Religion news 8 September

Image credit: Christian Climate Action

77 year old priest arrested in climate change protest

The Rev Sue Parfitt, who is 77, was arrested and taken into police custody during the Extinction Rebellion protests in London. In a tweet she said:  “I am breaking the law in order to get the government to keep the law. At the moment it is in breach of its legal obligations under the Paris Agreement.” Only six months ago, Bristol Live reported that Sue Parfitt, associated with a church in Bristol and a member of Christian Climate Action, was convicted for refusing to obey a police banning order in demonstrations at Oxford Circus. She was given a nine-month conditional discharge and ordered to pay costs.

Statues of the Virgin Mary “bow down” to the mafia

Pope Francis has openly supported an academy which is studying how devotions to the Virgin Mary have been manipulated and used by criminal and mafia gangs. The Pope said authentic devotion should be freed from “superstructures, powers or conditioning that does not correspond to the Gospel criteria of justice, liberty, honesty, and solidarity”. Father Stefano Cecchin, who heads the academy, told Vatican news that mafia rituals include statues or images of the Blessed Virgin being made to “bow” before the houses of mob bosses during processions.

Repent for supporting the Democrats or face fires of hell: Roman Catholic priest

 As both US presidential election candidates’ campaigns court the Roman Catholic vote, the rhetoric has escalated. A video of a Catholic parish priest in Wisconsin, in which he says “you cannot be a Catholic and a Democrat” has gone viral. The Rev. James Altman stoked up the fear of hell in a fire and brimstone speech on you tube, and made abortion the key issue.  “Repent of your support of that party or face the fires of hell.”  The message was supported by Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas. The moral imperative in casting a vote has been expounded in different ways by Joe Biden and House speaker Nancy Pelosi who are both Catholics.  Biden has said: “My idea of self, of family, of community, of the wider world comes straight from my religion.”

Meanwhile in Chichester, on the south coast of England, Father Sebastian Paul of St Richard’s Roman Catholic church, also weighed into the presidential campaign. In a newsletter to his flock he took angry exception to the vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris for her alleged comments on Christian organisations and values.  He said the Church does not interfere in politics, but he cannot stay silent while the vulnerable are under threat.

Pardon the ancient “witches” of Scotland

A campaign is underway in Scotland to pardon women who were charged, tortured and executed for being witches under the Witchcraft Act from 1563-1726. The Courier in Fife reports that an estimated 3,800 people were accused of witchcraft across Scotland, of whom around 2,500 were executed – 84% of those accused were women. “Remembering the Accused Witches of Scotland” (RAWS) wants a national memorial in west Fife to acknowledge the injustices of the witch trials. 

One American Methodist church splits away in LGBTQ dispute

A Methodist church in Georgia has disaffiliated from the United Methodist church in protest at its support of traditional heterosexual marriage. Asbury Memorial Church in Savannah is inclusive and 35% of its members are LGBTQ. Irreconcilable differences in the United Methodist Church since the traditional teaching was supported in a conference vote, were expected to lead to a formal split at this year’s conference, but it was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Independent Catholic church in America ordains woman priest

Deacon Jane D. Reina has been ordained as priest in the independent Ecumenical Catholic Church in Colorado. The church has 10,000 members in America and follows the Catholic tradition within a liberal, inclusive agenda, allowing married people to be bishops, the ordination of women and marriage after divorce. Jane Reina’s community shares worship space with Episcopalians and Lutherans. Her first mass was drive by, due to coronavirus social distancing rules.