Today in General Synod, York July 11th.

Jul 11, 2015 by

Patrick Sookhdeo of Barnabas Fund, and Guy Hordern the former Chair of the Birmingham Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education (SACRE) addressed a fringe meeting today hosted by Anglican Mainstream. The subject was reasons for the Islamist radicalization of young people and the role of Religious Education in combating this.   Patrick Sookhdeo’s talk can be found in full in PDF form, available here: Radicalization and education   After the talks, there was a question and answer session. One important point which came across was the importance of Church of England schools in maintaining a clear Christian ethos as well as being welcoming to people of all faiths and none. Pressure is being applied from secularists, but also liberal Christians, for all schools to teach Christianity only from a phenomenological perspective, ie learning about rites of passage, festivals etc but never opening a Bible or hearing about how people come to faith and live it out. On the other hand, Islam is often taught only from an ultra conservative perspective.   The answer to combating Islamist radicalization, educating young people better about religion in general, and fulfilling the Church of England’s aim of giving young people the chance to hear and respond to the good news of Jesus, is properly constituted SACREs. Dr Hordern explained that while in Birmingham a small number of schools overly influenced by extreme Islamism had hit the headlines, the majority of schools in that region were teaching RE in a positive and constructive way relevant to the local context, based on partnership and dialogue between representatives from the Church of England, other faiths and churches, the local authority and educational experts.   In the main session of Synod there was a debate on the report “Senior Church Leadership – a resource for reflection from the Faith and Order Commission of the Church of England”. A speech by Mrs Sarah Finch, a Trustee of Anglican Mainstream, is especially worth highlighting. Here are some extracts:   There are three things in the Report that I as a lay woman, am particularly glad about: The emphasis on the fact that Bishops should be teachers. Hurrah! This is in para 43, point 3: ‘Bishops will be teachers, whose task it is to “uphold sound and wholesome doctrine, and to banish and drive away all erroneous and strange opinions”, so as to “hand on entire” the Christian faith. Canon C18 and the ordinal, quoted here, are, of course, only following St Paul’s instruction to Timothy, thsat an overseer should be ‘able to teach’, and his instruction to Titus, that an overseer whould ‘hold firmly to the trustworthy message…so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it’ Secondly, the report emphasises the higher allegiance that any church leader owes to God. In para 66 it points us to the instruction in Hebrews 13:17:’Obey your leaders…They keep watch over you as men who must give an account’. Thirdly, the Report insists that Episcopal leadership is essentially collegial....

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RE teachers living in fear over offending pupils and parents

Jun 29, 2015 by

From Cambridge News: Teachers are living in fear they will offend pupils and provoke parents as they bluff their way teaching religious studies in primary schools. Sue Ward, the religious education adviser for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, said she is contacted every day by primary teachers asking for help with the subject. The principal examiner for religious studies, philosophy and ethics at Cambridge-based exam board OCR said they do not get enough training for the complexity of the subject, with many teachers telling her they did not receive any RE training on their course. The Standing Advisory Council for RE in Cambridgeshire (SACRE) has followed Ofsted’s recommendations to develop enquiry-based learning in RE, she added, which centres on getting pupils to build knowledge and understanding by asking questions. Writing in a blog for the Church Schools of Cambridge, she said: “This has resulted in fears being expressed by teachers that they do not know the answers to the young people’s questions. “They do not have the relevant in-depth knowledge to teach the subject adequately. They have little or no access to CPD [continuing professional develpment]. “They are worried that they could offend someone of faith by saying something inaccurate. They fear reactions from parents.” Read...

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Faith schools must be forced to teach about homosexuality – Andy Burnham

Jun 25, 2015 by

By John Bingham, Telegraph: Faith schools must be forced to teach about gay and lesbian relationships on a par with heterosexual couples, the Labour leadership front-runner Andy Burnham has insisted. The Shadow Health Secretary said those who argue that requiring all schools to teach about same-sex unions would be a threat to religious freedom were “straightforwardly wrong”. In an interview with PinkNews, the LGBT website, he added that the growth of academies and free schools was allowing individual schools to act as “judge and jury” to decide what they want to teach on such issues. Mr Burnham, who is from a Roman Catholic background, disclosed that he had gone through deep rifts with members of his own family after he become one of the first prominent MPs to publicly support same-sex marriage. “I have been repeatedly at odds with the Catholic church for all of my time as an MP,” he said. “I have always been going against what they were saying, and that is challenging. “That creates a personal challenge – I’ve been at odds with my own family, and that has been to some personal cost at times in terms of relationships with people. Read here...

