Religion news 24 November

Image credit: Vatican News

Public worship in England resumes after 2 December

The government has announced that collective worship, weddings and outdoor sports can resume after the lockdown ends on 2 December, subject to social distancing. Government guidance makes it clear that it will be possible to hold public worship for all faiths in all three tiers of restrictions, with faith leaders continuing to play a key role in making religious practice as safe as possible. It is expected that there will be a relaxation of rules for several days over Christmas.  Weddings, though allowed, will have a cap of 15 guests and receptions will be banned in Tier 3. The Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said the decision would be widely welcomed by people of all faiths. 70 religious leaders had complained to the government that they had been told to close during the latest lockdown.

Church of England faces down eight crises in 2020 – now another threatens to blow it apart

The Church of England’s parliament, General Synod, is meeting online this week and the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby was in a reflective mood as he  reviewed the year. He observed that 2020 had seen a litany of crises – Covid-19, recession, racism, church sex abuse, Brexit, immigration, political division and the environment. He said the church should rejoice in crisis, but the synod debate showed that now it faces another.. A furious row has broken out over the “Living in Love and Faith” project, which is a set of resources to enable churches to discuss deep divisions over sexuality . The Archbishop appealed to members not to simplify the complicated., 

Church campaigner slams offensive and damaging film ridiculing LGBTQ+ Christians

Within days of the publication of “Living in Love and Faith”, the Church of England’s Evangelical Council posted a slickly produced film “The Beautiful Story” in which a Bishop and other leaders spoke of forming their own organisation in protest if change occurred.   An even deeper reaction greeted a film from the conservative organisation “Christian Concern”, in which Ben John, the Wilberforce Academy development officer, stripped apart interviews with LGBT+ Christians filmed for a trailer for the project, using Biblical texts to make his case. 

Jayne Ozanne, a prominent campaigner, told the synod that the views in that film were offensive and highly damaging to LGBT+ members. People who had put trust in the process were vilified and pulled apart. She is calling for a public inquiry into the way religious organisations treat and protect LGBT+ people from harmful religious teaching. Bishop Christopher Cocksworth, who oversaw the project, said people who had objections should have a go at him, not ridicule the interviewees. The resources will be discussed in churches next year and the issue will come back to the synod for a vote in 2022.

US basketball players meet the Pope to discuss fight against racial injustice

United States National Basketball Association players have met the Pope in Rome to explain their efforts to work towards social and economic justice. The association said the players and their union had been active in drawing attention to police brutality and racial injustice, including through taking a knee before games and painting “Black Lives Matter” along court sidelines. A number of the players had also boycotted NBA games in protest at police brutality and had worn racial justice slogans on their jerseys. One of the players said the Pope’s openness and eagerness to discuss the issue was inspiring and a reminder that the campaign has a global impact.

Florida Holocaust Museum opens exhibition about the killing of George Floyd

The Holocaust Memorial Resource and Education Centre in Florida is hosting an exhibition about the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.  It was established to educate future generations about the Nazi extermination of six million Jews during the Second World War. In its latest venture, Uprooting Prejudice: Faces of Change,  it is exhibiting 45 photographs of individuals reacting to the killing of George Floyd, the African American who died at the hands  of police officers in Minneapolis earlier this year.