The life of evangelical churches and their spiritual leaders has been portrayed in some recent films and series. Can they help us start conversations?
34 church leaders in the British city of Wolverhampton have signed a letter against Labour MP Rob Marris´ assisted dying bill, expected to be debated next week.
MPs are to consider allowing some terminally ill people in England and Wales to end their lives in a fresh effort to pass "right to die" laws.
Rob Marris, Labour MP for Wolverhampton South West, who topped the ballot for private members’ bills, is to adopt draft regulations drawn up by Lord Falconer.
Marri´s bill stated that patients with no more than six months to live, who had demonstrated a "clear and settled intention" to end their lives, would be prescribed a lethal dose of drugs on the authority of two doctors.
It does not differ from a previous bill proposed to the House of Lords by Lord Falconer last year, but it adds the requirement for a High Court judge to approve applications for suicide within a fortnight of them being made.
The bill put forward by Marris is expected to be debated on 11 September. The MP for Wolverhampton South West said: “The public are clearly in favour of a change in the law and it is right that parliament now debates this issue.
“Alongside the vast majority of the public, I am in favour of terminally ill people who are of sound mind having choice at the end of life. It is a choice that I would want for myself and I do not think we should be denying this to people who are facing an imminent death”, he added.
RELIGIOUS LEADERS IN MARRIS' CONSTITUENCY REACT
Revd Jonathan Somerville, of Tabernacle Baptist Church Wolverhampton told Premier magazine that Rob Marris MP is "a really good man and a great MP - but I think he's naive about human nature and our sense is that human nature tells us they'll be a further act that extends the provision in this."
He also was surprised because “it wasn't something he'd particularly spoken of a lot in campaigning, in fact none of us can remember him speaking of that so there's some concern - that the MP of our city would do that."
Cardinal Vincent Nichols, from the Roman Catholic Church in the UK warned in a statement: "the intrinsic value of each human life will be gravely undermined if this or any bill to legalise assisted suicide were to become law. “
“I urge Catholics, as active citizens, to contact their local MP about this most important issue before the vote”, he added.
LETTER FROM THE CHURCHES
A network of churches in the constituency of the MP behind the proposed assisted dying Bill have written an open letter opposing it, stating that “as ministers in the city of the MP, we have no choice but to speak out for the many who disagree strongly with it.”
So far more than 34 Wolverhampton church leaders, representing more than 4000 local Christians, as well as four leaders with regional responsibilities, have signed the letter.
At the beginning of the letter, the writers appreciated Bill´s desire “to reduce undue suffering in the last days of peoples' lives.”, but warned about “far worse consequences for our society in the years to come.”
Regarding the aim of the Bill of protecting human lives, they wrote: “The main argument for your Bill is predicated on the basis that the law as it stands is being broken by anyone helping the terminally ill to die and that those who do so deserve to be protected by the law.”
And then argued: "The fundamental principle that they are breaking is that all human life is valuable and should not be taken away."
“ONCE YOU ACCEPT KILLING AS A SOLUTION...”
The letter also talked about the dangers of accepting death as a quick solution: “Once you accept killing as a solution for a single problem, you will find tomorrow hundreds of problems for which killing can be seen as a solution.”
They cited the examples of the Netherlands and Belgium, where bills like this have been approved, and “removal of the legal protection of life has led to tragic and unforeseen consequences.”
The missive believed that the law will “introduce very unhealthy tensions between patients and their carers”, especially in terms of life expectancy, because sometimes terminally ill patients “can regain useful and even normal living for far longer than might have been anticipated.”
“What a terrible thing it would be to deny somebody this possibility”, the writers regretted.
The Christians ministers finished the letter affirming that they “believe that physical death itself is not the end. Through his own death on the cross Jesus Christ holds out the prospect of eternal life to all who believe and trust in him. “
“To deny this truth is to believe that our present existence is the sum total and we are masters of our own destiny – the dismal claim at the heart of assisted suicide”, they concluded.