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Black priest considering appeal on grounds of 'racism' as her parish is dissolved

by Heather Preston
Photo Credit: Church of England - Banner image
Photo Credit: Church of England

The first black female deacon in the Church of England is considering an appeal on the grounds of racism following a decision to dissolve her parish.

Reverend Yvonne Clarke, was ordained as a deacon in 1987 and has served All Saints Shirley, in Southwark Diocese, for more than 20 years.

On Wednesday, a proposal by the Diocese of Southwark to close the parish and divide it between the parishes of St George, Shirley, and St John Shirley was approved by the Church Commissioners.

The move will result in Rev Clarke losing her home and her job.

According to PA, Rev Clarke is considering appealing against the decision, after alleging the move felt "personal" and was motivated by racism.

The diocese claims its proposal was due to ongoing concerns over the church's finances and governance.

Following the decision, Clarke told PA: "I am truly devastated by the decision of the commission, which I believe to be wrong, and I am now in discussions with my legal team and supporters to consider an appeal to the Privy Council."

In its decision, the Church Commissioners' mission, pastoral and church property committee said: "On the question of there being a racial, gender, or punitive basis for the scheme, the commissioners acknowledged the lived experience of racism experienced by the Reverend Yvonne Clarke in the parish and other contexts, but were satisfied that no specific evidence had been brought forward in either the written submission, or the oral hearing, to show the proposed scheme had been brought forward for an improper purpose."

The commissioners also said the parish was "not financially viable in its current form" and the new scheme "would further cure the souls and mission of the church".

In a statement to Premier, a spokesperson for the Diocese of Southwark said: "The Diocese of Southwark welcomes the decision of the Pastoral Committee of the Church Commissioners that the scheme proposed by the Diocese for the better provision of ministry and mission in Shirley, Croydon should proceed. 

"The Commissioners took the view that the parish of All Saints Spring Park is not viable in its current form. This will mean that the parishes of St John and St George will be enlarged and the current parish of All Saints Spring Park dissolved. A consequence of this is that the Revd Yvonne Clarke’s post will no longer exist.

"The Church of All Saints will remain open. The Diocese will continue its current level of investment in the area and the parish of St John, Shirley will be responsible for worship and ministry in Spring Park.

"Our prayers are with the parishes of Shirley and the Revd Yvonne Clarke at this time. We will work with them during this period of transition and will offer the Revd Yvonne Clarke all appropriate support as she faces the transition ahead and as she looks to her future." 

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