Religion News 2 July

Prince thanks Commonwealth faith communities

The Prince of Wales has thanked religious communities for looking after their neighbours during Covid-19. In a video message to the Commonwealth, he praised people of faith for doing wonderful work to help those in need, such as volunteering to care for the sick, give charity to the poor and help the most vulnerable. “They do this in service to God and to community but also out of fundamental human compassion and decency.” He was speaking at a virtual multi faith conference hosted by the Commonwealth Jewish Council.

Legal recognition for humanist weddings

On Tuesday next week (7 July) six couples will ask the High Court to legally recognise humanist weddings in England and Wales. They say the current law discriminates against them on the basis of their humanist beliefs and is against human rights legislation. They are supported in their action by Humanists UK. Humanist weddings became legal in Scotland in 2005 and in Northern Ireland in 2018. But elsewhere, humanist couples have to arrange a second civil ceremony at a registry office or forego legal recognition of their marriage.  Andrew Copson, chief executive of Humanists UK, said:  “Couples who have humanist weddings see that day as the epitome of their love and commitment to each other, and all they want is the same legal recognition for that as is given to every religious person in our country.”

Bishop welcomes report to tackle gambling

The Bishop of St Albans, Alan Smith, has welcomed a report proposing changes to prevent children being lured into gambling addiction. The report from a House  of Lords committee, says gambling sponsorship on football shirts should be banned and gambling advertising should not be on display in or near any sports grounds or venues.  There are 350,000 problem gamblers, including 55,000 children, with the problem made worse by the ease of using smart phones.  The Bishop says gambling legislation is hopelessly out of date. He told the Telegraph: “This report’s strong recommendations on these gaming developments would bring our legislation into the 21st century”.

Online church should have a Bishop

Online worship should remain after the lockdown with a continuing church community, bishop and paid clergy, according to church leaders whose ideas have caught the imagination on twitter. The discussion began with a tweet from the Bishop of Norwich Graham Usher, who said: “the revolution in online worship has meant many people who have been excluded from the life of their local church – infirmity, disability, phobia, mental fragility – feel included. I’m ashamed we did not realize this before. What do we need to stop to create space to keep this?” In response, Rev Katie Tupling, Oxford’s chaplain for the deaf, suggests “commissioning and authorising an Online Church Community recognised by the church of England, with a Bishop for accountability and pastoral/theological oversight.”  Tim Rourke, a Church Army minister, added that if each of the 42 diocese paid £10k , “that would provide around 7/8 full time (or even better 10-15 part time) posts”.

Nonaligned theological college for NW England

A new Anglican theological college will be established in north west England, replacing a partnership with St Mellitus college.  The Bishop of Burnley Philip North, quoted in the Church Times, said it will not aligned with any one of the C of E “tribes”.  Bishops in the region say it will be independent, open in September 2021 and will provide part-time and full-time training for up to 250 people, wishing to be ordained or to work as lay people, including youth workers. The decision followed concerns that colleges are under-used, so the new structure will unify theological education within the six dioceses of the region.


Chaplains on death row

A prisoner on death row in Alabama is taking court action to ensure he is allowed to have a chaplain with him when he is executed. Charles L Burton Jr. is challenging a decision by the state to ban all spiritual advisers at executions. He says he doesn’t want to be alone when he dies and his lawyer says the state is wrong legally, constitutionally and morally. The Religion News Service suggests that Alabama appears to be following a strategy set by the Texas prison system, which ordered a similar ban in response to a Buddhist inmate’s request.

Fate of Uighur Muslims should stop Huawei deal

Tom Tugendhat MP, chairman of the foreign affairs committee, has told Sky News that the West should not be doing business with Huawei because of China’s record on dealing with Uighur Muslims. He said: “We need to be clear that companies that are involved in the security state that has led to the detention in prison camps of more than a million and half Uighur Muslims should not be companies with which we are willing to do business. That includes companies like Huawei that are integral to the Chinese security state.” Reuters reports that the United Nations estimates that more than a million Muslims have been detained in camps in the Xinjiang region, with China accused of torture, abuse and attempting to erase their culture. China denies mistreatment and says the camps provide vocational training and are needed to fight extremism.