Religion news 26 January 2024

A film crew from Historic England visited St Mary’s, Great Yarmouth, where a grant allowed essential repairs. Image credit: RC Diocese East Anglia

Church buildings the biggest challenge facing the country’s heritage

The National Churches Trust has published a manifesto calling for urgent action to save the UK’s church buildings. ‘Every Church Counts’, sets out a six point plan to support volunteers, make more use of church buildings for the community, achieve annual government funding of £50 million for maintenance and repairs, create more tourism opportunities, keep buildings open for community use outside worship times and collect the information and data on church buildings and their role. Sir Philip Rutnam, chair of the National Churches Trust, told a Religion Media Centre briefing that 20,000 church buildings are listed and repair and maintenance is the biggest challenge facing the country’s heritage. Local communities, which are responsible for their upkeep, can be overwhelmed by the size of the task. He hoped that in future, church buildings would be seen as assets and an enormous opportunity for good in society. View the briefing on our YouTube channel here

Blockbuster film series “The Chosen” premieres season four in Soho

The groundbreaking series The Chosen, about the life of Christ, premiered its latest fourth series in Leicester Square, the heart of London’s entertainment quarter, this week. It is the invention of filmmaker Dallas Jenkins and quickly became a highly successful crowdfunding project. Episodes have been viewed 700 million times round the world and the leading actors now find themselves movie stars on the red carpet in a west end venue. Reporter Catherine Pepinster caught up with Jonathan Roumie, the actor who plays Jesus, at the press launch in Soho, who told her the series had attracted people from all faiths and no faith to the character of Jesus. Read her report on The Chosen here and her reflection on meeting Jesus in Soho here

Consecrated water made 10,000 mile trip to Ram Mandir – via Surrey

The grand Hindu temple Ram Mandir which was opened in Ayodhya this week, attracted donations and visitors from all over the world. The gifts included holy water for the jalabhishek ceremony, where devotees use water, milk or other liquids to bathe or pour over a deity’s idol or image as a symbol of reverence or purification. One donation came from an 8th century Hindu temple in Kashmir, transported on a 10,000 mile journey through various intermediaries, including one in Surrey and last one in India, who donated it to the Temple. Liz Harris tells the story on our website here

Non-religion on the rise in USA and could change political landscape

Pew Research has conducted a survey to understand more about the “Nones”, those who tick “non religion” when asked for their religious affiliation. Its survey of 3,300 US adults found 28 per cent ticked the “non religion” box, more than evangelicals at 24 per cent or Catholics at 23 per cent. The survey showed that most “nones” believe in God or another higher power, but very few go to religious services regularly. They are not uniformly anti-religious, with most saying religion does some harm, while many also think it does some good. Most “nones” reject the idea that science can explain everything, but they express more positive views of science than the religiously affiliated. Lead researcher Gregory Smith said the findings could affect American public life. Nones are among the most strongly and consistently liberal and democratic politically, but overall less likely to be civically engaged than those who identify with a religion. Pew Research details here

Vatican service for Christian unity disrupted by anti-bullfight campaigners

Vespers at the Vatican, led by Pope Francis and the Archbishop of Canterbury, with 50 global bishops present, was disrupted by anti-bullfight campaigners last night. Two women held up banners and shouted before being led away by security guards. The service at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, was the culmination of a week-long programme of ecumenical dialogue and pilgrimage for Anglican and Catholic bishops. They came forward in pairs to be commissioned for future ministry around the world, by the Pope and the Archbishop. This was only the second time such an act had taken place, the first was in 2016. After the brief disruption, the service continued and Justin Welby told the bishops that he hoped their ministry alongside each other would be “a foretaste of the reconciling of all Christians” in one church.

Six nuns kidnapped in Haiti have been released

Six nuns held hostage in Haiti have been released. The Associated Press reports that they were abducted while on a bus journey to a university and the Pope and church leaders called for their release. Archbishop Max Leroys Mesidor of Port-au-Prince declined to say whether a ransom was paid or who was responsible for the kidnapping.

Vote on same sex marriage in Greece opposed by Orthodox church

The centre-right government in Greece is tabling legislation to legalise same-sex marriage for a vote in mid-February, despite growing resistance from the  Orthodox Church. The Associated Press reports that the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul and senior bishops in Greece have expressed opposition to the measure and affirmed their belief that marriage is the union of a man and a woman. A church spokesperson said the church’s written objections would be sent to all members of Greece’s parliament and read out at Sunday services around the country on 4 February ahead of the vote.

Pastor at centre of covid cure scam disqualified from being a trustee for 15 years

The Charity Commission has completed its inquiry into The Kingdom Church in Camberwell, whose pastor, Bishop Climate Wiseman, was convicted of fraud after selling fake £91 “divine plague protection kits” as a cure for Covid-19.  He was sentenced to one year in jail, suspended for two years and the charity was wound up by the regulator. The Commission concluded that there had been serious misconduct and/or mismanagement in the administration of the charity by the trustees. Failure to keep adequate accounting records put them in breach of their legal obligations. It found that Bishop Climate Wiseman made unilateral decisions about the charity and its operations which was a key issue in governance failures. He has been disqualified from being a trustee for 15 years; a further five people have been disqualified for between five and ten years.

Tim Joss, who helped to found the Religion Media Centre, has died

Tim Joss, a social entrepreneur who was instrumental in the founding of the Religion Media Centre, has died after a cycling accident. He was Chief Executive and Founder of Aesop, Arts Enterprise with a Social Purpose, but in the early days of the RMC, he was Director of the Raynes Foundation and gave his time and energy to help the vision take shape. Our chairman, Michael Wakelin, has paid tribute to him: “Tim was the person to chair the foundational meeting of the RMC. He convened several meetings to get the programme off the ground, commissioned the original feasibility study and ensured a handover to the first board of trustees. He was a kind and supportive man. The RMC remembers him with fondness and gratitude.”


  • The deadline for entries to the Sandford St Martin 2024 awards, for broadcasts about belief and ethics, is Wednesday 31 January. The categories are Journalism, Radio/Audio, TV/Video and Young Audience. Further details here.
  • CTVC is advertising for a radio and podcast researcher with a team that produces programmes for the BBC and other outlets.
  • Theos is looking for a marketing officer to take its podcast The Sacred to the next level.


Sign up for our news bulletin