Methodist Trainee Ministers from USA Blocked Entry into Britain

Fourteen trainee Methodist ministers from the USA have been blocked from entering Britain by the Home Office.

Published 03 June 2006  |  
Fourteen trainee Methodist ministers from the USA have been blocked from entering Britain by the Home Office. The trainees were planning to visit for a year to take part in a work experience scheme, however, despite similar groups having come into the country previously under the same scheme, this time the trainees were denied entry, report the Church Times newspaper.

|TOP|The block came apparently following legislation passed in 1994, which ruled that religious workers requesting permission to enter Britain must prove that they are suitably qualified to perform the religious office that they are entering Britain to take up.

In particular, the rule states that they have to have worked for at least one year as a minister of religion. However, Methodist ministers are not ordained until they have served at least two years in a circuit, which is equivalent of a parish.

Since this legislation was brought in, approximately 100 probationers have been allowed into Britain, Church Times reported.

Earlier this week, a Home Office spokesman would only confirm that the Immigration and Nationality Directorate had received a correspondence which underlined immigration provisions for trainee Methodist ministers.

|AD|The spokesman stated, “We can't comment on individual cases, or why in the past they have been allowed to come. The rules surrounding ministers of religion are about to change, and we are in the process of replacing this requirement following consultation with faith communities." He confirmed that the decision had nothing to do with new anti-terror laws,” according to the Church Times.

In response to the development, a spokesman from the Methodist Church, Toby Scott said, “We have a difference of opinion with the Home Office on what constitutes a minister of religion. In Methodism, ordination comes as a confirmation of what already exists, not a next step into status as a minister. The regulations were introduced a while ago, and for a while evidently no one noticed and made a fuss.”

The trainees were due to work and act as full ministers in the year they were scheduled to spend in Britain, and are usually sent to the place they are needed the most.

Scott added, “They're not just shadowing or helping out, and their absence does cause us a problem. But we're in ongoing talks with the Home Office, and I'm sure it will be resolved eventually.”

In conclusion the Methodist spokesman said, “We're not accusing them of being intransigent or unfair, and certainly not accusing them of being politically correct in this - but it's a snag and a disappointment for the probationers and the circuits.”

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