Sorrow over Kent council's decision to axe chaplain role

The outgoing chaplain Rev Colin Johnson will not be replaced.

Decades of tradition is coming to an end at Swale borough council in Kent after the decision was made not to re-appoint a new civic chaplain.

Swale council has had a chaplain for the last 50 years but with the departure of the current postholder, the Rev Colin Johnson, the new Mayor has decided not to hire a replacement. 

The end of the chaplaincy means that prayers will no longer be said at the start of council meetings. 

Swale Mayor, Cllr Paul Stephen, argued that the role of chaplain was not in keeping with the council's equality and diversity policy. 

"Following last year's elections the coalition passed an equality and diversity motion and as Mayor I have the option to employ the services of a chaplain to say prayers at full council meetings," he said, according KentOnline

"As we live in a multi-faith society, myself and a large majority of the coalition decided that employing the services of just one faith was not in-keeping with the equality and diversity motion.

"As I said in my speech at the annual council meeting earlier this year, I will happily attend services of any faith during my time as mayor."

One council insider told the website the general view at the council was that "religion and politics don't mix". 

Rev Johnson said he would be taking up the council's decision with the new Bishop of Dover, the Rt Rev Rose Hudson-Wilkin, who was formerly chaplain to the Speaker of the House in Westminster. 

Local priest, the Rev Cindy Kent, said she was saddened by the Mayor's decision. 

"The new mayor will need as much help as he can get from as many different sources as possible," she told Kent Online.