2017 news review: Christianity

Thu 21 Dec 2017
By Marcus Jones

While churches across the country continued to run foodbanks, offer support to young people and invest in their communities through 2017, there was really only one issue that the mainstream media was interested in.

By the time of the General Election in June, Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron, who happens to be Christian had lost count of the times he'd been asked by journalists whether gay sex was a sin.

Steve Parsons/PA Wire

 

While Farron didn't particularly help by seeming to offer different answers, all quarters of the Church were having their own battles with the issue of sexuality.

In June, the Scottish Episcopal Church (SEC) described its move to allow gay weddings in its buildings as "a momentous step". The move led to discipline by the Anglican Communion and was the final straw for conservative Anglican group GAFCON who appointed a missionary bishop to oversee churches who felt they could no longer work within the SEC.

Wales nearly got its first gay bishop when Canon Jeffrey John seemed the most popular choice in the Diocese of Llandaff - the other Bishops in Wales weren't so sure.

The Church of England carried on discussions over sexuality at its General Synod (when is it not talking about sexuality) but it was its advice to its schools which hit the front pages that encouraged teachers to let pupils cross dress. Justin Welby then angered conservatives when speaking to LBC radio when he suggested there was "no problem" with a boy wearing a dress.

 

Christians in the UK also raised concern over their freedoms to live out their faith with Lord Pearson leading the way suggesting that it would soon become a hate crime to proclaim Christianity.

Numerous street preachers were arrested - yet all (eventually) had charges dropped against them.

Lidl and the National Trust were accused of airbrushing (literally with Lidl) Christianity out of public life while Greggs got the publicity it was looking for when it swapped Jesus for a sausage roll in some advertising material.

 

Theresa May was voted the politician most like Jesus in a tongue in cheek poll by Premier - something she said was "extraordinary".

She also said there is "no way" Christianity will be marginalised in the UK while she is Prime Minister.

 

And while some thought freedoms were being eroded in the UK, the were being completely blown up in other parts of the word.

Missionary Ian Squire lost his life in Nigeria, Egypt took its fair share of attacks and North Korea remained top of the tree when it came to the list of the worst places to be a Christian.

2017 saw us saying goodbye to religious freedom campaigner Stuart Windsor, apologist Nabeel Qureshi and former leader of English and Welsh Catholics Cormac Murphy O'Connor.

It also saw the return of stadium evangelism as J.John attempted to fill Arsenal's football ground. While that event didn't match expectations for numbers, Hillsong showed us the Church can still draw a crowd by filling London's o2 arena three days running for its European conference.

 

The past 12 months also set up some stories to watch in 2018. We saw a new (female) Bishop of London appointed, a royal engagement (and baptism beforehand), thousands calling for a ban on Franklin Graham visiting the UK, while a Christian baker appeared at the US supreme court to ask for the right to refuse to make a gay wedding cake. The UK's version - Ashers Bakery will be back in court in the Spring. Plenty to keep us on our toes at the Premier newsdesk!

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