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Letters to the Editor

by
18 November 2016

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BAME vocations and racism in white-led C of E

 

From Prebendary Tunde Roberts, the Revd Smitha Prasadam, Mr Courtenay Griffiths QC, Lady Boateng, Mr Trevor Phillips, and others
Sir, — As black and minority-ethnic (BAME) clergy and laity, while we welcome the article featuring BAME vocations (Vocations, 11 November), we believe that it glosses over the shameful statistics on the lack of BAME leadership in the Church of England and, in particular, senior leadership in the Church of England.

The last time the Church of England ordained a BAME bishop was in 1996, when Dr John Sentamu was consecrated as Bishop of Stepney. More than 20 years later, there are only four other BAME individuals in positions of senior leadership across the country.

It should be a matter of deep shame for a national Church that the entirety of its BAME senior leadership can fit in the back of a London cab.

Four dioceses — York, Manchester, Chelmsford. and London — can claim to have some representation on their senior leadership teams. Meanwhile, swaths of the country, including those dioceses across the East and West Midlands — including cities such as Birmingham and Leicester — have no BAME priests in senior leadership.

Northern dioceses fare little better: dioceses such as Leeds, Liverpool, and Blackburn remain stunningly monochrome in the composition of its senior leadership.

It is notable that the Church has seen fit through its structures to appoint more than ten women as bishops over the past 18 months. We also note the number of gay men and women serving at senior levels in the Church as bishop, dean, and archdeacon across the country. While debates on sexuality continue loudly to dominate the Church (including groups with titles such as “inclusive” and “diverse”), the continuing absence of BAME leaders within the Church has been met with barely a whisper.

We long for a time when all the gifts of all of the people of God are celebrated. We believe that God calls the baptised to serve in vocations across the Church. When it comes to ordained ministries — and especially senior leadership positions — we are left wondering what is at work in the Church of England which so frustrates the work of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit calls men and women of all colours and ethnic background to exercise a ministry, which includes authority and leadership at a senior level.

What more needs to happen before the Church legitimately recognises this as a crisis, and acts accordingly?

 

TUNDE ROBERTS, SMITHA PRASADAM, COURTENAY GRIFFITHS, JANET BOATENG, TREVOR PHILLIPS, JONATHAN COORE, DELE AGBELUSI, LUSA NSENGA-NGOY, OLAKUNLE AYODEJI, PAUL LAU, EDITH LAU, AJAY MORE, STEVE GAYLE, LOUISE CODRINGTON-MARSHALL, WILSON GILL, PAM DANIEL, MARTIN WASWA, DEPO OLUKOTUN, JACKIE BARRY, JOSEPH FERNANDES, ANDREW MOUGHTIN-MUMBY, LUELLA GUTZMORE, ANDERSON JEREMIAH, CARL RAMSAY, JUDITH STEPHENSON, NEIL WALSH, ROXANNE F. HUNTE, SHEMIL MATTHEW, GLYNNE GORDON-CARTER
c/o St Olave’s Vicarage
Woodberry Down
London N4 2TW

 

From Canon Julie Conalty
Sir, — “Are the blinkers still on?” No, it is racism: institutional and individual, often unconscious, but sometimes intentional. Let’s be honest and recognise it for what it is, because only then can we truly repent and set about systematically addressing the discrimination that black and minority-ethnic Anglicans face in the Church of England.

 

JULIE CONALTY
Christ Church Vicarage
Victoria Road
Erith DA8 3AN

 

Brief observations on the US President-Elect

 

From the Revd Martin Jewitt
Sir, — Which can of worms on your past two front covers is the real one?

 

MARTIN JEWITT
12 Abbott Road
Folkestone
Kent CT20 1NG

 

From Mr Stephen Green
Sir, — Just as we were absorbing the result of the American Presidential election, there was a reassuring Psalm set for the ninth evening: “God is gone up with a merry noise: and the Lord with the sound of the trump” (Psalm 47.5).

 

STEPHEN GREEN
Charterhouse
Charterhouse Square
London EC1M 6AN

 

GAFCON’s charge sheet against the C of E

 

From the Bishop of Salisbury
Sir, — The GAFCON Statement of 13 November about Lambeth I.10 is outrageous.

First, “Woe to you Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites that you are. . .” When Jesus attacked people he thought were in error, there is not a single instance when he named an individual. To name individuals in this statement is wrong, creates a climate of fear, and opens them to personal abuse.

Second, “Thou shalt not bear false witness.” There is a great deal of inaccuracy in the GAFCON statement. The priest named from this diocese is not licensed, as they say he is. He has carried the cost of conscience personally. The blessing of Gay Pride in Salisbury was a joyful celebration of a people who are part of our community and among the rich diversity of all God’s children. This is in keeping with Lambeth I.10, which calls us “to minister pastorally and sensitively to all irrespective of sexual orientation and to condemn irrational fear of homosexuals.”

