A look at the ethical and religious issues of the week


London, United Kingdom




A look at the ethical and religious issues of the week




Spiritual Bear; Better Sermons

A teddy bear that was found washed up on a beach has been given a new lease of life and is now providing support to children and people living in care homes. The bear was restored by the Reverend Canon Eleanor Rance and its journey from discarded toy to "therapy bear" generated a global response on social media. The bear, named Sinbad, is used to help people to reflect on issues like brokenness and second chances. Reverend Rance tells us that people have found resonance in how he was washed...


Same Sex Marriage and the Church of England

It's been a tough week for the Church of England. The announcement that same sex marriages will remain banned in the Church though blessings for civil marriages of same sex couples would be allowed has been criticised by people on both sides of the debate. We hear from the Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell who says he will take part in blessing services even though the Archbishop of Canterbury says he won't. The story of Fr Isaac Achi who was burned alive by bandits in his home in Nigeria...


Catholicism after Benedict. Faith in Prison, Shamanism

How might the death of the former Pope Benedict affect the future direction of the Catholic Church? When Benedict XVI resigned in 2013 citing old age, he became the first Pope in 600 years to step down from the role. For almost a decade there were in effect two popes living at close quarters in the Vatican. Some have regarded Benedict as more conservative than his successor, Pope Francis. We examine how the death of the former Pope could affect the pontificate of Francis and ask if it could...


Repairing Relationships; Faith in Prisons; Embracing Failure.

Prince Harry wants to reconcile with his family. But how easy is that given the continuing fallout from his interviews and memoir? Sacred texts are full of tales of feuding siblings, so what can they teach the Royals? Imam Qari Asim and Rabbi Robyn Ashworth-Steen share scriptural insights and pastoral advice. If you've already failed to stick to your New Year's resolution, help is at hand. The Rt Revd Dr Emma Ineson has written a book on how to cope with and learn from failure. Cricketer...


Remembering Pope Benedict XVI

In a special programme to mark the death of Pope Benedict XVI, Edward Stourton and guests discuss the life and legacy of the gentle German academic who became the spiritual leader of 1.3 billion Catholics all over the world. The 95-year-old Pope Emeritus, who stood down almost a decade ago due to his poor health, died at the Mater Ecclesiae monastery within the walls of the Vatican, where he had lived during his final years. He led the Catholic Church for fewer than eight years but is...


Jesus Rock; The Morality of Striking; Clemency for Prisoners

What is the case for offering clemency to people in jail? This week, the Pope called on world leaders to make a gesture of clemency to prisoners in the run up to Christmas. For some, it represents an opportunity for healing for both the perpetrator and the victim, but for others it is a step too far. Why shouldn't prisoners simply serve their full sentence? We discuss the issue with former cabinet minister and ex-prisoner, the Rev Jonathan Aitken and former prison governor Brendan O’Friel....


Warm spaces; Iranian protest; Christians in Qatar; Lords reform.

As the UK faces severe weather warnings, there are still predictions that one in four people will not be able to afford their heating bills this year. More than 4,500 religious and community organisations have signed up to the Warm Welcome campaign, offering free, safe, warm spaces for the public. Yesterday Edge Ministries, one of those organisations, held a free Christmas fair and we hear from the organisers. In Iran, the first execution of a demonstrator has taken place. Mohsen Shekari was...


The future for Christianity, Benin Bronzes, Otis Williams and Silent Night

The British raid of 1897 on Benin City in the Southern Nigerian State of Edo, saw thousands of looted items end up in galleries and Museums across the UK. One recipient was the Horniman Museum and Gardens in South-East London. Only this week, they returned six out of seventy-two items, to Nigeria’s National Commission for Museums and Monuments. The remainder will remain on loan for now. Among those items returned are two Benin Bronze Plaques from the Royal Palace of Benin. The BBC’s Peter...


Islamic Art; Faith & Politics; Favourite Carols

Islam has given the world some exquisite and spectacularly beautiful art. Now, modern Islamic Art is being celebrated at Bayt Al Fann, a two-day international digital festival on 28-29 November. The event will showcase contemporary artists from across the world, who have been inspired by the Islamic tradition. It will also explore how Islamic art might evolve in the future. William Crawley meets two of the artists, British-Bahraini poet Taher Adel, who is a spoken word performer and Samira...


Courtney Pine, Qatar and Fifa, New Anglican Denominations

Albania’s Catholic Bishops have raised concerns about the depopulation of their country through migration. Edward Stourton explores the impact of this with Sister Imelda Poole, who works much of the year in Albania and is President of RENATE, an organisation dedicated to combatting human trafficking. Jazz musician Courtney Pine is back on tour across the UK performing material from his new album ‘Spirituality’. He tells the Sunday programme how religion, spirituality and jazz have all come...


