From Mrs Angela Robinson
Sir, - It is good to share stories about Tony Benn, and ponder
his mindset. Here is one that illustrates the Congregationalist
"rock" from which he was hewn.
When the father of Tony Benn, William Wedgewood Benn, who had
been given the title of Lord Stansgate, was Secretary of State for
Air, he appointed the late, great Revd Elsie Chamberlain, a
Congregational minister (engaged and later married to an Anglican
priest) as a chaplain to the RAF.
The King and Queen approved. There was stiff opposition,
however, from the Church, and, in particular, Archbishop Fisher,
who pointed out that the Army had women as "chaplain's assistants"
- which he found acceptable.
At the time, Fisher was touchy on this subject, because Bishop
Ronald Hall, of Hong Kong, had ordained and licensed a Chinese
woman, already in a trusted position in a congregation that was cut
off because of the war - the first ordained Anglican woman.
Even though he knew the pressure Fisher was under at the time,
Lord Stansgate pressed on. When he read the new Royal Airforce
manual, and saw that it listed Elsie as a "welfare worker", he
ordered the whole issue pulped and reprinted, with Elsie in the
list of chaplains.
She was much praised for her service, and later worked for the
BBC and was active in pastoral and other ministries.
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