Category : England / UK

(RNS) No longer the default, the Church of England goes to battle in religious marketplace

It’s not particularly news in Britain that young English people no longer automatically consider themselves Anglican. A government survey released this month was only the latest to confirm that “CoE” — Church of England — was no longer the default response when Englanders were asked their religion or checked a box on a form.

What’s new, however, is that the Church of England is not sitting back and accepting decline. The nearly 500-year-old denomination is answering back, via Instagram.

The U.K.’s annual British Social Attitudes Survey reported that only 2 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds identify with the Church of England, the established religion of the realm since the Reformation.

Overall, in fact, fewer than 1 in 7 of the English say they belong to the Church of England. Between 2002 and 2017, the share of the populace identifying with the church dropped from 31 percent to 14 percent. That was a faster decline than any other Christian denomination in England.

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

Martin Davie–On the Flying of Flags

Can Christians use the rainbow flag to convey their own message?

It might be argued, however that it could be right for Christians to fly the rainbow flag, not in order to signify acceptance of the LGBTI + programme, but in order to bear witness to the Christian conviction that lesbian, gay, transgender and intersex people have been created by God in his image and likeness and are unconditionally loved by him, that they are therefore welcome to be part of the Church, and that they should not be subject to unwarranted exclusion, unjust discrimination, violence or persecution.

It is fundamentally important that Christians should bear witness to this conviction in a context in which Christianity is often portrayed as hostile to those who are lesbian, gay, transgender or intersex. However, flying the rainbow flag is not an effective way to bear witness to this conviction.

The reason this is the case is because what is conveyed by the flying of a flag in a particular context is not necessarily what is intended by the person flying it. For example, there are those in the United States who wish to fly the Confederate flag in order to mark the continuing importance of Southern history and culture, or to honour those who gave their lives for the Confederate cause. However, in the current American context, and particularly among black people, this is not what flying the Confederate flag conveys. What it conveys is support for white supremacy.

Anyone thinking about flying the Confederate flag needs to take this reality into account and in a similar way anyone in the Church of England considering flying the rainbow flag needs to take into account the reality of what flying it will convey. It will not convey the nuanced message of Christian conviction noted above. What it will convey is a message that those flying it are on board with the entire LGBTI + programme. This is a not a message that Christians should give out and consequently they should not fly the rainbow flag.

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Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Theology

Revisiting Alexander Solzjenitsyn’s 1978 Address ‘A World Split Apart’

‘A decline in courage may be the most striking feature which an outside observer notices in the West in our days. The Western world has lost its civil courage, both as a whole and separately, in each country, each government, each political party, and, of course, in the United Nations. Such a decline in courage is particularly noticeable among the ruling groups and the intellectual elite, causing an impression of loss of courage by the entire society. Of course, there are many courageous individuals, but they have no determining influence on public life.

Political and intellectual bureaucrats show depression, passivity, and perplexity in their actions and in their statements, and even more so in theoretical reflections to explain how realistic, reasonable, as well as intellectually and even morally worn it is to base state policies on weakness and cowardice. And decline in courage is ironically emphasized by occasional explosions of anger and inflexibility on the part of the same bureaucrats when dealing with weak governments and with countries not supported by anyone, or with currents which cannot offer any resistance….

Destructive and irresponsible freedom has been granted boundless space. Society appears to have little defense against the abyss of human decadence, such as, for example, misuse of liberty for moral violence against young people, such as motion pictures full of pornography, crime, and horror. It is considered to be part of freedom and theoretically counterbalanced by the young people’s right not to look or not to accept. Life organized legalistically has thus shown its inability to defend itself against the corrosion of evil.

And what shall we say criminality as such? Legal frames, especially in the United States, are broad enough to encourage not only individual freedom but also certain individual crimes. The culprit can go unpunished or obtain undeserved leniency with the support of thousands of public defenders. When a government starts an earnest fight against terrorism, public opinion immediately accuses it of violating the terrorist’s civil rights. There are many such cases.

Such a tilt of freedom in the direction of evil has come about gradually, but it was evidently born primarily out of a humanistic and benevolent concept according to which there is no evil inherent to human nature….’

