|Duncan Williams at St Swithun's, Bournemouth|
A POOLE-based publisher has spoken out against what he calls the ethos adopted by many churches when treating people for drug and alcohol abuse.
Duncan Williams, founder of Christian Free Press Limited, was prompted to speak out over "rigid Christian dogma" after reading an article in the Telegraph about a poll which revealed that nearly one in four Christians did not believe in the story of Jesus's resurrection.
"Church must embrace even non believers in the resurrection, as forcing a hard and fast declaration of what it is to be truly Christian upon those unable to attest, makes liars out of honest people, and a neurotic church results from even the most well intentioned cognitive dissonance," Mr Williams said. "It saddens me that this debate has already resulted in so many old school Christians saying (loudly in some quarters) that those who don't fit their rigid template of belief are not to be considered fit for membership of the club.
￼"Additionally, Bournemouth and the south has some of the highest proportion of AA and NA meetings and recovery centres in the UK. Many of these people depend upon a higher power concept to maintain their sobriety and attend church in the area often for exactly this same reason. To insist that they have to adopt rigid Christian dogma would be the kiss of death to many of these people."
Mr Williams said instances of substance abuse and mental health within his family have enabled him to understand how important the right literature can be to a person in need.
"My father drank himself to death. It was a dreadful end for someone who had once been a serving officer in the Royal Marines," he said. "I often wonder what might have happened if he had found some inspiration, some faith, even if just in a copy of the Alcoholics Anonymous book."
While working in the hospital his father died in, Mr Williams discovered Beacon - the hospital's magazine that aimed to give hope to the vulnerable and sick.
"Maybe such a publication could have prevented my maternal grandfather taking his own life. He suffered dreadful depression due to survivor's guilt, and the trauma that he experienced during World War Two. As a young man he fought hard to stay alive in the sea after a German air attack sank a hospital ship he served on, which was filled with wounded soldiers.
￼"Sadly, in later life and old age, this depression overwhelmed him and he was found drowned. My grandfather never seemed fully able to accept or understand if he had been chosen to live, or if he had himself mustered the faith to beat the odds and live.
"Perhaps the right book or other literature could have given him the answers he was seeking.
"Whether you believe faith is a fantasy or not, books that encourage faith are particularly effective in providing the hope that saves lives. Faith is not just a fanciful idea so much as a practical life raft. Losing it can spell death for some. Seeking it can help keep you afloat. I have seen it."
A report by Lauren Howard for Newsquest's Bournemouth Echo (23/04/17).