Church resistance to equality 'self-defeating'

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Commenting on Church of England and Roman Catholic lobbying for "the right to discriminate" in relation to employment and the new Equality Bill, Simon Barrow, co-director of the religion and society think-tank Ekklesia, said:

"It will appear to some that advisors to the two largest churches in Britain are on a crash course with reality, with fairness, and with the very meaning of the Christian message itself when it comes to handling equality and diversity concerns. Self-interest and an instinct to exclude rather than welcome is turning more and more people away from institutional religion.

"Inward-looking self-preservation is a self-defeating strategy. Church leaders should explain how they square it will the teachings of the founder of Christianity, Jesus Christ. But the irony and poignancy of this still seems lost on some of his modern-day followers.

"Many clergy, church community development workers and Christians involved in public life recognise that working for equality in the public square is an agenda that the churches can and should be embracing positively. However, their voices are often ignored or overlooked by those who serve official church bodies, whose jobs get reduced to defending a culture of privilege.

"As in the attempts to keep women out of ministry and the episcopate, the anti-equality, pro-discrimination stance is about preserving a club rather than developing a movement for change - which is what the Christian message actually invites."

Ekklesia has published a briefing on the Equality Bill 2008 http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/9558