15 Nov 2010

Church of England's proselytising plans will target children for recruitment and indoctrination

The Guardian - UK December 23, 2009

Church recruiting drive targets two-year-olds

Children as young as two are to be targeted as part of a new campaign to recruit young people back to the church, the Guardian has learned.

The Church of England is planning its first concerted drive to engage under- 18s after admitting that it is comprehensively failing to connect with children and teenagers.

Proposals will be put before the general synod in February that include a blueprint to set up breakfast, homework and sports clubs in schools as well as working in publicly funded toddler playgroups to spread the Christian word.

A document outlining the proposals, seen by the Guardian, says urgent action is needed to shore up the number of children in church.

"We need to reconsider how we engage with and express God's love to this generation of children and young people, whoever and wherever they may be," it says.

Using frank language, it suggests the church is failing young people by being out of touch with their lives. "The tragedy is that we appear to be failing even those with whom we have already connected. The challenge is how to creatively offer children and young people encounters with the Christian faith and the person of Jesus Christ," it says.

It comes as the archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, prepares to deliver his annual Christmas message. [see article below] It is expected that he will speak of his concerns about the commercialisation of Christmas and focus again on the ravages of capitalism following a year of continuing economic turmoil.

The archbishop faces a difficult new year because of a continuing revolt over the ordination of women as bishops, with potentially hundreds of clergy converting to Roman Catholicism in protest over the issue, and the prolonged disintegration of the Anglican communion over gay and lesbian clergy. Added to this already combustible mix is a papal visit, the first from Benedict XVI. It will be their most public encounter since the papal decree allowing Anglicans to defect to Rome en masse.

The document, Going for Growth, sets out a plan devised by the Church of England's education division that promises to make churches more "child-friendly" and to work towards every child – regardless of their faith – having a "life-enhancing encounter with the Christian faith and the person of Jesus Christ". It includes:

• An information campaign to supply schools with materials to fulfil their legal duty to conduct a daily act of worship amid reports that many schools have dropped it.

• Creating a new "social, moral, spiritual and cultural curriculum" for further education colleges.

• It identifies environmental campaigns as a key concern of children and says it must do more to act on such issues in order to win them round.

• To work in youth clubs and children's playcentres to re-establish links outside of church.

The document says: "Contact centres, Sure Start projects, children's centres and extended schools provisions hold potential for the church to engage with children, young people and families through activities, breakfast and homework clubs, parenting support and sports activities."

In October Williams announced plans for a major expansion of church schools. The Church of England already sponsors 27 academies - government-funded but independently run secondaries - and has eight more in the pipeline for 2010 and another 30 under discussion.

Today's plans suggest the church intends to go beyond schools into the community in an attempt to engage people from an even earlier age. They will be debated at the general synod, the Anglican governing body, in February. If backed, the programme will be rolled out nationally.

Keith Porteous Wood, executive director of the National Secular Society, said: "For most people the church is an irrelevance and it is abusing its privilege by intruding into taxpayer-funded secular places in order to recruit the next generation of churchgoers. Parents should not be forced to have their children endure religious proselytising as a captive audience as the price of receiving public service."

The Rev Jan Ainsworth, the Church of England's chief education officer, said there was no compulsion on anyone taking part in a church-run group to become Christian and the emphasis in training would avoid the use of heavy-handed tactics. "We do not endorse high-pressure techniques, we would not endorse anything that places psychological pressure on someone. We would endorse ways of interesting children in the Christian faith and the Christian story."

She said the decline in children attending church was part of wider trends. "Sundays have changed. People go shopping or go to football. If you're in a split family will you go to church or go to see your dad? You'll go and see your dad. It's a different day than it used to be and the impact on the old-fashioned model has been quite serious." The church would target all children, not just those in Christian families, she said. The primary purpose of Going for Growth was "making sure every child does encounter the Christian faith and the Christian story".

This article was found at:



BBC News - December December 25, 2009

Children 'rushed' into growing up, says Archbishop

Society forces children to grow up too fast, the Archbishop of Canterbury has said in his Christmas Day sermon.

They need "nourishment and stability", rather than independence which can lead to "misery and exploitation", Dr Rowan Williams told Canterbury Cathedral.

Meanwhile, the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, told the city's minster people must find room in life for God.

The Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, used his homily to urge people to look "closer to home" for happiness.

Dr Williams said society had created a culture where being "dependent" was viewed with "pity and concern".

"We think of dependency on drugs and alcohol and worry about the dependent mindset that can be created by handouts to the destitute," he said.

But he said everyone was dependent on air and food to live, and on their parents to learn and grow.

The archbishop said a culture of independence could be damaging for elderly or disabled people and children.

"We send out the message that if you're not standing on your own two feet and need regular support, you're an anomaly," he said.