Third, “Love your enemies.” GAFCON may think that the people named represent a serious error, but the way in which they are misrepresented is not the way for followers of Jesus, who usually want to represent opponents truthfully and see the best possible motives in others, not the worst.

Fifth, “Do as you would be done by.” Lambeth I.10 also contained statements about the way Provinces relate to one another. Nothing is said about GAFCON’s own repeated violations of these. Lambeth I.10 also acknowledged the Bishops’ inability to come to a common mind on the scriptural, theological, historical, and scientific questions which are raised. “The challenge to our Church is to maintain its unity while we seek, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to discern the way of Christ for the world today with respect to human sexuality. To do so will require sacrifice, trust and charity towards one another, remembering that ultimately the identity of each person is defined by Christ.”

For myself, I learned a long time ago that where you stand affects what you can see. In 2002, at the retirement of a colleague, I stood with 800 others in church to give thanks for the ministry of a gay priest who had exercised an outstanding ministry for 40 years among students, homeless people, and several parishes and congregations.

As the Diocesan Bishop’s Adviser on Pastoral Care, he had cared for many clergy, and had a particular ministry among gay people. Though the institutional Church has at times seemed to find their very existence an “inconvenient truth”, God made LGBT people, loves them, and preserves them. I knew I belonged with the people who gathered in church that evening, and Christ was with us.

 

NICHOLAS SARUM
South Canonry, 71 The Close
Salisbury, Wilts SP1 2ER

 

Sir, — Sister Rosemary (Diary, 11 November) writes about two relationships, that of Bishop Jan McFarlane and her husband, and that of Bishop Nicholas Chamberlain and his partner. Sister Rosemary disagrees with the Archbishop of Canterbury that Bishop Nicholas’s sexuality is “completely irrelevant to his office”.

I venture to suggest that what Sister Rosemary means is that a person’s closest and most loving and intimate relationship — the relationship that makes the greatest contribution to their personal happiness and their effectiveness as a pastor — cannot be said to be irrelevant to their ministry and office.

I rejoice with Bishops Jan and Nicholas in the love and support they have found in their partners, and I know that my own priestly ministry and personal happiness are enormously enhanced by the love and support of my partner. My sexuality, however, will only be irrelevant to my office when the Church deems my marriage to be equal to that of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

 

NAME & ADDRESS SUPPLIED

 

Countryside ministry: a churchwarden’s enquiry

 

From Mrs Vivienne Smith
Sir, — The ministry is a calling. But it doesn’t seem to be calling to the countryside.

Ten years ago, one applicant came forward for our three-parish benefice in rural Essex. In a year’s time, when our priest retires, we shall link up with four adjacent parishes. They are currently advertising for the third time.

So, brothers and sisters, what’s the problem? Does an urban parish appear to have more challenges? But we all know that behind every door in every parish there are always people who need our care and love, whatever their postcode.

Are you afraid of being left out on a limb in a smaller, rural community? Well, here we all have ministry as partnership teams. We share the preaching, the prayers, the visiting and organising services.

And churchwardens in the countryside have the same responsibility to care for their clergy as they do in the towns. With such backing, there is no need to fear that a multi-parish job will hammer you into the ground.

Do you feel a town church has more impact? Just visit a village and see how the building stands out. It’s not lost among a sea of houses. It’s a symbol of our faith, and its relevance is not to be judged by the number of bums on seats on a Sunday, but how much the church family shows its care for the community.

Or do the training colleges give the impression that, professionally, town work is a better bet? Yet we do have some excellent country priests of all ages and of either sex who clearly find their ministries rewarding.

The great gift of the Church of England is that it is there for everyone. But it won’t be if there is no calling to serve the countryside.

This humble churchwarden would just like to hear just why that calling is falling on deaf ears.

 

VIVIENNE SMITH
Pheasant Oak, Loamy Hill Road
Tolleshunt Major
Maldon CM9 8LS

 

Implications for Church of the Henriques report

 

From Mr C. D. C. Armstrong
Sir, — The Henriques report on the handling by the Metropolitan Police of allegations of abuse made against a number of prominent public figures, both living and deceased, by an individual known only as “Nick” has important implications for the treatment meted out by the Church of England authorities to the late Bishop George Bell.

In his report (which was widely covered in the national press), Sir Richard Henriques is critical of the police’s willingness to rely on the uncorroborated testimony of a single individual; he was critical also of their policy of believing the complainant before proper scrutiny of the allegations.

The credulous reception by the police of the claims made by “Nick” — a reception of which Sir Richard is so critical — is remarkably similar to the Church’s willingness to believe and broadcast the unsubstantiated allegations made against George Bell by a single complainant. The claims made about the late Bishop of Chichester have been undermined by the painstaking factual research of members of the George Bell Support Group, notably by Dr Andrew Chandler.

Surely it is now time for the Church of England to show that it operates to moral standards that are at least as high as those of the police and withdraw the allegations against George Bell.

 

C. D. C. ARMSTRONG
Flat 2a, Ulidia House
34 Donegall Road
Belfast BT125JN 

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