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Friday, August 08, 2008

It is not 'irresponsible' to say 'God Does Heal Today'


Recently I've found myself and the church I lead in something of a mini-controversy. Here is how it looks from where I stand.

During May, we held a guest service where we preached the life changing message of Jesus Christ and prayed for the sick, with hope and expectation that God would heal. We've seen a number of people blessed by God in this way, so we decided to do an invitation/flyer to our community, which we called Beautiful News.


The service came and went, and although no healings occurred on that day, we were glad to step out in faith and pray for those who are unwell, and we thought that was that until we next held a service of that nature.

Two weeks later I receive a letter from the ASA who informed me that they had received a complaint about our flyer. You can read the details of the complaint, the issues the ASA had with our advert, our response to them, their adjudication and the action they've requested from their website here.

Following that the local paper picked it up here and on the BBC here. I was also interviewed on the local radio, you can listen to the interview here (it starts 41 minutes in and lasts about 5 minutes). Somewhat bizarrely the story is also reported on the website Bad Homeopathy!

The Evangelical Alliance have been very supportive, and framed this response;

The Evangelical Alliance has noted the adjudication of the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) in relation to the North Shrewsbury Community Church. We affirm the important role of the ASA in maintaining honesty and decency in advertising, but have some serious concerns with regard to the judgement and, in particular, regarding the requirements being laid upon the church in respect of future communications. We shall be taking up these concerns directly with the ASA. We believe that God can and does heal people today and will engage with the ASA to explore ways of expressing the Christian faith within the boundaries of the advertising codes, and without diluting its message and beliefs.

And a few days later I received this email;

I read about your case (vs ASA) on the BBC website. Christians who claim to be able to do miraclous gifts of healing today should be exposed as fakes, since that it all it is. What does it say in Matt 24? "Lord Lord did we not cast out demons in your name"? More should be done to highlight this abomination. I guess you have lady preachers? homosexual ministers? All against what a new testament Church should be.

David
I think he meant Mt 7 but never mind. Well, our position is that God does heal, that this is good news to the community and that letting people know about this is not 'irresponsible' but in fact good practice for a church! That's the facts and the places I've found it being reported on the web so far, I'll comment on it as I go along.

1 comments:

Peter Kirk on 9 August 2008 at 13:23 said...

It seems to me that there are several issues here on which the ASA seems to be wrong. I don't know if any kind of appeal can be made against this judgment.

1. Arguably this is not an advertisement but a newspaper and so nothing to do with the ASA. But they might think that the focus on invitation to a specific service makes it an advertisement.

2. You made no implication that Dr Matthias is a practising doctor, although I agree it would have been better to say he was retired.

3. The claims are (presumably) truthful and verifiable, but there seems to be an implication behind the ASA judgment that they are not.

4. Rule 50.3 does not apply because no therapy was offered. Also it notes that "Accurate and responsible general information about such conditions may, however, be offered." By invoking this rule the ASA appears to claim that the information you offered is inaccurate.

5. The ASA is attempting to subvert your rights of freedom of religion and freedom of expression as upheld by international law.

I note also that the code has no legal force. My (non-professional) advice would be to ignore this judgment, and write to the ASA explaining that you are doing so because that is your right under international law.

You may like to look at Articles 18 and 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which is binding international law. Your right to distribute these testimonies may be restricted only where "necessary to protect public safety, order, health, or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others".

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