"In the case of children we will do our level best to turn them into little consumers and performers as soon as we can. We shall test them relentlessly in schools.

"We shall do all we can to make childhood a brief and rather regrettable stage on the way to the real thing."

Dr Williams encouraged parents to treasure the dependency of their children.

'Sustaining happiness'

He said that dependence allows people to learn "to ask from each other, to receive from each other, to depend on the generosity of those who love us and stand alongside us".

"As we learn how to be gratefully dependent, we learn how to attend to and respond to the dependence of others," he said.

"And perhaps by God's grace we learn how to create a society in which real dependence is celebrated and safeguarded, not regarded with embarrassment or abused by the powerful and greedy."

Meanwhile, the Archbishop of York used his Christmas sermon to compare modern society with the plight of Jesus being born in a stable because there was no room for him at the inn.

"That inn at Bethlehem is like every human heart and community ever since," said Dr Sentamu.

"We find it easy to make room for our loved ones. Sadly, the poorest, narrowest, and least-honoured place is allotted to Jesus.

"Many celebrate Jesus Christ's birthday, but don't want him to be present. The birthday boy will spoil our celebration of his birthday if he is around," he added.

Earlier, at midnight Mass at Westminster Cathedral, Archbishop Vincent Nichols said it was vital people are not distracted from the true source of happiness.

The head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales said: "We are filled in this moment with peace and happiness… but will it last? In reality we know that our happiness and peace are difficult to sustain beyond moments such as this.

"Perhaps sustaining happiness in our lives is an art we have lost."

Pope knocked down

Archbishop Nichols said too often people chase after status, wealth and success in the false hope that they will bring contentment.

He said: "Happiness, we are told, comes from the way we are recognised by society, yet we know in our hearts that this is not so.

"Our happiness lives much closer to home, it lives in our steady relationships."

Archbishop Nichols gave his sermon shortly after Pope Benedict was knocked over by a woman during Christmas Eve Mass in St Peter's in the Vatican.

After hearing of the incident, Archbishop Nichols said: "It's surprising that it happened in St Peter's because the security there has been changed a great deal in recent years and is much more tight than it used to be."

This article was found at:



Does religion have any proper role in education?

Strong Secularism: "Religious education can be a form of mental abuse."

Groups call on British government to replace compulsory collective worship in schools with inclusive assemblies

Former governor of church school in UK now says state-funded faith schools are immoral

New Richard Dawkins documentary argues for the abolition of faith schools as a menace to children and society

British humanist campaign challenges state-funded religious schools

British government amends education bill to allow faith schools to adapt law according to dogma

U.K. school inspectors report that Christian theology and non-religious beliefs not being adequately taught in compulsory religious education classes

Faith schools that indoctrinate children commit child abuse

Intellectual abuse and suppression of simple childhood pleasures by Islamic fundamentalists common in U.K.

Faith schools ‘will hinder fight against terrorism’

Majority of people in the UK say faith schools divisive

Religious sect takes over school

Parental rights vs children's rights: debating the role of religious institutions in Irish education system

Irish children subjected to religious dogma in order to get an education in school system dominated by Catholic church

Parental rights vs children's rights: debating the role of religious institutions in Irish education system

European Court of Human Rights rules crucifixes in Italian schools violates children's religious freedom to believe or not

German teen expelled from government funded Catholic school after exercising her human right to religious freedom

Haifa District Court denies parents' request to send children to secular school instead of orthodox school


  1. Concerns over new Archbishop’s desire for Church role in welfare services

    British Humanist Association February 4th, 2013

    On the day Justin Welby is officially confirmed as the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury and Primate of All England, the British Humanist Association has expressed its deep concerns about the policy direction he will set for the church of England in relation to public services.

    The incoming Archbishop last week declared in a speech in Nottingham that the Church should ‘grasp the opportunity’ presented by an expanding social role to spread the Christian message. Speaking to an evangelical audience in Nottingham he said the current mood in the country offered the Church its ‘greatest moment of opportunity since the Second World War’. He suggested that the state could no longer ‘replace’ the Church in carrying out ‘works of mercy’.

    He said, ‘We are educating, in my diocese, 50,000 children. In the country as a whole the Church of England alone educates a million children every day…Are we going to take the opportunities that are there for the grasping to bring people to know and love Jesus Christ?’

    Chief Executive of the British Humanist Association Andrew Copson commented:

    ‘Many people of good-will, religious and non-religious, and many organisations with compassionate motives, are providing welfare services on a voluntary basis in these difficult times. But the schools that the Archbishop speaks of are not provided by his Church voluntarily – they are entirely funded by the public through our taxes. For him to see the running of public services as an opportunity to convert people to his religion and use public money to do that is scandalous.

