Church of England culture can treat minorities like 'germs', says Dean of St Paul’s

St Paul's
St Paul's

The Church of England can create a culture where minorities are being treated “ like germs”, the Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral has claimed.

Speaking ahead of Easter Sunday, the Very Reverend Dr David Ison, said the Church and its God “appear inhuman to many” because it is “complicit” in “structural discrimination” against women, black, poor and LGBT people.

His comments come days after a landmark review set up by Number 10 concluded that Britain is no longer a place “where the system is deliberately rigged against ethnic minorities”.

The report sparked a backlash from Labour MPs, charities and academics who accused the Government of "keeping us debating about the existence of racism rather than doing anything about it".

However, the Dean, who was installed in his current role in 2012, argued the Church “goes further than society does” in its discrimination.

He made the controversial claims in a piece written for Via Media, the blog of Jayne Ozanne - the Church’s most prominent LGBT campaigner - and has been shared exclusively with The Telegraph.

He said: “The Uighurs and Rohingya. Political and religious terrorism. Black Lives Matter. Child poverty and homelessness. Violence and discrimination against women, LGBTI and disabled people.

“Cruelty continues, and those with power who do it will find ways to justify the unjustifiable. We even do it in the Church – not only with repeated safeguarding failures, but by being complicit with society at large in structural discrimination against black people and poor people and women and LGBTI people.

“The Church goes further now than society does in maintaining exemptions from discrimination against women and gay people, and we justify it in the name of what is acceptable to God – which makes the Church and its God appear inhuman to many.”

In the comment piece, entitled Is God inhuman?, he added: “Why do we think that being good and kind is ‘proper’ and ‘befitting’ human behaviour, when experience is that human behaviour includes so much that we want to reject as ‘inhuman’?

“Discrimination, violence, misogyny, racism and slavery come from dehumanising those who are ‘different’, excluding them from being our fully human neighbour, treating them as ‘other’ or as evil or to be eradicated like germs from the social body, acting as we do so out of the evil that has not been eradicated in us.”

This is not the first time that the Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral has been critical of the church. As an open evangelical who is supportive of same-sex partnerships, he has repeatedly called on the Church of England to back gay marriage.

Earlier this week, the communities secretary, Robert Jenrick, visited St Paul’s Cathedral to meet the dean and see how the community is preparing to hold Covid-secure Easter services.

Under the current restrictions, communal worship or prayer can be attended by as many people as the place of worship can safely accommodate, in a way which complies with COVID-19 secure guidance and the law. This means that people from different households or support bubbles must not mix when participating in communal worship.