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UK news in brief

03 March 2017


On hand: firefighters at the ready at St Brelade’s Church, Jersey, where prayers of repentance written by the all-age congregation were symbolically burnt to create ash for Ash Wednesday services

On hand: firefighters at the ready at St Brelade’s Church, Jersey, where prayers of repentance written by the all-age congregation were symbolic...


Church Commissioners resume battle with Exxon

THE Church Commissioners have formed an alliance with a New York State retirement fund to press the energy company ExxonMobil to explain how it will handle increasingly tight climate-change regulations. The coalition of investors led by the Commissioners controls a total of $4 trillion and has filed a shareholder motion for Exxon’s annual meeting asking the company to demonstrate what steps it is taking for a transition to a low-carbon future. A similar motion filed last year won the backing of 38 per cent of shareholders.


Iranian convert accuses Oxford don of bias

A CHURCH OF ENGLAND theological student, Shariar Ashrafkhorasani, 33, who converted from Islam and is due to be ordained in the summer, has accused an Oxford University lecturer of stopping him from asking critical questions about Islam. The ordinand has filed a format complaint about Dr Minlib Dallh OP, holder of the H.M. King Abdullah ibn al-Hussein II of Jordan Fellowship for the Study of Love in Religion, at Regent’s Park College. Mr Ashrafkhorasani alleges that Dr Dallh refused to take questions from him after a lecture once he had discovered that he was a convert from Islam. A University spokesman said that all complaints were taken seriously and looked into, with the student’s interests paramount.


OneBodyOneFaith condemns Guildford blog

A BLOG written by a Hugh Bryant, a Reader in the diocese of Guildford, and published on the diocesan website, has been criticised as “highly offensive” to LGBT Christians by the campaign group OneBodyOneFaith (OBOF), which is an amalgamation of the former LGCM and Changing Attitude. The blog suggests that in many gay relationships one partner is considered male and the other female, regardless of actual gender. In a letter to the diocese, OBOF said that Mr Bryant’s comments were “grossly insulting”, “presumptuous”, and “erroneous”. The blog has since been removed from the website.


Layman to lead the Iona Community

THE Iona Community’s 280 members have elected Dr Michael Marten as their next Leader, the first lay person to hold that office since the community’s foundation in 1938. Describing himself as a Presbyterian-Quaker, Dr Marten, a community member for more than 20 years, is its support-services manager. He has taught religion and Middle Eastern politics at universities in London and Edinburgh.


First woman Vicar Choral for St Paul’s

FOR the first time in its almost 1000-year history, St Paul’s Cathedral Choir will include a woman. Carris Jones, 35, has been appointed as an alto Vicar Choral, one of the 12 professional adult singers. Ms Jones, a graduate of the University of Cambridge and the Royal Academy of Music, will take up the position in September after the birth of her second child, in May.


Former Bishop of Liverpool to lead Zeebrugge ferry disaster service

THE 30th anniversary of the Zeebrugge ferry disaster, which claimed the lives of 193 people, will be marked with a service at St Mary’s, Dover, on Monday. The former Bishop of Liverpool, the Rt Revd James Jones, will lead prayers at the service, which is organised annually by the Sailors’ Society. The Herald of Free Enterprise had just set sail for Dover from Zeebrugge in Belgium when it capsized and sank in just 90 seconds on 6 March 1987. Among those present, families of those who died will be joined by chaplains who ministered to them. Features


Rector criticised by safeguarding inquiry for destroying hard drive

A PRIEST who destroyed the hard drive of a church computer, believing it to contain pornography, has apologised after a diocesan safeguarding investigation criticised his actions. The Rector of St Mary the Virgin, Baldock, the Revd Andrew Holford, decided to destroy the hard drive in 2010 after he was told that it contained pornographic images of adults only, which had come about after internet searches by the church administrator. The diocesan safeguarding adviser began an investigation last year, however, after claims in the local press that the images were of children as well as adults were passed on to the police. The Bishop of Hertford, the Rt Revd Michael Beasley, called the affair was a matter of “deep shame and sorrow”. Mr Holford agreed that it had been unwise and unhelpful to destroy the hard drive. “I pledge that safeguarding policies will be given proper priority in St Mary’s,” he said.


Priest convicted of assaulting boy in the 1980s

THE Revd David Fletcher, Priest-in-Charge of the Waggoners and Woldsburn benefices in the diocese of York, has been found guilty of two counts of indecent assault against a boy under the age of 14. Mr Fletcher, 63, was convicted of assaulting the boy while a headteacher in the late 1980s in Bradford, before he was ordained in 2001. He will be sentenced next week. A spokesman for the diocese of York offered an apology to the victim and commended the bravery of those who reported the abuse.

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