Letters to the Editor

by
13 October 2017

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Hope of drawing a line under the Sheffield affair

From Sir Philip Mawer

Sir, — Canon Joanna Collicutt (Letters, 6 October) contrasts unfavourably the frequent references to Bishop Philip North and Professor Martyn Percy and to women in general terms in my Sheffield report with the smaller number of references to “actual women”. The explanation for the former is simple. It is hardly possible to write an account of what happened in relation to the Sheffield nomination without reflecting the particular parts played by Bishop North and Professor Percy.

I can, nevertheless, assure readers that many women contributed to the review, articulating points both for and against the nomination: indeed, they made up 38 per cent of those who participated in a series of meetings arranged by the diocese between 3 and 5 May. Notwithstanding the current trend among ordinands, there are still considerably more men in ministry in the Church of England, particularly in the more senior posts, and the gender balance of those who gave evidence to me in the course of my review reflected that quite closely.

The explanation for the smaller number of references to individual women is largely to be found in paragraphs 6 and 7 of my report. All but one of the women who spoke to me in the course of my review was involved in the events either in the diocese of Sheffield or through the work of the Crown Nominations Commission.

The great majority of those from whom I heard did not wish to be named (a preference that they shared with many of the men who spoke to me), and, for the reasons given in my report, I therefore decided not to name them. This inevitably meant that many of the points that they raised with me were referred to in general terms and not attributed to individuals.

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My hope in writing my report was that, in explaining what had happened, it would help draw a line under the Sheffield events and enable both those involved and the wider Church to focus on the issues that I identified — all of them derived from the evidence that I received — and my recommendations for addressing them. I continue to cherish that hope.

PHILIP MAWER

Independent Reviewer (House of Bishops’ Declaration on the Ministry of Bishops and Priests)
Central Secretariat
Church House
Great Smith Street
London SW1P 3AZ
 

From Mr G. M. Lyon

Sir, — In Canon Collicutt’s letter about the Mawer report on the Sheffield affair, the word “women” occurs seven times and the word “men” only once. Canon Collicutt is a woman. What should the reader understand from this?

A more worthwhile and enlightening use of time and mathematical skill would be to add up and compare the number of female bishops (ten and counting) and traditional “non-ordaining” bishops (one) consecrated since the House of Bishops’ Declaration in 2014.

The number of traditional, male archdeacons, deans, and residentiary canons appointed in that period is zero. It is easy to see why the traditional minority might doubt the liberal majority’s commitment to “inclusiveness” and mutual flourishing.

It is to be hoped (sadly, one can hardly add “and expected”) that, in the light of the Mawer report, the actions (not just words) of the powers that be will right this ongoing wrong.

G. M. LYON

13, New Acres, Newburgh
Wigan, Lancashire WN8 7TU

 

Further comment on the South Carolina dispute

From Canon Kendall T. Harmon

Sir, — Thank you for your article about the sad South Carolina Anglican/Episcopal dispute (News, 6 October). While we hope for a peaceful settlement, we have grounds for being very cautious based on the past behaviour of Episcopal Church bishops and lawyers.

Specifically, in this instance, the current Provisional Bishop of South Carolina, the Rt Revd Gladstone “Skip” Adams, was formerly Bishop of Central New York. While he was bishop of that diocese, he got into a dispute with one of his parishes, the Church of the Good Shepherd, Binghamton, New York. After the court ruled that the parish did not belong to the parishioners but the diocese, the parish offered $150,000 to buy back their own church from the diocese as a way forward for both sides. The diocese refused but ultimately sold the building to a worshipping community of Muslims for $50,000.

It was the late business and management guru Peter Drucker who said that “the best indicator of future performance is past performance.” Given what happened in Central New York with the same Episcopal Church leader, you can see why we in South Carolina are wary.

Please join us in praying for all involved.

KENDALL S. HARMON

Canon Theologian, Diocese of South Carolina
185 Hitching Post Lane
Summerville, S.C. 29483, USA
 

Lancashire hospitality after Caribbean disaster

From Canon Andrew Clitherow

Sir, — The University of Central Lancashire has provided housing and teaching facilities to 700 medical students and staff from the Caribbean island of St Maarten since the recent widespread destruction of property and essential facilities caused by hurricane Irma.

The students who are training to become doctors will be using the teaching facilities of the Medical School on the Preston campus in the evenings and weekends.

In the initial stages of the University’s response, the multi-faith chaplaincy team has been offering pastoral and spiritual support, while working with colleagues from the support services, who have provided food, clothing, and housing. In addition to this, we are putting the new students in touch with local faith communities.

Over the coming weeks, we hope that the students will make use of the resources available through the University’s Multi-Faith Centre. Here they will find resources for worship and meditation, together with quiet spaces for stillness and reflection. At the same time, we will be continuing to link students with mosques, synagogues, churches, and other worship centres, while remaining alongside them as they continue to come to terms with their sudden change of circumstances.

Support, however, is not only one-way. Only yesterday, I received a request from the students for information about how they could join those who run soup kitchens and other similar activities in the local community. Already they want to give something back.

