Religion news 10 July 2024

Image credit: Epworth Old Rectory

CofE evangelicals start parallel province in dispute over same-sex marriage

One of the loudest evangelical groups in the Church of England says it will start a parallel province over Synod’s decision to move towards approval of prayers for same-sex blessings in “stand-alone services”. John Dunnett, national director of the Church of England Evangelical Council (CEEC), said: “It is deeply disappointing that despite hearing repeatedly in speeches of the need to build trust by avoiding bad process …  synod passed the motion, and the prayers of love and faith bus continues to move forward. General Synod’s decision will sadly trigger the launch of a de facto parallel province … and CEEC will work with our partners in the Alliance to make this a reality”. The CEEC has already started a fund in which churches opposed to same-sex blessings can deposit their money, rather than with the CofE. It has also already organised a service this Friday, at All Souls Church, Langham Place, to create “overseers”, who will take over the bishops’ role of pastoral oversight and spiritual help to clergy opposed to same sex blessings. But the CEEC says it is not leaving the church: “We are committed to remaining within the Church of England and hope that the bishops will come to the table to negotiate an acceptable settlement.” Full statement here

Soul Survivor podcast presenter announces sudden resignation on Twitter

Megan Cornwell, a journalist who produced and presented the award-winning “Soul Survivors podcast” series for Premier Christian News, has resigned, with a dramatic statement on Twitter / X. : “I have resigned from Premier Christian Communications. Please direct all future questions about series 5 of the Soul Survivors podcast to the Executive Producers”. No reasons were given. The series has four episodes telling the story of Soul Survivor, an evangelical movement attracting young people through charismatic worship and a large youth festival. Last year its founder, Canon Mike Pilavachi, resigned after stories emerged of him grooming young men, wrestling them to the ground and giving them massages. The revelation traumatised people whose faith was framed in the movement.  The podcast series was nominated for podcast of the year at the 2024 Professional Publishers Association awards and attracted a huge audience across the globe.

Vatican prepares for women leaders

The Vatican is preparing a document on women in leadership roles in the Catholic church, for consideration at the Rome synod meeting in October. The Associated Press reports that this will be the contribution by the Dicastery of the Doctrine of the Faith to Pope Francis’s big church reform process to make the church more welcoming for marginalised groups. Giving women a voice in the church was one of the most widely shared concerns emerging from the synod discussions around the world last year. Women cannot become priests and campaigners say they have a second-class status in the church doing the lion’s share of caring work in the community. Pope Francis has given top jobs to several women, and the Vatican has given women the right to vote in certain top meetings. The shared suggestion that women might be allowed to be ordained deacons, is now the subject of this theological review. However, a group pressing for women’s ordination dismissed the proposal as “crumbs,” noting that ordained men would once again be making decisions about women’s roles in the church.

Labour now has 12 Jewish MPs in parliament

Seven newly elected Jewish Labour MPs stood alongside their leader as parliament reconvened for the first time since the general election on Tuesday, bringing the total in the party to 12. Prime minister Sir Keir Starmer urged politicians of all parties to commit to serve their constituents and their country, rather than pursuing the politics of self-interest. The new Jewish Labour MPs are Sarah Sackman, solicitor general, (Finchley & Golders Green), David Pinto-Duschinsky (Hendon), Georgia Gould, parliamentary secretary in the Cabinet Office (Queens Park & Maida Vale), Ben Coleman (Chelsea & Fulham), Peter Prinsley (Bury St Edmunds), Josh Simons (Makerfield, Lancashire) and Matthew Patrick (Wirral). Five Jewish Labour MPs were re-elected – Alex Sobel (Leeds Central & Headingley), Fabian Hamilton (Leeds Northeast), Damien Egan (Bristol Northeast), Ed Miliband (Doncaster North) and Charlotte Nichols (Warrington North). Jewish News report here

