Religion news 14 February 2022

Image credit: The Presidential Administration of Ukraine CCLicense4.0

Orthodox church of Ukraine calls on God to ‘stand with our army

As world leaders embark on last minute attempts to avert war in Ukraine, the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, an independent church led by Metropolitan Epiphanius, has issued a prayer “for liberation from the invasion of foreigners”. It addresses God “who alone works miracles” to have mercy on the people of Ukraine “for our enemies have gathered against us to destroy us and destroy our state and our sanctuary”. It calls on God to stand with “our army” and “destroy the intentions and unjust courage of those who go to war against us”. It goes on to ask forgiveness for “our soldiers in the battle for Faith and Ukraine”. The church was recognised only in 2019 and is independent of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which is a branch of the Russian Orthodox church.

Pope renews prayers for Ukraine peaceful solution

Pope Francis has said the situation in Ukraine is very worrying and he has once more urged world leaders to seek a peaceful solution, inviting people to pray in silence for peace. Western nations warn Russia has 150,000 troops massed around the border and could invade at any moment. Many have told their citizens to leave while they can.

Radical Church of England change proposals indicate fewer bishops in the Lords

The Church Times has acquired the internal Church of England consultation document on the future of bishops, which has already been leaked widely. A central theme is the creation of missionary bishops paid for centrally, but there is another section indicating acceptance of a reduction in the number of bishops in the Lords, now 26. It says bishops agree there is “a recognition that reform of the House of Lords is inevitable at some stage, and that the church should seek to shape at least the elements of reform that will impinge on the Lords Spiritual from within before they are imposed. In practice, we believe this implies both a reduction in number of Lords Spiritual and the attachment of those roles to specific sees rather than by rotational allocation.” The document identifies areas in England where dioceses could combine, such as Rochester with Canterbury, the east of England, the southwest and the northeast. Its proposed changes to bishops’ pay and conditions have been inflammatory: “We recognise that this is a heated discussion among bishops.”

Calls for independent public inquiry into Birmingham Trojan Horse affair

The Muslim Council of Britain is calling for an independent public inquiry into the Birmingham “Trojan Horse” affair, after an investigation by journalists Hamza Syed and Brian Reed for a New York Times podcast. An anonymous letter sent to Birmingham City Council in 2013 outlined the existence of Operation Trojan Horse, alleging that a group of Muslims was attempting to take over and run schools on extremist Islamic lines in Birmingham. The letter is widely discredited as fake. There were several inquiries, but no evidence of a plot. The MCB says the letter and subsequent reporting fuelled false tropes about Muslims and a “pervasive narrative of Muslims which persists to this day; reflected in hate crime statistics and attitude surveys which show how negatively Muslims are perceived in society”. 

Religious leaders protected if conversion therapy is banned

Church leaders have met officials from the government’s Equality Office to lobby against plans to ban conversion therapy which they say will threaten their freedom to teach their faith and beliefs. The Telegraph reports that they were promised that Christian teaching would be protected from the ban. The meeting followed a letter signed by 2,500 church leaders led by the Rev Dr Matthew Roberts, minister of Trinity Church in York, affiliated to the International Presbyterian Church, who warned they were willing to be “criminalised” if the ban stopped them from teaching their faith. The Equality and Human Rights Commission said the proposals could have a “chilling effect” on professionals. The Telegraph quotes a government spokesman saying: “Conversion therapy is an abhorrent practice and we are absolutely committed to banning it in the UK. The government’s proposals to ban conversion therapy will not impact on everyday religious practice, and there should be no doubt that individuals will still be able to access support and counsel from religious leaders.” Proposals were delayed last December for further consultation, but are expected to be tabled this spring.

Hijab ban sparks national protests in India

In India, a hijab ban imposed by a college in the southern state of Karnataka has sparked copycat bans in other educational institutions and resulted in nationwide protests. This weekend, people took to the streets in New Delhi and in Jaipur in the north. The authorities in Karnataka have shut schools for several days to calm the unrest. Channel 4 report here

Bishop of Liverpool speaks freely as he strides into retirement

In parting shots as he stepped down from being the Bishop of Liverpool, Paul Bayes has spoken out against the “rancid and dangerous” political culture, declared that Boris Johnson had lied in the Commons and urged that church law should be changed to allow same-sex marriage. In an interview with The Guardian, he said Johnson’s remark in the Commons that Sir Keir Starmer had failed to prosecute the paedophile Jimmy Savile was not an honest statement: “We need a politics that doesn’t have room for lies told in the House of Commons that might produce street violence two days afterwards,” he said, adding: “He should be ashamed.” Bayes was Bishop of Liverpool for eight years.

England’s colonial past gives Archbishop of Canterbury soft power

Gavin Drake, the director of communications for the Anglican Communion, has defended himself over comments he made about colonialism at the Church of England’s general synod. He became the centre of a story after contributing to a debate on allowing more people from the global church to take part in selecting a future Archbishop of Canterbury. He told the synod: “We may not like the colonial past of our history, but it is a matter of fact that England carries with it a power that other areas do not. And the Archbishop of Canterbury carries weight and kudos that other bishops do not … The former bishop of Kuching on the northwest corner of Borneo, Bolly Lapok, told me he wished the Church of England would stop apologising for colonialism. He said, ‘If it wasn’t for colonialism, we’d still be headhunters.’ There are some good things about colonialism as well as bad things.” The comments in a debate last Thursday, provoked a CofE Twitter storm and he was forced to defend himself saying colonialism was not good but because of it England has soft power and greater influence in the world. In a blog, he repeated that colonialism was bad and said his speech had been misconstrued. “Colonialism is not a good thing. But it happened. As a result of that history, the Archbishop of Canterbury has a figurehead role as a focus for unity within the wider Anglican Communion.” He ended by revealing that he contributed to the debate online while dosed up on drugs fighting Covid.

Roses are red

St Valentine, whose day is marked by anonymous expressions of love, is himself a shadowy figure from the third century. We don’t really know who he was — a miracle worker and evangelist, a man who performed secret weddings, a saint who fell in love with a girl who visited him in prison, signing his letter to her “Your Valentine”? Explore the clues in our Ten Top Facts about St Valentine here



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