Religion news 20 December 2023

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Christian reaction to government transgender schools guidance

The government has issued transgender guidance for schools, which requires teachers to inform parents if their child wishes to change their gender identity.  It also advises that schools in England should “take a very cautious approach” if pupils want to use a new name, pronouns or uniform, with the minister for women and equalities. The guidance has been promised for five years and Paul Barber, Catholic Education Service Director, said their schools had been responding to pupils over transgender issues for many years, on a case-by-case basis, with sensitivity and understanding. They would participate in the consultation in due course.  The conservative Christian Institute welcomed the advice. Its head of education John Denning said: “No child is born in the wrong body and schools should not be teaching them that they can be or treating them as if they are.”  

Survey shows three in ten Jewish families have Christmas trees in their home

A report from the Institute for Jewish Policy Research says three in ten Jews in the UK have a Christmas tree in their home – at least for some years. This is one finding in a National Jewish Identity Survey report, which the IJPR will publish in February 2024, including information about belief in God, festival observance, community engagement, intermarriage, attachment to Israel and experiences of antisemitism, among many other areas of questioning. The survey finds that the older the respondents are, the less likely they are to have a Christmas tree at home; almost no self-identifying Orthodox Jews report having a Christmas tree; more than half of Jews who describe themselves as non-practising report doing so;  Jews who describe themselves as ‘Reform/Progressive’ are more than four times as likely to have a Christmas tree at home than those who describe themselves as ‘Traditional’. Almost a quarter of Jews in the UK both light Hannukah candles and have a Christmas tree in their home, at least some years. The research is part of a project to chart Jewish identity over at least a decade. JPR’s executive director, Dr Jonathan Boyd, said: “The reasons why Jews do or do not choose to have a Christmas tree at home are complex, but the data provide some insight into the issues of Jewish acculturation and assimilation into wider UK society, and the extent to which wider Christian cultural norms have been adopted by Jews in this country.”

Jewish leaders from seven countries meet to combat antisemitism

Jewish leaders from seven countries with large diaspora communities, known as the “J7”, have spent two days meeting in Paris to examine the current state of antisemitism in their communities. Brought together by the Anti-Defamation League, ADL, the group shared experiences of sharp increases in antisemitic attitudes and incidents in the aftermath of the 7 October 7 attacks on Israel. They agreed that in every country, Jewish university students are vulnerable and they shared strategies to combat online hate.  They will work together to develop best practices for governments, academia, the private sector and civil society to address these issues. The J7 includes Argentina, Australia: Canada,  France, Germany,  United Kingdom and the United States

Stephen Fry to deliver Channel 4’s Alternative Christmas Message

Stephen Fry will deliver Channel 4’s 2023 Alternative Christmas Message, which is broadcast on Christmas Day. Jewish News has seen a preview and reveals that he will talk about his pride in his Jewish identity and the ancient hatred in antisemitism which has been stirred up by the war in Israel / Gaza. He will also speak of his sadness at the violence unfolding in Israel / Gaza and the improvement in British attitudes towards gay love.

Church inclusivity guide described as “woke church rules”

A Methodist guide to greater inclusivity and diversity in the church has hit the headlines in The Sun. The guide includes practical advice on language and church practice that discriminates against others, for example never calling women girls, avoiding the description of groups as guys or fellows, and advice on not using the words husband or wife, which was picked up by The Sun: “Terminology such as ‘husband’ and ‘wife’ may sound inoffensive but it makes assumptions about a family or personal life that is not the reality for many people”. The Sun describes this as new woke church rules. The Methodist Church says its guidance is designed to avoid hurting people and is quoted saying: “Our guide helps the church hold conversations without inadvertently causing upset.”

Post evangelicalism a growing movement in the United States

The Christian Science Monitor carries a feature about the US based “Post Evangelical Collective”, a movement for people who have rejected the close liaison between white evangelicals and the Republican Party under Donald Trump. Their badge “post evangelical” was brought into the public arena by the UK clergyman the Rev Dave Tomlinson, in a book of the same name, but the movement has gained traction in the USA in the Trump era. Co-founder Keri Ladouceur says: “I just find the person of Jesus and story after story of liberation and healing and redemption just a really compelling depiction of who God is”. Article is here

Archbishop of York is Yorkshire’s Man of the Year

The Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, has been awarded the 2023 Yorkshire Award for Man of the Year. He will receive his award – Yorkshire’s most prestigious – at a gala dinner in Leeds on 1 March 2024. In response, he said on Twitter/X: “A boy from Essex is deeply honoured to receive this award as an adopted son of Yorkshire. Thank you”.


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