    ‘80% of Britons are not members of the Archbishop’s church and research shows that even those who consider themselves Christian do not wish a role for the Church in areas of public policy and service delivery. Transferring previously secular public services to the Church of England and other religious bodies, which have an agenda to convert people and the legal powers to discriminate in employment and service delivery, is sectarian and short-sighted.

    ‘It is regrettable that the new spokesperson for that Church is now in a position to use his considerable new power and privilege – including his automatic seat in Parliament – to advance this agenda, at the expense of our secular public services and the rights of service users and public service workers.’


  2. David Cameron: I am evangelical about Christian faith

    Prime minister criticises some non-believers for failing to see that faith can give people a 'moral code'

    by Rowena Mason, The Guardian, April 17, 2014

    David Cameron has declared himself an "evangelical" about his Christian faith as he criticised some non-believers for failing to grasp the role that religion can have in "helping people to have a moral code".

    In his third effort this week to highlight his own strong faith, the prime minister said he wanted to see a bigger role for religion in Britain as a Christian country and urged fellow believers to be more confident in spreading their views.

    It comes after several big clashes between the coalition and the church, including a letter this week from 40 Anglican bishops and 600 church leaders calling on all political parties to tackle the causes of food poverty. Previous tensions have been caused by Cameron's decision to introduce gay marriage, and deep cuts in welfare benefits.

    Cameron's Easter message may be aimed at smoothing over relations as well as an attempt to woo Christians back from Ukip, after Nigel Farage said British politics needed a "more muscular defence of our Judaeo-Christian heritage".

    Traditionally, UK political leaders have been more reticent than their American counterparts about religion, with Tony Blair's former spin chief Alastair Campbell once famously proclaiming that New Labour did not "do God". However, both Blair and Gordon Brown have always professed strong religious beliefs and Cameron has been clear that he is a churchgoer. In contrast, Nick Clegg is an atheist, while Ed Miliband on a trip to Jerusalem last week set out his desire to become the first Jewish prime minister, although he caused confusion by forgetting about Benjamin Disraeli.

    "I have a particular faith. I describe myself as a Jewish atheist. I'm Jewish by birth origin and it's part of who I am. I don't believe in God, but I think faith is a really important thing for a lot of people," the Labour leader said.

    The prime minister's religious messages began last week with an Easter reception at Downing Street, at which he said religion had brought him his greatest moments of peace and claimed "Jesus invented the big society 2,000 years ago".

    He also released a videoed Easter message for the country, in which he talked about the "countless acts of kindness carried out by those who believe in and follow Christ".

    In a separate article for the Church Times, he argued that some atheists and agnostics did not understand that faith could be a "guide or a helpful prod in the right direction" towards morality.

    continued below

  3. While acknowledging many non-believers have a moral code and some Christians do not, he added: "People who advocate some sort of secular neutrality fail to grasp the consequences of that neutrality, or the role that faith can play in helping people to have a moral code.

    "I believe we should be more confident about our status as a Christian country, more ambitious about expanding the role of faith-based organisations, and, frankly, more evangelical about a faith that compels us to get out there and make a difference to people's lives."

    Cameron said he was a classic member of the Church of England, "a bit vague on some of the more difficult parts of that faith", but insisted the church "really matters" to him.

    He also defended the Church of England's "perceived woolliness when it comes to belief".

    "I am not one for doctrinal purity, and I don't believe it is essential for evangelism about the church's role in our society or its importance. It is important – and, as I have said, I would like it to do more, not less, in terms of action to improve our society and the education of our children."

    Previously, the prime minister has said his faith is "a bit like the reception for Magic FM in the Chilterns: it sort of comes and goes".

    It comes as a new row with the church may be brewing over the issue of what to do about civil partnerships. In a consultation that closes on Friday, the government is considering three alternatives: abolishing civil partnerships altogether, allowing people who have already had the ceremony to keep the title, or extending them to all couples. The Anglican church is opposing the extension of civil partnerships for all and wants them to be kept for homosexual partners.

    But on Wednesday Peter Tatchell, the LGBT rights campaigner, wrote to Helen Grant, the minister in charge of the issue, to urge her to extend civil partnerships to all.

    "Both civil marriages and civil partnerships embody the same core values of love, commitment, loyalty and stability," he wrote. "Why does it matter if a straight couple choose a civil partnership? How does their choice undermine the marriages of the others and the authority of an institution that still enjoys majority support? Civil partnerships may be a different institution from marriage but they are, in most respects, marriage-like. So why maintain the ban on female-male civil partnerships?"


  4. David Cameron fuelling sectarian division by bringing God into politics

    Dozens of public figures accuse David Cameron of fostering alienation and division with call to view Britain as a Christian country

    By John Bingham, Religious Affairs Editor The Telegraph April 20, 2014

    David Cameron is sowing sectarianism and division by insisting that Britain is still a “Christian country” an alliance of writers, scientists, philophers and politicians has claimed.

