They are passed on by word of mouth, through text messages, chain emails and Facebook posts, and in that process they evolve and thrive.

Ottawa -

Canada's largest Protestant denomination, the United Church of Canada, is urging congregants to stop gossiping, likening it to gambling and “other evils of society.”

“Gossip can cause people to lose their jobs and their good reputations,” according to a motion under consideration at the church's 41st general council, held August 11-18 in Ottawa.

It can “lead to broken friendships and split families, and can be used as a malicious weapon against an opponent,” the resolution continues, adding that mean-spirited gabbing “can cause people to switch churches or in some instances, to stop attending church altogether.”

The motion aims to “encourage congregations to seek ways to raise awareness of the harmful aspects of gossip.”

While not explicitly a sin, Reverend Bruce Gregersen explained that spreading tales is contrary to Christian teachings promoting love, truth and honesty. It falls into the category of “bearing false witness,” he told AFP.

However, Gregersen, spokesman for the United Church of Canada, acknowledged “it's hard to know what we can do about it as a congregation.”

The conference, held once every three years, brings together 350 delegates and a couple hundred more guests and observers, representing 650 000 church members nationwide.

Other topics on the agenda include social justice issues such as child poverty, homelessness and economic disparity in Canada, as well as the hardships of rural churches in keeping up membership and staffing levels.

“An increasing number of people are spiritual, believe in God and prayer, but fewer and fewer people believe in the need to link that to an institution,” Gregersen lamented.

The council will also take on issues of national and international interest, including Canadian mining activities in the Philippines and Central America, climate change and a proposed oil pipeline in westernmost Canada.

As well, the church will consider a new report on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that drops a call for a general Israel boycott in favour of one directed exclusively against products that can be identified as produced in or related to Israeli settlements. - Sapa-AFP