Religion news 13 September
Bishop Jack Spong, powerful advocate for liberal Christianity, has died aged 90
Jack Spong, bishop of the Episcopal church in the United States, who was a standard bearer for liberal Christian theology, has died peacefully in his sleep aged 90. He moved from a literal interpretation of the Bible in a conservative evangelical tradition, to a deeply thoughtful understanding of Christianity in the modern era. He loved the Bible and sought its truth through a life long exploration of its history and meaning, shared with millions through his books. He was the former Bishop of Newark, a committed Anglican, engaged in dialogue and confronting issues which caused division – civil rights, equality of women and gay rights. Traduced, criticised and branded a heretic, his following extended beyond church structures, with his ideas and ability to stand alongside people outside the church, or any religious tradition, making him an engaging media commentator. He suffered a stroke in 2016 which affected his ability to write. His death was announced, with great sadness, by St Paul’s Episcopal church in Richmond, Virginia.
Bishops say proposals to turn back migrants’ boats is criminalisation of the Good Samaritan
Twelve Church of England bishops say the government’s nationality and borders bill which would turn back migrants trying to cross the channel, is a criminalisation of the Good Samaritan and an affront to justice. In a letter to the Guardian, they say that forcing boats to return to France raises significant moral concerns, increases the risks at sea and endangers the lives of those attempting the crossing. The letter was signed by the bishops of Durham, Manchester, London, Gloucester, Southwark, Bristol, Chelmsford, Croydon, Bradwell, Dover, Wakefield and the suffragan bishop in Europe.
House of Lords bill attempting to end compulsory acts of worship in schools
A bill going through the House of Lords is attempting to remove compulsory acts of collective worship in schools. The bill has been put forward by Baroness Burt, the vice chair of the All Party Parliamentary Humanist Group and proposes “inclusive assemblies” while giving teachers the choice of organising voluntary acts of collective worship. It would not apply to faith schools. Supporters included the former Bishop of Oxford, Lord Richard Harries; opponents included the current Bishop of Oxford, Steven Croft, and government minister Baroness Chisholm of Owlpen, who said the existing legislation already gives the flexibility the bill seeks to achieve.
US poll finds 69 per cent of Muslims experienced discrimination post 9/11
A poll by the Council on American-Islamic Relations suggests that 69 per cent of American Muslims have experienced anti-Muslim bigotry or discrimination since 9/11. The survey is based on 1,053 responses to an online survey conducted in the summer. The report “Remembrance and Resilience” also says that American Muslims have become more civically engaged now more than ever before, with 181 Muslim-identifying candidates in 28 states and Washington D.C. running for public office in 2020, the highest number ever recorded.
Report recommends bishop at centre of bullying allegations should step aside
A review into bullying allegations against the Bishop of Aberdeen and Orkney, Anne Dyer, says she should step back permanently from the diocese. The review was conducted by Professor Iain Torrance, Pro-Chancellor of the University of Aberdeen and a former Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, and was intended to be confidential, but it was leaked and so the church made it public this weekend. The review cites issues of governance, style and tone which caused grave concern. A statement from the College of Bishops said Bishop Anne Dyer felt that it contained major errors and omissions including that her own voice was not heard and that she had not had an opportunity to hear or respond to specific allegations. A mediation process is being set up.
Pope Francis visits Hungary, Bulgaria and Slovakia
Pope Francis has held a 40-minute meeting with the President and Prime Minister of Hungary, during a tour which also includes Bulgaria and Slovakia. After meeting the Prime Minister, Viktor Orban. he warned that the threat of anti-Semitism is “still lurking” in Europe and elsewhere. It is reported that they discussed the role of the Church in the country, the commitment to the protection of the environment, and the protection and promotion of the family. In Slovakia he met leaders from many churches and said the Christian faith is a seed of unity and fraternity. His trip to Bulgaria, the first papal visit for 17 years, included meetings with Orthodox church leaders , who had reportedly rejected taking part in joint services or prayers with him.
Welsh vote bring prospect of same sex marriage blessings closer in the CofE
The bishop of Liverpool Paul Bayes says the Church of Wales’ decision to allow church blessings for same-sex couples could pave the way for the Church of England to follow suit. He said the vote affirmed love and was a creative and Gospel-inspired lead.