Religion news 2 June 2021

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Martyn Percy complaint will not go to church tribunal

The complaint about Martyn Percy, the Dean of Christ Church Oxford, stroking the hair of a young woman, will not go forward to a tribunal under the Clergy Discipline Measure. A decision from Dame Sarah Asplin, Chair of the Clergy Discipline Commission and President of Tribunals in the Church of England, said referring the matter to a tribunal would be “entirely disproportionate”. The report said: “The incident itself was extremely short, the alleged hair stroking was even shorter and the language and the conduct as a whole was not overtly sexual”. Martyn Percy has denied the charge. A tribunal would have had the power to remove the Dean from office. A redacted copy of the decision has been circulated by friends of Martyn Percy and seen by the Church Times, whose report is here. The Dean is suspended and on sick leave following years of conflict with the college’s governing body. In reply, Christ Church Oxford said in a  statement: “The tribunal process is continuing and there will be no further updates at this time, nor will Christ Church comment on any separate, external processes”.

Boris Johnson – Britain’s first Roman Catholic PM

The Guardian lists concern and complaints from Catholics denied the opportunity for remarriage in church, while Boris Johnson managed it at Westminster Abbey on a technicality. Meanwhile Christopher Lamb considers the deeper significance of Johnson now being known and identified as a baptised Catholic, albeit a “resting” one and a confirmed Anglican. In the last year, the Prime Minister married a Catholic and his youngest child was baptised into the faith.  Christopher Lamb writes that a Catholic prime minister marks a watershed in the history of British Catholicism, as historically there has been concern about latent anti-Catholicism in the establishment. “A line should now be drawn under the anti-Catholicism of the past”, he says, imagining that if Pope Francis visits Cop26 in Glasgow, he may well meet Britain’s first Catholic Prime Minister and his wife – something which would have been unthinkable 40 years ago.

New Catholic laws make sex abuse & grooming a criminal offence

The Pope has announced reforms to church “Canon” law which will make  sexual abuse, grooming minors for sex, possessing child pornography and covering up abuse a criminal offence under Vatican law. The reforms will also prohibit the ordination of women, recording confessions and committing fraud. There have been thousands of reports of historic sexual abuse by priests throughout the world in recent years, and cover-ups by senior clergy. The existing laws, last revised 40 years ago,  were considered to assist the protection of perpetrators and were not explicit enough. Bishops are now required to take action when a complaint is made. The new rules come into effect on 8 December.

57 million Americans still believe in QAnon

The Public Religion Research Institute in the USA has completed research which suggests that  15% of Americans agree with the QAnon allegation that the government, media, and financial worlds in the U.S. are controlled by a group of Satan-worshipping paedophiles who run a global child sex trafficking operation. This equates to 57 million people.  Hispanic Protestants (26%), white evangelical Protestants (25%), and other Protestants of colour (24%) are more likely than other religious groups to agree. Jewish Americans (60%) and religiously unaffiliated Americans (57%), are the most likely to be QAnon rejecters. Report is here:

Christian group threatens legal action against NI conversion therapy ban

The Christian Institute says it will not hesitate to take legal action if the Northern Ireland Executive introduces a ban on conversion therapy, which outlaws the wrong kind of prayer. The practice involves religious leaders, who take a fundamentalist view of the Bible and believe homosexuality is wrong, praying with or counselling a person conflicted over their sexuality, in the hope they will return to traditional teaching. In April, the Northern Ireland Assembly voted for a ban on so conversion therapy, within a year. Arlene Foster abstained and shortly afterwards  her leadership was challenged and she resigned. Jason Coppell QC has given advice to the Institute saying Christian beliefs on sexuality are protected by human rights law and must be treated by the State with neutrality and impartiality.

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