A friend just tweeted this. It seems an evangelical church (Revival Fellowship Medway) put out a flyer including examples of people who had been healed by God. One person complained that this was misleading and reported the ad to the ASA, who have upheld his complaint and ruled the church can no longer advertise in this way. You can see the ad itself on his blog.
From the ASA:
The complainant challenged whether the circular:
1. was irresponsible because it could discourage essential medical treatment for serious medical conditions; and
2. exploited the vulnerable because it invited people to attend the meetings in the hope of receiving physical healing.
And in his own blog he writes:
Finally, it seems to me that this is preying on vulnerable people in society. People with chronic or complex condition are often willing to try anything to be relieved of pain or disability, and this advert suggests that they too can be healed; this may well draw them into a complex religious organisation with all that entails. However, drawing people in with unsubstantiated promises of healing is an unethical way to engage people into a belief system.
In my opinion, the claims are misleading, unsubstantiated and seek to exploit vulnerable people.
Now I accept he is entitled to his opinion and actually probably a lot of people (Christians included) might agree with him. So I ask the question: is it irresponsible to share stories of healing in this way? I admit if it were me I would not have advertised in this way, but the ad was hardly offensive and personally I don't think it was that misleading either. I mean those desperate enough to come to church thinking they would be healed on the spot, probably need God anyway (well we all do..) and surely would have sought medical advice previously. It's very unlikely that anyone would turn up having not sought medical help and wanting God to heal them unless they already had some level of faith. So it is hardly preying on the vulnerable.
Healing is always a tricky one in the Christian world. I believe God can, and does heal but he doesn't always, and too much emphasis on healing takes away from the central truth. We cannot promise that people coming into our churches will be healed because that is for God to decide, but we can give them the hope of his promises for us.
I will be very interested to see if this stays under the radar or whether the Christian Legal Centre and the Daily Mail will get hold of it...