British Unitarians have begun a six-month consultation on the issue of assisted dying. By exploring a range of views on the issue, they say they are bucking the trend of faith groups, many of whom have taken a strong stand against assisted dying.
The General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches will conduct the consultation in the run-up to their next annual meeting in April. A discussion pack is being sent out to congregations to assist them in their deliberations.
This follows a motion put forward by Fulwood Old Chapel Sheffield at the General Assembly meeting in Keele earlier this year for Unitarians to back calls for change in the law. After much debate a request was made for more time to understand and reflect upon the issues that surround such a complex subject.
The discussion pack has been produced by Fulwood Old Chapel with the support of the denomination's Executive Committee and headquarters.
“It provides facts, arguments, personal testimonies and spiritual reflection from authoritative sources both inside and outside the Unitarian movement,” said Robert Ince of Fulwood Old Chapel.
Proposals to legalise assisted dying have been criticised by a number of faith groups and 'pro-life' organisations. They have also come under attack from disabled activists who argue that they imply that disabled people's lives are less valuable.
Ince insisted, “It must not be presumed that all people of faith are necessarily opposed to assisted dying. It is an issue that is difficult to discuss and raises very strong spiritual, moral and practical questions. There should be no knee-jerk reactions in considering such a sensitive matter.”
The General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches represents the 170 communities in Great Britain. They define Unitarianism as a "progressive and liberal religious movement which grew out of the radical reformation and is now open to insights from all faiths and philosophies".