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Letters to the Editor

22 April 2016



From Margery Roberts

Sir, — As a churchwarden in the Two Cities Area of the diocese of London, I was both ashamed and exasperated to read the comments made by Judge Philip Katz QC in the case of Timothy Storey, a former church youth leader who has been sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment for raping two teenage girls (News, 22 April and 26 February).

Judge Katz said that “there was a wholesale failure by those responsible at that time for safeguarding to understand whose interests they should have been safeguarding.” He also said that a senior diocesan official had arrogantly refused to give prosecutors a statement for the trial and seemed to be more worried about reputational damage to the diocese. There were other uncomplimentary and pertinent comments about the diocese.

The similarities to the George Bell case in Chichester are striking. In both cases, the church authorities claimed to have carried out full and transparent inquiries, and to have acted responsibly and appropriately, which they simply had not. There is a worrying gulf between the descriptive language used on these occasions and the reality. The people concerned seem to believe, whether cynically or naïvely, that describing an investigation in terms such as “transparent” and “appropriate” dispenses them from ensuring that it has been.

There is to be the inevitable review, which will promise improvements for the future. But there will be no improvements in safeguarding until fundamental changes in attitude take place. In my view, these should include a recognition by the clergy that, on occasion, they lack wisdom and insight in pastoral matters and should seek advice; the inclusion of independent-minded assessors and advisers from disciplines other than social work and human resources; and, above all else, the ending of disingenuous cover-ups of poorly handled safeguarding cases.

If the Church cannot put its house in order in this vitally important area then, inevitably, seats will be empty of bums.


Churchwarden of St Mary le Strand with St Clement Danes
7 Nunnery Stables, St Albans AL1 2AS


From the Revd Jan Ashton

Sir, — Is there a cathedral courageous enough to offer this service? I would like, and possibly need to attend, a service in which I can bring my memories of being sexually attached and sexually abused as a young teenager to God.

I don’t want to go to the police. I’m 63, and it’s a long time ago. But I am still carrying around the emotions of these incidents; perhaps it’s shame; perhaps it’s disgust tinged with anger.

I would like to be in a beautiful building and be able to share, either spoken or written down, my hurts. I would like to sing and listen to others singing. I would like to hear a short sermon about forgiveness and how this impinges on these memories. I would like to be surrounded by other women or even men and be able to say “It was horrid,” and hear a priest reply “Yes, it was” (others will be able to write this in appropriate liturgical language). Then I would like to pray for those men who think it is acceptable to sexually abuse, and ask that others won’t have to experience this. I would like to be anointed.

If you are able to hold this service, I would be grateful.


50 Nursery Grove, Kidderminster DY11 5BG


Commended ‘robust approach’ to fossil fuels is unrealistic about demand

From the Revd Michael Roberts

Sir, — Having recently given a paper at an international conference of the AAPG (American Association of Petroleum Geologists) in Spain, I found the article “Robust approach to fossil fuels required” (Comment, 15 April) inadequate and strident.

It reflects the current phobia of fossil fuels without realising that there are no alternatives in the foreseeable future. Concern for the planet is essential but it must be grounded in realism.

Fossil fuels will be used way into the 22nd century, whether we like it or not, and the key is to use them in an environmentally sensitive way. Thus, coal needs to be eliminated as soon as possible, and natural gas must be seen as the best/least worst replacement, either as a bridge fuel, or having a permanent place, with, it is to be hoped, carbon capture and storage (CCS). Few commentators expect fossil fuels to be replaced by 2050 if at all, and they are thus not going to be stranded assets (petroleum companies will change drastically in the next decades).

I found the article both biased and in places inaccurate (as over claims that petroleum companies have almost all the necessary expertise for CCS). Much of the “robust approach” is simply ill-informed attacks on oil and gas, as is seen over fracking on onshore oil and gas in the UK. Sadly, too many Christian green groups repeat the inaccuracies of the green NGOs, Naomi Klein, and others, and that includes Operation Noah.

Rather than “robust approaches”, which are often inaccurate, and ideological attacks on all fossil fuels, all in general — and the Churches in particular — need to consider what are the best (or least worst) energy solutions for the present rather than have blind faith in renewables, which at present produce less than five per cent of the world’s energy. To go from five per cent to 100 per cent will take many decades. As Professor Dieter Helm recently pointed out, we have no alternative at present, and need to go into to the future with a mix of energies, including nuclear, which is a no-no for many. Most importantly, he emphasises the need for far more research in alternatives, instead of pinning our hopes on our present and limited renewables.

