Religion news 30 June 2021

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Image by briannad26 from Pixabay

Methodists vote today on same-sex marriage

The Methodist church in Great Britain will take a historic vote this morning on whether to allow same-sex marriage in church. The church has been debating sexuality for 30 years and today’s vote follows a one-year consultation among the whole church called “God in Love Unites Us”. In a debate on Monday, it was clear that there was division, but people who tried to stop the progress of the motion were heavily defeated. In the United States, a similar disagreement has left the church on the brink of a split as those who disagree, based on their interpretation of scripture, are preparing to leave and form a Global Methodist organisation.

Record antisemitic and anti-Muslim abuse reports after recent conflict

The Community Security Trust has reported a record number of antisemitic incidents since the recent conflict in Israel. The trust, which seeks to protect Jewish people from discrimination, says 460 incidents were reported from 8 May to 7 June, the highest monthly total since records began in 1984, the BBC reports. The figure is much higher than the month before (119) and most incidents were offline using language related to Israel. The report includes car convoys where people shouted abuse as they drove through Jewish areas, and incidents related to education, against pupils teachers and students. Tell Mama UK, which monitors anti-Muslim hate incidents, says there were 131 incidents in May after the Middle East violence, up from 59 in April, with most related to the conflict.

Petition launched: Sign to Sing

The company behind Premier Christian radio is launching a petition, Sign to Sing, to urge the government to lift the ban on singing in church in England. Premier Christian Communications says it is seeking a commitment that the ban will be lifted when all restrictions are expected to end on 19 July. Chief executive Peter Kerridge says he fears that while football fans will be able to return with chanting and singing, congregations will still be expected to remain silent, which, he says, cannot be right. Christian leaders have described the continuing ban as nonsensical and inconsistent.

Canadian Catholic churches razed to the ground after unmarked graves found

Four Catholic churches on First Nation reserves in Canada have been destroyed by fire, weeks after hundreds of unmarked graves were discovered on the sites of former church residential schools. For more than 100 years, children were forcibly removed from their parents and sent to the schools to be “integrated” into society. The Guardian reports that indigenous community leaders said there was intense grief and rage, but some people were continuing to find comfort and solace in their local churches and their destruction was devastating.

Bishop of Winchester off work for a further two months

The Bishop of Winchester Tim Dakin is to step back from his duties for another two months while investigations continue into allegations of mistreatment of people, and into governance and financial management of the diocese. It was first announced in May that he would step back for six weeks, as the diocese threatened a no-confidence vote, a highly unusual move. The Bishop of Basingstoke, a junior bishop in the diocese, is also off work. The one bishop left — Debbie Sellins, the Bishop of Southampton — has written to the diocese explaining their absence will last longer while conversations continue. Church Times story here

Counter-terrorism referral when teacher mistook ‘alms’ for ‘arms’

An 11-year-old pupil was referred to the counter-terrorism Prevent programme after a teacher mistook the word “alms” for “arms” during a classroom discussion. A teacher asked what pupils would do if they found themselves in possession of a lot of money, The Guardian reports. It says that according to a legal challenge against the school lodged by the boy’s parents, he said he would “give alms to the oppressed”. The teacher interpreted this as “give arms” and made the referral. Police concluded there was no substance to the complaint, no sign of radicalisation, extremist views or any threat to national security and closed the case, but the parents are taking legal action asking for an apology and damages. Critics have used the incident to renew their complaints that Prevent plays on stereotypes and stigmatises people.

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