They have reminded me that people of good faith are united around the world by a strong sense of compassion towards others. The desire to care for one’s neighbour as one would wish to be cared for oneself crosses the boundaries of religions and denominations.

And through the compassion of good faith, we, the support-givers, are receiving blessings we had not expected.

ANDREW CLITHEROW

Coordinating Chaplain
University of Central Lancashire
Fylde Road, Preston PR1 2HE 


Bishop criticised for article on Heath allegations

From the Revd Imogen Nay

Sir, — It was with incredulity that I read the article by the Bishop of Salisbury, the Rt Revd Nicholas Holtam (Comment, 6 October), on the allegations made against Sir Edward Heath. While I have no doubt that the Bishop was seeking to offer a balanced and reflective response to the situation, he cannot be unaware of how speaking on behalf of an alleged perpetrator as one who knew him (“even those of us who cared for him and knew his kindness”) places him in a position of power that any alleged victim of sexual abuse will, I believe, receive as unhelpful, disempowering, and further evidence of the Church’s disregard of them.

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IMOGEN NAY

The Parish Office
St Andrew’s Church
Church Street, Rugby
Warwickshire CV21 3PT

Anglicans who have absolutely opposed abortion

From Mr C. D. C. Armstrong

Sir, — You report that Archbishop Welby has stated in an interview (News, 29 September) that the view of Jacob Rees-Mogg on abortion — that is, absolute opposition — is “certainly not held within the Anglican Communion”.

One wonders why the Archbishop is so confident on this point. I am not aware of any comprehensive survey of Anglican attitudes to abortion, but I can think of Anglicans both of the distant and recent past who were absolutely opposed to abortion — a position that I myself took while I was still an Anglican.

As I know from my work on Jeremy Taylor, that great moral theologian of the 17th century opposed abortion utterly. More recently, Anglicans such as the late Dowager Marchioness of Salisbury were involved with the anti-abortion Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child. Ann Widdecombe’s efforts in the Commons to restrict abortion were made while she still belonged to the Church of England.

One can think of other Anglican parliamentarians who opposed abortion: for example, the late Enoch Powell. These cases are few and probably exceptional, but they do tend to undermine the Archbishop’s obiter dictum on this matter.

Archbishop Welby’s views on this topic appear somewhat confused. He states that human life begins at conception: the view, as he notes, of the rest of the Christian Church. Nevertheless, he appears to allow for abortion in certain (unspecified) cases.

If human life begins at conception, then, logically, the life of the unborn child is as sacred and valuable as the life of anyone who has undergone birth. In that case, how can exceptions be made to allow abortion in any circumstances, without violating the principle of the sanctity of human life?

It would be helpful if the Archbishop were to clarify his position.

C. D. C. ARMSTRONG

Flat 2a, Ulididia House
34 Donegall Road
Belfast BT12 5JN

 

Wear tartan to support Scottish Episcopalians

From the Ven. Peter MacLeod-Miller

Sir, — There has never been a better time to wear tartan in solidarity with the inclusive message of the Scottish Episcopal Church and in defiance of those who oppose marriage equality around the globe.

Archbishops have been firing comminations, and the Archbishop of Sydney has offered a prayer against gay marriage as a contribution to the No campaign, but, like the prophets of Baal, circling around the altar with threats and warnings, belching clouds of holy smoke and flashing blinding mirrors of religious freedom, their efforts are failing to set the world alight.

Love is love, and cruelty vested, consecrated, and hallowed by years of tradition is still cruelty. The Church’s navigation systems have quietly failed before, but today, in the full glare of social media, they have thrown their lot in with those who have put gay people and their families on trial.

Perhaps a dram of Highland atmosphere might inspire other Scottish perspectives of economy, and question the financial and legislative exemptions that should be afforded institutions that serially fail the test of humanity.

PETER MacLEOD-MILLER

The Parish Office
St Matthew’s Church
520 Kiewa Street
Albury, NSW 2640
Australia

 

‘Abundant life’ and the purpose of churches

From Mr Joshua Bell

Sir, — I fear that the Revd Dr Sam Wells has missed the full breadth of the gospel if he believes that “It’s about abundant life, not hell-avoidance” (Comment, 6 October). While it is true that Jesus did come to bring “abundant life” (John 10.10), the central purpose of the Church is, as it always has been, to reconcile people to God — and the abundance of life that follows must necessarily follow from that.

For evidence, we need look no further than the Comfortable Words in the 1662 communion service. Of these four sayings, St Paul and St John both speak of Jesus as redemption for sin; Jesus speaks both of helping to bear burdens, and of those who believe in him receiving eternal life instead of perishing. If this does not speak of reconciling the world to God, then what does?

There are many organisations, groups, and movements that claim to offer social justice, enjoyment of the world, self-worth, and more. These things are not unique to Christianity. I am reminded here of C. S. Lewis’s quip, in God in the Dock: “I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.”

I hope that Dr Wells will look again at the historic character and mission of the Church. We may well be called to proclaim the gospel afresh in each generation, but it must be the same gospel.

