C of E environmental group’s paper on fracking
From Mr David Cragg-James
Sir, — Pressed for guidance on the moral implications of hydraulic fracturing, the Environmental Working Group of the Church of England has produced a document, Shale Gas and Fracking (News, 20 January), in which it concludes that if three tests are met, broadly — tight regulation and monitoring, no overall increase in UK gas consumption, shale emissions offset by emissions reductions elsewhere in the economy — then the “significant” scale exploitation of shale as a bridge to renewables is compatible with UK carbon budgets.
The adequacy of these tests in addressing the global challenge posed by climate change is questionable, as is the use of UK carbon budgets as the yardstick of morality.
Is the working group addressing the right question? The question is not “How can we square the Government’s determination to found a new fossil-fuel industry with morality (as defined by adherence to the Paris climate-change targets)?” but rather “Does this Government’s stance on fracking contribute to the protection of creation?”
Given that the effects of climate change — serious and life-endangering extreme weather events; the melting ice caps raising sea levels to the extent that low-lying land is lost to habitation and agriculture; evidence that the Siberian permafrost is warming, releasing more methane into the atmosphere; the contribution of climate warming to mass migration; the rapid disappearance of fauna and flora; and disproportionate effects on the poor of the planet — it would seem that the essential moral question goes beyond mere adherence to the UK’s response to the Paris agreement.
Were all countries to meet their legal obligations under this agreement, few deem that this would suffice.
Rose Cottage, Stonegrave
York YO62 4LJ
Welsh legal committee’s advice on confirmation
From His Honour Judge Andrew Keyser QC
Sir, — The Revd Professor Thomas Watkin (Letters, 13 January) has questioned the authority of the Bishops of the Church in Wales to issue the pastoral letter regarding the admission of the baptised to holy communion without the requirement of confirmation.
This matter has been twice considered by the Church’s Legal Sub-Committee, which provides its advice directly to the Bench. On both occasions, the Legal Sub-Committee was unanimous in its opinion that the Bishops had the necessary constitutional authority to issue the pastoral letter.
Professor Watkin’s contention that the pastoral letter purported to do what could be done only by canon has been considered, but the Legal Sub-Committee is of the opinion that the contention rests on an interpretation of the rubrics in the Book of Common Prayer of the Church in Wales which is unpersuasive in itself and also contrary to the understanding of those rubrics which has been reflected in the Church since at least 2001, when the Bench of Bishops approved guidelines for the admission of baptised children to holy communion.
Professor Watkin’s complaint that in issuing the pastoral letter the Bishops acted with disregard of the views of members of the Church is surprising and unfair. Having been advised that it was unnecessary to follow the Church’s legislative procedure to achieve their purpose, the Bench can hardly be criticised for having acted accordingly. Beyond that, it was as a result of questions at Governing Body, for example in 2009, that the Bench asked the Church’s Doctrinal Commission to consider the relationship between confirmation and admission to holy communion.
The two papers produced by the Doctrinal Commission, on “Confirmation” and “Admission to Communion” respectively, were tabled at the Governing Body in September 2015. Among the conclusions of the report on “Admission to Communion” was: “It is clear that baptism is the complete rite of Christian initiation and that consequently there is no good theological reason to withhold Communion from the baptised of any age until confirmation. It is clear from its Prayer Book, catechism, historic formularies, previous reports and elements of its current practice that this is the settled theological position of the Church in Wales.”
The Bishops sought the views of the Governing Body on the papers and on the Bench’s Response to them, which made clear that they were minded to accept the conclusion that all the baptised ought to be admitted to communion. The Bishops issued the pastoral letter and the accompanying “Guide for Churches” after receiving the views of the Governing Body and the advice of the Legal Sub-Committee.
At the short debate regarding the pastoral letter at the Governing Body in September 2016, the policy of admission to communion in the pastoral letter was warmly welcomed, such concerns as were expressed being confined to practical matters regarding implementation.
It is also unfair to suggest that the Bishops view confirmation as an “optional extra”. The continuing importance of confirmation was set out in the Doctrinal Commission’s papers, which the Bishops accepted; has been made clear in the pastoral letter and the accompanying “Guide for Churches”; and has been repeatedly emphasised by the Bench, and by both the Bishop of Swansea & Brecon (Letters, 6 January) and the Archbishop (Letters, 25 November 2016).