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, History, Religion & Culture, Russia

(Psephizo) Ian Paul–The Church of England teaching document on sexuality

One of the great reliefs of the last sessions of General Synod in York (on July 6th to 10th) was the absence of any acrimonious debates about sexuality in the main chamber. The Business Committee had taken the bold and commendable decision that, in the light of the planned teaching document on sexuality, any private members’ or diocesan motions on related issues would not be taken until after the document was produced and discussed. The teaching document was announced after the ‘rebellion’ in February 2017 when Synod decided ‘not to take note’ of a report from the House of Bishops’ report on the state of play in discussions following the long and drawn out (and expensive!) process of ‘Shared Conversations‘.

There had already been an announcement that there was going to be a change in name for the document.

Living in Love and Faith: A new name for the Episcopal Teaching Document

As the work of the Episcopal Teaching Document has progressed it has become clearer that the word ‘document’ does not do justice to the emerging vision for the resources that the groups working on it envisage. Furthermore, ‘teaching’ does not reflect the working groups’ aspiration to produce teaching materials that will invite active engagement in mutual learning. So, after several months and the participation of many people, a new title for the project has been agreed by the Archbishops: Living in Love and Faith: Christian Teaching and Learning about Human Identity, Sexuality and Marriage.

This provided plenty of fuel for the suspicious, that there was a retreat from the idea that the Church of England might actually have a clear position on sexuality that needed ‘teaching’. But Justin Welby had said from the beginning that this was going to be a ‘mapping’ exercise, highlighting areas of agreement, the areas of disagreement and possible ways forward—which in itself suggests that this, another costly process, would not lead to any clear resolution. Personally, I was intrigued at the idea that ‘teaching’ on its on does not ‘invite active engagement in mutual learning’, but in fact in Higher Education it is common to talk about a ‘teaching and learning strategy’, recognising that the focus needs to be not simply on what is offered, but also on the effect that it has in enabling learning to take place.

So instead of any debate, the Saturday afternoon of Synod was given over to a series of workshops and seminars, some of which focussed on other topics (including digital evangelism) but which included presentations on the work of the different groups involved in the process (Bible, theology, biological and social sciences, history and a slightly separate Pastoral Advisory Group). I attended the ones on Bible, theology and science, and what emerged was a rather mixed picture of what we might expect from the process….

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Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology

‘A New Settlement Revised: Religion and Belief in Schools’ – A Church of England response

In response to the report published yesterday by the Westminster Faith Debates, by Charles Clarke and Linda Woodhead, The Church of England’s Chief Education Officer, Revd Nigel Genders, said: 

“Church of England Schools provide education for the whole community. This includes those of other faiths and those of no faith, as well as Christian families. Around one million pupils attend our schools every day, each receiving a high-quality education, and our approach to education remains extremely popular.

“The report from the Westminster Faith Debates continues an important conversation about religion and belief in schools, and the type of education we want for our children.

“The report recognises that in today’s world there is an increasing need for religious literacy. While the recommendations will need to be read in the light of the publication of the Commission on Religious Education’s report, expected in the autumn, we welcome the recognition of the importance of religious education in schools.

“The report raises the question of collective worship. Collective worship provides a vital opportunity for children to pause and reflect on the big questions of life and develop spiritually, and we are pleased to see a significant ground-shift in this revised report away from any call to abolish it, which would be to the detriment of children’s wellbeing.

“We have consistently argued that the issue of school admissions is complex in a system where parental choice is valued….

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

(CEN) New survey reveals what Britons think of Christians

Only 38 per cent of UK adults disagree that being an atheist or non-religious is more normal than being a Christian, according to a Com-Res survey.

The survey on perceptions of Christianity in the UK found that 28 per cent of respondents believe that being an atheist or non-religious is more normal than being a Christian, while 48 per cent of respondents neither agreed nor disagreed.

The survey showed that while 22 per cent of those aged 65 or over agreed with the statement, the figure rose to 34 per cent of 18-24-year-olds, the highest figure between the age groups.

Some 33 per cent of people who never go to church agreed with this statement, the highest among the categories, while the next biggest (31 per cent) was among those who go three to four times a week, compared with 20 per cent of regular churchgoers and 9 out of 12 (72 per cent) of those who attend services every day.

