Youth Ministry and Church News from around the world

News from around the world of youth ministry and church:

Tribalism v Unity

I loved the blog post by DigitalNun on whether or not humanity is Descending into Tribalism Again? I felt like it hit the nail on the head.  We’re currently in a place where extremist rhetoric seems to be the norm in the Western world:

  • Trump’s daily hate and vitriol represents a uniquely toxic style of leadership to a Western democracy.
  • The rise of the extreme right in mainland Europe
  • The large protests in Paris turning into violence.
  • The ridiculous arguing and quarreling each day in and around Parliament over Brexit
  • The racism shared in various football stadiums around the country.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has called in the House of Lords on the need for reconciliation after a “week of deep division” over Brexit.  The Most Rev Justin Welby said it was “central to our future” as a country that the divisions were healed.

The Archbishop, speaking in the House of Lords, called on the Government to establish a “reconciliation unit” which would work across Whitehall departments and with humanitarian organisations and faith groups to bring people together.  He said:

“This has been a week of deep division, and reconciliation will be something that, although applied to foreign policy in this debate, must become central to our future in this country.

“I hold firm to the belief that we can create a society where mutual flourishing is possible, disagreeing well is central and respecting the difference is paramount.”

“Reconciliation is needed before, during and after conflict, preemptive reconciliation is essential.”

“I think it was Bill Shankly who said ‘I teach my lads to get their retaliation in first’; we need to learn to get our reconciliation in first.”

“Reconciliation happens from the top of society down, from the bottom of society up and from the middle of society out. It must include women, youth and minorities. If any group is left out, peace is not sustainable.”

“What is needed is a joined-up approach to reconciliation, straddling humanitarian, economic, social, ethic, cultural, political, spiritual and religious factors in which different departments of Government work together under the umbrella of a joint reconciliation unit.”

The Church of England bishops have issued an unusual joint statement, saying that they are praying for UK politicians and “national unity” following turbulence over Brexit:

In the light of this week’s turbulent events, the bishops of the Church of England pray for national unity – and courage, integrity and clarity for our politicians.

We call on the country to consider the nature of our public conversation. It is time to bring grace and generosity back to our national life.

At the heart of the Christian message is Jesus’ command to love our neighbour. This includes those with whom we agree and disagree – at home, in Europe, and further afield. We urge everyone – our political leaders and all of us – to bring magnanimity, respect and reconciliation to our national debate.

There is now an urgent need for the United Kingdom to recover a shared vision and identity to help us find a way through the immediate challenges.

Regardless of what happens next with Brexit, the Church of England, alongside many other churches and other agencies striving for the common good, will be at the heart of local communities; educating one million children, providing 33,000 social action projects and running 16,000 churches across the country. Above all else, we will continue to support the most vulnerable and share Christ’s love with all.

This is the Advent season. As we reflect and await Christmas in joyful anticipation, we have faith in Christ to show us all the way of hope.

Youth Ministry and Church News from around the world

News from around the world of youth ministry and the Church:

 

 

Commission on Religious Education

The Commission on Religious Education has published its final report.

The Final Report of the Commission on Religious Education, Religion and Worldviews: the way forward.  A national plan for RE, has been published. It sets out a National Plan for RE comprising of 11 recommendations, and calls on the Government to consider and adopt it.

The National Plan is built around a National Entitlement which sets out what all pupils up to the end of Year 11, in all publicly funded schools, should be entitled to be taught.  The National Entitlement reflects a new and inclusive vision for the subject, fully embracing the diversity and richness of religious and non-religious worldviews.  It will ensure a strong academic basis for the subject in all schools.  The National Plan provides for flexibility of approach in the translation of the National Entitlement into programmes of study in schools, ensuring that Headteachers are able to choose the approach that is most appropriate for their pupils.

There is a long and detailed Press Release which gives all the background information.  There is both the Full Report and an Executive Summary.

Responding to the publication of the Commission on Religious Education’s Final Report, The Church of England’s Chief Education Officer, Nigel Genders, said:

“This report calls for a new vision for Religious Education (RE) which is vital if we are to equip children for life in the modern world where religion and belief play such important roles. It is also timely given the falling numbers of students taking RE at GCSE and A level following the introduction of the English Baccalaureate (Ebacc).

“The report articulates well the need to recruit and train RE teachers who are resourced and supported effectively. It also makes significant recommendations for structural change in the way RE is determined. Today, most people’s experience of religion and belief is national and global, so we support the move away from a local determination of the subject. We believe this will help pupils make sense of religion and belief as it is lived today and this proposed change is educationally valid and would bring RE into line with all other curriculum subjects.

“We fully support the policy of developing a Statement of Entitlement to RE and are pleased to see the Commission endorsing an approach which we already use in Church of England schools. However, the Commission’s proposed Statement of Entitlement requires further work if it is to ensure that children and young people develop religious and theological literacy as part of their knowledge and understanding. We look forward to playing our part in working with the education community to achieve this and building an irresistible consensus of agreement about the subject.

Other media reports include:

Children’s & youth work links

Links from the world of children’s and youth ministry:

Homophobic, biphobic and transphobic (HBT) bullying tackled in new guidance for Church schools

Guidance for the Church of England’s 4,700 schools published today aims to prevent pupils from having their self-worth diminished or their ability to achieve impeded by being bullied because of their perceived or actual sexual orientation or gender identity.

