Tuesday, 3 June 2014

BNP and National Front incompatible with teaching of Church

Update Tuesday afternoon More press reports added

The House of Bishops of the Church of England have voted to make membership or support of the British National Party (BNP) or National Front (NF) a potential disciplinary offence for its clergy, as this press release explains.

BNP and National Front incompatible with teaching of Church
03 June 2014

The House of Bishops of the Church of England have voted to make membership or support of the British National Party (BNP) or National Front (NF) a potential disciplinary offence for its clergy.

The formal declarations by the House of Bishops mean that a complaint of misconduct can be made under the Clergy Discipline Measure 2003 against any cleric of the Church of England who is a member of, or promotes or expresses or solicits support for, the BNP or NF.

The declarations will be laid before the General Synod of the Church at its July meeting in York and will come into force at 5.30pm on 11 July 2014 unless 25 members of the General Synod give notice that they wish a declaration to be debated. If such notice is given, the expectation is that the declaration would be debated at the Synod’s July group of sessions in York, and it could not come into force unless approved by the Synod.

The declarations state that on May 19 2014 the House of Bishops resolved to declare that the constitution, polices, objectives, activities or public statements of the National Front and the British National Party are incompatible with the teaching of the Church of England in relation to the equality of persons or groups of different races.

Once a declaration comes into force support for the political party concerned by clergy of the Church of England would be unbecoming or inappropriate conduct. The declarations from the House of Bishops, which were made under section 8(4) of the Clergy Discipline Measure 2003, implement in relation to the clergy of the Church of England, a policy of the General Synod agreed in February 2009 following a Private Member’s Motion from Vasantha Gnanadoss: “That this Synod, noting that in 2004 the Association of Chief Police Officers adopted a policy whereby “no member of the Police Service, whether police officer or police staff, may be a member of an organisation whose constitution, aims, objectives or pronouncements contradict the general duty to promote race equality” and “this specifically includes the British National Party”, request the House of Bishops to formulate and implement a comparable policy for the Church of England, to apply to clergy, ordinands, and such employed lay persons as have duties that require them to represent or speak on behalf of the Church.”

ENDS

Notes

  • An explanatory note explaining the background to the declarations (GS 1946-7X) can be found on the Church of England website, together with the declarations:
GS 1946 National Front declaration
GS 1947 British National Party declaration
  • The Church’s teaching in relation to the equality of persons or groups of different races is set out in the 2010 House of Bishops’ theological statement Affirming our Common Humanity.
  • In making a declaration of incompatibility the House of Bishops took account of the constitutions of both parties and published statements on their behalf, including, for example, the BNP’s manifesto for the last General Election (“Democracy, Freedom, Culture and Identity”) which is published on the BNP website.

John Bingham reports for The Telegraph that Church of England bans clergy from ‘un-Christian’ BNP and National Front.

Matthew Taylor writes in The Guardian that Church of England bans clergy from joining BNP or National Front.

Pink News BNP furious after Church of England bans clergy from having party membership

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Categorised as: Church of England | General Synod
Comments

Good job Fr Blagden-Gamlen of East church Shelley is no longer with us!

Posted by: Perry Butler on Tuesday, 3 June 2014 at 4:19pm BST

What a dangerous precedent....so you can belong to liberal parties which endorse serious departures of the moral law, which are as bad as racism.

However like their gay marriage policy for clergy,will they enforce it?

Posted by: robert ian williams on Tuesday, 3 June 2014 at 5:05pm BST

We hear from time to time in the press of maverick members of UKIP expressing opinions that resemble those of the BNP and National Front. I wonder if the bishops would care to say anything about that?

Posted by: Concerned Anglican on Tuesday, 3 June 2014 at 5:12pm BST

With lovely placement on the Guardian website, this story was directly above 'England fans asked to behave "like priests"'...

Posted by: Richard on Tuesday, 3 June 2014 at 8:44pm BST

Racism: very bad indeed, and membership of a racist organisation is incompatible with employment by the CofE.

