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Weekly News Summary on Tuesday 25 August 2020

Posted on: August 25, 2020 5:07 PM
Related Categories: Global

We apologise that, because of operational issues, we were unable to publish a News Summary last week (18 August).

Bishop of Chotanagpur deposed and laicised by Church of North India

The Bishop of Chotanagpur, Basil Baskey, has been removed from office and laicised by the united Church of North India (CNI). The move was taken after he announced that his diocese was leaving the CNI and becoming independent.

In a statement, the Primate and Moderator of the CNI, Dr Prem Singh; and the General Secretary, Dennis Lall, explained that the Synod Executive Committee met on 11 August to consider a report of an Enquiry Commission set up to investigate Bishop Baskey’s claim of independence.

“He illegally attempted to claim himself to be independent of the CNI and acted against the interest of the CNI”, the official statement said. It went on to say that Bishop Baskey “refused to honour the decision of the Synod Office Bearers” of 21 July to place him on leave of absence while the Enquiry Commission investigated.

“The Executive Committee of the CNI Synod, after considering all aspects, found that Rt. Revd Basil B. Baskey’s conduct does not call for any leniency”, the Moderator and General Secretary said. “He has not only violated the CNI Constitution by which he was appointed, but has committed serious breaches of trust. His purported claim to declare the Chotanagpur Diocese of CNI as autonomous and subsequent actions have made him liable for serious action.

“Accordingly, it was unanimously resolved by the CNI Synod Executive Committee to terminate the services of Rt Revd Basil B. Baskey from all offices, including that of the Bishop, with immediate effect. The instrument of election and appointment as a Bishop in CNI . . . stands withdrawn and his ordination as Priest and consecration as Bishop is withdrawn. Hence from today he will be known as Mr. Basil B. Baskey.”

A Commissary, Joljas Kujur, has been appointed by the Moderator to “take all steps to protect the property and funds of the Chotanagpur Diocese”.

The Church of North India was established in 1970 when the Anglican, Methodist Congregationalist, Presbyterian, Baptist, Brethren and Disciples of Christ churches united. In addition to being a full member Province of the Anglican Communion, the Church of North India is also a member of the World Methodist Council and the World Communion of Reformed Churches.

Archbishop of Uganda calls for inquiry into church seizure and demolition

State officials have been arrested and charged following the seizure and demolition of St Peter’s Church in Ndeeba, part of the Diocese of Namirembe. The Primate of Uganda, Archbishop Stephen Kaziimba, has called for “a serious and impartial inquiry into this matter”. The dispute centres around claims and counter-claims about the ownership of the land on which the church sat.

Diocesan spokeswoman Flobia Sebunya told the Daily Monitor newspaper that the church originally started in the house of local resident Phoebe Kagumya, who donated a plot of land in 1979 so that a makeshift church could be constructed. The church continued to grow and in 1981 the Church purchased a neighbouring plot of land from Evelyn Nachwa, a member of the Buganda royal family.

“The young church approached her and she was gracious enough to sell us the land”, Flobia Sebunya said. “That was in 1981. A sales agreement was signed and a title for the land was arranged.”

Evelyn Nachwa died in 2001. Five years later, her children contacted the Church, claiming that the land belonged to them.

In June last year, the Ugandan High Court ruled that the land did belong to the joint administrators of the Estate of Evelyn Nachwa, according to a report in the Daily Monitor.

The report says that bailiffs evicted the Church in March this year and seized the land. The Church was demolished on 9 August despite claims by the diocese that they were appealing the court judgment.

The day after the demolition, Archbishop Stephen Kaziimba and the Church of Uganda’s House of Bishops met at the site of the demolished church. “On behalf of the House of Bishops and all Christians of the Church of Uganda, we express our sincere condolences to the Bishop and people of Namirembe Diocese, and especially those of St. Peter’s Church, Ndeeba, on last night’s destruction of their treasured building and House of Worship”, they said in a statement. “We are grateful that our grandmother, who donated the land for the church, is not alive to see the destruction that has been done to the sacred place she gave as a gift to God.

“This barbaric act of destruction is evil. If an action can’t be done in broad daylight, then there is something deeply wrong; we have lost respect for God. This destruction of the House of God took place in the darkness of night during a curfew; and, the security forces, who are supposed to uphold the law and guard against destroyers, were allegedly complicit in the destruction of a House of God.

“Squatters have rights after being on land for 12 years, and yet Saint Peter’s Church has been on that land for 40 years. We call for a serious and impartial inquiry into this matter.

“During lockdown, the Gospel of Jesus Christ has not been locked down. Likewise, the destruction of St. Peter’s Church, Ndeeba, will not deter the Church from preaching the Gospel. Jesus promised us that the ‘gates of hell will not prevail against the Church of Jesus Christ’ (Matthew 16.18).

“We stand in solidarity with the Bishop, Namirembe Diocese, and especially the Christians of Saint Peter’s Church. Especially during this time of a global pandemic, the church is needed now more than ever. We assure you of our prayers for a peaceful and just resolution to this tragic situation.”

Yesterday (Monday), the businessman who led the demolition of the Church, Dodoviko Mwanje, was charged and remanded in custody, the Daily Monitor reports. He is one of 23 people – including senior officials and police officers – charged with conspiracy to commit an offence. They will appear in court again on 4 September. The Details of the charges is not known.