The “carbon bubble” will not burst, and will go either to an environmental indifference at great human cost or the development of a greener energy mix. The pushing of green idealism and ideology makes the former more likely.


35 Worcester Avenue, Garstang, Preston PR3 1FJ


Infrastructure projects: compare like with like

From Mr George Scott

Sir, — Far from our having an inferiority complex about infrastructure projects, as Gerry Lynch (Comment, 24 March) suggests, the reverse, I think, is true. We seem to feel that because Continental countries have many more miles of motorways and high-speed trains, then we should do the same. He falls into the trap, common in the UK, of overestimating our geographical size.

France, for example, has a population roughly equivalent to ours, but an area more than double the size. This means, that outside the conurbations, the population density is very much less. The main reason that we have fewer miles of motorways is that we have fewer miles to build them on.

It clearly makes sense to build high-speed links between, say, Paris and Marseille, or Le Mans and Strasbourg, as significant savings in journey time can be achieved. Long-distance motorways, even with tolls, can achieve real savings in time and money by avoiding the need for overnight stops.

When it comes to France’s “bulldozing infrastructure schemes past local opposition”, Mr Lynch is quite simply wrong. Many such projects are welcomed by the local population because they open up the remoter parts of the country. But he is clearly unaware of the French love of a good demo where a project is not popular. To give one example, a few years ago, EDF wished to run a row of pylons through a picturesque valley not far from my former home. The opposition was so strong and so well organised that the project was dropped. And has he not come across reports of the French reaction to fracking?

Mr Lynch writes: “We must retain robust planning procedures to challenge genuinely bad schemes and poor thinking.” The problem is that what is a good or bad scheme is largely subjective. He clearly thinks that HS2 from London to Birmingham is a good thing, whereas it seems to many that to spend £50 billion on a scheme through an area of outstanding natural beauty to achieve a saving of about 20 minutes on the journey time is not — particularly when millions of people every day have to commute into our great cities in appalling conditions.

Finally, I have not seen anything ever to support the assertion that cost-benefit analyses tend to understate the benefit of projects.


50 Bleadon Hill, Weston-super-Mare BS24 9JW


Credit union’s achievements in first year

From Hilary Sams

Sir, — Thank you for including a piece on my presentation on the work of the Churches’ Mutual Credit Union in your coverage of the recent meeting of the Governing Body of the Church in Wales (News, 15 April).

For your information, we granted our first loan in May 2015, less than a year ago, and not two years, as stated in your report, passing the £1-million mark on Monday 18 April 2016.

In addition to 113 car loans, since last May our loans have purchased two caravans and a motorbike and helped improve seven homes and furnish two others, as well as helped pay for a wedding. We’ve also walked alongside 12 households in helping to turn unmanageable debt into affordable credit.

From an empty balance sheet when we were launched in February 2015, we now have more than 600 active members and more than £1.6 million in savings deposits, a significant achievement in the space of just over a year.

Although many of our members are ordained ministers, our common bond, or those eligible to join, is wider than that, and includes PCC members, trustees, and office staff from five (shortly to be six) different denominations, resulting in a membership that is as diverse as our churches.

We aim to continue to do our part in promoting credit unions as a mainstream alternative in the financial sector, and widening the scope of membership to individuals from all walks of life and financial circumstances.


Chief Executive
Churches’ Mutual Credit Union Ltd
3 Beaufort Buildings, Spa Road, Gloucester GL1 1XB


Interfaith blindspot of theological futurologists

From the Revd Richard Tetlow

Sir, — The seven working theologians engaged in your request to gaze into the future (“Theology next: looking ahead”, Theology Now, 24 March) almost totally fail to demonstrate awareness of the existence of other great world faiths. Perhaps part of the problem was your selection of theologians.

The single acknowledgement I found was from Dr Steven Shakespeare, who admits that “much well-funded theology is living in a fantasy world. It oozes nostalgia for a Christendom centred on Europe. And it bristles with contempt for anything that contests that narrative from Islam to liberation theology.” So it seems.

The world faiths are not new, and now they are increasingly active in Britain. In my understanding of Christianity, God is God of everyone and all faiths. Theology I take to be the study of God. Such an example of exclusivism seems to me neither good for our society, nor Christian for our future.


Convener, Moseley and Highgate Inter Faith groups
26 Sovereign Way
Birmingham B13 8AT

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