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Letters to the Editor

21 April 2017


Pastoral and moral theology in the RC Church


From Canon Peter Sedgwick
Sir, — Jonathan Luxmoore’s article on Pope Francis and changes in marriage discipline (Comment, 7 April) was interesting and well-informed. It is clear that there is a great discussion inside the Roman Catholic Church at the moment on the pastoral care of the divorced, and on the future of the family. One thing that should be emphasised is how much this is a theological discussion, and not simply a matter of church politics.

I was in Rome before Easter, staying at the Alphonsianum, which is the main centre for moral theology in Rome. There was again much discussion of the Apostolic Exhortation on the family, Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love). Two points were emphasised again and again in the discussions that I listened to.

First, this is a revisiting of the Second Vatican Council, in ways which build on but are different from the approaches of Popes John Paul II and Benedict. In particular, the crucial part played by the bishops in discerning what is the teaching of the Church (sensus fidelium) is all important. So, too, is the contribution of the laity. Amoris Laetitia constantly refers to the contribution not only of the Synod of Bishops, but of local bishops’ conferences across the world.

Second, the document sees natural law not as “an already established set of rules”, but as ‘inspiration . . . for the deeply personal process of making decisions”. In this, the document cites the International Theological Commission. When you consider how much the document is biblically based, and reflects on personal experience on every page, it is clear that Anglicans have much to learn from the document.


Church House, Grand Avenue
Cardiff CF5 4HX


Holy Week and Easter religious broadcasting


From the Revd Michael Page
Sir, — The BBC seems to me to be indulging in a death wish when it comes to religious programming. Why has it given up on the things that only it can do, while embracing so enthusiastically those things that anybody can do and where it will be hammered by the market?

For example, Songs of Praise —of which John Forrest (Letters, 13 April) was once an extraordinarily innovative producer — has turned from being a thoughtful and articulate reflector of contemporary lived-out Christian faith into a mish-mash of library recordings with superficial links of the “Well, who’d have believed it?” variety, played out at catch-me-if-you-can times in the broadcast schedule.

Andrew Smith deservedly congratulates Radio 3 for its coverage of religious music, but where are the well-crafted, intelligently made speech programmes about developments in the world of religion? And why are church and other religious bodies apparently so reluctant to comment on this neglect of a subject that remains central to the lives of so many of the world’s citizens?


MICHAEL PAGE (Baptist minister)
8 Cypress Close
Peterborough PE3 9QX


From Laurie Andrews
Editor (I’m a Quaker; so I won’t call you “Sir”), — Concerning complaints about the BBC’s religious coverage, I notice that in the Church Times’s Easter “Week ahead” column there are no fewer than 19 BBC programmes with a Christian focus in six days, seven on TV and 12 on radio, starting at 9 a.m. on Good Friday with Fern Britton’s Holy Land Journey, and ending with Choral Evensong from the Church of the Incarnation, Dallas, Texas, at 3.30 p.m. on Wednesday.

Good news?


3 Lawling Avenue
Essex CM9 4YT


From Brenda Wolfe
Sir, — Although BBC Radio broadcast several programmes to celebrate Easter, nevertheless, I decided to complain because of the paucity of the BBC’s television coverage. Surely BBC4, the supposedly high-brow channel, for example, could do better than two hours devoted to Top of the Pops on Good Friday, and three consecutive repeats on Easter Day.

I changed my mind, however, after watching Easter from King’s. The deceptively effortless perfection, untrammelled by a sermon, took the viewer on to another plane in a way that can rarely be achieved by the mundane literalism so often applied to the great mysteries of life and death in the Church today.


23 Hunters Lane
Liverpool L15 8HL


The management of vacancies in the Church


From the Revd Simon Douglas Lane
Sir, — I read with interest the letter from Malcolm Dixon (13 April) on the disparity between incumbent and senior-post appointments and the way they are managed. I retired from my last incumbency on 31 January 2013, and the advertisement for my replacement appeared in the Church Times four days later. My successor was installed the following July.

Ensuring that I had nothing to do with the replacement process, and with the full support of Area Bishop, Archdeacon, and Parish Ministry Development Adviser, the parish got to work as required six months before I left: it can be done, and there really is no need (unless there are specific circumstances) for there to be a long-drawn-out interregnum. The common expression of “parishes’ needing time to reflect” is normally a euphemism for delaying the payment of a stipend, which usually is a false economy. Perhaps my previous industrial experience in HR with responsibilities in succession planning helped.

We owe it to the parishes we leave to do all that we can to make the appointment of a successor as effective as possible; and that should apply to all vacancies, irrespective of “status”. Are we not all equal in the sight of God? As Malcolm Dixon says, this really is another opportunity for renewal and reform.


30a Belgrade Road, Hampton
Middlesex TW12 2AZ


The Cathedrals Working Group and its make-up


From the Very Revd Richard Lewis
Sir, — From the beginning, the Cathedrals Working Group (News, 13 April) is deeply flawed. The composition of the group reinforces the suspicion, even now rather bigger than a man’s hand, that there is an undisclosed agenda. The remit, to be completed in just over six months, is an impossible task unless this is a paper exercise conducted behind closed doors by those none of whom bar one are presently in post in a Cathedral.

