Monday, 30 April 2018

Northerners shut out of being clergy by biased Church of England, says Bishop

Aspiring clergy from the north of England are shut out by a biased Church of England due to their 'broad northern accents', according to the Bishop of Burnley, the Rt Revd Philip North.

Bishop North told the Daily Telegraph that the priesthood favoured middle-class and well-spoken candidates over working class ones.

The bishop said that church officials report that candidates with broad accents were looked upon un-favourably by selection advisers.

'They think often there is a sense of discrimination against them,' he said.

'I couldn't say whether or not that's true but I've felt it myself at times, and it is a widespread perception amongst the northern directors of ordinands.

'The way in which we choose clergy in the Church of England is the same as the way the Army was choosing officers in the Seventies, that's what it's based on.

'So it's by and for public schoolboys. It rewards eloquence, it rewards confidence, it's residential, which some people find very intimidating.

'There's no doubt at all that it's unconsciously biased against a certain demographic.'

North added that he has approved of 'broad Lancastrians, expecting them to sail through, and either they've just scraped by, or they've not been recommended. We've got pretty much a white, middle-class priestly caste.

'There's much more to that than the selection processes, but the selection processes aren't challenging that – it really favours your bright, white graduate who knows how to handle themselves socially and knows how to handle an interview.

'It does make us nervous sending people from the estates and workingclass backgrounds, and that delivers a narrow priesthood, and that's a big problem.'

Canon Nick Smeetong, the diocesan director of ordinands for the diocese of Manchester, also told the Church Times: 'Candidates describe feeling out of place, and being "the only northerner" at BAP [Bishops' Advisory Panel].

'There is too often a sense that advisers don't 'get' them.'

Catherine Nancekievill, the Church of England's head of vocation, said: 'We want to see more candidates coming forward for ordination from working class backgrounds.'

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