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Letters to the Editor

by
08 July 2016

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Further responses to the EU referendum result

 

From Mrs Mary P. Roe

Sir, — It seems that the “mighty tortoise” the Church of England has demonstrated its reptilian wisdom compared with that of the referendum hare that was set running when the self-destruct button was pushed in Westminster on 23 June.

Immediately after the vote, people of both opinions described the outcome as a “seismic event” in our history, whereas beforehand we were assured that the matter could be decided by a 50/50 vote — little more indicative of an overwhelming popular feeling than the toss of a coin would have been, and implying that the result wouldn’t make much difference either way.

Those of us who struggled to achieve the acceptance of women’s ordination were extremely frustrated when the motion failed to receive the stipulated two-thirds majority in all three Houses of the General Synod the first time it was debated. With hindsight, I think we are all agreed that when such a convincing majority of prayerful Christians was shown to believe that this was the direction in which the Church was being called, implementing the necessary new arrangements was a much smoother process than it would have been after a less decisive vote achieved by a very small majority in a 50/50 contest.

I fear that reconciliation and the re-building of trust in government by whoever takes the reins will be a daunting task, not made easier by the lingering suspicion that victory was won as a result of over-optimistic promises, misrepresentation of facts, and a general lack of integrity in the conduct of the campaign.

 

MARY P. ROE
1 The North Lodge, Kings End
Bicester OX26 6NT

 

From the Revd Joost Röselaers

Sir, — It was with mixed feelings that the Dutch Church in London took notice of the result of the Brexit referendum.

The result has upset a large part of the Dutch community here in the UK, and has caused considerable uncertainty. Is there still a future for us in the UK? In these unpredictable times, it is of the greatest importance to stand up for the values we share as Europeans and to guarantee peace. Does this result take us back in time?

Christianity in Europe also knew a “Brexit” when Henry VIII broke with the Roman Catholic Church. Thanks to the English national Church and its authenticity, European Protestants found a safe refuge in London in the 16th century. In 1550, the Strangers’ Church was founded, which is today known as the Dutch Church.

It is difficult to predict the effects of this second Brexit. Let us remain careful over drawing conclusions. As a Christian congregation, we feel inspired by the perspective of a world without borders, where all share in peace, prosperity, and happiness. Despite our current sad mood, we still want to believe in this perspective.

The new situation that has emerged makes us appeal to all politicians, citizens, and churches to rediscover what we share. Peace and solidarity in Europe was once the main reason to start the European Union. Despite the fact that institutions will change, we still hope that this peace and solidarity will be found. This is, in any case the hope that will be kept alive in the Dutch Church in London.

 

JOOST RÖSELAERS
Minister
The Dutch Church
7 Austin Friars
London EC2N 2HA

 

From the Revd Chris Smith

Sir, — President Obama said that we would be at the back of the queue for a United States trade deal. But soon we will have our own queue. In fact, after the dust settles there will be an almighty scramble to try and influence a re-empowered Westminster. Fishermen will want their fishing grounds back, and big business is already asking for a tax cut.

Who is going to speak up for the poor?

Most trade-justice movements lament the distorting effect of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). Green coffee beans can be imported from Africa tariff-free, but not if they are roasted or processed. This policy has stopped poorer countries adding value and developing industry.

But soon the CAP will not apply to us, and free and fair trade deals will be possible. Is the Church ready for this? We need to start praying, organising, and advocating. If we can get poorer nations to the front of that queue, good could yet come from this vote.

 

CHRIS SMITH
Chevening Rectory, Chipstead
Sevenoaks, Kent TN13 2RU

 

From Canon John Tipping

Sir, — The Bishop of Shrewsbury tells us (Comment, 1 July) that he voted Brexit in the recent referendum, largely because of the imperfections and inefficiency of the European Union.

Since we belong to a Church that is sinful and fallible, would he recommend that we should similarly abandon our Church, vote with our feet, and keep ourselves holy by ourselves?

 

JOHN TIPPING
5 Peace Place, Thorpeness
Suffolk IP16 4NA

 

Clerical vesture: historical context to guide the General Synod’s debate

 

From Mr Benedict Yates

Sir, — I greatly enjoyed reading Canon Robin Ward’s article on vestments (Features, 10 June), but I found a number of misleading and disputable assertions, which I feel ought to be assessed.

To begin with, Christian vesture did not originate in social conservatism particularly, and in the West new fashions such as the dalmatic and planeta were adopted with surprising speed. Christians wore clothing appropriate to their social level, but were united in a tendency to wear travelling garments, probably owing to the essentially peripatetic nature of early Christianity.

I would draw attention to my article on the subject in the June 2014 edition of Anaphora, the journal of the Society for Liturgical Study. The conservative paenula is not referenced ecclesiastically after the third century, and the famous picture of Gregory the Great appears to be the fuller and more fashionable planeta, while the pallium he wears derives from the philosophers’ gown worn by Justin Martyr, and was praised as appropriate vesture for virtuous Christians by Tertullian in around 200.