Homophobia, on the other hand...

Posted by: Interested Observer on Tuesday, 3 June 2014 at 9:18pm BST

Clergy joining the BNP is pretty bad - but not as incompatible with the Christian Faith as subscribing to Anglican Mainstream or Reform.

Posted by: FrDavidH on Tuesday, 3 June 2014 at 10:12pm BST

How sad, that the bishops feel they HAVE to declare this.

["liberal parties which endorse serious departures of the moral law, which are as bad as racism." Do tell, RIW: what would those be? I'm dying to know.]

Posted by: JCF on Tuesday, 3 June 2014 at 10:39pm BST

Should the ethnic cleansing of the Canaanites be expunged from the bibles in churches, then?

Or the passages that speak of only a few people inheriting eternal life. That is hardly equality.

And what about political parties that create wealth inequalities and divides, through their policies?

On that basis, membership of the Conservative Party might be questionable for priests.

To what extent do Church of England clergy (and the deans and bishops) reflect the ethnicities of the country?

How many black or Asian bishops do we have in London?

I have no time at all for the British National Party, but I feel that political control of priests and church members is a very slippery slope.

The Church has a far from pristine track record on defending minorities. Should priests and bishops who oppose gay sex also be dis-membered for championing inequalities?

The key issue for the Church is not a tiny number of eccentric priests with nationalist views, but getting its own house in order, and demonstrating racial and sexual equality in its teaching and its priests and leaders.

If the Church was made a true beacon of equality, transparent and championing it, and practising what it ought to preach... then that would do far more to marginalise the dim-witted views of a handful of racists or nationalists, and make them seem a pitiable irrelevance.

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Tuesday, 3 June 2014 at 11:04pm BST

In response to Robert I Williams: Does the Roman Catholic Church allow its ministers to be members of these Fascist-style parties? I realise it could never enforce this discipline on the Faithful Laity, some of whom could actually be members.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Tuesday, 3 June 2014 at 11:07pm BST

The House of Bishops has issued a ban on its clergy joining the CofE party because of that organisation's stance on 'equality of persons of different gender and persons of differing sexual orientation.'

Posted by: Stephen Morgan on Wednesday, 4 June 2014 at 12:04am BST

Can you just imagine the relief in the House of Bishops? "At last, something we can all agree on! Even easier than the vexed question of whether we should have chocolate or plain digestives with our tea during Lent". Old rivalries would have been forgotten, the world could be flat, round or pear shaped; it no longer mattered; disagreements about basic human rights sidelined, even old wounds re the ordination of women covered over.

Clergy should not be members of the BNP - Agreed. See it's so easy - don't grapple with real questions that matter but stick to unity at any price. Next meeting - a motion condemning sin, we won't define it of course so long as we're all against it; and if we have fig rolls with our tea even the biscuit question is solved. How about a statement proclaiming equal rights for people who are left handed? It's getting easier by the moment.

Posted by: Disgraced on Wednesday, 4 June 2014 at 5:27am BST

Good job Fr Blagden-Gamlen of East church Shelley is no longer with us

I expect there are many reasons it is a good job Fr Blagden - Gamlen is no longer with us, not least the green pom pom on his biretta. However I did enjoy looking up which churches were DSCR!

Posted by: ian on Wednesday, 4 June 2014 at 5:59am BST

I totally disagree with the racist views of these bodies, but why the double standard , sin is sin.

How can you be in a party which advocates other positions which are opposed to traditional Christian morality?

That is the KEY question. I raised this with my union, if you exclude BNP members who is next on the list?

Posted by: robert ian williams on Wednesday, 4 June 2014 at 6:50am BST

For the record Fr B-G was vicar of East church Isle of Sheppey...I'm afraid my tablet keyboard has a mind of its own at times! Still,in his favour, he did give us that guide to churches that offered " full catholic privileges "..so handy in my misspent anglo-catholic youth!

