Letters to the Editor

by
03 March 2017

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The nomination of Bishop North to Sheffield

 

From Canon Fleur Green and 31 others
Sir, — As women ministering in the diocese of Blackburn, with first-hand experience of working alongside Bishop Philip North, we view the recent debate over his appointment as Bishop of Sheffield with a mixture of understanding and sadness.

Before Bishop Philip came to Blackburn, many of us, quite naturally, had some concerns over his views on the ordination of women. But in the two years he has been here he has worked incredibly hard to make sure that all people feel more than included in the life of the diocese.

Of course we come from a different place from Bishop Philip, both theologically and in our own experience, but we have also seen him go the extra mile with the women clergy of our diocese, affirming and sharing in their ministry.

His passion for the poor, especially those in the outer estates, has been an inspiration to many, as has his leadership, teaching, and deep spirituality.

This one theological difference aside, he has created a real buzz about the diocese, and we view the prospect of his departure with sadness, but will keep him and all the people of Sheffield in our prayers.

FLEUR GREEN, Blackburn Diocesan Adviser for Women’s Ministry; SUSAN PENFOLD; TRACY SWINDELLS; LESLEY HINCHCLIFFE; BRENDA HARDING; TRACY CHARNOCK; CAROLYN LEITCH; MARY ASHTON; CATH MARTLEW; HELEN HOUSTON; FIONA JENKINS; JOANNE MACHOLC; PAULINE BICKNELL; LISA SENIOR; JILL NOVELL; LORELLI HILLIARD; NESS STARKEY; SHANNON LEDBETTER; SHEELAGH ASTON; LINDA MACLUSKIE; CHERIE WALKER; ANNE EDWARDS; JANET TAYLOR; CINDY RIGNEY; SUE WILLIAMS OCMM; SUSAN SEED; JANE ATKINSON; NANCY GOODRICH; MARIE CROOK; CORAL PRITCHARD; CATH BRAITHWAITE; ANNE MORRIS
c/o St Peter’s Rectory
2 St Peter’s Close
Darwen BB3 2EA

 

From Canon Philip O’Reilly SSC
Sir, — The flourishing across the Church of England is not mutual if women can become diocesan bishops but traditionalists and conservative Evangelicals cannot.

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The five principles held in tension with one another and the House of Bishops’ Declaration are intended to allow for truly mutual flourishing across the Church of England, because the provisions insist that only talent and calling should set a ceiling on appointments to senior office.

 

PHILIP O’REILLY
The Vicarage
12 Saddington Road
Fleckney
Leicester LE8 8AW

 

From Katharine Salmon
Sir, — The Revd Dr Thomas Carpenter (Comment, 17 February) rightly highlights the work of the new Bishop of Sheffield in relation to caring for those in urban areas of high deprivation. This is clearly of vital importance to his ministry. But if the new diocesan Bishop of Sheffield is to remain faithful to his calling to minister to all in his diocese, he will need to be able to send priests and experienced pioneer ministers into these areas. Statistically, many of those willing to serve in such parishes are women, and in Sheffield we have been blessed with the ministries of priests like Ali Dorey and the late Diane Kershaw.

Women in these urban priority areas already need the grace to work with those who do not acknowledge their priesthood, but this will pose particular challenges when the person who does not acknowledge their priesthood is their diocesan Bishop. Women and men in many urban priority areas of Sheffield welcome and are encouraged by the ministry of women. It will be very sad if the current women ordinands have to seek ordination and posts elsewhere.

I find it heartening that many who are expressing their concern about Phillip North’s appointment come from the poorer areas of the diocese: areas that would not have the eucharist were it not for the ministry of women.

 

KATHARINE SALMON
22 Greystones Road
Sheffield S11 7BN

 

Contemplating an end to single-parish curacies

 

From the Revd Dr Trevor Gerhardt
Sir, — I read with interest your report (News, 3 February) on the new curacy initiative in the diocese of Liverpool. The diocese of Rochester is considering similar changes. On the basis of doctoral research, Rochester is considering the benefits of a more team-orientated process. We are actively looking at developing training contexts that would include multi-parish benefices, team ministries, and clusters, i.e. no more curacy contexts of one priest, one parish.

This will enable the curate to learn across at least two parishes and have at least two ministry-leadership models, of whom one would be the lead training incumbent, and at least one other would be a chaplain. Such a model provides a better safety net for the curate and greater diversity of contexts, reflects the reality of possible future ministry, and allows a greater emphasis on developing autonomy in role. But why stop here?

Data gathered from a focus group of training incumbents raised concerns about how curates would embed themselves pastorally in such possibly diverse and probably busy contexts. To make the phase-one and phase-two training more cohesive, it was suggested, ordinands should be placed in a single-parish context that could then develop into the potential context as described.

For those training locally as a self-supporting minister, or on a mixed-mode course, this would be possible, and allow the ordinand to get embedded pastorally in the context. Ordinands at colleges could be encouraged to return to their sending dioceses for a summer placement in what then could potentially become their curacy training context. Such a new venture enables ministerial practice to happen sooner and creates more parity between colleges and courses and dioceses and between the two phases of training.

It creates a more cohesive phase-one and -two training process, and greater collaboration between college and courses, diocesan directors of ordinands, and Initial Ministerial Education phase-two officers, and allows the candidate to begin ministry experience and practice much sooner, and so get embedded pastorally within what could potentially become a curacy.

