Category : England / UK

(Church Times) Jeremy Morris–The cry for self-government: 100 years of the Enabling Act

Just before Christmas 1919, George V signed the Enabling Act into law. This conferred on a National Assembly of the Church of England the power to adopt “Measures” through a Legislative Committee, which would pass to an Ecclesiastical Committee of Parliament for scrutiny and rapid progress into law.

This single piece of legislation still forms the bedrock of the Church of England’s modern representative system. It came with a great fanfare of acclaim, led by a pressure group headed by the charismatic future archbishop William Temple. In consequence, it is often seen as a decisive and unexpected leap forward in the Church’s self-understanding.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The Enabling Act was a vital piece of legislation for the Church of England, and has good claim to be the most important piece of legislation passed by Parliament for the Church in the 20th century. But it was the result of a long evolution in church polity and ecclesiastical authority, and of the careful development of practical solutions to problems of governance by the Church’s leadership. In its essential conception, it owed little to Temple.

Read it all (registration).

Posted in Church History, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Politics in General

([London] Times) A Profile of a Married vicar whose (theology? or) good looks has won him 116,500 Instagram followers

With 116,500 Instagram followers, many more than the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Rev Chris Lee has built a cult following with his “60-second sermons”, short selfie videos in which he chats about the Bible and his faith.

He insists fans are drawn more to the power of the gospels than to his good looks, but Mr Lee, 36, who is married and has two young daughters, has been sent messages saying “I love you” by adoring fans. He said: “It’s never a horrible thing to be told you’re good-looking, but I think most people follow me because of my content, because I speak to them on a deeper level.”

Read it all (requires subscription). You may find out more about the parish in which he serves there.

Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

(Church Times) Hundreds of Christians in Nigeria ‘slaughtered’ by Islamist militia this year

More than 1000 Christians in Nigeria have been “slaughtered” by Islamist militia since January.

This is the key finding of a new report, Your Land or Your Blood, from the Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust (HART), which was presented at the International Organisation for Peace and Social Justice (PSJ) crisis conference in London, last month. The PSJ promotes peace-building and social justice in Nigeria.

Since January, there have been five serious attacks in Kaduna State, in the centre of the country, resulting in an estimated 500 deaths. There were at least another five attacks in the counties of Bassa and Riyom, and more in Taraba State. The militant Islamist group Boko Haram remains in power around the Chad border region, including parts of Borno State in the north (News, 19 March).

More than 6000 people have been killed since 2015.

Baroness Cox, who founded HART to promote and support peace and development groups in Nigeria, has recently returned from a research trip to the country. She explained that the Fulani, a nomadic ethnic group of about 20 million people across 20 West- and Central-African countries, were largely responsible for the new wave of violence. The terrorist group was listed as the fourth most deadly in the Global Terrorism Index in 2016 and 2017.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Nigeria, Politics in General, Terrorism

(Theos) Sally Phillips: Human Dignity, Different Lives & the Illusions of Choice

The takeover by stealth of Utilitarian thinking means that we are now a people that thinks the idea of society having winners and losers is inevitable. We measure everything from the number of steps we take to the length of our sleep and how many seven year olds can spell the word ‘turnip’.

As a result, we are losing the ability to talk about the things that cannot be measured. And if the world is governed according to the edict “what gets measured gets done”, we may be neglecting some of the most important things about being human. Like love.

You’re probably thinking ‘I’m not a utilitarian’. Even if you’re not utilitarian, think of what you mean by justice. Usually you mean fairness, you get back what you put in. It is unjust not to be paid what you are worth. I’m just thinking of the BBC gender pay gap.

In a way, some forms of Christianity, certainly the ones that I have been involved in, contribute to this too. The Low Anglican tradition that I love deeply teaches a transactional salvation. We are distinguished from animals by virtue of consciousness, self–reflection, moral capacity, the act of repentance. I have literally no idea if that is right or wrong but it does appear to be a kind of cost–benefit, quid pro quo.

