Religion news 8 October 2021

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Image credit: Fresh Expressions

Clergy cuts and parish re-organisation in Leicester

The diocese of Leicester faces a 20 per cent cut of its clergy positions in the next five years after its income plummeted. The Church Times says that under a plan to be discussed at the diocesan synod this weekend, 234 parishes will remain in name, but reorganised into 20-25 “minster communities” sharing finances, working alongside schools and Fresh Expressions — new Christian groups springing up outside church structures with leaders who are not necessarily ordained. The plan has attracted strong complaint on social media, with suggestions that this is the destruction of the “embedded and visible church” and a question from @giles_fraser: “How on earth can that be no threat to the parish?”

The value of studying religious education

The new minister for school standards, Robin Walker, has acknowledged the value of studying religious education for a range of careers. In a letter to Zoë Keens, the chief executive of RE Today, he said he appreciated efforts to highlight the importance of RE for pupils not only in schools but in later life too. The exchange followed an article in the British Medical Journal where medical students encouraged humanities student to become doctors, pointing to the benefit of understanding the values and beliefs of patients’ different faiths “especially given the role of a doctor to instigate change in someone’s life”.

No further action against charity in cash-to-Gaza investigation

The charity Human Aid UK has welcomed the conclusion of a Charity Commission inquiry that no further action will be taken against it after an investigation into transferring funds to Gaza. The cash was seized by police but returned after nothing illegal was discovered. Human Aid UK has complained of police harassment and institutional Islamophobia in the wording of the final report.

Carey accuses government of failure to respond to fate of Afghan Christians

The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey, has complained in a letter to The Times that the government has failed “all too predictably” to make a meaningful response to the plight of Afghan Christians, regarded as apostates and facing the death penalty. He says Christian refugees from Iraq and Syria have struggled to be accepted for resettlement to any western country, particularly the United Kingdom: “The UNHCR-run scheme discriminates against minorities to this day. I and many others have made repeated representations to the Home Office but we have been ignored.”

CofE’s Racial Justice Commission membership announced

The 11 members of the Church of England Archbishop’s Racial Justice Commission have been announced. With Lord Boateng as chair, the members will take action following the anti racism taskforce report ‘From Lament to Action’ pledging to identify, respond to, and root out systemic racism in the Church of England. Their first meeting is this month. Members include Professor Anthony Reddie, University of Oxford; Canon Dr Chigor Chike, Chair of Anglican Minority Ethnic Network and Rose Hudson-Wilkin, Bishop of Dover. The full list is here

Westminster Abbey and St Paul’s redundancies due to pandemic

The Church Times reports that Westminster Abbey and St Paul’s Cathedral have to take difficult decisions over jobs and redundancies following a massive loss of tourist income during the pandemic. It says the majority of the abbey’s staff have been asked to accept reduced working hours to cut the wage bill, but a further round of redundancies is expected this autumn, on top of the 20 per cent staff cut last year. At St Paul’s, where two-thirds of its income comes from tourism, almost 25 per cent of staff were made redundant during the pandemic. Others were retained through the furlough scheme, and all sources of funding are being explored to retain them. The Church Times says: “It is understood that the cathed­ral has just secured a bank loan for £5 million”.

Creating Connections: sign up in Manchester, Nottingham, Leeds, Plymouth and Birmingham

The Religion Media Centre is launching a project this autumn to enhance religious literacy and understanding in a landscape often fraught with misconceptions and assumptions on both sides. “Creating Connections, where Religion meets the Media” features a series of events to improve links between religious groups and journalists in England. They are an opportunity to explore the way religion and worldviews are interwoven into community life and it is hoped that key stories on religion and belief will be brought to life and lasting contacts for the future will be made. Reserve a place using the links below. All events take place in the afternoon.

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