Christian News from Scotland

News stories from Scotland and beyond

Friday, February 13, 2009


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Thursday, February 05, 2009

Sad that offer to pray is treated so harshly

Extracts from HeraldTalk Wednesday 4th February 2009

From Rev C Brian Ross, Motherwell

I am increasingly concerned at the way in which some Christians in the UK are being treated, purely because of their Christian faith. The most recent situation concerns Caroline Petrie, a married mother of two, who has been suspended, without pay, from her job as a community nurse, simply for offering to pray with an elderly patient ("Suspension for nurse who offers to pray for her patients", The Herald, February 2).

It is a sad state of affairs when the offer to pray for someone is treated in such a harsh way. I am old enough to remember when the UK was, at least nominally, a Christian country.

I can only agree, and express the hope that common sense will prevail, and that Mrs Petrie will be fully re-instated. Don't tell the North Somerset Primary Care Trust, which has taken this ridiculous attitude, but I'll be praying for Caroline.

From Dr Euan Dodds, St George's-Tron Church, Glasgow

I worked as a doctor for four years and the only patients I ever received thank-you cards from were those with whom I had prayed.

How terrible it would be if professionals were reduced to treating the disease and not the person.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Churchgoing Not in Decline !

Churchgoing is not in decline, according to figures released by Tearfund today which show that one in four adults in the UK attend church at least once a year.

According to research carried out by Tearfund, 12.8 million adults in the UK attend church at least once a year, of whom 7.3 million attend at least once a month.

Christian relief and development agency Tearfund regularly interview 7,000 members of the public about their churchgoing habits, as part of wider research about perceptions of society and world issues, and have identified an upward trend in church attendance.

The report found a significant increase in monthly attendance, bringing the figure for autumn 2008 to 15 per cent after a number of years of reported decline, according to Matthew Frost, Chief Executive of Tearfund.

Similarly, the proportion of UK adults attending church at least once a year has increased from 21 per cent in 2007 to 26 per cent in 2008, an increase from around one in five adults to around one in four.

"Our understanding is that more people are attending now than before, even if that is only a couple of times a year rather than every week," said Mr Frost. "This might mean going to church at one of the high points in their family’s year, such as Christmas or Easter, or attending Sunday services or midweek events."This is of course immensely encouraging, because it shows that people are associating church and a belief in God with hope and joy, and a positive way to spend their time."

The research questions were framed deliberately to exclude attendance for weddings, baptisms, funerals and other invitation-only events so as to concentrate on voluntary attendance.

Groups showing a larger increase in attendance than the average between September 2007 and September 2008 included 25 to 34-year-olds, up 7 per cent from 15 per cent to 22 per cent, 65 to 74-year-olds, up 6 per cent to 33 per cent, and over 75 year olds, up 10 per cent to 39 per cent.

Geographically, the highest increases were found in Wales, which was up 12 per cent from to 24 per cent, South East England, up 8 per cent to 27 per cent, Scotland, up 8 per cent to 27 per cent, and Northwest England, up 7 per cent to 28 per cent.

Tearfund’s work around the world is delivered primarily through local churches and community organisations working on the ground in 64 countries, to tackle spiritual and material poverty.

The research, compiled of 7,000 interviews with adults around the UK, takes place twice a year and identifies trends in awareness of faith and world issues in order to influence the organisation’s development and communication.

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Suspended for Offering to Pray

A Christian nurse from Weston-super-Mare has been suspended from her work for offering to pray for an elderly patient.

Caroline Petrie, a community nurse and devout Christian, is facing dismissal for an alleged breach of her code of conduct on equality and diversity.

Mrs Petrie, who is married mother of two, has been accused by her employers of failing to demonstrate a ‘personal and professional commitment to equality and diversity’ because of her offer of prayer.

She was suspended, without pay, on 17th December 2008 and will find out the outcome of her disciplinary meeting this week. She says she has been left shocked and upset by the action taken against her.

Mrs Petrie, who has been a community nurse since 1985 and is employed by North Somerset Primary Care Trust, said she had asked an elderly patient if she would like a prayer said for her after she had put dressings on the patient’s legs. The patient declined and Mrs Petrie took the matter no further.

The situation arose at the home of the patient in North Somerset. Mrs Petrie said: 'It was around lunchtime and I had spent about 20 to 25 minutes with her. I had applied dressings to her legs and shortly before I left I said to her: “Would you like me to pray for you?” She said “No, thank you.” And I said: “OK.” I only offered to pray for her because I was concerned about her welfare and wanted her to get better.’

Mrs Petrie was initially confronted the next day by a nursing sister who said the patient had been taken aback by her question about prayer. Subsequently, Mrs Petrie received a message on her home phone from the North Somerset Primary Care Trust telling her that disciplinary action against her would be taken. She was then suspended.

The guidelines for hospital chaplains state: The cornerstone of the modern NHS is the ability to respond sensitively to the diverse nature of the communities it serves; all services, including spiritual ones, should be delivered appropriately to service users and NHS staff.

