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Professor Linzey’s stand is a lonely one

05 October 2011


From Mr John Wainwright

Sir, — What an excellent and timely article on animal welfare by the Revd Professor Andrew Linzey (Comment, 30 September). He is quite correct that this is an issue often neglected in the Church.

For instance, last year I attended an Animal Welfare Christmas Fair. While I was encouraged by all the people attending, especially young people, I was saddened that the ma­jority of these young people were more sympathetic to Buddhism or New Ageism than to a Christianity, which they see as often being half-hearted about, or indifferent to, the animal creation.

Indeed, if these young people were to look at the likes of Sarah Palin, one-time darling of many in the US Evangelical Right, with her love of bear-hunting, they would be repelled by our faith. So, too, if they reflected on the Pope’s failure to speak out against bull-fighting.

But, even in 21st-century Britain, there are clergy who remain silent for fear of upsetting supporters of the local hunt, and, for anyone un­der an illusion, I don’t mean the drag hunt. If only these passionate young people saw Christians at the fore­front of campaigns for environmen­tal stewardship and animal welfare!

In their rightful concern for human need, many Christians have forgotten that the likes of St Francis, Wesley, and Wilberforce (who, along with the Revd Arthur Broome, started the RSPCA), had a concern for the breadth of creation. Surely, these just mentioned were being true to the spirit of what our Lord said regarding God’s concern for the birds of the air, and St Paul’s theo­logy, which anticipates the redemp­tion of the whole created order. It should not be a question of “either/or” but of “both/and”.

Sadly, in some instances, the Church, influenced by the likes of Aquinas, has not merely been indifferent, but adopted a theology of lordship rather than responsible stewardship. Some months ago, I read an appeal in a religious period­ical from a preacher who was plan­ning an Animal Welfare Service (these are becoming increasingly popular for those on the periphery of church life) for appropriate worship mater­ial, which she had been unable to find. I was glad to be able to reply, and point her not only to erudite theological works by Professor Linzey, but also to some really excel­lent material, including prayers and contemporary hymns by such people as Linda Bodicoat and the Revd Hugh Broadbent.

I hope more preachers and wor­ship leaders will avail themselves of material of this kind.

48 Borough Way, Potters Bar
Herts EN6 3HB

From Revd Dr Martin Henig

Sir, — Sadly, I have to agree with the Revd Professor Andrew Linzey that the Church as a whole has been sadly deficient in opposing the hor­rors of animal cruelty. Of course, there are quite a number of think­ing Anglicans who are members of societies that care for or about ani­mals, including the Anglican Society for the Welfare of Animals, and I have priest-friends for whom ani­mals are a burning issue of con­science and mission; but I have yet to see the Church of England as a whole engage in these concerns or mount a large-scale campaign.

This absence of care for our fellow-creatures has been brought home to me in the general assump­tion at “bring-and-share” meals (even among Franciscans) that saus­age rolls and pies, almost inevitably made from factory-farmed animals, are acceptable. Vegetarians are as rare in the Church as outside it.

The entrenchment of church in­difference to animals has been brought home to me this weekend selecting hymns for evensong on this coming “Creation Sunday”, in the beautiful little church where I will be officiating, probably at the very time when Professor Linzey delivers his sermon (which you preview) in Westminster Abbey.

True, there are some hymns (not too many) centred on creation, but virtually no “classic” hymns that are centred on our sisters and brothers, the animals. Moreover, I have had to create an appropriate collect for the occasion (admittedly from a prayer of St Basil the Great).

I feel certain that this indifference would have saddened Jesus, too. When are we going to give our stewardship of creation the priority it so richly deserves?

Wolfson College, Oxford OX2 6UD

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