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Photo Credit: Church of England
Photo Credit: Church of England
Photo Credit: Church of England
Photo Credit: Church of England
Church News

Decision to dissolve parish of black deacon dubbed discriminatory

by Heather Preston

The decision to dissolve the parish of Reverend Yvonne Clarke, the first black woman to be ordained by the Church of England, has been labelled "indirectly discriminatory," the Church court heard.

Reverend Clarke, ordained in 1987, has served All Saints Shirley in Southwark Diocese for over two decades. In 2020 the diocese set out plans to dissolve her parish and merge it with two others in south London.

All Saints Spring Park Parochial Church Council (ASSP) and Reverend Clarke have lodged an appeal with the Privy Council's Judicial Committee. Clarke argues the Church commissioners failed to consider whether this decision was discriminatory.

All Saints congregation is 85 per cent black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME).

During Tuesday's hearing, it was argued that the abolition of All Saints Spring Park as a parish would disproportionately affect BAME individuals, given its distinct ministry to this community.

Leslie Thomas KC claimed diocesan officials had also failed to adequately address the financial concerns of All Saints Spring Park.

Church of England commissioner representative Victoria Wakefield KC argued the parish's viability had been thoroughly assessed, noting its consistently poor financial performance compared to other parishes.

Wakefield added that the commissioners had "adequate regard to the potential equality impacts" of the scheme.

The Court was told training and support had been offered to the parish but adequate progress had not been made.

The hearing is ongoing.


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