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Letters to the Editor

03 June 2016


Shareholder engagement with ExxonMobil

From the Revd Hugh Lee
Sir, — On 25 May, shareholders at ExxonMobil rejected all climate resolutions at its annual meeting in Dallas, as they were recommended to do by the company’s Board of Directors. This poses serious questions about the effectiveness of the engagement approach pursued by the Church of England and some other investors.

Recent investigations revealed that Exxon knew about climate change as far back as the 1970s, and yet poured resources into publicly denying climate change for years. It is now under investigation by the FBI, at the request of the Department for Justice.

Now, Exxon has once again demonstrated its unwillingness to change, even in the light of the Paris Agreement. The resolution proposed by the Church Commissioners, which called on Exxon to report on the impacts of climate-change policies on their business, was rejected by 61.8 per cent of shareholders. In an even bigger setback, 81 per cent of shareholders rejected a resolution to limit global warming to 2°.

A huge number of investors have already decided to divest from Exxon, including the Rockefeller Family Fund, which called the company’s actions “morally reprehensible”. The Church of England should do the same. In the case of ExxonMobil, it is clear that the Church Commissioners’ policy of engagement — while well intentioned — simply has not worked.

The world cannot wait for Exxon to wake up to reality on climate change, which is already upon us and will intensify rapidly. It is time for the Church of England to divest from fossil fuels and invest in renewable energy in line with its fifth mark of mission, “to strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth”.

64 Observatory Street
Oxford OX2 6EP


CHP’s publications list is still outward-facing

From Mr Thomas Allain-Chapman
Sir, — I am grateful that the Revd Mike Plunkett has taken the time to read Church House Publishing’s recent leaflet (Letters, 20 May).

CHP’s focus is on resourcing the local church for worship, ministry, and mission with high-quality print and digital resources. This includes equipping parishes to engage with social issues. For example, the widely acclaimed Pilgrim Course (with more than 100,000 copies sold and a US version just published) incorporates sessions on confronting injustice, and the global issue of how to tread lightly on the earth.

CHP also published the Bishops’ Pastoral Letter Who Is My Neighbour?, which addressed a wide range of social and economic issues before the General Election.

CHP is also equipping parishes in new ways. Our acclaimed series of apps (including the new Time to Pray) has just achieved more than 200,000 first-time downloads across more than 200 countries (from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe). Digital publishing allows us new ways of spreading the gospel across the generations — outward-facing publishing that can help engage people, wherever they are in the world.

Many of the working-group reports that in days gone by parishes had access to only if CHP printed them are now, of course, available free to anyone on the Church of England website.

Publishing Manager
The Archbishops’ Council
Church House
Great Smith Street
London SW1P 3AZ


Future of Reader ministry, and the diaconate

From the Bishop of Sodor & Man
Sir, — In his letter (27 May), Nigel Holmes takes a pot-shot at the Central Readers’ Council and explains that the Reader movement should have listened to his advice 20 years ago.

My words in the sermon at the Reader Anniversary Eucharist were: “The Executive of the Central Readers’ Council, preparing for the next 150 years, recently made two bold proposals that were affirmed in discussion at the recent AGM. It asked that the Lay Ministry Working Group might consider the dissolution of the Central Readers’ Council and its replacement with something like a lay ministry council; and it also proposed a constitutional change that would allow it to help fund regional lay-ministry projects.

“If something like that happens, as we hope it will, the future will not be ‘Readers-and-others’ as the Canons of the Church of England assume, but ‘Readers-among-others’, a wide range of paid and unpaid lay ministers authorised by bishops, including evangelists, teachers of the faith, chaplains, pioneers, lay congregation leaders, pastoral assistants, youth and children’s workers, community workers, worship leaders, and others.

“Working alongside clergy, they’ll build up the evangelistic, the pastoral, the formational, and the liturgical life of the Church, and serve God’s mission in the world. The future is exciting for this movement. Confidence is returning.”

This is hardly a shocking announcement, but a general proposal that the Lay Ministry Working Group might consider. Readers are church people and believe that strategic decisions about ministry belong to the Church as a whole. I am encouraged that support for this exciting vision of an integrated body of lay public ministers is growing, and not to be confused with the vocational diaconate, a valuable ministry in its own right.

Thie yn Aspick, 4 The Falls
Cronkbourne, Douglas
Isle of Man IM4 4PZ


From the Revd Keith Thomasson
Sir, — I have followed the fertile discussion around the diaconate (Letters, 27 May).

First of all, I value how Canon Mike Parsons frames the discussion of specific vocations such as the diaconate within the context of the foundational calling of all the bap­tised. I am interested in how deacons develop their sharing of this ministry together with the all the baptised, including those who have specific callings (e.g., LLM, Church Army officer, Pioneer minister). I suggest that greater imaginative thinking and reflective conversation around the stuff of mission and ministry might help reimagine the boundaries between lay and or­­da­ined which the Revd Dr John Williams points towards.

