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Premier Christian Newscast

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The podcast, brought to you by Premier, which takes you deeper into the stories impacting Christians around the world. Each week we’ll dig into a particular issue in the church world and go behind the headlines, hearing from those directly involved, experts, theologians, activists, journalists and others to make sense of the story and why it matters.
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Sadly, today’s episode will be the last episode of the Premier Christian Newscast. To wrap the show up, we looked back over the last two years at what stories and topics have come up the most. What has been making waves in church news? What issues are we unable to move on from? And what might this tell us about what is going to be hitting the headlines in the years to come? Has the Christian media got too distracted by culture war political nonsense, and missed the more important stories right under our nose? How do we faithfully go about trying to decide what to cover and what to ignore? We’ll be joined by Sam Hailes and Emma Fowle from Premier Christianity magazine to look back at what the Newscast feed tells us about the state of the church, and to consider what stories we expect to be keeping us busy throughout the rest of 2024 and into the future.
The General Election

The General Election

2024-05-2047:12

All of the UK will be going to the polls soon in a general election, which is expected at some point in the autumn. After a drubbing in the recent local elections, Rishi Sunak’s Conservatives are widely expected to be dumped out of office in Westminster too. And just as more and more Britons are abandoning the Tories, so too are Christians. This week we’re wondering how believers are thinking about the parties, the politicians and the policies ahead of going to the polls. Many in Westminster expect this to be a tumultuous and history-making election, but how engaged is the church this time round? Where do Christians stand on the big flashpoints and debates? Is there really any meaningful Christian vote for parties to lobby for? And what do the Christian activists in the main parties make of it all? Guests: • Andy Flanagan, Christians in Politics • Hannah Rich, Christians on the Left • David Burrowes, former Tory MP and now the Conservative Christian Fellowship • Elizabeth Jewkes, Liberal Democrat Christian Forum
The horrendous attack on a mother and her children by Abdul Ezedi, an Afghan asylum seeker, in Clapham earlier this year sparked a ferocious row. A string of politicians and right-wing media outlets accused churches of giving asylum seekers like Ezedi bogus baptisms after they had fraudulently converted to Christianity to boost their arguments to not be returned to their home countries. But is any of this actually happening? What is actually happening on parishes and congregations up and down Britain which do minister to asylum seekers? And why have Christians become the lightning rod for politicians’ anger over the asylum system in the first place? Guests: • Guli Francis-Dehqani, the Bishop of Chelmsford • Krish Kandiah, director of the Sanctuary Foundation • Steve Tinning, public issues enabler for the Baptist Union • Emily Shepherd, CEO of Welcome Churches • Mike Coates, vicar of All Saints, Liverpool
Schism among the Methodists

