Religion news 21 January

Image credit: The White House

President Joe Biden sets out priorities to unite America and defend truth

Joe Biden has become the 46th president of the United States, delivering a passionate speech of intent to heal the nation, centred on his deep seated Christian values. He spoke of a leader’s obligation to defend the truth and defeat lies. His “whole soul” was immersed in the process of bringing America together, uniting the nation to end the uncivil war between political opponents;  righting wrongs, delivering racial justice and making America once again the leading force for good in the world. Quoting St. Augustine that a people is a multitude defined by the common objects of their love, he suggested America’s shared values were opportunity, security, liberty, dignity, respect, honour and the truth. Unity was possible he said, if “we open our souls instead of hardening our hearts”. Full text of speech on Associated Press here

Pope Francis sent a message asking God to grant the President wisdom so that America could draw strength from the lofty political, ethical and religious values that have inspired the nation since its founding. In particular he spoke of the need to help the most vulnerable and the poor, and to foster understanding, reconciliation and peace.

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby published a prayer urging the Biden administration to seek the common good and unity

Beth Moore is a leading evangelical preacher and teacher from Texas who founded ‘Living Proof Ministries’, a global mission aimed at women. White evangelicals in America overwhelmingly voted for Trump, but last month she said she had never seen anything in America “more astonishingly seductive and dangerous to the saints of God than Trumpism”. Yesterday she said on Twitter: “Rulers of nations have come and gone for 2000 years but the church remains. We did not know all that would befall us 4 years ago nor do we know the times ahead. But the task of the church remains unchanged: to know Christ & make him known. To be salt & light in this time & place”.

Israel’s president Reuven Rivlin has invited Joe Biden to Jerusalem, saying the people of Israel “salute you and wish you great success”.

Catastrophic moral failure if vaccines are not supplied to poorer countries

One of the President’s first initiatives is to immediately restore the relationship between America and the World Health Organisation, which ”is essential to coordinating a global response during a pandemic.” The WHO has recently warned that the world is on the brink of a catastrophic moral failure in getting vaccines to poorer countries, revealing that just 25 doses have been given in one low income country, compared to 39 million doses in 49 higher income countries. It says a fast and equitable rollout of vaccines is crucially important.

All British major faiths’ advice on Covid19 in one place

The Interfaith Network has listed guidance on the Covid-19 lockdown, published by all  major faiths in Britain. Several are making their own films outlining precautions against infection and affirming the need to take up the vaccine. Guidance includes announcements of closures, how religious observances can be maintained and practical support offered in each community to people in need.

Church of England general synod formal meeting delayed til April

The formal meeting  of the Church of England’s parliament, the General Synod, has been delayed from February to April, when there is a chance that some members may be able to meet in person. There will be a one-day session in February to discuss the future shape of the church, leaving matters of strategy, safeguarding and a response to housing need, to be discussed in a two day session after Easter.