Religion news 29 July

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Racism “blights the life of our churches

Leaders of 50 churches in England say racism “blights the life of our churches” and are calling for church leadership to be more inclusive. They are also concerned at the relationship between the black community and the criminal justice system and are initiating conversations between black young people and the police service to build trust and improve accountability.

In a statement, the Presidents of Churches Together in England, including Cardinal Vincent Nichols and Archbishop Justin Welby, say the response to the killing of George Floyd has shown action is needed to combat racial injustice. “We believe that churches have a significant role to play in combating racial injustice. If we are to be effective in doing so, we must look at ourselves.

“We are painfully aware of the racism that blights the life of our churches. We are intent upon a process of identifying racial injustice within our churches – current and historic – repenting of it and taking action to effect real change. This includes the potential for discriminatory behaviour in the way that we make church appointments, which we know can happen at the conscious or unconscious level….In particular we call upon groupings of Church Leaders throughout the nation to reach out to their black colleagues in church leadership who are currently absent from their membership, making more inclusive ecumenical leadership.”

The organisation is setting up a churches racial justice working group to share good practice.

Comment:
Revd Dr Paul Goodliff, General Secretary of Churches Together in England paul.goodliff@cte.org.uk 07741 893141
Rev Dr David Muir, Co-Chair of the National Church Leaders Forum (NCLF), former Home Office adviser on policing, diversity and community relations; former deputy chair of  the Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA); now senior lecturer Roehampton University. david.muir@roehampton.ac.uk

#NoSafeSpaceForJewHate: Wiley’s accounts taken down

Facebook has deleted the Facebook and Instagram accounts of the rapper Wiley, after he posted abusive comments aimed at his Jewish critics. He took aim after they protested at his antisemitic posts, which caused such outrage that celebrities and faith leaders joined in a 48 hour boycott of social media #NoSafeSpaceForJewHate, in protest at the slowness of both Twitter and Facebook to take down the posts. Wiley’s Twitter account has also been suspended.

Care for clergy under stress for doing their job

The Church of England has initiated a ‘big conversation’ across the whole church to improve the wellbeing of clergy. A set of documents called The Covenant, will be sent to church members and clergy to raise awareness of the strain on clergy and their households for doing their job.  Trainee vicars will be offered guidance on stress and burnout, and clergy will be offered mentoring and coaching. The Covenant suggests role descriptions for clergy should be kept under review to ensure they are realistic.

Archbishop’s action over John Smyth complaint is reviewed

Channel 4 has interviewed the man who made a complaint about the way Archbishop Justin Welby dealt with an allegation of abuse by John Smyth, a Christian barrister who is alleged to have brutally beaten more than 100 boys at religious holiday camps. Justin Welby has said he was unaware of the story until 2013, but Channel 4 reports that the complaint is he failed to act on it appropriately at the time. The Church of England says it is reviewing the information and will respond to the complainant and take further action if needed, adding that the Makin review looking into the case, will report next year.  

Sheffield Cathedral choir ban may go to court

The Telegraph is reporting that Sheffield Cathedral could face a legal challenge over its decision to disband the choir. A campaign group ‘Save Sheffield Cathedral Choir’ says the decision as reckless and opportunistic. The Cathedral Chapter said it wanted to make music more inclusive but the campaign statement says: “To use inclusion as a pretext to obscure the Dean and Chapter’s mismanagement of music at Sheffield Cathedral is shameful. Music at the Cathedral has been mismanaged.”

150 days to go – Christmas theme announced  

It is 28 July and the Church of England has announced its Advent and Christmas theme 2020 – Comfort and Joy. Beating even the earliest Christmas card sales, the church is well advanced with preparations. It says the theme will reflect the Covid19 crisis, in which thousands of people died, many people lost their jobs and families were prevented from being with loved ones.  Online services and music will be produced for the whole Christmas season.

GLOBAL

New York Catholic schools plead for more cash

The Archbishop of New York, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, says Roman Catholic schools won’t be able to survive unless they get more funding. CBS news reports that already 26 Catholic schools have closed in the New York area and the church is urging state officials to pledge more assistance. The Archdiocese has already received $28 million on loans for pay check protection, which has gone to front line workers during the pandemic. A headteacher interviewed for the broadcast, said many parents who became unemployed due to the lockdown, cannot afford to pay for continuing tuition. Although schools will reopen in the autumn, their long term future requires more state support.

Falun Gong members flee Hong Kong

Falun Gong members living in Hong Kong have fled following China’s new national security law. Reuters reports that some members had moved to Hong Kong from China after Falun Gong was banned in 1999. Now they fear a repeat of harsh laws banning meetings and the practice of their faith, resulting in imprisonment. Falun Gong is a new religious movement, a spiritual practice including meditation, with moral teachings of Buddhism and Taoism. Chinese authorities described it as an evil cult, threatening national security. Thousands of members were jailed.