Religion news 18 November 2021

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Archbishop says there is ‘no significant cloud’ over Bishop George Bell

The Archbishop of Canterbury has reversed his judgment that a significant cloud surrounded the late Bishop George Bell, after a woman alleged she had been sexually abused by him. In a statement released yesterday, the Archbishop said he was wrong not to have retracted this before and he apologised for the hurt caused to Bishop Bell’s supporters. George Bell, who died in 1958, was a renowned Anglican figure of the 20th century, Bishop of Chichester, a pioneer of the ecumenical movement, friend and ally of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and passionate opponent of “area bombing” during the Second World War. In 1995, 37 years after his death, a woman complained she had been sexually abused by him as a child, but the complaint was not dealt with until 2013 and compensation was then paid. Sussex police took no action on the grounds of lack of evidence. The Archbishop’s statement said the church’s response to the allegation was not handled with high standards of consistency, clarity or accountability.

Reporters investigate asylum seekers’ conversions to Christianity

Reporters from many publications have been investigating claims that asylum seekers are converting to Christianity in order to help their asylum applications in the UK. One reason to grant asylum is if there is a risk of persecution because of religion. The investigations follow the revelation that Emad Al Swealmeen, the Liverpool bomber, was confirmed at Liverpool Cathedral four years ago, around the same time as his application for asylum was rejected. The home secretary, Priti Patel, said his story was a reflection on how the dysfunctional and broken asylum system was being exploited. The Church of England said it was not aware of any link between confirmations and asylum applications. Liverpool Cathedral has declared it has robust processes for discerning a genuine commitment to faith, including regular church attendance, taking part in a course about Christianity and being involved in a church community for at least two years before it would consider supporting an application.

US Catholic bishops avoid policy to withhold communion from Joe Biden

 The Associated Press reports that US Catholic bishops have overwhelmingly approved a document on communion that stops short of calling for withholding the sacrament from politicians such as President Joe Biden who support abortion rights.  It emphasises the centrality of the Eucharist in faith and worship; adds a reference to defending “the unborn” alongside vulnerable people such as immigrants, the elderly and victims of racial injustice; and reaffirms a 2006 statement saying it’s a scandal if a Catholic “in his or her personal or professional life were knowingly or obstinately to reject” the church’s doctrines or moral teachings. Work on the document started soon after Biden took office ad the Vatican has made repeated requests to the bishops to exercise caution.

Methodist minister becomes chaplain general to the army

The Rev Michael Parker, a Methodist minister and army chaplain, will be taking over as Chaplain General of the British Army in May next year. Born in Cornwall, he trained as an electrical engineer for the Ministry of Defence before studying theology and training for the ministry, becoming a chaplain in 2000. He has served in Northern Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan and says Methodism has a long history of providing soldiers and chaplains: “I have had the privilege of offering pastoral care, spiritual support and moral guidance, around the globe in good times and bad”.

Zara Mohammed to attend multifaith Chanukkah celebration

Zara Mohammed, general secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain is the guest speaker at the Liberal Jewish Synagogue’s Multi Faith Chanukkah celebration in north London next month. All faith communities are invited as candles are lit on the fifth night of the festival, 2 December. A short service in person and online will be followed by a tour of the synagogue’s sanctuary. 

Church’s sunflowers maze of hope raises thousands for charity

A church in Fife which created a maze in a field of sunflowers has collected £6,500 from visitors who came to see it in September. The “Field of Hope” on the banks of the Firth of Forth, had the word “Hope” carved through the flowers in a message to the community, praising the spirit shown during the Covid-19 lockdown. 24 MSPs have signed a motion praising the farmer Claire Pollock for the initiative which has allowed money to be handed to community groups.

Creating Connections: sign up in Manchester, Nottingham, Plymouth and Birmingham

The Religion Media Centre has launched a project this autumn to enhance religious literacy and understanding in a landscape often fraught with misconceptions and assumptions on both sides. Creating Connections, where Religion meets the Media features a series of events to improve links between religious groups and journalists in England. They are an opportunity to explore the way religion and worldviews are interwoven into community life and it is hoped that key stories on religion and belief will be brought to life and lasting contacts for the future will be made. Events in Leeds and Plymouth have happened – three more to go. Reserve a place using the links below.

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