A report of the story in the Western Daily Press stated:

Alison Withers, Mrs Petrie's boss at the time, wrote to her at the end of November saying: "As a nurse you are required to uphold the reputation of your profession. Your NMC (Nursing Midwifery Council) code states that 'you must demonstrate a personal and professional commitment to equality and diversity' and 'you must not use your professional status to promote causes that are not related to health'."

As a result, Mrs Petrie, who qualified as a nurse in 1985 and has worked parttime for the North Somerset authority since last February, was ordered to attend an equality course.

Her husband Stewart, 48, yesterday condemned the situation as "political correctness gone mad". And Mr Petrie made it clear that children Nathan, 14, and Matthew, 10, were fully behind their mother.

Andrea Williams, the founder and Director of the Christian Legal Centre, said: ‘It is of huge concern that Christian citizens, whose desire is to do their jobs well, are increasingly being silenced and pushed out of the ‘public square’ because of Equality and Diversity Policies. It is extraordinary, that these policies which purport to ensure tolerance are ushering in a new form of censorship and intolerance which should concern us all’

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Society should not abandon marriage - MP

Turning our backs on marriage will deprive children of stability and teach them to be selfish, says shadow families secretary Michael Gove.

Marriage provides children with an example of “responsibility, restraint and consideration for others”, argued the Conservative MP in an article for Scotland on Sunday.

While the Conservative Party has pledged to support marriage, leader David Cameron has said this will include same-sex civil partnerships.

Mr Gove prompted criticism last year after asserting that the Party was wrong to oppose same-sex civil partnerships and gay adoption, describing these things as “right and moral”.

But in his article he says the current “drift away from marital commitment is part of a broader flight from responsibility which is weakening our society and hitting the poorest, hardest”.
He acknowledged that such arguments are unfashionable in “liberal and tolerant” times but said someone had to speak out for the “most vulnerable in society”.

He pointed out the damage done when parents “behave like children”, “abandoning relationships which no longer serve their purposes”.

This robs children of “stability and security” leaving them unable to cope properly at school and contributing to social inequality.

“The early years matter hugely, and children deserve the care of both the adults who brought them into this world,” he said.

“Support for marriage should actually be a cause behind which progressives rally.”

His article is at odds with comments from fellow shadow cabinet member Ken Clarke, who recently labelled tax incentives to support marriage as “social engineering”.

In his article, Mr Gove writes: “A society which expects men to stay married to the mother of their children is a society which places a premium on providing young boys with male role models who embody the virtues of responsibility, restraint and consideration for others.”

But when “adults behave like children, seeking instant gratification of their desires, abandoning relationships which no longer serve their purposes in pursuit of new, more intense, pleasure they leave children in their wake who have been deprived of the most valuable of inheritances – stability and security in which to grow to maturity.”

He continues: “When I visit primary schools I am struck by how often headteachers point to the increasing numbers of children who, aged five, are incapable of sitting still and listening, who have not learnt how to communicate even basic thoughts and grow frustrated, even violent, when their needs aren’t met.”

“The heads I talk to bracket the growth in the numbers of children arriving at school with these disadvantages with the decline in the number of households where both the birth parents still live together.”

Mr Gove pointed out the difficulty of pointing out these things in “liberal and tolerant” times, asking: “Given the strength, and gathering force, of this trend, who would dare stand against it?”
“But”, he warned, “if no one points out the consequences of the marginalisation of marriage, then some of the most vulnerable in our society will be voiceless.”

Scottish Schools to teach "Gay Rights" - Parents get no say

A new booklet from the Scottish Government telling schools to promote ‘gay rights’ has prompted concern that parents will be denied a say in what their children learn.

It tells Scottish schools to teach pupils about homosexual issues, run ‘diversity events’ for teachers and parents, and adopt a specific lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) ‘charter of rights’.

The booklet advises that “in some cases – and probably very rarely – a small minority of parents/carers may not agree with the school’s position on these issues and the necessity for this work.

“However, this does not mean that it should not go ahead.”

The booklet styles itself as guidance on preventing bullying. However, critics argue it is based on exaggerated statistics and is being put forward as a ‘trojan horse’ to promote gay rights in schools.

The booklet advises schools to organise special diversity events where LGBT issues will be discussed, which parents will be asked to attend.

Teachers are warned not to use certain phrases when speaking to pupils about sexual orientation.

They should not suggest, the booklet says, “It might just be a phase you’re going through”, in spite of evidence suggesting that homosexual conduct during teenage years is, for many, a passing phase. Nor should teachers ask when the pupil decided they were gay.

“Our sexual orientations and gender identities are innate parts of who we are”, the booklet says.
Headteachers should invite gay rights campaigners to answer parents’ questions about homosexual issues.

The booklet says it is difficult to say how many gay young people there are, but suggests there will be one or two in every class. It bases this figure on contested Government estimates that five to seven per cent of the population is homosexual. This estimate was questioned last year after the Office of National Statistics found that just one per cent of the population identifies themselves as gay.

A spokesman for the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland said: “It is important that schools continue to tackle and respond to bullying of all kinds.

