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Letters to the Editor

by
17 June 2016

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The Church and the massacre in Orlando

From Ms Tracey Byrne, Mr Simon Sarmiento, and Mr Jeremy Timm
Sir, — The events in Orlando in the early hours of Sunday morning have once more left the world shocked and appalled. But the Church of England’s official responses have disappointed and dismayed many, both inside and outside the Church.

This was an attack that deliberately targeted gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people. And it took place in a country whose Anglicans have recently been criticised by the Primates of the Communion for moving towards greater inclusion for LGBT people. Church leaders can no longer continue to denounce violence — and yet continue to feed it.

Every time we speak — individually or institutionally — of LGBT people as “less than” their brothers and sisters in Christ, as “less than” God’s ideal, as unfit for licensing for public ministry; every time we fail to acknowledge that the people who died in Orlando were targeted because of whom they love, we contribute, in imperceptible but, nevertheless, powerful ways, to creating the kind of world where this hatred can flourish. We do LGBT people a grave disservice, and we do the gospel a grave disservice, too.

We have worked hard to keep faith with the soon-to-be-completed Shared Conversations, but we now need something more substantial. There is an urgent need to restore the trust that has been eroded during the Shared Conversations process, and to establish a permanent mechanism that enables church leaders and central church bodies to listen and to work together with LGBT church members of all convictions. That way we can bring our insights to the Church as it seeks transformation and reconciliation and healing, and we will become part of the solution rather than the unsolved problem.

With such an arrangement in place, and with robust and trusting personal relationships, perhaps we would not have seen an official “Prayer for Orlando” which whitewashed over the victims, failing even to mention that they were killed for being LGBT, nor a day’s delay in issuing a response from the Archbishops which corrected this omission.

There can be no misunderstanding that this is the context in which the final round of Shared Conversations will take place in a few weeks’ time; the stakes, for everyone, could not possibly be higher.
TRACEY BYRNE
Chief Executive, Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement

SIMON SARMIENTO
Chair, LGBTI Mission

JEREMY TIMM
National Coordinator, Changing Attitude
c/o LGCM, South Church House
25 Market Place
Newark NG25 1EA


Last contributions to the EU debate before Thursday’s referendum

From the Revd Dr Nigel Scotland
Sir, — It has been interesting to reflect on Archbishop Justin Welby’s declared support for the Remain campaign on the basis of Jesus’s teaching in the Sermon on the Mount, the commandment to love one’s neighbour, and the duty to care for the immigrant.

Christian people whom I know maintain that all these ideals can be accomplished just as effectively, indeed if not more so, by leaving the EU. In particular, they assert that Britain can better care for immigrants by stopping the unrestricted free-flow of European citizens into this country.

I wonder if it is really true, as Archbishop Welby suggests, that Christians who want to leave the EU are succumbing to their worst instincts on migration. Could it not be that they want to provide effectively and Christianly for those immigrants for whom this nation has adequate resources?

The Archbishop speaks of staying in the EU to preserve our Christian values and heritage. People I know who say they support Brexit give this as one of their reasons for leaving. They cite the fact that those who drew up the original EU constitution deliberately ruled out any reference to Europe’s Christian tradition and heritage despite being urged to include it by a group of largely Roman Catholic nations. The EU is therefore an avowedly secular entity endorsing liberal values many of which run counter to the Christian beliefs.

One thing that the Archbishop fails to mention is that there is a strong endorsement in the Christian tradition of self-governing sovereign nations with their own secure and defined borders. I imagine that Christians voting Brexit would want to add that democracy which the EU steadfastly undermines is a deeply held Christian value.

NIGEL SCOTLAND
8 The Rowans, Woodmancote
Cheltenham, Glos. GL52 9RL


From the Rt Revd Christopher Morgan
Sir, — I was grateful for the broad spread of your coverage (3 June) of issues surrounding the crucial EU referendum that we are facing. Frank Field’s assertion, however, that “our peace has nothing whatsoever to do with the EU” cannot go unchallenged.

At its outset, in the 1950s, the nascent European Community was forged by the likes of Robert Schuman, Jean Monnet, and Konrad Adenauer through the conviction (itself underpinned by the deep-seated Christian commitment of each) that the control of the primary commodities of coal, iron, and steel — all necessary in the production of weapons — should be shared between nations.

In this way, no one European nation would have the capacity to wage war on its neighbours again. Many other goods, of course, flowed from this core commitment to peace and mutual security.

