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.
PAUL A. NEWMAN
Anglican and Co-ordinating Chaplain
HM Prison Kingston, Portsmouth