Religion news 15 October

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G20 Interfaith Forum considers faith contribution to global political challenges

The G20 Interfaith Forum is meeting online this week to prepare recommendations for the next G20 meeting scheduled to take place in Riyadh on 21 November. 500 religious leaders are contributing to discussions around issues such as racism and hate speech, modern slavery, human trafficking, climate change and Covid-19.  The Forum was set up in 2014 to bring faith and politics together and says it reflects global recognition that faith and religion have vital roles in promoting peaceful and harmonious relationships within and between nations. This year Saudi Arabia is hosting the online event as part of its presidency of the G20.

CofE anti racism taskforce chair says it’s time for urgent action

The Church of England’s  anti-racism taskforce has met for the first time. Its initial  task is to recommend immediate action on racial justice and equality. It will also consider the remit and membership of the Archbishops’ commission on racism which starts work next year. There are nine members chaired by the Rev Sonia Barron, Lincoln, and Rev Arun Arora, Durham, who says after 30 years of reports and recommendations, the time has come for urgent implementation and action.

Church takes court action on New York restrictions for public gatherings 

A federal court in New York will hear church objections to New York’s restrictions on public gatherings, at a hearing today (Thursday). The Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn is challenging caps on attendance at Mass to just 10 or 25 people, imposed after new outbreaks of the coronavirus. The rules for all groups, including religious, were announced on 6 October and caused street protests from Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn. Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio said going to Church should be considered essential and therefore churches should be exempt rather than included with non-essential services like theatres and recreational facilities.

Southern Baptists vote to keep slave owner names on campus buildings

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary has voted to keep the names of founders on campus buildings, despite the fact they were slave owners. The Religion News Service reports that some Southern Baptist members had urged a name change after a report showed the founders owned more than 50 slaves and said slavery was morally correct. The Seminary has created a multi-million dollar scholarship fund for African American students. Its president, R Albert Mohler Jr said: “We’re not going to erase our history in any respect or leave our history unaddressed. We are seeking to respond to the moral and theological burden of history by being a far more faithful institution in the present and in the future than we’ve been in the past and in this central respect we acknowledge a special debt to African American Christians.”

Amy Coney Barrett refuses to be drawn on morality of contentious public policy debates

Amy Coney Barrett, US Supreme Court nominee, has finished three days of questioning by the Senate Judiciary committee, which has tried to push how far her Christian views will impact her judgments. She said the Griswold judgment that married couples are entitled to use contraception in the privacy of their homes was very unlikely to be overturned. She declined to offer opinions on climate change or separating children from parents at the border because these are contentious areas of public debate. Known for her opposition to abortion, she had previously refused to be drawn on whether the landmark case which allowed it, Roe vs Wade, should be overturned: “My policy views, my moral convictions, my religious beliefs do not bear on how I decide cases nor should they, it would be in conflict with my judicial oath,” she said.   The Senate Judiciary committee will now hear from witnesses. Republicans want to force through the vote on her nomination, before the presidential election on 3 November. Her appointment would swing the Supreme Court 6:3 in a conservative direction.

The Guardian reports on the charismatic Christian group “People of Praise”, of which Amy Coney Barrett has been a member for many years. It holds conservative views on morality, for example against abortion and same sex marriage. The Guardian has unearthed an interview from 2018 given by its current leader, where he said the group expels members who engage in gay sex. Asked to comment this week, the group said: “In the People of Praise, as in the Roman Catholic church and many Protestant churches, we follow the traditional New Testament teaching that marriage is a union of one man and one woman.” At the senate hearings, Amy Coney Barrett said she had “never discriminated on the basis of sexual preference and would not ever discriminate on the basis of sexual preference”.

Mixed marriage advert in India is pulled after Hindu complaints

An advert for jewellery in India, showing a Muslim man and his Hindu wife, has been pulled after objections from Hindu nationalists. Pictures of a Hindu baby shower party ran with the tag line  “A beautiful confluence of two different religions, traditions and cultures.” The Associated Press reports that it was withdrawn after objections that it promoted  “love jihad”, a conspiracy theory that Muslim men convert Hindu women by marriage. There is growing religious polarisation in India with the ruling BJP party accused of normalising anti Muslim feeling.

Sir Cliff Richard, Peter Pan of pop and lifelong Christian, is 80

The pop industry’s most famous Christian ambassador, Cliff Richard, has celebrated his 80th birthday. He went public with his faith at a Billy Graham rally in 1966 and it has been prominent in his life ever since, through early support for TearFund, appearances at Christian events and Christian music recordings. He has sold 250 million records in a career spanning 60 years and was knighted in 1995. In an interview with Premier Christian Radio, his long standing friend Cindy Kent – formerly with the Settlers and now a vicar – said he puts it all down to knowing God is in his life.


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