If the point of our lives is what we are capable of doing then the implication must be that a human life lacking in the capacity for purposive action will be worthless, pointless. Those who are involved in the lives of people with disabilities disagree. Our insider experience tells us differently.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Children, Christology, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Philosophy, Theology

(Church Times) Gambling ‘is bad for your health’, says bishop Alan Smith of Saint Albans

GAMBLING should be treated as a “major health issue”, like smoking, the Bishop of St Albans, Dr Alan Smith, has said. He was speaking after figures were published which suggest that most people in England gambled last year.

The Health Survey for England 2018, published on Wednesday, showed that 53 per cent of people had gambled in 2018, including buying lottery tickets. More men gamble than women: 56 per cent of men against 49 per cent of women.

For the survey, 8178 adults (aged from 16) and 2072 children were interviewed in England.

Dr Smith said: “With almost half the country gambling, it looks as if this is becoming a major health issue, which requires a response akin to tackling smoking in the last century.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Gambling, Health & Medicine, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology

([London] Times) Rowan Williams–Step back from election chaos: the world is crying out for stability and dignity

In our response to and involvement in the election campaign, as in our actual voting, we should be prepared to look at these global realities as much as our domestic troubles – simply because there is no middle or long term security for us that is not also a secure future for the entire global neighbourhood. And so we need to recognise that planning has to be long-term and patient: the assurances of decisive, transforming action overnight are fantasies – though they are fantasies very much in tune with our feverishly short-term culture and all those pressures that make politics more and more a matter of advertising and entertainment.

Grown-up planning and negotiating take time. We have good reason to be sceptical of reckless promises. Churchill famously promised his electorate ‘blood, toil, tears and sweat’ – confident that the public he was addressing were strong and adult enough to see that a comprehensive victory would take time and would cost a great deal.

Who are the politicians who take the electorate that seriously? Who genuinely think that there is in this country a capacity for shared heroism in pursuing victory over what seems a massive, sluggish but inexorable destructiveness at work in the world economy, and victory over the deeply ingrained habits that still drive our ludicrous levels of resource consumption in the developed world?

Well, they don’t seem in abundant supply. But the national community is surely still capable of vision.

Read it all (subscription).

Posted in --Rowan Williams, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(Yorkshire Post Letters) Our churches are very much open for business says the Bishop of Ripon

From: The Right Rev Dr Helen-Ann Hartley, Bishop of Ripon.

BARRY Ewbank asks (The Yorkshire Post, November 30) “how do we come to a decision as to which churches stay open and which ones close?” Church buildings are both a blessing and a burden to local communities, yet at a fundamental level, and particularly so in rural contexts, these buildings represent a profound commitment to place.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

([London] Times) Church of Scotland doomed if squabbling doesn’t stop, former moderator and minister John Chalmers says

Radical plans to rescue the Church of Scotland from extinction are at risk of collapse amid rancorous infighting and internal division, one of its most senior figures has warned.

The Kirk registered a deficit of £4.5 million last year and membership is dwindling by an average of more than 100 people a week. It is estimated that the church has lost 80 per cent of parishioners since the 1950s.

In an effort to address its declining fortunes it has approved wide-ranging cost-cutting measures, including merging parishes and closing a number of churches. Earlier this month the Kirk agreed to integrate a number of its policymaking councils and significantly reduce the number of meetings.

The Very Rev Dr John Chalmers, a former moderator and principal clerk of the church’s general assembly, urged members to put aside their differences and work together. Speaking of the reforms he said: “If we do not change the way we think of our colleagues or learn to speak well of our brothers and sisters in Christ — even those we disagree — it may all be for nothing. Ours is a culture that needs to change”.

Read it all (subscription).

