Letters to the Editor

by
28 July 2017

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Social teaching of Archbishop William Temple

 

From the Master of Trinity Hall, Cambridge

Sir, — I read Professors Moran and Williams’s criticism of the legacy of William Temple (Comment, 21 July) with some astonishment. Have they actually read Christianity and Social Order — apart, that is, from the passage they quote selectively from the opening of Chapter Four?

In making Temple’s apparent distinction between general principles and specific prescription the central point of his wartime bestseller, they turn it into an apology for doing nothing, and for leaving the development of policy in the hands of a small class of “experts”. This is absolutely not what Temple argues. His book, instead, is a measured but passionate defence of the position that Christians are entitled to criticise morally every particular arrangement of society, and to bring Christian principles to bear on every area of public policy.

What the book criticises, then, is precisely the point that Moran and Williams seem to assume he is making: “Church, get out of policy: you have no rights there.”

Without doubt, Temple’s framing of his position reads somewhat naïvely today, and it had its weaknesses. He had a more optimistic view of collective state action than is common now. His distinction between “primary” and “derivative” social principles was appealing, but hard to sustain in particular cases. He had a faith in the common study of social problems which was somewhat undermined by his recognition of the baleful impact of sin in human relations.

His analogy with the engineer is — of course, and almost certainly self-consciously — limited, and his seeming separation of ends and means in that opening passage to Chapter Four was unfortunate. But it was hardly central to his argument, or consistent with much of it.

Moran and Williams rightly draw attention to economists’ tendency to assume a rational, “single economy”, and they criticise it — but so did Temple. They point to the myriad small, local decisions and commitments through which the social fabric is built up — Temple would not have dissented. Again rightly, they urge churches to get involved, to see the connections between this deep localism and the “fulfilment of human need and human dignity” – that was absolutely Temple’s position, too.

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It is unfortunate, to say the least, that, to make a persuasive case for the “Foundational Economy”, they have to rubbish the reputation of someone whose work ran much along the lines they themselves advocate. They say that Temple “realigned” Christian social thought. He did not. He was consciously and deliberately working within the tradition of Christian social theology which went back through his immediate mentors and colleagues, such as Gore, Tawney, and Beveridge, to the 19th-century Christian Socialists, and beyond them to older elements of Christian criticism of capitalism.

Temple’s book merely popularised a long-established current of Christian social criticism which praised and validated local action. You would infer none of this from Moran and Williams. But then, as Temple himself acknowledged in Christianity and the Social Order, “Few people read much history.”

JEREMY MORRIS

Trinity Hall,

Cambridge CB2 1TJ

 

Pastoral care within the congregation and beyond: a false dichotomy

 

From Mrs Claire Williams

Sir, — Few could disagree that some parish churches can be inward-looking and -serving, but I cannot agree that pastoral care should therefore be entirely outward-focused (Comment, 21 July). The descriptions by the Dean of Chelmsford, the Very Revd Nicholas Henshall, of congregations as “a hospital ward for lonely people”, and of parishioners who want a little of a priest’s time as “provision of afternoon chats for people with too much time on their hands”, are patronising and lack imagination.

Luke 4 and Mathew 25 highlight our commission to go out into society to transform unjust structures and to seek out the poor and the marginalised. Were the disciples not a key element to the ministry of Jesus? If they had not been taught, encouraged, fed spiritually and physically, and cared for pastorally, I question whether they would have been so fruitful in their own missional endeavours.

Being a member of a congregation for more than 40 years under the leadership of very differing styles of pastoral ministry, and now working as a hospital chaplain and training for ordination, I appreciate the tension between spending time looking after those already “in” the church and ministering to and serving those on the outside. But I have also witnessed the damage to congregations who are building towards mission when the pastoral care within the congregation is lacking.

With increased licensed lay ministry alongside ordained ministry, the building of teams to look after those both inside and out should in theory be sustainable. I cannot emphasise enough, however, that it is the very people inside the church, whatever their reasons for coming, who are going to be the people who welcome the families you attract with missional activities for baptism, collect food for the foodbank at your community project, and pray for your ministry.

I know many congregations where septuagenarians and octogenarians are the lifeblood of the infrastructure of outward-facing mission. To my mind, the least they deserve is the same level of compassion and pastoral care as those on the outside.

If you don’t value and look after the disciples you have, not only is it a terrible model for those outside to witness: you will soon have nobody to help you sustain the missionary activities. Only on the foundation of strong and sustainable relationships can new networks be built to reach new communities with the gospel.

I would ask the Dean and those of a similar mind not to miss and dismiss the treasures in their flock who might well be shepherds in their own right, given the pastoral care they need and deserve, in the name of Jesus.

