Church leaders from across the city of Birmingham have issued a joint statement expressing concern at the invitation to BNP leader Nick Griffin to appear on the BBC’s Question Time programme.
In their statement, the church leaders distance themselves from claims made during the European Elections that the British National Party stand for a Christian Britain and are defenders of the ‘Christian heritage’ of the country.
The party’s divisive policies, they say, run contrary to Christianity.
Some church leaders have found themselves in a difficult position recently, with the BNP associating ‘Britishness’ with Christianity in a similar way to some Christians. Other Christians have pointed to the dangers of associating the Christian religion with nationhood, suggesting that it is both undesirable and contrary to the Christian message.
The clergy, pastors and ministers issuing the joint statement include Bishops from the Catholic, Anglican and Pentecostal churches, free-church leaders, tutors from the city's theological college, The Queens Foundation, and the Chair of the Council of Black-led Churches, which represents over 200 churches in the Midlands.
"As representatives of Christian Churches in Birmingham we wish to express our real concern at the invitation given by the BBC to BNP leader Nick Griffin to the popular programme Question Time due to take place next Thursday” the statement says.
“The BNP sometimes claims it is standing for 'Christian Britain.' We refute that wholeheartedly and would like to point out that some churches have stated that BNP membership is incompatible with Christian discipleship. The gospel of Jesus Christ is for all people, and celebrating the international, multi racial, multi ethnic nature of our churches we feel our faith in Jesus calls us to positively engage and work with our neighbours of other faith traditions. The BNP has nothing to do with Christianity and many of its hate filled, fear generating messages are completely counter to the loving challenge of the Christian gospel. We celebrate the wonderful God-given diversity of our city, region and nation."
Signatories to the statement are: The Rev Bill Anderson - Birmingham District Chair, Methodist Church; The Rev Lorraine Dixon - Deanery Missioner; Anglican Diocese of Birmingham; Major Sam Edgar - Divisional Commander, Salvation Army; The Rev Julian Francis - Centre for Black Ministries and Leadership, Queen's Foundation for Theological Education, Birmingham; The Rev Ray Gaston - Inter Faith Enabler, Birmingham District Methodist Church; The Rev Dr Toby Howarth - Inter Faith Advisor to the Bishop of Birmingham; The Rt Rev William Kenny - Administrator, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Birmingham; The Rev Roy Lowes - West Midlands Moderator, United Reformed Church; Dr Andy Mackie - Leader, Riverside Church Birmingham; The Rev Lynnette Mullings - Centre for Black Ministries and Leadership, Queen's Foundation for Theological Education, Birmingham; Dr Anthony Reddie - Research Fellow in Black Theological Studies for The British Methodist Church; Bishop Basil Richards - Church of God of Prophecy; The Rt Rev David Urquhart - Anglican Bishop of Birmingham; Pastor Calvin Young - Chair of the Council of Black-led Churches