C of E Education Officer scorned for views on school worship

C of E Education Officer scorned for views on school worship August 4, 2019
Image via YouTube

Rev Nigel Genders, above, the Church of England’s Chief Education Officer, thinks collective worship offers children a period to pause and reflect on the ‘big questions’ such as ‘Why am I here?’ and ‘How then should I live?’

In a recent letter to the Guardian, he also insisted that school worship wasn’t “indoctrination” and that:

There is much evidence of the value of collective worship to children and young people, which is why thousands of community schools also have strong partnerships with local churches and faith groups. What happens in schools must be evidence-based and should not be in response to secular pressure group campaigns.

Image via YouTube

Stephen Evans
, above, Chief Executive of the National Secular Society, lost no time is slapping Genders down, saying:

The Church of England’s attempt to defend collective worship (Letters, 31 July) should be recognised as a self-serving effort to uphold Christian privilege. Nigel Genders says worship offers children time to pause in their busy days. But secular, ethical assemblies provide a more meaningful opportunity for reflection than exclusive Christian assemblies do – and genuinely include children of all religious backgrounds and none.

The C of E also dismisses claims that its assemblies represent religious indoctrination. But the church is clear that its taxpayer-funded schools provide an opportunity to try to reverse the long-term decline in its attendance numbers. And what are assemblies built around enforced prayer and re-enactments of Bible stories if they are not attempts to teach children to be Christians? Laws that require schools to hold acts of worship are indefensible and should be abolished.

Evans was not the only person to take issue with Gender. Rev Stephen Terry
, Chair of the Accord Coalition for Inclusive Education, wrote:

Nigel Genders appears to confuse his terms. If a ‘collective’ act of worship is offered in an ‘authentic’ Christian way, how can it be truly inclusive of all the faiths (and none) represented in any school community? I have often over the years had to try to repair the damage done to children and families by over-evangelistic collective worship, which sought not to examine the ‘big questions’, but crudely to make disciples for Jesus.

In a society that is increasingly culturally diverse, it is surely time for the 75-year-old collective worship requirement to be rigorously and urgently reviewed to reflect the way in which our national understanding on matters of faith has developed since 1944.

And Paul Hall, of Hatfield, Hertfordshire, said:

How very ironic that Rev Genders should claim that ‘what happens in schools must be evidence-based’. And where is the evidence for the extraordinary claims made by the Church of England? Where is the evidence for the fact that one lives after one dies? Of course, if they are asked for evidence to support their extraordinary beliefs, religionists claim that faith supplants the need for evidence. So why does Mr Genders speak about the need for evidence? He cannot have it both ways.

The furore sparked by Genders coincides with reports that a couple who believe their children are being indoctrinated in school Christian assemblies will launch a High Court challenge in a bid to make education more “inclusive”.

LBC Radio says that Lee and Lizanne Harris will claim in an autumn judicial review claim that Burford primary school in Oxfordshire, run by the Church of England, compelled their children take part in Christian prayers and watch re-enactments of Bible stories, including the crucifixion.

The couple want the school to cater for non-believers.

According to the parents, when they withdrew their children from the assemblies the school refused to provide a meaningful alternative of equal educational worth. Instead the school put the children in a room with an iPad, supervised by a teaching assistant.

Humanists UK, which is supporting the parents, said they believed their legal action is the first legal challenge on collective worship to reach the High Court.

In a statement the parents said:

We enrolled our children into a state community school – which is meant to have no religious character – but over time we noticed harmful aspects of evangelism spreading into assembly and other parts of the school which goes against our children’s rights to receive an education free from religious interference.

When our children go to school they shouldn’t have to participate in Christian prayers, or watch biblical scenes such as the crucifixion being acted out, nor should they have to hear from evangelical preachers who spout harmful and often divisive messages.

The Oxford Diocesan Schools Trust that Burford primary school is part of said:

Collective worship, which is a statutory requirement in all church and community schools, is aimed at encouraging pupils to develop a sense of mystery, awe and wonder about the world.

The Trust said it was:

Confident that Burford primary school, as a community school, has acted entirely appropriately, and has followed all statutory requirements.

With regard to this report, one of LBC’s presenters – James O’Brien  – put a vicar from Stevenage in an uncomfortable position by asking whether he could think of any other context in which he’d be teaching an eight-year-old about nailing people to crosses until they’re dead.

The vicar struggled to answer but then said:

We teach eight-year-olds all sorts of gore, look at Halloween, kids walking around with axes.

O’Brien replied that Halloween is “fantasy” and said:

You teach kids this [the crucifixion] is real.

The vicar defended teaching children the story of the crucifixion by saying:

James, it’s eight-year-olds, you don’t dwell on the horror … God loved the world so much that he gave his Son who died on the cross, you don’t need to go into the detail.

When O’Brien asked, “Why did he die?’ the vicar replied:

That’s a big theological question you haven’t got time for.

O’Brien answered:

That’s a cop out from the cleric.

Hat tip: BarrieJohn (LBC reports)

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  • Jim Jones

    There is much no evidence [whatsoever] of the value of collective worship to children and young people.

    > Instead the school put the children in a room with an iPad, supervised by a teaching assistant.

    I’d volunteer for that job. And give the kids a comprehensive course on skepticism.

    (What the *@&#! tripped off the censor here????)

  • Barry Duke

    Jim your “restricted word” was … wait for it … (eye) Pad. I despair!

