn from marginal communities. She warned against abandoning those who experience poverty because to do so would be “to abandon the gospel”. The new vice-president is Carolyn Godfrey, safeguarding officer for the Darlington and Newcastle Districts, with a background in pastoral care and child protection within the education system.

Pope warns of AI involvement in saving the planet

The Pope has issued a nine point message on creation and how humans are abusing the planet. The message is for the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, to be  held on 1 September. He warns about the use of Artificial Intelligence “There is an urgent need to set ethical limits on the development of artificial intelligence, since its capacity for calculation and simulation could be used for domination over humanity and nature, instead of being harnessed for the service of peace and integral development”. Once more, he decries war that leaves “mother earth violated and devastated”. At stake, Pope Francis warns, is not only our earthly life in history, but also our future in eternity.

Russell Brand’s conversation with The Chosen’s Jesus

Russell Brand has interviewed Jonathan Roumie, who plays the part of Jesus in the crowd funded film “The Chosen”. The two men are friends going back seven  years to when Roumie played Brand’s body double in “Ballers”, a US comedy TV show. In their discussion, Roumie, who is a committed Catholic,  talked about how he played the part, the challenges of portraying Jesus’ anguish, and his favourite scene meeting Mary Magdalene. Russell Brand has taken an interest in Catholicism and has endorsed the Hallow app, a Catholic prayer app. He announced his conversion in January, a month after police questioned him over historical sex offences which he denies.


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