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Letters to the Editor

16 June 2017


Scottish Episcopal Church’s canon on marriage


From Selina McGeoch

Sir, — Although it is true that the Scottish Episcopal Church Synod has voted by a two-thirds majority in each House for the change of definition of marriage, the motion in the House of Clergy was carried by only a single vote. It is not true that this motion was carried after extensive discussion throughout the Church. During the so-called consultation period, the subject was not raised at any time in my church.

Until the 1960s, the threefold cord of scripture, tradition, and reason was used as the framework for all personal moral decisions. The reason element was based on Aristotle’s Ethics, as it always had been. Sexual ethics were simple and clear. Human desire should be formed (by virtue) to desire that which God commands, and that which God commands is that which is in the best interests of human child development, and society and creation as a whole.

I have lived a long time, and seen many different relationships. I have also seen the steep decline in family life, fidelity, chastity, and children’s mental health. Humans have free will, and reason gives them a sense of purpose and intention.

To deliberately intend to live with a person of the same sex as if he or she were of the opposite sex, hoping that society will remain intact, flies in the face of all the evidence, and is against reason and both scripture and tradition. No one has a right to live in any way that he or she happens to prefer.

Churchgoers are usually aware of the need to be tolerant and understanding of human weakness, but when this descends into mere sentiment and political correctness, they betray their faith and let down the person who needs moral guidance (as we all do) to attain that for which all men are made, that is, the vision of God.

Some of your readers may not know that when they visit a Scottish Episcopal church and say the Nicene Creed, they will find that the filioque clause has been removed, thus formally breaking the doctrinal link with the Western Church. It is this group that has decided to change the teaching on marriage.

Frankly, I look forward to any missionary bishop who is still recognisable as a bishop of the Anglican Communion.


127 West Argyle Street

Helensburgh G84 8DD


Responses to terrorism: One Love, and the command to love enemies


From the Revd John Davies

Sir, — I warmed to Professor Pete Ward’s suggestion that the Manchester One Love event was an expression of the outworking of Thy Kingdom Come (Comment, 9 June). I also find it significant that the concert took place at Pentecost and expressed a spirit of love and unity in the face of the violence of the world.

My own Pentecost sermon earlier that day had been about our looking for signs of the Holy Spirit at work today in ways corresponded to the events recorded in Acts: that is, at times and places where people are gathered together, many different sorts of people but united in common cause, bringing understanding and empowering fellowship. One example was the widely reported moment at St Ann’s Square, Manchester, where, at the end of a vigil for those who died in the Arena bombing, the crowd followed the lead of a lone female voice gently singing “Don’t Look Back in Anger.” Some participants were quoted as saying this was “a spine-tingling moment”.

A question raised by the One Love concert is: where does all this positive spirit go now? What can those who attended, and the TV audience who shared the experience, do to sustain One Love in our everyday lives? How can those spine-tingling moments spark long-lasting change?

These are important questions for the consideration of those who see the Kingdom at work here; and if the Churches can join with other agencies in creating “One Love Workshops” for the study and application of non-violent community-building, using the resources of our faith traditions, then surely that would be a further encouraging sign of the Spirit’s work, the Kingdom’s coming.


The Rectory, Englands Lane

Queen Camel, Yeovil

Somerset BA22 7NN


From Canon Paul Oestreicher

Sir, — Professor Pete Ward’s visionary account of Manchester’s response to terrorism with the One Love that defeats evil with goodness and excludes no one, not even the terrorists themselves, is echoed by Archbishop Angaelos of the Coptic Orthodox Church in Britain, who addressed them as Jesus might have: “The violent and deadly crimes you perpetrate are abhorrent but you are loved, loved by me and many like me, because we believe in transformation.”

Jesus knew what Judas was about to do, but included him in the banquet of his Body and Blood. That is why the Church that looks forward to the Kingdom can never legitimately commemorate the victims of terror without commending the perpetrators to God’s all-embracing compassion. To love our enemies is the hardest of Jesus’s precepts and the most frequently forgotten.


97 Furze Croft

Furze Hill

Brighton BN3 1PE


From Mrs Mary Roe

Sir, — The sentence that I found most disturbing in Dr John Herbert’s letter (9 June) urging a violent response to the murderous actions of jihadi extremists is: “We have to put aside our liberal beliefs and adopt the same attitude towards a vicious enemy as we did in the war.”

For many of us, those “liberal” beliefs are also our Christian beliefs and, as such, cannot be “put aside” in response to any situation.

The circumstances of my father’s return from Dunkirk (walking/hitchhiking through the night from the spot on the Channel coast where the half of the pleasure steamer the Gracie Fields which was still afloat had managed to land him) filled me with such horror that I came to the conclusion (in an eight-year-old’s vocabulary) that, to quote at least six Lambeth Conference Resolutions, “violence as a means of settling international conflict is not compatible with the Christian faith.”

The seeds of my pacifism were sown that day, and my life experience and study of theology since then have provided nothing to change my mind.

