Christian News from Scotland

News stories from Scotland and beyond

Friday, January 27, 2006

Christian Party Contends By-Election

The by-election for the Dunfermline and West Fife constituency of the Westminster parliament, arising following the death of Labour MP Rachel Squire on 6 January, will be held on Thursday 9th February.

Nine candidates will compete, including George Hargreaves for the Scottish Christian Party.

Rachel Squire passed away at the age of 51 after a long battle against cancer. At the 2005 general election she gained 20,111 votes (47.4)%, giving her a 27.3% 11,500 vote majority on a 59.9% turnout.

The candidates for the by-election are:-
  • James George Hargreaves - Scottish Christian Party "Proclaiming Christ's Lordship"
  • Catherine Stihler - Scottish Labour Party
  • Willie Rennie - Liberal Democratic Party
  • Douglas Chapman - Scottish National Party
  • Carrie Helen Ruxton - Scottish Conservative Party
  • John McAllion - Scottish Socialist Party
  • Thomas Minogue - Abolish Forth Bridge Tolls Party [National Alliance Against tolls (Scotland)]
  • Dick Rodgers - The Common Good Party
  • Ian Borland - United Kingdom Independence Party

Christian Union suspended

In England, Birmingham University Christian Union has been suspended and had its bank account frozen after refusing to open its membership to people of all religions and to promote homosexuality in it's constitution.

The Christian Union, an evangelical student organisation, has instructed lawyers and is threatening court proceedings against the Birmingham Guild of Students.

The Birmingham Christian Union, with more than 100 members who attend meetings regularly, has been functioning at the university for 76 years.

Members claim the actions have been taken against them after they refused on religious grounds to make “politically correct” changes to their charitable constitution, including explicitly mentioning people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered.

The Christian Union was advised that the use of the words “men” and “women” in the constitution were causing concern because they could be seen as excluding transsexual and transgendered people.

Difficulties arose after the organisation Christians in Sport, whose supporters include Jonathan Edwards, the Olympic gold medallist, attempted to book a room in the name of the Christian Union. After checking the union’s constitution, the Guild of Students objected to a number of clauses.

Andy Weatherley, Christian Union staff worker in Birmingham, said: “The guild insists the Christian Union constitution must be amended to include mandatory clauses, insisting on more control by the guild and open membership to those who would not call themselves Christians.”

At a recent guild meeting Matthew Crouch, of the Christian Union, appealed against derecognition. He said: “All guild members can attend our meeting but only members can vote,” but Stuart Mathers, a guild vice-president, said that all student groups have to follow guild council policy.

Birmingham University Christian Union is affiliated to the University and Colleges’ Christian Fellowship. Pod Bhogal, its communications director, said: “We support the Birmingham Christian Union. We would not dream of telling a Muslim group or a political society how to elect their leaders or who could or could not become a member. The same applies to a Christian Union.”

Monday, January 23, 2006

Parents' Rights Blow

A mother of two teenage daughters has lost her battle in the English High Court for a parent's "right to know" if girls under 16 are being advised on obtaining an abortion.

Sue Axon, 52, from Baguley near Manchester, suffered a legal defeat which has implications for parents across the country.

She had an abortion 20 years ago which caused her "guilt, shame and depression for many years and to this day regrets having undergone it," a judge heard.

Roman Priest Suspended

The Roman Catholic Church in Scotland has confirmed that a priest has been suspended over claims of an "inappropriate relationship" with a woman.

Father Roddy MacNeil, 46 left his church, Our Lady Star of the Sea on the Hebridean island of Barra, last month. His congregation was told initially that he had "taken time to reflect on the future of his priestly vocation".

Yesterday (Sunday) a newspaper reported that a woman was expecting the priest's child in June.

A spokesman for the Roman Catholic Church said: "Father McNeil had a meeting with the bishop. They discussed allegations that Father McNeill was having an inappropriate relationship with a woman, and concerns were raised about lack of commitment to his parish. Father McNeil was suspended and told to return for a further meeting at the end of this month."

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Dawkins Programme Bias

The Evangelical Alliance condemned Richard Dawkins’ Channel 4 programme ‘The Root of All Evil?’ as a ‘woefully ill-informed atheist polemic which belies its own claims to rational argument.’

The first half of Dawkins’ two-part broadside against religion was aired last Monday. The film attacked Judaism, Christianity and Islam as ‘irrational’, ‘divisive’ and ‘dangerous’. Singling out Evangelical Christianity for particular scorn, it equated it with fascism, the tactics of the Taliban, and the ideology of the 7/7 bombers.