Posted by: Perry Butler on Wednesday, 4 June 2014 at 8:54am BST

Fr Blagdon-Gamlen was at Eastchurch on the Isle of Sheppy in Kent. I too remember pouring over the Church Travellers' Directory and finding the DSCR churches. 'Forgive our foolish ways'.

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Wednesday, 4 June 2014 at 9:05am BST

But when "traditional Christian morality" IS the sin-is-sin, RIW? For me, *that* the question...

Posted by: JCF on Wednesday, 4 June 2014 at 9:25am BST

"Clergy joining the BNP is pretty bad - but not as incompatible with the Christian Faith as subscribing to Anglican Mainstream or Reform.

Posted by: FrDavidH on Tuesday, 3 June 2014 at 10:12pm BST"

Given that next month General Synod will be passing legislation on Women Bishops that includes a specific commitment to the flourishing of the view that Reform represents (on Women Bishops at least), and based on an appeal to 'trust us, we aren't against you' - I wonder if anyone here is willing to distance themselves from David's comment?

Any of the Bishops who post on here regularly perhaps?

Posted by: CharlieS on Wednesday, 4 June 2014 at 9:47am BST

The HofB new-found passion for banning things is a little worrying. They seem to want to control aspects of clergy life that go way beyond the remit asked for at ordination. There was all that bold type in their 'pastoral statement,' and now they seem to want to tell us who we can or cannot vote for. They don't get it, do they? This is a FREE country! Before the recent local/European elections all kinds of rare and bizarre fruitcakes appeared on prime-time BBC spouting vile nonsense, but that is what living in a democracy entails. You are free NOT to put an X in their boxes! And voting is still supposed to be a private matter, so how can the HofB ever possibly know how their clergy have voted, in order to 'discipline' them?
I must add that I agree entirely with Susannah's last statement!

Posted by: Stephen Morgan on Wednesday, 4 June 2014 at 12:29pm BST

In response to a remark above I recall bishop Joseph Rozier of Poitiers (died 1994) refusing Catechumen status to a member of the Front National.
The issue was discussed about that time in the Nouvelle République de Centre-Ouest.I do not believe Bishop Rozier was alone in taking this stance.

Posted by: Clive Sweeting on Wednesday, 4 June 2014 at 12:39pm BST

I think that the Bishop's action is not acceptable and I trust Synod will object and there will be a debate. I would never in the world support either of these organizations but I work on the principle that I may detest a group but I will defend to the last a person's right to CHOOSE what they do.We are not the Roman Catholic Church.

Posted by: Jean Mayland (Revd) on Wednesday, 4 June 2014 at 12:42pm BST

"I feel that political control of priests and church members is a very slippery slope."

Everyone who takes a pulpit (or humbly stands on the floor in lieu) is trying to exert some sort of moral control. In this day and age that necessarily translate into political control ...

Posted by: Andrew F. Pierce on Wednesday, 4 June 2014 at 2:42pm BST

I think that the BNP and NF are odious. However I have serious reservations in it being made a disciplinary matter for clergy to join a lawful political party.

Posted by: Paul on Wednesday, 4 June 2014 at 2:48pm BST

From the Telegraph: "A legal explanation issued by the Church of England quotes a passage from St Paul’s letter to the Galatians which insists: “There is no such thing as Jew and Greek, slave and freeman, male and female, for you are all one person in Christ Jesus.”" (a good clarification, but it adds:) “The effect of the declarations will not be to prevent a cleric from merely expressing support for a particular policy or policies of the BNP or the National Front (for example, an economic or transport policy), but it will prevent a cleric from taking the further step of joining either party or speaking in support of it generally, or encouraging others to join or support it generally.”"

What happens when this party's view on a specific issue makes it the only party 'generally' aligned with the church ... this is not only plausible but possible unless a new party is formed ...