Schism among the Methodists

2024-04-2901:03:16

It’s not just British denominations which are splintering under the weight of their divisions. The United Methodist Church in the United States has also gone through a painful five years of divorce, with up to one in four congregations choosing to leave. The crisis was, inevitably, precipitated by deep disagreements over LGBT issues including same-sex marriage. When a crunch vote in their assembly came, the conservatives won and yet it is the conservative churches which have left, some to a brand-new breakaway denomination. In some ways the split has been amicable and orderly, and yet it has also caused huge pain for others on both sides. What does the future hold, both for the conservative churches which have left and for those who remained? And is the path of mutually agreed separation a good model for other denominations experiencing similar fractures? Guests this week: - Tom Berlin, UMC bishop in Florida - Gregory Palmer, UMC bishop in Ohio - Timothy Tennent, president of Asbury Theological Seminary - Heather Hahn, assistant news editor for United Methodist News - Megan Fowler, religion journalist and contributing writer at Christianity Today
It’s not just a toddler group. Emphasis on the ‘just’. That’s the title and message of a new report which urges churches to take their midweek parents and toddler groups more seriously. These groups are not just about toys on mats and beakers of juice for tired mums, but vital for children’s flourishing and also for drawing families into the wider church community. The report is one of a number of recent initiatives trying to reignite ministry with children, which had been hammered by the pandemic, where lots of young people lost touch with the church during lockdown and never came back. How we are doing at relaunching children’s ministry since then? Is it properly integrated with the rest of our church lives? And what about those thousands of churches that don’t really have any young people any more? Is Christianity becoming a religion for grown-ups only?
It is not just the Church of England and the Catholic Church which has been wrestling with divisions over same-sex marriage in recent years. The Baptist Union is also split between those who believe God affirms gay marriage and those who hold to a traditional opposition to it. Yet unlike other denominations, the Baptists have come recently to an interesting compromise. Individual congregations are at liberty to host same-sex weddings or not to, according to their consciences. But gay Baptist ministers will not be allowed to themselves enter same-sex marriages. What has led the Baptists to this unusual position? Could it be a solution other denominations should explore? And, can this settlement hold into the future? Guests: • Ashley Hardingham, affirming Baptist minister • Chris Goswami, traditionalist Baptist minister • Mark Woods, Baptist minister, writer and formerly editor of the Bapist Times
Ecumenism. Even the word itself is probably putting some of you off right now. A tiresome bit of churchy jargon that has no relevance for your church or spiritual life, right? But working for unity across churches and denominations is for some a genuine passion, an urgent priority, even a lifetime’s ministry. Earlier this year, a group of Catholic and Anglican bishops spent several days in discussion, joint services, pilgrimages and worship together. As these kind of ecumenical events always do, it ended with lots of warm words, a fairly vague joint communique, and promises to do it again in a few years. But did it actually change anything on the ground? Are denominations as separate as Catholicism and Anglicanism actually serious about trying to reunite? Should it be taken more seriously by ordinary churchgoers and ministers, or is it just cups of tea and endless talking shops? Guests this week: • Christopher Landau, Anglican priest and director of ReSource, a charity promoting Charismatic renewal • Jan Nowotnik, national ecumenical officer for the Catholic Church in England and Wales • Paul Murray, professor of systematic theology at Durham University • Shermara Fletcher-Hoyte, principal officer for Pentecostal, Charismatic and Multi-cultural Relations at Christians Together in England
Many of England’s biggest football clubs – today some of the country’s largest entertainment businesses – were originally started by local churches 150 years ago. Fascinatingly, the connections between Christianity and football are not solely a historical quirk either. There are Christians playing the game at every level, managing teams and running clubs, while churches use the sport for both outreach and pastoral care. So much so that even the thoroughly secular Football Association held a jamboree at Wembley Stadium last year to celebrate the interplay between the beautiful game and Christianity. This week’s episode digs deeper into the links between the church and our national pastime, exploring everything from muscular Christianity to faith literacy to evangelism inside the dressing room. Guests this week: • Michael Wakelin, Norwich City fan and former BBC religion producer who organised the FA’s Wembley event • Graham Daniels, former player and manager, now director at Cambridge United and head of Christians in Sport
Just before Christmas, the Catholic Church surprisingly announced priests could offer pastoral blessings to same-sex couples for the first time. The announcement has been a jolt of energy to the church, delighting liberals who have been quick to publicise their blessings, and equally infuriating conservatives. Why has the backlash been so vociferous, and what might this mean for the remaining years of Francis’s pontificate? Is it actually that big a reform after all, or has it all been blown out of proportion? Will it entrench schisms within the Catholic Church worldwide or push the denomination firmly towards progressive reforms in the future? Guests this week: • Catherine Pepinster, freelance Catholic journalist and former editor of The Tablet • Charles Collins, managing editor of Crux, a leading Catholic news website
Almost nobody has heard of Sir Paul Marshall until a few weeks ago. But, thanks to his Twitter account, the multi-millionaire hedge funder and media mogul has become briefly famous, or perhaps infamous. An investigation has revealed Marshall had a private Twitter account which had liked and re-posted dozens of hardline anti-Muslim and far-right tweets. As well as owning a slew of right-wing media outlets, Marshall is also deeply embedded in the church world, sitting on boards and funding projects including the HTB church planting network and the Church of England’s new Centre for Cultural Witness. Should we care that a man who has pumped in millions of pounds into church ministry may hold in private quite extreme views? Are Christians too casual about partnering with people who actually hold very different values to them? How should we think about the growing numbers of Christian figures who are getting involved in right-leaning politics, and perhaps drifting towards the radical fringes in the process? I’m Tim Wyatt, and you’re listening to the Premier Christian Newscast. This week, I’m joined by Sam Hailes and Emma Fowle from Premier Christianity magazine to discuss Paul Marshall’s dubious tweets, and what this might tell us about conservative politics in the church.
After the murder of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020, the Church of England embarked on a racial reckoning just like so many institutions. This produced a landmark report and a new racial justice unit. But more than three years on, has any progress been made in dismantling prejudice and discrimination in the national church? Were the tumultuous events of 2020 a turning point, as the hierarchy hoped? We speak to ethnic minority clergy, bishops, the racial justice team and others to assess what life is like today for people of colour in the Church of England and if the tumultuous events of 2020 have actually sparked real change. Guests include: • Guy Hewitt, the C of E’s racial justice director • Martyn Snow, the Bishop of Leicester • Augustine Tanner-Ihm and Alwyn Pereira, two vicar whistle-blowers who experienced direct racism • Elizabeth Henry, formerly the church’s national advisor on race and ethnicity • Brunel James, part of the national racial justice unit
A Christian gospel singer was approached by the police while busking in central London. In a video of the conversation, one of the officers tells the singer she is not allowed to sing church songs outside of church grounds, and later sticks her tongue out. For many of those furiously sharing this video online, it is further evidence of how the secular authorities in this country are trying to unfairly push Christianity out of the public square. But is there really a problem with freedom of speech in the UK, or is this just one isolated incident of a confused copper not understanding the law? Is Britain actually becoming increasingly intolerant of orthodox belief, and if so, what – if anything – should the church be doing about this? • Read more about the gospel busker and the police video here https://premierchristian.news/en/news/article/met-police-apologises-after-officer-told-christian-busker-she-couldn-t-sing-outside-church-grounds • Read Heather Tomlinson’s magazine feature on free speech here https://www.premierchristianity.com/features/is-free-speech-under-threat/17106.article
Christians in Iran

