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A statement in response to today's Home Affairs Select Committee

A statement on behalf of the Diocese of Durham in response to today's Home Affairs Select Committee on the subject 'Asylum decision-making and conversion to Christianity'. 

“As the Bishop of Chelmsford said to today’s Select Committee, we have not seen any evidence to support the claim made by Matthew Firth that the Church of England is being used as a ‘conveyer belt’ for baptisms in order for people to gain asylum status.

“We are extremely proud of St Cuthbert’s and the work the church does to ensure asylum seekers and refugees are welcomed and supported in Darlington. The baptism records before and during Mr Firth’s time at St Cuthbert’s, and the testimony of local church members, do not accord with Mr Firth’s evidence.

“The parish records show that since 2014 a maximum of 15 out of a total of 189 people baptised at St Cuthbert’s may have been asylum seekers, 7 of whom were baptised by Mr Firth himself. In the four years prior to Mr Firth’s arrival as Priest in Charge in 2018 only six people who may have been asylum seekers were baptised.

“As Priest in Charge it was his responsibility to check the authenticity of candidates and it is surprising that, as he acknowledged to the committee, he did not report any sign of anything amiss at the time.

“Even so, it is not the Church’s responsibility to assess the veracity of asylum claims, and religion or faith is not a determinative reason for asylum.”

First published on: 12th March 2024
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