Posted in --Scotland, Parish Ministry, Presbyterian, Religion & Culture

The Bishop of Sheffield makes a statement in relation to the Franklin Graham Tour for 2020

“I’m afraid I cannot support the Graham Tour mission event at the FlyDSA Arena on 6 June next year, at which Franklin Graham is due to speak, and so will not be encouraging parishes in the Diocese of Sheffield to support it either. Mr Graham’s rhetoric is repeatedly and unnecessarily inflammatory and in my opinion represents a risk to the social cohesion of our city.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Religion & Culture

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s response to the Chief Rabbi’s Statement

Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Inter-Faith Relations, Judaism, Religion & Culture

([London] Times) Labour antisemitism: Corbyn not fit for high office, says Chief Rabbi Mirvis

Jeremy Corbyn’s handling of antisemitism allegations makes him “unfit for high office”, the Chief Rabbi has said while warning that the “very soul of our nation is at stake” in next month’s general election.

In an unprecedented intervention into politics, which he describes as “amongst the most painful moments” of his career, Ephraim Mirvis says that “a new poison” has taken hold in Labour “sanctioned from the very top”.

In an article for The Times today, the Chief Rabbi says that the Labour leader’s claim to have dealt with all allegations of antisemitism is “a mendacious fiction” and the way that the party has handled the claims is “incompatible with the British values of which we are so proud”.

Read it all (subscription).

Posted in England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Judaism, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(Church Times) CTE block appointment of fourth president because the nominee is in a same-sex marriage

The appointment of a new President of Churches Together in England (CTE) has been blocked because the nominee is in a same-sex marriage.

There are six Presidents of CTE, the Churches’ ecumenical instrument. They include the Archbishop of Canterbury and the RC Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Vincent Nichols. The fourth presidency became vacant in October 2018, when Billy Kennedy finished his four-year term.

In May, Hannah Brock Womack, an active Quaker, was formally appointed to the position by the fourth presidency group: Quakers in Britain; the Lutheran Council of Great Britain; the Evangelical Lutheran Church of England; German-Speaking Lutheran, Reformed, and United Congregations in Great Britain; and the Church of Scotland.

On learning that Ms Womack had recently been married to a woman, however, a majority of the member Churches of CTE, through its enabling group, voted in September to request that the fourth presidency group “refrain from enacting its Presidency, leaving the Fourth Presidency as an ‘empty chair’ for the current term of office”.

Read it all.

Posted in Ecumenical Relations, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Religion & Culture

(BBC) Burford school agrees to provide alternative to Christian assembly

A couple who threatened to take a school to the High Court over its religious assemblies have won their fight for alternative activities for their children.

Lee and Lizianne Harris withdrew their two children from assemblies at Burford Primary School in Oxfordshire over fears they were being “indoctrinated”.

The legal bid said the school breached their right to freedom of belief.

Oxford Diocesan Schools Trust said the case had diverted valuable funds.

The couple, who are non-religious, enrolled their children at the town’s only state school in 2015, before the trust took over.

But the children were unhappy watching Bible stories, including the crucifixion, during the Wednesday assemblies.

Read it all.

Posted in Children, Church of England (CoE), Education, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Other Faiths

(Telegraph) Betting firms deploy AI to get gaming machine addicts to ‘cool off’ from their gambling

Betting firms are installing Artificial Intelligence (AI) on all gaming machines which spots addictive behaviour and switches them off to stop punters playing….

Betting firms are also introducing a separate mandatory automatic alert which triggers when any player has spent 20 minutes on a machine forcing them to take a shorter 20 second “cooling off” period with staff also alerted.

Dr Alan Smith, the bishop of St Albans and a campaigner on gambling, said it was a “first step” but he questioned that 20 or 30 second breaks were too short and called for an independent academic review of its effectiveness.

‘It is strange that industry chiefs are fighting any further regulation for their remote operations while at the same time trumpeting their efforts on the high street,” said Dr Smith.

