Religion news 16 September 2021

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Image credit: Vatican media

Pope unequivocal statement that abortion is homicide – a pastoral not political problem

On his flight home from Slovakia, Pope Francis issued a clear statement that abortion is homicide, but said the problem is pastoral not political. Answering journalists’ questions, he said: “Abortion is homicide..whoever has an abortion kills. Take any book on embryology for medical students in medical school. The third week after conception, from the third week, often before the mamma is aware of it, all the organs are already there, even the DNA… Isn’t that a person? It is a human life, period. And this human life must be respected”. He went on to address how a person could be considered outside the community of the church and therefore not allowed to take communion. “It is the pastoral problem..And if we look at the history of the Church we will see that every time the bishops have dealt with a problem not as pastors, they have taken a political stance on a political problem… What must the pastor do? Be a pastor. Be a pastor and don’t go around condemning .. to be a pastor with God’s style. And God’s style is closeness, compassion and tenderness”. Full transcript here

Justin Welby says women pioneers build bridges across faith differences

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has held an interfaith conference for women who are “often the real pioneers when it comes to leading in friendships across faith communities”.  In a tweet he said that the women had built bridges across differences and ways of working to expand the voices heard by the public.

Refusal to grant Jewish “Get” divorce is form of domestic abuse

The Jewish Chronicle reports that Naomi Dickson, the chief executive of Jewish Women’s Aid, has backed government proposals to include “get” refusal as a form of domestic abuse. “Get” is a Jewish legal document effecting divorce, but Naomi  Dickson says it is sometimes used by husbands to prevent a divorce, punishing the woman by holding her in a marriage which is dead. Some women trapped in this situation have launched private prosecutions against their former partners, under 2015 laws against controlling and coercive behaviour. But the JC reports, the new guidance would make it easier for the Crown Prosecution Service to consider initiating action itself. 

Martin Bashir will not be prosecuted over Panorama Diana interview

The BBC’s former religious affairs editor, Martin Bashir, will not be prosecuted over his interview for Panorama with Diana, Princess of Wales, in 1995.  The Metropolitan Police announced yesterday that following a review by Lord Dyson, former Master of the Rolls, of events leading up to the interview, an investigation will not be opened. In the interview, Princess Diana revealed intimate details of her life and declared: “There were three of us in this marriage”. But she had agreed to the interview after being presented with fake bank statements and after the publication of the Dyson review the BBC returned awards for the programme and apologised. Martin Bashir left the corporation.  In a statement on Wednesday, the Met said: “Following the publication of Lord Dyson’s report in May, specialist detectives assessed its contents and looked carefully at the law – once again obtaining independent legal advice from Treasury Counsel as well as consulting the Crown Prosecution Service. As a result, the MPS has not identified evidence of activity that constituted a criminal offence and will therefore be taking no further action.”

Parliament fails to stop £20 a week universal credit cut – and Christians object

MPs have voted on government plans to cancel the £20 a week universal credit uplift, returning payments to their pre-lockdown level. Labour pushed for the vote and while 253 MPs registered their opposition to the cut, the vote was simply procedural, and the government will go ahead anyway. Christians Against Poverty wants the decision reversed warning that the top-up is an essential lifeline for poorer families.

Church of England welcomes winter plan for Covid-19

The Church of England  has welcomed the government’s latest plan for England to tackle Covid-19, noting that communal worship, weddings, funerals and other commemorative events would not become subject to vaccination certification, even under ‘Plan B’, which requires wearing masks, asking people to work from home and possibly introducing vaccine passports.  It says:“ We will continue to monitor the situation as we move towards Christmas”.

Americans cite religious objections to dodge compulsory Covid-19 vaccinations

The Associated Press reports that employees in various states across the USA are citing religious objections to try to get out of the required COVID-19 vaccination. They include an estimated 2,600 Los Angeles Police Department employees, and thousands of state workers in Washington state and a hospital in Arkansas. It says the use of religious exemptions, enshrined in the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, has been growing over the past decade. The objections do not have to be rooted in an organized religion – “it can be new, unusual or seem illogical or unreasonable to others”, meaning employers are in the position of determining what is a legitimate religious belief and what is a dodge. The arguments turn on disputed foetal tissue in a vaccine.

Australian job furlough payments reward Pentecostal church with millions of dollars

The Guardian reports that an Australian Pentecostal church has made a huge profit during the Covid-19 lockdown through “jobkeeper” payments. Hope Unlimited Church, which began in New South Wales as a breakaway from Hillsong (an evangelical mega church), was given $660,000 in jobkeeper payments and in the year end accounts December 2020, posted a $1.6million (3620%) increase in profit. The report says that churches in Australia were eligible for jobkeeper grants if they forecasted a decline of 15% in revenue between March and September last year. ABC reports that thousands of churches received millions of dollars in jobkeeper payments, when they were in the black.  The anomaly has caused disquiet, the Guardian reports, with government federal treasurer Josh Frydenberg saying it would welcome religious groups paying back the money if they are able to.

Colin Urguhart, charismatic leader, has passed away after a 50 year ministry

The Rev Colin Urquhart, a clergyman who became involved in the charismatic movement in the 1960s and 70s, has died from cancer at the age of 81. Following his book “When the Spirit comes”, he resigned from his Church of England parish in Luton and began a global ministry through a trust based in Horsham, setting up the Kingdom Faith church. He led revival meetings and wrote more than 45 books. His son now leads the church in Horsham.  

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