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Church of England responds to yoga class ban

by Tola Mbakwe

Archdeacon Mark Butchers of Barnstaple, who oversees churches in North Devon, told news site Devon Live that Church of England parishes aim to be as welcoming as possible to a wide variety of community groups. However, each parish is allowed to create its own policies for renting a church hall.

"Many parishes are entirely open to hosting yoga exercise classes, emphasising the health benefits for both individuals and communities which yoga offers," he said.

"Some parishes feel that because yoga has its spiritual roots in Hinduism and Buddhism, it does not fit with Christian spirituality which is rooted in the love of God revealed in Jesus; and so they do not allow traditional yoga classes, but would welcome other health and fitness groups such as Pilates."

Archdeacon Butchers also said that there are a range of views on the topic with the Church, but they all desire to serve communities "with joy according to the values and beliefs of our Christian faith".

The yoga ban row began when Rev Nigel Dilkes of Pilton Church told yoga teacher Atsuko Kato that yoga was "not compatible with Christian beliefs" which she asked book the church's hall last week for a new class.

The President of the Universal Society of Hinduism, Rajan Zed, has urged Rev Dilkes, to "show some maturity" and re-think the issue.

He said the ban was depriving locals of the "valuable opportunities the multi-beneficial yoga" provides and invited Prime Minster Boris Johnson and the Archbishop of Canterbury to intervene in the issue.

Rev Deborah Parsons, Interfaith Advisor for the Diocese of Exeter, told Devon Live: "We're invited to be curious, to listen to difference and to re-imagine how to be Love's Presence in every community.

"Through respectful listening we can come to a deeper understanding of each other. Jesus the Christ modelled this by his engagement with and love for the outsider. He crossed borders and boundaries and questioned taboos. He spread an aroma of love."

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