Religion news 8 February 2024

Survey of British Jews shows trends in belief, culture and community identity

The Institute for Jewish Policy Research is publishing a report today about British Jewish identity, entitled “Jews in the UK today”. The study is based on JPR’s National Jewish Identity Survey, conducted in November-December 2022 among nearly 5,000 people and is said to be the most comprehensive study of Jewish identity to date. It includes questions on religious belief and affiliation, Jewish education and cultural consumption, Jewish ethnicity, Zionism and attachment to Israel, antisemitism, charitable giving and volunteering, and the relationship between community engagement and happiness. Key findings include 34 per cent of British Jews believe in God ‘as described in the Bible’; over half belong to a synagogue with more praticing aspects of Jewish religious culture; 94 per cent say that moral and ethical behaviour is an important part of their Jewish identity; 88 per cent have been to Israel at least once, and 73 per cent say that they feel very or somewhat attached to the country. However, the proportion identifying as ‘Zionists’ has fallen from 72 per cent to 63 per cent over the past decade. Close to a third experienced an antisemitic incident in the year before the survey. Executive Director Jonathan Boyd said it is distinctly possible that Jewish identity and attitudes have changed since the Hamas attack on 7 October, but the report provides a baseline for future surveys.

MP asks: “Are taxpayers being scammed by the Archbishop?” on bogus asylum claims

Conservative MP Tim Loughton has repeated accusations that the Archbishop of Canterbury is at the centre of concerns that churches are complicit in fake conversions for bogus asylum claims. The issue is in the headlines after the Afghan asylum seeker Abdul Ezedi, who is on the run after a chemical attack, was discovered to have been granted leave to stay following his conversion to Christianity.  During Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday, Mr Loughton said “So Christianity in the UK seems to be on the wane unless apparently, you are from a Muslim country in the middle of an asylum claim. We’re now told one in seven occupants of the Bibby Stockholm have suddenly become practising Christians. Can I ask the Prime Minister that given that the Church of England has now issued secret guidance for clergy supporting asylum applications for these Damascene conversions, who is the Church accountable to and are taxpayers being scammed by the Archbishop?”. The Prime Minister repeated that the Home Secretary is asking for more information on the role of conversion in asylum claims.

Tim Loughton, a member of the Home Affairs Select Committee, is one of the guest speakers in a Religion Media Centre briefing at 1100 this morning, on churches and asylum seekers. Another guest is Bishop Guli Franci Deqhani  who has defended the CofE. Details from [email protected]

Meanwhile in Ukraine .. Archbishop forced to seek cover in an air raid shelter

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, was forced to spend three hours in an air-raid shelter after a Russian missile strike on Kyiv on Wednesday morning.  Five people died in the attack on an 18-storey building and nearby homes. He is on a five-day visit to Ukraine to meet church and civic leaders. He and his team were awoken at 6am yesterday and moved to the shelter in the basement of their hotel. Francis Martin from the Church Times is accompanying the archbishop and quotes him saying: “We were safe and well in a very secure shelter, but it is a stark reminder of the dangers people here are facing every day, even when it doesn’t hit the headlines; a reminder again that, with all the crises in the world, we must not and will not forget Ukraine”.

Rabbi Alex Goldberg returns to the FA in antisemitism role

Rabbi Alex Goldberg, until October the chair of “Faith in Football” at the FA, is returning to the organisation to be part of its antisemitism taskforce. Jewish News reports that he left after disagreeing with the FA’s decision not to have a specific tribute during two matches at Wembley, to the victims of the 7 October Hamas attack. But following discussions, he is re-engaging with the Football Association and joining its antisemitism task force. Additionally, he said: “We are working on a renewed effort on inter-communal relations, using football to bring together diverse communities under the banner of ‘One ball. One game. One Community’”, an initiative to make football an inclusive space, linking all faith traditions to the game.

Sell out silent disco in Canterbury Cathedral tonight

A sell-out silent disco is taking place in the nave of Canterbury Cathedral tonight and tomorrow, despite loud protests from local Christians. Dr Cajetan Skowronski described the event as an “an alcohol-fuelled rave to the music of Eminem in God’s house”. A delegation protested to the Dean, Dr David Monteith, but failed to stop it. Kent Online reports that church leaders say they need to reach out to younger people and find ways of raising the large sums the Cathedral requires to survive. Canterbury Cathedral increased its entry fee by £1.50 to £17 last year, but it has since offered free entry to large sections of the site in a pilot scheme.

Jesuit outreach programme for LGBTQ+ Catholics expands its work

Jesuits in America have appointed an executive director to take forward the “Outreach” programme for LGBTQ+ Catholics. It was founded two years ago by the Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit and advocate for greater LGBTQ+ inclusion in the Catholic Church. It has sponsored conferences in New York City, launched a website and now appointed journalist Michael O’Loughlin as its first executive director. He told the Associated Press that the programme will show LGBT people active in the church that they are not alone.

Christian therapists addressing unwanted same-sex attraction seek external accreditation

The International Foundation for Therapeutic and Counselling Choice, which oversees Christian therapists working with people experiencing “unwanted relational and sexual behaviours”, has applied for accreditation by the Professional Standards Authority. The Foundation is a project of the Core Issues Trust, a charity based in Northern Ireland, which supports those leaving LGBT identities, behaviours, attractions and life choices. Dr Mike Davidson, director of the IFTCC said: “The advantage of PSA accreditation is that members of the public will feel confident that our therapists, and our supervisory practices, meet the Authority’s rigorous standards.  Plus for many therapists, accreditation will mean that they can access Public Liability Insurance which is becoming common practice in the therapeutic field”.

New Sikh temple in Telford is a space for all cultures

A new £2.5m Sikh temple inside former tax offices has opened in Telford, able to cater for 1,000 people. Built with a grant from Telford and Wrekin Council, it replaces a smaller building nearby. It  has space for social events, a food bank, a warm space and teaching areas and will be immediately used by a women’s group to aid well-being and community spirit. Almas Mansural, a women’s group member, told the BBC it was open to all cultures: “The main focus is getting people to come out to understand that there is a support network here”.

Southwell Minster tells 1000 years of history in 140 objects

Southwell Minster is showcasing its history of more than 1000 years through 140 objects from each era of its past. The site was first a Roman villa, then a Saxon church and finally 140 years ago, it became the cathedral of the new bishopric of Southwell. It is known for key architectural features of the late thirteenth century Chapter House and carvings of plants, animals and green men known collectively as The Leaves of Southwell. The exhibition marks its 140th anniversary as a cathedral and shows different objects each month, such as a Romain mosaic floor,  bath house painting and poetry book.


Sign up for our news bulletin