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Archbishop accused of discrimination

PUBLISHED: 13:09 05 July 2001 | UPDATED: 10:18 03 March 2010

AN Ipswich minister has accused the Archbishop of Canterbury of religious discrimination after a member of his congregation was refused a place on a university masters degree course because of his faith.

AN Ipswich minister has accused the Archbishop of Canterbury of religious discrimination after a member of his congregation was refused a place on a university masters degree course because of his faith.

Reverend Clifford Reed, minister at the Unitarian Meeting House in Ipswich, hit out after Reverend Andrew Brown was told he could not take the Lambeth MA in theology because he was a Unitarian.

Mr Brown, who lived in Monks Eleigh before going into the ministry and taking up a position as a minister for Cambridge and Bury St Edmunds, was told that the award was only open to members of the mainstream Churches Together in Britain and Ireland.

"It's as if a university is saying we won't accept you on the basis of your religion," said Mr Reed. "It amounts to discrimination."

The Lambeth MA is an academic qualification of similar standing to masters qualifications awarded by universities.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, has degree awarding powers but the course is not confined to Anglicans and application literature makes no mention of the Unitarian exclusion. Candidates must hold a degree in theology or a related subject at least at 2:1 level and they are selected by a committee of academics and clerics. They are assigned an academic supervisor for up to five years while they complete a 50,000 word thesis in their spare time while holding down their everyday job.

In a letter explaining Mr Brown's exclusion the secretary to the archbishop's MA scheme, Canon Martin Kitchen, said that it was felt inappropriate to ask the archbishop to use his powers in contexts where candidates are not broadly in agreement with his theological position.

Mr Brown, a former chart-topping musician who recorded with Steve Harley of Cockney Rebel, said he was outraged by the decision.

"The issue that we are all concerned about is that when it comes to matters of academic study education must be open to all regardless of race, gender, creed or religion." he said.

"That's what we have been fighting for for centuries. If the CoE is sanctioning discrimination like this surely it allows other groups to do likewise. It's outrageous they are going back to what is essential a medieval practise."

Mr Brown gained a first class honours degree from Oxford University and furnished his application with two important academic references. He also had two experienced supervisors prepared to support him through the course of study.

"There were no grounds to exclude me at least until the point of interview," he added.

Unitarians have long been at odds with the CoE because they reject the doctrine of the Trinity. They are excluded from the Churches Together in Britain and Ireland group, basing their belief on individual liberty and the use of reason in religion.

Mr Kitchen said that he and the Lambeth MA committee regretted the decision it "had to take". He accepted that the church made a mistake in failing to make the exclusion of Unitarians clear on application literature – but he said that the church limited enrolments to avoid competition with universities.

WEBLINKS www.unitarian.org.uk

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