From Mr Frank Field MP
Sir, - To set Feeding Britain alongside the great
report of the Archbishops' commission of inquiry, as Dr Eliza Filby
did (Comment, 20
February), is flattering. But Feeding Britain was the
parliamentary report of a cross-party group of Peers and MPs. So,
although it is interesting for Dr Filby to contrast the dogmatism
of Faith in the City and the "moderation and pragmatism"
of Feeding Britain, they were addressed to different
audiences and had different political objectives.
While ours is exclusively a parliamentary report, we were
immediately supported by the Archbishop of Canterbury, who also
generously financed us. Another political lesson? Archbishops'
commissions can take years to report. Feeding Britain
reported in months with its programme of action.
Feeding Britain was essentially about moving the debate
beyond the two main political parties' blaming each other that a
growing number of our fellow citizens were hungry. Likewise, while
Faith in the City was dubbed - wrongly, in my view - pure
Marxist theology, it is wrong for Dr Filby to report that
Feeding Britain made "no reference to theology in the
report at all".
Here, surely, Feeding Britain was reflecting the
differences between addressing the electorate now and doing so 30
years ago. During these three decades, Christian language has
increasingly become a barrier to, rather than a conveyer of,
meaning. Feeding Britain, while not a church report, has
its theology written implicitly throughout. It was implicit because
we wished as wide an audience as possible to read it. A further
interesting observation might have been that this parliamentary
report came from a group of Peers and MPs of whom most were
What lesson does this hold for the Church, in seeking to prevent
its disappearance from the scene over the next generation? William
Temple observed that, when the Church does politics successfully,
it is about not the bishops' saying something, but the laity's
doing something. Feeding Britain has 77 recommendations.
One third are already being put into action.
We, therefore, see our next task as getting all of those
recommendations in place, besides building up, at a local level,
the way the Church moves beyond simply providing emergency food
parcels. The setting up of foodbanks has been the overwhelming and
immediate response of church members acting as Good Samaritans. If
we had waited for governments to act, we would have seen people
starve in the streets - hence our advocacy of a mixed economy of
welfare, embracing the Churches, who have been the prime movers
here, other voluntary bodies, the private sector, and
House of Commons
London SW1A 0AA
From the Revd F. Gerald Downing
Sir, - Dr Eliza Filby's passing reference to "the loose-tongued
Bishop Jenkins of Durham" is a gratuitous and quite baseless slur
on a man who arranged complex sequences of words, chosen with
theological reflection and precision, and articulated them in
speech that was coherent and pellucid.
Such care and clarity seem absent from Dr Filby's own sweeping
F. GERALD DOWNING
33 Westhoughton Road
Chorley PR7 4EU
From the Revd Peter R. Blackman
Sir, - Christians should be concerned about their country's
well-being. We should consider issues raised at a parliamentary
I hope we shall find a candidate in our constituency who is the
most likely to further Christian love. Sadly, with the impossible
exception of green idealists, all political parties seek increased
wealth for their supporters.
If, among the candidates in my constituency there was an
intelligent, experienced, moderate, and independent candidate, I
would vote for him or her. Since 1949, I have never had this
opportunity. The same party has always held this "safe" seat,
except for a brief period from 1923. There is no point in voting
except, possibly, to save a lesser candidate from losing a deposit.
Very few people can become MPs unless they belong to a political
I shall probably vote, but I object to the idea that, if I
choose not to, I should be failing to do my Christian duty. To vote
may be a greater sin than not to vote.
PETER R. BLACKMAN
25 Turnbull Road, Chichester
West Sussex PO19 7LY
From Mr John Ewington
Sir, - The Church of England bishops are right to speak out in
respect of the Church and politics.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu said that religion and politics were
inextricably bound together through their concern for the homeless,
the elderly, the hungry, the oppressed, health issues, education,
and so on. All these matters are the concern of the Church and her
members as well as that of the political parties.
He is also disparaging about those who do not use their vote. He
had to wait until mid-life before being allowed to cast a vote,
owing to the evil apartheid system. Perhaps we have had it too
Hillbrow, Godstone Road
Blechingley, Surrey RH1 4PJ
From Mr Ron Jeffries
Sir, - The House of Bishops has published a letter to the people
and parishes about the General Election. Non-political, but all
good Christian values. Well done for speaking out!
I would like to share this with elderly friends who do not have
access to the internet, where it is available for downloading; but
it runs to 56 pages of A4 in huge type.
It is also available as a booklet - also in huge type - from
Church House Bookshop at a cost of £3.99 plus postage. So I have
either to buy the booklet or to print out 56 pages.
I am speechless with wonder at what makes the C of E tick.
37 Spearpoint Gardens
Ilford, Essex IG2 7SX