Religion news 12 May 2022

Image credit: George Fox Evangelical Seminary CCLicense2.0

Martyn Percy, former Dean of Christ Church Oxford, quits the Church of England

Martyn Percy, the former dean of Christ Church Oxford, has announced he is leaving the Church of England, following an acrimonious four-year battle. In an article in Prospect magazine, he said: “The Church of England has destroyed any trust I might have had in it. It is an unsafe place to work”. He criticises the “slow and shoddy” safeguarding process of the church and says his experience of being accused of safeguarding failures and charged with sexual harassment, convinced him that the church “lacks transparency, accountability, external scrutiny and, as far as I am concerned, integrity”.  In the article, he says the Bishop of Oxford, Steven Croft, refused to grant him a licence to hold office, a charge the Bishop denies.

CofE pledges to spend more on struggling parishes and front-line services

The Church of England has announced a 30 per cent increase in funding for struggling parishes, front line social action such as food banks, work with young people and disadvantaged communities and initiatives to reach carbon net zero by 2030.  The grant from the church commissioners amounts to £1.2 billion over three years – up from the previously agreed £930 million.  The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, launched the initiative at a press conference in Doncaster.  The Church Times reports that the intention is to grant money through dioceses to all branches of the church – from high, middle of the road to charismatic evangelical. The announcement coincides with the publication of the Church Commissioners Annual Report showing funds of more than £10 billion and a 13.3 per cent return on investment in the last year.

Templeton prize goes to American physicist and philosopher

Dr. Frank Wilczek, the American Nobel prize-winning theoretical physicist and author, is the winner of the 2022 Templeton Prize.  He views the universe as embodying mathematical beauty and in his work, looks for hidden realities, such as the theory of strong nuclear force, theories of particles, and an explanation of dark matter. Templeton says his work illuminates the philosophical implications of his ideas. Aged 70, he is the Herman Feshbach Professor of Physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  

Hong Kong Cardinal arrested for “collusion with foreign forces”

Cardinal Joseph Zen, the 90-year-old retired Roman Catholic bishop of Hong Kong, was among several pro-democracy advocates arrested by police and released on bail, charged with “collusion with foreign forces”.  The arrests were related to their work at the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund, which provided legal aid and other financial help to people who took part in the 2019 pro-democracy protests. The Vatican says it is concerned at the reports and is following the situation with “extreme attention”.  

Death toll at church run native American boarding schools could reach tens of thousands

An American government investigation into native American boarding schools where indigenous children were sent to be assimilated into society, has established 500 died and more than 50 burial sites have been discovered. The report from the Interior Department says the number of dead could climb to the thousands or even tens of thousands. It says that 400 schools were supported by the US government, while ABC reports that churches were also involved in running these schools, with the majority coming under the Roman Catholic church, but many Protestant denominations were also engaged. The report is the first federal study into schools which operated for around 150 years from the early 1800s and coincided with the removal of many tribes from their ancestral lands. The Associated Press describes the “dark history” of the boarding schools, where children were taken from their families, prohibited from speaking their Native American languages and often abused. Many children never returned home. A parallel story of similar schools in Canada, largely run by churches, with hundreds of recently discovered unmarked burial sites, has led to apologies from the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Muslim Census entrepreneurs from east London make Forbes under 30 list

Sadiq Dorasat and Mohammed Uddin, childhood friends from east London who set up the Muslim polling organisation Muslim Census, have been included in the Forbes 30 Under 30 Europe list for 2022. Islam TV reports that they launched the project in June 2020 fuelled by the inequalities from the Covid-19 pandemic and were shocked to find there were no data sources on the 3.5 million Muslims living in the UK. In their short history, they have conducted research with the NHS, National Zakat Foundation and Islamic Relief and future projects  include topics such as spirituality amongst Muslim women and Muslim personal finance.

First full time Muslim NHS chaplain and bereavement officer

Henieh Suleman has been appointed as Muslim chaplain at University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust, believed to be the first full-time NHS Muslim female chaplain and bereavement officer in the country. Her job involves ward visits alongside developing aspects of the traditional Muslim funeral service. She joins non-religious, Hindu, Christian and Sikh colleagues.


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