Posted by: Andrew F. Pierce on Wednesday, 4 June 2014 at 3:16pm BST

I am of the Perry Butler / Richard Ashby vintage, but I can't remember what DSCR stands for....

Posted by: peter kettle on Wednesday, 4 June 2014 at 3:18pm BST

D daily Eucharist
S sung Eucharist every Sunday
C confessions at announced times
R reservation of the sacrament

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 4 June 2014 at 3:57pm BST

"I wonder if anyone here is willing to distance themselves from David's comment?"

I assumed it was a dark joke, one that perhaps points to some inconsistency. Stephen Morgan made a similar point without making references.

I struggle with the ban on joining a party, freedom of expression and all that. Yet here in the US, I don't think it would be compatible to be an Episcopal Priest and a member of the Ku Klux Klan, for example. But the KKK is responsible for actual violence, and I don't know if that's true about your BNP. Is the BNP more analogous to our Tea Party? I don't see our TP's views as compatible with the Compassionate Christ, but banning priests from joining would be highly problematic.

I'll pray for your Synod. It's quite a balancing act to ensure that no female clergy are unsupported or humiliated, and yet still have bishops who don't believe in their calling and the validity of their ordination. It's a balancing act in the modern world. If I had daughters, I wouldn't let them within hearing distance of one of these anti-women bishops. In fact, I probably would take my daughters elsewhere, rather than risk their witnessing women being treated unequally.

It's quite a problem. What some claim to "need" for flourishing (male only bishops), others find toxic. There are victims of that "need." It's girls, and I haven't heard much talk on their behalf. How is CoE going to protect girls and put their needs on the table?

Posted by: Cynthia on Wednesday, 4 June 2014 at 4:01pm BST

Correct Simon, and those of us with a really foolish anglo catholic youth would ink in I and B against the appropriate churches! Foolish times but I don't regret a moment of it!

Posted by: ian on Wednesday, 4 June 2014 at 5:06pm BST

A dark joke? Considering the attitude on display here in many posts regarding conservatives I assumed he was just presenting the obvious and nobody disagreed because he was just pointing out the general "truth" those here accept.

How does one encourage minorities if the only black bishop I can name in the CoE is a conservative who's against gay marriage? What do you do when minority raced priests hold minority positions? Praise them or fire them? Which minority is more important than the others?

Should one boycott a priest or bishop because of one theological position? Do conservative bishops spend every Sunday preaching sermons about why women are evil? Bishop Robinson used to say that gay rights wasn't the only topic he was going to preach about so the conservatives in his diocese shouldn't boycott him just because he's gay. There were other things that all Christians needed to believe and do. Perhaps "liberals" could turn that same sentiment the other way?

Posted by: Chris H. on Wednesday, 4 June 2014 at 6:01pm BST

If the church wants to tackle racism and prejudice, it needs to go after UKIP. The BNP and NF are finished as groups with any mainstream appeal. Now, under a veil of "libertarianism" and with a one-line, catch-all policy of "taking our country back", UKIP provides a space where racist and fascist ideas are not just debated, but also validated. The church is still meant to be present in the white working class communities targeted by UKIP and should be speaking up much louder about the Party's dangers.

Posted by: Tim M on Wednesday, 4 June 2014 at 6:03pm BST

The BNP are a group of violent neo-nazis, who advocate "well placed boots and fists" as a political tactic. They were instrumental in setting up the terrorist group Combat 18 (18 representing AH - Adolf Hitler - in case you were wondering) although they subsequently fell out. They are way, way worse than the tea party. The tea party has more in common with UKIP (who are still pretty bad, but not as bad as the BNP).

Posted by: Jo on Wednesday, 4 June 2014 at 6:32pm BST

Times change -- on June 5th, 1928, William Guerry, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina, was murdered by one of his own priests who believed that Bishop Guerry was planning actions that "harmed the principle of white supremacy."

