Religion news 14 May 2024

Image credit: @EnochBurke

Church of Ireland synod suspended after protests in front of the Archbishop

The Church of Ireland synod in Co Armagh was suspended for 45 minutes at the weekend, after relatives of jailed schoolteacher Enoch Burke, used a mic, held up a poster and shouted at the presiding Archbishop of Armagh demanding answers. Mr. Burke was a teacher at the Church of Ireland Wilson’s Hospital School, in Westmeath, but was sacked after refusing to use a trans student’s chosen pronouns, saying transgenderism was against his evangelical beliefs. He then returned to the school despite a court order, and was convicted of contempt of court and jailed. He has been in prison for 354 days. His mother and brother demanded answers from Archbishop John McDowell, saying Mr Burke was only upholding the Church of Ireland ethos. In the resulting melee, their poster was ripped and his sister was briefly held down before other synod staff restored order. The representatives left the hall, but the Archbishop sat in his place saying nothing. The scene was filmed and is on Twitter / X.

Jewish university chaplains dealing with “relentless barrage of antisemitism”

The government has handed half a million pounds to Jewish chaplains on campus in order to support students facing growing antisemitism at British universities.  The University Jewish Chaplaincy is set to receive £500,000 for providing welfare services, following an announcement by the Department for Education last week. The news came on the same day that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak met vice chancellors from some of Britain’s leading universities, at which he told them he expects them to take a “zero tolerance” approach to antisemitic incidents and to take responsibility for protecting Jewish students. According to the UJC’s website, the role of Jewish chaplains on campus is to provide “pastoral, spiritual and practical support”. It currently supports more than 8,500 students at over 100 universities in 13 regions. UJC Chairman, Uri Goldberg said: “Since Hamas’ terrorist attacks on October 7, 2023, Jewish students and chaplains have endured a relentless barrage of antisemitism on campuses across the country”. He said chaplains had provided students with support to continue their courses amidst hatred and disruption. Story is on our website here

Catholic bishop deeply alarmed at proposed abortion changes

Bishop John Sherrington, lead bishop for life Issues for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference, says he is deeply alarmed at amendments to the Criminal Justice Bill on abortion, which will be voted on in the Commons tomorrow. Two amendments to decriminalise abortion have been proposed after recent court cases where women have been taken to court for taking abortion pills and a mother of three was sentenced to 28 months’ imprisonment for ending her pregnancy. Dame Diana Johnson is proposing that women be allowed to abort their pregnancies by using pills at home at any point in the pregnancy. Stella Creasy’s amendment would decriminalise abortion up to the 24th week for any party involved. The bishop says this would remove legal protection to the foetus and could seriously endanger a woman’s health and life. Instead he supports two alternative amendments to reduce the time limit for abortions to 22 not 24 weeks, and to not allow Downs syndrome foetuses to be aborted up to birth.

Unity moves between United Methodists and ECUSA move forward

Representatives of the Episcopal Church USA and the United Methodist Church have held their first meeting since the historic vote at the Methodist conference supporting full communion between the two churches. The Rev Gregory Palmer,  bishop of the Ohio West Area and co-chair of the United Methodist-Episcopal Church dialogue, said since the Methodist conference had voted decisively, it was now “experiencing a new spirit in more way than one, that helps us move forward and focus on mission and ministry.”  ECUSA’s 81st General Convention will convene 23 – 28 June in Louisville, Kentucky to consider the next steps. Full communion means clergy are interchangeable, allowing them to officiate at services and celebrate the sacraments with equal authority in either church. Episcopal News Service story here

Mud brick Great Mosque of Dhenne in Mali, renewed for another year

Thousands of people in Mali have replastered the Great Mosque of Djenne, the world’s largest mud brick building, carrying buckets and jugs of mud. It needs a new layer of mud each year before the start of the rainy season in June and has attracted thousands of tourists in the past. The building has been on UNESCO’s World Heritage in Danger list since 2016 and is in the centre of an area of conflict between Islamist groups, government forces and other rebels. Associated Press report here

Public invited to survey wildlife in church yards in June

Parishes and communities across England are being invited to register for a week-long event from 8 – 16 June, to celebrate wildlife in churchyards and cemeteries and survey what they find. It’s been organised after a synod vote to promote and record biodiversity in churchyards.

RMC briefing: Weds 15 May 1200: “Religion Counts” Theos report on faith and voting patterns

On Wednesday 15 May at 1200, the RMC is holding a briefing on the Theos report “Religion Counts”, examining how religious identity and adherence influences a range of relevant factors arising in the forthcoming election. It offers a new analysis of the British Election Study, a study of voting patterns in the United Kingdom, and considers where and how people from various religious groups are likely to vote and their attitudes on key political issues. Hosted by Rosie Dawson, speakers include Theos’ head of political engagement Paul Bickley, senior researcher Hannah Rich, and political researcher George Lapshynov. Further details from [email protected]


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