Sacked vicar says many of clergy doubt God exists

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The Independent Online
MANY Church of England clergymen do not believe in God, according to the vicar who was sacked for admitting he had doubts, writes Glenda Cooper.

In an interview on BBC television tonight, the Rev Anthony Freeman says: 'A substantial number (of priests and vicars) share my views. A lot of priests would like to be able to say things they're a bit afraid of, and what's happened to me is not going to encourage them.'

Talking on Here and Now, he says he cannot complain about his treatment by the Church: 'If you take on the system, the system is going to fight back . . . But I do think it's sad that the Church hasn't felt enough confidence in itself to be able to say, 'Stay in there, explore your ideas . . . we won't push you out, we will still keep you in the fold'.'

Mr Freeman, formerly priest in charge of St Mark's Staplefield, in West Sussex, likened himself to the 'little boy who said the emperor had no clothes', and said he feared there would be a witchhunt of priests who did not subscribe to conventional views.

Talking about his own beliefs, he said he believed that God 'was found in our own hearts and minds', adding 'and if you ask where you find the love of God, then you find it in the love and care of human beings'.

When the interviewer, Wendy Robbins, asked him whether, if everyone were wiped out by a nuclear bomb, it would mean that God would also die, Mr Freeman replied: 'I think it would, yes.'

Mr Freeman said he was now looking for a new job: 'I have been down to the job centre already and had my interview. I shall try to find work in the field of education.

'I'm not homeless - the Bishop has generously said I can stay in the house for as long as I need to,' he added.

Here and Now, BBC 1, 7.30pm.

Bryan Appleyard, page 15