I am not so unrealistic as to suggest that any one nation can decide to love its enemies and turn the other cheek, which is a position that pacifists are often charged with holding. In the 1930s, however, English people took their capital out of the Lancashire cotton mills and British coal industry, and poured it into Krupps of Essen, in the hope that the weapons manufactured there would be turned east against the Bolsheviks.

If, instead, before the invasion of Poland or Czechoslovakia, the Christians from all nations had joined together to promote dialogue and negotiation, Dr Herbert would not have been placed in the situation he describes, of having to kill a fellow Christian.

I am not absolutely sure of the numbers, but I think I am not far out when I note that, in the mid-1930s, 73 per cent of Germans were Christian (either Roman Catholic or Evangelical/Reformed), and most of the others were Jews.

I am saddened to read that, when Dr Herbert found the New Testament on the body of one of his victims, he “felt no remorse for killing a fellow Christian”. It demonstrates the power of propaganda (often based on lies) to cause us to reject our Lord’s teaching and disregard his example on Good Friday. The fact that this has been happening since 312 (Constantine’s misunderstanding of his vision of the cross in hoc vinces) does not mean that it is God’s will, or that this is the way to bring in his Kingdom.

May God rest the souls of all Christians killed in warfare, regardless of which military uniform, if any, they were wearing when they died.


1 The North Lodge, Kings End

Bicester OX26 6NT


From Canon Christopher Hall

Sir, — Dr John Herbert writes of his Second World War experience. On 1 July 1916, a 20-year-old subaltern sent his pals over the top at the Somme. Thirty-three years later, the Bishop spoke of his experience to the Remembrance Sunday congregation in Hong Kong Cathedral.

He had a vivid picture of 6 November 1917: two young men lying dead, their faces upwards but already black and swollen with decay — one German and the other English. But their bodies lay across each other in the form of a cross.

From the days of Cain and Abel to the days of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, all war is fratricide. All war crucifies afresh our Elder Brother, the Son of God, who is also the Son of Man, sharing every pain of his younger brothers and carrying the burden of their every sin.


The Knowle, Deddington

Banbury OX15 0TB


From Canon John Goodchild

Sir, — It is encouraging that Muslims want to disown Islamist terrorists by refusing them funerals (News, 9 June). Our clergy, however, take funerals for parishioners whether they are Christians or not, whether they are good or evil, because God loves every person and so makes each one precious.

Perhaps parish clergy will take the funerals of terrorists, praying that in the next life they will so experience God’s love for them that they have the grace to go through the agony of repentance and seek the forgiveness of those whose lives they have wrecked. Perhaps the prospect of a Christian funeral would even deter suicide bombers from their plans.


39 St Michaels Road

Liverpool L17 7AN


New columnist keeps fans of Traherne happy


From Dr Roger Simmonds

Sir, — Like many who have enjoyed Dr Ronald Blythe’s reflections over the years, I was sad to see him retire. But the Revd Dr Malcolm Guite is a worthy successor, and his quotation from Thomas Traherne (Poet’s Corner, 9 June) was most apposite for these troubled times. It will have pleased Dr Blythe, too, who loves Traherne’s poetry and is a valued patron of the Traherne Association.

Traherne retained his Christian joy and vision despite the English Civil War, and Dr Guite’s Traherne quotation is typical of his priestly wisdom.

Those interested in exploring the spiritual insight of this marvellous Anglican divine could do a lot worse than explore the resources of the Traherne Association (www.thomastraherneassociation.org) and attend its yearly festival, held in the beautiful surroundings of Credenhill, and from which Dr Guite, a poet after Traherne’s heart, obviously received much solace.


8 Orchard Way, Offord Darcy

St Neots

Cambridgeshire PE19 5RE


Sauce for the goose, sauce for the gander


From the Revd Geoffrey Squire SSC

Sir, — I read with interest Mr Don Manley’s letter on “men’s breakfasts” (9 June).

To a point, I agree with him. If he were to look a bit deeper, however, he would find in the Church, and in British life in general, at least ten “women- or girls-only” things for every “men- or boys-only” thing, even if males are, at least in theory, permitted to attend a few of them.

There are the Mothers’ Union, bishops officers for women’s ministry, Girlguiding, Brownies, “ladies only” universities, hotels, youth hostels, and hospitals for women only. The Women’s Institute, women’s choirs, and female-only swimming lessons and sessions and keep-fit classes, to name but a few.

One church had a large group of Guides and a girls’ choir, and they were fully accepted. There was, however, nothing for the boys; so the Vicar started a complementary Youthlink group for boys only. That caused many accusations of sexism and perceived illegality, and the Guide leader tried to smear it by saying that all-male groups encouraged homosexuality. When she was asked whether the all-female Guides therefore encouraged lesbianism, she was furious.

The fact is that single-gender groups are perfectly legal, and sometimes they fill a particular need, whether they be for men or boys, or women or girls.


