Revealing God‘s Face in the Stranger | Christian Perspectives on Portland’s Asylum Seeker Controversy

In Dorset’s Portland, by the sea’s edge,
A floating barge of hope and dread,
Carries lives caught in political hedge,
Their silent pleas woven in a global thread.
In Portland’s story, we discern,
The call to love, to live, to learn,
To see God’s image at every turn,
For such is the Christian concern.


How the UK Government, Portland, and wider society resolve this issue will serve as a testament to our collective capacity for empathy, understanding, and respect for human dignity.

Community Call: The Anglo-Catholic Worship Perspective

Anglo-Catholic worship, known for its rich liturgical life and emphasis on the sacraments, is deeply rooted in the theological understanding of God’s mysterious yet transcendent nature. This divine transcendence conveys an ultimate power and authority, a grandeur that moves beyond our finite human comprehension. Yet, in this divine otherness, an intimate connection binds us as a community, a concept succinctly captured in the Apostle Paul’s metaphor of the Body of Christ.

This unity, akin to the interdependence of various physical body parts, presents a vivid picture of the Church and, by extension, of humanity. It is a powerful reminder that we are all intertwined in the grand tapestry of creation, irrespective of our backgrounds, nations, or circumstances. This includes asylum seekers currently subject to a heated debate in Portland, Dorset.

In the context of the controversy surrounding the asylum seekers and their accommodation on the Bibby Stockholm, the call to community that permeates Anglo-Catholic worship compels us to reflect on our shared human dignity. This dignity transcends societal status or geographic location, harking back to every person’s belief in the Imago Dei – the Image of God.

Drawing from the words of Christ in the Gospel of Matthew (25:35), “I was a stranger, and you invited me in,” we are reminded of our Christian duty towards those who are marginalised, displaced, or in need. This passage illustrates that our engagement with the stranger, the foreigner, or the asylum seeker, is not just a matter of social or political policy but a spiritual imperative.

The asylum seekers aboard the Bibby Stockholm are not mere statistics or faceless issues but individuals bearing the divine image and our brothers in the Body of Christ. As such, in the spirit of Anglo-Catholic worship, we should welcome them with compassion, acknowledging their inherent dignity and the value they bring to our interconnected community. The controversy in Portland thus poses a challenge and an opportunity for the Church and society to put into practice the principles of hospitality and love that are central to the Christian faith.

Challenging Secular Reductionism: The Radical Orthodoxy Perspective

Radical Orthodoxy is a theological movement that, as its name suggests, radically challenges the often unconsciously accepted assumptions of secular culture. It seeks to uncover the deeply ingrained secular ideologies that underpin our perceptions and responses to various societal issues, including the asylum seeker predicament in Portland, Dorset.

In secular narratives, it’s too often the case that asylum seekers are seen through a reductionist lens. They become ‘problems’ that need managing, statistics that overload systems, or threats that compromise local safety. The inherent dignity, the individual histories and the potential contributions these people might bring are often overlooked. This reductionism confines them to the margins of society and the footnotes of political discourse.

Radical Orthodoxy, emphasising unveiling and challenging these reductive narratives, provides an alternative perspective. It contends that the secular reductionist approach lacks the depth to fully engage with the complexities of human identity and societal issues. In treating asylum seekers merely as problems, we risk dehumanising them, denying their inherent worth as individuals created in the image of God.

Instead of viewing the asylum seekers on the Bibby Stockholm as an inconvenient burden, Radical Orthodoxy encourages us to consider them as integral parts of our shared human experience. By embracing a perspective grounded in Christian principles, we can affirm their dignity, acknowledge their worth, and value their unique contributions. This approach aligns with the Christian command to “love your neighbour as yourself,” challenging the secular tendency to limit compassion to those within our immediate circles.

Radical Orthodoxy also prompts us to consider the potential benefits of integration rather than segregation. The barge is seen as an attempt to isolate the asylum seekers from the rest of society. However, this separation alienates the asylum seekers and deprives society of their potential contributions.