Christians in Iran

2024-02-0544:18

Since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, the government of Iran has sought to tightly control its small Christian minority and suppress the spread of Christianity throughout the population. But the Women Life Freedom anti-government protest movement has rocked the Islamist regime. Millions of Iranians have defied the strict interpretation of Islam the government espouses, prompting a violent backlash from the state. What impact has this convulsion had on the persecuted church in Iran? How has the church continued to grow despite the crackdowns? And is there any hope for Iranians to be given genuine freedom to worship any time soon? This week we’re digging into stories of the persecuted church in Iran, speaking with exiles and family members of Christians in prison, to better understand what price believers must pay to remain faithful to Jesus in the Islamic Republic.
Soul Survivors

Soul Survivors

2024-01-2929:57

The story which dominated the UK church world last year was undoubtedly the revelations about Mike Pilavachi and Soul Survivor. But while the C of E’s investigation into him confirmed he had acted inappropriately at the Watford church he led, the story has often been veiled in vague terms and muttered innuendo. What exactly did he do to those young interns? How much power and influence did he wield over the church and summer youth festivals he also founded? Was he just one bad apple, or is the wider Soul Survivor movement also complicit in the abuse? To try and answer some of these pressing questions, the team at Premier Christianity magazine have been working on a new podcast called Soul Survivors. It will investigate the story of Pilavachi’s rise and fall, speaking to those who got hurt along the way. Today we’re sharing the entire first episode of Soul Survivors to give you a flavour of what to expect. To subscribe for free to Soul Survivors to get each new episode as it is released, click here: https://pod.link/1712708889
Christians spend an awful lot of time thinking about how and why people join the church. But we rarely consider the opposite – all of those who leave. Every year, an entirely uncounted number of people give up on going to church. Some continue to believe and practice faith outside a worshipping community, others abandon Christianity entirely. Who are these people? What motivates them? Should churches change to become more porous or accepting of those deconstructing or considering quitting? And what, if anything, can churches do to try and either stop such people leaving or encourage those who have left back into the fold? Guests this week: • Katie Cross, lecturer in practical theology at Aberdeen University (https://www.abdn.ac.uk/sdhp/people/profiles/k.cross#about) • Robin Stockitt, retired Anglican vicar, author of Leaving Church (https://grovebooks.co.uk/product/p-162-leaving-church-what-can-we-learn-from-those-who-are-done-with-church-2020/) • Olivia Jackson, author of Uncertain: A collective memoir of deconstructing faith (https://scmpress.hymnsam.co.uk/books/9780334063636/uncertain) Sign up to Tim’s church news Substack newsletter The Critical Friend here: https://tswyatt.substack.com/
Abuse scandals. Famous deaths. A lot of reports. And a even more arguing about same-sex relationships. 2023 was a busy year for church news, and 2024 is already shaping up to be more of the same. But before the last 12 months is totally swamped by what’s already kicked off this year, let’s take a brief look back at some of the most consequential stories from 2023, and think about how they may develop over the coming year. This week we’re joined by Emma Fowle and Sam Hailes from Premier Christianity magazine to discuss which stories left an impact from 2023 and why, and consider how they may continue to unfold over 2024.
Israel and Gaza