“What we have seen so far, however, continues to put the onus of responsibility on the consumer and not on the industry who are then free to create and then promote addictive gambling products.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Gambling, Religion & Culture

(Mirror) Foodbank hell for Britain as demand soars 3,800% under a decade of Tory rule

Foodbank demand has rocketed by 3,772% under a decade of Tory rule, the Mirror can reveal.

Bombshell figures show a surge in need from hungry families after nine years of gruelling austerity.

Britain’s biggest foodbank network had 57 outlets open in the final year of the Labour government in 2009/10.

They provided 40,898 aid packages – the equivalent of 368,082 meals. Of those parcels, 13,959 went to children.

By the end of March the network had 425 foodbanks – a 646% increase.

Their volunteers gave away 1,583,668 packages – 14,253,012 meals – in 2018/19. Some 577,618 parcels went to children.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Dieting/Food/Nutrition, England / UK, Poverty

(Yorkshire Post) Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu on faith, Advent and his love for the people of Yorkshire

Today, he’s sitting in the Drawing Room at Bishopthorpe Palace, the Archbishop of York’s official residence, to discuss his new book – Wake Up to Advent! It’s the first time he’s written his own Advent book having endorsed others previously. “I reached the stage where I said ‘this is going to be my last advent’ (as archbishop) and thought it’s high time I put pen to paper,” he says.

The book is characterised by readings and personal stories from his own remarkable life. “Whether someone is a churchgoer or not I hope there is still a message that they need to wake up to the world as we’ve got it. There’s a lot of mess, not only in the world but in our own lives, and there’s a possibility to feed on things that will help us to be truly human. We need to grow our friendships and relationships and our inter-dependence, so the message of the book I hope is for everybody.”

And Dr Sentamu believes this message still has relevance in the modern world. “When we see tragedies happening all over the world the first thing people do, particularly in this country, is go to church and light a candle. And I love that statement that it is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.”

For the archbishop, the chief role of religion is to be “a signpost to the love of God”. “If you saw every person as your brother or your sister you would treat them very differently. It’s treating people as totally different that causes all the trouble we bring into our world.”

Read it all.

Posted in Archbishop of York John Sentamu, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Religion & Culture

Monday food for Thought–The Red Dean of Canterbury on Joseph Stalin

In the same general period in which Stalin was starving millions, the Rev. Hewlett Johnson, Dean of Canterbury, described him as “leading his people down new and unfamiliar avenues of democracy.”

.–Paul Johnson, Modern Times: The World from the Twenties to the Eighties, (New York: Harper and Row, 1983), p.276, used yesterday in the sermon as an illustration of blindness

Posted in Church History, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Russia

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Margaret of Scotland

O God, who didst call thy servant Margaret to an earthly throne that she might advance thy heavenly kingdom, and didst give her zeal for thy church and love for thy people: Mercifully grant that we who commemorate her this day may be fruitful in good works, and attain to the glorious crown of thy saints; though Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Posted in --Scotland, Church History, Spirituality/Prayer

(Church Times) Interview: Martin Saunders, deputy chief executive, Youthscape

Good youth work is always about really listening to, truly caring about, and being there for the long haul for young people as they go through the most complex and fast-moving period of human life. Everything else is secondary to that. The statutory youth-work sector was decimated at the start of the recession; so, really, the voluntary sector now bears a lot of the responsibility. Churches are at the forefront of that.

We did some research at Youthscape, which discovered that only about 25 per cent of all churches actually did any formal work with young people. So there are pockets of great practice, but we’ve got a lot of work to do.

What young people desperately need are authentic, kind role-models who care. They don’t especially need someone who can speak their language or knows about the latest Netflix smash; so, in a sense, age is irrelevant. They need friends and role-models of all ages. The stereotype of the hip twenty-something, hoodie-wearing youth-worker needs to die.

