Scores of Anglican clergy complain to Home Secretary about Syriac Orthodox bishops banned from visiting UK

Following the shocking revelation that the Home Office refused to grant visas to three persecuted bishops from Iraq and Syria (who had simply wanted to attend the consecration of a the UK’s first Syriac Orthodox cathedral in London), it comes as a great encouragement to hear that more than 60 members of the clergy (including bishops) of the Church of England have protested directly to the Home Secretary about this appalling lack of Christian hospitality and national generosity, which brings shame upon us all. The letter is the initiative of Fr Christopher Phillips and is reproduced below. If any other members of the clergy wish to append their names, please do so in the comment thread (including church and diocese).

chris-philips-2

6th December 2016

Dear Home Secretary,

We rejoice that in the United Kingdom our Syriac Orthodox brothers and sisters are free to worship, and that they have a new Cathedral in London. It was particularly pleasing to see the support lent to the consecration of the Cathedral last week by Her Majesty the Queen, and by the presence at the service of HRH The Prince of Wales. You may also be aware that the Prime Minister herself wrote a letter to be read out to the congregation, in which she spoke of “the appalling violence that has afflicted so many areas of the Middle East [which] reminds us how fortunate we are to live in a country where different religious beliefs are not only tolerated, but welcomed”.

We are therefore dismayed that the applications of the Archbishops of Mosul, St Matthew’s, and Homs & Hama for visas to attend the service should have been refused by your office. Each of the dioceses represented by the Archbishops covers territory that has been taken over by Daesh/IS, and Christians there are subject to extreme forms of persecution.

These are respected Christian leaders, whose bona fides could easily have been checked with the Archbishop of Canterbury’s office at Lambeth Palace, or with the Syriac Orthodox Church in this country. The reasons given for the refusal of their visa applications (either that they had insufficient funds to support themselves while in the UK, or that there was reason to be concerned that they might not leave the country afterwards) do not seem to take seriously the reality of the Archbishops’ urgent and serious pastoral responsibilities in their home countries.

We entirely understand that as Secretary of State you are unable to comment on individual cases. However, when three separate applications from prominent Christian leaders are rejected on grounds where doubtless guarantees could easily have been found, there must surely be a problem with the system. We call on you urgently to investigate how such a state of affairs has come to exist, and to consider what reforms can be put into place to ensure a more equitable and compassionate system of assessment for such applications.

Yours sincerely,

(The Revd) Christopher Phillips
Vicar of St Mary, Willesden (Diocese of London)

This letter is also co-signed by:

(The Rt Revd) Pete Broadbent
Bishop of Willesden (Diocese of London)

(The Very Revd) Andrew Tremlett
Dean of Durham (Diocese of Durham)

(The Revd Canon) Rosalind Brown
Canon Librarian, Durham Cathedral (Diocese of Durham)

(The Revd Prebendery) William Scott
Diocese of London

(The Revd) Gordon Newton
Vicar of Christchurch, Staincliffe & St John the Evangelist, Carlinghow (Diocese of Leeds)

(The Revd Canon Dr) Simon Jones
Chaplain, Merton College, Oxford

(The Revd) Liam Beadle
Vicar of Honley (Diocese of Leeds)

(The Rt Revd) Alan Wilson
Bishop of Buckingham (Diocese of Oxford)

(The Revd) Edward Lewis
Vicar of St Mary, Kenton (Diocese of London), Chaplain to HM The Queen

(The Revd) Grant Naylor
Vicar, St Matthew’s, Carver Street (Diocese of Sheffield)

(The Revd) Edward Morrison
Assistant Curate, St Wilfrid, Cantley (Diocese of Sheffield)

(The Revd Canon Dr) James Francis
Diocese of Durham

(The Revd) Philippa White
Succentor of Lincoln Cathedral (Diocese of Lincoln)

(The Revd) Andrew Corsie
Director of Training and Development, Willesden Area (Diocese of London)

(The Revd) Michael Cleverley
Honorary Assistant Priest, Fewston with Blubberhouses (Diocese of Leeds)

(The Revd Dr) Johanna Kershaw
Assistant Curate, St Mary’s Todmorden (Diocese of Leeds)

(The Revd) Jonathan Bish
Assistant Curate, Halifax Minster (Diocese of Leeds)

(The Revd Dr) Adrian Furse
Succentor of St David’s Cathedral (Diocese of St David’s, Church in Wales)

(The Revd) David Darling
Retired with PTO (Diocese of London)

(The Revd) Jack Noble
Assistant Curate, St Martin’s, Ruislip (Diocese of London)