Later on, as Spain and Portugal — and eventually Greece — turned away from the grip of ruthless dictatorships, the partnership and support offered by the EEC encouraged their suppressed or immature democracies to grow and flourish. Much more recently, after the collapse of the Berlin Wall, Eastern European nations were glad to embrace the liberal and democratic framework of governance and accountability held out to them through membership of the European Union.

All this need not have been so: there was nothing automatic about such wholesome developments. Fragile states could have become failed states. Regions harbouring mutual distrust and resentment could have become regions in which armed conflict might too readily have taken root. Sadly, this did in fact happen among the uneasy constituent members of the former Yugoslavia, and the EU was found wanting in its capacity and/or willingness to act for a greater good there. In general, however, all the countries of Europe have enjoyed more than 70 years of unprecedented peace and security.

This has not happened by happy accident, but to a significant extent by the focused activity, varied programmes, and “soft power” of what is now the EU. We are in danger of forgetting or belittling these hugely significant moves forward on our shared continent.

We need to continue celebrating them, while recognising, too, that much still needs to be done to make the European Institutions (the only ones to hand, as it happens) more flexible and fit for purpose.

As Anglican Christians, we can contribute to this shared venture. We can vigorously remind ourselves and others that contemporary Europe (by its own recognition in its fundamental documents) is deeply rooted in many centuries of Christian work and witness — alongside the rich and varied legacies of classical Greece and Rome, on the one hand, to the more recent Enlightenment era, on the other. This, after all, is our shared home.

Domestically, through partnerships nurtured by the Meissen, Porvoo, and Reuilly agreements, and through friendships with Orthodox Churches, we can grow in understanding, regard, and practical action with our European Christian neighbours. Above all, we can assist in moving beyond a politics of forgetfulness and fear into a politics of thankfulness and stewardship.
CHRISTOPHER MORGAN
6 Wellington Court
Grand Avenue, Worthing
West Sussex BN11 5AB


From Mr Anthony Bush
Sir, — Perhaps those worried about immigration should look at the population forecasts for UK workforce and age populations.

The ONS figures for the UK workforce at the end of 2015 was 31.42 million out of 65 million total population. The over-65s population is 11.4 million, some of whom, like me, may still be at work.

By 2050, when today’s 30-year-olds reach 65, there is predicted to be an over-65s population of 19 million. The equivalent workforce would need to be 52 million, giving a total population needed to keep pensions/contributions similar, of 106 million. If the workforce retires at 75, there would be a transfer of approximately 0.5 million per year to the workforce from the pensioned age-group; so the workforce would need to be only 47 million, but the total population would need to be 92 million.

The current UK birth-rate is 1.83 per woman (down from 1.85 in 2014), and the replacement breeding rate in the UK is 2.075. This leaves a breeding gap of 114,000 per year to keep our numbers level (so a drop of four million by 2050).

Unless we do something very different in the future from the past, we will need to allow in probably at least 14 million immigrants, most of breeding age, to reach that 92 million by 2050.

To reach 14 million in 35 years is 400,000 per year. Islamists will need to help us keep the radical Islamists out, but we need the people. They will include essential builders, engineers, health workers, and food-handlers.
ANTHONY BUSH
Owner/CEO
Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm
Clevedon Road, Wraxall
Bristol BS48 1PG


From Mr Chris Ryecart
Sir, — Sir Winston Churchill’s greatest post-war legacy was his staunch support of the European Union, made manifest in his countless speeches.

The failure of Boris Johnson and the other Brexit leaders to recognise the importance of this shows little intelligence, and threatens to wipe out and destroy in a day Churchill’s lifetime legacy for all future generations of British citizens.

In May 1948, Churchill, in his support of the European Union to the Congress of Europe in Holland, proclaimed: “We cannot aim at getting anything less than the Union of Europe as a whole and look forward with confidence to the day when that Union will be achieved.”

In October of the same year, at a Conservative Members’ Meeting at Llandudno, Churchill made clear that Britain had a unique position at the head of three “majestic circles”, the Empire and the Commonwealth, “the English-speaking world”, and “a United Europe”.

Churchill described the circles as co-existent and linked together, not separated: “We are the only country which has a part in every one of them. We stand, in fact, at the very junction and have in this island at the centre of seaways, and perhaps of the airways also, the opportunity of joining them altogether.”

