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Senior Church official: Christianity being 'silenced' in public sector

Mon 04 Jan 2016
By Antony Bushfield

Civil servants are too scared to reveal their faith in case they are seen as being biased, a senior Church of England official has warned.

William Nye, the General Synod's new General Secretary, said Christianity was being subtly silenced in the public sector and talking about faith was 'not the done thing'.

Mr Nye, who was a civil servant for two decades before taking up his new post, warned there was a 'secularising spirit' taking over in Whitehall and other public services.

In an interview with the Daily Telegraph he said: "I think there has been, in the 20 years I was in the public sector, a sort of squeezing out of Christianity from many aspects of the public sector.

"[It is] not universal, obviously there are chaplains in hospitals, there are chaplains in prisons, and I don't think it is ministers doing it deliberately."

He said he had been asked to suggest a candidate from within the civil service to take a post at the Church.

"I had to say 'you know I'm not sure I would be able to think of many people because, why would I know about anyone in government who is a Christian unless they are a personal friend?'

"Personal friends might have revealed to me that they are Christians but other people in government, central government departments, wouldn't do that.

"They wouldn't let it be known that they were Christians."

He added: "I think people who aren't in the public sector don't realise quite how that secularising spirit has led to the silencing of Christians in a way that isn't actually, I think, what people nationally want, or people are necessarily aware of.

"There is a lot of support, I think, for the Church of England doing its job as the Queen said 'gently and assuredly' - for the quiet work of the Church of England.

"But quiet work shouldn't mean silent."

He added that discussing faith was "not really the 'done thing'".

"You know: does it imply that you've somehow got some sort of axe to grind or it's something odd and unusual?

"Of course, actually, in practice everybody, all my former colleagues in the civil service, all bring their own perspectives and their own personal beliefs to bear.

"They all, I genuinely believe, try to be neutral and objective but they all bring their beliefs to bear and so do Christians but Christians sort of feel [it is better] not to say about it.

"It is now a joy for me to be in a place where, although having spent 20 years not talking about my faith …...can talk more openly about it."

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