Religion news 2 November 2021

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Image credit: National Churches Trust flickr CCLicense2.0

Imagine church buildings’ future in their medieval past, as community hubs and places of worship

More than 900 church buildings are at risk of closure even though they are a national asset, according to the National Churches Trust. In an online Religion Media Centre briefing, the trust’s chief executive, Claire Walker, said that most can be saved for a relatively small amount of funding and the whole community should be engaged in deciding their future. The Bishop of Ramsbury, Andrew Rumsey, who shares the lead role on church buildings, told the briefing that a proposal will come before synod this month on how churches can group together for mutual support and he agreed that the buildings were a gift to the whole community. The trust has launched a consultation to consider the future use of churches at risk from depleted congregations and finance. With imagination and investment, the briefing was told, they could revert to the role they had in medieval times as the hub of the community, hosting village shops, farmers’ markets, post offices, even doctor’s surgeries, while remaining open and available for prayer and worship. Our report on the briefing will be here and on our YouTube channel here.

Archbishop apologises after genocide comments at Cop26

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has apologised for saying that the failure to tackle the climate crisis would allow “a genocide on an infinitely greater scale” than the Nazis. Speaking in a BBC interview at the Cop26 summit in Glasgow, he said “this will be genocide indirectly, by negligence, recklessness, that will in the end come back to us or to our children and grandchildren”. Soon afterwards he tweeted an apology: “I unequivocally apologise for the words I used when trying to emphasise the gravity of the situation facing us at Cop26. It’s never right to make comparisons with the atrocities brought by the Nazis, and I’m sorry for the offence caused to Jews by these words.” The archbishop also said in the interview that leaders would be cursed if they didn’t reach agreement in the next fortnight.

Marriages after online dating risk high divorce rate in first three years

Married couples who meet online are six times more likely to divorce than couples who met at university or via family and friends in the first three years of marriage, according to a study from the Marriage Foundation charity, which has Christian supporters. The study, “Relative Strangers — The importance of social capital for marriage”, is a survey of 2,000 married adults and concludes that couples who meet online lack sufficient social capital or close support networks to deal with all the challenges they face, though over time this disparity disappears. The Marriage Foundation was set up by former High Court judge Sir Paul Coleridge, after a lifetime of specialising in family law. He says there are hidden risks in online marriages which are significantly more vulnerable early on and require more marriage preparation.

Awareness month to highlight pervasiveness of Islamophobia in Britain

This is Islamophobia Awareness Month designed to highlight the experiences and impact of Islamophobia on the everyday lives of British Muslims, and celebrate the contributions of British Muslim communities to society. The Muslim Council of Britain, in supporting the month, says Islamophobia remains pervasive in society, with 45 per cent of all recorded religious hate crime offences in England and Wales last year targeted against Muslims. It says Islamophobia creates barriers in employment, education and political participation.

Boilers, solar panels and electric cars to achieve CofE net zero by 2030

The Church of England has launched a consultation on a plan to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2030. It says this is an ambitious target and it is seeking to build consensus around proposals to achieve the goal. Measures could include making the process easier to buy new boilers, install solar panels, switch to renewable energy tariffs, and lease electric cars.

Survey suggests most US white evangelicals want a Christian majority nation

The Religion News Service reports a survey suggesting 57 per cent of white evangelicals indicate they’d prefer the US to be a nation primarily made of Christians. The findings are in a study from the Public Religion Research Institute into values and cultural change in America. It also suggests that 75 per cent of white evangelicals say the values of Islam are at odds with American values and ways of life. The survey was undertaken among 2,508 Americans in September. 

Calls for more Jewish TV programming in America to challenge antisemitism

In America, five members of Congress are calling on cable and satellite television providers to increase Jewish-themed programming as a way of fighting antisemitism. The call was led by Kathleen Rice, from New York’s Long Island, joined by other members of Congress representing areas with large Jewish populations. The Jewish Life Television channel says legislators in 17 states have made similar requests of cable and satellite providers in their areas in recent months.

3D virtual reality service brings viewers into church

The Church of England has produced a service in 3D virtual reality in a trial for online worship. The Blessing of the Light was filmed at the parish church of St Stephen Walbrook in the City of London, and can be seen here. The image can pan round 360 degrees so that the viewer can experience standing in the midst of the church. Amaris Cole, the Church of England’s head of digital, said the technology would enable people to explore worship in church buildings — perhaps for the first time.

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. Reserve a place using the links below. All events take place in the afternoon. The Leeds event was last week. Here are the next four:

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