Israel and Gaza

2023-12-1848:08

Ever since October 7th, the world has been transfixed with horror at the violence and war unfolding in Israel and Gaza. First the brutal Hamas terrorist attack which left over a thousand dead and hundreds more snatched as hostages. Then the devastating Israeli bombing campaign, which has killed thousands more. And now Israeli soldiers and tanks fighting deep within Gaza, as civilians desperately try to avoid the bombs, bullets and shells. As Christians, we have watched this horror scene unfold in the Holy Land for over two months. Many of us feel helpless, confused, bewildered. How can we process what is taking place in the lands where Jesus walked, in the build up to the celebration of his birth 2,000 years ago? Do we have to pick a side? What on earth can we pray? This week’s podcast is joined by a panel of Christians who are living or working in Israel and Palestine to try to get a grip on the crisis in the Holy Land, and think through where on earth God is in the midst of it all. Guests: - Sally Azar, pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bethlehem - Richard Sewell, Dean of St George’s College, Jerusalem - Jamie Eyre, director of programmes, partnerships and advocacy for Embrace the Middle East
In France, Emmanuel Macron has launched a new fund to raise hundreds of millions of euros to pay for the preservation and renovation of ancient church buildings across the French countryside. The move has excited church conservation types on this side of the Channel, as a possible model to follow to safeguard our crumbling Christian buildings which can no longer rely on local tithes or cash-strapped denominations to pay for essential maintenance. But how can we safeguard Britain’s Christian heritage in an era of rapidly declining church attendance and growing secularism? Should taxpayers be expected to foot some of the cost? Or is it a waste of time to worry about maintaining medieval buildings which are in the wrong places, impossible to heat, and no longer able to sustain a congregation anyway? Guests this week: - Rachel Morley, director of the Friends of Friendless Churches - Eddie Tulasiewicz, head of policy and public affairs for the National Churches Trust
Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the famous atheist and scourge of Islam, has suddenly announced she has now become a Christian. Many in the church have reacted with excitement that a prominent anti-religious voice has switched sides. But others have been scornful, noting her article explaining the conversion seems focused on Christianity’s role in the culture war and fails to mention Jesus or the cross. Why do we end up arguing so much about celebrity conversions like Ali’s? Should we be wary of public figures whose embrace of Christianity may have ulterior motives? Are we seeing the first inklings of a broader return to faith by public intellectuals and the final nail being hammered into the coffin of New Atheism? Guests this week: - Andy Bannister, evangelist and director of the Solas Centre for Public Christianity - Emma Fowle, deputy editor of Premier Christianity magazine - Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s article ‘Why I Am Now A Christian’: https://unherd.com/2023/11/why-i-am-now-a-christian/ - Andy’s article for Premier Christianity: https://www.premierchristianity.com/apologetics/from-islam-to-atheism-to-christianity-the-unlikely-conversion-of-ayaan-hirsi-ali/16741.article
The Catholic Synod

The Catholic Synod

2023-11-2701:01:50

It’s not only the Church of England that has been having big synods recently. Throughout October, hundreds of bishops and others from the Catholic Church gathered in Rome for their own synod. But unlike the regular twice-yearly meetings the C of E has had for decades, this synod is a much larger, and rarer event. It’s all part of Pope Francis’s efforts to erode the hierarchical nature of the church and shift its culture towards one where the voices of ordinary lay churchgoers are more prominent. Conservatives fear this is the beginning of a process which could see traditional doctrines around women’s ordination, priestly celibacy, and gay relationships abandoned. But the Vatican insists this is actually all about what it is calling ‘synodality’ – a new way of doing church together, rather than immediately moving to debate the hot-button issues which divide Catholics. Guests this week: - Austen Ivereigh, Catholic writer, biographer of Pope Francis, and attendee at the synod - Gill Goulding, theologian at the University of Toronto, nun, and member of synod’s theological commission - Catherine Pepinster, journalist and writer, former editor of Catholic newspaper The Tablet - ‘The Keys and the Kingdom: The British and the Papacy from John Paul II to Francis’, by Catherine Pepinster: https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/keys-and-the-kingdom-9780567666314/ - ‘Pope Francis and Mercy’, by Gill Goulding: https://chbookshop.hymnsam.co.uk/books/9780268206444/pope-francis-and-mercy
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