Religion News 29 June

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Cancelling ‘white Jesus’

The Archbishop of Canterbury says the Church of England should rethink its portrayal of Jesus as white.  In an interview with BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he said churches around the world have pictures of Jesus as black, Chinese, Fijian and Middle-Eastern, which he said “is of course the most accurate”.

His response echoes disquiet in America following the killing of George Floyd, with public conversations over whether it is time to ‘cancel’ the white Jesus, both pictures and statues, as they are a form of white supremacy. The famous 1940 painting by Warner E. Sallman, the “Head of Christ”, showing a  gentle Jesus with dark blond flowing hair and blue eyes turned heavenward,  has been reproduced 500 million times. The Religion News Service in the States reports that there are also pictures of Jesus in other cultural contexts – by Korean artist Kim Ki-chang, Sofia Minson, a New Zealand artist with Ngāti Porou Māori, English, Swedish and Irish heritage, and numerous popular depictions of Jesus as black.

In the same BBC interview, the Archbishop said statues in Canterbury Cathedral are going to be looked at “very carefully” to see if they should be there. He said there were monuments everywhere, for example in Westminster Abbey, and their future is being reviewed to consider their context and determine if they should remain. There can be forgiveness and learning from the past, he said, but only if there’s justice.

Christ Church Oxford – charity commission intervenes

The Charity Commission has told the governing body and the Dean, Martin Percy, to enter into a formal mediation process without delay to end their long running dispute. It said the disagreement was damaging to the reputation of the charity and affected its ability to govern itself.  The dispute, which has been simmering since 2017, surrounds the Dean’s pay and his efforts to reform the college’s governance. The Charity Commission regulates and monitors registered charities and has powers to conduct statutory as well as regulatory compliance investigations.  The Dean And Chapter Of The Cathedral Church Of Christ In Oxford Of The Foundation Of King Henry Viii had an income of £34.3 million in its last financial year.

Bell ringing to return

The Central Council of Church Bell Ringers has issued guidance allowing “a cautious return to ringing”.  In a statement following a meeting last week between the Council and Church of England bodies dealing with pandemic, the Council said bell ringers will be allowed access to towers to get bells ready for ringing, while obeying social distancing rules. This might take two weeks before bells can be rung. Ringing will only involve three or four bells, for services, for 15 minutes in duration and the rules will be kept under review.

Humanist weddings increase in Scotland

Statistics from the National Records of Scotland show the number of people getting married in humanist ceremonies has overtaken church marriages for the first time, with humanists registering 22.6 per cent against 22.3 per cent for churches. Civil ceremonies remain the most popular of all, accounting for almost half (48.6 per cent) of all recorded marriages

Church services stagger towards the new normal

Church services in England resume for social distanced congregations from 4th July.  This weekend, many were broadcasting online services from within the church with worship leaders at socially distanced positions.  In Northern Ireland, services can start from 29th July within safety rules. While in Scotland, the Scottish government says they can open from 23rd July at the earliest – however, pubs restaurants and cinemas are free to open on 15th July.  In response, the Scottish Catholic Church says the decision is disappointing and perplexing. In Wales, churches may re-open for funerals and weddings from Monday 6 July, but no date has yet been set for the resumption of public worship.

Stress, resilience and neighbourliness of Anglicans in Covid19 lockdown

A survey by two academics of clergy and laity in the Church of England during lockdown, has found that more than one third of the respondents reported higher levels of stress (34%) and this was most evident among clergy, younger people and Anglo-Catholics. The Coronavirus, Church & You survey, led by Professors Leslie Francis and Andrew Village, in conjunction with the Church Times, has received 6000 responses to date.  It has found higher levels of frustration and negative emotion, but also high positive responses, with 61% feeling more neighbourly and 48% feeling more prayerful. The authors say: “On balance, resilience was higher among women, the elderly, clergy, and evangelicals.”

‘Skipping Sikh’ receives award from Downing Street

Rajinder Singh, known as the ‘Skipping Sikh’ after sharing videos of his sponsored fitness routines during the lockdown, has been rewarded by the Prime Minister. Boris Johnson has awarded him the ‘Points of Light’ award, in honour of the way his fund-raising activity brought together the Sikh community. Rajinder, who is aged 73,  raised more than £12,000 for NHS charities.


Facebook bans ads fuelling hate

Facebook says it will label news content that violates its social, media policies. And it will ban ads that claim people from groups based on race, religion, sexual orientation or immigration status are a threat to physical safety or health. Reuters reports that Facebook’s policy would have applied to President Trump’s recent post falsely claiming postal ballots would rig the presidential election. A similar Presidential tweet led to an unprecedented response from Twitter, which said it was potentially misleading. Facebook was under pressure to respond in a similar way. The policy change follows a growing ad boycott campaign, called “Stop Hate for Profit,” pressurising Facebook to act on hate speech and misinformation.

God TV banned

Israeli broadcast regulators have taken the US evangelical TV station ‘God TV’ off air, saying it had hidden its missionary agenda wen it applied for a license to operate. Associated Press is reporting that the channel has been told to stop by Thursday 3 July.

114 year old monk survives coronavirus

An Ethiopian Orthodox monk, whose family say he is 114 years old,  has survived the coronavirus. AP reports that Tilahun Woldemichael was discharged from hospital after almost three weeks, where he had received oxygen and dexamethasone, a cheap and widely available steroid that researchers in England have said reduced deaths by up to one third in severely ill hospitalized patients.

Assemblies of God Principal becomes President of Malawi

Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera, who was president of the Assemblies of God in Malawi and a teacher at their school of theology, has become the country’s new President. The previous election last year was re-run after allegations of voting irregularities. He inherits a bitterly divided country and has vowed to unite the country and fight poverty.


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