The dalmatic was worn by some ecclesiastics from the third century, and refers simply to a long sleeved tunica. The original linea and tunica, like their cousin the colobium, were generally sleeveless, or with very short sleeves, as is evidenced from artwork of the time. It is likely that early dalmatics were white and are ultimately the design source for the alb, which probably accounts for the oddity of the 633 Council of Toledo’s distinguishing the alb as the vestment emblematic of the diaconate.

The same decree also places the chasuble (casula or planeta) as distinctive of the priesthood, well before the “high Middle Ages”. Ordo Romanus Primus, which probably reflects pre-sixth-century vesture, also distinguishes between the Pope’s linen dalmatic and his proper dalmatic.

Apart from the maniple, proliferation of vesture came relatively late and mostly at the same period, caused quite probably by the ninth-century belief that episcopal vesture derived from the Levitical vesture (as early as the fifth century, the vesture had been seen as analogous, for instance by St Jerome). The mitre that developed in the 11th century is apparently a deliberate evocation of the Levitical mitra, hence its earlier shape, and its use to distinguish Levitical priests in art.

Saxon bishops wore a rationale, although this practice ceased before the conquest, although it may have inspired the later pectoral cross. The increasing theology of the high priesthood of the bishop, together with increasing symbolic emphasis, led to the excessive decoration of peripheral garments, shoes, buskins, gloves, and so on. Colours were based on a scheme of white, red, black, and green (or another neutral colour), with violet beginning to be a version of black in and around Rome (according to Durandus) with very dark blue a more common alternative in Northern Europe. Violet did not gain hegemony until after the Reformation, and was very rare in England until the 19th century.

As regards choir dress, it is largely derived from secular and academic dress. The surplice is structurally derived from light “over-gowns” of the Middle Ages, and is white probably in imitation of the alb. The almuce was a secular furred cape, worn by higher-ranking ecclesiastics, which descended eventually to the mozzetta (literally “little almuce”) of RC canons, and has no relation to the tippet (a.k.a. scarf), which was originally part of the academic hood, hence its Latin name of liripipium or “hanging-down part”, and its place within a judge’s garb.

As an aside, the Anglican bishop’s chimere derives from a riding coat (black) and Oxford DD robes (red). In fact, with the exception of the whiteness of the surplice, there is nothing genuinely ecclesiastical about Anglican choir dress.

These are the principal areas that I would like to redress (would that there was more space), and, while perhaps merely nit-picking, they do show that vestments are perhaps more essentially linked to the Church’s view of ministry and identity than “the smart public dress of the late Roman Empire”.

I also think that it is clear that eucharistic vestments are of genuine and ancient significance, whereas choir dress really develops out of Reformation prejudice. Discussions on the future of liturgical vesture should probably reflect this.

 

BENEDICT YATES
Deanery Cottage, The Close
Winchester SO23 9LS

 

Same-sex relationships

 

From the Revd Barry Morrison

Sir, — In response to the Dean of Chelmsford (Letters, 1 July), and Dr Childs and Dr Bell (Comment, 24 June), Jesus certainly opposed all forms of oppression, bullying, and discrimination. His extension of adultery to include lustful thoughts drives us all to continual humility and repentance.

He also, however, reaffirmed God’s creation of male and female and the place of one-flesh intimacy only within such a heterosexual union. In sharp contrast to the culture of Rome, Corinth, and Ephesus, this was the overwhelming view of first-century Palestinian Judaism. We should not, therefore, expect any specific teaching by Jesus on same-sex relationships.

Even so, when declaring all foods clean, he included among the evils coming out of the human heart sexual immorality. The Greek word porneia included all departures from God’s purposes for marriage between a man and a woman. Jesus insists on freedom and an attitude of welcome and acceptance, but he does not endorse the expression, still less the promotion, of lifestyles outside God’s purposes.

 

BARRY MORRISON
11 Lytham Park
Oundle PE8 4FB

 

Flowers are girl-power

 

From the Revd Brenda Wallace

Sir, — May I comment belatedly on Canon Angela Tilby’s article about ordinands (Comment, 24 June)? I was disappointed to read her disparaging comments about ordinands’ wearing “girlie floral dresses with slip-in clerical collars”. I am saddened that someone of Canon Tilby’s stature should make such sexist comments.

Given that all ordinands will be robed for the service, then what they wear underneath their robes is surely a matter for them alone. Why should they not celebrate this special occasion in their lives, and also celebrate their God-given femininity, with a pretty floral dress if they wish?

The necessity of wearing what is primarily male clothing in the form of clerical shirts that adapt badly to the female form is a frustration for most women clergy, and I am delighted at those who have the courage and flair to wear more feminine clerical wear.

 

BRENDA WALLACE
93 Ferry Road
Hullbridge SS5 6EL

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