Week commencing 1st March 2021

BBC online news features a piece on how Muslim worship helps to quell gang activity in Cape Town. For the last three years a team of Islamic scholars has organised open-air devotions attracting hundreds, including Christians. One event was dedicated to challenging gender-based violence and was attended by 2,000 people. In the long term, the aim is to eradicate the drug and gang related crime through the peace and calmness that the devotions bring to the township. 

The Guardian reports that the first ever papal visit to Iraq on 5th March will go ahead despite fears around Covid and terrorism. This will also be the first trip abroad for the Pope in 15 months due to the pandemic. 

The Guardian also reports that in parts of the US Catholics are being told to avoid the Johnson and Johnson vaccine because of early research methods which involved the use of cells from abortions. Catholic leaders in New Orleans and St. Louis are issuing such statements which are not in line with the Pope’s statement on vaccines. 

Al Jazeera features a piece that focuses on the rise of Hindu nationalist groups in parts of India. Activists are reportedly causing community tensions by using Hindu religious occasions as a way of raising political voices, including chants and slogans that allegedly foment anti-Muslim feelings. Muslims remain a marginalised group in parts of India and Hindu-Muslim tensions are reportedly rising in some Indian states, particularly a following media-led discourse that Muslims are responsible for spreading the Covid-19 virus. 

The Church Times reports on the divisions in the leadership of GAFCON (Global Anglican Futures Conference) over the pastoral care of gay Christians. A complex story has emerged. The Archbishop of Nigeria has written to leaders in the Anglican Church in North America to rebuke them for promoting same-sex relations. Controversy was caused by the Archbishop’s letter which refers to homosexuality as a ‘virus’. The cause of this rebuke was a pastoral letter from US clergy which itself prompted challenges to the language employed which falls short of supporting Christians who are not heterosexual. 

 The BBC follows the story of a churchgoer in Scotland who says he was left traumatised after conversion therapy. As a gay Christian, he struggled with Biblical texts that are used to frame homosexuality as a sin and underwent exorcism as a ‘cure’ for his sexuality. There is currently a national political debate about banning such practices. 

The Church Times reports that mothers’ names can now be included on marriage certificates for the first time from 4th May 2021. This is the culmination of a campaign for a change in the law. Before this change, only fathers’ names were on marriage certificates.

NBC News in the US run with the news that the United Methodist Church in the US are facing a split over same-sex relationships. The conservative wing of the Church are planning to start up a new denomination to be known as the Global Methodist Church, which will not recognise same-sex marriage. This schism will be discussed at the Conference on 8th May this year.