Higher corporate standards are a realistic goal
From Mr Christopher Stockwell
Sir, — The Archbishop of Canterbury has rightly drawn attention to the consequences of the maldistribution of the limited economic wealth generated in our society. The prime drivers of wealth creation are companies; so an important way to address these issues is to reform corporate behaviour.
More and more companies are looking at their environmental, social, and governance (ESG) standards, and making changes. The evidence is clear that high ESG standards lead to outperformance in the long term. Such standards embrace curbing excessive executive pay, and are seeking to create a more homogeneous society.
The serious problems of maldistribution of income and wealth, and the way the older “haves” in our society have profited, leaving a burden of debt and unfunded pension and PFI liabilities for future generations, cries out for significant change.
The Ecumenical Council for Corporate Responsibility supports calls for changes to tax and regulatory structures which will help increase capital investment, raise productivity, and increase earnings for the lower paid. Fundamental to that is encouraging companies to raise their ESG standards, improve their staff training, and increase their capital investment.
Companies are the drivers of wealth creation in the UK and many have high standards. Let us raise those standards and encourage the laggards to improve. Fund managers in the City can be strongly influential in applying pressure to company boards to make the necessary changes.
ECCR wants to work with fund managers and company boards to achieve the changes that will raise ESG standards and help create a fairer society with less damage to the environment that we all share.
Ecumenical Council for Corporate Responsibility
1 Deepdene Park Road
Dorking RH5 4AL
Vocational development and the diaconate
From the Revd Gill Kimber
Sir, — Dr Sheila Fisher’s letter last week said: “Enquiries about whether there was some kind of community chaplaincy ministry, working with the parish but with a focus on the spiritual well-being of those in need within but also beyond the worshipping community, led to a negative.
“There was also a view that ministry to people at these critical times required ability to offer formal offices, especially the eucharist, anointing, and absolution, and was, in effect, a priestly ministry.”
I am tempted to put my head in my hands in despair. There is such a ministry in the Church of England: it is called the distinctive diaconate, the third order of the Church’s ordained ministry.
Dr Fisher’s criteria are exactly those of someone with a distinctively diaconal vocation, which is to work in the community beyond the church walls, seeking out “the poor and weak, the sick and lonely and those who are oppressed and powerless, reaching into the forgotten corners of the world, that the love of God may be made visible”, as the bishop says in his charge to deacons at every Common Worship ordination.
We distinctive deacons minister on the edge of the Church, making connections with those who do not yet know God’s love. We are free to develop this ministry because we are not priests with the attendant responsibilities.
I would encourage Dr Fisher not to despair, but to raise this possibility with her vocations advisers. Meanwhile, she and others are welcome to see the resources for distinctive deacons on the diocese of Exeter’s website: http://exeter.anglican.org/ministry/vocations/diocesan-deacons/, and to visit the blog Deacon, https://deaconstories.wordpress.com, where she will find likeminded people.
Warden of the College of Deacons, diocese of Exeter
10A Belle Vue Court
Belle Vue Road, Paignton
Devon TQ4 6ER
From the Revd Dr John Williams
Sir, — I was struck by a convergence between your contributors Dr Sheila Fisher (Letters, 8 September) and Ann Morisy (Comment, same issue) concerning the preoccupation of the Church with ordained ministry.
Dr Fisher describes with great grace and insight the problem of trying to fit the square peg of a prayerfully considered vocation to a ministry outwith the borders of the parish model into the round hole of the selection process, while Ms Morisy concludes that the furtherance of genuinely creative initiatives in community mission requires the overcoming of “the narrow imagination of investing so much in ordained ministry”.
Their respective comments resonate well with my own recent experience of working with students on programmes in chaplaincy: these committed lay people are keen to explore their vocational development in relation to ministry conducted largely among people who do not go to church, but find they are confronted with the assumption that, to be properly validated, such ministry needs to be ordained; but then, to be able to go forward for ordination, they need initially to be selected, trained, and deployed in a church-based context that assumes parochial ministry still to be the norm.
Your contributors independently testify to two of the key potential growth areas for ministry under contemporary socio-cultural conditions: the widely expressed desire for “spirituality” and a greater sense of depth and ultimate meaning in the struggles of everyday life; and the opportunity for social and community project work in partnership with secular organisations that often welcome the added value that faith communities bring to these initiatives.
These are both of enormous relevance to the field of chaplaincy; the problem, however, is that they entirely cut across all the traditional theological and ecclesiological categories of ministry: diaconal, presbyteral, and episcopal; parochial and “sector”; stipendiary and non-stipendiary; and, most of all, ordained and lay. This one big, thick line continues to constitute the great artificial divide that impedes progress in ministerial and missional innovation, notwithstanding fresh expressions, pioneer ministries, and the rest.
Dr Fisher comments that those who advised her took the view that the kind of ministry to which she felt called was “in effect, a priestly ministry”: we urgently need to be able to grasp the nettle of thinking through and validating what this might mean, shorn of all the other baggage of expectations and assumptions that come with the process of selection, training, and deployment for ordained ministry.
Senior Lecturer, School of Humanities, Religion and Philosophy
York St John University
Lord Mayor’s Walk
York YO31 7EX
Bishops galore — but where are the experts?
