BHA: Concerns over new Archbishop’s desire for Church role in welfare services

On the day Justin Welby is officially confirmed as the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury and Primate of All England, the British Humanist Association has expressed its deep concerns about the policy direction he will set for the church of England in relation to public services.

The incoming Archbishop last week declared in a speech in Nottingham that the Church should ‘grasp the opportunity’ presented by an expanding social role to spread the Christian message. Speaking to an evangelical audience in Nottingham he said the current mood in the country offered the Church its ‘greatest moment of opportunity since the Second World War’. He suggested that the state could no longer ‘replace’ the Church in carrying out ‘works of mercy’.

He said, ‘We are educating, in my diocese, 50,000 children. In the country as a whole the Church of England alone educates a million children every day…Are we going to take the opportunities that are there for the grasping to bring people to know and love Jesus Christ?’

Chief Executive of the British Humanist Association Andrew Copson commented:

‘Many people of good-will, religious and non-religious, and many organisations with compassionate motives, are provided welfare services on a voluntary basis in these difficult times. But the schools that the Archbishop speaks of are not provided by his Church voluntarily – they are entirely funded by the public through our taxes. For him to see the running of public services as an opportunity to convert people to his religion and use public money to do that is scandalous.

‘80% of Britons are not members of the Archbishop’s church and research shows that even those who consider themselves Christian do not wish a role for the Church in areas of public policy and service delivery. Transferring previously secular public services to the Church of England and other religious bodies, which have an agenda to convert people and the legal powers to discriminate in employment and service delivery, is sectarian and short-sighted.

‘It is regrettable that the new spokesperson for that Church is now in a position to use his considerable new power and privilege – including his automatic seat in Parliament – to advance this agenda, at the expense of our secular public services and the rights of service users and public service workers.’

For further comment or information contact BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson on 07534 248596 or

The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of ethically concerned, non-religious people in the UK. It is the largest organisation in the UK campaigning for an end to religious privilege and to discrimination based on religion or belief, and for a secular state.

Pavan Dhaliwal
Head of Public Affairs, British Humanist Association
1 Gower Street, London, WC1E 6HD | 020 7079 3585