Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Conduct Unbecoming

In my next sentence will be a link to an organisation (the BNP) whose policies I find obnoxious and do not wish to promote. Robert West (who I will not dignify with the honorary title Reverend) has said the decision of the Church of England's General Synod to ban clergy from membership of racist political parties is "a reversion to the Middle Ages". He might think otherwise if he studied some aspects of medievalism in Britain - its anti-semitism for example.


Robert West is the moderater of the so-called 'Christian Council of Britain'. As far as I can see there is nothing 'Christian' about the 'Christian Council of Britain' which seems to promote racism and have links to the British National Party. I'm all for free speech, but I think there must be limits to it where the freedom and safety of others is threatened. So I think today's move towards making BNP membership 'misconduct' for which Church of England clergy can be disciplined is one I support.


The BNP is a legal political organisation in the UK. So if any Church of England clergy were to join or solicit support for it, this is not misconduct under the Clergy Discipline Measure 2003. 2 years ago in February 2009 General Synod resolved:
‘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.’
The result of this and subsequent work is included in the Draft Clergy Discpline (Amendment) Measure discussed by General Synod this morning. It was proposed in Clause 1 (4) of this measure to make it
"unbecoming or inappropriate conduct for the purposes of the 2003 Measure for clergy to be members of, or to express or solicit support for, a political party or other organisation whose constitution, policies, objectives, activities or public statements are declared in writing to be incompatible with the teaching of the Church of England in relation to race equality. The House of Bishops will be required to publish any such declaration."
General Synod voted this morning to go ahead with this amendment, although some concern was expressed that racist groups could re-form to circumvent the ban and also that 'free speech' martyrs could be created. See the Guardian report here. The Measure was backed by Archbishop John Sentamu who I was saddened to find described on the BNP web site as "another prominent African invader  in the Church of England". I say 3 cheers for John Sentamu who has done much to combat overt and covert racism in the Church of England.

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