Most Christian youth work is still really oriented towards helping young people to discover and then keep faith: the traditional Bible-study and social model is alive and well. There’s a big question around whether that’s still the best model, even for churches. The Scouting movement is seeing a huge increase in numbers. I think that they get a lot right.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Teens / Youth, Youth Ministry

(ES) Police arrest 17 after Romanian ‘sex trafficking gang’ busted in east London

Seventeen people were arrested today as police smashed a suspected global sex trafficking gang in east London.

Officers discovered 29 alleged victims as they busted a Romanian gang accused of bringing women into Britain to work as prostitutes.

The Met’s central specialist crime team carried out dawn raids at 16 addresses in Redbridge, Havering, Barking and Dagenham, Newham, Brentwood and Tower Hamlets — with the support of Romanian police officers.

The 14 men and three women, aged 17 to 50, were arrested just after 6am on suspicion of modern slavery, controlling prostitution, class A drug offences and possessing a stun gun. They remain in custody at a central London police station.

The alleged victims of human trafficking, all women aged between 20 and 40, were recovered and have been taken to a place of safety. A man was also arrested in Constanta, Romania.

The operation was supported by a team that included the Crown Prosecution Service, Romanian police and prosecutors, the Romanian embassy, Europol, Eurojust, the Church of England and Refuge.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Law & Legal Issues, Police/Fire, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Violence

Archbishop Justin Welby gives the ‘Thought For The Day’ on mental health

Good communities are places where mental health issues do not prevent people from having authentic and honest relationships. Good communities are able to hold pain, honour and acknowledge it, whilst putting it within the wider story of God and His hope for His people.

Christians believe we have a saviour, a rescuer, who knows intimately what it means to suffer. Amidst all the brokenness, Christ weeps with us. In his resurrection, I believe Christ restores us. Not necessarily in the way we expected, but he makes us whole in a way that makes sense.

It is my prayer today that anyone who is walking in darkness knows this: you are not alone. You are truly valued and deeply loved. Reaching out and talking to someone can be the first step back into the light.

Read it all.

Posted in --Justin Welby, Anthropology, Archbishop of Canterbury, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Theology

The Royal British Legion–Remembrance Sunday

Remembrance Sunday, the second Sunday in November, is the day traditionally put aside to remember all those who have given their lives for the peace and freedom we enjoy today. On this day people across the nation pause to reflect on the sacrifices made by our brave Service men and women.

Remembrance Sunday will fall on Sunday 10 November in 2019.

Read it all and make sure to look at other links on the site including the call to remember together this year.

Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, England / UK, History, Military / Armed Forces

(CNN) Meet Belfast’s ‘dementia-friendly barber’

In his home in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Lenny White gathers up his supplies for the day: a red, white and blue striped barber pole, hair clippers and a table-top jukebox — all the makings of a pop-up barbershop, catered to a very special group of clients.

White is known as the “dementia-friendly barber.” Along with his assistant, Jonathan Wray, he visits care homes across Northern Ireland to cut the hair of men living with dementia.

“When these men come into the room,” White said, “they think they are coming into the barbershop, which they really are. It is Lenny’s Barbershop, but it’s not on the Main Street. It’s in their living accommodations in the care home setting.”

White accomplishes that feeling by replicating a traditional barbershop, down to the music playing on the jukebox, from Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin to Elvis Presley.

Read it all.

Posted in --Ireland, Anthropology, Health & Medicine, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Theology, Stewardship

(Church Times) Police survey reveals crime wave in and around churches

A catalogue of thousands of crimes, ranging from rape and murder to petty theft, at places of worship over the past two years has been revealed in a report published this week by the Countryside Alliance.

The figures were described as “extremely distressing reading” by the Alliance, which obtained them from UK police forces through Freedom of Information requests. It launched the investigation after members expressed concern over lead thefts at rural churches. In total, the number of crimes reported to have taken place in or around places of worship since January 2017 was 20,168.

