Letters to the Editor

by
25 August 2017

iStock

The far Right in Virginia, and the racial attitudes of the Church of England

 

From John and Mary Twidell

Sir, — Your leader comment (18 August) on the Charlottesville riot, “A new hatred”, concluded: “There is another brand of Christianity that supported Donald Trump’s rise to the presidency, and this has been largely silent in recent days — or worse.”

Included with that brand is Franklin Graham (a son of Dr Billy Graham, the past evangelist). Mr Graham is CEO of Samaritan’s Purse, a Christian charity known worldwide for its most commendable medical and humanitarian aid programmes.

Many Churches in the UK collect shoe-boxes of Christmas presents that the UK branch of Samaritan’s Purse distributes to poverty-stricken children overseas. Other vital projects include hospitals for destitute refugees in and from South Sudan.

Yet Mr Graham was a leader in support of President Trump’s election and spoke in support of him at the Washington Inauguration. Since then, he has, by default, supported President Trump’s actions, including the initial implicit excusing of neo-fascist rioters at Charlottesville. Only after criticism of this earlier soft-pedalling did Mr Graham denounce racism in his Facebook comments of 17 August.

The UK branch of Samaritan’s Purse should publicly clarify its position regarding this seeming protection of President Trump’s often violent and bullying pronouncements.

JOHN TWIDELL

MARY TWIDELL

Bridgford House, Horninghold

Leicestershire LE16 8DH

 

From the Revd Calvert Prentis and the Revd Dr Sharon Prentis

Sir, — Last week’s events in Charlottesville highlighted the racialised views of right-wing extremists. They not only fear difference, but reject inclusion and equal participation. Their perspective arises from the belief that white groups have a supreme right over others.

The issues are far more nuanced in the Anglican Church. Some of them were rehearsed by Canon Julian Francis (Comment, 18 August). Likewise, the Committee for Minority Ethnic Anglican Concerns (CMEAC) has worked for more than 30 years to keep the issue of racial justice on the agenda.

Advertisement

Yet there remains a disparity around representation and a pervasive view that minority-ethnic Anglicans need further development before they can participate and contribute on all levels of leadership. It is not that minority-ethnic Anglicans lack the desire to contribute to the life of the Church; nor are we “diffident” about our abilities. It is the overarching narrative that defines our participation from a perspective of privilege that excludes.

While this is not comparable to extremist views, it is colonial, and results in the lack of diversity in organisational structures. Furthermore, unconscious and conscious bias, together with inherent structural constraints, function to define who can participate. The tentacles of elitism are far-reaching. Parish representatives have a huge influence in choosing incumbents or parish priests. The uncomfortable truth is that some parishes reflect the same attitudes that maintain the status quo.

There is evidence that minority-ethnic priests and leaders face several challenges. For example, the phenomena of “white flight” from churches and the over-scrutiny of their leadership roles. A lack of diverse representation is obvious in governance structures where opportunities to shape the agenda occur. These concerns are only the tip of the iceberg, and are rarely acknowledged by the Church. Attempts to widen the discussion to include them are often met with silence, defensiveness, or denial, instead of dialogue, prayer, and action.

Facing the uncomfortable truth about race means being honest about who we are, our ecclesiology, and how it reflects the Kingdom of God. A vision for equality is a start. Any constructive change must be brought about through our collective encounter with the healing grace of God.

CALVERT PRENTIS

SHARON PRENTIS

The Vicarage, Seven Kings

Ilford IG3 8Ul

 

From Miss Vasantha Gnanadoss

Sir, — Canon Julian Francis makes the telling observation that “the white majority has often remained strangely aloof from the struggle for equality that has been fronted and fought for ceaselessly by black and Asian Anglicans.” Nowhere, I suggest, does this observation apply more clearly than to the administration of the Crown Nominations Commission (CNC). The most recent nomination of a black or Asian diocesan bishop was in 2005, since when all 41 nominations have been white diocesan bishops.

Canon Francis refers to Turning Up the Volume (TUTV), on which I served from 2010 to 2015. Any suggestions of a strategic nature from black or Asian members were invariably ignored. At a joint session with the College of Bishops in 2015, the contribution from black or Asian members of TUTV was limited to one person speaking for five minutes.

I repeat here one of my suggestions published in the Church Times (Comment, 29 January 2016) that “The job description of the Archbishops’ Secretary for Appointments be amended to include a requirement that every CNC be provided with several names of black and Asian clergy who are ready now for appointment as diocesan bishops.”

VASANTHA GNANADOSS

242 Links Road

London SW17 9ER

 

The abused, the accused, and the insurance

 

From the Revd F. G. Downing

Sir, — Andrew Graystone cogently suggests a lead bishop for victims of abuse (Letters, 11 August). May I expand the discussion to cover care for those who are still here with us and are found guilty of such abuse — to help them to come to terms with their guilt, to attempt some gesture at least of recompense, and to make positive use of any penalty imposed by the courts.

In support, may I draw your attention to a useful piece by Fergus J. King (Rector of Kotara Sputh, Newcastle, NSW), “Tragedy and Ethics: Responding to the Crisis of Historic Sexual Abuse”, in the current Anglican Theological Review, 99.3, 461-477). He highlights Matthew 18 in particular.

