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Letters to the Editor

23 September 2016


Christian social teaching on economic migration


From Mr Iain Osborne
Sir, — Our new Prime Minister used her first speech to the United Nations to affirm the rights of states to control their borders. Refugees might come if we are the first safe country, we are told, but we have no duty to accept economic migrants.

This position, however, is immoral, reflecting bad theology. She is, of course, right that states do have the right to control borders, because this is necessary to protect civic and international peace. But one party’s rights must be exercised in a way that does not infringe another’s rights.

Human beings have a right to constructive work that enables them to earn enough to participate in society, and to maintain a stable home and family life. This means they must be able to emigrate to other countries, when this is necessary for their economic participation. So the UK has a duty to control its borders in such a way as not to hinder economic migration, where there are just reasons.

This teaching has perhaps been expressed most clearly in encyclicals from successive popes — particularly Pacem in Terris from John XXIII; it flows, however, from Aquinas’s teaching on natural law, which is part of the common Western heritage, and which Anglicans have every reason to champion.

I hope the C of E’s priests and preachers will take every opportunity to refute the new nationalism that places the rights of nations over and above those of human beings.
43 Symington Way
Market Harborough LE16 7XA


Proposed design of new Lambeth Palace Library


From Mr Bernard Madden
Sir, — At first sight, the computer-generated image of the proposed new Lambeth Palace Library (News, 16 September) might look a good contender for the next Block-like Carbuncle of the Year award.

It’s a shame, when the Church has given us some of the greatest architecture through the ages. In our own day, witness the examples of Ripon College, Cuddesdon, chapel, or the marvellous blend of ancient and modern at Wells Cathedral.

How about a library building of grace, beauty, imagination, and must-see character?
Dale Cottage, Hathersage
Derbyshire S32 1AQ


The sexuality debate; and the ‘shadow synod’


From the Revd Dr Ian Paul
Sir, — Professor Chris Cook (Comment, 16 September) is quite right to say that we cannot ignore the science around sexuality. I hope, therefore, that both in his conference and in debates in the Church, we will take notice of the conclusions of the peer-reviewed meta-survey “Sexual Orientation, Controversy, and Science” by six authors, including the gay-rights campaigner Lisa Diamond.

Summarising work on twin studies, they conclude: “Our best estimate of the magnitude of genetic effects is moderate — certainly not overwhelming. In contrast, the evidence for environmental influence is unequivocal.” This scientific conclusion raises a major question about theological claims that our sexuality is a God-given identity that necessarily forms part of his good creation.

Professor Cook frames his discussion with a tired and superficial cliché of “science versus religion” based on an inaccurate account of Galileo and the Church. The Church at the time was deeply involved in astronomical science; Galileo’s theory was one of four rival theories (that of Tycho Brahe was more widely respected); and Galileo’s theory didn’t even fit the scientific data that was then available.

Galileo got into trouble not because he opposed theology, but because he insisted on the truth of his view in spite of the contrary evidence. It seems as though something similar is happening in the debate about science and sexuality.

In Romans 1, St Paul is not making a scientific claim about what is natural, but a theological one: that, in certain ways, the created world reflects the Creator God, and we reject aspects of that world at our peril. Paul’s theology of the world as both created and fallen has, historically, been the epistemic assumption on which the scientific project rests, as it tried to make sense of both the order and the disorder of the world as we see it.

Theology is not needed to fit in the gaps kindly left by science: it provides the essential framework for scientific thinking. But, in the current debate, this is too often set aside, because, apparently, St Paul is trapped in his own world, and ours is so much better.

We must take science seriously. But “science”, as it is popularly conceived, makes particular claims about reality from a particular perspective, and neither the claims nor the perspective are beyond question.
102 Cator Lane, Chilwell
Nottingham NG9 4BB


From Dr Peter May
Sir, — I entirely agree with Professor Chris Cook about the need to be able to debate the scientific findings regarding sexuality “critically, respectfully, and without prejudice”. Yet many such findings are tentative, and are changing by the minute as the debate progresses.

For instance, he assumes that sexual orientation is determined by a combination of genetic and environmental factors; and yet this was flatly denied by the Royal College of Psychiatrists only three years ago. They also denied at that time that orientation change was possible. Both these issues are of fundamental importance to the current debate, but in 2014 the College changed its official view.

Furthermore, the mental-health agencies, which signed the Memorandum of Understanding on change therapy, have been pressed repeatedly to provide evidence that change therapy is harmful, but no such evidence has been produced — because no good evidence on the subject exists.