Mo Metcalf-Fisher of the Countryside Alliance said this week: “These figures paint a bleak picture. What’s worse is that there are likely many, many more incidents like these recorded, but that haven’t been disclosed to us. As a society, irrespective of faith or none, we need to be much more vigilant when it comes to watching over churches and places of worship by reporting suspicious activity.

“These figures serve as a reminder of the importance of funding and pushing for visible policing, particularly in rural areas where churches are more remote.”

Read it all.

Posted in England / UK, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Police/Fire, Religion & Culture

([London] Times) Hugo Rifkind reviews Richard Dawkins Latest book ‘outgrowing God’

Here, alas, probably because religion makes him so very cross, he often sounds more like Owl hectoring Winnie-the-Pooh. “This really is the sort of thing theologians spend their time thinking about,” he’ll tell us peevishly, or “the Roman Catholic Church was very silly” to have authenticated a supposed miracle in Portugal. Throughout a long, excruciating passage about Noah’s Ark he refers to “Mr and Mrs Wombat” and “Mr and Mrs Kangaroo”.

From the get-go we’re into his favourite argument, made many times before, which is that there’s no more reason to believe in the Christian god than any other. “Like you I expect, I don’t believe in Jupiter or Poseidon or Thor or Venus or Cupid or Snotra or Mars or Odin or Apollo,” he writes. “I don’t believe in Anyanwu, Mawu, Ngai . . .” Yes, we get it. Please stop.

A rolling, extensive list of everything else he doesn’t believe dominates part one. Quite a lot of it is about how bits of the Bible are contradicted by other bits, or inspired by previous works, or just not very nice. He’s very angry, for example, about the story of God telling Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. “Is it possible to imagine a worse trick to play on someone?” he thunders. Likewise, about God’s instructions in the Old Testament about what ought to be done with the Canaanites. “Nowadays,” he writes, “we’d call it ethnic cleansing and child abuse.”

Is it wrong to find all this a bit low-rent? Only very occasionally do you get an insight that stands out, such as the one about Hell needing to be so horrid precisely because the idea of going there is so implausible; otherwise it would be harder to inspire the necessary dread. Also, sometimes, thank God (or whoever) the attempts at wit actually land. “Thou shall not covet thy neighbour’s husband,” he suggests as an antidote to the sexism embedded in the Ten Commandments. “Nor her Jaguar. Nor her doctoral degree.”

Read it all (subscription).

Posted in Atheism, Books, England / UK, Religion & Culture

(Devon Live) Yoga teacher barred from using church hall because classes are ‘not compatible with Christian beliefs’

A Devon yoga teacher says she was “very surprised” to be told she could not use a local church hall for classes due to religious reasons.

Yoga teacher Atsuko Kato, 54, said she was told that yoga was “not compatible with Christian beliefs”.

Atsuko, who has been teaching yoga for 25 years – including one class attended by a local vicar – says she doesn’t understand why it is an issue.

But the church at the centre of the row says yoga cannot be allowed because it does not acknowledge that “there is only one God and that…Jesus Christ is God himself”.

Yoga originated in Northern India and has connections to both Hinduism and Buddhism.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Inter-Faith Relations, Other Faiths, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Theology

Congratulations to South Africa, Winner of the 2019 Rugby World Cup

South Africa had the Bomb Squad; England blew up. It was a tactical triumph for the Springboks coach, Rassie Erasmus, who, two years ago, was on his way from Munster to run the disintegrating professional game in South Africa only to find when he arrived home that the national side demanded his immediate attention. But the Springboks’ triumph was also based on his belief that sport is equally about the physical and the mental.

South Africa owed their World Cup success not only to the aggression that burned in all their players, even those rather smaller than the forwards who seem as wide as they are tall, such as Faf de Klerk and Cheslin Kolbe, but their ability to sustain the onslaught for 80 minutes. The approach saw off Japan, Wales – a side that prides itself on its physicality – and now England. At no point in those matches were the Springboks behind.

