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Letters to the Editor

by
10 March 2017

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The emperor’s new clothes? Brexit and the opportunities that it presents

 

From Mr Neal Terry
Sir, — The Revd Dan Stork Banks’s “Reasons to be cheerful about Brexit” (Comment, 3 March) are precisely those phenomena that lead me to despair. How it can be understood that inviting bigger wolves to the door while reducing our bargaining strength and removing rafts of social legislation defeats me.

This is particularly so as it is wrapped up in a concern for “the poor”, who seem to be the political football of choice, despite voting analyses that indicate that education, age, and ethnicity accounted for the large majority of the variation in voting in the referendum.

I have never described a “Leave voter” as selfish or racist; and yet Mr Stork Banks attributes the precarious existence of education and health services, the Islamisation of communities, low pay and poor employment conditions to the folk devil of immigration rather than three decades of neo-liberal public policy. Immigration controls have not been reinstated: they were never out of the UK’s control. The EU provision of freedom of movement has always been qualified by the individual nation’s laws on immigration.

Legatum’s claim that this is a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity to reshape public policy for the benefit of the poor is simply more fog belying the nature of public policy. The opportunities are fewer than they were; economic liberalism leads the world, its much valued competitiveness predicating winners and losers, and the poor being with us always.

 

NEAL TERRY
4 Sandpiper Place, Longbenton
Newcastle upon Tyne NE12 8PE

 

From Jean Louis
Sir, — The Revd Dan Stork Banks equates leaving the EU with better lives for the poor in the UK.

Excluding the 2008 crisis, the UK GDP has, however, been growing every year since 1991, according to the Office for National Statistics, and absolute poverty in the UK has gone from 22 per cent in 2002 to 15 per cent in 2015 (fullfact.org), with the biggest drop in poverty among pensioners from 28 per cent in 2002 to 15 per cent in 2015. GDP has increased, absolute poverty has decreased, and yet the socio-economic gap continues to widen. GDP and poverty level are, therefore, not the main factors in bridging the inequality divide.

As the majority of EU countries do better at economic equality than the UK (as measured by the GINI coefficient), it is a big leap to think that leaving the EU will reduce the socio-economic gap. Inequality is greater in Mr Stork Banks’s suggested trade-deal partners than in the UK. We, like all EU nations, have the power to affect this gap today with our national policies.

We need to be careful not to let our leaders, politicians, and clergy use Brexit as the emperor’s new clothes. We have not left the EU, and the current situation is not an indicator of how things might be for us outside the EU.

One thing is sure: we must raise our voices to require our decision-makers to implement policies that benefit the poor now, and build a country where our European values of prosperity, unity, and hospitality are available to all.

 

JEAN LOUIS
1 Warrels Grove
Leeds LS13 3NN

 

From the Revd Catherine Llewelyn-Evans
Sir, — The Revd Dan Stork Banks castigates senior clergy for voting Remain, proving themselves uncaring and disconnected from the needs of the poor.

I am one of the very junior clergy, living in a comfortable part of the world (though with a sister who runs a large foodbank), and I, too, voted Remain. I did so, above all, because history shows that political instability nearly always leads to economic instability, and I feared that those who would suffer the most from Brexit would not be middle-class clergy like me, but people at the bottom of the economic ladder.

My fears may prove to be unfounded, but it was not ignorant elitism that made me vote as I did.

 

CATHERINE LLEWELYN-EVANS
The Old Vicarage
1 St Cuthbert’s Street
Wells
Somerset BA5 2AW

 

From the Revd Frank Willett
Sir, — The Revd Dan Stork Banks seems to have swallowed quite uncritically the wishful thinking of the right-wing tabloid press; but my chief concern is his completely illogical view that the fact that most bishops voted Remain in the June 2016 referendum meant that they were out of touch with working-class and poor people, most of whom voted Leave.

There is no doubt that there are many deprived communities who have been excluded in the globalised economy that the EU has encouraged and facilitated, but the fact of their exclusion is the fault not of the EU, but of our own Government’s policies. There is much that could have been done to promote industry, house-building, improving schools, and health care and has been shamefully neglected, when it could have reduced the sense of exclusion and alienation that people in such communities feel.

I believe it is because the Bishops know that the causes are home-grown and not the fault of the EU that most voted to remain.

Mr Banks also speaks of fears that “high levels of immigration will Islamise beloved communities.” I will say nothing of the implied racism and anti-Islamic sentiment of that statement, but simply point out that controlling immigration from the EU will not affect the numbers of Muslims coming to live in this country, the vast majority of whom do not come from Europe.

 

FRANK WILLETT
57 Fawn Gardens
New Milton
Hants BH25 5GJ

 

Risk of ‘pastoral practice at odds with scripture’

 

From the Bishops of Blackburn and Maidstone
Sir, — We write as former members of the Reflection Group who worked on the House of Bishops’ report to the General Synod, GS 2055.

