Religion news 24 April 2024

Migrants crossing English channel
Image credit: Sandor Csudai CCLicense4.0

Church leaders “deep misgivings” on the Rwanda bill

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York, together with leaders of other churches in England, have issued a joint statement saying they continue to have “deep misgivings about the Safety of Rwanda Bill, passed in Parliament last night”.  All Church of England bishops in the Lords opposed the bill.  The statement says the church leaders are concerned at the rise in hostility towards refugees and asylum seekers, whose treatment has become a political football. They express gratitude to those who feed and clothe the poor, and welcome the stranger, and they defend their work against comment from MPs and others that churches and clergy deliberately facilitate false asylum claims. The statement says representatives met the Home Secretary in February, but “when asked, neither he nor officials could provide evidence to support the allegations of widespread abuse”, adding that follow up meetings have been agreed. They say that borders must be managed and “Like so many in this country, we seek to support a system that shows compassion, justice, transparency and speed in its decisions. We grieve the appalling loss of life in the Channel today”. The signatories include Baptist, Methodist, URC and Catholic leaders.

Sarah Teather, director of the Jesuit Refugee Service UK, said: “The Rwanda plan remains as inhumane as it is absurd. It will destroy lives, plunge vulnerable people into danger and see us abandon our duty towards people seeking sanctuary here. And all for the sake of an election gimmick. This is not who we are”. 

Theos: Appreciate emotional value of carers’ work and pay them more

A report from the think tank Theos is appealing for better pay and conditions for care workers and family members looking after loved ones. “Loves Labours: Good work, care work and a mutual economy” says that failing to properly value care skills, emotional care and relationship building, has led to low pay, poor conditions and a crisis with 152,000 positions going unfilled in 2022/23. The report says “Rebalancing the low economic status of care work in all its forms is vital” and improving conditions of work would honour carers’ skills. The report is part of Theos’ 2024 Work Shift series, exploring how a renewed focus on the relational elements of work could improve the labour market.

Awards for British Muslim business leaders contributing millions to the economy

More than 1,000 Muslim business leaders attended the Islam Channel Business Awards 2024 in a ceremony which celebrated success and contribution to British society and the economy. MPs, ambassadors and civic dignitaries attended the gala reception and Islam Channel’s report of the event quotes its CEO, Mohamed Harrath, speaking of the importance of entrepreneurship and commerce in Islam, with the Prophet Muhammad showing the value to be placed on trade.  ‍The full list of winners is here and they include Kestrl Muslim money app,  a start up gym kin Leytonstone, yoghurt making Lancashire Farm, Sunnamusk Arabic perfumes, and the £123.07m turnover Euro Foods Group.

United Reformed Church leaders visit Jamaica to apologise for slavery

A delegation from the United Reformed Church has visited Jamaica to apologise for the church’s historic involvement with the slave trade. The Rev Dr Tessa Henry-Robinson, URC General Assembly Moderator, delivered the apology in an ecumenical service at a parish church in Kingston. It was accompanied by a pledge from the local URC leaders to give parcels of land the church had received from those who profited from slavery to the most vulnerable. The Jamaica and Cayman Islands moderator, the Rev Gary Harriott, said much of Jamaica’s policies and economic state are shaped by the legacies of slavery and he hoped those who continue to experience the impact of slavery will carry on demanding justice and affirming peace. Olivia Grange, a government minister in Jamaica, accepted the apology and encouraged other UK churches, along with the UK government, to also apologise.

United Methodists start their crucial conference deciding same-sex rules

The United Methodist Church conference, delayed for four years, is finally taking place in Charlotte, North Carolina. The key votes will be on same-sex relationships, an issue which has already split the church even before the final votes this week, with 7,600 churches, a quarter of the total, leaving. There will be proposals to lift the ban on same-sex marriage and to allow “practicing homosexuals” to be clergy and bishops. There are also proposals to allow global regional organisations to take decisions independently. United Methodist News offers a live feed and comprehensive reporting.

Spanish government plan to compensate victims of church abuse rejected by bishops

The Minister of the Presidency and Justice in Spain has announced a plan to compensate victims of sex abuse committed by people connected to the Catholic Church. Felix Bolanos said the plan was based on recommendations in a report by the Spanish Ombudsman which concluded that 440,000 adults may have suffered sex abuse in Spain by people linked to the church and that roughly half of those cases were committed by clergy. The compensation would be financed by the church and rolled out over four years. However, the Associated Press reports that Spain’s Bishops Conference has rejected the plan, saying it discriminated against victims outside of church circles. The bishops have previously apologised for the abuse but say the number of victims is exaggerated. AP says only a handful of countries have had government-initiated or parliamentary inquiries into clergy sex abuse, although some independent groups have carried out their own investigations.

CAFOD launches emergency Sudan appeal

The Catholic charity CAFOD has launched an emergency appeal to support families in Sudan, with over eight million people fleeing their homes away from violence, and 25 million in urgent need of humanitarian assistance, CAFOD says there is a short window to act before the growing season in Sudan starts in June, as fears grow of an impending – yet preventable – famine.  Barbara Woodward, the UK’s permanent representative to the United Nations, has told the UN Security Council that while Sudan is in the grip of the world’s worst hunger and displacement crisis, “it is not too late for Sudan to return from the brink,” urging political negotiations to bring peace and more access to humanitarian aid.   

15-minute service in Swansea is mission accomplished

The Guardian sent a reporter to a church service in Swansea to find out how a 15 minute mid-week service went down. He found people were impressed. The vicar, the Rev John Gillibrand, watched the clock, have a Bible reading followed by short reflection, silence to take stock, and then ended: “Fifteen minutes bang on. Thank you God. Mission accomplished.” The congregation of 22 included church stalwarts and many new people., who squeezed in the time after work, including a solicitor, probation officer, health worker and teenager.  The service has become known as the “Ready, steady – church!”, providing a pause in a busy world to pause and perhaps feel the presence of God

Services at “Four Weddings and a Funeral” church under threat

Panic set in when a Tweet/X announced that the church in a Surrey village which featured in “Four Weddings and a Funeral” was about to close unless a churchwarden could be found. Crime writer @WritesRachael appealed: “If you are in the parish of Betchworth, Surrey & sad at the loss of our churches & Heritage please, if you are able, contact the Rev Pru Dulley to become a Church Warden. Christianity is the foundation of our civilisation & our Freedom”.  The resulting publicity in the BBC and Telegraph saved the day, as the vicar has already had one applicant to fill the vacancy. Southwark Diocese explained there was no expectation that the church would close, but the existing fortnightly communion services could not be maintained without volunteer help.


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