JOSHUA BELL

Westcott House, Jesus Lane
Cambridge CB4 3DB

 

From the Revd Chris Mitchell

Sir, — The Revd Dr Sam Wells rather falls into the trap of assuming that church buildings are only being “used” when they are occupied for Sunday worship “for an intense hour or two a week”. Traditionally, church buildings simply “are” — a quiet and sacred space pointing to God in the middle of a busy and materialistic world.

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Of course, he is right to assert the falseness of too strict a dividing line between sacred and secular. There is a place for community use in some church buildings, where need, architecture, and location facilitate this. But, at a time when more and more people recognise the importance of silence, meditation, and sacred space, it seems wrong to ignore this need by filling our church buildings with busyness and noise.

In my experience, where parish churches can remain unlocked, this is much appreciated by visitors and locals alike. The Sunday congregation are not the only users of the building.

CHRIS MITCHELL

42 Melton Avenue
York YO30 5QG 

Back the Modern Slavery (Victim Support) Bill

From Canon Ian Gomersall

Sir, — Human trafficking — modern-day slavery — is, without doubt, one of the greatest blights in our society. It is growing in extent and is found throughout our country: 184 years on from the Slavery Abolition Act, there are more slaves in the world than ever before.

Victims are particularly vulnerable people who need support, care, and compassion. Several churches are working to help victims, and the work of the Clewer Trust in the Church of England is to be commended. At our church, we have a particular and local ministry for victims of slavery. They are frequently foreign nationals with little English, who are in a very vulnerable position, and may have significant mental-health and other issues. Freed from slavery, they wish to rebuild their lives and future.

At present, a confirmed victim is given 45 days for support, assistance, and recovery. Our experience leads us to conclude that usually 45 days is simply not a sufficient length of time for recovery or to give the necessary assistance and care. Sadly, we have seen several victims go homeless at the end of the 45-day period, and so become once again vulnerable.

A Private Member’s Bill, the Modern Slavery (Victim Support) Bill, is currently working its way through Parliament. It needs clear support from our politicians and, indeed, from the Church. The Bill allows for the 45-day period to be extended to a year, and outlines the state’s duty of care for victims.

Not only will an extended period allow more time for thorough investigation of circumstances, and so increase the likelihood of prosecutions: it will also provide a more stable and hopeful recovery time for victims.

IAN GOMERSALL

St Chrysostom’s Rectory
38 Park Range
Manchester M14 5HQ
 

Anglican insights in Chinese Christianity

From Canon Dan O’Connor

Sir, — Apropos Professor Hugo de Burgh’s article on Anglicanism and Confucian values (Comment, 29 September), there was confirmation of his suggestion in the conviction of the Anglican missionary in China at the end of the 19th century Roland Allen. Teaching his first batch of young Chinese for Anglican ministry, he envisaged “the fundamentals of the Christian religion grafted on the sound stock of Confucian morality”.

That Allen was perhaps the most significant missionary influence on Chinese Christian thinking as the Three-Self Movement came into being as a form and means of survival under communism suggests that he had the pulse of Chinese Christianity at that time. Maybe there is still a future for Anglican insights in Christianity in China.

DAN O’CONNOR

15 School Road, Balmullo
St Andrews KY16 0BA
 

Guildford debate highlights dilemma over fees

From the Revd Dr Anthony Peabody

Sir, — The Diocesan Secretary of Guildford, Peter Coles, may have clarified the position of the diocese with regard to NSM/SSM fees for funerals and weddings (Letters, 6 October), but he cannot be unaware of the hurt and injury gratuitously handed out to his retired clergy. Some clergy will, no doubt, welcome these fees to eke out a pension, whereas for some they are perhaps not particularly essential to life: mine find their way into the Organ Fund.

To rub salt, however, into old wounds surrounding the apparent difference between non-stipendiary (self-supporting) and stipendiary ministers, Guildford now proposes to call the former “ordained volunteers”. This is surely an incendiary phrase to apply to active retired clergy, and can be perceived only as insulting and patronising.

The Revd Dr Malcolm Johnson (Letters, 22 September) is naturally upset, and probably quite angry at this treatment. Guildford may come to regret losing the services of many of its PTOs. Time to reconsider, perhaps?

ANTHONY PEABODY

Blackberries
29 Woodlands Avenue
Burghfield Common
Berkshire RG7 3HU

 

From Canon Martin Jayne

Sir, — I have no great desire to stoke up the Guildford Fee Debate any further, but I do find it strange that the diocesan policy has been to replace one disparity between lay and ordained ministry with another between two groups of ordained pensioners. Both groups are now simply pensioners. One group can augment their pensions with a share of the Occasional Office fee, while the other cannot, even though their pension may be less favourable than the clergy pension. Instead, they can have a big pat on the back to maintain the differential.

My home diocese of Carlisle has recognised the dilemma, and, in its guidance notes for non-stipendiary ministry, acknowledges that an NSM exceptionally should be allowed to receive fees. Such an instance may be that the NSM is in sole receipt of a pension at a rate less than a comparable clergy pension, and the proportion of services taken within a parish is substantial.

With a diocesan mission strategy looking to increase greatly the number and proportion of NSMs, this flexibility does seem a wise move.

MARTIN JAYNE

12 Longmeadow Lane
Natland, Kendal LA9 7QZ

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