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RE must not be downgraded

Jun 16, 2015 by

From the Church of England: Like the authors of A new settlement for religion and belief in schools? published yesterday and along with many others in the RE community, we have been arguing for and making a concerted effort to improve the quality of religious education in schools. But by removing any statutory requirement post-14 the importance we place on the subject, which helps young people make sense of a world where more than 80% of the population are people of faith, will be downgraded and there is danger the subject could be treated as an irrelevance. Our own report ‘Making a Difference?’ was published last year and made a number of recommendations to ensure that the subject is developed within our own Church of England schools, and it also identified a number of areas where changes in policy would result in a more rigorous approach to the subject and provide children and students with the quality of religious education they deserve. Children need to be equipped for life in modern Britain and in a world in which religion plays an increasingly important role. So now is not the time to dilute provision or turn back from the reforms that are being put in place to ensure that the teaching of this subject is improved and strengthened. It is really not good enough to say that RE might be perceived as an easy subject and so is not worth studying. If it is not academically rigorous enough then we need to work to improve the syllabus and ensure that it provides appropriate depth and challenge. That is why we were so keen to work with government to secure a much better qualification at GCSE and A level… Read here See also Former Education Secretary moves to abolish Christian teaching, by Mark Ellse, Conservative...

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Call to end compulsory worship in schools

Jun 15, 2015 by

By Sean Coughlan, BBC: The requirement for schools to have an act of collective worship should be abolished, says a report co-authored by former Education Secretary Charles Clarke. The study argues that the requirement has failed to keep up with changes in attitudes to religion since it was introduced in the 1940s. Mr Clarke says it is more honest to admit that it cannot be enforced. But he calls for the compulsory teaching of religious literacy. A report from Mr Clarke and Linda Woodhead, professor of sociology of religion at Lancaster University, says there needs to be a “new settlement” in the relationship between religion and schools. ‘Nod and wink’ It argues that the obligation for a compulsory act of worship is often not really fulfilled, but there is a “nod and wink culture” about not admitting this. The report, published as part of the Westminster Faith Debates about religion and values, says that schools should be allowed to make their own decisions about how to hold such a morning assembly and what should be included. Read here See a response from the Church of England, and other articles...

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Racially segregated event to celebrate ‘diversity’ at University of London College

Apr 23, 2015 by

By Liam Deacon, Breitbart: The University of London, Goldsmiths is holding a racially and gender segregated event today, all in the sacred name of diversity. It’s not the first time such a self contradiction in right-on undergraduate thinking has taken hold at this public research institution. “This meeting is for all self-defining BLACK and ETHNIC MINORITY women and non-binary people with gender identities that include ‘woman,’” reads the event header on Facebook. Organizer and Welfare and Diversity officer, Bahar Mustafa, commented on the event: “Please invite loads of BME (black and minority ethnic) Women and non-binary (transsexual) people!! Also if you’ve been invited and you’re a man and/ or white PLEASE DON’T COME just cos i invited a bunch of people and hope you will be responsible enough to respect this is a BME Women and non-binary event only… Don’t worry lads we will give you and allies things to do.” Mustafa describes herself as a; “Queer, anti-racist feminist killjoy. Gender Studies@Goldsmiths who wants SAFER SPACES for marginalised folk.” When asked if white and male members of the university could attend, she repeatedly confirmed it was segregated. The event will be hosted by education officer, Sarah White, “to talk about DIVERSIFYING OUR CURRICULUM [because we are] now in the process of presenting a paper to the college showing the need for students, particularly BME / BME women, to be represented in the texts we study.” Read here...

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