The general synod of the Church of England has voted by 322 votes to 13 to ban its clergy from membership of the British National Party, which advocates the voluntary repatriation of immigrants to their countries of origin.
A motion on Feb. 10 by Vasantha Gnanadoss, a lay member of the synod – the Anglican church’s parliament of bishops, clergy and laity – noted that the country’s police services ban BNP membership. Gnanadoss, of Asian origin, requested the synod’s bishops to formulate and implement a comparable policy covering clergy and those who speak on behalf of the church. In support of her proposal, Gnanadoss, who works as a civilian for London’s Metropolitan Police force, said, “If supporting organisations like the BNP is inconsistent with Christian discipleship, it seems obvious that clergy and others who speak for the church should not be members.
“Gnanadoss said, “Passing this motion is seriously necessary. Without it, the day may come when the BNP will have gained significant power and the church will stand accused of having been feeble when it could have been resolute.” Such a measure is important, she said, because it would prevent parties such as the BNP from associating themselves with the church.
The motion was backed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, and his deputy, the Archbishop of York, Uganda-born John Sentamu, who said, “I am a member of the Baganda tribe, but as Christian I joined another tribe. It is the tribe of Jesus Christ, and in that tribe, all are welcome.
“William Fittall, secretary general of the synod, who prepared a paper on the issue, warned there could be legal difficulties because the BNP is not a prohibited political party and there was a possibility of discrimination claims. Other speakers referred to under-representation of ethnic minorities in the clergy and alleged unspoken racist views within parishes. “We know these views exist here,” said the Rev. Rose Hudson Wilkins. “Why are there so few people from ethnic minorities sitting in this chamber? There are racist undertones in parishes and dioceses. We are kidding ourselves to believe it all comes from somewhere else.”
Church of England leaders have previously called for voters to shun the BNP and its synod has passed a resolution deploring the sin of racial prejudice. Although five clergy were named in a list of 12,000 BNP members that was leaked to the media in 2008, a Church of England spokesperson said at the time that none were serving Anglican priests.
The BNP has campaigned for the voluntary repatriation of immigrants, but its chairperson Nick Griffin, denies racism. The party’s Web site claims the BNP is concerned with the indigenous British population and wants them to remain the majority of the population.