More here -- http://www.postandcourier.com/article/20130609/PC1204/130609378

Posted by: jnwall on Wednesday, 4 June 2014 at 6:33pm BST

The BNP and National Front are extremist entities and this action is both correct and proportionate in my view. Hard to imagine a priest actually holding the views these organisations do espouse but if they did disciplinary action is proportionate.

Posted by: Craig Nelson on Wednesday, 4 June 2014 at 9:09pm BST

Trade Union membership and the Far Right.

Membership of the National Front, BNP or similar could easily fall foul of the Unite the Union Rulebook, and a member can be censured, including expulsion from Unite: A member may be charged with:

27.1.4 Inciting, espousing or practising discrimination or intolerance amongst
members on grounds of race, ethnic origin, religion, age, gender, disability or
sexual orientation.

Posted by: Adrian Judd on Wednesday, 4 June 2014 at 9:33pm BST

"27.1.4 Inciting, espousing or practising discrimination or intolerance amongst members on grounds of race, ethnic origin, religion, age, gender, disability or sexual orientation."

Given the church fails on the gender and the sexual orientation arms of that, why worry about a few more?

Posted by: Interested Observer on Wednesday, 4 June 2014 at 11:45pm BST

Tim M is quite correct in pointing out that Ukip is a far more pernicious weed in the body politic than either the BNP or the NF. I wonder why the HoBs didn't include Ukip in its list of verboten political parties? Maybe because, like Nigel who bottled out of standing as the Ukip candidate in either the Eastleigh or Newark by-elections, the bishops are 'Frit' when it comes to offending Ukip and their highly dubious political views?

Posted by: Father David on Thursday, 5 June 2014 at 7:51am BST

"Should one boycott a priest or bishop because of one theological position? "

Good question. Remember that I was talking about children and the messages they receive, especially in regard to WO and WB. For adults in an equal society to hear a range of point of views is fine. For girls to witness male supremacy in a clearly unequal world is toxic. It's probably toxic for the boys too.

"Which minority is more important than the others?"

Another excellent question. Are children a minority? Perhaps. If so, I would say that they are the most important minority. From another viewpoint, maybe no minority is more important in the eyes of God, and thus we need to immediately do away with male supremacy and straight supremacy.

I think I was pointing to a reality. Many young families are boycotting church. The young families at our church tell me that they love raising their children in a diverse, inclusive, environment (LGBT) with a woman priest.

Posted by: Cynthia on Thursday, 5 June 2014 at 4:14pm BST

An interesting discussion here. I would guess GS will call this in for debate.
I see this in the context of relative inaction last time around, a sort of knee jerk reaction to the Martin Niemöller litany: "we are not going to get caught with our pants down again" sort of approach.
Women and gay folk will be struck by the irony.
Others have already made wise comments on the way UKIP has just repackaged some of these malevolent policies, Fr David has it correctly, in my view.
On another tack. Is not membership of a political party still something you can keep quiet about?
I know someone published the BNP membership list on the internet some years ago, but I assume that, a repeat publication not withstanding, clerics might remain in membership without otherwise fearing any consequences.
In that sense, what is being outlawed here is a public commitment to their hideous policies.
And the final irony was the subsequent BNP attack on the CofE for allowing gay clergy ........ It would be funny if it weren't so cringeworthy !
And by the way, where are the views of John. He is always advocating for the inclusion of people who harbour ancient prejudice. Where does he stand with this lot?

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Thursday, 5 June 2014 at 4:26pm BST

'And by the way, where are the views of John. He is always advocating for the inclusion of people who harbour ancient prejudice. Where does he stand with this lot?'

Martin, my friend, thus challenged, I have to respond.

(1) The views of the BNP (certainly) and UKIP (more equivocally) are incompatible with Christian universalism.

(2) Our pretty useless bishops and archbishops enjoy pontificating on easy issues like this one precisely because they are so useless and mendacious on other ones.

(3) I remain committed to Anglican pluralism, difficult as it is and inevitably compromised as it is.

