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‘Wake-up’ to intolerance against Christians, archbishop says
Often seen as a peacemaker in a multi-faith Britain, church leaders and priests said it was time to give more voice to their own religion.
Recently, the media has been dotted with stories about Christians being ostracised in their workplace because of their faith.
Last week, a community nurse was suspended after offering to pray for a patient’s recovery before being reinstated, while this week a primary school receptionist was facing disciplinary action as a result of sending out an e-mail asking friends to pray for her daughter.
Archbishop of York John Sentamu said such behaviour “leads us to questions about how it is that those who share or express a trust in God – or more precisely, in these cases, in the Christian faith – are deemed worthy of discipline”.
Writing in the Daily Mail, the archbishop said these two cases were the symptom of a lack of understanding of Christianity, and it was time to reinstate its status.
“Those who display intolerance and ignorance, and would relegate the Christian faith to just another disposable lifestyle choice, argue that they operate in pursuit of policies based on the twin aims of ‘diversity and equality’.
“Yet in the minds of those charged with implementing such policies, ‘diversity’ apparently means every colour and creed except Christianity, the nominal religion of the white majority; and ‘equality’ seemingly excludes anyone, black or white, with a Christian belief in God,” he wrote.
“Those employed as public servants and charged with running our local services, be they schools, hospitals or councils, receive their public authority only under a system of governance which is constitutionally established from the ‘Queen in Parliament under God.’
“For public servants to use their authority to deny the legitimacy of the Christian faith, when they receive such authority only through the operation of that same faith, is not only unacceptable but an affront.
“The requirement of common consent that underpins any operation of the democratic contract is being placed under strain by those who, with the best of motives, are making the worst of mistakes.”
He added: “For those who despair at the treatment meted out to these Christian women, the message is clear: wake up, Christian England!”
The Revd. David Felix told the church’s General Synod a “religious illiteracy” existed in many public bodies.
“They find it hard to acknowledge that the Church of England exists for the benefit of all, and not just its members,” he said.
He called on members to become more involved in civic society.
“Civic society also exists for you and me,” he said. “We’ve got to get stuck in and stay there.
“And if that means that we have to keep correcting, challenging or reminding the others at the table just who we are, then so be it.”
Meanwhile, Paul Eddy asked the synod: “If the CofE, which values its parish system as a unique mission opportunity, does not actively seek to offer Christ to these people, could we be creating ‘no-go areas for the Gospel’ by a sin of omission?”
He added: “I would strongly argue that we are failing in our duty as Christians, and failing in our duty as the state church, if we do not offer the claims of Jesus Christ, and salvation through Him alone, to people of other faiths.”
“We must not allow the arguments for diplomacy and social cohesion to detract from our primary calling to be Christ’s disciples and evangelists.”