Chairman, Legal Sub-Committee, Church in Wales
39 Cathedral Road
Cardiff CF11 9XF
The US in the divine scheme of things
From Mr Tim Aldred
Sir, — “We are protected by God,” declares the President of the United States, and quotes selectively from the Psalms. He should have read on a few pages. Don’t “trample on the poor” or “push aside the needy”, says the Book of Amos: it is only then that “God Almighty will be with you, just as you say he is.”
The President spoke of children in Detroit and Nebraska “infused with the breath of life by the same almighty Creator”. An almighty Creator would infuse that same breath to children born in Afghanistan, Tanzania, Mexico, or China. The God of the Bible is God of the whole world, and does not put any group of people “First”.
92 Cumberland Road
Bromley BR2 0PW
Distinctive diaconal ministry for ‘complementarian’ women and others
From Gill Newman
Sir, — I was both shocked and saddened by the comment of the diocesan director of ordinands (DDO) reported as saying, “If you take a view that women cannot lead/preach, then why be a deacon?” (News, 20 January). This demonstrates a regrettable lack of understanding about the diaconal ministry.
It is not always easy to find the distinctive or permanent deacons currently engaged in active ministry because, as we know, numbers are few in this often overlooked order in the Church of England. But, if you are lucky enough to find one, you are likely to discover a woman or man deeply committed to the task of being a herald of Christ’s Kingdom, proclaiming the gospel “in word and deed” in corners of the local community often neglected by others, “making the love of God visible”, and publicly representing Christ’s commission to the Church to serve one another. With mission at the heart of our agenda, are these not the very heralds we need?
The context of the reported discussion was concern regarding the lack of ordained posts for conservative Evangelical women. Whether complementarian views of headship are held or not, there are those who sense a strong personal calling to public representative ministry in the Church and do not feel called to leading a local church.
I would urge the Church of England to seize this moment to give serious attention once again to a renewed diaconate and rediscover its potential for ministry and mission.
63 Coborn Road
London E3 2DB
From Mr Steve Vince
Sir, — How many conservative Evangelical incumbents, holding to the complementarian position, would welcome a woman as a distinctive deacon in their parishes — particularly if it were at the expense of a training post for a male curate who would be ordained to the priesthood?
And how many, when moving to a new incumbency, would welcome inheriting such a deacon?
Unless parishes and incumbents in this constituency are prepared to buy into this ministry in this way, I can’t see how the dioceses even could create the posts for them; and it would be churlish to blame them for not doing so.
13 Selwyn Close
Wolverhampton WV2 4NQ
Blame for disunity falls on the papacy, too
From the Revd Dr Ian Meredith
Sir, — With reference to the Archbishops’ statement about the “lasting damage done five centuries ago to the unity of the Church” (News, 20 January), let’s not put all the blame for our disunity on Luther and the Reformation. Was the main cause not an intransigent, worldly, and greedy medieval papacy?
Luther never intended to start a new Church, but just to clean up the old one. It was not he who left the Church; rather, he was excommunicated.
The Vicarage, 164 Castle Street
Portchester, Fareham PO16 9QH
From Mrs L. Buckland
Sir, — Hotels offer three-day Christmas packages, which include everything from the pantomime to the Queen’s broadcast and Father Christmas — and generous amounts of food and drink. But there is no mention of church services, and enquiries are really negative:
Manager: Not everyone wants to go to church.
Me: Well, it is Christmas! Can you help?
Eventually, he agrees to hold a list at reception for “anyone interested” to consult. I would like an option to share transport, but that, it seems, is too much to ask.
This hotel has 270 Christmas guests, in a large town with at least two dozen churches.
Would it be a significant outreach for all UK churches to form good relationships with all hotels — “Adopt a hotel” — and ensure that their up-to-date welcome is included on hotel websites, with a link to any transport being offered on Christmas Day — but also for every Sunday throughout the year?
L. BUCKLAND (LLM)
5 Haimes Lane
Dorset SP7 8AJ
The smallest room
From Mr Andy Bebington
Sir, — You report on Tearfund Toilet Twinning (News, 13 January; Features, 18 November 2016). I thought your readers might like to know what detail is given in the certificate you receive, telling you about the twinned loo. We have such a certificate, and our twinned loo, in Burundi, is located so accurately that it is pinned down to a space with an area of 0.16mm² — that’s about 100th of an inch square.
The certificate doesn’t say how Burundians are supposed to use such a teeny loo.
79 Shirley Way
Croydon CR0 8PL