Religion news 11 April 2024

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Catholic bishops resist “intolerant imposition of a gender theory”

Two Catholic bishops have welcomed the Vatican declaration on human dignity Dignitas infinita, saying it will strengthen the church’s social action in England and Wales. The Vatican report says there are many grave threats to human dignity including sex change operations, gender theory, surrogacy, abortion, poverty, human trafficking and war. Bishop Richard Moth, chair of the department for social justice, and Bishop John Sherrington, lead bishop for Life Issues, say there are many areas in society where human dignity is misunderstood and human rights are under attack. These include life from conception to natural death as well as “the recognition of the unity of the person, body and soul, created as masculine and feminine. In addition, our laws and culture must allow us to recognise the difference between and complementarity of male and female whilst resisting the sometimes intolerant imposition of a gender theory that cancels differences in its claim to make everyone equal”. The bishops continue to advocate against abortion, assisted suicide and euthanasia, saying the sick and dying should receive personal and medical care. They say there is an urgent need for all to be peacemakers, welcoming migrants, tackling human trafficking and speaking up for women who endure exclusion, mistreatment, and violence.

Concern that Vatican report may add to toxic trans debate

In a Religion Media Centre briefing on the Vatican report, trans priest Canon Sarah Jones said comments by church leaders had massive impact and she was sad that the report could be used as a weapon against trans people, adding to the toxicity of the debate and general aggression. Canon Jones, who started life as a Catholic and became an Anglican priest after her gender change, said people outside the church pick up on leaders’ comments and it was very important to get the message right. What was needed was more education and a de-escalation of the debate, so it did not become a shouting match. Bob Shine, from the LGBTQ+ campaigning group New Ways Ministry in America, said he was concerned at its impact on the US healthcare system where around one in five people is treated by a Catholic institution. Work on new directives including gender transition is underway and he believed this document would “fully support them in offering a condemnatory, even a ban on it”. The briefing was told that the section on sex and gender was 1,000 words in a document of over 12,000 words, but was dominating debate. In the briefing discussion, there were suggestions of a lack of consultation with LGBTQ+ people, in contrast to the global involvement of lay people in decisions through synods. And there was a question as to whether this report indicated a more general shift away from liberalism, with speakers saying it is at odds with the Pope’s recent support of blessing gay people, published within 24 hours of the UK government’s Cass report saying there is remarkably weak evidence on medical interventions in gender care, and comes amid government delays in bringing forward a bill to ban conversion therapy. The briefing recording will be on our YouTube channel later today.

Church of England repeats apology after Soul Survivor leader’s film detailing abuse

The Church of England has issued a statement after the former worship leader of Soul Survivor, Matt Redman, published a film “Let There be Light”  detailing his experience of being wrestled and subsequently shunned by the movement’s founder, Canon Mike Pilavachi. The statement repeats that last September, an internal Church investigation into Mike Pilavachi covering 40 years from his time as a youth leader to the present day, concluded that these concerns of abuse of power and spiritual abuse were substantiated. A complaint under the Clergy Discipline Measure concluded that whilst no further action would be taken on the main allegation, Mr Pilavachi’s conduct had nevertheless fallen short of that expected of a priest in the Church of England and  he was issued with a written warning and advised that he has no authority to minister, and should he wish to return to any ministry in the Church of England this will be fully risk assessed.  The statement continued: “We are aware that the outcome of the complaint brought by the National Safeguarding Team against Mike Pilavachi under the Clergy Discipline Measure, process has upset survivors and victims and we continue to offer support to all those affected. We want to acknowledge and repeat the Church’s apology to all those came forward and shared their experiences. We are truly sorry.” In another development, Premier Christian News reports that the CofE investigation into the former chair of Soul Survivor, Bishop Graham Cray, for failing to pass on information in the Mike Pilavachi case, has concluded, and under House of Bishops guidance, appropriate risk management steps are being taken. He has given evidence to a review conducted by Fiona Scolding KC, yet to be published.

Appointments on CofE committee re same sex relationships

The Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, will chair a programme board, overseeing next steps on the Church of England’s policy regarding same sex relationships, marriage and blessing. The lead bishop on the “Living in Love and Faith” process is the Bishop of Leicester, Martyn Snow.  The board also includes the Bishop of Stockport, Sam Corley; the acting Bishop of Coventry, Ruth Worsley; and the Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, Martin Seeley. Ex Officio members will be Jamie Harrison, chair of the House of Laity; Alison Coulter, Vice-chair of the House of Laity; Luke Miller and Kate Wharton, Prolocutors of the House of Clergy. 

PR company to large Jewish organisations goes bust

The public relations company PR Office, which has represented large national Jewish organisations, has suddenly gone bust leaving staff shocked and upset.  The Jewish Chronicle reports that it has worked with clients including the Conference of European Rabbis, the United Synagogue, the Holocaust Educational Trust and education charity Aish UK.  It says staff found out they had lost their jobs with immediate effect in an email send on 3 April. Its director, Shimon Cohen, who was previously executive director of the office of Chief Rabbi Lord Jakobovits, said the company had grown too large and had to be wound down facing several financial issues, The JC says this included a £300,000 tax bill.  He is setting up a new company, Roath PR, which will be a small “client-centered, creative operation” and his thoughts are with “his dedicated employees who he had learned much from”.

Damp cold UK celebration for Eid al-Fitr

Millions of Muslims around the world have gathered in large numbers to celebrate Eid al-Fitr, the end of Ramadan.  There are pictures on social media from Manchester and Cardiff, showing illuminated buildings and prayers in large spaces outdoors, with men wrapped up for the cold and rain as the festival ends.


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