A dozen Sikh heritage MPs have also been elected to parliament

There are a record number of Sikh heritage MPs on the Labour benches, an achievement regarded as a major milestone for the community, according to journalist Hardeep Singh. Writing in The Spectator, he said they include three who have been re-elected: Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi (Slough), Preet Kaur Gill (Birmingham Edgbaston) and Nadia Whittome (Nottingham East). The new MPs are: Gurinder Singh Josan (Smethwick), Jas Athwal (Ilford South), Warinder Juss (Wolverhampton West),  Kirith Entwistle / Ahluwalia (Bolton North East), Sonia Kumar (Dudley), Harpreet Kaur Uppal (Huddersfield), Satvir Kaur (Southampton Test), Jeevun Sandher (Loughborough), Gurinder Singh Josan (Smethwick), Baggy / Bhagat Shanker (Derby South).  The report says most of these MPs are second or third generation British Sikhs, who campaigned on issues that mattered to all their constituents, rather than Sikh-specific issues.

Starmer: my favourite, extraordinary, church

Britain’s new prime minister has a favourite church — St Martin’s, in Gospel Oak, part of Sir Keir Starmer’s north London constituency. He told the National Churches Trust: “St Martin’s is a wonderful church and a beacon of hope for the wider community. As with many thousands of churches around the UK, St Martin’s is an ordinary church doing extraordinary things. A place of safety, spirituality and service for so many.” Sir Keir is an atheist but joins his wife, Victoria, in bringing up their children in her Jewish faith. Report from Independent Catholic News here

Wesley archives to open after rectory renovation

Epworth Old Rectory in north Lincolnshire, the childhood home of the Methodist founder John Wesley, has been awarded a £191,000 grant to create archive and research space. The work will begin this winter and the organising committee hopes to have it completed and ready for visitors by next summer. The project is called Out of the Box because the archives for display have been kept hidden. The Old Rectory is a Grade I listed Queen Anne house where John Wesley was brought up with his brother Charles. The collection includes 18th-century furniture, silver, paintings and family artefacts.

Archdeacon tells Synod: don’t let Mormons have burial records

UK parishes have been warned against signing up for the National Burial Grounds Survey because of the risk of the data being sold to the Mormon Church, the General Synod agreed. The survey, announced in 2021, aims to digitise all burial records in the Church of England. But Mark Ireland, the Archdeacon of Blackburn, said the scanning of records would be undertaken by FamilySearch, which was owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and would give the church “preferential access” to records and that would enable them to use this data “for theological purposes that are completely contrary to the teaching of the Church of England”. Church Times report here

Victims reject Spanish church’s sex abuse compensation offer

A plan agreed by Spain’s Catholic bishops to compensate those sexually abused by clergy does not go far enough, says a spokesman for the victims. Last year the Spanish Episcopal Conference said it had found evidence of 728 sexual abusers within the church since 1945. Seventy-five per cent of the cases occurred before 1990 and more than 60 per cent of the offenders were dead. Juan Cuatrecases, of the victims’ association Robbed Childhood, said the church’s plan could not be accepted because “its resolutions are not mandatory, so in no way does it guarantee reparation”. AP report here

Star of David gravestone appeal refused

An appeal by the family of a Jewish-born man to allow a Star of David to be put on his grave in a Christian churchyard has been rejected. The widow of the dead man, referred to only as Raz, had asked to include the Jewish symbol on his memorial stone at St Mary’s, Shotesham, Norfolk, but the diocese’s chancellor ruled that there was no agreement to allow symbols of other faiths to be displayed in a Christian churchyard. Raz was born into the Jewish faith, but not brought up strictly within in it. He joined a kibbutz as a young man and began attending synagogue on his return to the UK, but then became interested in Quakerism. In his final years he expressed the wish for a Christian burial.

The devil’s in the detail

New legislation passed in Florida to solve a staffing crisis paves the way for religious chaplains to serve as school counsellors … and Satanists believe this is their opportunity. Lucien Greaves, co-founder of The Satanic Temple, said: “Should a school district now choose to have chaplains, they should expect Satanists to participate as well. Nothing in the text of the bill serves to exclude us, and no credible interpretation of the First Amendment could.” Ron DeSantis, Florida’s Republican governor, said the devil-worshippers were not covered by the legislation because Satanism was “not a religion”. Mr Greaves replied: “DeSantis fails to recognise that it is not the place of the government to confer unique rights to one religious identity while denying them to another.”


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