Thursday, February 12, 2009

Can You Be a Christian in the West Country?

A Christian primary school employee in Devon, whose daughter was told off for talking about Jesus to a classmate, is facing disciplinary action after asking some other Christians to pray for her family. (ht Cranmer)

This follows the case of Caroline Petrie, a nurse in Somerset, who was investigated by her NHS Trust after an offer to pray with a patient.

(see also letters from a Tory, Kouya Chronicle)

I can see this becoming a running story, as particular parts of the media will go on the hunt for similar episodes. There was another case last week of a Christian foster family who were struck off because a 16 year old in their care converted to Christianity, having come (I think) from a Muslim family. All of this seems to share a common theme, of driving Christian practice into the purely private sphere.

Yet at the same time the government would like to encourage Christians to do their 'public' charitable work in partnership with secular funders and authorities. You can't have it both ways.

We seem to be getting to the stage where, piecemeal, a combination of the state and regulatory bodies are deciding which bits of Christian faith are permissible in public and which are not. At the moment it's a few isolated stories - by contrast here in Yeovil there seem to be good relationships between the church and the council/police/community. However we also try to make sure those good relationships continue: we don't use situations like Street pastors, pregnancy counselling or the offer of food parcels to coerce people into faith.

1 Peter encourages Christians to share their faith 'with gentleness and respect', the early church was deeply conscious of the suspicion of this 'new religion' from those around it, and there are repeated injunctions for the church to live a blameless life in order to win over those around it. As well as proclaiming the good news afresh in each generation, we also need to earn the respect of each generation by showing that Christian faith is a good thing, not a threat or a psychosis.

This is a tricky one. We need to stick up for the victimised, without creating a climate of fear where all Christians feel that someone at work is out to get them. It's also hard to know whether these cases are the beginning of a process which will steadily erode Christian freedoms, or a few isolated incidents which are down to one or two personalities in specific jobs. It would be very sad if this whole area came to be governed by law and codes of practice, rather than by common sense and mutual respect.


  1. David, I discuss this and a different version of the story which suggests you may have been suckered by the Telegraph

  2. Thanks Doug - this may be an instance of the 'find a persecuted Christian' media rush in action. Mind you, the BBC isn't always spot on either, though I admit the Telegraph is more likely to spin the story. Me, suckered by the media? Surely not.

    I wonder if the member of the congregation spoke to the mum concerned before contacting the head?

    One to watch...

  3. I too would like to know more about the "leaking" of the email among other things. Whether more will emerge is doubtful, but yes, one to keep an eye on.