One dean and one alone is asked carry the burden of all those whose daily work and calling is to serve and minister in our cathedrals. No administrator will have place and voice; no cathedral canon or lay member of chapter. Small wonder then that members of chapters will be demoralised; their voice is unheard, and they are ignored. Who will be left to defend the cathedrals in the face of a punitive raid?

I dare to hope, without much conviction, that Heritage and Renewal will be required reading by the group. That report was three years in the making; every cathedral was visited over three days; reports were made and debated; and it sets an excellent template both for nuanced relationships, as well as for management and accountability.

The Church of England is not just one ministry; it is many: parish and priest; the religious; chaplaincy, whether in hospital, school, Forces, or industry, and others besides; and cathedral ministry. It is beyond reason that a six-month “virtual” canter around the cathedrals of England will produce much, unless either from hearsay or prejudice.

In 1865, the 2nd Earl of Harrowby (ennobled politician and defender of the Church of England) proposed that chapters and their deans be abolished; cathedrals would then be run by chaplains appointed by and responsible to the bishop. Has the Earl’s time come? God forbid!


1 Monmouth Court
Union Street, Wells
Somerset BA5 2PX


From Mr Michael Benson
Sir, — May I make two comments after your article on the inquiry into cathedrals?

First, until the issue of sovereignty, which bedevils the governance of all cathedrals, is changed, to allow those who are competent and properly trained in matters of governance and financial management to assume full and unimpeded responsibility for the financial and commercial activities of cathedrals, nothing will change.

Second, to suggest that one week’s mini-MBA course will give deans and other chapter colleagues any proper understanding of governance or financial matters completely fails to understand the highly complex world in which we have to operate. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

I have worked in the investment-management world for more than 50 years, and even today I am still learning and seeking to keep up to date with the ever-changing financial regulations.


Grange Farm, Westow
York YO60 7NJ


Places of worship and HLF funding programmes


From Claire Walker
Sir, — The Heritage Lottery Fund’s (HLF’s) Grants for Places of Worship scheme (News, 7 April) has been vitally important in supporting churches, chapels, and meeting houses by providing much-needed funding to ensure that these buildings remain in good repair.

It is, therefore, crucial that at least the existing level of Heritage Lottery Fund grants for funding church buildings continues to be made available, and that small and rural churches continue to be helped to carry out urgent repair projects through the new arrangement being put in place.

Churches are the UK’s single most important category of historic buildings: 12,500 of the Church of England’s church buildings are listed, and 45 per cent of all England’s Grade I listed buildings are cathedrals and churches. They are unmatched for history, architecture, and sheer variety anywhere else in the world.

They are also much loved by the public. A recent poll of British people by ComRes showed that four in five (83 per cent) agreed that the UK’s churches, chapels, and meeting houses were an important part of the UK’s heritage and history, and 57 per cent backed government funding to pay for their upkeep.

I welcome the fact that the HLF will now be discussing their decision in more detail with a range of interested parties. The National Churches Trust will help to make sure that their new funding arrangements are understood by those looking after places of worship. and assist congregations needing help in applying to their “Our Heritage” and “Heritage Grants” funding programmes.

We will also continue to make sure that our own grant programmes are responsive to any changes in the church heritage sector. This will include continuing to award Project Development Grants that allow churches to develop solutions to improve sustainability and that help them to make funding applications to the Heritage Lottery Fund and other major funders.


Chief Executive Officer
National Churches Trust
7 Tufton Street
London SW1P 3QB


Selective education


From Professor Peter Davies
Sir, — Is there not something illogical in the Revd Nigel Genders’s assertion that every child is important but then refusal to engage with any who might be recruited to the newly proposed grammar schools (News, 13 April)?


11 Croft Drive West
Caldy, Wirral CH48 2JQ


US foreign policy and Professor Joad’s wisdom


From Mr Richard W. Symonds
Sir, — As Donald Trump’s United States continues to play its potentially catastrophic global war game, we would do well to remember the forgotten South Downs philosopher and writer C. E. M. Joad (1891-1953), whose work was highlighted in an extended “Joadian Way” exhibition at the Arundel Museum this week.

Sixty-seven years ago, in June 1950, at the start of the Cold War, Joad won an Oxford Union debate against Randolph Churchill, chaired by Robin Day (an Oxford “stringer” for Time magazine, which later covered the debate under the heading “Heading for Hell?). The motion was: “That this House regrets the influence exercised by the U.S. as the dominant power among the democratic nations.”

On the brink of nuclear war? If so, we appear pitifully and dangerously unaware of it. We need to wake up, wise up, and grow up before it’s too late.


The Joad Society
2 Lychgate Cottages
Ifield Street, Ifield Village
Crawley, West Sussex RH11 0HX

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