Religion news 2 July 2021

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Image credit: @BishopAngaelos

It’s unfair: football fans can sing … why can’t church congregations?

Church leaders and congregations are growing increasingly frustrated at the ban on singing in church, while football fans are singing their hearts out supporting the England team during Euro 2020. The Spurs-supporting Bishop of Willesden, Pete Broadbent, said the anomaly is “incoherent”. He said he spent Tuesday evening cheering on England with his diocesan leadership team, all shouting at the TV screen and making as much noise as any hymn-singing congregation. “Congregations have been very responsible during the pandemic and it is right that we should give a lead,” he said. “But it’s about time that the Government understood that singing is fundamental to our worship”. Full story by Catherine Pepinster here

Methodists ban conversion therapy

The Methodist Conference has decided that no conversion therapy can take place in its name and has called on the UK government to ban the practice without delay. It has also called on all Methodists to refuse to offer or participate in offering conversion therapy in any form. “Conversion therapy” is an approach through prayer, therapy or other means to persuade someone to change their sexual orientation. Film of the conference proceedings here

Fewer than 50 per cent of RE teachers surveyed believe in God

A survey of 465 RE teachers in England and Scotland has found that fewer than 50 per cent of secondary RE teachers identify as “theist”. More respondents identified as “atheist” in England than in Scotland. The 2011 census data for England show that 25.1 per cent of the population are non-religious, while this survey suggests 47.6 per cent of RE teachers in England and 55.6 per cent in Scotland, say they have “no religion”. The research by three academics from Aberdeen and London, started from concern that teachers were portraying harmful religion as false, whereas religions should be presented as “multifarious, complex, social phenomena”. The survey found teachers who believe in God are twice as likely to teach religion positively.

Hundreds of Muslim organisations support alternative review of Prevent policy

Hundreds of Muslim organisations which decided to boycott the government’s review of the Prevent programme, have set up an alternative led by Professor John Holmwood, emeritus professor of sociology at Nottingham University, and Prevent Watch. The People’s Review will document opinions which it says have been ignored by previous government reports. The boycott was in protest at the appointment of review chairman William Shawcross, who has been criticised for remarks against Islam. Prevent was set up to counter terrorism, but it has been criticised for discriminating against Muslims.

Covid-19 deaths higher among Jewish communities because lockdown was too late

A report from Jewish Policy Research suggests that Jewish communities may have been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus pandemic because it did not lock down early enough. Deaths reported in April 2020 among Jewish people in England and Wales was 280 per cent higher than normal. But in January 2021, excess deaths among Jewish people stood at 69 per cent, slightly lower than the figure for London at 77 per cent. The report says the analysis contains serious life-and-death lessons for Jewish community leaders.

Clergy discipline measure criticised for lack of clarity

Peter Collier QC, chancellor of the Diocese of York, has criticised a new clergy disciplinary measure to be discussed by the Church of England’s general synod next weekend. In a Church Times article, he says he chaired a working group that had proposed the separation of serious misconduct from everything else. But the proposal before synod instead uses a different measure, dividing complaints (non-serious matters) and misconduct (allegations of clerical wrongdoing). He says misconduct can be both serious and non-serious, and this outcome is confusion. The current process to deal with complaints has been severely criticised for long delays in dealing with allegations, causing mental distress, with many cases eventually being dismissed.

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