Second, I appreciate Canon Parsons’s raising the question of the transitional diaconate. On the one hand, this is fascinating for the wider ecumenical context. Within English Methodism, one is called to a distinctive ministry, either as presbyter or deacon. The mainland European Reformed traditions (e.g. in the Netherlands) have much learning to share with Anglicans on the expression of diaconal ministry.

I wish, however, to address this from experience as an ordained Ang­­lican deacon and presbyter (priest). While exploring ordination, I felt a call to both ministries, but with a weighting towards the dia­conate. I was conscious of how the system of selection and the paying of stipends was biased towards the priestly calling, and so sat lightly with this. On entering parish min­istry as an assistant curate, I became aware of how priestly ordination was valued most highly, and how diaconal and Reader ministries were effectively interchangeable.

There then followed a time in parishes where the priestly ministry was dominant, with an emphasis on a pioneering ministry combined with oversight. (This, of course, raises the question how episcope is shared and reimagined, something that Canon Malcolm Grundy is helpfully addressing.) Latterly, as a chaplain, I have found that the diaconal is more to the fore. With this in mind, I value ordination to both, and am delighted that the diaconal has not, in the longer term, been transitional for me.

Finally, on Maundy Thursday, many reaffirm their commitment to the ministries that they are called to. For many years, I was in a minority who would stand and heartily affirm calling to ministry as both presbyter and deacon. With the better design of services, where the bishops begin with the affirmation of their vows, this is changing. Yet there is still scope for all to continue and expli­citly affirm their baptismal vocation with as much commitment.

6 Albany Road
Romsey SO51 8EE


Research on women in the Primitive Church

From Sister Teresa CSA
Sir, — Aimé-Georges Martimort, with a very negative attitude, assembled only some of the evidence on women and the diaconate in the Early Church (Letters, 27 May).

His work has been superseded by Ute Eisen, Women Officeholders in Early Christianity (1996/2000), and Kevin Madigan and Carolyn Osiek, Ordained Women in the Early Church (2005), and, for abiding vestiges among the Abbesses of the Canonesses in later years, Gary Macy, The Hidden History of Women’s Ordination (2008).

As Felicitas Corrigan OSB wrote in her review of Martimort: “The Deaconess of the Didascalia with her clear liturgical and pastoral role did not spring like Aphrodite from the foam.” These better, and less biased, methodologies have produced far more positive results, which merit a new synthesis.

12 Ramsay Hall
9-13 Byron Road, Worthing
West Sussex BN11 3HN


Priest’s generosity

From Hazel Hallas
Sir, —There has been much press publicity recently about the Revd Robert Parker since his decision to sell Guyzance Hall was made public, much of it giving a fuller picture of his activities than the opinion of Andrew Brown (Press, 20 May).

Mr Parker became a friend to St Peter’s, Sutton Coldfield, during our interregnum, when I was churchwarden from March 2010 to February 2011. He voluntarily travelled from his home in Shropshire to Sutton Coldfield in the West Midlands to take many of our services, including midnight communion on Christmas Eve.

He is a generous, fun-loving, and companionable person, who enjoys sharing his comfortable lifestyle with many less fortunate people, and donates much of his wealth to charities not only in the UK, but in America and Africa also.

There are many friends, both clergy and lay, who offer him their support.

143 Birmingham Road
Sutton Coldfield B72 1LX


Family connection with hero of HMS Chester

From the Revd Martin Loft
Sir, — Much has been written lately about the centenary of the Battle of Jutland and the death of Jack Cornwell, who was awarded a posthumous VC for his steadfast courage. Some is factual, some mythical.

During his time at the Royal Naval training establishment at Keyham, he had been prepared for confirmation by a Chaplain RN. When his ship, HMS Chester, very badly damaged in the battle, reached Immingham, Cornwell and the others most seriously wounded were taken to Grimsby General Hospital.

Shortly before he died there, he received communion from my father, the Revd Edmund Loft, Vicar of St Paul’s, Grimsby, who placed a small brass cross by Jack’s bed. It is now in my possession, a treasured family possession.

41 Brook Road
Sheffield S8 9FH


Whitland Sisters’ work

From the Revd Dr David H. Williams
Sir, — You reproduced (Retreats, 13 May) a picture of two Sisters of Holy Cross Abbey, Whitland, Carmarthenshire, engaged in jam-making. This is but one of several of their endeavours, the chief of which is the manufacture of a variety of altar breads. The prime objective of their lives is the fine chanting of the Divine Office. My native Wales is fortunate to have their daily prayer.

College of St Barnabas
Lingfield, Surrey RH6 6NJ

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