Little Cross, Goodleigh

Barnstaple EX32 7NR


Master’s degree early in a teaching career


From Mr Gordon James

Sir, — The proposal that every schoolteacher should have a Master’s degree, as proposed by the Universities’ Council for the Education of Teachers (UCET) report (News, 9 June) is not new, nor would it be difficult to implement. Degree certificates are easy to print, and Ede & Ravenscroft have an apparently unlimited capacity for churning out gowns and hoods. With robust moderation, the academic standards of such degrees could be maintained. What is less certain is whether these studies would lead to better teaching in schools.

I was a support worker in teacher education for many years, and I agree that the space for academic reflection and rigour built into the PGCE route into teaching is an invaluable complement to experience in the classroom; but I am not sure that compulsory extension of Level 7 work to a full Master’s degree, at or very near the start of a teaching career, is the best way forward.

Experienced teachers often benefit more from refreshing their teaching with postgraduate work later in their career. Surely UCET’s approach is the wrong way around. Decide first what the focus and content of teacher education should be, and then decide whether the academic element of that programme is best benchmarked at Master’s or at some other level.

My real concern, however, is that this is a distraction from the main challenge facing teaching. I struggle to think of a single classroom teacher of my acquaintance who is not planning an escape from the profession. Working in schools has become a thoroughly unpleasant experience for many teachers.

Chief among the causes is successive governments’ insistence on using thermometers to heat schools: attempting to improve children’s achievement solely through measuring it. In mathematics especially, the endless cycle of “Teach it, test it, record it, forget it,” has spawned generations of innumerate children and despairing teachers.

Education is failing, not because we have a high percentage of useless teachers, but because the job has been made impossible. Teachers waste, and know they are wasting, much of their lives on pointless tasks and on prescribed approaches that lack any evidence base. Free teachers to teach, and then see how schools improve, with or without more post-nominal letters.


Apartment 28 Trencherfield Mill

Heritage Way

Wigan WN3 4DU


Evangelical Charismatic church-planting: the way ahead or a dead end?


From the Revd Stephen Parsons

Sir, — The letter from Judith and David Paston (26 May) about St Thomas’s, Norwich, raises numerous issues for those of us who are concerned about the weakening of traditional Anglicanism. Clearly, Holy Trinity, Brompton (HTB), and its offshoots are here to stay as part of the Anglican scene. But there are various grounds for unease, and I want to look at one aspect.

The HTB phenomenon is in urgent need of some detailed research to establish its true effectiveness. While we know that there are numerous “successful” churches in university cities applying the HTB formula, we lack proper information about what happens to the individual members when they move beyond their twenties into career and family responsibilities.

Only one study exists, as far as I know, on the topic of post-student Charismatic religion. The research to accompany the study is New Zealand-based and was written up in the book, A Churchless Faith.

Alan Jamieson, the author, tracks a group of young people who moved beyond their experience of what we might describe as high-octane religious observance similar to HTB. It makes sombre reading. Though a small survey, it suggests that Charismatic worship and faith does not often translate well into the decade of the thirties.

We are told that the Church Commissioners are investing in the HTB brand on the grounds of the success of these congregations. Caution should be in order. Are we investing in a style of church life that appeals to one age-group but is of less relevance to the same individuals as they enter their middle years?

My suspicion is that the average length of membership of a church by members of HTB style congregations is far less than a decade. If this is true, and only proper research can refute my hunch, then we may be expending resources on something ephemeral. Meanwhile, this current effort to promote these plants may help to undermine and weaken the wider Anglican tradition in this country for ever.

We seem to be losing sight of the importance of ministry and pastoral effectiveness in favour of “mission”. People continue to need the help of the Church in the way in which they negotiate crisis, illness, and death. A preoccupation with financial and attendance statistics seems to shift attention away from the core Anglican business of pastoral care.


19 South Gables

Haydon Bridge NE47 6EQ


From Mr Andrew Collie

Sir, — Thank you for publishing Judith and David Pastons’ letter and the responses (2 June).

Two stories may be relevant. First, in the deanery where I was living at the time, I once surveyed C of E church services on a Sunday morning. On any one Sunday, 70 per cent of services were traditional, mainly a sung eucharist. This compared with eight per cent of the population who listen to Radio 3 or Classic FM.

Second, I once met an incumbent who went on to have two more “turnaround” appointments. He told me about an older lady in his parish. She had told him: “I’ve been praying for this church for years. I don’t like what you’ve done to it, but I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.”

Correspondents on 2 June call for listening and majority agreement. There should always be listening, but sometimes there needs to be enforced change to achieve the “mixed economy” of church which our society needs.

Listening and love will, it is hoped, lead to those who are “unchurched” by change (as described by the Pastons) being cared for. There are churches that provide transport for those who need it. Above all, we need a greater spirit of generosity — as demonstrated by that older lady — to perceive what others need and, perhaps, where God is moving.


Rowan Cottage, Parwich

Derbyshire DE6 1QB

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