Erasmus has, in four games, including the three in the knockout stage, split his bench (known as the Bomb Squad) between six forwards and two backs, rather than the conventional five and three. It gave him an alternative tight five, and with Bongi Mbonambi and Lood de Jager barely lasting beyond the opening quarter against England, his decision was seen to be vindicated.

Read it all.

Posted in England / UK, South Africa, Sports

(Belfast Telegraph) Largest Northern Ireland churches insist same-sex weddings won’t be held in places of worship

None of the largest Churches in Northern Ireland have said they are prepared to carry out same-sex marriages.

The Church of Ireland, Methodist Church of Ireland and Presbyterian Church in Ireland all stated that they will only celebrate marriages between a man and a woman.

The Catholic Church expressed its concerns at the “redefinition” of marriage, but did not comment directly on whether it would hold same-sex wedding ceremonies on its properties.

The Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster did not reply when approached for comment, although it has previously expressed its opposition to same-sex marriage.

However, All Souls Church, a non-subscribing Presbyterian Church based in south Belfast, confirmed it will provide the opportunity for same-sex couples to have their marriage solemnised.

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, --Ireland, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Theology

(CEN) Church attendance continues to decline

The downward trend in attendance at Church of England services continued in 2018 despite ‘A Church Near You’, the Church’s local church-finder website, receiving more than 38.5 million page views in the last year.

The recently released 2018 Ministry Statistics showed that most key measures of attendance fell by between 10 per cent and 20 per cent from 2008 to 2018.

However, the report explains that the overall pattern of gradual decline in attendance masks differences in experience in individual parishes over the past decade. In 10 per cent of parishes Usual Sunday Attendance has actually increased, while in 40 per cent of parishes attendance has decreased.

In the largest group, 50 per cent of parishes, there is insufficient evidence to form a clear conclusion about the trend.

A digital report for 2019 shows that the Church of England increased Advent and Christmas social media reach by 1.14 million from 2017, to 7.94 million, however Christmas attendance, which includes Christmas Day and Christmas Eve, fell in 2018, having risen steadily since 2013.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Religion & Culture

(Guardian) Churches in nightclubs and Anglican gyms: can the C of E win back city dwellers?

The Renewal and Reform programme has attracted controversy, in part because it has begun to spend the church’s huge investment fund – not just the return it generates – in order to establish new evangelical churches, often in the heart of cities. More than 100 new churches were announced last year in coastal areas, market towns and urban housing estates – a serious attempt to expand Anglicanism, while about 25 churches are closed each year.

Some, like St Peter’s in Brighton, have modernised the music, decor and ethos of old churches. Others have occupied secular buildings. For a time, the Harbour church in Portsmouth could be found in an old department store. In Swindon, plans are under way to turn a former Great Western Railway building into a large new place of worship. The Fountains in Bradford will soon take over an old nightclub complex, once home to less godly venues called Revolution, Tequila and Vibe. Gas Street is technically “St Luke’s”, but churchy names are falling out of fashion too.

The plan is to attract young people, in part by going to the city centres, where young people can be found. The next round of grants from the church’s Strategic Development Fund, part of the Renewal and Reform programme, will be explicitly devoted to projects that “are targeted on promoting church growth within the largest urban areas; and one or both of younger generations and poorer communities”. In effect, though everyone insists that the church has not forgotten the countryside, it means a focus for the future on the UK’s 75 largest cities and towns.

There are about 150 students at Gas Street on the night I visit. Worship starts at 8pm, before which they socialise over plates of paella from a giant pan. It is early in the term and some of them may be taking their first steps into the church, so the organisers asked me not to talk to people at random. Instead I am introduced to several regulars, including Crystal, who is certainly a fine example of how they can help some young people in need. Right now the church’s own needs are nearly as great, however. If they do not ignite an Anglican revival among young people in the next couple of decades, then these new city-centre ventures will be the last stand of the Church of England.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Urban/City Life and Issues