Religion news 24 May 2022

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US Southern Baptist Convention covered up abuse to protect its reputation

Sex abuse in the US Southern Baptist Convention was denied, downplayed and disregarded over decades by leaders who focussed on protecting the church from liability. This is the devastating verdict in a 288 page report by the company Guidepost Solutions, whose investigation was commissioned by the church authorities. It identifies ministers who were abusers and allowed to continue in their jobs, and finds evidence that survivors were described as opportunistic, with the complainants doing the “work of the devil”. A report by Bob Smietana for the Religion News Service summarises the findings as revealing “a callous disregard for abuse survivors and a relentless commitment to protecting the denomination from liability”. 

Same sex marriage allowed in Church of Scotland

The Church of Scotland has voted to allow same-sex marriages, with ministers and deacons permitted to opt in to the new regulations. The vote was 274 for with 136 against. The Moderator, the Rev Iain Greenshields, said there were diverse views and the solution must respect those who disagree.

Churches from Reformation and Puritan times “will die out this century”

John Hayward, a mathematician speciliaising in statistics around church growth, has produced another set of figures analysing the speed of church decline in the UK. He uses the R rate, familiar during Covid, to understand the rate of growth, which he says is by personal contact and conversions. Failure to build on this, combined with an ageing church population, will lead to decline. His data analysis is stark. Using statistics collected by Peter Brierley, he predicts that by 2045 churches in Wales and Scotland, alongside the Methodists, will be extinct. The Church of England and Roman Catholicism in the UK will last until 2060. But Baptists and Brethren will still be here in 2090. The fastest growing churches, he says, are free evangelicals such as Vineyard or New Frontiers, black led churches and Elim Pentecostalists. He concludes that “products of the Reformation and Puritan times have run their course” and we are into a new cycle of denominations.

Anglican vicar faces tribunal over antisemitism allegations

The Rev Stephen Sizer, an Anglican vicar, is facing a clergy disciplinary measure on charges of antisemitism. His website says the case arises from a complaint made by the Board of Deputies of British Jews against him in 2018. The “Bishop’s Disciplinary Tribunal for the Diocese of Winchester” is hearing evidence in London this week. The Mail says he  faces eleven charges around attendance at events and online posts, but he denies his actions were antisemitic. Stephen Sizer, aged 68, is an evangelical and was vicar of Christchurch, Virginia Water, until 2017.

Further questions over holocaust memorial in Westminster

Jewish News reports that Robert Festenstein, the Prestwich Synagogue representative on the Board of Deputies, told a Board meeting that young people should visit Auschwitz rather than a proposed Holocaust memorial and learning centre in Westminster. The proposal has been rejected by the High Court in a protracted planning dispute, but there is an outstanding appeal. Board President Marie van der Zyl said it was not appropriate to continue the debate at this time.

Magic in a tea shop author banned from school for promoting witchcraft  

Andy Sagar, author of a children’s book featuring a witch, has been banned from reading the book at a faith school in London. Yesterday Crumb and the Storm in a Teacup” is the story of a girl who goes on magical adventures with a witch in a tea shop. Reports say the school, which has not been identified, told the author that it did not want to be seen promoting witchcraft.  When the story hit social media, other authors said they had been banned for writing about yoga,  spells and magic.


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