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by Sophie Gilliat,James A. Beckford

This is the first in-depth study of relations between the Anglican Church and other faiths in the Prison Service Chaplaincy. It examines the increasingly controversial role of Anglican chaplains in facilitating the religious and pastoral care of the increasing population of prisoners from non-Christian backgrounds. Drawing useful contrasts with the situation in the United States, it shows how the struggle for equal opportunities in a multi-faith society is politicizing relations among the Church, the state and religious minorities in England.
Download Religion in Prison: 'Equal Rites' in a Multi-Faith Society epub
ISBN: 0521021537
ISBN13: 978-0521021531
Category: Religion
Subcategory: Religious Studies
Author: Sophie Gilliat,James A. Beckford
Language: English
Publisher: Cambridge University Press (October 20, 2005)
Pages: 248 pages
ePUB size: 1186 kb
FB2 size: 1819 kb
Rating: 4.5
Votes: 388
Other Formats: txt docx mobi lit

The authors are sociologists with theological insight. To my mind, as a theologian, this is the strength of the book. Beckford and Gilliat present a clear understanding of muti-faith and multicultural as terms which define their area of investigation within the context of the United Kingdom. But their inquiry is very useful to prison chaplaincy services outside the U.K. as well as to government ministries of health and social services. To my mind, it is significant that the authors discuss religious activity in terms of "religious and pastoral care" throughout the book except in Chapter 7, Prison Chaplaincy in the United States, where they discuss "religious and spiritual care." The introduction of a "spiritual" notion seems to be a North American phenomenon. Within an historical perspective the authors remind us of the unique Christian contribution to role of chaplaincy in a prison setting. They suggest, however, that future models of governance will need to take into account an increasingly multi-faith and multicultural context in setting terms of reference for religious and spiritual care in prisons. I would make the same argument for all government regulated health facilities. Their last chapter, Conclusion: State, Church and Diversity, they make the interesting observation that non-Christian religious leaders appreciate the efforts made by the established Church of England on their behalf. They write that "the evidence from our study shows that leading representatives of some faith traditions would like the opportunity to speak for themselves and to be heard in the corridors of power without wishing to appear ungrateful for all offers of Anglican support or mediation. For the same reason it may be true that members of other faith communities prefer to live in a country where at least one religious organisation is established in law, even if it does not represent their particular faith, rather than to be citizens of a secular state" (p. 218). In a loosely parallel context Bradley, in his book, "God Save the Queen: The Spiritual Dimensions of the Monarchy", has noted a similar attitude. "It is interesting that just as some of the most enthusiastic proponents of church establishment are to be found among the non-Christian faith the supreme governorship has found some of its most fervent defenders among non-Anglicans..." (Bradley, Ian. 2002:177).
As its jacket describes, this book is "the first examination of relations between the Church of England and other faiths in the Prison Service Chaplaincy." Basically, the book describes how prisoners of non-Christian backgrounds (which is a growing group) are dependent upon "Anglican 'brokering' of their access to the prison chaplaincy." The book is fairly well-referenced, draws on a wealth of new data, and adds political insight to the issues. I was disappointed with the book b/c I did not know when I purchased it that it was almost solely focused on the correctional system in the U.K. Moreover, I was disappointed with the single chapter on prison chaplaincy in the U.S. The chapter was largely based on Federal Bureau of Prisons documents describing the intended structure and functioning of chaplaincy programs in federal and state prisons along with some anecdotal information (interviews with a few federal and state prison chaplains). Less than a handful of studies were cited.
At any rate, for British ministers or other individuals interested in religious practice and service in the U.K. prison system, this is a thoughtful and sometimes controversial treatment of the subject.