Religion news 2 November 2022

Artist's impression of St Chad's shrine at Lichfield Cathedral. Image credit: Association of English Cathedrals

Spiritual traditions of Paganism resurgent in Britain

The chief of the Anglesey Druid Order, Kristoffer Hughes, is giving the sermon at a service of thanksgiving in St Asaph’s Cathedral on 13 November, for those who have donated their organ and body tissues to help others survive. He told a Religion Media Centre briefing that the Anglican clergy wanted the service to be multifaith and to include the indigenous spiritual tradition of Wales. He had seen a resurgence of interest in the spirituality connected with the ancient order of Druids, which accompanied increased observances of folk festivals and a rise in the number of people learning Welsh. He believed the heightened interest is associated with a longing for identity, a connection to personal roots and association with a people and a culture.  Druidry is within the broad umbrella of Paganism and Jenny Uzzell from The Pagan Federation said there was a shift taking place in how the public regarded this strand of religion in society. The idea that it was slightly ridiculous, weird and quaint was turning. Paganism is studied academically, people are genuinely interested in the spiritual tradition and journalists are interested in the shift. View the media briefing on our YouTube channel here >>

NUS President Shaima Dallali sacked after inquiry into antisemitism

The President of the National Union of Students, Shaima Dallali, has been dismissed after allegations of antisemitism were made against her. She discovered the news via social media, which she said was “unacceptable”. An independent investigation, commissioned by the NUS, considered a tweet she had sent ten years ago, with an Arabic chant referring to the massacre of Jews in 628CE – she has since apologised. The Jewish Chronicle catalogued other episodes from her social media presence, the government demanded an investigation and the NUS commissioned an inquiry which has just reported back. Ms Dallali, 27, studied law at City University, London and was its student union president before being elected to the national NUS role. She said she had been subject to horrifying attacks since then, on her character, faith and family.

Bishops appeal for reconciliation after close election in Brazil

The president of the Brazilian bishops’ conference, Archbishop Walmor Oliveira, has called for reconciliation after a bruising presidential election campaign won by Lula da Silva by just one percentage point.  The Tablet reports the Archbishop’s video statement issued soon after the result came in, saying the campaign had divided families and friends, but the Christian gospel called for love, peace and service to the poor. Lula’s support was strong among Catholics who backed his social justice ideas, but their numbers have declined. The growing number of evangelicals wanted a conservative take on morality and  it is reported that he courted them by promising not to restrict religious freedom and saying he was opposed to legalising abortion.

R20 leaders say no peace without involving religious leaders in global negotiations

The new G20 religion forum, known as the R20, starts in Indonesia today when religious leaders from around the globe encourage their traditions to offer “dynamic solutions” rather than problems in the challenges nations face. The opening address was due to be delivered by Archbishop Henry Ndukuba, Anglican Primate of the Church of Nigeria, who refused to attend the Lambeth Conference in protest at moves to allow same sex marriage. At a press conference to launch the two day summit, KH Yahya Cholil Staquf,  from the co-host organisation the Nahdlatul Ulama Central Board, said the R20 would be the beginning of a “global alliance, founded upon shared civilizational values”, building bridges between east and west, to encourage mutual understanding, peace and friendship. He hoped the R20 would have a role at the G20, which is due to meet in the same venue in two weeks time.  The other R20 co-host is the Muslim World League and its secretary general, H.E. Shaykh Mohammad Al-Issa, told the press conference that unless religious organisations were fully involved in global negotiations, there would never fully be peace.

Three days to set the CofE course on same sex relationships

Church of England bishops are meeting over three days with the main item on the agenda the Living in Love and Faith consultation, which seeks to broker peace on the contested issue of same sex relationships. Church members have been asked to consider a resource pack of materials, explaining all sides of the argument in a process intended to increase understanding and allow the church to stay united. At its heart is a dispute about how the Bible should be read and understood, with explicit texts against same sex relations taken literally or seen in the context of their age. The fractious debate led to a film made by evangelicals who threatened to set up a parallel structure within the church if it sanctioned same sex marriage. On the other side, LGBTQ+ clergy and lay people campaign for an end to discrimination and a structure allowing same sex relationships and marriages to go ahead. The bishops will weigh up their response to be presented at the next General Synod meeting in February. The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said on Twitter: “As the College of Bishops meets over the next three days I’m looking forward to fruitful, energising and honest conversations”. The Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, simply asked for prayer.

More CofE headlines

The Church of England’s Archbishops’ Council is investing £2 million in the Social and Sustainable Housing Fund, which uses the money to deliver social housing for vulnerable people across the UK.

The Oxford Mail reports that Martyn Percy, the former Dean of Christ Church, has withdrawn a bid to sue the CofE’s Independent Safeguarding Board for £7,000, after being told it was not a legal entity against which a legal claim could be brought. He was ordered to pay the ISB £4,500 in costs.  

A relic of St Chad returning to resting place at Lichfield Cathedral

A relic of St Chad, the patron saint of Lichfield Cathedral and the first bishop of Lichfield, is returning to the cathedral next week. The remains were removed for safe keeping during the dissolution of the shrine in Henry VIII’s reign and eventually found their way, via Catholic families, to Birmingham’s Catholic cathedral. Now in a spirit of ecumenical friendship, one of the relics will return to Lichfield to be housed in a purpose-built shrine. The gesture is said to be an act of reconciliation, healing historic divides.

Documentary shines a light on isolated Christian community in western New Zealand

A documentary about “Gloriavale”, a secretive Christian community in an empty part of western New Zealand south island, tells the story of a community of 600 people isolated from the world.  Families routinely have 12 children who go to a school within the community. Women work on domestic duties, the people all wear standard clothes in blue and they have no idea of national or world events. The community was set up by Neville Cooper, an Australian evangelical Christian, in 1969, but has been the subject of intervention and investigation since he was jailed for sex abuse in 1995.  Other subsequent sex abuse cases have been taken to court and current leaders have apologised and vowed to put measures in place to prevent future occurrences.  The community trades through framing and its last accounts showed a profit of NZ$2.3 million with assets of NZ$43.3 million.

Pastor camps out on rooftop to raise $20 million for new centre

The pastor of New Beginnings Church of Chicago has Raised $20 million for a new community centre, after camping out on a rooftop for 365 days. Pastor Corey Brooks braved wet and windy weather and spoke of his fear when hearing gunshots ring out in the night. But the experience confirmed his ambition that a community centre would help transform the area, helping people change the course of their lives. He needs another $15 million to complete the building without debt and will approach donors. Premier Christian News story here >>


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