The report makes 12 recommendations for schools including ensuring schools’ Christian ethos statements offer “an inclusive vision for education” where “every child should be revered and respected as members of a community where all are known and loved by God. ”

Clear anti-bullying policies should include HBT behaviours and language, policies on how to report incidences should be accessible, staff trained on recognising bullying, curriculum and collective worship should support the vision and the wider church ensure that schools are responding well to the guidance.

In the foreword of the report, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said:

“All bullying, including homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying causes profound damage, leading to higher levels of mental health disorders, self-harm, depression and suicide.

“Central to Christian theology is the truth that every single one of us is made in the image of God. Every one of us is loved unconditionally by God.

“This guidance helps schools to offer the Christian message of love, joy and celebration of our humanity without exception or exclusion.”

The advice is an update on Valuing All God’s Children, guidance published in 2014 which tackled homophobic behaviour. This update covers a wider range of negative behaviours, incorporates the relevant legal and inspection frameworks and reflects the Church’s Vision for Education, whose four elements of wisdom, hope, community and dignity form the theological basis of the guidance.

 

Chief Education Officer for the Church of England, Nigel Genders, said:

“Providing an education to our 1 million children that will enable them to live life in all its fullness is a big responsibility.

“This practical and thoughtful advice is packed with templates and a comprehensive selection of resources for schools, teachers, families and young people. I hope that it will make a difference to our school communities and individual pupils too.”

The report acknowledges that it is likely that not all will agree on issues to do with human sexuality, marriage or gender identity. It goes on to say that:

“However, there needs to be a faithful and loving commitment to remain in relationship with the other and honour the dignity of their humanity without ‘back turning’, dismissing the other person, or claiming superiority.” 

The full report can be found here.

Cathedrals attract record numbers at Christmas

Christmas attendance at services in cathedrals last year reached its highest figure since records began, statistics published today show. A one year rise of 5%, meant that 131,000 people came to cathedrals to worship last Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Increased attendances were also recorded at services in Advent with 635,000 coming to worship during the busy pre-Christmas build-up. Average weekly attendances at services on a Sunday also increased to 18,700.

Meanwhile, over 10 million people visited cathedrals and Westminster Abbey with half donating or paying for entry.

The Rt Revd John Inge, Bishop of Worcester, and lead bishop for cathedrals and church buildings, said:

“Behind these figures lie stories of worship, learning, exploring faith and spirituality and encountering God at times of joy and despair.

“Through new forms of worship, bringing people of all faiths and none together, and serving the young and old alike, these amazing places continue to be at the heart of national life.”

 

Click here for more information.

Oxford college banned Christian group from freshers’ fair

As the university academic year kicks off, once again, we see a Christian Union having their activities on campus restricted.  Balliol Christian Union (CU) was banned from attending the Freshers’ Fair by the JCR over concerns at the “potential for harm to freshers” and because they wanted the freshers’ fair to be a “secular space”, according to Oxford’s student newspaper Cherwell.

Eventually the CU was told that a single multi-faith stall would be allowed to display leaflets, though no representatives would be allowed to staff it, according to leaked emails. Balliol CU boycotted this option.

The decision has caused anger at Balliol, where a motion was reportedly passed unanimously accusing the JCR committee of “barring the participation of specific faith-based organisations” and describing the step as “a violation of free speech [and] a violation of religious freedom”. The motion prohibited the barring of official religious societies from future freshers’ fairs.

In an email exchange, JCR vice-president Freddy Potts, on behalf of the JCR committee, reportedly told a CU representative:

“We recognise the wonderful advantages in having CU representatives at the freshers’ fair, but are concerned that there is potential for harm to freshers who are already struggling to feel welcome in Oxford.”

“Christianity’s influence on many marginalised communities has been damaging in its methods of conversion and rules of practice, and is still used in many places as an excuse for homophobia and certain forms of neo-colonialism.”

In a Facebook post, JCR president Hubert Au said the decision to have a multi-faith stall rather than a specific CU stall, was reached “in light of both concerns raised by members [of the Welfare sub committee] and by an undergraduate survey conducted last term, which indicated a lack of familiarity as to where non-Christian societies, events and services were located”, the paper reported.  “We didn’t want to monopolise the presence of any individual faith/belief society at the Balliol freshers’ fair.”

The Rev Nigel Genders, the Church of England’s chief education officer, said:

“Freedom of religion and belief is a fundamental principle that underpins our country and its great institutions and universities.

“Christian Unions represent some of the largest student led organisations in many universities across the country and to exclude them in this way is to misunderstand the nature of debate and dialogue and at odds with the kind of society we are all seeking to promote.”

The Rev Richard Cunningham (Director of UCCF) said:

“We are however concerned that the current desire to provide safe spaces on campus does not infringe on the core liberties of freedom of speech and freedom of association which are surely foundational to the university experience and indeed to basic human flourishing.”

Scripture Union offering discount for new Church of England subscribers

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Scripture Union is offering a discounted subscription on their Light materials for CofE parishes. The discount which is being offered for a limited period is 20% off an annual subscription, plus a free copy of the accompanying children’s magazine and free delivery.

A special Church of England page has been set up on the Scripture Union website – Check it out!