Religion News 9 July

Pic: RMC

Bishops need to ‘watch their tone’

Sixteen Church of England bishops who took to twitter to criticise the Prime Minister’s special adviser Dominic Cummings, for breaking the lockdown are being  taken to task by members of the church’s ruling body, the General Synod. Nine questions have been tabled for this weekend’s online synod meeting, suggesting bishops should receive more guidance in their use of social media and watch the tone and content of their comments. The Bishop of Manchester, David Walker, who said on twitter at the time: “Unless very soon we see clear repentance, including the sacking of Cummings, I no longer know how we can trust what ministers say sufficiently for @churchofengland to work together with them on the pandemic”, was called upon to reply to all the complainants. Confirming that the digital guidelines were well established, he went on to quote the Bible and say that the Bishops fully appreciate the need to promote reconciliation where there are divisions. “The Digital Charter encourages truth, kindness, welcome, inspiration, togetherness and the importance of safeguarding in all that is done.”
The questions came from Miss Emma Forward (Exeter); Mr Graham Caskie (Oxford); The Rev James Hollingsworth (Chichester); Mrs Karen Galloway (St Edmundsbury & Ipswich); Mrs Rosemary Lyon (Blackburn); The Rev Graham Hamilton (Exeter); Mrs Karen Galloway (St Edmundsbury & Ipswich); Miss Prudence Dailey (Oxford).

Lambeth conference delayed until 2022

The Lambeth Conference of the worldwide Anglican communion, will now take place in the summer of 2022, delayed by two years due to Covid-19. The conference is organised by the Lambeth Conference Company, which has issued a statement saying that planning for large scale events in an unstable climate is difficult, especially this conference which includes bishops and spouses from over 165 countries. It says there is a risk that social distancing measures, travel restrictions and quarantines could affect planning and there remains a risk of a second wave of the virus with no vaccine yet available. It continued that Bishops have an important leadership role in bolstering support services in their own countries, but it is hoped that by 2022, restrictions on large events and travel may have eased.

Humanists marriage recognition

The High Court in London has been hearing a case brought by six couples who want humanist marriages to be legally recognised. They say they are unlawfully discriminated against due to their beliefs and this has been extremely distressing, causing personal and family difficulties. Legal recognition would mean that the state recognised their deeply held beliefs. The couples’ action is supported by Humanists UK, which says the case is about human rights. After a two day hearing, judgment will be reserved, to be delivered at a later date.

Westminster Abbey re-opens for visitors

Westminster Abbey will re-open for visitors on Saturday after a four month closure due to the coronavirus pandemic. It has been awarded an official kite mark, recognising high standards of cleanliness and social distancing measures. It opened for public worship last weekend but the size of the congregations is limited to ensure social distancing.

GLOBAL

The open wound of the Srebenica genocide 25 years on

The EU commissioner for neighbourhood and enlargement, Oliver Varhelyi, has said that the Srebrenica genocide is still “an open wound” at the heart of Europe. More than 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were killed after Bosnian Serb forces attacked Srebrenica in July 1995. Addressing a virtual conference commemorating the 25th anniversary of the atrocity, Oliver Varhelyi said: “Srebrenica calls for accountability. Justice must be served, and all those responsible for the massacre must face the consequences of their actions. 25 years on, it is more urgent than ever to end impunity for the perpetrators of war crimes,”

US Supreme Court favours Christian right

The US Supreme Court has delivered a string of judgments in favour of conservative Christians. Reuters is reporting that it has allowed employers to receive religious and moral exemptions to a federal mandate that health insurance for workers includes coverage of women’s birth control. In another 7-2 ruling on Wednesday in a case from California, the justices shielded religious schools from employment discrimination lawsuits. A third case last week, endorsed Montana tax credits for students to attend religious schools, paving the way for more public funding of faith-based institutions. The judgments have been variously received as ominous or extending religious liberty.

Churches ‘nuclear’ experience of Covid-19

Two New York churches which between them suffered 174 deaths due to Covid19 are emerging from the lockdown in different ways. An Associated Press report said St Bartholomew Roman Catholic Church in Queens, where at least 74 parishioners died, has returned to full scale public worship; but clergy at St Peter’s Lutheran Church in Manhattan, with a death toll of 60, say it is too soon to open. Both congregations have high numbers of Spanish speaking immigrants and the pastors say their experience during the pandemic has been ‘nuclear’, heart-breaking and painful.

Kanye West ‘in the service of the Lord’

Kanye West’s declaration on 4 July that he is running for President, was followed by a four hour interview with Randall Lane, from Forbes, in which he said that he no longer supports President Trump and that he is in the “service of our Lord and saviour, Jesus Christ”. He added that ‘Planned Parenthoods’, which offers abortions, “has been placed inside cities by white supremacists to do the Devil’s work.” This is taken to refer to allegations that the company intentionally focuses on offering abortions to black women, something it has denied. He has no campaign apparatus, but he has been supported in his election bid by the entrepreneur Elon Musk.

And finally – The cat that got the milk

The audacious antics of a clergyman’s cat, who helped himself to a jug of milk while his owner was filming morning prayer live from his garden, has gone viral on social media. Tiger seized his moment while the Dean of Canterbury Dr Robert Willis, oblivious  to what was going on with the milk jug, calmly quoted Jesus: “The kingdom is upon you, repent and believe the gospel”, at which point the cat was found out – and stroked.