The majority of the recent Synod voted to take note of the report. It was the decision to allow a vote by Houses which led to the defeat of the motion by a tiny majority in the House of Clergy. From our point of view, the paper represented a genuine attempt to encourage us all to continue to walk together as further work is done to explore how to be faithful to the Bible’s teaching on marriage while demonstrating loving pastoral care to all.

The vote in the General Synod was not a vote to change either the Church’s teaching on marriage or its liturgy. The debate did, however, reveal just how many are willing to work for this to happen. Those who seek to promote and support such a change have been highly voluble since then, and have given the impression that anything less will not be acceptable.

Canon A5 makes it clear, however, that the Church’s doctrine is based squarely on the Bible’s teaching. We remain completely unpersuaded that there is any biblical warrant for the Church to change its doctrine of marriage or its view that God’s good purposes for human flourishing mean that all sexual relations outside marriage are contrary to God’s will.

This is not a matter of being divisive or unwelcoming. It is about preserving the place and authority of God’s Word in his Church. In this year of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, we do well to recall the rediscovery and reintroduction of the Bible in the 16th century to the beliefs and practices of the Church, re-forming the people of God according to His Word.

We look forward to considering a new teaching document from the House of Bishops on marriage and relationships — not least because the promotion of marriage as the Church understands it is such an urgent need in society.

We are, however, very concerned that the recent General Synod debate will generate the development of pastoral practice that is completely at odds with scripture, and we plead with the proponents of change not to impair their communion with those who support the Church’s current teaching. The result will be increasing division among us.

In the mean time, we encourage parishes to continue to have confidence in scripture as the accepted Anglican basis for godly unity, to uphold the Church’s doctrine on marriage and relationships, to express fellowship with like-minded Anglicans worldwide, to continue in fruitful evangelistic work, and to pray that the Church will be an increasingly effective witness to Jesus Christ as the Saviour of all.

 

JULIAN BLACKBURN
ROD MAIDSTONE
c/o The Old Vicarage
28 St John’s Meadow
Blindley Heath, Lingfield
Surrey RH7 6JU

 

Restricted circulation of Storey-review report

 

From the Archdeacon for the Two Cities
Sir, — The diocese of London has much to regret regarding 2009’s Timothy Storey case (Letters, 3 March), hence the decision to commission an independent review. It should not, however, apologise for prioritising the survivors in its response to the review’s findings.

In agreeing the terms of reference, the survivors’ privacy was assured, and full and frank input was predicated on a commitment not to distribute the final report widely.

As the Bishop’s Council and diocesan synod were told last year (Margery Roberts is a member of both bodies), the diocese’s duty was to disseminate appropriate levels of detail, while honouring the survivors’ wishes. This did not include distributing the full report to the Council’s 50 members.

With the survivors’ consent, those directly responsible for safeguarding, including the Safeguarding Steering Group’s independent chair, received the full report. Criticism of the diocese is fully reflected in the report’s conclusions, recommendations, and subsequent action plan — all published on the diocesan website.

 

ROSEMARY LAIN-PRIESTLEY
Bishop’s Lead for Safeguarding
London Diocesan House
36 Causton Street
London SW1P 4AU

 

Balloons? Think again!

 

From Mrs Wendy Prendergast
Sir, — I was amazed to see the headline “Balloons and seeds: Pentecost initiative gets new resources” (News, 24 February)

I fully support the call to prayer, but find it shocking that any Christian group is using balloons and sweets as promotional items. These send out a totally wrong message to young people. Balloon releases are plastic litter, which does massive harm to the world of which we are stewards. It kills wildlife on land and in the sea, however “biodegradable” it purports to be.

Also, surely we should not be encouraging children to eat sweets, which encourage them towards obesity and rotten teeth, when millions of children are starving because they do not have enough to eat.

 

WENDY PRENDERGAST
5 Lime Garth
Upper Poppleton
York YO26 6DN

 

Vocations are not just to ordained ministry

 

From Anne Martin
Sir, — I was pleased to see the excellent pages devoted to ministry training in the recent edition (3 March). I was only saddened that it was headed just “Vocations”. Over the past few years, the word “vocation” has been hijacked by the clergy. Many of us who are not ordained believe that we have vocations — in teaching, nursing, and medicine, to mention three.

Perhaps the recent report Setting God’s People Free will help to bring the word “vocation” back to its application to the lives of both clergy and laity.

 

ANNE MARTIN
General Synod member and Guildford diocesan lay chair
8 Woodberry Close
Chiddingfold
Surrey GU8 4SF

 

Single-parish training contexts for first curacies

 

From the Revd James Crockford
Sir, — It is with dismay that I read Dr Gerhardt’s plea (or is it an edict?) for “No more curacy contexts of one priest, one parish” (Letters, 3 March).