Radical Orthodoxy presents a thought-provoking critique of secular reductionism, calling us to broaden our perspectives on the issue of asylum seekers. It provides an opportunity to move beyond surface-level debates and consider more profound questions about human dignity, community, and our shared responsibility towards each other.

Advocacy for the Oppressed: The Liberation Theory Perspective

Liberation Theory, rooted in the Christian theological tradition, is deeply committed to social justice and a preferential option for the marginalized. Born out of the struggles of oppressed communities, it posits that God is fundamentally on the side of the disadvantaged and the poor. From this perspective, the Portland Dorset situation demands urgent attention and action.

The plan to accommodate asylum seekers on a refitted barge is seen through the lens of Liberation Theory as a blatant manifestation of systemic injustice. Housing individuals on a barge, isolated from the rest of society, resonates as an act of marginalization and segregation. This resonates with the societal tendency to push aside or confine those who don’t fit within accepted norms or structures, thus violating their inherent human dignity.

Aligning with the notion of God as a liberator, advocates of Liberation Theory would vehemently agree with Mayor Carralyn Parkes’s description of the barge accommodation as “barbarous and inhumane”. There is a sense of outrage at the perceived lack of respect for the basic human rights of the asylum seekers and a call to immediate action to rectify this injustice.

This is not just about providing physical necessities but about affirming the inherent worth of each individual. Liberation Theology encourages us to see the face of Christ in the faces of the asylum seekers and to respond in a way that reflects this recognition. This means going beyond token gestures and seeking genuine ways to improve their living conditions and integrate them into the community.

Liberation theorists would champion fair, dignified treatment of asylum seekers, consistently highlighting their rights as God’s children. They would urge society to reassess its attitudes towards the marginalized and recognize that systems that perpetuate injustice must be dismantled and restructured.

This commitment to justice and equity extends beyond the individual to societal structures, prompting questions about how policies, resources, and power are shared. It’s not enough to merely voice dissent against the barge; Liberation Theory calls for active engagement in changing unjust systems, challenging policies, and advocating for the rights of the oppressed.

In conclusion, the Liberation Theory perspective on the Portland Dorset issue pushes for the rights and dignity of asylum seekers to be upheld. It provides a critical lens to examine and challenge the systemic injustices inherent in this situation, calling for a transformative approach that actively seeks to liberate the marginalized and oppressed.

Divine Image Bearers: The Christian Metaphysics Perspective

Christian Metaphysics, a perspective deeply embedded in a worldview where the divine permeates the very fabric of existence, allows us to view the predicament of the asylum seekers in a profoundly spiritual light. This tradition, which seeks to understand the nature of reality through the lens of divine revelation, presents a potent counterpoint to reductionist tendencies that may view asylum seekers merely as political or societal burdens.

In the Christian metaphysical framework, asylum seekers, like all humans, are not just societal units or a collection of biological processes but bearers of the divine image – imago Dei. This principle, rooted in the biblical narrative, underlines every individual’s fundamental dignity and value, irrespective of their societal status or circumstances. Therefore, These men are a testament to God’s creative diversity and grandeur, each unique and irreplaceable in their reflection of the divine.

As bearers of the divine image, how these asylum seekers are treated has profound implications. The Christian metaphysical perspective posits that when we interact with our fellow human beings, we are, in a sense, engaging with the divine image within them. Therefore, to dismiss, marginalize or neglect them, especially when they need help, is not just a failure of social duty but also a spiritual failing.

The living conditions of these asylum seekers, specifically their placement on a barge with its inherent limitations and implications, come into sharp focus through this lens. Accepting the principle of imago Dei prompts us to question whether such living conditions are in accordance with the dignity befitting a bearer of the divine image. This perspective urges us to critically assess the current situation and strive for solutions that affirm their inherent value.

Moreover, it calls us to recognize our shared humanity and interconnectedness. The principle of imago Dei implies that what affects one affects all, emphasizing the responsibility we bear for one another. The plight of the asylum seekers is not just their problem but a shared concern that calls for compassionate and considerate action from the wider community.