Dr David Hilborn, Head of Theology at the Alliance, said that Dawkins “signally failed to define key terms like ‘religion’, ‘evangelical’ and ‘fundamentalist’, showed no evidence of having engaged with scholarly sources at the interface of theology and science, and dodged any interaction with peers from the academic community who are believing scientists, or with theologians trained in the natural sciences.”

He added, “Professor Dawkins can write stylishly about his own field, but he is both philosophically naïve and poorly informed on the history and development of religious thought. This is nothing new, but here he seemed particularly intent on gratuitous abuse of religious people. He deliberately generalised from the very worst or most simplistic examples of the three faith-traditions in question. Had he chosen to debate with Alister McGrath, John Polkinghorne or Sam Berry it might have been a very different matter, but Christians of such scholarly calibre in this area were conspicuous by their absence.”

Dr R. David Muir, the Alliance’s Head of Public Policy, commented, “One of the few things on which we agreed with Professor Dawkins in this programme was the inadvisability of the government’s proposed religious hatred legislation. We are not suggesting that ‘The Root of All Evil?’ should be banned or censored; we are simply surprised that Channel 4 commissioned a programme of such poor quality. Like the BBC, commercial terrestrial channels are subject to broadcasting standards, and this did nothing to enhance Channel 4’s reputation for often impressive, well-researched documentaries. Dawkins’ film was so viciously biased against faith-communities, and against Evangelicals in particular, that in the interests of balance and freedom of speech the station ought to offer a substantial right of reply.”

On the same point, Dr Hilborn added: “Especially in view of Professor Dawkins’ false depiction of religion as inherently violent, it would be worth pointing out that in the name of scientific materialism, atheistic regimes like those of Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot have caused far more bloodshed in the past century than any self-consciously religious belief system. Not surprisingly, this inconvenient fact did not feature in ‘The Root of All Evil?”

Christians Give More

Evangelical Christians in the UK give nine times as much to charity as the average householder according to figures from a survey by Christian Research.

In this survey Evangelicals, of which there are, at a conservative estimate, around one and a half million in the UK, said their total giving, divided between churches, Christian and other charities, amounts to 12% (around £3000) in after-tax income for the average household. The average level of charitable giving in the UK population is estimated at 1.4% of after-tax household income.

Bill Lattimer, of Christian Research, a member organisation of the Evangelical Alliance, commented, “These findings show that evangelical Christians are very different from the population at large in the way that they use their money. Some of the most generous in our survey, proportionately, were Christians on low incomes. These people clearly organise their finances so that they can give priority to their church and their favourite charities.”

In addition, evangelicals are much more likely to leave a legacy to a church or charity in their wills than the population as a whole. According to the survey 23% have already included a legacy in their wills compared with just 5% of the population as a whole whose published will includes a donation to charity.

Helen Calder, Finance Director of the Evangelical Alliance, said, “These figures confirm what a valuable resource Christians are in terms of charitable giving. Christians give very generously to organisations that have a distinctly Christian ethos and the Government should take note of that and empower more churches and Christian groups to run charitable programmes.”

The survey also suggests that the willingness by evangelicals to give generously is directly linked to the amount of teaching they receive on giving from their churches.

The ‘Money Management’ survey of 1,200 evangelical Christians, from all the main Protestant denominations, such as Anglican, Baptist and the Salvation Army, was sponsored by Kingdom Bank. Some of the questions were framed by the Stewardship Forum of the Evangelical Alliance, which helps Christians develop their understanding and practice of biblical principles of stewardship.

Chris Sheldon, Director and Deputy Chief Executive of Kingdom Bank said, “Kingdom Bank has been delighted to sponsor this research which shows that evangelical Christians are generous with their money, regularly giving a significant proportion of their income away to help charities and churches. As a leading Christian Bank we aim to use this information to develop our services to enable evangelicals to make even better use of their money across the UK and beyond. It is also worth noting that we too, as part of our strong Christian values, distribute 10% of our annual profits to Christian charities.”

Moderator's Name for New School

A new Glasgow primary school is to be named after a former moderator of the Kirk’s General Assembly and his wife.

The Rev John Miller is the minister of the city’s Castlemilk East Church, and served as Moderator of the General Assembly between May 2001 and May 2002. Mrs Mary Miller is heavily involved in Castlemilk community project The Jelly Piece Club, which has offered a variety of childcare, educational and social support facilities to Castlemilk families since 1975.

The new non-denominational school will be built on the site of the former St Dominic’s RC Primary, and is expected to be completed by 2007.

