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Reform Magazine | December 7, 2023

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Editorial: From the Editor?

As a society, we are constantly evolving and adapting to the changing times. With this evolution comes the need for reform, both in our personal lives and in the systems that govern us.

This is particularly true in the realm of religion, where traditional practices and beliefs are often challenged by new perspectives and ideas. The Reform movement within the United Reformed Church (URC) seeks to address this need for change, while staying true to the core principles and values of the Church. This movement recognises that our understanding of God and spirituality is not static, and must be open to growth and transformation.

Reform also acknowledges the importance of inclusivity and diversity within the Church community. This means welcoming people from all backgrounds and walks of life, and creating an environment where everyone feels valued and respected.

At its core, Reform is about creating a Church that is relevant and meaningful to people in the 21st century. It is about embracing new ideas and perspectives, while staying rooted in the traditions and teachings that have guided the URC for generations.

As a magazine, Reform is dedicated to exploring these themes and promoting discussion and dialogue within the URC community. Ultimately, the goal of Reform is to help shape the URC into a vibrant and dynamic community that reflects the changing world around us, while remaining faithful to its mission and values.

Still reading? Good… I think. This month I asked the online artificial intelligence (AI) ChatGPT to write Reform’s editorial, and that is what it came up with.

Not bad, for a bot, is it? It sounded like a person, had a structure and ‘knew’ something about the subject. ChatGPT has been fed vast amounts of text from the internet and taught to imitate it, and then to learn from interaction with humans.

The most interesting bit, I thought, was when it went off the rails talking about ‘the Reform movement’. It sounded right, but was rubbish. The long-suffering Mrs T tells me I have a bad habit, if I’m asked a question I don’t know the answer to, of just making something up. Who would have thought AI had the same besetting sin?

I asked it to write a hymn in the style of Isaac Watts. Again, it had good structure, but it really couldn’t scan. The content was Christian, it was worshipful, it was just banal. By no means the worst thing I’ve sung in church. I also asked it to write a sermon on the ascension. It was a bit short – no one ever complains about that. It was well structured, with good application. And, I have to admit, it kind of had something to say. Will software preach in churches in my lifetime? I don’t see it. But it might be time for those of us who do preach, and write, to think about what we offer that AI cannot.


This article was published in the May 2023 edition of Reform

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