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Posted in England / UK, Religion & Culture, Sociology

(DM) Christian doctor is sacked by the Government for refusing to identify patients by their preferred gender because he believes sex is established at birth

A doctor has been fired from a top government role for suggesting gender is determined at birth.

Dr David Mackereth, 55, who has worked as an NHS doctor for 26 years, was deemed to be ‘unfit to work’ after he said he would refuse to identify patients by their preferred gender.

The senior doctor was set to become a disability assessor for the Department for Work and Pensions claims a person’s gender is biological and said his right to freedom of speech had been denied.

The medic, from Dudley in the West Midlands, fears other ‘professional people of faith’ could lose their jobs simply for holding opinions about gender that are ‘centuries old’.

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Posted in Children, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Science & Technology, Sexuality

(BBC) Chief rabbi: Labour should toughen up anti-Semitism code

The code does endorse the IHRA’s working definition of anti-Semitism and includes behaviours it lists as likely to be regarded as anti-Semitic – but critics point out that it leaves out four examples from that definition:

Accusing Jewish people of being more loyal to Israel than their home country
Claiming that Israel’s existence as a state is a racist endeavour
Requiring higher standards of behaviour from Israel than other nations
Comparing contemporary Israeli policies to those of the Nazis

Chief rabbi Ephraim Mirvis attacked the omission of these examples and said it was “astonishing that the Labour Party presumes it is more qualified” to define anti-Semitism than the Jewish community.

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

(Guardian) What is the true human cost of your £5 hand car wash? the C of E provides a role in finding the Answer

Beyond checking for concrete and prices below £6, what can drivers do to avoid potentially problematic car washes? Frazer, who believes £9 is a reasonable minimum price for a basic wash, advises checking for the overall quality of a site. “If it’s being held together with bits of string, that’s another indicator,” she says. Nearby caravans or signs of on-site accommodation are a potential concern, as is an absence of receipts.

While the scale of the problem remains largely unknown, and workers themselves report being reluctant to raise the alarm, drivers are being recruited to help identify problem sites. The church is playing an unlikely role; the Anglican and Catholic churches in England have backed a new Safe Car Wash phone app. It asks drivers for a site’s location and name (if there is one), followed by a series of questions about it and its workers. It encourages drivers not to confront workers. Instead, the Church of England’s Clewer Initiative against anti-slavery, which launched the app on 4 June, shares the data with the National Crime Agency and the GLAA, among other authorities. If answers to the questions about safety gear and other observations suggests a potential problem, users are also encouraged to contact the Modern Slavery Helpline.

“Too often we rush in, you’re on your phone and see all this activity, you give your £6 and drive off,” says Alastair Redfern, the bishop of Derby, who works on anti-slavery projects in the church and the House of Lords. “We’re just saying, please stop and think first.” The Clewer Initiative says the app was downloaded more than 5,000 times in its first month, while the charity Unseen, which runs the slavery helpline, said last week that 11 cases indicating 69 potential victims had been reported to it through the app.

But concern about car washes that may be contravening one or several laws and regulations should not lead to assumptions about all such businesses, Frazer adds. There are legitimate businesses that offer competitive prices. That some car washes might have sub-standard drainage does not necessarily mean they are fronts of organised crime. “And if workers look a bit bedraggled, it doesn’t mean it’s all to do with modern slavery – you cannot generalise in that way,” Frazer adds.

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Posted in Anthropology, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture

Congratulation to Novak Djokovic, 2018 Wimbledon men’s Champion

John Updike, the great American author, made the following observation: “Professionalism in art has this difficulty: to be professional is to be dependable, to be dependable is to be predictable, and predictability is aesthetically boring — an anti-virtue in a field where we hope to be astonished and startled and at some deep level refreshed.”

I wonder if it is this sentiment that underpins the lack of affection for Djokovic. Is he too dependable? Too predictable? Does his game lack that element of surprise that is so central to, say, Federer? If so, allow me to suggest that dependability contains its own kind of beauty. To watch this unique athlete hitting groundstrokes deep and true, returning serves with solidity, chasing down balls with those elastic legs, is a privilege.

One must surely admire his journey, too. He lived his formative years in the devastation of war-torn Belgrade, spending 78 straight nights in a shelter as Nato bombs rained down during the Kosovo campaign. He was almost killed by the precision bomb of an F-117 bomber, which levelled a building a few yards away. There have been other upheavals, not least in tennis where, for many years, he had a body that broke down at critical moments.

