(As posted by Robert Brow on the Canadian Evangelical Theological Association discussion list, September 27, 1999)

That is the title of the feature by Jonathan Petre in today's National Post (Sept. 27, 99). The British Health Education Authority is to publish next Monday "Promoting Mental Health : The Role of Faith Communities."

Jonathan Petre says the report is "backed by leading psychiatrists, the National Schizophrenia Fellowship, the Church of England Board for Social Responsibility, and Dr. Jonathan Sack, Britain's chief rabbi."

The report includes an endorsement of the Christian use of healing and deliverance from evil spirits. Wow, talk about Christian theology (at least that part of it that believes in exorcism) being the Queen of the Sciences! And the staid old Church of England is well ahead in this development. For many years now all of its many dioceses "have an official exorcist."

The report is careful to take a balanced approach. "An emphasis on demons and demon possession can be very damaging to people who are vulnerable, and there is an important distinction to be drawn between evil and mental ill health. At the same time, some hold that a deliverance ministry is an important part of their belief in prayer and some people have found exorcism and similar approaches helpful."

Rev. Tom Willis, an advisor on exorcism to the Archbishop of York, gave to my mind a very important qualification. "People only become possessed for a reason, such as involvement in the occult or the worship of evil. We ask such people to renounce the devil and all his works before commanding the evil to leave them. It can be quite frightening." I hope the flip side of that is that Christians who have never been involved in the occult or the worship of evil are certainly not possessed by the devil. They may be mentally ill, and that should be diagnosed by the medical profession before people start dabbling in what could be very dangerous (as it was for the sons of Sceva, Acts 19:14-16).

I hope the report will also add that it is important to help people to allow the Holy Spirit to fill them, or very quickly their possession might get very much worse (Matthew 12:43-45).

Jonathan Petre adds that the Church of England bishops "have become increasingly concerned by the proliferation of maverick exorcists and fundamentalist groups such as the Ellel Ministries, the largest healing and deliverance ministry in Britain."
Whether this reflects a jealous fear that others are taking over their Church of England turf, or a concern based on careful evaluation of such ministries, remains to be seen. In the congregation I attend we have a couple who have taken the many weeks of training required by Ellel, and that organization is running a conference on the healing and teaching ministries of Jesus in Orangeville, Ontario, October 13-16. Frankly, it is not my bag (the ministry God has given me) but I would love to have a careful evaluation "from the inside."

In such ministries, as happened with Jesus, there are manifestations such as falling to the ground, shouting, foaming at the mouth. So a report would need careful monitoring of whether people are really helped on a long term basis. I assume the British Health Education Authority have done their home work.   But meanwhile the White Witch seems to be on the run, and Aslan is around.

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