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Forest Gate immigration scandal: what went wrong?

29 February 2012


From the Revd Paul A. Newman

Sir, — I was successively part-time Priest-in-Charge and subsequently Vicar of All Saints’, Forest Gate, 1983-91, and left reluctantly when a kairos moment for a union of bene­fices with St Edmund’s was thwarted. The reorganisation happened five years later, but by then the dynamic had been arrested. When I left All Saints’, the congrega­tion was report­edly the most ethnically diverse and integrated in the diocese of Chelms­ford.

Judicial and criminal proceedings concerning fraudulent abuse of both legal and spiritual responsibilities in irregular marriages have now con­cluded. A legitimate question re­mains, and deserves an explana­tion. Why was “oversight” so lacking and for so long? Even I had heard rumours of irregularities. “Common tenure” came too late perhaps?

Should not the area dean and arch­deacon at least have been alert? Churchwardens are the bishop’s of­ficers ex officio, usually focused in the annual archdiaconal consulta­tion.

It is the lay people of those two congregations who deserve and now, even more, need effective leadership and co-ordination of their energies, talents, and commitment. I continue dismayed at the evident laissez-faire absence of accountability and respons­­ibility.

With my grounding in Southwark diocese, I found it a puzzling con­trast that West Ham archdeaconry covered five London boroughs, Epping, and Harlow (now detached), whereas several London boroughs south of the river had their own archdeacon.

I write in a spirit of solidarity in the gospel, not, I hope, in rancour.

Anglican and Co-ordinating Chaplain
HM Prison Kingston, Portsmouth

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