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Citizenship And R.e. Debate With Belgian Churches

On 20 April 2015, Canon Professor Jack McDonald, who has succeeded Bishop Robert in the legal position of President of the Anglican Church in Belgium, met Olivier Chastel, President of MR (Mouvement Réformateur, the largest French-speaking political party in Belgium, a blend of Liberal Democracy and Conservatism) and Denis Ducarme (MR deputy in the Belgian federal parliament) for high-level talks on the future of RE in Belgian State schools.

The religious delegation also included Pastor Steven Fuite and Professor Geert Lorein, co-presidents of Belgian Protestantism, and Mgr Athenagoras Peckstadt, president of Belgian Orthodoxy. A couple of dozen MR deputies and advisers attended the plenary session.

The Belgian Constitutional Court has recently made it easier for parents to withdraw their children from RE lessons entirely, and a broad political movement is gathering pace to replace one hour (of the two weekly hours reserved for RE) with a course of Citizenship.

Jack McDonald called for a constructive debate, and held as a workable model the structure of RE in England, where a combination of local education authority officials, diocesan and other religious representatives and teaching union delegates are able to produce RE syllabuses acceptable to almost all parents, which can also be studied for formal GCSEs and A levels.