Religion news 12 April 2024

Image credit: Michael Clark CCLicense2.0

Large Vaisakhi celebration in Gravesend planned for tomorrow

A huge celebration for the festival of Vaisakhi is planned for tomorrow in Gravesend, where 15 per cent of the population is Sikh. Vaisakhi is a harvest festival held in the Spring and marks the date when in 1699, Guru Gobind Singh established the Khalsa, the body of committed Sikhs. It is being celebrated in England on many different dates – last weekend in Southall and at the end of the month in Leicester. Kent Online reports that more than 5,000 people are expected to participate in  Gravesend’s annual event, with a colourful Nagar Kirtan procession led by five flag bearers representing the original Khalsa and including a float carrying of the scripture Guru Granth Sahib. There will be religious service in the gurdwara grounds with prayers and song, and a funfair and local stalls. The whole community takes part laying on minibuses for vulnerable people and advertising local businesses on the stalls.

Charedi Jewish men protest at Israel’s law requiring them to serve in the military

Thousands of Charedi orthodox Jews protested in Jerusalem at plans to remove the exemption from army service. A court struck down the exemption at a hearing last month, effective from 1 April, changing a rule in place since 1947. The news agency AFP reports that then there were only 400 men in yeshiva religious schools, but today there are 66,000 Charedi men aged between 18 and 26 and they fear compulsory military service will harm yeshivas, as people are withdrawn for service lasting 32 months. They also say that serving in a mixed-gender environment or with non-religious people is incompatible with their values.  The Interior Minister Moshe Arbel, of the Orthodox party Shas, said the community must face the reality that exemptions are no longer morally justified after the attack on 7 October.

Catholic priest dies suddenly 17 days before being made a bishop

Catholic priest Father Martin Chambers, from Troon in west Scotland, has died suddenly, 17 days before he was due to be ordained as the new Bishop of Dunkeld on the east coast. The diocese says he died in his sleep aged 59, but no other details were given. His death was announced in a statement from the diocesan administrator, Canon Kevin Golden, who gave the news “with deep regret and sorrow”.

Church in Portugal sets up compensation fund for child sex abuse victims

Reuters reports that the Bishops Conference in Portugal is setting aside a fund to compensate victims of child sexual abuse within the church, acknowledging that no maximum amount has been set for each claim. A report found at least 4,815 children had been sexually abused by clergy – mostly priests – over seven decades, and this was said to be the tip of the iceberg. The head of the conference, Bishop Jose Ornelas, said requests for compensation will be filed from June to December this year and a committee will determine the amount to be given to each victim according to a set criteria, with the gravity of cases taken into account. This has been criticised by a survivors’ group which wants the same amount for all.

CofE report says appointment of bishop against women’s ordination was in line with regulations

A Church of England report into the nomination of the Bishop of Blackburn, Philip North, who will not ordain women as priests, has recommended changes to the rules for future appointments. The report by the Independent Reviewer Canon Maggie Swinson, was undertaken after concerns by the campaign group in favour of women’s ordination, WATCH – Women And The Church. Canon Swinson found the process for appointing the Bishop of Blackburn was in line with regulations and rejected a call from WATCH to recommend a moratorium on bishops who will not ordain women as priests until earlier recommendations are enacted. Canon Swinson said the scope of the Independent Reviewer should be examined, the make-up of nomination committees should be reviewed, a minimum timescale should be considered and theological work on accommodating opposition to women’s ordination as priests and bishops, promised in 2017, should be completed.

5,000 expected at evangelical leaders’ conference on facing “distinct cultural moment”

Alpha, the course on Christianity run by the evangelical, charismatic church Holy Trinity Brompton, is putting on its annual Leadership Conference at the Royal Albert Hall on Monday 6 and Tuesday 7 May. Five thousand leaders are expected to attend, buying tickets from £65 to top end £499 seats in the arena. The programme includes workshops and presentations from evangelical leaders across the world, plus historian Tom Holland, one time SNP leadership hopeful Kate Forbes and Bishop Graham Tomlin. Conference organisers say it will look to the future and explore “some of the key questions that leaders are facing in this distinct cultural moment”.  Leadership challenges such as integrity, resilience, isolation, collaboration and burnout will be discussed and there is space for extended worship from 9.30pm to midnight on the first evening.

Conference in Bristol on campaigning for the future of CofE parishes

Save the Parish, a campaign group resisting the redirection of money from parishes and centralisation of power towards dioceses and the national base, is holding its annual conference in Bristol on 20 April. Under the title “Campaigning for the future of our parishes”, discussions will include parish restructuring, already underway, where churches are grouped together and looked after by one priest and sometimes where church councils are combined. The guest speaker is the Bishop of Ramsbury, Andrew Rumsey, author of “Parish: An Anglican theology of place”. The conference is at the Church of St Thomas the Martyr, Bristol, from 12 noon to 5.30pm.

Call for more data on Muslim women’s maternity care

A report in Hyphen Online says that the CEO of the Muslim Women’s Network, Baroness Shaista Gohir, is urging the government to record the ethnicity and faith of people making NHS negligence claims, in order to chart the experiences of Muslim women especially in childbirth. It follows various reports suggesting Muslim women are more likely to be given an epidural for pain relief, 2.4 times more likely to experience postpartum haemorrhage and to have a greater risk of maternal death. Baroness Gohir told Hyphen Online that recording data from negligence claims would make clear if an ethnic group or faith block is highlighted, so that action can be taken. Story with links here

Links to Religion Media Centre briefing on Vatican’s human dignity report

The Vatican’s declaration on human dignity, Dignitas Infinita, has hit the headlines for saying sex change operations are a grave human error. We held a Religion Media Centre briefing this week where a panel discussed the report, which sought to broaden the understanding of human dignity, to include war, migration and poverty alonsgisde sexual ethics. The panel considered why the document appeared to row back from more liberal moves on gender issues. There was concern that it would be used as a weapon against trans people, and from America, there were fears that Catholic health institutions might offer “a condemnatory, or even a ban” on gender change operations. Hosted by Leo Devine, our panellists were: Christopher White, Vatican correspondent of the National Catholic Reporter; Robert Shine, Associate Director of New Ways Ministry, which campaigns for LGBTQ+ equity, inclusion, and justice; and Canon Sarah Jones, trans Anglican priest. Here is the link to the briefing on YouTube and here is the briefing page on our website which has the link to the podcast.


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