But may I also draw attention to a matter that has featured in these pages in the past, but not, I think, recently: care for those accused before any court action against them, and any accused but exonerated by the courts, or accused but with insufficient evidence to warrant trial, but still suffering a damaged and damaging reputation.

It is all too easy in effect, if informally, to excommunicate (King, “scapegoat”). And, if Matthew 18.17 seems to encourage such exclusion, we must recall that Matthew’s sketch of Jesus finds that the Lord has a special care for “Gentiles and tax-collectors” — lost sheep (or even lost shepherds).

F. GERALD DOWNING

33 Westhoughton Road, Adlington

Chorley, Lancashire PR7 4EU

 

From Mr Keith Porteous Wood

Sir, — I write further to the Victoria Derbyshire programme on the part played by Ecclesiastical, “Always on your side”, in insuring child-abuse claims; John Titchener’s article (Comment, 4 August); Andrew Graystone’s letter; and earlier concerns expressed in your columns, for example by Professor Julie Macfarlane.

The financial statements of the Church Commissioners show more than £6 billion of assets, and of the dioceses and cathedrals billions more. Compared with such sums, the level of abuse settlements is small change.

In such circumstances, there is simply no need for the Church to insure against child abuse. While it continues unnecessarily to do so, the perception will remain, particularly in the minds of victims, that the reason is to distance the Church’s pastoral responsibilities from the activities of EIG and the lawyers to whom they outsource settlements.

Advertisement

KEITH PORTEOUS WOOD

National Secular Society

25 Red Lion Square

London WC1R 4RL

 

Christian Aid takes a wrong turn on green issues

 

From the Revd Michael Roberts

Sir, — As someone who was green half a century ago, I found Joe Ware’s article (Comment, 11 August) lacking both on history and contemporary practice. The environmental movement has far wider roots in the 19th century than just Muir and Anglicans. I would include Darwin, for a start.

In the 1970s, Bishop Hugh Montefiore was one of the few who waved a green flag, but to speak of a divide between the Church and environmentalism due to Dispensationalism is simply wrong. Very few believed in Dispensationalism.

The overriding view on the environment was simply apathy, as I found in 1982 when I tried to get the Liverpool diocesan board for social responsibility to consider environmental issues. I was ignored, and my request was not even minuted. I rejoiced when, in the 1990s, churches began to go green. My joy is now muted, as the focus has been narrowed down to disinvestment and “clean” energy, as if any energy were clean.

Bill McKibben has pushed for disinvestment and anti-fracking for many years, but his enthusiasm is not tempered with accuracy or realism. Renewable energy makes up less than ten per cent of total energy usage today, and thus fossil fuels must be used to make up the deficit and will continue to be used for at least half a century. At best, disinvestment is simply virtue-signalling. Apart from ideological greens, all informed commentators on energy argue that fossil fuels, preferably gas (thus fracking) must be used in the greenest way possible.

By making disinvestment and the Big Switch the shibboleths to be a Green Christian, Mr Ware and others have introduced a new fundamentalism. Sadly, other important green issues are often left to one side, owing to the adherence to a narrow agenda.

It is sad that Christian Aid is adopting such a narrow agenda, as it will prevent many countries from developing their own (allegedly dirty) energy supplies. Thus the potential oil and gas in the Western Rift of Uganda could well make Uganda energy-sufficient, thus limiting deforestation by replacing wood-burning with gas. If not exactly clean, it would be cleaner. I have worked in that area as an exploration geologist (for metals), and to me that would be a great improvement, reducing deforestation and smoky huts.

MICHAEL ROBERTS

35 Worcester Avenue

Garstang PR3 1FJ

 

The balance of Balfour

 

From Mr C. J. Ryecart

Sir, — The problems associated with the Balfour Declaration from the perspective of Professor Shlaim, in his Embrace the Middle East lecture at the University of Oxford (News, 21 July), would appear to be not related so much to the intentions of the declaration, but to the failure of the British and Israeli governments to honour its provisions and its subsequent traumatic effects on the native Palestinian population.

The declaration, which became a legal basis for the establishment of Israel and part of Israel’s Declaration of Independence, issued on 14 May 1948, specifically provided that “nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil or religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.”

It is, therefore, not compatible with the denial of Palestinian rights enshrined in United Nations Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, which support Palestinian political self-determination and rights of statehood, and is in direct conflict with Israel’s illegal military invasion and occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, its ethnic cleansing of Christian and Muslim Palestinians, and its colonialism, reflected in its illegal Jewish settlement expansion in these areas.

The failure of Israel to honour the conditions of the Balfour Declaration will continue to constitute the root causes of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

CHRISTOPHER JOHN RYECART

Weinberg 4, Kefermarkt 4292

Upper Austria, Austria

 

The reach of local radio compared with the press

From Mr Nigel Holmes

Sir, — Of the local media, radio reaches significantly more people than newspapers, at least outside London (Press, 4 August; Letters, 18 August).