  • Jim Jones


  • Jennny

    ‘The CofE dismisses claims that its assemblies represent religious indoctrination. But the church is clear that its tax-funded schools provide an opportunity to reverse long term decline.’
    I was immersed in this set-up for years. All CofE schools have the parish priest as chairman of governors and each priest goes in to take assemblies regularly and he/she can publicise church events and do as much indoctrinating as they wish. Added to that, church schools are often sought after by parents, believing they are better than ordinary heathen ones. So to stand a chance of getting your children into them. you have to agree to attending church. One I go to when I visit a relative, has a register at the back for parents to sign in to prove they’ve attended once a month. I wonder if some cheat and sign in for friends…the services are pretty boring. But the vicar can boast that his church has ‘vibrant all-age worship’ though I think the atmosphere’s terrible, bored figetty parents sneaking a look at their watches…and once their children reach high school age, they are never seen again.
    I was part of a team that supported the vicar in my local CofE school, taking assemblies, doing the acting out of bible stories and I went on a course to learn ‘Godly Play’, a new way of teaching RE which I then did. The school had a much-dreaded OFSTED inspection….but their report praised the strong links with the church and the religious teaching…and my being wheeled out to tell a Godly Play story was remarked on as an excellent example of church/school partnership. But for all that…the CofE continues to die on its feet.

  • Freethinker
  • Cozmo the Magician

    test.. remmington
    yeah, didn’t &#8203fucking think so.

  • Cozmo the Magician

    And &#8203yet &#8203EVEN &#8203MORE &#8203proof &#8203that &#8203the &#8203claim &#8203the &#8203censorbot &#8203was &#8203brought &#8203about &#8203to &#8203make &#8203patheos &#8203more &#8203’advertiser &#8203friendly’ &#8203is &#8203one &#8203hundred &#8203percent &#8203pure &#8203fucking &#8203bullshit. &#8203 &#8203You &#8203are &#8203going &#8203to &#8203attract &#8203advertisers &#8203by &#8203BANNING &#8203THE &#8203NAME &#8203of &#8203product? &#8203 &#8203

    No, &#8203but &#8203many &#8203fundies &#8203think &#8203that &#8203Apple &#8203and &#8203Steve &#8203Jobs &#8203are &#8203tools &#8203of &#8203’SATAN’ &#8203so &#8203they &#8203will &#8203happily &#8203ban &#8203iPod. &#8203I’ll &#8203bet &#8203Remmington &#8203aint &#8203on &#8203the &#8203list &#8203even &#8203though &#8203we &#8203all &#8203know &#8203PEOPLE &#8203WERE &#8203FUCKING &#8203SHOT &#8203AND &#8203KILLED &#8203this &#8203weekend.

    But &#8203for &#8203fucks &#8203sake. &#8203 &#8203Lets &#8203make &#8203sure &#8203people &#8203don’t &#8203get &#8203exposed &#8203to &#8203a &#8203god &#8203damned &#8203iPOD.

  • Matt G

    I almost feel sorry for these clowns having their absurd arguments so savagely trashed. I said almost….

  • mordred

    The gun is good, the is evil?

  • Badjumbly

    The C of E’s Chief Education Officer thinks collective worship offers children a period to pause and reflect on the ‘big questions’ such as ‘Why am I here?’.

    Yes, we must hope they’re asking that one.

    I love the way they’re trying to repackage worship as pausing and reflection. I did often use school assemblies for private reflection, but only by pausing my public worship.

  • rubaxter

    Just another parasite defending its host.

    An otherwise UNEMPLOYABLE parasite, that is. He needs to be training to man the soup kitchens when BoJo finally ‘frees’ the UK from the Continent. Remember, too, that Jim Bakker/Duh-Nald Industries ‘Slop-Inna-Bucket’ ain’t gonna be cheap when you’re over a barrel, and everyone knows it.

  • Anri

    As always, the test for Christian privilege is to see if folks are just as happy if it’s a less popular religion.
    We’re told about the huge value of collective worship in schools. So, kids, get out your prayer blankets and get down on your knees and let’s see what the fallout is…

  • barriejohn

    You took the words right out of my mouth.

    “Why am I here?” indeed!

  • barriejohn

    I taught in a large rural comprehensive, and the three local ministers (CofE, Catholic, and Methodist) were ex officio members of the board of governors. All appointed teachers, and each took it in turn to troop in on a Friday morning in an attempt to bore the kids to death with a trendy little homily (Plays “All You Need is Love” on Dansette record player. “The Beatles are singing about love; Jesus spoke about love…”. Give me strength – couldn’t see that one coming!). Also, the entire school was marched down to the parish church at Christmas for a Carol Festival (sermon from the vicar, not the headmaster). No one seemed to see anything wrong with all of this.

  • Robert McLean

    Why worship? What’s the preferred Sky fairy done of late that deserves worship? Did it save or even stop the big burning church building in Paris? How about all the very many Jesus lovin’ worshipers mowed down, while worshiping said fairy in Sri Lanka? Then there’s the near 20,000 vulnerable children that starved to death yesterday. If a deity wants it’s gullible sycophants to worship it, it may be best it does something that deserves being worshiped for, first. Won’t be holding my breath in anticipation.

  • Bubblecar

    Someone ought to explain to this bozo that “worship” means the opposite of “questioning”. It means blind adoration, and in this case the poor kids are expected to blindly adore the imaginary object of deluded adult fixation.

  • Zetopan

    “Why am I here?”

    I am “here” to defend against the irrationality of religion and other superstitions. Odd that the CoE doesn’t promote that view?