Anglican bishops spar with Prime Minister David Cameron over refugees

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Members of the clergy enter York Minster before a service to consecrate Reverend Libby Lane as the first female bishop in the Church of England, in York, northern England on January 26, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Phil Noble
*Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-GREER-COMMENTARY, originally transmitted on March 25, 2015.

Members of the clergy enter York Minster before a service to consecrate Reverend Libby Lane as the first female bishop in the Church of England, in York, northern England on January 26, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Phil Noble *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-GREER-COMMENTARY, originally transmitted on March 25, 2015.

CANTERBURY, England (RNS) A row has erupted between the bishops of the Church of England and the British prime minister over his handling of the refugee crisis.

In a letter published in The Guardian (Oct. 17) 84 bishops claim David Cameron is ignoring their efforts to take in more refugees fleeing the Middle East.

The bishops released the private letter they sent to Cameron last month after the prime minister’s office failed to reply.

In it they called on the prime minister to increase the number of refugees that Britain is prepared to take in over the next five years — the expected lifespan of the parliament.

Specifically, church leaders called on the prime minister to absorb an additional 30,000 refugees, far beyond the 20,000 Cameron had committed to, and to consider involving the church in a national effort to “mobilize the nation as in times past.”

David Walker, Bishop of Manchester, told the BBC on Oct. 18 that the figure of 50,000 was acceptable to his parishioners and was, he said, “sustainable” on a national basis.

Paul Butler, Bishop of Durham, issued a statement making clear that the bishops’ patience is now exhausted.

He described the British government’s response as “increasingly inadequate” and complained that Cameron had failed, over more than five weeks, to respond to their suggestions.

The statement said: “There is an urgent and compelling moral duty to act, which we as bishops are offering to facilitate alongside others from across civil society.”

The row between the bishops and the prime minister explodes as the refugee crisis continues to escalate with many Christians here saying they are ready to open their homes to incoming Syrians and others fleeing conflict in the Middle East.

YS/LEM END GRUNDY