As I near the final stages of my own curacy, in a single-parish benefice, I find that it is the staple discipline of an ongoing and bounded commitment to one benefice which has been instrumental in my training. By the end of my curacy, though, I will have accumulated umpteen pastoral and social placements in a wide variety of other contexts.

Yet, while these offered valuable exposure, they can carry a risk of being somewhat fleeting or superficial: the best way to learn ministry is to do ministry, which invariably involves sticking around. To ask our curates also to spread themselves thinly between several contexts (and several supervisors) for the mainstay of their curacy seems to risk trading breadth of experience for depth. The merit of being ordained to a title post in one place, in one benefice, with one training incumbent, is the opportunity to develop the virtue of stability (something so little achieved in pre-ordination training), to put down roots, and stick with the people you serve, and serve with, in all seasons.

It can be hard enough to build a depth of pastoral trust when one’s time is limited to three or four years, let alone when one is also asked to spread oneself between three parishes and a chaplaincy.

I have found that the single-parish context has been far from limiting, since the collegiality and teamwork of deanery colleagues often bring chances to serve beyond the boundary and find support to think and develop. Indeed, it is this very approach that offers to refresh and broaden the continued horizons of one’s ministry — in whatever context — long after the curacy is over.

 

JAMES CROCKFORD
1a Iron Mill Place
Crayford, Kent DA1 4RT

 

From Harriet Hall
Sir, — As a final-year ordinand from Rochester diocese, I welcome Dr Gerhardt’s letter setting out the ways in which Rochester is planning to give ordinands and curates a wider range of experiences during their training. I would, however, make one comment, based on my own experiences so far.

My training at St Augustine’s College of Theology has been non-residential, and, as a result, I have continued as a member of my home-church congregation throughout the process. The great exception to this has been an eight-week church placement: an opportunity our tutors encouraged us to use to go outside our “comfort zones”.

I did this by joining a conservative Evangelical church, where I preached, led worship, took part in community mission activities, and got to know individuals in the congregation. This was not without its challenges (definitely to me and possibly also to some of them). Being with them also provided me, however, with a deeper understanding and appreciation of what their style of worship and way of reading scripture brings to the Church and to society — even though this was not an approach I shared. I have heard similar reflections from fellow ordinands.

Had that placement been linked directly to a future potential curacy (even as one of a multi-parish benefice), I would have thought twice about choosing such a challenge and instead would have played safer, thus potentially losing out on a valuable experience.

While being embedded pastorally in a parish well before ordination and the start of the curacy has much to offer, I hope that Rochester’s plans will continue to allow ordinands to spend defined periods of time outside their own traditions to experience the diversity of the Church, before beginning a curacy that is likely to be sought in a parish, or parishes, closer to a preferred and familiar tradition.

 

HARRIET HALL
150 Brownspring Drive
London SE9 3LD

 

'Heroic' endurance of the Palestinians

 

From Mr Iain Osborne
Sir, — Canon Tilby writes, with regard to Israel and Palestine, that “There are no heroes in this tragic saga” (“Beyond a two-state solution”, 24 February).

What about the heroism of endurance — as shown by the Palestinian people, who, month by month and year by year, have sustained their dignity and moral character in the face of Israeli outrages and illegality?

The burden of the article is that “Western liberals [should] contemplate a one-state solution.” It is unclear why Canon Tilby feels that she, or any UK reader, has a right to formulate an opinion about Palestinian statehood. Have we Brits not done enough harm by drawing lines on other people’s maps?

Would we not display more liberalism — and humility and wisdom — if we focused on securing the application of international law? This would, of course, mean Israel’s leaving the West Bank, and evacuating illegal settlements. On that day, Palestine’s own citizens can decide for themselves the appropriate form of statehood.

 

IAIN OSBORNE
Ridley Hall
Cambridge CB3 9HG

 

No digital self-denial in the Instagram age

 

From Mr Gareth Doodes
Sir, — I applaud the sensitive tone and sentiments expressed in your leader comment (3 March). Never­theless, the reality of a digital detox — or even photographic abstinence — during Lent for young people who already see the Church as out of touch is not attainable — or, I believe, desirable.

It is our duty to proclaim the message of the Gospels and adapt to the times in which we live. We need to reach out to people through Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. God does speak in the here and now, and the Church needs to continue to invest in its social-media platforms, encouraging increased Lenten downloads as opposed to asking people to turn off.

The advent of technology is an opportunity for us to share God’s love and forgiveness more widely, and to reach audiences that in the past may have been closed to us. We should not see it as a threat.

 

GARETH DOODES
Headmaster
Dover College
Dover, Kent CT17 9RH

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