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Rev Yvonne Clarke considers appeal to the Privy Council following “devastating” Church Commissioners decision

Church Commissioners’ Mission, Pastoral and Church Property committee has confirmed their decision to close Rev Clarke's parish.

Posted on 29 September 2021

Reverend Yvonne Clarke, the first black female deacon in the Church of England and among the first women to be priested, is considering an appeal to the Privy Council following the decision by the Church Commissioners’ Mission, Pastoral and Church Property committee to close her parish.  


The decision means she will lose her home, as well as her job, in the parish of All Saints, Spring Park. The result of cost-cutting proposals by the Diocese of Southwark will dissolve her parish and divide it between the parishes of St George, Shirley, and St John, Shirley.
 
In the Church Commissioners decision, they stated that they were satisfied that the Diocese had followed the correct consultation process and that the parish is not financially viable in its current form. The commission also acknowledged the “lived experience of racism by Rev Clarke in the parish and other contexts” but said that there was no evidence to show that the proposals had been brought forward for an “improper purpose”.
 
Rev Clarke was represented by solicitor Frances Swaine of law firm Leigh Day in her hearing on 7 September 2021. Ms Swaine told the hearing:
 
“However uncomfortable, it is important to address the question of racism in the Church of England and in particular, the Southwark Diocese. If that racism is felt by those who received it, then it occurred. For black worshippers there is special joy in going and worshipping where there is a black minister. If the boundaries were reorganised there would be an inevitable black flight.”
 
Rev Clarke said following the decision:
 
“I am truly devastated by the decision of the commission, which I believe to be wrong, and I am now in discussions with my legal team and supporters to consider an appeal to the Privy Council.”
 
Frances Swaine, solicitor at law firm Leigh Day added: 
 
“We are very surprised by the decision of the Church Commissioners, especially in their dismissal of the plans for outside investment in developing the run down parish buildings, saving the Church many thousands of pounds.  We are now reviewing the whole decision and will be considering an appeal to the Privy Council.”

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Frances was the firm's first managing partner and a partner in the regulatory & disciplinary team and human rights department