The sidelining of Christianity in hospitals is an example of how society at large is abandoning its Christian foundations, the Bishop of Rochester has said.
Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali was commenting on the recent case of Christian nurse Caroline Petrie, who was suspended after she offered to pray for a patient.
Should Christians reclaim their place in the public square?
The Christian Institute’s Mike Judge debates the issue on Premier Christian Radio.
Nursing, the Bishop argued, is a profession firmly rooted in a Christian tradition, along with the hospice movement and the very notion of caring for the sick.
“Indeed,” he wrote in an article for the Sunday Telegraph, “in the NHS itself spiritual care is widely recognised as part of caring for the whole person.
“More and more evidence is available that spiritual beliefs and prayers have a positive effect on patients and their sense of well-being.”
Yet in hospitals, he said, sensitivity to other faiths has “mutated into the closure of chapels, the retrenchment of a distinctively Christian chaplaincy and the advent of a doctrinaire multi-faithism”.
This has “little do with people of other faiths who have no objection to chapels and chaplains, as long as their own needs are met,” he said, “and everything to do with secularist agendas which marginalise all faith but seem especially hostile to Christianity”.
He urged Christians to reclaim a place in the public square, arguing that no other faith would be subjected to the same restrictions.
He pointed out that in the current climate, “nurses cannot pray, the Creed cannot be recited at Christian services for fear of offending non-believers, Christian marriage counsellors are removed because they believe in Christian marriage and Christian adoption agencies cannot be publicly funded because they believe that children are best brought up in a family with a mother and father to look after them”.
However, he said, Christians “should be able to contribute to public discussion about the beginnings of life and its end, the structure of the family, the building of community, justice for the poor, company for the lonely and, especially, the care of the sick, the dying and the bereaved and a host of other issues.
“It is time for a movement of Christians that will put the Christian case vigorously in public debate, that will remind the nation of its Christian heritage, that will make a difference where there is human need and, yes, that will commit itself to prayer in schools, hospitals, prisons, workplaces, Parliament and the streets so that people may experience again the blessing of God on this country.”