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Sunday, 30 June, 2002, 10:39 GMT 11:39 UK
Methodists lose faith in online society
Country church
Community spirit is being eroded by technical gadgets
The increasing use of mobile phones and the internet is making life impersonal and undermining human relationships, according to the leader of the Methodist Church.

In his inaugural address as Church president, Reverend Ian White criticised a widespread lack of commitment to the democratic process and the erosion of face-to-face contact in society.

He said declining inter-personal contact was having damaging consequences.

He told the 2002 Methodist Conference in Wolverhampton: "For some this impacts upon health and for others it causes a loss of true humanity.


We may be skilled at interactive television but not so skilled at interactive human relationships

Reverend Ian White
"In some ways it can be said that we are a more impersonal society where social meeting is being replaced by links through the internet.

"Text messaging - with a language of its own - replaces the human voice.

"Many of these developments are of benefit, but when done at the expense of personal contact they raise concern as to how we develop as a people.

"We may be skilled at interactive television but not so skilled at interactive human relationships."

It is not the first time religious leaders have entered the debate on the benefits and pitfalls of new technology.

Earlier this year, an Italian archbishop advocated a "text free" Good Friday.

Spirituality 'net' gains

Aware of the growing dependence on mobile phone text messages, Archbishop Gerrardo Pierro of Salerno asked his congregation to concentrate on meditation instead.

In February in the UK, 1.2 million text messages were sent according to figures from the Mobile Data Association.

One church in Manchester has recognised the importance to young people of mobile phones and wants them to make contact via text messages if, for example, they are in a club with a friend who has taken too many drugs.

Pope John Paul II has recognised the importance of the internet and has confirmed to being a computer convert.

The Pope
The Pope is a computer fan

In a speech in May, he said: "The internet can offer magnificent opportunities for evangelisation if used with competence and a clear awareness of its strengths and weaknesses.

"It is important that the Christian community think of very practical ways of helping those who first make contact through the internet to move from the virtual world of cyberspace to the real world of Christian community.

See also:

21 May 01 | dot life
29 Jan 02 | In Depth
28 Mar 02 | Science/Nature
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