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Tradition and preferment in Southwark diocese: how inclusive is ‘inclusive’?

11 April 2012


From Mr Patrick Stewart

Sir, — Concerned Evangelicals in Southwark (News, 5 April) will have further cause when women are con­secrated. It is clear, without the re­search that endorses the point, that female clergy tend to be theologically liberal.

While Southwark diocese is notor­iously liberal, Evangelicals’ complaint applies across the dioceses, and is shared by traditional Catholics: that those of traditional belief and prac­tice are rarely preferred — be­cause like selects like. The clear infer­ence from episcopal appoint­ments since Robert Runcie, with whom this phenomenon began, is that liberal Catholics — those who can dress up and “perform” civic religion, and who tend to be bland and uncontroversial (though fre­quently, if quietly, heter­odox) — are the default choice. Ditto for cathedral clergy and archdeacons.

The Pilling report, Talent and Call­ing (2007), described a clear lack of representation of churchmanship in senior appointments — but there is no will to change among those in charge.

Parish priests and laity can hardly be blamed for considering how their Share funds such a monochrome, self-perpetuating episcopate.

Highgate, 29 Callis Court Road
Broadstairs CT10 3AH

From Susan Crosfield

Sir, — As a longstanding supporter of Inclusive Church and one who has never identified with the Evangelical wing of the Church, I was neverthe­less shocked to read the quotation from the sermon recently preached by the Dean of Southwark which appeared in the report “Chessun hears Evangelical protest over preferment”.

How can the Dean claim to be inclusive when he so clearly wishes to exclude those with whom he disagrees? Surely, a cathedral, the mother church of the diocese, should welcome all members of the Church in the diocese, and not encourage more warring factions.

21 Biggar Road, Silverburn
Penicuik EH26 9LQ

From Matthew and Jane Clements

Sir, — What has happened to the broad Church? Where is the toler­ance of views with which we happen to disagree?

We met and became Christians in the late ’60s at Christ Church, New Malden, where, through the work of a teenagers’ group led by dedicated adults, we were taught how to live as Christians in a changing world. The fruit of that work is still evident today, as many of us from that group worship and serve in many ways at churches throughout the Anglican Communion.

Bible study, prayer, and service were all high on the agenda, as were respect and tolerance for other denominations and faiths; we were Evangelicals, but first and foremost we were Christians who were taught to love God and to love our neigh­bours as ourselves.

As it happens, that church is where the Revd Stephen Kuhrt is now the Priest-in-Charge, and it is sad that he does not seem to have benefited from the same teaching. Before coming to Oxfordshire recently, we worshipped in Southwark at an Evangelical church. We certainly would not have wanted to be associated with the di­visive and misplaced comments made by Mr Kuhrt after his meeting with the Bishop of Southwark; how sad that any Anglican believes his or her hobby-horse needs cham­pions among the local episcopate.

Somehow, Mr Kuhrt seems to think that he represents the view of all Evangelicals in the diocese; we doubt this, but, if he really does, then we are very pleased to have left.

One great strength of the Church of England is its inclusiveness, and this is at odds with separatist movements, which Mr Kuhrt seems to be keen on leading. This division is seen elsewhere in the C of E: finan­cially sound vibrant churches who cannot see why they should subsidise other churches who cannot pay their parish share; factions on all extremes who like to pour scorn on the behaviours or views of other parties, whether it is modern music v. Hymns Ancient and Modern, free worship v. the 1662 Prayer Book, versions of the Lord’s Prayer, women priests and bishops, or homosexuality.

The list is quite long, and has continued to grow despite the best efforts of the current Archbishop of Canterbury. Our firm view is that if the Church put aside peripheral personal views and concentrated on loving our neighbours, perhaps we might see something more of the teaching and life of Jesus both within the Church and reflected by the Church to those outside it.

We were recently privileged to attend at Southwark Cathedral the ordination as bishop of two exemplary pastors, where we heard both men loudly affirm the central tenets of the Christian faith as we have all received and understood them. The rest is commentary.

4 Church Street, Bicester
Oxfordshire OX26 6AZ

From Mr Ian Gordon

Sir, — Reading Ed Thornton’s report last week, the following (probably) unworthy thought came to mind: what if the “Southwark Evangelicals” are the ones who are out of touch?

At this time of the Church’s year (I am writing this on Good Friday), one of the lessons to be learned is surely that the majority is not always right, and that the loudest voices do not have exclusive possession of the truth.

16 Bayle Court, The Parade
Folkestone CT20 1SN

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