We live in an imperfect world. That's the point. As a very imperfect person, I extend a certain fellow-feeling to imperfect others. At the same time - and this is very important - the human condition can't be analysed only in terms of 'perfect'/'imperfect'/'sin' (which is why the theology of - for example - Tom Wright is so ridiculously inadequate).

Posted by: John on Thursday, 5 June 2014 at 7:46pm BST

In answer to Jean Mayland's point, I think it unlikely that General Synod will do what she suggests since the House of Bishops' decision is the logical consequence of GS passing a private member's motion proposed by Vasantha Gnanadoss a couple of years ago. See http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/8311104/General-Synod-backs-ban-on-clergy-joining-the-BNP.html

Posted by: Tim Barker on Thursday, 5 June 2014 at 9:54pm BST

I am deeply disquieted with this decision. I think there are three problems with it.

Firstly, is there a problem with clergy joining neo-Nazi or otherwise openly racist political parties? I'm not aware that there is. So why is a rule being brought in to tackle a problem that isn't there? It seems to smack of pointless gesture politics.

This would be easy enough to ignore, if it wasn't for the second problem, correctly identified by Stephen Morgan: this is a dramatic extension of the Bishops' disciplinary remit. Where might this lead to?

And the third problem is that identified inadvertently by Fr David and Tim M - why does this list consist of the BNP and the National Front? The BNP is indeed a busted flush and the NF has been so for a generation. Who else is on the far right? Well, there are people like Britain First - an even more nasty bunch than the usual wannabe Nazis and they use explicitly Christian language. What about the English Defence League? They're hardly generally racist, they very specifally hate Muslims - a disturbing and violent bunch, but given their Jewish, Sikh and Afro-Caribbean members, they're hardly bannable under this edict, are they?

Tim and David here suggest going for UKIP. That worries me on many levels. Many UKIP members and voters are not racist (and I say that as a pro-EU lefty) and while some are, so are a large number of Tory members, backbench councillors and even a few MPs – have you chaps heard of the Monday Club? – and so is the occasional Labour or LibDem councillor.

Not only would it be wrong to go for UKIP members but the idea of the C of E going toe to toe with UKIP on council estates is risible. I literally laughed out loud at the idea of bishops and General Synod members stomping around Sunderland and Barnsley begging people not to vote UKIP. We have no strength or presence there and, actually, neither does UKIP (or any other organised faction). UKIP gets lots of middle-class votes too but I note it's only the plebs who need saving.

Coming out against this decision will be about as popular as solemnising gay marriages for bishops, so I’d expect this to come into force. I doubt it will ever be used. The precedent worries me.

Posted by: The Rev'd Mervyn Noote on Thursday, 5 June 2014 at 10:31pm BST

"Rejoice! Rejoice!" The Newark Ukip fox has been well and truly shot and stuffed long before it got anywhere near the Westminster Hen House.
"Trebles all round"

Isn't it about time that the Bishop of St. Ogg's had a quiet word in the ear of his Chaplain? I'd no idea that Noote was a self proclaimed "pro-EU lefty" and I am equally sure that a monarchy loving arch Conservative like Bishop Cuthbert didn't know that either. I simply cannot conceive that Noote is really a lefty as I distinctly remember that he has a Scrap Book containing pictures of Princess Anne which he has carefully cut out of The Times newspaper.
The Dean and the Archdeacon will be shocked when they hear that the Bishop is sheltering a Pinko scorpion to his bosom at the Palace.

Posted by: Father David on Friday, 6 June 2014 at 5:45am BST

Jean Mayland couldn't resist a dig at the Roman Catholic Church. Where is her evidence that the Church micro manages political views? Sadly a very mixed message has emerged about excommunicating politicians who condone abortion etc.

This motion before Synod is as silly as saying laity can be gay but not clergy.

