Wells Cathedral's plan to screen "The Last Temptation of Christ" has been condemned by the advocacy group Christian Concern.
The group claims that the decision by the Dean, the Very Reverend
John Clarke, to show the film "will be interpreted as the Church
endorsing a blasphemous film which distorts the Gospel message".
The controversial film, which Christian Concern has described as
"blasphemous", was directed by Martin Scorsese and is planned to be
shown on 25 January as part of the Bath Film Festival 2014.
While the film's opening sequence does include a disclaimer making
clear that it is not intended to be a faithful representation of the
Gospels, the film has generally been given a wide berth by Christians
because of objectionable scenes.
These include a dream sequence showing Jesus tempted by the Devil to
leave his ministry and the cross behind to go and live a family life,
married first to Mary Magdalene and then Mary and Martha, the daughters
The film also contains sex scenes between Jesus and Mary Magdalene, and a violent scene of Jesus removing his own heart.
Andrea Minichiello Williams, head of Christian Concern, said in a
statement: "In an age when many people may have the sketchiest knowledge
of the Gospel and history of Jesus Christ, the screening of this
blasphemous film which challenges the perfection of the life of Jesus
...by introducing an offensive dream sequence, will spread
misunderstanding of the tenets of the Christian faith and give the
impression that the Church endorses such false teaching."
Christian Concern said it had been contacted by local parishioners who object to the screening.
"We have received calls and correspondence from concerned
churchgoers, not only in the Somerset area, and the Western Daily Press
has reported that some worshippers have described the film as
'appalling' for introducing the 'theme of debauchery'," she said.
"It is difficult to understand how screening such a film in a
hallowed cathedral serves the Kingdom of God. For that reason we have
urged our supporters to make their views known to the Dean, who is
principally responsible for the administration of the Cathedral."
In a statement, Cathedral officials defended the decision to host the
screening, saying the film offers only "a partial view of who Jesus
was" and stressing that it was "not designed to be a biography".
"Much has changed in public perceptions of faith over the last 25
years [since the film's initial release]," read a cathedral statement.
"In this more sceptical age the church should not hide from
controversy and part of the task of the cathedral is to promote an
intelligent faith that is capable of attracting men and women to follow
in the way of Jesus in the twenty first century.
"[The Cathedral staff's] hope therefore is that an audience who do
not normally think about Jesus will spend time thinking about his
significance for us today."
The day after the screening, a talk is planned on the subject of
'Jesus' as part of a series in the cathedral called 'What can we believe
It will be hosted in the Education Room of Wells Cathedral on
Sunday 26th January from 4.30pm.