Religion news 23 September 2021

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Image credit: @ST0NEHENGE

Oxford college apologises for hosting Christian conference

Worcester College, Oxford, has said that allowing a conference by the traditionalist Christian organisation The Wilberforce Academy, was a “serious failure that caused significant distress” and it has apologised unreservedly. The Wilberforce Academy is run by Christian Concern, which says topics covered included “abortion, Islam, support for those experiencing unwanted same-sex attraction, transgenderism and Christian cultural history”. It says the decision demonstrates the power of cancel culture fuelled by people “who won’t tolerate any view that departs from their own narrow ideology”.

Secretary General of Anglican Communion announces retirement

Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon, Secretary-General of the Anglican Communion, is retiring next August, after the Lambeth conference of bishops has taken place. He is 72, a long standing friend of the Archbishop of Canterbury and was formerly Archbishop of the Province of Kaduna in north Nigeria until his appointment to this role seven years ago. The Church Times quotes him reflecting on his contribution to the fractious relationships in the worldwide Anglican church: “There are still divisions within the Anglican Communion; but there is very little of the bitterness and rancour that existed previously”.

Australian fringe website against Covid vaccines and restrictions “a form of Christian nationalism”

Religious leaders in Australia have become increasingly concerned at the activities of The Caldron website which is anti-vaccination, anti-mask, anti-abortion and against churches closing for worship during the pandemic. The Caldron, named after a fictional place in the Narnia Chronicles home to a fake Aslan, hosts the “Ezekiel Declaration” against vaccine passports and the “Moses declaration” opposing church closures in lockdowns. The Guardian reports that mainstream church leaders warn the views are a form of Christian nationalism under the banner of freedom, imported from the United States, with a clash between individual rights and obligations to society. The Rev Andrew Dutney, theology professor at Flinders University, says the pandemic is a “perfect petri dish” for fringe groups that are suspicious of authority and have a tendency towards apocalyptic thinking.

Proof of vaccine against Covid-19 or a test for visitors to the Vatican

The Vatican has announced that from 1 October, people wishing to enter Vatican City will have to provide proof they have received the vaccine, recovered from Covid-19 or tested negative for the virus within the previous 72 hours. They will need a Green Pass, an Italian certificate, or international equivalent. Social distancing, mask mandates and hygiene measures will still apply. The decision makes an exception for people who participate in liturgical celebrations “for the time that is strictly necessary to perform the rite”.

Photographic exhibition of lives rebuilt after the Holocaust

Holocaust survivors have gathered for a photography exhibition which showcases their lives, at the Imperial War Museum. Titled Generations: Portraits of Holocaust Survivors,  the exhibition illustrates the stories of survivors and their descendants more than 70 years after the holocaust. The Duchess of Cambridge and royal photographer Arthur Edwards are among the contributors. The exhibition sponsor said the project showed that out of darkness, new life can arise. 

Case dropped against three Sikh men at risk of extradition India

The Crown Prosecution Service has dropped the case against three British Sikh men from the West Midlands who were detained on suspicion of conspiracy to a murder in Punjab in 2009. They were arrested in December last year but their lawyer, Gareth Pierce, said their case was dropped due to lack of evidence and the status of police officers in the case, who had themselves been convicted of involvement in disappearances, torture and murder. The Sikh Press Association was involved in a campaign to release the men and gave a statement outside Westminster Magistrates Court.

Destruction of Sodom “due to a meteor crashing to earth”

Twenty-one scientists have produced a report suggesting a cosmic airburst, when a meteor smashes through the atmosphere, was to blame for the destruction of Sodom, graphically described in the Bible. An archaeological survey of Tall el-Hammam, an area northeast of the Dead Sea, has revealed evidence of temperatures higher than 2,000 degrees celsius around the year 1650 BCE. Scientists found pottery shards, “bubbled” mudbrick, partially melted building material and a high concentration of salt. The Bible story says Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by God for their wickedness, as fire and brimstone fell from the sky. Lot’s wife lingered as she escaped and was turned into a pillar of salt. Although there is no scientific evidence confirming the link, the researchers say that the disaster could have generated an oral tradition that may have inspired the Biblical account of Sodom or the destruction of Jericho. Their work is published in the scientific journal Nature.

Autumn equinox celebrated as the sun rises today

Druids, Pagans and new age followers are gathering  at Stonehenge to mark the Autumn Equinox as the sun rises above the stones. It marks the moment the equator passes through the centre of the sun’s path when night and day are of equal duration. In some  traditions the festival  is called Mabon, the seventh point in the wheel of the year, marking solstices and equinox celebrations, and a time for giving thanks for the harvest. Read our fact sheet on Paganism here and on Stonehenge here

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