The challenges are that such a new scheme fundamentally changes the process of ministerial training. Potential training contexts will need to be agreed before candidates for ordination attend bishops’ advisory panels. This makes the present forms completed in the final year of training at colleges and courses regarding curacy placements defunct.

Furthermore, other provision would need to be in place for ordinands who are not recommended for ordination, or ordinands who do not wish to remain within their sending diocese for their curacy training.

The cliff edge of retiring priests which the Church of England is approaching presents us with an opportunity to launch into something new and exciting.

 

TREVOR GERHARDT
Assistant Director of Formation and Ministry
Diocesan Office, St Nicholas Church
Boley Hill, Rochester ME1 1SL

 

Charitable activity that is necessarily political

 

From Mr Andrew Purkis
Sir, — The Revd Dr Ian Duffield writes (Letters, 17 February) that “When charities over-politicise, diverting time, energy, and money from their core business of providing direct help and relief to those in need, charitable donors need to be wary.”

The core business of charities, however, is to pursue their charitable objects in the most effective possible way.

Dr Duffield does not seem to appreciate that the objects of many charities are not direct help and relief. Churches themselves are charities, and integrate their efforts to influence society in favour of Kingdom values as part of their core purpose of advancing religion. Environmental charities cannot achieve their objects by practical projects alone and must address the drivers of environmental danger. Those who have secured clean air instead of pea-souper fogs, or protected the distinction between town and country, and saved our National Parks from bad development, have had to enter the polis to do so.

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The promotion of human rights is another charitable object that requires action to influence what states and their agencies do. So is animal welfare. So is much education and research: surely Dr Duffield does not think that the “core business” of charities such as the Institute for Fiscal Studies, or the King’s Fund, or the Resolution Foundation, should be providing direct help to those in need?

Even in the fields of health and social welfare, and the prevention and relief of poverty, on which Dr Duffield focuses, non-party political activity as defined by the Charity Commission is often essential to, not separate from, the successful advancement of charitable purposes.

The great Victorian charities founded to protect children soon discovered that they needed to enter the political world and change public assumptions and laws for the sake of their beneficiaries. The same requirement — to influence the structures, laws, and rules decided by Parliament, or by other power centres — that led to the great movements to abolish the slave trade or combat discrimination against women pertains to those wanting to combat trafficking and modern slavery or advance women’s rights today.

As is evidently the case with Urban Theology Units, not all statements made by charity leaders are equally precise and carefully worded. It does not follow that the British Red Cross is “over-politicised”: it is not. Nor does it follow that Oxfam should cease to highlight the consequences of extreme inequality on the life chances of its beneficiaries or its values of social justice, human rights, and solidarity in many parts of the world.

The right question for donors is whether charities are advancing their causes effectively. In many cases, they should be wary of charities preoccupied with administering sticking plasters.

 

ANDREW PURKIS
Former Board Member of the Charity Commission
Flat C, 78 Ritherdon Road
London SW17 8QG

 

The Storey case

 

From Margery Roberts
Sir, — Your report (News, 24 February) on further developments in the fallout from the Timothy Storey case contains a small but significant error. It states that “the diocese published the review last October.” What it actually published were only “conclusions and recommendations”, and not the whole review report.

At the London diocesan synod meeting held on 28 November 2016, I asked the Bishop of London whether the whole report — suitably redacted to protect the identity of victims — could be published, at least to the members of the Bishop’s Council, the directors and trustees of the diocese. I received a negative response. Another member stated that reading the conclusions and recommendations had been “like reading answers without knowing what the questions were”.

In view of this characteristic lack of transparency, it is not at all surprising that interest in the details of the case continues, not only in this newspaper but in the national press.

When I wrote to the Church Times (Letters, 22 April 2016) on this matter, I referred to “disingenuous cover-ups”. Nothing has so far occurred to make me change my mind.

 

MARGERY ROBERTS
7 Nunnery Stables
St Albans AL1 2AS

 

Shortcomings of the Common Worship lectionary

 

From the Revd Hugh Wright
Sir, — The Common Worship Lectionary is 20 years old this year. I usually defend its use against those in one of my congregations who would like more thematic preaching: I argue that it gives a good diet of scripture over three years; but last week I encountered something that caused me to question this.

This February, with a late Easter, we have been enjoying hearing from the Sermon on the Mount, so crucial in informing a Christian ethic. In researching the Roots magazine for a family service, I discovered that, in the Revised Common Lectionary, the Gospel reading for the Sunday before last was Matthew 5.38-48, containing Jesus’s challenging and radical injunctions to “love your enemies,” “turn the other cheek,” and “go the extra mile.”

These are not optional extras in Christian ethics, but a core element of them; and yet the C of E, in its wisdom, seems to have decided to replace them with creation-based readings for the Second Sunday before Lent. After research, I discover that this passage is not only restricted to once every three years, but once every three years if Easter is even later than in 2017. What are the chances of that?

Many churchgoers, despite our best efforts, hear the Bible only when it is read in church. In an increasingly polarised world, we need to be regularly reminded of such teaching, and yet we are deprived of it by our Lectionary. It makes no sense.

 

HUGH WRIGHT
The Vicarage
Maples Drive
Ventnor PO38 1NR

 

Votes in the Synod

 

From Prebendary D. B. Tillyer
Sir, — My apologies to your readers if a mistake in my letter (24 Febru­ary) caused any confusion. The re­ference to a unanimous vote in the House of Clergy should have been to a unanimous vote in the House of Bishops. I hope that the context made it clear what was meant.

 

D. B. TILLYER
85 Claremont House
London NW9 5NW

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