Reach out to Muslims …by growing a beard, bishop tells the clergy
CLERGYMEN should grow beards to emphasise their holiness to Muslims, the Bishop of London has suggested.
He said the modern fashion for facial hair should not be the preserve of hispters, but would also be likely to impress those from eastern cultures where wearing a beard could mark a man out as holy.
The Right Reverend Richard Chartres is one of the Church of england’s most senior figures, and has had a ‘modest’ beard of his own for almost 40 years.
He said two east end clerics had grown beards to fit in with local Muslims.
Writing in the Church Times, he added: ‘Two of the most energetic priests in east London have recently grown beards of an opulence that would not have disgraced a Victorian sage.
‘The two priests work in parishes in Tower Hamlets. Most of the residents are Bangladeshi-Sylheti for whom the wearing of a beard is one of the marks of a holy man. This view is shared among many eastern cultures.’
Bishop Chartres, who is number three in the hierarchy of the Church of england, said Western churches had often disapproved of beards. In fact, at one stage in the late Middle Ages, archdeacons had to shave priests who grew facial hair – by force if necessary.
But he said Lord Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury who stood down from Lambeth Palace in 2012, had ‘recovered the hirsute tradition of earlier ages’.
The Bishop of London said: ‘Beards are no longer confined to those excoriated by their opponents as trendy Lefties, and websites such as coolbeardstyles.com offer a gallery of suggestions for the modern male of all ages.’
He cited David Beckham as ‘the nearest we have to a popular secular saint, and his flirtation with various styles of beards has stimulated countless imitators’. But he warned that even in an age when many young men had taken to hipster beards, there could be drawbacks.
‘Those who choose to wear beards now, of course, have had to contend with a suspicion that has associated beards with weak chins, or, even worse, with disguise and villainy,’ Bishop Chartres said.
He said he grew his beard in the late Seventies when he went to stay in a monastery in egypt run by Coptic Christians, who at one stage in history disapproved of men without beards.
‘I felt so much at home there that I have never shaved off the souvenir of the visit,’ he added.