Professor Cook acknowledges the well-documented mental-health problems experienced in the LGBT community. Clinical experience has taught me that lifestyle factors in the LGBT community are a major cause of the mental-health problems. It is quite simplistic to attribute it all to homophobic attitudes in society.

A recent paper, “Sexuality and Gender”, by Mayer and McHugh, published online in the current edition of New Atlantis, provides a careful up-to-date summary of research on sexual orientation and gender identity from the biological, psychological, and social sciences, challenging many aspects of the “impressive consensus” that Professor Cook has assumed.
41 Westridge Road
Southampton SO17 2HP


From Mr Alan Bartley
Sir, — It should not be surprising to Christians that the conclusions of modern science and historic Christian theology differ. The former receives only what is revealed by a study of nature, while the other also admits the revelation of the Fall and consequent alterations in the constitution of nature.

Thus I have no argument with natural science that concludes that homosexuality is common in nature. My argument is with those Christians who jump to the moral conclusion that this settles things.
17 Francis Road
Greenford UB6 7AD


From Mr Richard Ashby
Sir, — The recent gathering of “like-minded clergy” from 11 parishes hosted by the Revd Dr Peter Sanlon was expressly publicised as a “synod” standing ready to form an organisation parallel to the structures of the Church of England. To suggest, as the Revd Peter Ould does (Letters, 16 September), that there is any equivalence with organisations such as Changing Attitude, Inclusive Church, or, indeed, Anglican Mainstream or Reform, none of which is preparing for such schism, is both misleading and mischievous.
11 Jubilee Mews, Prinsted
Emsworth PO10 8EA


Trust in politicians, and the charge of deception


From the Revd Dr Ian K. Duffield
Sir, — It is ironic that, in her important article about current low levels of trust of politicians, which she partially attributes to politicians’ lying (Comment, 16 September), Barbara Ridpath herself perpetuates a lie.

Although it is ubiquitous and oft repeated, it is not true that the government — or Tony Blair, in particular — lied to Parliament and the country about weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) in Iraq. The endless repetition of this accusation, by Socialist Worker placards (BLIAR) and senior politicians such as Alex Salmond and Jeremy Corbyn, does not make it true.

All the inquiries about the Iraq War have established that there was no deliberate deception. Although, in the event, no stockpiles of WMDs were found, the intention and technical capacity were clear. Beforehand, there were strong grounds for concern about Saddam Hussein’s pursuit and acquiring of WMDs for offensive purposes and, hence, the need to remove his WMD capacity and prevent him pursuing this dangerous policy.

The UN and all the major intelligence agencies at the time believed he had WMDs, and so, too, did Saddam’s own generals — and Saddam’s cat-and-mouse tactics with the inspectors pointed in the same direction.

At the same time, the historical record was clear: Saddam Hussein, as a dictator ruling by terror and supporting terrorism, had (a) aggressively sought WMDs; (b) used WMDs; (c) successfully hidden WMDs in the past; and (d) defied the international community about them.

On this basis, it would have been irresponsible to proceed as if Saddam Hussein did not constitute a WMD threat to the region, including Israel, as well as more widely through growing terrorist networks.

So, for political discourse to continue to label Tony Blair a liar is not just misconceived, but a lie itself, which prejudices rational debate.
Director of Research, Urban Theology Unit
Victoria Hall Methodist Church
Norfolk Street
Sheffield S1 2JB


Status of lawyers’ event


From Mr Howard Dellar
Sir, — In your Education Correspondent’s excellent report “Plans offer selection by faith and ability” (News, 16 September), reference is made to a national consultation on the legal issues at a meeting to take place in December.

We would like to make it clear that this is an event organised by us as a private law firm, and is not connected with, or endorsed by, the Church of England Education Office. We are, however, delighted that the former Education Secretary Charles Clarke has agreed to chair the event, which is to be held in central London on 1 December.
Lee Bolton Monier- Williams
1 The Sanctuary
London SW1P 3JT


CPAS’s part in the genesis of Youth Praise


From the Rt Revd Michael Baughen
Sir, — I enjoyed Canon David Winter’s Diary (16 September). The launch of Youth Praise was a very memorable occasion (not least the excitement of a few guitars’ being used), and the two volumes of Youth Praise, which sold a million copies world-wide, did indeed, as he said, represent a milestone in Anglican hymnody.

Those first editions were, in fact, published by Falcon Press, the publishing arm of the Church Pastoral-Aid Society, which was rather overwhelmed by the response.

The 50th-anniversary event in All Souls’, Langham Place, London WC1, on 15 October (from ten till four), is open to anyone. Details are at www.jubilate.co.uk/50.
Flat 23 The Atrium
Woolsack Way
Godalming GU7 1EN

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