After a Christian Chaplain fought back against threats of “retraining” and “consequences,” a U.K.-based charity offered an “unreservedly” apology. He refused to stop wearing a small half-inch-wide gold cross pin.
Derek Timms (a former businessman of 73 years who became a Chaplain) received an apology from the Solihull branch of Marie Curie in England. This charitable organization provides support and care for terminal patients and their families according to the Christian Legal Centre (CLC) in London.
The Solihull branch made changes to its job titles to “spiritual advisers” in a new approach to interfaith. In September, the Methodist minister responsible raised Timms’ small cross pin as an issue. According to the CLC which represented Timms.
According to reports, the minister told Timms that she was surprised that he would wear cross-colored clothing and suggested that he stop it in order not to offend anyone or create potential barriers.
Timms sent an email explaining that no religious symbols should ever be worn by anyone involved in spiritual care. We must be open to all faiths. While I recognized that you shared a story about a patient who liked the cross you wore and it could be a barrier for others, It is important to be neutral so that spiritual encounters can take place that is about the needs of the person we are visiting.
According to the CLC, Timms wears a cross as a symbol of Christian faith and also in memory of his wife who died earlier this year. A discreet cross necklace with some of her ashes is also worn by Timms.
Timms replied to the email, stating that his cross pin signifies he is a Christian Chaplain. He also wondered if the charity would ask a Sikh or Muslim to stop wearing a Burka.
He replied, “My faith helps to me help patients and staff regardless of their faith.”
Timms was summoned to a meeting with the Methodist minister on Sept. 20, to determine “if you’re suitable to continue providing spiritual support for us here.” He was persistent in his assertions that he had not done anything wrong, illegal, or in violation of the charity’s policies. However, he was told that he may need to be re-trained because he refused to comply.
Timms declined a “compromise” that would have him conceal his cross pin in a pocket if he was with a Christian patient. He was then informed that he would not be able to work at Marie Curie if Timms continued to ignore the Methodist minister’s request.
Timms wrote Marie Curie later, with the help of the CLC. He explained how his controversy over the cross pin had caused him to have “a crisis in conscience” and that he believes he has legitimate reasons to wear it.
He wrote that he had searched the Marie Curie Solihull website as well as the policy documents and the NHS website for information. “I cannot find any written policy prohibiting the wearing of crosses in my particular situation.”
Timms’ letter reached Marie Curie’s regional headquarters, which replied: “I can verify that we currently have neither a [organizational] nor uniform policy that would support our recent request to remove the cross while supporting patients & families in Hospice. I [apologize] for any distress caused by our actions.
Timms expressed gratitude for the apology but has since decided that his work as Chaplain “now lies elsewhere.”
He said that he was “shocked and hurt” by the treatment he received. “There was no need to suppress the symbol of the cross and send a message to chaplaincy front-line service that the Christian faith must be [neutralized]/removed entirely.
He said, “Interfaith ideology has become so firmly embedded throughout Christianity that it is essentially [canceling]” himself.
Andrea Williams, CLC’s executive director, stated that Timms showed great courage in refusing to succumb to the pressure to remove the things that mattered to him.
An employment tribunal judge in the U.K. ruled in Mary Onuoha’s favor. Mary Onuoha is a Christian nurse who claimed she was forced to resign from her job at Croydon Health Services NHS Trust after years of being harassed for her cross necklace.
The judge ruled that she had violated her human rights and that her treatment of her cross necklace had created a “humiliating hostile and threatening environment.”
Onuoha was born in Nigeria, and she worked at Croydon University Hospital for almost 20 years, after having immigrated to the U.K. from Nigeria in 1988.
Onuoha was also offered a compromise by Timms to hide her cross necklace, but she declined.