Religion news 2 September 2021

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Image credit: Channel 4 news

John Smyth’s sadistic beatings of public schoolboys ‘could have been prevented

Dozens of boys could have been spared the abuse they received from the barrister John Smyth if Christian leaders had acted earlier on information they held about his activities, the author Andrew Graystone has told a Religion Media Centre briefing. His book, Bleeding for Jesus: John Smyth and the Cult of Iwerne Camps, tells how Smyth used Christian camps to recruit public schoolboys for beatings during the late 1970s and early 1980s. Graystone identified three moments when Smyth’s abuse could have been stopped, in 1982, 1993 and 2012. The story came to light in 2017, in a report by Cathy Newman for Channel 4 News. Andrew Graystone said survivors wanted honesty from the church and apologies from those who had covered up or failed to deal with the complaints. Our report on the media briefing here

Martyn Percy employment tribunal case scheduled for 2023

Christ Church, Oxford, has revealed that the employment tribunal claims brought by Dean Martyn Percy against the college will not be heard until 2023, perpetuating a dispute that goes back to 2017. The letter from the development office, published on the Christ Church website, says the process must be allowed to run its course. Dean Percy is suspended while an internal college investigation is under way into an allegation that he touched a woman’s hair, a complaint already judged to not be serious enough to merit a tribunal under the clergy discipline measure. Meanwhile, Dean Percy has made a number of employment tribunal claims against Christ Church. The letter said: “The current situation is a source of great pain and frustration to us all.”

Government ministers meet faith groups to discuss Afghan refugee resettlement

Robert Jenrick, the housing, communities and local government secretary, and Lord Greenhalgh, the faith minister, convened a meeting with faith leaders on Tuesday to discuss how to use faith networks to support the welcome and integration of Afghan families. Faith taskforce meetings have been a regular occurrence in lockdown as Covid measures changed. A research project into how the relationship between faith groups and government should continue is due to report back this year.

Councils and government departments unite in Afghan aid

The UK government has announced that people who arrive under the Afghan relocations and assistance policy will be given immediate indefinite leave to remain, alongside funding for school places and healthcare. A cross-government initiative, Operation Warm Welcome, is aiming to give refugees support to rebuild their lives with a package of measures for education, housing, language skills and finding work. The communities secretary will convene a round table with council leaders from across the country in the coming days.

National hour of prayer for Afghanistan

Church leaders in Britain joined in a one-hour national prayer for Afghanistan last night. The online event included contributions from an Afghan refugee and church leaders engaged in the national response to welcome new arrivals to the UK. It was organised by Dr Krish Kandiah, director of Afghan Welcome, and included Pastor Ayo Adedoyin from Jesus House, and Paul Butler, the Bishop of Durham.

Board of Deputies calls for Welsh first minister to withdraw from speaking at a Labour event

The Board of Deputies of British Jews says it is deeply concerned that the Welsh first minister Mark Drakeford is speaking at a festival event which will also feature Jeremy Corbyn and Ken Loach, who was expelled from Labour because of his membership of “Labour Against the Witchhunt”. Drakeford is billed to speak on universal income at the World Transformed festival in Brighton at the end of this month. Marie van der Zyl, president of the Board of Deputies, said “It cannot be fitting for the first minister and Welsh Labour leader to participate in events with people who have been suspended or expelled from the Labour Party for their role in the party’s antisemitism crisis over recent years. We call on Mr Drakeford to withdraw form this event and instead address the important topic of welfare reform at a more appropriate forum.”

CofE project to create digital map of every graveyard in England

The Church of England has embarked on a project to map the country’s 19,000 Anglican churchyards creating a digital map of every grave to help the growing popularity of researching family trees. Surveyors using back-pack laser scanners will catalogue churchyards to create a “Google Maps for graves” free database. The project is funded by Historic England, the National Heritage Lottery and genealogy websites Family Search and MyHeritage. It is expected to take seven years to complete and the first results will go up later this year.

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