When BBC TV screened a three-part series on Westminster Abbey hardly any mention was made about the Abbey’s lecture series. Attention focussed on the choir. But anyone who doubts the large market for lectures and seminars on religious and moral topics should take note of the fact that the current series of Westminster Faith Debates is booked out, even though the event has been moved from last year’s location to a larger new venue in the Queen Elizabeth Hall. The first debate saw speakers who included John Harris of Manchester University and conservative Catholic David Albert Jones go head-to-head on abortion and stem cell research. Future debates are planned on whether there is too much sex these days, equal treatment of men and women, the traditional family, same-sex marriage and assisted dying.
Promised speakers include Polly Toynbee (on the family), John Milbank (on gay marriage) and Giles Fraser (on assisted dying). Full credit to the Hon Charles Clarke and Professor Linda Woodhead, both of Lancaster University, for arranging the course. Full credit as well to Theos which had a big turn-out for a very lively debate on religious freedom the think tank organised in Portcullis House, to mark the publication of its new book Religion and Law. Can churches and cathedrals please note this interest in intelligent debate?