The new facility will unite the present Tormusk and Windlaw primaries on one campus, the name of Miller Primary having been approved by the City Council after consultation with parents and pupils linked to these schools. The new name is already being phased in, with Windlaw taking the name Miller Primary while Tormusk describes itself as Miller Annexe. It is unusual for a school to be named for a moderator of the General Assembly, particularly one who is still alive.

Commenting on the new name, the Rev John Miller said: "This is a very great honour, unlike anything that I have ever heard before. Mary and I both feel amazed and rather shy about it. And very honoured indeed."

Stop Cowering Church

The Roman Catholic Bishop of Motherwell has called on his church in Scotland to stop "cowering" before the government.

Rev Joseph Devine warned Christians against the "creeping political correctness" that was stifling religious expression and said

"The situation is that there are people in authority in this country who are determined to stamp out all Christian influence. They regard the Church as a social nuisance."

Bishop Devine also claimed there was "worrying evidence" that the law was being used to "intimidate and silence" the expression of Christian views.

Wendy the Missionary

Wendy Alexander, MSP, has revealed in the Church of Scotland magazine Life and Work that she worked in Africa as a missionary before deciding she could achieve more by going into politics.

The former Holyrood cabinet minister spent time as a medical missionary for the Church of Scotland in Malawi but quit when she was 18, much to the disappointment of her grandmother, who had been a missionary before her.

As a missionary she spent some time in Malawi and saw the work the Church of Scotland was doing in the north of the country, eventually making the decision that some of the problems the country faced required political and economic solutions.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Cardinal Visits Darfur

The leader of Scotland's Roman Catholics has set off on a 10-day visit to Sudan.
Cardinal Keith O'Brien will travel to Darfur, an area of Sudan described by the UN as suffering "the greatest humanitarian disaster in the world".

Cardinal O'Brien will see how money raised by the church is being spent in a country where tens of thousands of people have been killed since 2003 and will meet displaced people in their camp as well as visiting schools, medical centres and crop farms which benefited from money sent from Scotland.

About two million people have been displaced from their homes since early 2003, when violence escalated in the region already badly affected by civil war. Arab militias backed by the Sudanese Government were accused of attacking villages in an effort to crush Darfur rebels.

Last year a fragile peace agreement was struck and exiled residents are currently returning to towns and villages but the fighting has left many homeless, with too little food to go around, and no ready access to water.

Last year the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund (SCIAF) embarked on an aid mission to help people in the region. More than £650,000 was collected from supporters of the church, schools and parishes.

International Aid Plea

The Church of Scotland and the Roman Catholic Chuch have issued a joint appeal for Scottish MPs to back a Private Member's Bill on international development aid.

The Labour MP Tom Clarke wants the government to report annually on how much was being spent on aid.

The government vowed to increase aid to 0.7% of gross national income 35 years ago, but has not reached that target.

Both churches urged MPs to attend a Commons debate next week to ensure the bill passes its second reading.

Stem-cell Laws Authorise Murder

THE ethical debate over the role of genetic research has taken a new twist after the Church of Scotland claimed plans to liberalise stem-cell laws would effectively authorise "murder".

The Kirk argues in a new report that human embryos have the same moral status as newborn babies and should not be treated as "research objects".

The report by Donald Bruce, director of the church's science, religion and technology project, says the use of stem-cell research should be "absolutely impermissible".

The Roman Catholic Church has been a long-standing opponent of stem-cell research. However, the opposition of the Kirk, which has taken a more moderate stance on ethical issues, will concern government ministers who support a change to the law.

Ian Gibson, the Labour MP who chaired the Commons select committee on science and technology when it produced a report on the issue last year, said last night that the tone of the Kirk's intervention was "appalling".

Mr Gibson, who holds a PhD in genetics from Edinburgh University, said: "They're trying to scare the public about the nasty, horrible people in white coats, when in fact this research is for the best of medical purposes."

The government proposes to update the law to reflect recent scientific breakthroughs and is conducting a consultation.

The change is expected to license the use of stem-cell research to help cure conditions such as Parkinson's.

Islamic Group Demand Schooling Change

AN ISLAMIC campaign group has called for a Roman Catholic primary school to be based on the Muslim faith.

The Campaign for Muslim Schools said 90 per cent of pupils at St Albert's Primary, in the Pollokshields area of Glasgow, are Muslim, yet children are having to take part in Catholic rituals like saying the Lord's Prayer and attending mass.

Osama Saeed, co-ordinator of the alliance of Glasgow's main mosques and Muslim organisations, said he could see no reason why the main faith of the school should not change.

He said: "Clearly the parents of that area find a faith school, even if it is of another denomination, preferable to a secular one. But surely it should be possible for them to have one that is relevant to their own faith.

