Religion news 16 June 2021

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Image credit: Portsmouth Cathedral

BBC under fire from MPs over Martin Bashir’s appointment as religious affairs correspondent

A committee of MPs has been told that Martin Bashir, the former religion editor at the BBC, was on air and the website six times in three years. Julian Knight, chairman of the digital, culture, media and sport committee, put it to the former director-general Lord Hall: “That’s about £45,000 a time, nice work if you can get it.” Lord Hall replied: “That is not effective use of a correspondent, not a good record.” The exchange came in a four-hour session when two former director-generals and the current chairman and director-general were subjected to ferocious questioning over the corporation’s decision to rehire Bashir as religious affairs correspondent despite knowing he had lied to get the Princess Diana interview. Lord Birt, who was director-general from 1992 to 2000, said: ‘I think there is a terrible irony in all of this, that [Bashir] starts his BBC career on Songs of Praise and ends it as the BBC’s religious editor, and in between perpetrates one of the biggest crimes in the history of broadcasting.”

Rowan Williams says G7 missed chance to tackle vaccination crisis

 The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, has criticised the G7 over the “missed opportunity” to tackle the international vaccine crisis. A joint communiqué issued by the G7 after their meeting in Cornwall on Monday fell far short of campaigners’ expectations. It pledged to end the pandemic and vaccinate the world by getting as many safe vaccines to as many people as fast as possible. But Lord Williams, who was archbishop from 2002 to 2012 and is now chairman of Christian Aid, said the response was frustrating and disappointing. There was no commitment on the waiving of intellectual property rights and no clear common strategy on meeting the existing shortfall in funding accessible vaccines. Full story here

Tribute to Grenfell dead

The Muslim Council of Britain has paid tribute to the 72 lives lost in the fire that engulfed at Grenfell Tower four years ago. In a statement, it recognises “the incredible efforts of local communities and grassroots organisations, who played a pivotal role in responding to the tragedy and have continued to provide necessary support to survivors and families of those we lost”. 

Church Commissioners hold assets of £9.2bn

The Church Commissioners have posted a strong investment performance in 2020 and can support the Church of England with £930m to 2022, expecting to maintain this level to 2025, the Church Times reports. The annual report shows they exceeded their target with a return of 10.4 per cent on investments despite the uncertainty during the pandemic. Investment assets on 31 December 2020 stood at £9.2bn. Millions have been assigned to support dioceses, cathedrals and churches during the lockdowns.

Jewish cemetery vandalised in Belfast

Gravestones in the Jewish section of a Belfast cemetery have been vandalised and toppled in “an appalling antisemitic attack” that has prompted outrage from across the political spectrum, the Jewish Chronicle reports. Police are investigating the incident as a hate crime.

Southern Baptists meet in Nashville facing a fractured future

 The annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention has begun in Nashville with more than 17,000 members facing a fractured future. The church, the largest Protestant denomination in the United States, has faced years of decline, falling revenues and splits over critical race theory (CRT), with the heads of the convention’s six seminaries, releasing a statement saying that CRT is incompatible with the denomination’s central statement of faith. One of these leaders, Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has emerged as the frontrunner in the election for president. The Religion News Service says Mohler has been a conservative icon for decades.

Portsmouth Cathedral launches its own gin

Portsmouth Cathedral has worked with a local distillery to produce its own gin, which it will sell to tourists to raise money for the upkeep of the building. The Dean’s Tipple is described as “gloriously spicy and zesty on the nose”, with “rich and complex flavours” that include fennel and pepper with a delightfully warm orange twist on the finish. Portsmouth News reports the dean, Anthony Cane, saying the gin is “the latest in a long line of church and monastic communities who brew high-quality beer, wine and mead as a way of supporting their ministry. We hope visitors and locals alike will enjoy the unique opportunity to support our cathedral, taking home a bottle of the Dean’s Tipple on their next visit.”


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