In conclusion, the Christian Metaphysical perspective invites us to see the situation in Portland, Dorset, not just as a political or social issue but as a deeply spiritual one. It reminds us of the inherent value of every individual and challenges us to respond in a manner that respects and cherishes the divine image in our neighbours.

Synthesising Perspectives for a Holistic Approach

The controversy unfolding in Portland over placing asylum seekers on a floating barge represents more than a matter of logistics or policy. It presents a nuanced, multifaceted human issue that warrants an approach transcending political or social boundaries. By exploring this situation through the prisms of various Christian perspectives, we unearth profound theological insights that can guide societal responses to such complex dilemmas.

Each perspective – Anglo-Catholic worship, Radical Orthodoxy, Liberation Theory, and Christian Metaphysics – contributes unique and indispensable viewpoints to the discourse. Taken individually, they provide deeply nuanced understandings of the situation. However, when synthesised, they shed light on shared core principles that can guide the community’s response to this crisis.

The Anglo-Catholic worship perspective underscores the value of community and the inherent dignity of every human being. It reminds us of our interconnectedness, encouraging us to extend hospitality and support to those in need. In the context of the asylum seeker barge controversy, this perspective would advocate for a hospitable response from the Portland community, placing the dignity and well-being of the asylum seekers at the forefront.

On the other hand, Radical Orthodoxy presents a sharp critique of the secular reductionism evident in the debate surrounding the barge. It challenges the tendency to view asylum seekers as mere societal burdens or problems, advocating for a compassionate approach recognising their inherent worth. This viewpoint might urge the residents of Portland and the wider society to view the asylum seekers not as an unwanted imposition but as fellow humans deserving of kindness and respect.

Liberation Theory brings a social justice lens, underlining the need to advocate for the oppressed and marginalised. It deems the current treatment of asylum seekers as indicative of systemic injustices and calls for radical changes to ensure their dignified treatment. This perspective would call for more humane living conditions and services for the asylum seekers, emphasizing their rights as individuals.

Lastly, Christian Metaphysics situates the issue within a broader spiritual context, viewing asylum seekers as bearers of the divine image. It calls for an assessment of their living conditions, not just from a logistical viewpoint but also in light of the dignity inherent in each individual as a reflection of the divine.

By synthesising these perspectives, the community can approach this issue holistically, moving beyond binary or divisive narratives. These diverse yet interconnected Christian perspectives promote dignity, justice, compassion, and divine recognition in all human beings, paving the way for empathetic, just, and inclusive solutions. As Portland grapples with this controversy, these theological insights can serve as invaluable guideposts, nurturing a community response rooted in understanding, empathy, and respect.


In conclusion, the plight of the asylum seekers in Portland is not just a political or logistical issue but a deeply human one, calling for an approach that respects and upholds their inherent dignity. As these Christian perspectives illustrate – Anglo-Catholic worship, Radical Orthodoxy, Liberation Theory, and Christian Metaphysics – there is an urgent need to navigate the controversy with compassion, justice, and recognition of the divine image in all people. The island of Portland is a microcosm for the world, its struggles reflecting the broader dynamics of societal responses to humanitarian crises. As such, How UK Government, Portland, and indeed wider society resolve this issue will serve as a testament to our collective capacity for empathy, understanding, and respect for human dignity. It is my hope that these theological insights will provide valuable guidance for more inclusive and holistic solutions to this complex dilemma.

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About Rev Lloyd Hobbard-Mitchell

Rev. Lloyd Hobbard-Mitchell, an Englishman deeply connected to Thailand, was ordained to the Sacred Priesthood on 28th May 2023.

In addition to his religious journey, he has worked as an online English teacher and pursued a career as an artist. He has also operated a tour desk business with his wife within international brand hotels.

Lloyd has extensive experience in the voluntary sector, specifically in addressing homelessness and social welfare.

He is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and embraces opportunities to meet new people, see new places, explore cultural similarities, and celebrate differences.