The Revd Peter Crumpler states that the local press is in decline, but does not indicate the scale of the fall. In this area, the circulation of The Cumberland News, a weekly, has dropped from 34,900 in 2007 to 18,100 last year, and that of the daily News and Star from 23,400 to 9400. The workforce has been halved in less than a decade. The one plus is that local newspapers are more willing to print news and features fed to them.

On 8 November, BBC Local Radio will mark its Golden Jubilee. Consistently over those 50 years, it has taken faith seriously, and has devoted several hours a week of its peak-time Sunday breakfast programmes to religious affairs, besides affording additional coverage of festivals.

Particularly to the isolated and the lonely, the presenters become familiar, trusted, vicarious friends. In this area, BBC Radio Cumbria reaches almost one third of the population each week. BBC Local Radio is as much a social service as a public service — rather as the Church aims to be.

Advertisement

NIGEL HOLMES

Woodside, Great Corby

Carlisle CA4 8LL

 

Invisibility of parsonages from Church House

 

From Mr Anthony Jennings

Sir, — In your Back Page Interview (4 August), Becky Clark, director of the Cathedral and Church Buildings Division, uses the term “church buildings” four times, but this is nowhere defined.

A parsonage is a church building, but, in meetings I have had with members of the Cathedral and Church Buildings Division, I have been given the impression that they are not within its remit.

The treatment of parsonages has been problematic. The fact that there has been no church body to speak for their importance to Church and community over the years is partly why more than 8000 fine houses have been sold off since the Second World War.

These sales have enriched their purchasers, since former parsonages are recognised as the most desirable of all houses in the property market, but not the Church. They have also contributed to the decline in congregations, thereby exacerbating the problem of safeguarding our cathedrals and churches.

ANTHONY JENNINGS

Director, Save our Parsonages

Flat Z, 12-18 Bloomsbury Street

London WC1B 3QA

 

Not beyond the stars of Star Trek to sing a carol

 

From the Revd James Pacey

Sir, — As a priest and diehard Trekkie, I read with interest “Star Trek provides a guide to a godless future” (Press, 11 August).

It has been reported that the word “God” is forbidden in the forthcoming series Star Trek Discovery: this has since been reported false. I also feel the need to emphasise that later series of Star Trek subtly moved away from Gene Roddenberry’s “godless” vision, particularly Deep Space Nine, where the whole concept of faith and religion formed the background for the entire show. Indeed, perhaps mirroring the questions of many, in one film Dr McCoy says to Kirk: “Is God out there?”

More significantly, my childhood imagination was stirred by Star Trek with its infinite possibilities and high-concept stories. As an adult, I firmly believe Star Trek has helped me better conceive theology and the high-concept vastness of God. As a priest, I now wonder whether perhaps God was using this “godless” television series to prepare me for my future.

JAMES PACEY

149 Beardall Street, Hucknall

Notts NG15 7HA

 

Alternative to celibacy: independent schooling

From Canon Christopher Hall
Sir, — The Principal of Westcott House, Cambridge, Canon Chris Chivers, wants to avoid the cliché of the Anglo-Catholic slum priest (News, 11 August). Such priests were either celibate or were able to send their children away to fee-paying schools; my Tyneside grand­father was helped by a college contemporary to do so.

In the 1970s, the Shrewsbury School chaplain commented that the school had only two vicarage children, when it used to teach dozens. The head of The King’s School, Canterbury, later com­mented that only a highly paid clergy spouse could afford their children’s fees.

A northern bishop was critical of his neighbouring brother bishop, who shared his option for the poor, for sending his children to fee-paying schools, and yet he had earlier turned down an urban parish because he considered the local schools sub-standard. Murray and Mary Rogers shared the the poverty of Indian neighbours, but received CMS funding to pay for their children’s schooling.
Our primary-age children bene­fited from growing up in a UPA, but clergy families who have an option for the poor face a dilemma. If they stay, to what extent may their chil­dren’s development be hampered where secondary schools have been neglected?

Clergy stipends do not run to the present-day fees for private school­ing. The preferential option for the poor may come with significant consequences for their children. Such personal decisions determine the long-term deployment of par­ochial clergy in areas of deprivation.

CHRISTOPHER HALL

The Knowle, Deddington

Banbury

Oxfordshire OX15 0TB

 

Unhappy union of two sentences in TV column

 

From Canon David Winter

Sir, — In case some of my friends think that I have finally (and predictably) lost it, could I record that my review of the BBC programme on Partition (Television, last week) ended thus: “The world may be ‘torn apart by the ravages of sin’ (as the prayer says), but it is also wonderfully enhanced by the blessings of common grace.”

The missing words are presumably now residing in the bottomless pit reserved for editorial and printing mishaps. I do not, of course, think that the goings-on of the late Raine Spencer are the work of “common grace”, however much fun they provided.

I must confess, however, that in the same review I did confuse the identity and stories of two of the participants. I realised this only as I watched the second programme.

DAVID WINTER

51 Nideggen Close

Thatcham RG19 4HS

Latest Cartoon

The Church Times Podcast

The Church Times Podcast, hosted by Tim Wyatt and Ed Thornton, features a mixture of interviews and news analysis. Listen online

Subscribe now to get full access

To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read seven articles each month for free.