(The Revd) Simon Evans
Vicar, St Martin’s, Ruislip (Diocese of London)

(The Revd) Natasha Woodward
Vicar of Holy Innocents, Kingsbury (Diocese of London)

(The Revd Canon) Alistair Helm
Vicar of Manningham (Diocese of Leeds)

(The Revd) Simon Cutmore
Vicar of Mill End and Heronsgate with West Hyde (Diocese of St Albans)

(The Revd) Gareth Jones
Vicar of St Mary, Ilford (Diocese of Chelmsford)

(The Revd) Malcom Hendry
Honorary Curate in Training, St Paul’s Shipley (Diocese of Leeds)

(The Revd) Sam McNally-Cross
Assistant Curate, St Giles-in-Reading (Diocese of Oxford)

(The Revd Canon) Ann Turner
Area Dean of Skipton and DDO for Bradford Area (Diocese of Leeds)

(The Revd Canon Dr) Nicholas Turner
Vicar of Broughton, Marton, and Thornton-in-Craven (Diocese of Leeds)

(The Revd Canon) Richard Parker
Vicar of Hoyland, St Andrew and St Peter (Diocese of Sheffield)

(The Revd) Timothy L’Estrange
Vicar of North Acton (Diocese of London)

(The Revd Dr) Simon Cuff
Assistant Curate, Christ the Saviour, Ealing Broadway (Diocese of London)

(The Revd) Richard Mutter
Assistant Curate, Cleobury Mortimer, Hopton Wafers, Neen Sollars and Milson, Neen Savage and Kinlet and Doddington (Diocese of Hereford)

(The Revd) Robert Hart
Rector of Hemsworth (Diocese of Leeds)

(The Revd) Jeffery Stokoe

(The Revd Dr) Barry Orford
Priest in Charge, St Dunstan-in-the-West (Diocese of London)

(The Revd) Richard Watson
Associate Minister, All Saints Ilkley (Diocese of Leeds)

(The Revd) Shemil Matthew
Assistant Curate, Astwickvale Benefice (Diocese of Peterborough)

(The Revd) Ann Lynes
Assistant Curate, Barnes Team (Diocese of Southwark)

(The Revd) Mark Woodrow
Priest in Charge, Stoke-by-Nayland with Leavenheath and Polstead, and Nayland with Wissington (Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich)

(The Revd Canon) Paul Hutchins
Priest in Charge, St Luke’s, Southport (Diocese of Blackburn)

(The Revd) Jim Barlow
Diocese of Oxford

(The Revd) Alex Barrow
Assistant Curate, Great and Little Coates with Bradley (Diocese of Lincoln)

(The Revd) Jonathan Surridge
Priest in Charge, St Peter’s Highfields, St Philip’s Leicester (Diocese of Leicester)

(The Revd Dr) Geoff Dumbreck
Assistant Curate, Parish of the Ascension, Cambridge (Diocese of Ely)
Assistant Chaplain, Peterhouse, Cambridge

(The Revd Canon) Stephen Jones
Vicar of Carnforth (Diocese of Blackburn)

(The Revd) James McDonald
Assistant Curate, St Peter with St James, Brackley (Diocese of Peterborough)

(The Revd) Sandi Neale
Honorary Assistant Curate, All Saints, Little Horton (Diocese of Leeds)

(The Revd) Richard Norman
Vicar of St George, Bickley (Diocese of Rochester)

(The Revd Canon) Nicolas Spicer
Vicar of the Priory Church of Our Lady and St Cuthbert, Worksop (Diocese of Southwell and Nottingham)

(The Revd) Felix Smith
Assistant Curate, The Coplow Benefice (Diocese of Leicester)

(The Revd) Jason Rendell
Vicar of St Andrew, Kingsbury (Diocese of London)

(The Revd) John Hanks
Honorary Assistant Curate, All Saints York (Diocese of York)

(The Revd) Antony Grant
Community of the Resurrection, Mirfield (Diocese of Leeds)

(The Revd) Ian McCormack
Vicar of Grimethorpe with Brierley (Diocese of Sheffield)

(The Revd) Richard Bastable
Vicar, St Luke’s, Uxbridge Road (Diocese of London)

(The Revd) David Austin
Vicar, St Luke’s, Norwich (Diocese of Norwich)

(The Revd) Neil Knox
Assistant Curate, St Guthlac’s, Market Deeping (Diocese of Lincoln)

(The Revd) Richard Brown
Diocese of Newcastle

(The Revd) John Fry
Vicar of St Mary’s, Theydon Bois, and All Saints’, Theydon Garnon (Diocese of Chelmsford)