A security consultant for the Church of England has recommended that clergy in that church change some long cherished ways of doing business, including giving up wearing the clerical collar, in the interest of safety.
Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, Jonathan Wynne-Jones says that the recommendations came after the murder last March of the Rev. Paul Bennett, vicar of St Fagan's Church in Trecynon. This was the fifth murder of a cleric in a decade.
A new report warns clergy that the collars make them an "easy target" and says they should adopt more casual clothing in a bid to give them greater safety....
Other safety measures proposed include disguising the whereabouts of the vicarage by taking down signs and ensuring that the front doors of their homes do not have a letter box that people can look through.
The report says that attacking a member of the clergy is seen by most criminals as "no different to attacking a shopkeeper, robbing an old lady or any other member of society." Between 1997 and 1999, 12 per cent of clergy were assaulted and seven out of ten were abused or threatened.
The recommendation to dispense with the clerical collar has met with resistance.
The Rev David Houlding, a prebendary at St Paul's cathedral, attacked the recommendation as a "silly, fashionable idea".
"I feel much safer wearing my dog collar when I'm walking through the streets at night. There is still an air of respect to it," he said. "Most of the time I wear it every day. It's my uniform. We'd lose our presence in the community and our witness."
He argued that he is well aware of the risks of being a cleric, but that he has already made sensible changes, such as refusing to see people on their own at the vicarage.
The report was submitted to an adviser to the Archbishop of Canterbury, who, according the Telegraph, will then send it to dioceses ahead of a meeting next year at which the Church will decide whether to endorse the proposals.