Today, dependability is not just an approach to tennis, but a kind of sanctuary. His phenomenal work rate, on and off the court, is an elusive search for shots that never miss, never fragment, never let him down. Yesterday, he looked as implacable as two years ago, when he won four straight slams and had a stranglehold on the game. He is not just one of the greats of tennis, but of sport.

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Posted in England / UK, Men, Serbia, Sports

(Eleanor Parker) Some extracts from an Anglo-Saxon homily on St Swithun’s life and miracles

Today is St Swithun’s Day, when the weather-gods obey the saint of Winchester – ‘St Swithun’s day if thou dost rain / For forty days it will remain’, and all that. So let’s look at a few extracts from an Old English homily for St Swithun’s Day, written by Ælfric in the last decade of the tenth century.

Ælfric had a personal connection to Swithun’s story, and in this homily he adds in one or two comments to remind us of it. Swithun was an obscure ninth-century Bishop of Winchester whose fame is almost entirely the work of Æthelwold, his successor at Winchester more than a century later. Winchester was the royal city of Wessex but it was surprisingly short on saints, so Æthelwold did his best to elevate some of his predecessors to that status, including Swithun and St Birinus (a better-attested saint, though his popularity never caught on as Swithun’s did). On 15 July 971, Æthelwold had Swithun’s remains translated to a new shrine inside the Old Minster, Winchester. Ælfric, who was educated at Winchester under Æthelwold and had a great respect for his bishop, would have witnessed much of this, and by the time he wrote about it, around 25 years later, he had come to see Æthelwold’s time – his own youth – as a kind of golden age for the English church, when the king and holy bishops worked together and religion and peace flourished in the land. By the 990s, with the Vikings suddenly once more a pressing threat, this seemed to him like a bright but vanished world.

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Posted in Church History, England / UK

Congratulations to Novak Djokovic for beating Rafa Nadal and making his First Grand Slam Final since 2016

Posted in England / UK, Men, Sports

Congratulations to Kevin Anderson, Winner Today of the Second Longest match in Wimbledon history in His semi-final match against John Isner

Posted in England / UK, Men, Sports

(Church Times) Tim Wyatt asks some of the C of E’s most prolific users of Twitter and Facebook what they think about social media

It is not hard to find a bad news story featuring social media. From allegations of data misuse and interference in elections to the opprobrium heaped on those guilty of ill-judged Twitter posts, and concerns about the impact on social cohesion and attention spans, it seems that we might be falling out of love with the medium.

In the halcyon days of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and the rest, the Church of England, like the rest of the world, appeared enraptured. There was widespread enthusiasm about the opportunities for mission and communication.

The Bishop of Buckingham, Dr Alan Wilson, captured much of the optimistic mood in a column for the Church Times in 2011: “Christians have much to say using social media because churches contain many ordinary people with engaging stories to tell. The more they get out there and speak freely, the richer a view of Christianity the world will get” (Comment, 6 May 2011).

Bloggers such as Church Mouse (16,500 followers) and the “digital nun” Sister Catherine Wybourne (19,500 followers) shot to prominence, while a thousand Facebook groups sprang up as believers coalesced online around their various interests and traditions.

One blogging priest, the Revd Peter Ould, even co-ordinated early efforts on Twitter into a website, the Twurch of England, which collated every tweet from Church of England bishops and priests into a single live feed. Asked in an interview whether he was excited by the possibilities, he replied: “Absolutely — and we’re only just beginning to see the potential.”

While these early experiments are often remembered fondly, the pitfalls were soon encountered….

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Posted in --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Language, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Theology

(Inews) Church of England seeks law to protect cash-strapped cathedrals from being sold

The Church of England is to seek legal protection against being forced to sell its cash-strapped ancient cathedrals in the event that any them become bankrupt. A meeting of the General Synod, the church’s parliament, this week set in train the passing of a new law which would prevent creditors from seeking the sale of a cathedral’s land or buildings in the event that it falls insolvent.

The financial health of some of the CofE’s 42 cathedrals, among which figure some of the greatest treasures of British architecture, has made recent headlines as a number of institutions struggle to secure sufficient income….

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