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Last Updated: Monday, 9 February, 2004, 15:51 GMT
Anglicans challenge asylum policy
By Alex Kirby
BBC News Online

The Church of England's general synod, its governing body, is to challenge the UK Government's treatment of people who arrive here seeking asylum or refuge.

The synod, which is meeting from 9 to 13 February, is critical of official policy on benefits available to them.
Dr Rowan Williams

It urges the government not to promote a negative impact of vulnerable people, and to speed up ways to deal with them.

The motion for debate also expresses deep concern at what it calls "media vilification" of people seeking asylum.

This is the first synod meeting since the seismic row in the worldwide Anglican Communion over homosexuality erupted last year, and the failure of a meeting of archbishops in London in October to find a solution.

The row threatens to split the communion, with some churches refusing to have anything more to do with those US Anglicans who supported the consecration of a gay man, Gene Robinson, as bishop of New Hampshire.

The English church had already experienced a similar upset, when Jeffrey John, another gay man, was chosen to be the Bishop of Reading but agreed under pressure to stand down.

The synod will debate a discussion document produced by the English bishops, Some Issues In Human Sexuality: A Guide To The Debate, but a vote is unlikely, and observers say nothing will change.

However, a campaign called Inclusivechurch plans to present a petition to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, on 10 February, urging him to resist "those bent on dividing the church in response to the consecration of Gene Robinson".

The group says the petition, calling for a church "open to all, regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation", has been signed by more than 8,500 people and over 100 parishes.

One debate which may generate some controversy is on cohabitation.

Although the church upholds marriage as the ideal, the motion accepts as a fact of modern life that some couples who could marry will prefer to live together instead.

The International Development Secretary, Hilary Benn, will speak to the synod before it holds a debate on the global implications of the HIV/Aids pandemic.

It is likely the synod will find time to say something about the Iraq war. Previous sessions (the synod meets twice a year) have expressed deep concern on the subject.

This time members are hoping to consider a motion squeezed out of earlier sessions by debates on Iraq. It seeks to remove gender-specific titles from church legislation.




SEE ALSO:
Gay protest disrupts Synod
12 Jul 03  |  UK


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