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Letters to the Editor

12 February 2016

All-in-one knit: an ad for a knitted clerical shirt and collar, from a 1970 Church Times. It also inspired a plot in the BBC sitcom All Gas and Gaiters

All-in-one knit: an ad for a knitted clerical shirt and collar, from a 1970 Church Times. It also inspired a plot in the BBC sitcom All Gas and Gaiter...

Ministerial education: drawback of proposals

From the Principals of Wycliffe Hall, Westcott House, Trinity College, St Stephen’s House, Ridley Hall, Ripon College, Cuddesdon, Oak Hill, the College of the Resurrection, Mirfield, Cranmer Hall, and The Queen's Foundation for Ecumenical Theological Education

Sir, — The General Synod will shortly be discussing new proposals for the funding of ministerial training. We enthusiastically share its vision of “a growing church with a flourishing ministry”. As Principals of theological education institutions providing residential training, we recognise the differing needs and circumstances of different ordinands, and are therefore heartened by “the principle . . . that the funding arrangements should neither favour nor disadvantage any particular group or form of training”.

But we believe that one of the proposals will disadvantage one particular group, and another will disadvantage one particular form of training.

The group that we believe will be disadvantaged is women. On the basis of detailed research in November 2015, we fear that the age-related standard grant, by giving a bigger grant for those aged 29 or under, will enshrine an inbuilt and systemic bias against women and in favour of men in financial terms. This is because the existing pattern and profile of ordinands shows more men than women in that age bracket entering training. While we support an increased effort in encouraging younger women to explore ordination, we cannot endorse a system of funding which reinforces such a bias.

The form of training which will be disadvantaged is residential training. If the standard grants given to dioceses may be used, not only on ordination training, but also on training prior to this and post-ordination training (as Annex B, Proposal 5 allows), (a) there will be proportionately less money for all forms of ordination training, and (b) financially hard-pressed dioceses will inevitably opt for cheaper forms of training and use the money thus saved to fund their post-ordination training — which they currently have to fund independently.

The proposals encouragingly state “that the RME funding arrangements are aimed at the flourishing of all three forms of training.” This particular proposal, however, could have a disastrous effect on residential training. Residential training has made — and continues to make — a profound contribution to the theological literacy and ministerial competence of the clergy, and thus to the mission of the Church. We believe it to be vital that this contribution continues; so we urge the Synod to be mindful of serious unintended consequences as it considers these proposals.

It is vital that these two issues are addressed before these proposals are adopted.

c/o Wycliffe Hall
Oxford OX2 6PW


Plight and courage of Iranian Episcopalians

From the Revd Dr Guli Francis-Dehqani

Sir, — Your article on Iranian Christians (Comment, 29 January) gives a wide-ranging view of work among Persians in this country and elsewhere. I was surprised, however, by one glaring omission.

There was no mention in this comprehensive article of the tiny and persecuted Episcopal Church in Iran. Notwithstanding the encouraging information about the potentially large numbers of converts to Christianity both in this country and in Iran itself, it is important not to forget the faithful few who continue witnessing to Christ despite their dwindling numbers.

Since the Islamic revolution, the Anglican Church in Iran has been stripped of its financial assets, and its leaders and members have experienced persecution, including imprisonment and martyrdom. Pressure on them is enormous, but at no stage has the Church gone underground, and work continues in the four churches, led by two priests, three deacons, and a bishop.

Your article comes close to rendering invisible this small community. Instead, they should be celebrated and supported as faithful and courageous fellow Anglicans by the clergy and people of the Church of England.

Commissary to the Bishop in Iran
The Vicarage, Vicarage Road
Oakham LE15 6EG


Still angered by the Columba Declaration

From the Provost of St Mary’s Cathedral, Glasgow

Sir, — The proposed Columba Declaration between the Church of England and the Church of Scotland has generated more anger and frustration within the Scottish Episcopal Church than anything I can remember.

If the English Synod should agree to this unwelcome proposal and Scottish Episcopalians should then raise the Church of England’s border-crossing within the Anglican Communion structures, what would be the outcome?

