Religion news 19 November 2021

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CofE reform needed urgently, bishop tells synod

The Bishop of Leeds, Nick Baines, has called for urgent reform of the “archaic” structure of the Church of England. He told the General Synod that having 122 groups acting within the main seven governing bodies (known as the national church institutions) was “probably not what Jesus had in mind when he commissioned Peter to the task of feeding and growing a church. This does not serve the church well.” He chairs the governance review group, which was established by the archbishops and the House of Bishops before the pandemic to review the national structures of the CofE. Church Times report here

Cricketer in racism claim apologises for antisemitism

Azeem Rafiq, the former Yorkshire cricketer who said racism in the sport had destroyed his career apologised yesterday for using antisemitic slurs a decade ago, the Jewish Chronicle reports. He said: “I am incredibly angry at myself and I apologise to the Jewish community and everyone who is rightly offended by this.”

‘Horned shaman’ jailed for Capitol insurrection rejects QAnon

The “QAnon shaman” whose horned fur hat, bare chest and face paint made him the “public face of the Capitol riot” in Washington on 6 January has been jailed for 41 months. Jacob Chansley, one of the first rioters to enter the building, admitted offering a prayer “for having the chance to get rid of traitors”, the Associated Press reports. He has since rejected the QAnon movement, which centres on the baseless belief that Donald Trump was fighting a cabal of Satan-worshipping, child sex trafficking cannibals. It has been described as a new religion cult, with Q the all powerful leader, extremist propaganda and recruits isolating themselves from family and friends.

Cleric linked to terror group shot dead

A Muslim cleric accused of links to suicide bombers has been shot dead by security forces in Uganda. The BBC reported that Sheikh Muhammad Abas Kirevu was killed just outside the capital Kampala. Officers from the security forces claimed Kirevu had recruited for cells run by the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), which support the Islamic State group. The ADF was founded in Uganda in the 1990s, but is now active in the Democratic Republic of Congo, claiming responsibility of a series of terrorist attacks, including one on Tuesday in which four people were killed when suicide bombers on motorcycles blew themselves up.

Jabs rise as antivaxers change their minds

A Christian community on South Island, New Zealand, is pushing up the country’s Covid vaccination rate, after overturning its traditional antivax stance. The online news site Stuff.co.nz says leaders of the Gloriavale Christian Community at Lake Haupiri on the west coast told members to turn out for their jabs, to ensure schools and midwifery services in the area can continue to operate. In seven days, the percentage of residents with one dose leapt from 57.7 per cent to 76.2.

Scottish government takes advice on conversion therapy ban

Representatives of LGBTQ+ groups will join faith groups and mental health professionals to advise the Scottish government on how to ban conversion therapy. Premier Christian News says people with experience of the radical practice — described by Scottish social justice secretary Shona Robison as “harmful and discriminatory” — will also share their views with the government, which has promised to ban it by 2023. Ms Robison said: “We are clear about the need to end conversion practices in Scotland, ensuring that everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, is safe from them.”

Governor praised for letting murderer live

The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Oklahoma City has praised its state governor for “tremendous courage” in stopping the execution of a murderer. Archbishop Paul Coakley said governor Kevin Stitt was to be congratulated for commuting the death sentence on Julius Jones, four hours before he was to die by lethal injection, the Catholic News Agency reported. “To oppose the death penalty is not to be soft on crime,” said the archbishop. “Rather it is to be strong on the dignity of life.”

Men accused of Malcolm X assassination to be cleared

Two men convicted of the 1965 assassination of Malcolm X, the black Muslim minister and human rights activist, are to be cleared of his murder after evidence that the FBI and New York police withheld key evidence, The Guardian reports. Muhammad Aziz and Khalil Islam were each jailed for more than 20 years. They are now due to be exonerated after nearly two years of investigation by their lawyers and the Manhattan district attorney’s office. Khalil Islam died in 2009.

New Methodist Youth president

James Carver, 22, from Nottingham, has been elected Methodist Youth president for 2022-23. James, who is partially deaf and lives with a stammer, is studying for a masters in criminology at Nottingham Trent University. He said: “I want to raise awareness of mental health issues and other conditions such as ADHD and autism that the church needs to increase awareness of if it is to become truly inclusive.”

Protect the young, says Pope

Pope Francis marked the first national day of prayer for victims and survivors of abuse in Italy yesterday by calling for “reflection, awareness and prayer to support the paths of human and spiritual recovery”. He called on all with educational responsibilities within the community “to protect and respect the adolescents and young people entrusted to them”.

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, Plymouth and Nottingham have happened – two more to go. Reserve a place using the links below.

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