Week commencing 22nd February 2021

The Guardian reports that Shamima Begum, the British citizen who joined Islamic State in Syria six years ago, has lost her appeal to return to the UK to ‘fight for citizenship’. 

The Guardian also features the story of how the remains of a C19th nun are to remain with the Order she founded in Sussex. There had been moves to relocate the skeletal remains to the US to improve the chances of her being made a saint. Following a petition signed by 1,500 people objecting to the relocation, the Venerable Mother Cornelia Connelly’s bones will remain in the UK. 

Al Jazeera runs with a commentary piece with the headline, ‘Black Lives Matter: Where are the Black clergy?’, making the comparison with the Civil Rights movement in the US that was led by high profile black church leaders. The piece suggests that the Church is not longer seen as rallying point for black political activism.

The Church Times runs with a new report written by Christian safeguarding charity Thirtyone:eight and the University of Chester which urges a more rigorous approach to background checks for missionaries and aid workers before being sent overseas to work. This comes after a spate of reports of accusations of abuse perpetrated by charity workers working with vulnerable communities in need of humanitarian aid. 

The Washington Post carries an opinion piece urging evangelical leaders to speak out against conspiracy theories that suggest the Covid vaccine is ‘the mark of the Beast’ – a use of the Biblical apocalyptic language. There is also reference to Catholic concerns that the vaccine has been developed using cells from abortions, something the writes emphasise is not true. The article states that the Pope, along with other religious leaders, has affirmed the use of the vaccine, which is in line with Christian teaching about the value of protecting human life. 

The Washington Post also features a piece that suggests evangelical leaders are distancing themselves from Christians who were involved in the Capitol riots. Condemning ‘radicalised Christian nationalism’, 1400 Christian leaders have voiced views that those claiming to have joined the riots in the name of Christianity are heretics and presenting  a ‘perversion’ of the Christian faith. 

NBC News are reporting divisions within the Southern Baptist Convention ahead of a meeting of its executive. One church is threatened with expulsion because of its policy to accept LGBTQ+ people into its congregation and there are tensions arising from the restrictions being placed on teaching on systemic racism. One commentator states that to work within the SBC there can be little deviation from its strict policies. This week has seen some challenges coming from inside the American denomination. 

The BBC carries the story of a vicar in the Church of England who, after becoming adept at streaming services, branched out into creating an online gaming space where people could connect, chat and play online video games, which Rev Simon Archer calls ‘The Church of Chat’.