Word of God need no longer be English

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The Independent Online
CHURCH OF ENGLAND worship will no longer have to be conducted in English if the congregation has a different mother tongue. In Leicester, for example, services may be said or sung in Urdu. Deaf congregations may be silent.

The amendment to church law is likely to be approved at the General Synod's meeting in London next month.

Services for the deaf are at present spoken as well as delivered in sign language on the theological grounds that the word of God is the spoken word. A change to the law would be a recognition that the "spoken word" can be in sign language.

A spokesman for the Church of England said yesterday: "We have a remarkably broad congregation, which includes not only those whose major means of communication is sign language, but also ethnic minority communities whose first language is not English."

The General Synod will also be asked to vote on whether statistics on the ethnic origin of the Church's members should be gathered when the electoral rolls are renewed in 2002.

A survey in 1996 indicated that there were 27,000 minority ethnic Anglicans in the Church of England, but many had not registered on electoral rolls, a prerequisite for sitting on elected church bodies.

Vasantha Gnanadoss, a lay member of Synod from the diocese of Southwark, London, will propose that Synod "recognise the advantages of showing that the Church of England is a multi-ethnic church with multi-ethnic leadership at all levels". Miss Gnanadoss, a Metropolitan Police executive officer, said yesterday: "There is no encouragement for minority ethnic groups to take part in the church structures."

In response to the Stephen Lawrence inquiry, the Church is trying to raise ethnic minority representation at all levels.