Religion news 24 January 2024

Image credit: Ofcom 2022 report

Ofcom will continue to collect data on religious broadcasting “for the foreseeable future”

The Media Bill going through parliament will end the requirement on public service broadcasters (PSBs) to include specific genres of programmes on religion, science and arts. Concerns have been raised that without a legal requirement, broadcasters will stop providing programmes in these “at risk” areas. In a Religion Media Centre briefing, the Bishop of Leeds, Nick Baines, said metrics were needed to measure how PSBs abide by obligations to reflect all of society. He said the Culture Secretary, Lucy Frazer, was asked about this in a recent Communications and Digital Select Committee of the House of Lords, but she ducked the question and said they hadn’t really thought about what the metrics would be. Currently, Ofcom collates reports from each public service broadcaster on “at risk” categories and publishes the results annually. Ofcom has issued a statement saying monitoring will continue: “At the moment we do not plan to stop collecting data on genres, including hours of religious programming, for the foreseeable future. This is because we still have duties to ensure that PSBs are meeting the needs and satisfying the interests of as many different audiences as practicable”. View the briefing again on YouTube here or listen to our podcast here

Bishop of Southwark says Israel must not become its own worst enemy  

The Bishop of Southwark, Christopher Chessun, has called for an immediate ceasefire in Israel / Gaza and said “decisions taken by the Israeli government since 7 October risk spiralling the West Bank deeper into violence.  Israel must not become its own worst enemy, but look to negotiate an end to the occupation of the various Palestinian territories on terms that will ensure the flourishing of both Israelis and Palestinians.” The bishop was speaking after visiting Jerusalem and the West Bank where he had conversations with religious and civic leaders.  He said: “I’m clear that continued military action will only intensify this humanitarian catastrophe and make the prospects for peace more distant. As a religious leader, I add my voice to those calling for the release of the hostages and prisoners, and an immediate ceasefire to end this appalling suffering.” The Diocese of Southwark is formally linked with the Diocese of Jerusalem.

Church pleads for release of six nuns kidnapped in Haiti

The Pope has appealed for the release of six nuns, kidnapped six days ago in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.  The nuns, from the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Ann, were seized while travelling through the capital on a bus. The Catholic archdiocese of Port-au-Prince has pleaded for their release and demanded the government cracks down on gang violence, saying they are tired of the reign of terror imposed by armed groups.  An estimated 2,500 people were kidnapped in Haiti last year, a rise of 80 per cent on the previous year.

CofE “Response group” set up to consider outcome of safeguarding reviews

The Church of England has set up a group to respond to reviews into how the church has dealt with safeguarding process, survivors and victims. In a statement it says the response group will pick up lessons learned from the Wilkinson review into the Independent Safeguarding Board, which collapsed last summer when two members’ contracts were terminated and a third resigned. It said the debacle was due to a flawed organisational design rushed through at the start. Another review by Professor Alexis Jay into a future independent safeguarding process, is due to be completed by the end of February. The new group, chaired by a bishop, will compile a response to both reports and take it to the General Synod. The proposal has met with criticism in comments on Thinking Anglicans website, describing it as an outrage, prevarication, sickening and insulting.

Fifty Anglican and Catholic bishops meeting in Rome

More than 50 Anglican and Catholic bishops from 27 countries are meeting in Rome during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, for an ecumenical summit on working together around the world. Yesterday they participated in Anglican choral evensong in the Choir Chapel of St Peter’s Basilica, with choirs from two Anglican churches in Rome. Traditional Anglican evensong was celebrated previously in St Peter’s in 2017. The Summit is organised by IARCCUM,  the International Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission and Dr Christopher Wells, from the Anglican Communion Office said the week’s practical, experimental work showed the depth of commitment to visible unity in the church.

“Dad’s Place” church for the homeless in Ohio under threat

Police in Ohio are taking legal action against the “Dad’s Place” church and it pastor, who opened up a 24/7 shelter for homeless people in a city centre. They have filed 18 charges, saying the sanctuary violated city laws, lacked kitchen and laundry facilities and had unsafe exits and ventilation. Pastor Chris Avell said the church was a beacon of light in downtown Bryan, with homeless people referred for shelter by the police, hospitals or other charities. The Associated Press reports that the church lets anyone stay overnight and doesn’t ask them to leave “unless there is a biblically valid reason for doing so”  or if someone poses a danger. The church is seeking an injunction against the city.

US Pastor and wife pocketed more than $1million in cryptocurrency scheme

A pastor from an online church based in Denver, Colorado, has admitted pocketing more than $1 million from the community in a cryptocurrency scheme. Eli Regalado said in a video statement that God had told him, and his wife Kaitlyn, to run the scheme. He admitted selling a cryptocurrency with no clear exit and using some of the money for remodelling their home. They are now facing legal action from the Colorado Division of Securities which says the currency “INDXcoin” was practically worthless and investors lost millions of dollars while the couple lived in luxury. Pastor Regalado said they are trusting in God for a financial miracle.


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