Religion news 5 August

Image credit: Vatican News

Bishops repeat call for nuclear weapons to be banned

As the world prepares to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the dropping of nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Roman Catholic bishops of England Wales and Scotland have issued a joint statement calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons.  They quote Pope Francis from his visit to Japan last year, who said: “The use of atomic energy for purposes of war is immoral, just as the possession of atomic weapons is immoral”. The statement says that the church is called upon to “reflect prayerfully” on the UK’s possession of nuclear weapons, continuing: “We therefore recommit ourselves to the abolition of these weapons and to the Holy Father’s call to pray each day for reconciliation and fraternity.” The anniversary will be remembered on 6 and 9 August.

Church of England’s debate on sexualty is a collision course

A key adviser to Church of England bishops on the divisive debate on sexuality, has said that the conversations between conservatives and progressives within the church have become like collisions. In a Religion Media Centre briefing, Jessica Martin said the conversations had become “tiny, just sort of little tram tracks that always collide, and no space to think about the extraordinary complexity of what it might be to value human beings and to be making relationships in the cultural context”. She has just published a book ‘Holiness and Desire’ which seeks to explain the way debate over sex has come to dominate church politics. A theologian and Canon at Ely Cathedral, Jessica Martin is an adviser to the current church discussion programme “Living in Love and Faith”. Desire, she said, is an assumption that a lack of something makes you unhappy, and once you get what you want, you are fulfilled. But she said fulfilment came with joining other people and the “project of fidelity is something which is more important and more hallowed than a lot of the stuff that the church is getting very hung up on.” She said she wasn’t trying to come up with a solution in her book, but to open the discussion. Full report here.

Campaign to persuade Church of England to grow more trees

Friends of the Earth says it has compiled data showing that the Church Commissioners and the Duchy of Cornwall have low levels of woodland cover. It has written an open letter to both organisations urging them to act, saying that woodland can brake climate change and provide habitat for wildlife. The research says 3% of Church Commissioners’ 105,000 acres and 6% of the Duchy of Cornwall’s 130,000 acres is covered by woodland, compared to a national rate of 10%.  Premier Christian radio carried the story today and said the Church Commissioners told them that they do not recognise this data, it is incomplete and they planted 2.6 million trees last year. 

New church on the site of 9/11 attack

A new Greek Orthodox church is being built on a site near the World Trade Centre in New York. It is replacing the church destroyed in the 9/11 attack 19 years ago. Archbishop Elpidophoros, the leader of the Greek Orthodox church in America, attended a service of blessing this week, alongside the Mayor of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. The Religion News Service reports that when completed, the church will feature marble cladding and a central dome flanked by towers like the two Byzantine shrines that inspired it, the Church of the Holy Saviour in Chora and Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia, which was converted to a mosque last month.

Afghan refugee wins top film award on freedom of religion and belief

An international prize for short films showing the impact of the freedom of religion and belief on workplaces and communities, has been won by a refugee from Afghanistan now living in America. In  ‘Long Road to Freedom’, Mariya Dostzadah Goodbrake tells how her family fled her homeland and that she now campaigns for freedom and justice through her charity Global FC, which supports  young refugees in the States through education and sport.  The awards are organised by Empower Women Media and the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation. Finalists came from Afghanistan, Canada, India, Iran, Jordan, Lebanon, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and the US.

And finally – Dorset villagers outraged at removal of pews

The Telegraph is reporting that villagers in Dorset are outraged at a decision to remove Victorian pews so that overweight brides and grooms can process down the aisle. The decision by the Parochial Church Council of St Andrew’s Church in Okeford Fitzpaine, Dorset, was made because there had been occasions when the couple had been too large to walk down the aisle together. Villagers say the first they heard of it was when they saw the pews for sale, so they protested with a banner saying: “Save the pews from the devil within”. The Save St Andrew’s Pews group has been set up with organisers saying three quarters of the village’s 1000 population are against the plan. A spokesperson said: “The pews are part of the history and heritage of the church. If you strip out the pews then the soul of the church is gone.”