"To move towards this would be a fantastic example of good faith - in more ways than one - on the part of the Church."

The call came just days after Scotland's most senior Catholic, Cardinal Keith O'Brien, sparked controversy by stating that Scotland's core faith was Christianity and that other faiths should recognise they were "living in Scotland as a Christian country".

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Astrologers Miss the Mark

Astrologers and clairvoyants had another poor year in 2005 in terms of predictions coming true!

Mathematician Klaus Kunkel of the Society for Scientific Research of Para-Sciences in Rossdorf, Germany, examined the predictions of 27 astrologers and clairvoyants.

Almost none of them came true. Astrologer Monika Transier of Berlin, for example, erroneously predicted the deaths of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, actress Doris Day and Prince Philip and claimed there would be an assassination attempt on U.S. President George W. Bush.

Clairvoyant Martin Schmid accurately foretold the death of Pope John Paul II, but the pontiff was already weak and couldn’t speak when he made the prediction in February. The pope died in April -- one month earlier than Schmid predicted.

German astrologer Patricia Bahrani predicted a landslide victory for the Christian Democrats in Germany. Elke Regendoerp, on the other hand, saw an alliance of Social Democrats and Post-Communists take over in Berlin. In truth, the close election outcome resulted in a coalition of Christian and Social Democrats.

(Assist News Service)

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Moderator Visits Africa

The Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, the Right Reverend David Lacy, is marking the New Year with an official visit to Africa.

Mr Lacy’s trip will take him to Malawi and Kenya, including the northern districts which border Sudan. The focus of the visit will be the impact of HIV and AIDS on the people of these countries and the work being done to bring hope to the lives of those living with HIV and AIDS.

The Moderator will fly from Edinburgh on Wednesday 4 January and will arrive in Blantyre, Malawi late in the morning of the following day. He is set to return to the UK on Monday 23 January.

During his time in Malawi Mr Lacy will visit an AIDS-widows' self-help project and a youth HIV awareness-raising programme, as well as seeing the work of home-based carers and visiting hospitals in Blantyre and Ekwendeni. The Moderator will meet with local representatives of the UK government’s Department for International Development, and with officers from the Kirk’s Malawian sister churches.

On 12 January the Moderator will travel to Kenya. Building on the Edinburgh event that he hosted earlier in December, Mr Lacy is set to participate in a conference organised by the Church of Scotland’s HIV/AIDS Project. Funded by the Scottish Executive, this capacity-building event will bring together delegates from 26 supported projects in 15 countries.

The Moderator will visit HIV/AIDS initiatives on the Sudanese border and projects associated with St Paul’s Theological College in Limuru in addition to meeting with Church of Scotland mission partners and visiting congregations of the Presbyterian Church of East Africa.

Commenting on his visit to Africa, David Lacy said: "Every Moderator makes overseas visits during their time in office, and it is my privilege to be able to visit Kenya and Malawi.

"The impact of HIV and AIDS is an important issue in all countries, be they G8 nations or countries in the developing world. However, HIV/AIDS poses particularly tough questions for societies in East Africa and, as such, this had to be the focus of my trip to the region.

"Amongst those living with HIV there are stories of despair, yet there are also stories of hope. I want to hear these stories, and learn from them. Humanity is now living with HIV – individually and collectively – and it is up to all of us to do what we can to help."


Wednesday 4 January 2006

Church of Scotland Press Release
Note to newsdesks
For more details on the Moderator’s itinerary, please contact Nigel Pounde, Church of Scotland HIV/AIDS Project, on 07941 151075. Please note that Nigel will be accompanying the Moderator during his visit.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

South Park upsets Roman Catholics

Roman Catholics in the USA have condemned cartoon comedy South Park for showing a statue of the Virgin Mary having a period.

The episode was broadcast on 7th December 2005 on the Comedy Central network in the United States and the Comedy Network in Canada, the day before the Roman Catholic Feast of the Immaculate Conception, and has yet to be shown in the UK

The cartoon has been screened only once in the States with plans to repeat it abandoned after furious protests from the Roamn Catholic community.

In a statement issued Dec. 8, the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights demanded that Viacom, Comedy Central's parent company, issue an apology and pledge to permanently retire the episode and not make it available on DVD.

Viacom board member Joseph Califano Jr. also condemned the episode after viewing it on December 9th and said,

"I found it an appalling and disgusting portrayal of the virgin Mary. It is particularly troubling to me as a Roman Catholic that the segment has run on the eve and day of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, a holy day for Roman Catholics."

He called for a review of the show by Viacom president and chief executive Tom Freston.