UK Border Agency obstructs the path of overseas clergy
This is a guest post by the Rev’d Julian Mann:
The Lord alone knows how many foreign nationals are resident in the United Kingdom unbeknown to the UK Border Agency. He also knows how many of them are vicious criminals and how many are plotting harm against our country.
But the UKBA is well aware of the enormous bureaucratic hurdles in the way of bringing overseas clergy to this country as reverse missionaries.
One Church of England diocese seeking to act as a sponsor for overseas clergy under the Tier 5 Temporary Religious Worker category has been told that its application is going to take at least six months.
Sponsorship by Anglican dioceses allows individual parish churches to bring clergy from Anglican Communion countries to do Christian outreach in their local communities. Clergy from Africa, for example, where the Anglican Church is growing at a phenomenal rate, have so much to give to the spiritual and moral life of our country.
Educationally, they can be invited to give talks in schools not only about Christianity but also about the socio-political situation in their countries.
The UK needs all the help it can get in encouraging positive spiritual and moral values. Anglican clergy from the Two Thirds' World feel an enormous debt to Britain because our missionaries first brought the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ to their peoples. They want to return the favour.
It is iniquitous that these applications on behalf of people who want to bless our country, not curse it, are not being expedited. Reportedly, there are concerns that these clergy will not leave the UK once their two-year residency expires.
Is it anti-Christian political correctness that prevents the UKBA from accepting the word of honour of a Church of England bishop that overseas clergy in his diocese will return home when they are supposed to?
In a sane world of ordered border controls, the chances of an overseas clergyperson doing a runner would be perceived as decidedly slim. Such slim chances are certainly no grounds for bureaucratic obstructiveness penalising the law abiding and honourable.
Former British soldier Mr Adam Holloway, the outstanding Conservative MP for Gravesham, whose late father was in holy orders, has raised this extraordinary situation over diocesan sponsorship of overseas clergy with the Immigration Minister.
God willing, the moral disorder in the way of these applications will be sorted out by the temporal powers whom He has charged to foster virtue and restrain wickedness and vice, rather than the reverse.
Julian Mann is vicar Parish Church of the Ascension, Oughtibridge, South Yorkshire.