From the Archdeacon of Cheltenham
Sir, - Shiranikha Herbert's report "Chancellor lambasts 'really
stupid' sale of painting" (News,
26 September) tells only part of a judgment with wider
The Chancellor recognises in her ruling - which I welcome as a
sensible resolution of a sorry tale -that this is "an active church
priding itself on its outreach into the community" in which "every
opportunity is being used to advance its mission".
It was this enthusiasm that led to these events and,
appropriately, a rebuke to a priest and churchwardens who have
otherwise been exemplary in furthering the mission of the Church.
Despite this, the Chancellor still grants the faculty, commenting
that "there really [was] no historic link between this painting and
the church." The way the parish went about this may well have been
"really stupid", but the proposal itself to sell was not
This was recognised by our diocesan advisory committee, who
recommended the granting of a faculty, but not by the Church
Buildings Council (CBC), which was the only party to oppose the
Its attitude was that the painting's simply being in the church
established a link; that there must always be a presumption against
sale; and that, even if it was not wanted, the parish should "learn
to love" it. The CBC was unable to offer any advice on how the
parish might manage the financial consequences of a refusal to
sell, or the implications of this for its mission and ministry.
Tellingly, the CBC's representative could not remember whether
mission had ever been discussed at CBC meetings.
Responding to this, the Chancellor helpfully comments: "The CBC
is but an arm of the wider Church of England and I was left with
the unhappy view that the purity of their efforts . . . could be
regarded as unbalanced and unrealistic to a struggling parish."
She goes on to reject the CBC's approach to this case, saying
that its "blanket ban on sales without any discernment of the
relative significance of the painting was unhelpful", and that
failure to consider mission rendered its approach "too
This judgment should, first, encourage parishes to recognise
that there are times when it may be right to consider selling an
object, but to do so only by following the proper process. Second,
the CBC must now re-evaluate its policy and give serious thought to
how, as an arm of the Church of England, it is engaged in mission.
Its present position is, I regret to say, a source of perplexity
and even anger in much of the Church.
Parishes need to be assured that the CBC is a partner in mission
and ministry. Sadly, this has not been felt to be so on this
2 College Green
Gloucester GL1 2LY
From Dr Robin C. Richmond
Sir, - The Revd Jacqueline Rodwell appears to have given an
astonishing reason for throwing out from Emmanuel Church,
Leckhampton, a painting of the Virgin and Child by Franz Ittenbach,
an acclaimed German Nazarene painter.
Ms Rodwell stated that the previous priest had been of an
Anglo-Catholic background and not, as she was, Evangelical; so the
painting was now "deemed theologically inappropriate for the
The arrogance is breathtaking. Quite how a depiction of Mary and
the Christ-child can be theologically inappropriate in a church
beats me and, I suspect, many other people.
Our parish churches contain many religious artefacts from past
and present which are not only evidence of a rich and ancient
liturgical history, but aid prayerful worship. Parish priests in
the Church of England are stewards of the fabric, furnishings, and
contents of the churches to which they are licensed; they are not
Ms Rodwell appears to have set herself up as sole arbiter of
which furnishings and artefacts are theologically acceptable. My
experience suggests that she is not the only Evangelical priest who
operates in this arrogant manner, not only with regard to which
artefacts are acceptable, but also on all sorts of traditional
practices in the Church of England.
Presumably, she would like to set about the removal of all
depictions, in our parish churches, of Mary and the Christ-child,
wall-paintings, roods, stained glass, green men, and the few
remaining stone altars and figures of Christ and the saints which
she finds theologically inappropriate. She must find much that is
inappropriate in Gloucester Cathedral: forget worshipping in the
beauty of holiness, and anything that encourages this.
ROBIN C. RICHMOND
Providence Cottage, Burying Lane, The Downs, Bromyard,
Herefordshire HR7 4N