Posted by: Robert ian williams on Friday, 6 June 2014 at 5:48am BST

Rev'd Mervyn makes valid points. Has anything actually prompted this? Has there been a member of clergy who joined one of these parties and what has been the damage caused?

Germany used to (or may still do) prohibit its civil servants from joining the Communist party on the grounds that the aim of communism is a state that is incompatible with German democracy and that a civil servant should not be employed by a state he or she actively seeks to destroy.
There is a direct and limited purpose to the prohibition.

Prohibiting membership of an extreme political party just because we don't like what it stands for is dangerous precedent and, as Mervyn points out, highly impractical.

I would assume that if a priest is openly racist and divisive there are already measures his or her bishop can take to limit the damage that person can do.

We rightly tolerate homophobic and misogynist clergy although their views are at least as harmful. We try to engage with them and we try to limit the harm they can do.
All in all, I think that's the better approach.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Friday, 6 June 2014 at 9:05am BST

You clearly don't remember the Church of England in the sixties, Father David. Everyone was a monarchy loving lefty who read The Times. Even many of the Tories were really lefties - Thatcher was an obscure back bencher and Murdoch was, mercifuly, still on the other side of the world.

If one was a good Englo-Cartholic, one tended to support the EEC (as it was then) as something that would rescue England from its insular Protestant navel gazing and continued cultural buggering by the Americans. Euroscepticism was something one associated with Communist TUC officials.

Meanwhile, back in the present day, the idea of banning clergy from joining UKIP is still disturbing.

Posted by: The Rev'd Mervyn Noote on Friday, 6 June 2014 at 9:22am BST

"Jean Mayland couldn't resist a dig at the Roman Catholic Church. Where is her evidence that the Church micro manages political views?"

Do the Roman Catholic MPs (including Paul Martin, the prime minister of the day) who were threatened with interdict if they voted for the Civil Marriage Act count?

"Prohibiting membership of an extreme political party just because we don't like what it stands for is dangerous precedent and, as Mervyn points out, highly impractical."

It saddens me to see so many otherwise reasonable "Thinking Anglicans" rushing to defend a misguided notion of inclusivity. I wonder, would Erika allow the possibility of any organization being incompatible with representing the Church of England in a pastoral capacity? If so, and if not racist ones, then which? Unless I misunderstand the nature of the BNP and National Front (which as a Canuck is entirely possible) they would count as "openly racist." Erika indicates openness to measures which limit the platform such views can receive from beneficed clergy, just not _this_ measure in particular? So what should the appropriate response of the Church be to these groups? What disciplinary power is appropriate to the chief pastors of modern-day Fathers Blagdon-Gamlen?

Posted by: Geoff on Saturday, 7 June 2014 at 12:27am BST

Dear Noote,
Of course, I remember the so called "Swinging Sixties" but much preferred the 1950s. Yes, the 1960s; wasn't that the time when those four young shavers from Liverpool started caterwauling and weren't Students rioting in 1968? Mercifully Lord Clark of Civilisation came along in 1969 to put a stop to all of that with his excellent televisual series reminding us all of finer and higher things.

Posted by: Father David on Saturday, 7 June 2014 at 8:00am BST

Geoff,
let's be clear here. There are a number of criteria for whether someone is suitable for a particular role. No chaplain, for example, should be allowed to be anti gay. They would not be able to do their job properly.
We all know a large number of anti gay priests. No-one questions their ordination but I would hope that they are not employed in sensitive positions (and yes, there is a borderline because within their own parish ministry they cause a lot of damage - but we're still not questioning their ordination, we just try to find ways of changing their minds or of empowering their congregations to their impact is limited).

A racist priest is no less racist if he's not allowed to join the BNP. It's the attitude that's the problem, not the party membership.

There are already disciplinary measure available to bishops if their clergy cause harm to parishioners etc.
By all means, tighten those up. Make sure racists don't end up in positions where they can cause harm.
But once a selection committee has decided that someone has a vocation to the priesthood, the bishop has agreed, that person has been trained and continuously assessed for several years, and they have then been ordained I think it would be wrong to throw them out because we happen not to like their political views any longer.

