Do not deny churches access to information about their membership, citizens urge government

afbeelding-site-sila_05-bijgesnedenA government intention to abolish the system that supplies municipal information about  church members to local parishes has led to the most successful Internet consultation yet. Following an appeal from the bishops, among others, 17,000 signatories when through the trouble of lodging their complaints against a possible abolishment of the SILA system, which automatically forwards municipalities’ information about the death or moving of parishioners (while keeping  this information confidential). This allows parishes to remain informed when members newly arrive or when parishioners die.

Responses mentioned the desire of parish groups to be able to continue visiting the eldery in care homes, but also of families who appreciated being welcomed in a new parish. There is also the fear of elderly faithful that the parish might loose track of them. The positive contribution of parishes to society, some said, is denied by politicians who wish to shut down this system as it exists now.

Government ministeries can use consultations about concepts for law proposals, ministerial regulations or general government decisions. The results may be used to adapt these proposals or decisions, but they are not binding.

SILA, short for Stichting Interkerkelijke Ledenadministratie, is used by seven churches and church communities, among them the Catholic Church and the Protestant Church in the Netherlands, and collects and manages information about the church affiliation of private citizens who are registered members of one of the seven churches who use SILA. Municipalities only register who is known by SILA, but can’t see to which church they belong. Any mutations in the status of these citizens, such as death or relocation, is forwarded to SILA, which does now the specific church affiliation and can send the relevant information to the correct church community. In reverse, SILA also informs municipalities about new church members or church members who wish to be removed from the database.

The decision to bar SILA from information from the basic registration of citizens is taken to streamline the way in which the registration functions, and is one of several measures to assure this. The repsonsible government department is the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations, headed by Minister Ronald Plasterk. He is a member of the PvdA, which suffered a significant loss of seats in last week’s elections, and will therefore most likely be succeeded by a member of another party, with the PvdA relegated to an opposition role. What that means for the proposal and the results of the consultation, however, remains to be seen.

A headscratcher

Earth, not 6,000 years young

A weird story from the Dutch Bible belt today. A study of the archeology of the Dutch municipality Staphorst has caused discussion in the town’s council. One of the conclusions in the report was that the area of Staphorst was likely already inhabited more than 6,000 years ago, and that is a bit of a problem. Council member Klaas Hanke of the Christian Union: “Estimates of the age of the Earth vary in Christian circles between six and twelve thousand years.” Mr. Hanke is seemingly in favour of the most recent of these dates.

For ‘Christian circles’, please read ‘certain Protestant circles’.

The company who did the soil studies is willing to include a paragraph in the final report that acknowledges the existence of different opinions, but they will not go so far as to say that the age of the Earth may be only 6,000 years. Different opinions are one thing, changing facts is something else altogether.

Science secretary Ronald Plasterk asserted that the Earth’s age of some 5 billion years is sadly non-negotiable.

Facts and faith sometimes do bump into each other, but in my experience rarely as blatantly as this. It’s almost like saying that the sky is green because you read that somewhere, despite all evidence to the contrary. But I suppose that this is the risk you run if you own one book, the Bible, and treat it like a science book.

Or if you let politicians dabble in science, for that matter.

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