Religion news 9 December 2021

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Image credit: Matt Gibson CCLicense 2.0

Titus Trust apologises for response to John Smyth sex abuse complaints

The Titus Trust, which grew out of the Iwerne Trust whose chair John Smyth was a serial abuser, has apologised for sending inconsistent, mixed messages about its links to him. The apology follows the publication of an independent review into its culture and actions, completed by the safeguarding charity Thirtyone:Eight, which recommended an apology be made. John Smyth befriended boys at the Iwerne Christian summer camps and physically abused them in his garden shed. The report says Iwerne camps had a hierarchy of leadership based on abilities in Bible teaching and Christian ministry, leading to individual concentrations of power with the risk of abusive behaviour. The report further recommends that individual “1-2-1 ministry outside of camp with students and teachers should only occur with the express knowledge and permission of the local church”. The Church of England’s “Makin review” looking at the actions of the Iwerne Trust before 1997,  is expected to report back next year.

MPs to consider Bill to end religious school assemblies

A Bill to amend the law so that state school assemblies in England can take place without a religious character, has passed all its stages in the Lords. It was proposed by Baroness Lorely Jane Burt, vice-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Humanist Group who said the introduction of inclusive assemblies would bring school communities together, irrespective of religion or belief. She added that it would bring an end to the unfair exclusion of any child from assemblies because their families do not happen to be Christian. The Bill will now go to the Commons, but is unlikely to become law unless it wins support from the Government. Humanists UK report here

Scotland’s Catholic bishops want teenage sex questionnaire to be withdrawn

Catholic bishops in Scotland are calling on ministers to withdraw a questionnaire that asks school pupils about their sexual activity. A Health and Wellbeing Census, promoted by the Scottish government, asks youngsters from the age of 14,  for information about their sexual relationships and contraception, as well as their drinking, drug and smoking habits. Eight of Scotland’s 32 local authorities have refused to take part in the survey amidst calls for a boycott over its use of sexually explicit questions. The Scotland Catholic Bishops Conference says it shares concerns about the explicit nature of some questions and is calling for the survey to be withdrawn. The Herald report is here

European research group says UK among most intolerant countries to Christianity

The Observatory of Intolerance Against Christians in Europe, an organisation based in Austria and led by a Catholic centre-right professor, has produced a report saying the UK is among five European countries intolerant towards Christians. The others are France, Germany, Spain and Sweden. The report says it should be regarded as preliminary research using questionnaires, literature and official government statistics from 2019-20. It says anti-Christian hate crimes rose by 70 per cent in Europe, while in the UK there was a rise in violence against Christians, such as vandalism, arson and physical assaults. There was a decline in freedom of conscience, expression and parental rights for Christians across the continent it claims, due to a “secular intolerance” which resulted in for example, a disproportionate ban on public Christian worship. The report is introduced on Christian Concern’s website.

Evangelicals say the Church in Wales is being led contrary to God’s revelation

The Evangelical Fellowship of the Church in Wales has met the bishops to discuss their opposition to the introduction of experimental same-sex blessing liturgy. In a statement after the meeting, the EFCW said the bishops told them the new service liturgy is temporary until made permanent and the bishops are set on introducing a same-sex marriage bill. There is a conscience clause which opposing clergy can use in order not to comply. The EFCW says this is a matter of first importance as it relates to how the Bible is read and understood and there were clear difficulties remaining in the Church in Wales, where the church is being led “contrary to God’s revelation”.  Their talks will continue,

Pope’s meeting with Canadian indigenous peoples postponed

The visit of indigenous people in Canada to meet the Pope from 17-20 December has been postponed due to Covid-19. Their meeting was to have discussed the extensive abuse in church run residential schools and the recent uncovering of graves of hundreds of children. The schools were set up in the late 19th century to assimilate indigenous children into Canadian culture. Canadian bishops hope the visit can be rescheduled next year.

Hanukkah menorah smashed in central London

A Hanukkah Menorah (candelabra), placed in a street in Primrose Hill, London, has been vandalised and smashed in an incident which police are describing as a hate crime. Rabbi Yossi Baitz, who arranged for the menorah to be placed there, said the destruction had broken his heart.

Future of British mosques under discussion this weekend

The Muslim Council of Britain is organising a one-day webinar conference this Saturday “Our Mosque Our Future 2021”. Sessions will include discussions on making mosques environmentally friendly; diversity and inclusion for women, people with disabilities and minority groups; safeguarding the future of mosques; and supporting families of people who have died during the Covid19 pandemic. The day will end with an awards ceremony.

Drag Queen United Methodist minister “relieved of his pastoral duties”

The Methodist minister who transformed into a drag queen for the American reality TV programme “We’re Here” has been “relieved of his pastoral duties” after angry criticism from members of his own congregation. The Rev Craig Duke, from Newburgh United Methodist Church, Indiana, was filmed wearing a tall pink wig and four inch heeled boots. He explained that he wanted to be empathetic not just sympathetic and it was a “powerful spiritual experience”. But the congregation polarized and emails were circulated against him saying Satan must be pleased and “You have thrown NUMC under the bus to elevate a minority of individuals”. He told the Associated Press that he was losing his ability to lead and explained to his superintendent minister that he needed to step away. The Evansville Courier and Press say a Go Fund Me campaign has raised $50,000 to help him live and he can stay at the manse til February. He had not violated the church’s rules for ministers and asked if he would do it again, he said “yes”.

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