If the Anglican Consultative Council (rather than the upstart Primates’ Meeting) were to act, would it be the case that the English Archbishops were rendered unable to represent the Communion ecumenically? If the Archbishop of Canterbury were unable to perform this function on behalf of the Communion, who would?

Or is it only certain Churches and certain issues that face “the consequences”?

St Mary’s Cathedral Office
300 Great Western Road
Glasgow G4 9JB


Wartime experience behind the European vision

From Mr John Duffy

Sir, — In reply to Dr Max Gammon (Letters, 5 February): I was a child during the Second World War, living very near the much targeted Clapham Junction railway line. We were bombed out; my school, Christ Church Primary, was badly damaged by a V1, which just missed our house. A V2 rocket hit Christ Church, killing the Vicar and his family.

His replacement was a German (the Revd E. L. H. Gordon), who could not speak very clearly: the Gestapo had cut out his tongue.

To me, the European Union, with its warts-that-could-surely-be-changed, is preferable to another such conflict.

4 Pearman Drive
Andover SP10 2SB


Lament for Third Way

From Mr Tim Goodacre

Sir, — Amid the world’s sad catastrophes, and serious crises in the Church, it might seem unreasonable to lament the passing of a periodical. The announcement of the closure of Third Way (News, 5 February) caused me, however, to reflect on the passing of a unique and valuable contribution to our Christian life and development over most of my working life.

The incisive and sometimes daring approach to discourse and the interface between wider society and our faith was a welcome part of my reading. A copy was almost invariably stashed away in my case when I was travelling. As it represented something of the innovative and creative surge of the baby-boomer generation, I hope that its demise does not reflect a more widespread loss of a more nuanced approach to difference, in the light of more stridently held positions of polarity.

I shall miss its monthly drop through the letterbox immensely. Thank you, Third Way, for so much.

24 Staverton Road
Oxford OX2 6XJ


Clerical-diversity action

From the Revd Dr Alan Gadd

Sir, — Vasantha Gnanadoss (Comment, 29 January) offers a plausible diagnosis of the dearth of senior appointments of black and Asian clergy, and Canon Ivor Smith-Cameron (Letters, 5 February) reminds us just how long the malady has persisted.

I am told that the Archbishop of Canterbury agrees that it is regrettable that no improvement has been achieved. Given the acclaim that has greeted the Archbishop’s leadership in relation to women in the episcopate and in holding the Anglican Primates together, it would seem relatively straightforward for him to organise one of Ms Gnanadoss’s suggestions: that diocesan bishops take a shared responsibility for appointing some well-suited suffragans from among the black and Asian clergy.

24 Holmewood Gardens
London SW2 3RS


Conversion into academies: discussion needed

From the Revd James Graham

Sir, — I am a governor of a C of E controlled primary school. The school has recently received an “outstanding” SIAMS report. The governors are thinking of converting the school to an academy.

The proposed scheme of delegation sets out the powers and discretions delegated from the academy trust to the (newly constituted) governing body. The controlling trust appoints the head (now called the “principal”); also the chair of governors (as well as the governors collectively). The trust controls the school budget and key policies; but the local governors have to deliver the educational and financial goods — and will also be perceived by the locals as the ones responsible for the education and welfare of their children.

Which church members, including clergy, in their right mind will want to sign up to all this, when we can support the school in its Christian worship and ethos, and all the SIAMS criteria, without being governors? Please would the Church open up a discussion about these proposed conversions of church schools to academies.

The Vicarage, Church Street
Eccleshall, Stafford SY21 6BY


Two-tone polo-neck no figment of the mind

From the Rt Revd John Dennis

Sir, — On Noel Ford's cartoon (News, 29 January): it may be a sign of the passing years that few of your readers will be aware that there was a time, in the 1970s, when priests briefly did garb themselves in that same two-tone knitted garment. My brother-in-law was one of them.

He used to describe the occasion when he pulled into a filling station and on going to pay was met by the comment “When I first saw you, mate, I thought you was an f***ing vicar.” Much to his credit, for he was not a man to wander into such language, his retort was “Well, I am an f***ing Vicar.”

7 Conifer Close
Winchester SO22 6SH

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