From Mr Philip Johanson
Sir, — It was interesting to read that the House of Bishops might face a legal challenge in relation to the process of appointing a Bishop of Southwark (News, 20 January). It raises again the question regarding the process of appointing bishops and who might be involved.
In a book to be published next month, The State of the Church and the Church of the State, by Michael Turnbull and Donald McFadyen, Frank Field MP writes in the foreword: “The brutal response from the inner circle at No. 10 brought home to me how quickly the collapse was of the Church’s hold on establishment politics. I was talking to one of the Prime Minister’s inner core. The conversation was on the appointment the Prime Minister would soon agree, on who was to be the new Bishop of Southwark. The official looked puzzled. Why, I was asked, should the Prime Minister be concerned with this vacancy? Doesn’t he have better things to do? I shot back ‘Bishops and Deans are very important players in your Big Society.’ ‘God, I never saw their jobs in those terms,’ came the reply.”
Does the Church see bishops as important players in the Big Society, and, if so, what are the implications regarding appointments and who can be considered?
10 Ditton Lodge
8 Stourwood Avenue
Bournemouth, Dorset BH6 3PN
From Mrs Mary P. Roe
Sir, — In response to Mrs Lorna Ashworth’s letter about “listening” last week, I must say that I am very glad that our Christian forebears were prepared to listen to the radical suggestion that, contrary to scripture, mental illnesses, epilepsy, etc., are not evidence of demonic possession, but conditions that can be ameliorated and even cured with treatment that includes drugs, which have presumably been supplied by our Creator, ready to be used when human knowledge had advanced further than in biblical times.
I imagine that we are all very glad that the notion that physical suffering is a punishment from God for our sins and those of our ancestors was questioned, and that the answers to those questions were listened to. After all, Jesus shows us that it is our Father’s will that we should be healed, in one way or another.
No doubt, the children of those “Christian” sects that encourage the torture and killing of infants whom they identify as “witches” in accordance with Exodus 22, “you shall not suffer a witch to live,” wish that their guardians would listen to the more enlightened and genuinely Christian insights into the subject of witchcraft.
I could multiply examples of areas where listening to scripture alone has not brought us any nearer the Kingdom, but rather the opposite. I hope and pray that we continue to listen to the voice of God, addressing the issues of our own time and delivered by our contemporaries whom God is calling to reveal his loving purposes for the 21st century.
MARY P. ROE
1 The North Lodge, Kings End
Bicester, Oxon OX26 6NT
From Canon F. Hugh Magee
Sir, — Lorna Ashworth objects to the way the term “listening process” has been, in her words, “bandied about” in the General Synod of the Church of England, and in a letter from the Revd Colin Coward (13 January).
I, in turn, would like to object to the way she has bandied about the term “Word of God”: it is surely one thing to “uphold the authority of scripture”, as she claims to do; but it is quite another to assume that such upholding requires one to assume, as she also appears to do, that scripture can be identified with the Word of God in any literal sense.
Were I required to believe that, I would have to become an atheist on the spot.
17 North Street
St Andrews KY16 9PW
From Mr Barnaby Miln
Sir, — Soon after the Osborne report (Comment, 20 January) was leaked, the Secretary-General told me how to word my demand for an emergency debate of the General Synod, then in session. I wanted to have the Osborne report out in the open.
No doubt the Archbishops had a sleepless night considering my request, but by morning had decided to decline. The letter handed to me said that “they were not willing to take any action which could be interpreted as giving to the Osborne report” — “to it and it alone” — “a status which it does not at this stage possess”.
At coffee time, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert Runcie, came up to me to suggest that even if World War Three had broken out, he doubted if it would warrant an emergency debate. “But a good try, Barnaby. Well done,” he said.
St Bernard’s House, Henderson Row
Edinburgh EH3 5BH