Letters to the Editor

by
11 August 2017

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Insurer and abuse; Stacey and Kendall House

 

From Mr Andrew Graystone

Sir, — John Titchener of Ecclesiastical Insurance Group (Comment, 4 August) defends the links between the company and the Church of England. It may be true that only 25 per cent of Ecclesiastical’s business is with churches, but almost every Church of England diocese is insured by Ecclesiastical, and it is dioceses, not individual churches, that tend to handle allegations of abuse in a church context.

Mr Titchener says that only one cleric sits on the board of Ecclesiatical. But Ecclesiastical is wholly owned by a charity, Allchurches Trust, which is chaired by Sir Philip Mawer, a Canon of York Minster, former Secretary General of the General Synod and Archbishops’ Council, and current Independent Reviewer for Women Bishops. Its board includes the Bishop at Lambeth, and an archdeacon who sits in the House of Bishops. Far from being independent of the Church, it is hard to see how the board could be more deeply embedded in the House of Bishops than that.

Every diocese in the Church of England receives annual donations from Allchurches, sometimes in the hundreds of thousands of pounds. For most dioceses, it is their largest source of valuable unrestricted income. Some of the Archbishops’ special projects, such as JustPray, are also funded by Allchurches Trust.

To spell it out clearly, there are financial incentives for dioceses not to accept responsibility for abuse that has occurred under their watch. It’s as if a bookmaker was making large donations to every Premiership football team. It wouldn’t necessarily mean that the matches were fixed, but it certainly wouldn’t smell good.

The Church of England says that it wants to put survivors of abuse first. There are three steps it should take immediately to demonstrate this.

First, it should sever its managerial and financial relationship with Allchurches Trust and its subsidiary, the Ecclesiastical Insurance Group. Second, it should hand the management of its safeguarding processes to a fully independent agency. Third, it should appoint a lead bishop for victims of abuse, separate from the current lead bishop for safeguarding.

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ANDREW GRAYSTONE

17 Rushford Avenue

Levenshulme

Manchester M19 2HG

 

From Messrs Don Brand and Terry Philpot

Sir, — Your report “Interview with the Revd Nick Stacey sheds light on era of Kendall House abuse” (News, 7 July) misunderstands Stacey’s position as Director of Social Services for Kent. It is untrue that “he was responsible for all social services in Kent.” The Director had statutory responsibility for the quality and safety of services provided or commissioned by the County Council. Kendall House fell outside this remit. It was a voluntary home, provided and managed by the Church of England’s Joint Diocesan Council for Social Responsibility.

An independent inquiry commissioned by the Bishop of Rochester carefully considered all aspects of the operations, management, and governance of Kendall House. Its criticism, that “Those whose task was to oversee the Kendall House girls’ well-being . . . demonstrated little curiosity, challenge or questioning,” applied to Kendall House’s management committee, whose job was to hold the home’s manager to account.

As Director of Social Services, Stacey had neither the duty nor the power to exercise oversight of Kendall House. The inquiry found no fault with him or the County Council in respect of the harm done to large numbers of residents in their time at Kendall House.

DON BRAND, TERRY PHILPOT

c/o Freshfields, Chapel Lane

Staplehurst Kent TN12 0AJ

 

Class and deprivation: the Churches, the estates, and Grenfell Tower

 

From Canon Peter Howard

Sir, — I was pleased to read the report on the New Churches’ desire to overcome their middle-class bias (News, 4 August).

In 1981, I wrote an MA thesis, “The Possibility of a Working-Class Church”. Last year, I retired from parish ministry in working-class parishes in Birmingham, West Yorkshire, and Norwich. I also spent time working voluntarily for what was then the Evangelical Urban Training Project led by Neville Black (now Unlock), where I devised courses of training for small groups of inner-city church members in Birmingham.

Over this period, I have been able to see working-class people come into their own and take power in the Church, but would argue that certain conditions are necessary for this to be effective.

They are, first, an enabling lead­ership who refuses to “do” for people, helps people to know that they are listened to, and values their contribution. Second, small, local churches or cells need to be estab­lished where people can get on with being church without pressure from strong-minded professionals who believe that they know best. Third, the Church has to be prepared to commit resources of ministry to enabling growth in an organic, bottom-up way that is authentic to local culture. Finally, the gospel preached and the theology espoused must be allowed to be incarna­tional, grounded in the lives of the people. This means that they must en­­gage with the joys and pains of ur­­ban living, and be worked out in tan­gible, active ways.

It also remains to be said that cul­ture is created by experience of life; so, if life is transformed by the gos­pel, so shall that culture be, but that doesn’t mean becoming middle-class, which, I would suggest, is also a state in need of similar transformation.

PETER HOWARD

17 Chapel Lane, Coltishall

Norwich NR12 7DR

 

From Canon Nigel Rooms

Sir, — I haven’t read A Church for the Poor, but your report on its publication makes me want to object in several ways.

First, if I were poor, I would be very wary of people wanting to create a church for me (where I’ll need to have the “full” gospel message explained to me). Unless they are prepared to work with me (so we can discover the gospel together), I suspect that I might choose the appropriate Anglo-Saxon expletive for this “deficit” approach.

