Christian leader will preach tolerance

New spokesman for Christian staff wants to 'build bridges' with other faiths - but he still backs traditional, religious assemblies. Amanda Kelly reports

LEADING the body that represents the country's Christian teachers is a far cry from a career that began by flipping burgers in McDonald's and selling insurance.

But Rupert Kaye's worldly past can only make him more accessible in his new role as general secretary of the Association of Christian Teachers.

The 36-year-old has spent the last eight years teaching in primary schools and is keen to be taken seriously as an educationist as well as a spokesman for Christians. He has a degree in African studies and an MA in primary education management, and is now working towards a doctorate in international educational leadership.

A football-loving Methodist, his views seem more moderate than his predecessor, Richard Wilkins, who steps down as the association's leader next month. While Mr Wilkins is defiant in his belief that Christian children should not be taught alongside youngsters of other faiths, Mr Kaye's rhetoric is full of references to "building bridges between communities". A period spent teaching in Oldham, a town troubled by racial violence, has further strengthened his conciliatory stance.

He is also open-minded on the issue of homosexual priests, thinks the new forward-thinking Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams is "fantastic", and enthusiastically supports the advancement of women in the church. It would, he concedes, be awkward if he did not since his wife Lucille is a Methodist minister.

"My chief concern is to talk up education and the significance of children in society," he said.

"I am willing to work alongside people of any faith or no faith, but I will obviously be doing this from a Christian perspective. The important thing is that educationists from all faiths come together in dialogue."

Tolerant he may be, but he is certainly not reserved about his faith. Among a list of top priorities for his new role are "sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with all who work in education" and "transforming education and society's attitudes towards teaching and learning by asserting Christian principles".

Not surprisingly, he is adamant that collective worship should continue to play a prominent role in school life, and sees no contradiction between including children of other faiths and his belief that assemblies should have a strong Christian emphasis.

Equally important to him is that children are taught the biblical account of the creation of the world, alongside other theories. "Teaching Darwin's theory of evolution as though it were gospel is doing children a major disservice," he said. "Many scientists who are not Christians have their doubts about it, let alone those who are."

Above all, Mr Kaye's mission is to encourage many more Christians into schools, and not just as RE teachers.

He said: "I welcome the Dearing review's call for more faith schools but my chief concern is to make sure we have enough talented Christian teachers to teach in them.

"If I can encourage more than a handful of Christians to wake up to the fact that God may be calling them into the classroom then I will feel like I have done my job."

Log in or register for FREE to continue reading.

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you