The Bishop of Blackburn, the Rt Rev Nicholas Reade, will tomorrow (Tuesday 10 February 2009) support proposals forbidding Church of England clergy and lay staff joining racist organisations.
The news comes as The Times newspaper reports that other bishops will oppose them.
The move, to be debated by the Church’s General Synod in London, seeks to bring the Church in line with police procedures that ‘specifically include the British National Party’.
The proposals develop a rejection of racist policies by the national Church, established by a motion from the Blackburn Diocese in 2004. This motion- adopted unanimously by the General Synod- stated that “voting for and/or supporting a political party that offers racist policies is incompatible with Christian discipleship”.
Tomorrow’s debate should not be necessary, the Bishop will tell the Synod. “It is both sinful and shocking that we should have to continue, as the Church of God, to be reminding anyone within Christ’s community of the dangers, let alone the consequences, of association with those whose policies are soured by racial hatred.”
In a speech drafted for the debate, the Bishop refers to the ‘shameful’ background to the original Blackburn motion, proposed by the Rev Simon Bessant, a former Blackburn vicar and diocesan Director Mission.
“Simon told me he was impelled to act after hearing that church members in Lancashire were among those signing nomination papers for BNP candidates. The virus of racism remains in some of our parishes, and this motion today is sadly needed to reaffirm our opposition to its contagion.”
A Synod briefing paper “notes that racist parties are attempting to cloak their thuggish politics with Church-associated respectability,” the Bishop will say. “We live in uncertain times… our economic crisis could so easily spill over into community disorder, dissatisfaction being harvested by the far Right for divisive intent…
“The police have noted their ‘legal obligation’ to ban adherence to racist policies. Today we are called to go further and record our Christian obligation to underline a standard of decency for all who speak in our name.”
The Bishop will call for “an Obama message of acceptance to our rainbow society”. This would state: “that all people are welcome in the service of God, but that those who prefer a racist option that confronts the Christian gospel should not be mistaken for those who speak in the name of Christ”.
The motion the Bishop will support comes from the Chester Diocese and calls on the Church’s House of Bishops to ‘formulate and implement’ a policy reflecting that agreed by the Association of Chief Police Officers, to apply to clergy, clergy in training, and lay people representing the Church of England.