Evidently, Churchill did not ask what Europe could do for Britain; rather, he asked what Britain could do for Europe. A vote for Brexit would insult not only Britain’s greatest-ever wartime leader, but, equally, all those who gave their lives under his leadership in the Second World War, that future generations of Europeans could live in freedom, peace, and security with each other.
CHRIS RYECART
Weinberg 4
Kefermarkt 4292, Austria


From the Rt Revd Dr David Atkinson
Sir, — One of the many issues hardly mentioned in debates about the coming referendum is our calling under God to stewardship of all the earth’s resources for the good of humanity as a whole. Environmental degradation, loss of biodiversity, climate change, food security, the need for sustainability of earth’s resources are global issues.

The EU nations working together are by far the best equipped group to take a global lead where America has failed to and much of the developing world is much less able to. For all its faults, and need of reform, remaining in the EU is better for the stewardship of God’s earth than focusing only on “what is best for us”.
DAVID ATKINSON
6 Bynes Road
Croydon CR2 0PR


Government policy on public-health nursing

From the Revd Steve Cook
Sir, — I am writing to bring to the attention of your readers the situation developing within public-health nursing. Last October, responsibility for the provision of health-visiting services transferred from the NHS to local government. The Department of Health expected that local authorities would begin to provide these services as contracts for provision were renewed.

In practice, the situation is more complex. The Community Practitioners and Health Visitors Association has received reports that local authorities from Harrogate to Brighton are unable to continue to provide them. The main difficulty seems to be that the budgets that have been set aside for the commissioning of these services have been reduced: all part of central-government cuts that have been imposed on local authorities.

For example, Barnsley Council, as commissioners, have taken over responsibility for children’s services, but there has been a reduction of £1 million in the budget. The present provider, South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, has agreed to continue to provide health-visiting and school nursing services in the short-term to ensure the safety of children. They have not, however, been able to find a model for delivering these services within the reduced resources available long-term.

Government ministers are, it seems, regarding this matter as being up to local decision-making: in effect, therefore, washing their hands of it. This is a matter of serious moral concern, because it relates to the safety and well-being of children, from birth to age 19. Moreover, there are secondary effects developing on the ability to recruit and train staff, and numbers of new entrants for training are down. Why would experienced nurses and midwives want to train in a specialism that is evidently dying for lack of funding?

Of course, many staff who work in this area are suffering an extended period of uncertainty, which is affecting morale. This is all the more puzzling, because in the past five years there has been a government-led initiative to recruit an additional 4000 health visitors (completing in 2015), recognising the value and importance of this work. Such a change in course seems both inconsistent and difficult to understand.

I call on the Bishops in the House of Lords to ask the Government to explain its actions.
STEVE COOK
St Barnabas Vicarage
449 Rochester Way
London SE9 6PH


Bishop Hall in wartime

From Canon Christopher Hall
Sir, — In his positive review of The Practical Prophet, Dean Percy says: “Hall managed to evade capture during the Japanese invasion of Hong Kong,” and conjures up the image of St Paul escaping from Damascus.

Bishop Hall had left for the States to lecture three months before the invasion in December 1941. On 22 July in Hong Kong, he had shared in the consecration of his Dean, Leonard Wilson, as Bishop of Singapore. Wilson had accepted the appointment only on condition that Hall fulfilled his commitment to the Episcopal Theological School, even though it meant that both Bishop and Dean would then be absent from the diocese.

The evidence suggests Providence. Hall was thus at liberty in 1944 back in Free China to ordain the first Anglican woman priest. Wilson was imprisoned and tortured in Changi Jail, where he was gloriously inspired to forgive his enemies and to be, in the title of his biography, “Confessor for the Faith”.
CHRISTOPHER HALL
The Knowle, Deddington
Banbury OX15 0TB


Literary Egyptians

From the Revd Dr Nicholas Cranfield
Sir, — Professor John Ray has pointed out to me that I sold the Egyptians short with my comments about ancient literary societies (Arts, 10 June). Though much has been lost, he points me in the direction of Sinuhe, a tale about exile and guilt, and The Shipwrecked Sailor, which features a magician who once had a daughter. Clearly I need to read more widely to discover the book that Rudyard Kipling enjoyed and another that may have been known to Shakespeare’s sources.

I understand that help is at hand to uncover the natural storytelling along the Nile from Richard Parkinson, Voices from Ancient Egypt (1991).
NICHOLAS CRANFIELD
10 Duke Humphrey Road
London SE3 0TY

 

Bygone era of the hat

From Mr Colin Slater
Sir, — The Church was not alone in discussing whether ladies were re­­quired to wear hats (Diary, 10 June). A comparable debate raged in magis­­trates’ courts. The out­come was the same as in the Church: women’s consciences were eased about going hatless on to the bench.

COLIN SLATER (retired magistrate)
11 Muriel Road, Beeston
Nottingham NG9 2HH 

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