    In a letter to The Telegraph, 55 public figures from a range of political backgrounds accuse him of fostering “alienation” and actively harming society by repeatedly emphasising Christianity.

    The group, which includes writers such as Philip Pullman and Sir Terry Pratchett, Nobel Prize winning scientists, prominent broadcasters and comedians argue that members of the elected Government have no right to “actively prioritise” religion or any particular faith.

    It comes after a series of public statements in which Mr Cameron has been increasingly vocal about his own faith.

    Last week, in an article for the Church Times, the Prime Minister said Britain should be unashamedly “evangelical” about its Christianity.

    He said he had no wish to “do down” those of other religions or no religion but also criticised those who demand a strict “neutrality” where belief is concerned, saying it would deprive Britain of a vital source of morality.

    Going beyond the traditional warm words about Britain’s religious heritage often expressed at times such as Easter, he said he felt the “healing power” of faith in his own life.

    His remarks were warmly received by faith leaders and seen as an olive branch to the churches after confrontations over welfare cuts and gay marriage and claims that the Government had failed to stand up for Christians.

    The signatories accused Mr Cameron of “mischaracterising” Britain with “negative consequences for our politics and society”.

    They said they had decided to speak out because of what they see as increasingly common incursions of religion into politics.

    The lead signatory Prof Jim Al-Khalili, the Iraqi born physicist and author – who is the current president of the British Humanist Association – said Mr Cameron’s intervention was just part of a “disturbing trend”.

    They wrote: “We respect the Prime Minister's right to his religious beliefs and the fact that they affect his own life as a politician.

    “However, we wish to object to his repeated mischaracterising of our country as a 'Christian country' and the negative consequences for our politics and society that this view engenders.”

    They argued that, apart from a “narrow constitutional sense”, there is no evidence to justify describing Britain as Christian.

    “To constantly claim otherwise fosters alienation and division in our society,” they wrote.

    “Although it is right to recognise the contribution made by many Christians to social action, it is wrong to try to exceptionalise their contribution when it is equalled by British people of different beliefs.

    “It needlessly fuels enervating sectarian debates that are by and large absent from the lives of most British people, who – as polls show – do not want religions or religious identities to be actively prioritised by their elected Government.”

    continued below

  5. The 2011 census showed that the number of people in England and Wales who describe themselves as Christian plunged from almost 72 per cent in 2001 to just over 59 per cent, a decline of 4.1 million people.

    Further analysis showed that even that fall masks the scale of underlying decline because it was bolstered by mass immigration, with 1.2 million foreign-born
    Christians coming to Britain.

    “We wrote this letter as a result not just of one recent speech and article but of a disturbing trend,” said Prof Al-Khalili.

    “Politicians have been speaking of our country as ‘a Christian country’ with increasing frequency in the last few years.

    “Not only is this inaccurate, I think it's a wrong thing to do in a time when we need to be building a strong shared identity in an increasingly plural and non-religious society.”

    Other signatories include Ken Follett, the novelist, Maureen Duffy, the poet and playwright, philosophers such as AC Grayling and Peter Tatchell, the human rights campaigner.

    The Nobel Prize winning scientists Sir John Sulston, the biologist, and Prof Sir Harold Kroto, the chemist, are among the group as are Prof Steve Jones, the leading geneticist and Dr Simon Singh, the science writer.

    The comedians Tony Hawks, Richard Herring and Tim Minchin, have signed the letter as have the television presenters Dan Snow and Nick Ross, as well as a handful of politicians.

    Mr Pullman said the increasing religious rhetoric goes against the grain of British life.

    “It is probably an imitation of America, we imitate a lot of American things, but I think it is a very bad idea,” he said.

    “It doesn’t seem to me the sort of way in which I like to see a prime minister behave, or any politician for that matter.

    “What people believe is their own business and we should not be told what to believe by anybody.”

    Prof Jones said: “I just don’t quite understand why he is coming up with it now.

    “If it is being done for some electoral reasons I don’t understand what they are.

    "He would be much better as Prime Minister of the whole country not to say that this is a Christian country.”

    The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, was asked about Mr Cameron’s remarks during a BBC Easter broadcast from Canterbury Cathedral.

    “We do need to be more confident,” he said.

    “At the heart of the Christian message is the idea that we have a friendship, a relationship with Jesus Christ who is alive and that the choice to be a follower of Jesus Christ is the most important and the best choice anyone can ever make in their lives in any circumstances.

    “So the confidence that he expressed in Christian faith is something absolutely that we agree with.”

    A Downing Street spokeswoman said: “As the PM set out in his speech to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible, the UK is Christian country and should not be afraid to say so.

    “He also added that this was not to say in any way that to have another faith – or no faith – was somehow wrong.

    “He has said on many occasions that he is incredibly proud that Britain is home to many different faith communities, who do so much to make the UK a stronger country.”