“Segmenting or subdividing the problem on the basis of some unsupportable statistics is unhelpful and a potential misuse of scarce resources.”

Nick Seaton, of the Campaign for Real Education, said: “Surely teachers should be devoting their time and energy to improving exam results rather than spreading political correctness.

“The scale of the problem and the number of children who may be gay has also been exaggerated and parents will see these figures as sinister overestimates.”

Mike Judge of The Christian Institute said: “All bullying is wrong and should be appropriately dealt with whenever it occurs, whatever its motive.

“Sadly, a hierarchy of victim has seeped into our education system where some forms of bullying are taken more seriously than others. One in four children is bullied for their faith, but I suspect bullying against Christian children comes some way down the pecking order.

“The worry is that this kind of single-issue approach can be used as a trojan horse for promoting a particular agenda. It is important that parents who object to these recommendations are properly listened to.”

People of faith should not be silent - Governemnt Minister

Religious people should not have to keep their faith private, a Government minister has said.

A large number of people in Britain see faith as “the key to their whole identity” and should be listened to by politicians, said Stephen Timms, Financial Secretary and Labour MP for East Ham.

Mr Timms was delivering a lecture on politics and faith at the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR).

His comments will be received with caution by Christians who feel their religious freedoms have been increasingly eroded by new legislation introduced in recent years.

He said “faith communities offer a rich resource of hopefulness which, in progressive politics, we need to tap into and draw upon”.

He argued that rather than dismissing “faith-based perspectives”, progressive politicians should recognize them as “valid and mainstream”.

“That means recognising that faith cannot be relegated to the private sphere”, he said.

According to a recent poll, more than four in five Christians (84 per cent) think that religious freedoms, of speech and action, are at risk in the UK.

A similar proportion of Christians (82 per cent) feel that it is becoming more difficult to live in an increasingly secular country.

Last year, Labour MP Ruth Kelly said political debate was becoming more secular and sidelining religious belief.

Speaking in the wake of her resignation from the Cabinet, she said: “It is difficult to be a Christian in politics these days.”

Mr Timms was among a number of MPs who voted against the inclusion of a free speech protection in a recent ‘incitement to homophobic hatred’ law.

The Government is now seeking to remove the protection, despite warnings that the ‘incitement’ law could be used as an excuse to silence the views of Christians on sexual ethics.

Hazel Blears, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, recently prompted fears that Christian groups carrying out important social work could lose funding unless they dilute their Christian character.

She said: “I am concerned to ensure that if faith groups become involved, they do so on a proper footing – not by evangelising or proselytising, but by providing services in a non-discriminatory way to the whole community.”

A report from the Church of England recently accused the Government of ignoring the valuable work that Christians – many of them volunteers – carry out in prisons, hospitals, counselling services and other organisations.

The Government itself acknowledged in a report last year that there are “a number of specific challenges for faith-based organisations” including “poor understanding of their role by all sectors” and “concerns over proselytising activity that can serve as a barrier to accessing funding”.

Yet, the document says: “Faith-based organisations make up a substantial part of the third sector, with a long history of working with offenders in prisons, through the gate, and in the community.”

Most UK Christians think their liberty is in danger

A majority of church-going Christians in the UK believe that religious liberty is at risk, a new poll shows. They also think more Christians should engage with politics.

More than four in five Christians (84 per cent) think that religious freedoms, of speech and action, are at risk in the UK.

A similar proportion of Christians (82 per cent) feel that it is becoming more difficult to live in an increasingly secular country.

The survey also reveals that most Christians (91 per cent) think their fellow believers should be more engaged in politics and campaign for Christian-friendly laws.

When asked which global issue concerned them most, a majority of UK protestants said “the number of people who believe in Jesus”.

Over 70 per cent were concerned about drug and alcohol abuse and 60 per cent were concerned about the spread of other religions.

The poll results have been published by ComRes, a member of the British Polling Council. Its clients include the BBC and The Independent.

The pollster has established ‘Cpanel’, a panel of UK Christians that aims to better represent the views of serious, practising Christians in the UK across all denominations.

It set up the panel in response to concerns that other polling companies were using a very loose definition of ‘Christian’ when seeking the views of Christians.

A ComRes report states: “While playing an active role as a pollster in the public debate around abortion over the last two years, ComRes became aware that some of its clients were frustrated at the way that Christian opinion was represented by other polling companies.

“Often our polling opponents would seek to gauge Christian opinion by simply conducting a national poll and using the views of those identifying themselves as ‘Christian’ as opposed to ‘Muslim’, ‘Hindu’, ‘Buddhist’ or ‘Atheist’.

“Given that about 70% of the UK population currently defines itself as ‘Christian’ when faced with this question, this methodology is far from satisfactory as the majority of these will not be churchgoers.

“Indeed, in the 2001 National Census more people defined themselves as ‘Jedi’ than ‘Hindu’. We decided that something had to be done.

“Cpanel was set up last year not only to serve as the ‘public voice’ of practicing Christians, but also to make available a research tool for organizations looking to sample the views of the churchgoing Christian community to inform an internal strategy.”