From the Revd Dr Charles Clapham
Sir, — Last week, the Coordinating Group set up by the Archbishops to produce a “teaching document” on human sexuality met for the first time. The group comprises seven bishops and four clergy, but no lay people: not a single sociologist, psychologist, gender theorist, voluntary-sector worker, campaigner, or any other lay person bringing relevant knowledge whatsoever.
This absence is staggering and unprecedented. Faith in the City, for example, was produced by a committee of 18, which included just two bishops. Mission-shaped Church was produced by a committee of 11, with only one bishop. It’s like the Church writing a report on economics without an economist, or a report on climate change without a scientist. It’s bad methodology (in terms of how to do Christian ethics) and bad ecclesiology (in its understanding of lay vocation and respect for lay expertise).
No doubt, lay people will be “consulted” via the thematic working groups. But they won’t be trusted to write the final report, or apparently even to chair the working groups. This is a process controlled by bishops, who are a majority on the group, and will result in a report shaped largely by bishops: the same bishops (just to spell it out) who were in favour of the report that was rejected by the Synod in February.
This is not radical Christian inclusion. It’s not even good Anglicanism.
Parish Office, St Peter’s Church
Black Lion Lane
London W6 9BE
Canon change highlights ecclesiological confusion
From Canon Nicholas Cranfield
Sir, — The Church of England’s General Synod resolved on 12 July 2015 to modify paragraph 3 of Canon B12 to simplify the authorisation of lay people to administer the holy communion. GS 1992 provided that this would have effect from 1 October 2015.
Today, 24 months later, I have received an Ad Clerum from my diocesan Bishop setting out how he wishes this to be taken forward in the diocese of Southwark.
While there is much in the legislation provided with which I cannot agree, pastorally as well as theologically, that is not my present concern. I accept that paragraphs 2 (1), 2 (2), and 3 (1) indicate that diocesan bishops may take the initiative.
My concern is whether this is yet another indication of how, for the past fifty years, we have not really understood whether we want to be a Church episcopally governed or one that is subject to synodical jurisdiction.
Some dioceses have clearly responded with commendable alacrity; Exeter, for instance, put in place a three-year contractual appointment process in January 2016, and required lists of authorised persons to be posted in the vestry.
The diocese of Guildford has published a 31-page training booklet for those who are to exercise this ministry, and the diocese of Birmingham points out that there is no DBS requirement for those so appointed by the incumbent, although good practice means that any person appointed should be a communicant in good standing with the Church.
If we are serious about mission and can accept the determining role of the General Synod, we should, surely, ensure that all such resolutions take immediate effect from the date agreed, and not be subject to the individual deliberations of bishops.
If, however, we wish to uphold full episcopal authority, we should be more honest about the General Synod function as advisory and non-determinative. An agreed statement from the House of Bishops published alongside any such future revisions of the Canons would take away the risk of confusion and ensure that full implementation followed readily.
The point may appear a nice one, but is one that cannot be lost sight of at a time when the nation is struggling to learn that within a parliamentary democracy we are now somehow bound by a survey conducted among the plebiscite.
10 Duke Humphrey Road
London SE3 0TY Blackheath
Visit to cathedral falls short of expectations
From the Revd Bob Wallace
Sir, — I was disappointed by my first visit to Durham Cathedral. Like countless pilgrims before me, I had gone to pray at the Shrine of St Cuthbert, and was pleased to see Shrine Prayers advertised every morning and afternoon. So, with others, I sat and waited at the advertised time.
Nothing happened; so I spoke to a verger. From him I learnt that none of the clergy could be bothered to lead the prayers that morning. I identified myself as a priest of the Church of England, and offered to lead the prayers. This was declined, as I wasn’t “one of our chaplains”!
I fear that this is symptomatic of the attitude one encounters in so many of our cathedrals. There are always plenty of people staffing the tills (I paid £7.50 to visit the Durham “Open Treasure” exhibition), the café, and the souvenir shop. The casual visitor could easily remain unaware that the main function of a cathedral is as a place of prayer and pilgrimage.
The Dean and Chapter of Durham and many other cathedrals need to read again the Gospel accounts of Jesus cleansing the Temple.
Flat 30, Bromley College
London Road, Bromley BR1 1PE
Dangers of amplified music at Christian festivals
From Professor Alan Swanson
Sir, — The Bishop of Burnley, the Rt Revd Philip North, in his sensitive article about festivals that he visited this summer (Comment, 8 September), mentions the noise level at two of them with little comment. I think more comment is in order.
Many Christians in this country (and in others, for all I know) have followed the trend, which, I think, was started by the pop-music industry, towards amplifying their music to levels that would come within the scope of health and safety regulations if they occurred in industry.
This is not accidental: somebody decides what apparatus to use and how to adjust the controls, and it happens at regular services, fairs on church premises, and festivals such as those visited by Bishop North.
Of course people want to make a joyful noise unto the Lord; but they should pause to think how many people’s hearing they are damaging, and how many others, who have some understanding of the danger, they are driving away.
12 Holmwood Gardens
Walllington SM6 0HN
Another preaching tip
From the Revd Kevin Wright
Sir, — My late father, the Revd Fred Wright, used to say, regarding preaching (Features, 8 September): “If you don’t strike oil in ten minutes, stop boring.” It is good advice, given people’s attention span in the 21st century.
The Rectory, Vicarage Road
Bridgwater TA7 8DX