Milwaukee bishop calls for “righteous anger” after another shooting of a Black man by police

[Episcopal News Service, by Egan Millard] In the aftermath of another shooting of an African American by police, church leaders in Wisconsin are expressing grief and outrage, but not surprise. Almost three months earlier, protesters in Milwaukee and elsewhere had taken to the streets in response to the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis, Minnesota. On Sunday night (23 August), protests and riots flared again in Kenosha, south of Milwaukee, where earlier that evening police shot Jacob Blake in the back at close range.

Blake was taken to a hospital near Milwaukee in serious condition, but his father said he was out of surgery and in stable condition on Monday afternoon (24 August), the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

In a statement, Milwaukee Bishop Steven Miller said he “share[s] in the outrage caused by this shooting and many like it.

“We lament yet another shooting of an unarmed Black man, Jacob Blake, by law enforcement. One such shooting is one too many, and yet in our nation the numbers of such shootings continue. We join those who call for a complete and impartial investigation of this travesty,” Miller wrote.

According to the Kenosha News, witnesses said Blake had been trying to break up a fight between two women before police were called to the home, where they tried to taser Blake, who was unarmed, and then shot him about seven times, though those details have not yet been confirmed by authorities. A brief video of the shooting, which does not include the events that led up to it, shows Blake opening a car door and reaching inside as officers fire multiple shots into his back. The Blake family’s attorney said Blake’s three sons were in the car when he was shot. The officers involved have been placed on leave and an investigation is underway.”

  • This is extracted from a fuller report by Egan Millard for the Episcopal News Service.

New Zealand Anglicans challenge limits on refugee sponsorship scheme

Anglicans in New Zealand have joined refugee advocates in welcoming an expansion of the Government’s Community Organisation Refugee Sponsorship pilot scheme; while calling for a fairer plan to enable more vulnerable refugees to receive help from churches.

The New Zealand Budget 2020 will see the number of pilot places increase from 25 in 2018 to 150 across 2021 to 2023. But Anglicans are challenging the scheme's limits on who can go to New Zealand under the scheme.

The first Community Organisation Refugee Sponsorship pilot (CORS) was launched in 2017 in response to Anglican, Catholic and Baptist churches' calls for a sponsorship model where communities directly support new refugees to settle. That advocacy drew on the successful 40 year-long CORS scheme in Canada, where faith and community groups have long since taken responsibility to house refugee families and aid them to build a new life.

The 2018 pilot saw 23 former refugees sponsored by two Catholic organisations and two Baptist churches in Hamilton, Nelson, Christchurch and Timaru. The number of churches and community groups seeking to sponsor families has grown from 49 in 2018 to 85

“The Government has linked these families with income support which is a more generous approach than some overseas schemes like this”, Archbishop Philip Richardson, who helped lead the churches’ first proposal on the CORS scheme, said. “This recognises that New Zealand NGOs could not sustain the funding to cover income support for new families.

“In our Anglican submission we asked to give a chance to refugees with the highest need: such as orphans under 18 now in the care of extended family, or refugees with disabilities, or those without English, or older people.

“None of these people can get here under normal circumstances, and in some cases they will suffer additional risks in refugee camps or while on the move.”

Church of England assesses impact of Coronavirus lockdown on low-income families

Eight in 10 poor families report being in a worse financial position than before the pandemic, and half were much worse off because their income had fallen while costs have risen. The findings are in a new report – “Poverty in the pandemic: The impact of coronavirus on low-income families and children” – published this week by the Church of England and the British NGO Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG).

Preparing the report, researchers surveyed families who, because of low income, are entitled to free school meals for their children. Nearly nine in 10 respondents reported spending substantially more than before on food, electricity, and other essentials – usually because they have been at home much more. Many families also said that the cost of food had gone up significantly during the early part of lockdown.

“Although some commentators have talked about the last few months as an opportunity to live a simpler lifestyle, this report sets out in stark detail how for many families it has been a constant struggle”, the Bishop of Durham, Paul Butler, said. “It bears out what churches have experienced first-hand in every community: that families have been placed under huge strain; that the worst off have again been worst hit and, for many, things now could get worse rather than better.

“In these unprecedented times, we all need to ask ourselves urgently how we can help our neighbour. It is also imperative that the Government does all that it can to protect families and children by implementing the practical recommendations in this report. We all must play our part.”

CPAG’s Chief Executive, Alison Garnham, said: “Low-income parents have been living under a cloud of anxiety in lockdown – trying to find money for family basics as their costs have been rising. That’s taken a very heavy toll on the health and well-being of the worst affected parents and children.

“We all want to protect children and families from the effects of the coronavirus recession and to prevent a growth in poverty following the pandemic. But the support we offer low-income parents just doesn’t meet the additional costs of raising children and there was nothing in the Government’s emergency support schemes to correct this shortfall. Child benefit alone has lost £5 of its value since 2010 because of sub-inflationary uprating and freezes.

“Re-investing in children’s benefits and widening access to free school meals should be the priorities now to protect family incomes and to support children’s life chances. As the Government’s Covid-19 emergency support schemes are tapered away in the coming months, more help will be needed for struggling families who have lost jobs or taken income drops. Otherwise they will have only more hardship on their horizon.”