Religion news 28 September 2021

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Image credit: University of Nottingham

U-turn as Nottingham University allows RC chaplain to serve

Nottingham University says it will now allow Fr David Palmer to serve Catholic students on campus “with immediate effect”, reversing its decision to refuse to recognise his appointment after he tweeted against abortion and assisted suicide. The controversy arose when Fr Palmer said on Twitter that abortion was the slaughter of unborn babies and assisted suicide was killing the vulnerable, the Catholic Herald reports. The university said they had issue with the way the views were expressed and refused to recognise his role. The Free Speech Union threatened to take the university to court, saying the cancellation was a flagrant breach of the 2010 Equality Act. Now the university says there is a revised procedure for the recognition of chaplains of all faiths, involving a preparatory year to explore whether the role is right both for the individual and the multi-faith environment at Nottingham.

Labour leader says Christians are moral compass in his party

Christians in the Labour Party are “its moral compass”, the leader Sir Keir Starmer said in the traditional Sunday service address. The service was held in “One Church” an inclusive interdenominational organisation, the Church Times reports. Starmer said society must harness the spirit of togetherness shown during the pandemic. The way people took food to people, brought the homeless in and helped as they could was “probably one of the most important political moments since Thatcher said there’s no such thing as society”.

Dame Louise Ellman rejoins Labour

Former Labour MP Dame Louise Ellman is rejoining the Labour Party, two years after leaving over complaints of antisemitism under Jeremy Corbyn. Ellman, who was MP for Liverpool Riverside from 1997 to 2019, said antisemitism had become mainstream in the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn, adding that “the overwhelming majority of the Jewish community is fearful of what a Corbyn government might mean for Britain’s Jews”. Two years on, she says she thinks Sir Keir Starmer is succeeding in his attempt to rid the party of antisemitism and it is expected she will visit the Labour party conference in Brighton today.

The conference voted by a large majority to bring in a new independent complaints process as part of is crackdown on antisemitism within the party. The Jewish Chronicle reports that the disciplinary process will be overhauled in line with reforms called for by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission following its damning report into Labour’s antisemitism crisis.

Opponents of same-sex blessings in Church in Wales demand their own bishop

The Evangelical Fellowship in the Church in Wales has asked for a bishop opposed to blessing same-sex marriage to be appointed to the vacant job in Swansea. The fellowship says the church’s recent decision to allow same-sex blessings was wrong, has damaged unity in the church, hurt gays who remained celibate to comply with previous teaching, and shows that the bishops do not represent the wider membership of the church. It says there have been and will be resignations, and clarity is needed on how the opt-out clause will protect those who disagree. Gafcon, the alternative Anglican grouping against same-sex relationships, women’s ordination and liberal theology, revealed that discontented members of the Church in Wales have already approached them for support.

Russia moves to ban ‘undesirable’ Scientology groups

Reuters reports that Russia has designated two California-based organisations linked to the Church of Scientology as “undesirable,” a move that could formally ban the group. The prosecutor general’s office said the World Institute of Scientology Enterprises International and the Church of Spiritual Technology “pose a threat to the security of the Russian Federation.” The issue will now be taken up by the Ministry of Justice, which could outlaw the groups under laws governing “undesirable” foreign nongovernmental organisations.

Songs of Praise is 60

Songs of Praise, the world’s longest-running religious television programme, is marking its 60th anniversary next month with a special programme from Westminster Abbey and a message from the Queen. It will feature golden moments from October 1961 to date. Patrick Holland, the BBC’s director of factual, arts and classical music said: “It is a great honour to pay tribute to the world’s longest-running religious television programme. Long may it continue.”

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