Parish councils might have avoided the worst excesses of GDPR but the Church of England might soon be forced to pray for forgiveness after vicars have criticised the new law for preventing them from naming sick parishioners without their consent.
Although church leaders have been told they can exercise their own “pastoral judgement”, they have been warned against publishing prayer requests for the sick on websites and newsletters without getting permission as it would potentially be in breach of the regulation.
This week Marcus Walker, the rector of Great St Bartholomew in central London, tweeted: “We’ve been told we can’t pray for anyone who hasn’t given their personal consent, which is just ridiculous.”
However, a spokesman for the Diocese of London told The Daily Telegraph: “There is no obstacle, under the GDPR, to spoken prayers in church. As the national guidelines say, where personal data (such as information about health) is going to be recorded and published, such as on a church website or in a newsletter, it is good practice to ask the person concerned whether they’re happy for that to happen.
“In sensitive situations in which somebody is highly likely to be unhappy about having their name and/or other information shared, we do warmly advise seeking their agreement, and refraining from sharing their information in print where consent can’t be obtained.”
On hearing the advice, Walker went back to Twitter to express his relief, saying: “Very glad to have had clear guidance from the @dioceseoflondon that our practice of publicly praying for those who have been added to our prayer board can continue. Common sense and pastoral sensitivity are the governing principles’ – and so they should be!”
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