Wayside Pulpits, Leicester Inquiry, Women in Qatar

Back in September violence spread between Hindu and Muslim groups on the streets of Leicester. An inquiry was swiftly set up to look into the unrest, but the academic chosen to lead the review has had to step down just days after being appointed. William Crawley and guests examine the issues. With a week to go until the World Cup kicks off in Qatar, what is life like for women there? BBC presenter Salma El Wardany has been finding out for a World Service documentary, along with Yousra Samir...


Same-Sex Marriage and the Church of England; Meat-Free Fridays; Bellringing for the King

It's an issue which has divided the Church of England for decades, and now the Bishop of Oxford, the Right Reverend Dr. Steven Croft has become the most senior cleric in the Church to speak out in favour of same-sex marriage. But will the growing support for the bishop's stance make any difference to the future direction of the church? Ed Stourton explores the issue with Dr Andrew Goddard, he was on the Steering Group for the church's Living and Loving in Faith Project and is a member of the...


Hindu PM; Brazil elections; Religious relics; Nasheed choir

We have a new Hindu Prime Minister! It's the first time this has happened in the UK. So how will Rishi Sunak's faith inform his leadership? We find out from two experts. Many are dreading the cost of fuel bills this Winter - but a new faith-led campaign is offering people the chance to use free, safe, warm spaces across the UK. The Warm Welcome campaign, set up by the ChurchWorks Commission, has signed up more 2,200 organisations to the scheme and has an interactive map on its website...


Politics and Trust; Sikh Community Kitchens; Poetry and Faith

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse has published its final report. One of the key recommendations is for mandatory reporting of child sex abuse, even if that abuse is disclosed to a priest in a confessional. So, what are the implications for those churches with a confessional tradition where confidentiality is sacrosanct? William speaks to bishop Paul Mason, the lead on safeguarding for the Catholic Church in England and Wales. The Sikh community kitchens known as ‘Langar’ are...


British embassy in Israel; Diwali; Iranian hijab protests.

Although the Middle East may not currently be high on the prime minister's list of priorities, faith leaders have increasingly been speaking out about her controversial proposal to move the British Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Both Israelis and Palestinians claim Jerusalem as their capital, and it’s one of the most sensitive issues in their long running conflict. As the BBC's religion reporter Harry Farley explains, if the British Embassy was relocated, it would break with...


Themed weddings; Muslims and mental health; Jake Thackray

Photos emerged this week of a couple renewing their marriage vows in a Star Wars-themed ceremony in Wales. William Crawley explores the implications of themed weddings in churches. A new research project will investigate why some Muslims find it hard to access mental health services, and how more could get the help they need. We consider some of the barriers to effective treatment. The poet-singer Jake Thackray rose to fame on prime time Saturday night TV in the 1960s and 1970s with his...


Iran and the Hijab; Faith in the reign of King Charles; Rural Church Monuments

For the first time in Northern Ireland’s one hundred and one year history, Census figures reveal there are more people from a Catholic background than there are Protestants. Emily Buchanan looks at what this moment means for the future of the Province. How do you engage post-millennials in the subject of Theology? Two of the finalists in this year’s ‘Theology Slam’, a competition to find new voices who think theologically about the modern world, enlighten us. The death in custody of 22...


Elvis's Faith; Black British Muslims; Cathedral Music

Elvis Presley was many things to many people, but few see him as a religious figure. He recorded several songs with religious themes, including Amazing Grace and How Great Thou Art, but rarely spoke publicly about his beliefs. Now, his step-brother, Billy Stanley has co-written a book, The Faith of Elvis, telling the story of the singer's interest in religion and in particular his love of the Bible. He shares his personal memories of Elvis, and how his songs were often inspired by his...


State funeral; Radical generosity; Folk songs in church

The State Funeral of Queen Elizabeth II will be the biggest ceremonial event held in the UK in recent times. It will be the first state funeral since that of Winston Churchill in 1965. It will be attended by political leaders, royals and heads of state from across the world. We consider the history of state and royal funerals, and the extent to which they have adapted to reflect the country’s changing religious and cultural landscape. There has been a call for a spirit of "radical...


The Queen and Faith

In this special edition of Sunday, Edward Stourton reflects on the late Queen Elizabeth II's relationship to faith, explores how she stood for continuity amid so much change and hears from leaders of some of the many religious groups that flourished as never before in the second Elizabethan era. Producers: Jill Collins and Julia Paul Editor: Dan Tierney