You ask about powers and about what the church should do. Not ordain people in the first place if you believe they are unlikely to be good pastoral carers to everyone. Isn't that partly what the discernment process is already supposed to be about?
Racism is a huge issue. To say "I've stopped them from belonging to a racist party, problem solved" is dangerous. To assume that just because someone isn’t a member of the BNP he or she is perfectly safe to act and speak on behalf of the church is dangerous.
As Mervyn points out, there are shocking racists among members and voters of UKIP. Are we saying UKIP racism is ok, BNP racism isn’t? Or is prohibiting BNP membership only a first step before we also prohibit UKIP membership and that of other extreme parties?
It’s harder to make sure that racist priests don’t work in sensitive positions. But it’s ultimately the only way we’ll get somewhere.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Saturday, 7 June 2014 at 8:51am BST

"I think it would be wrong to throw them out because we happen not to like their political views any longer."

Thank you, this clarifies the issue. You see racism as one of any number of "political views" one may or may not "like." I do not.

Posted by: Geoff on Saturday, 7 June 2014 at 3:48pm BST

Geoff,
I see membership of the BNP as a political choice.
Racism is prevalent among Tories and UKIP voters too.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Saturday, 7 June 2014 at 5:45pm BST

"You see racism as one of any number of "political views" one may or may not "like." I do not."

I see racism, homophobia, and misogyny as moral issues, and actually as sins. It's especially sinful when there are acts, policies, or laws that actively hurt people.

I'm troubled about the CoE banning membership in a political party because of the moral issue of racism, when they do so badly on the moral issues of homophobia and misogyny. Meanwhile, the moral issues of poverty certainly have strong political overtones, will that lead to more banning?

Is it better to at least address racism, even as other moral issues are barely addressed, or addressed badly?

I wonder if the church could address this differently? Perhaps really say that all people are created in the image of God? And take it from there, in terms of it's teaching and expectations of clergy?

Posted by: Cynthia on Saturday, 7 June 2014 at 7:12pm BST

"Is it better to at least address racism, even as other moral issues are barely addressed, or addressed badly?"

My concern is that this is not even beginning to address racism. It's tokenist, it does nothing to tackle attitudes and behaviour. It focuses only on one radical expression of racism. Whereas the real thing, like homophobia and misogyny (equally harmful) is often subtle, genteel and polite.

What other measures are being taken to tackle racism?

Posted by: Erika Baker on Saturday, 7 June 2014 at 9:23pm BST

Perhaps a better approach is to require clergy to make a declaration of interests which would include any political party membership. This too could be problematic but would avoid the perverse risk in the current proposal that a specific ban by the church could encourage some people to join the organisations in question.

Posted by: Turbulent Priest on Saturday, 7 June 2014 at 10:40pm BST

Turbulent's solution would create more problems than it would solve. For clergy to declare membership of any political party would be tantamount to declaring how they would vote. Mercifully our democracy provides us with a secret ballot and where we put our cross at elections is between the individual and the ballot box.

Posted by: Father David on Sunday, 8 June 2014 at 9:13am BST

CharlieS wrote... - I wonder if anyone here is willing to distance themselves from David's comment FrDavidH on Tuesday, 3 June 2014 at 10:12pm BST]?

YES!! Can't believe FrDavidH wrote that.... are Anglican Mainstream or Reform really worse that the BNP?!

Posted by: Bob on Monday, 9 June 2014 at 8:49pm BST

Yes I am prepared to distance. I do not believe evangelicalism is an authentic interpretation of Christianity, but acknowledge the people in Reform and at Mainstream are genuine and believe the recognition of homosexuality is a serious departure from God's revealed word.Their concern is not based on prejudice, but on genuine belief.

Posted by: robert ian Williams on Thursday, 19 June 2014 at 4:56am BST
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