Religion news 19 August

Image credit: RMC

The Church of England: “a house of horrors

A black clergyman has described his experience of racism in the Church of England as “a house of horrors”. The Rev Azariah France-Williams was speaking in a Religion Media Centre zoom briefing, introducing his book “Ghost Ship; institutional racism in the Church of England.” He has been a priest for ten years, but he cautions other prospective black and brown clergy to think very carefully before following his lead. “I knew I wasn’t being recruited into Disneyland but I didn’t realise it was going to be the House of Horrors at times either”, he said. He believes black and brown clergy are often treated as “cannon-fodder,” asked to submit reports and offer insights which are then ignored. He was encouraged that the House of Bishops has now committed to setup a commission on racial justice, although he said the details were not yet clear. “Within an era of pandemic when church and diocesan funding has tanked, this is a real test. Will they fund this properly?”

Muslims in deprived areas risked adverse effects of A-levels fiasco

The Muslim Council of Britain has welcomed the government’s u-turn on how A-levels and GCSEs are graded. It says that using the algorithm “would have hit students from lower socio-economic backgrounds the hardest”. Maswood Ahmed, Assistant Secretary General and chair of the MCB Education Affairs Committee said: “With 46% of Muslims living in the 10 most deprived local authorities, the widely criticised algorithm would have likely had a disproportionate impact on the educational prospects of many young British Muslims. Our young people are the backbone of our society and we must treat them with due respect. Urgent questions must be asked as to why the Government in Westminster, as well as in the devolved administrations, did not identify the problems with the algorithm and take action earlier.” 

Trump: “The evangelicals love Israel”

Donald Trump has acknowledged that the US brokered agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates “is an incredible thing for the evangelicals”. In an interview on Fox News, he said: “The evangelicals love Israel. Love Israel.” The white evangelical and Roman Catholic vote were seen to be decisive in his election as President in 2016. His interview indicates once more the importance of religious conservatives to his 2020 election strategy. The Religion News Service reports that at a rally in Minnesota, he framed the coronavirus pandemic and economic downturn as a test from God. “You know what that is? That’s right. That’s God testing me. He said, ‘You know, you did it once.’ And I said, ‘Did I do a great job, God? I’m the only one that could do it.’ He said, ‘That, you shouldn’t say. Now we’re going to have you do it again’.”

New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan appeals for reconciliation

The Roman Catholic Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York will offer a prayer at the opening of the Republican National Convention next week. The Catholic Herald reports that he said agreeing to pray was not an endorsement of any candidate, party, or platform. In 2012, the Cardinal led prayers at both the Republican and Democratic National Conventions, and in 2017, he led a prayer at President Donald Trump’s inauguration. He has appealed to people to join together in seeking peace and reconciliation.  

Shortage of priests in Ireland

A priest in Ireland has told The Tablet that more new bishops will be ordained this year than new priests. Fr Paddy Byrne, of Abbeyleix and Ballyroan in the Diocese of Kildare and Leighlin, said priests were being asked to take on more parishes, because of the shortage and clergy in their 80s were still working. Priests from Romania, India and Sri Lanka had been asked to come to Ireland to help, but this was a temporary fix. He said church scandals and a secular society had contributed to the challenges.

Notre Dame cathedral organ will take four years to repair

Work has begun to repair and restore the organ at Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris following the damage from last year’s fire. It has 8,000 pipes, 109 stop knobs and five keyboards and tuning will take six months. The online news site ‘Inside the Games’ says work is progressing with a target of opening the cathedral to the public in 2024, in time for the Olympic and Paralympic games. This would be five years after the fire which destroyed the roof and damaged the organ