CLAIRE WILLIAMS

21 Heathercliff Way

Penistone, Sheffield S36 6FN

 

From Mrs Vivien Moores

Sir, — Dean Henshall gives the impression that the only community that we Christians are involved in is the church community. But what about our own communities, our families, our neighbours, and other social activities? Aren’t we Christians meant to be in the world, and not just part of a church? Equipping us to be ambassadors for Christ in our own communities is surely the task of a shepherd.

VIVIEN MOORES

4 Redwing Road

Bury BL8 4ET

 

From June M. Brown

Sir, — As a member of the Church for more than 60 years, I mourn the passing of the wise and caring parish priest: one who appeared closer to God, was contemplative, well-read, and learned in spiritual things, and who always found time to support and inspire his people in their times of need. He shared their doubts and anxieties, and had reserves of prayerful understanding to be alongside them in their struggles.

Surely, in this fast and unkind world, this is what people are deeply in need of; and how they can come to know God for themselves?

JUNE M. BROWN

8 Wroxham Close

Colchester

Essex CO3 3RQ

 

Topics for the Clergy Well-being Working Group

 

From the Revd Andy Rider

Sir, — It may already be on the agenda of the Clergy Well-being Working Group (Synod, 14 July), but the 1974 Health and Safety at Work (HASAW) Act needs to be in their discussions.

I am unaware of any ministry reviews or archdeacon’s visitations that already include a check on the clergy working environment, and suspect that many clergy are lone workers based in their homes, very often with lighting, seating, and air conditions that would not meet HASAW requirements.

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I would urge the working group to include this very basic aspect of well-being in their review, and, in the mean time, churchwardens to check on their clergy and, as appropriate, release PCC funds to care properly for their most valuable parish asset.

Our own chapter residential this year included a pilates class led by Fr Brian. We all have basic physical needs that contribute to our well-being. Some simple steps would declare an intention to address them.

ANDY RIDER

Area Dean of Tower Hamlets

2 Fournier Street

London E1 6QE

 

From Canon Steven Saxby and the Revd Pete Hobson

Sir, — We welcome the Revd Dr Rhona Knight’s letter (Letters, 21 July), especially the suggestion that the Church should consult those whose clergy well-being has been compromised.

Sadly, our reps are too often providing support for clergy (of various denominations and faiths) who have not been treated well by their colleagues, congregation members, and even the hierarchies of their institutions. Many leave, or stay in ministry with resulting ill-health and other challenges.

We applaud the attention that the General Synod is giving to the issue, as well as the conversations that our Church of England Clergy Advocates (CECA) grouping is having with the national Church.

As part of this, we urge the Church of England and others to consider the duty of care which a church denomination owes to its workers, and to develop with us and others a Charter of Care which sets out the obligations on organisations and individuals to ensure that clergy well-being is protected.

STEVEN SAXBY

PETE HOBSON

Chairs of Unite Faith Workers’ Branch and Church of England Clergy Advocates

c/o Unite House

128 Theobald’s Road

London WC1X 8TN

 

Tarred by C of E failures

 

From Mrs Gwen Bevington

Sir, — I was touched to read the testimony of Canon David Staples (Letters, 21 July) that he worked happily with all throughout his ministry. This is what many of us strive for.

It is not, however, for us middle-class white people to assert or define what the experience of others has been. I know that sometimes, when I have sought to be friendly, I may well have come over as patronising. The picture, too, that Canon Smith-Cameron draws to our attention tells its own story.

It’s also clear that, much as Canon Staples and I may love and affirm LGBT friends and colleagues, the Church of England as a body has failed to affirm them. We have somehow squared it with our consciences to be part of an institutionally racist and homophobic organisation; it is inevitable that the brush should tar us, too.

GWEN BEVINGTON

35 Gainsborough Green

Abingdon OX14 5JH

 

Mindful of our heritage

 

From the Revd Dr Catherine Shelley

Sir, — It is a shame that, in considering mindfulness and compassion (Comment, 14 July), Canon Angela Tilby perpetuated the perception that society has to go to Buddhism for meditative resources. The failure to mention either the great traditions of meditation rooted in Christianity, or the Christian roots of the word “compassion”, was a missed opportunity.

CATHERINE SHELLEY

24a Queens Mansions

Brighton Road

Croydon CR2 6AA

 

Comparative frolics

 

From Mr Richard Wilkins

Sir, — If the Revd Steve Chalke’s historical researches have shown him that there were no faithful gay marriages in Pompeii, and that there are no promiscuous same-sex frolics in Lambeth (where Oasis has its HQ) today, then his video is worth the space you spent on it (News, 21 July). Otherwise, it is not.

RICHARD WILKINS

27 Spring Gardens

Watford WS25 9JJ

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