Second, why conflate poverty (an economic category) with class (a cultural category)? Not all poor people are working-class (just listen to some of the homeless on any city street), and not all working-class people are poor (many professional footballers).

From my own research and interest in anthropology I know that we English find it enormously difficult to talk about class. I’ve never heard anyone else preach a sermon on the subject. So, maybe bringing poverty and class together is another way to obscure the more difficult questions class raises for our “hypocritical polite egalitarianism”, as Kate Fox puts it.

The Church of England, despite its “presence in every community”, has never been very effective in working-class areas, because of the first rule of culture shock: “They won’t change: you have to.” Nothing much in clergy training prepares priests for working cross-culturally all the time in such a context, whether the ordinands are middle-class or working-class.

There is so much more to be said on this subject, not least finding good, hard-won examples of flour­ishing working-class churches (they do exist), but I suspect A Church for the Poor isn’t going to help us much in that direction.

Where and when can we have a free and frank theological discussion about class in the Church which doesn’t always problematise it?

NIGEL ROOMS

Associate Priest, St Peter’s, Braunstone Park

53B Jarrom Street

Leicester LE2 7DH

 

From the Revd R. W. Crook

Sir, — In my neck of the woods, a largish parish in Chester diocese, we have a glaring example of non-action on an estate within the parish. Some six years ago, our estate church suffered some vandalism. Instead of seeking measures to repair and support it, the then incumbent instructed that it should be demolished.

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After some three years, the incumbent left, and a successor was appointed. But no further action has been taken to replace that church, and no endeavours have been put in hand by the diocese. The concrete base of the church remains, with a notice board relating to clergy who departed the parish at least 12 years ago.

Fine-sounding middle-class words in a church publication are all very well, but how will your report rouse the Church’s hierarchy to take some sort of action? Have we in actual fact abandoned the poor?

R. W. CROOK

14 Bollington Avenue

Northwich CW9 8SB

 

From the Revd Steve Cook

Sir, — The remarks by the Bishop of Burnley, the Rt Revd Philip North, last week at New Wine, regarding the inherent culture of the Church of England, the placement of clergy, and the disparities in the funding of ministry between different contexts badly needed to be said. It seems that there is little evidence of the Church of England’s favourable and godly bias to the poor in 2017.

Bishop North is not the first to say such things. In 1984, Bishop David Sheppard pointed out similar tendencies in the placement of clergy. But Bishop North’s remarks should be listened to carefully. In particular, it is the bishops of the Church of England who most need to listen carefully to his words, and ponder their implications.

In future, we need bishops who have served in inner-city areas, outer estates, and other situations of social deprivation, not just for a few years as a toe-in-the-water item on their CV, but for long periods of 15 and 20 years. Only such prolonged exposure results in a deep understanding of how the dynamics work in such communities.

Only when such bishops are found in numbers on the bench will the policies and funding of the Church of England begin to move in the direction of the priorities of the Kingdom of God. The implications are similar for archdeacons, who, in many dioceses, have responsibility for funding matters.

STEVE COOK

St Barnabas Vicarage

449 Rochester Way

London SE9 6PH

 

From the Revd Andrew McLuskey

Sir, — After the Grenfell Tower disaster, one has to ask whether there are other “Kensington-type” boroughs (i. e. councils in predominantly affluent areas which are nevertheless neglectful of their social-housing tenants). One such exists, and I live in it, more particularly in the neglected part.

Stanwell (near Heathrow) is part of the well-off borough of Spelthorne, and, indeed, of the even better-off county of Surrey. Just recently, we have heard that the two main bus routes to Heathrow Terminal 5 (a key work place for many of my neighbours) are to be axed. This comes on top of a catalogue of cuts to our local community: the local fire station closed, the hospital run down, and the community centre knocked down.

Pot-holed roads and impassable and overgrown public footpaths can be added to the list, along with wafts of choking kerosene fuel from the nearby airport (which, of course, the Government and the local council want to extend). A “New Start” development scheme seems to have ground to a halt after benefiting only a part of the locality.

As a clergyman and ordinary citizen, I find this disgraceful, and can only hope that the national conscience-raising caused by the Grenfell Tower fire will trigger a new start for all our housing estates — nationwide.

ANDREW McLUSKEY

17 Diamedes Avenue

Stanwell, Staines TW19 7JE

 

Life imitates a cartoon

 

From the Revd Donald Reeves

Sir, — Some years ago, I was visiting the diocese of Uppsala. I called on the Archbishop, Dr Hammar, and noticed in his study a photo of the Archbishop with a group he had just ordained. The Archbishop was wearing a chasuble and carried a crozier. I asked him whether he had a mitre (“Mitres: Alternative Uses”, Dave Walker, 21 July). He said that his children had taken it and turned it into a hanging basket. He didn’t seem unduly worried.

DONALD REEVES

Director, The Soul of Europe

The Coach House

Church Street

Crediton EX17 2AQ

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