Religion news 26 August

Image credit: Andy Radcliffe CCLicense

Isle of Man churches to close amid “catastrophic” financial troubles

The diocese of Sodor and Man, on the Isle of Man,  is considering shutting most of its 41 churches, as it faces financial ruin because of Covid19. A strategy document published this week says the three moth lockdown has been “catastrophic” for the diocese, which was already in financial trouble. It said that parishes in this rural location (pictured) were struggling to raise cash for central funds and if this continued, the diocese would run out of money in 5 years time. The diocese says it cannot afford all the church buildings, especially those with a declining attendance and ageing congregations and they have “greater value in the marketplace than they do for the mission of God and the ministry of his Church”. The paper was accepted at a synod meeting on 4 August and congregations are being asked to identify ‘hub’ churches, those which can hibernate and be used for occasional festivals or events and those that have market value and can be sold. Guidance suggests there should be one church for 6000 people and the report points out that other denominations on the island with a comparable number of worshippers, have only 10 churches apiece, compared to the Anglicans’ 41.

Support package for 45 historic churches

Forty-five historic churches have been awarded grants totalling £500,000 to keep them going after the lockdown. The National Churches Trust is giving the support package to pay for repairs, maintenance and the installation of community facilities. It says it recognises that many churches are suffering financially as they have been unable to raise funds from worshippers, visitors or from hiring space. The churches include Selby Abbey;  St Mary and St Melor Church, Amesbury; and Ipswich Unitarian Meeting House. In total, the Trust has awarded or recommended 145 grants totalling just over £1 million.

Low income families worst hit by lockdown in Britain

A report into poverty during the pandemic has found that living standards have declined and stress levels increased among low income families. The report by the Church of England with the Child Poverty Action Group, found spending on essentials such as food and electricity had gone up, as families were forced to stay at home. The Bishop of Durham, Paul Butler, said: “Families have been placed under huge strain; the worst off have again been worst hit and, for many, things now could get worse rather than better… It is imperative that the Government does all that it can to protect families and children”.

Imam becomes a police officer

Emad Choudhury has become the first Imam to become a police officer. Emad, aged 29, served for five years at the Bahu Trust mosque in Balsall Heath, Birmingham before joining the police force in 2019. The Telegraph reports that he is now part of a specialist police unit engaged in tackling knife crime and youth violence and runs a scheme called Empowering Futures, for 16 to 19-year-olds at risk of being drawn into crime. He continues to lead prayers at the Bahu Trust, telling the Telegraph that “Police values are the same as my religion…It boils down to being a good person, having a good heart and caring for people.”

Ethical standards defended in vaccine creation

Australia’s deputy chief medical officer, Dr Nick Coatsworth, has addressed concerns from some church leaders that Covid19 vaccines rely on cells from aborted foetuses to be developed. The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Sydney Anthony Fisher said Christians would face an ethical dilemma and could refuse the vaccine . Dr. Coatsworth said “the reality for the vaccines is that they need cell cultures in order for us to grow them. The human cell is a really important part of vaccine development. There are strong ethical regulations surrounding the use of any human cell, particularly foetal human cells. I think we can have every faith that the way they have manufactured the vaccine has been against the highest of ethical standards internationally”.

Mosque massacre families call for killer to spend the rest of his life behind bars

In New Zealand, survivors and families of the 51 people killed in the Christchurch mosque massacre, have been reading out impact statements during the sentencing of the killer. Brenton Harrison Tarrant, aged 29 from Australia, pleaded guilty to 51 counts of murder, 40 counts of attempted murder and one count of terrorism. The resulting anguish has led families to call for the toughest possible sentence – life without parole. Among the responses, one woman said he did not deserve leniency after killing her father; another said the killer was “nothing”; another that he was a coward who “stole our nation’s innocence”. The hearings will last four days.

Evangelicals say unaccompanied migrant children deserve protection

In the United States, the National Association of Evangelicals has joined with other evangelical leaders to appeal for greater protection of unaccompanied migrant children. In an open letter to Ivanka Trump, they urged that a federal anti-trafficking law which provided safeguards for unaccompanied children who cross the border, should be re-instated. The law was suspended in the first month of the coronavirus pandemic and the change means that children who could have been supervised by government services, are now detained and deported. The church leaders are concerned this will lead to trafficking or worse.