Fossil fuels and the the C of E Pensions Board
From the Rt Revd Michael Doe, the Rt Revd Lord Harries of Pentregarth, the Rt Revd Maurice Sinclair, and 27 others
Sir, — As clergy receiving or contributing to pensions from the Church of England, we are troubled that part of our pensions comes from investments in fossil-fuel companies, who show no sign of taking seriously the recommendations of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in December 2015.
The Paris Agreement commits countries to holding the increase in the global average temperature to “well below 2 degrees Celsius . . . and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels”.
The world’s carbon budget for meeting the 1.5° target will, however, be used up within four years (as calculated by Carbon Brief) if we continue to use fossil fuels at the current rate. Any temperature rise above 1.5° is likely to precipitate a further process of global warming which would be irreversible.
Despite the urgency of the situation, Shell and BP have not so far shown how they will align their operations with the Paris targets, and ExxonMobil shareholders rejected all resolutions on climate change (including the one proposed by the Church Commissioners) at the company’s AGM in 2016.
Conscious of our responsibilities as clergy and, in some cases, grandparents, we ask the Pensions Board to disinvest from fossil-fuel companies and to start investing in renewable alternatives. We would point out that disinvestment may prove the prudent financial choice as it will avoid the risk of stranded assets.
We welcome the Transition Pathway Initiative launched by the Church of England in January but we fear that the targets and timescales of this engagement policy will bear fruit too late to prevent the 1.5° target from being exceeded, with dangerous consequences for the planet.
At the very least, an alternative in the short term would be to allow pensioners to opt into a separate fund that excluded fossil fuels.
We invite others who think as we do to join us in writing to the Church of England Pensions Board.
MICHAEL DOE, HARRIES OF PENTREGARTH, MAURICE SINCLAIR, TOM AMBROSE, FRANCIS BUXTON, KEITH CLARINGBULL, CHARLIE CLEVERLY, JIM COX, ANDY DELMEGE, BARBARA DOUBTFIRE, GAVIN DOUGLAS, JESSICA FOSTER, DAVID H. GARNER, JAMES M. GIBBS, OLIVIA GRAHAM, MEG GUILLEBAUD, MARGOT HODSON, JOHN HUGHES, HUGH LEE, ANDREW LENOX-CONYNGHAM, JOHN MORRISON, DAVID NASH, JOHN NIGHTINGALE, DAVID PARRY, EMMA PERCY, MATTHEW RHODES, THOMAS SEVILLE CR, TIM STEAD, CHRIS TURNER, JOHN WILKINSON
c/o 19 Berberry Close
Birmingham B30 1TB
The General Election: the debate begins
From the Rt Revd Dr Colin Buchanan
Sir, — The Church of England customarily does not instruct people how to vote, does not support any one political party, and rarely condemns the policy of any party. So our leaders urge us to know what the parties’ policies are, to make up our minds responsibly, and then to vote in accord with our consciences.
The House of Bishops in 2015 classically advised us thus. And, local churches, often ecumenically, provide hustings; we are indeed responsible democrats.
I submit that this is but motherhood and apple pie. The fourth of our five “Marks of Mission” reads “To seek to transform unjust structures of society”. And, bluntly, we currently elect by a very unjust structure indeed. Two years ago 36.9 per cent of the voters gave David Cameron an overall majority, conferring on him total sovereign power. Theresa May bids fair to repeat this. And when a government unwanted by 63 per cent of the voters has gained power, it claims a “mandate” to fulfil its manifesto.
But cannot voters change their minds, and non-voters be persuaded to register and vote? Yes, but they are unlikely to make any difference. In 2015, three smaller political parties gained almost 25 per cent of the votes between them, and won ten seats out of 650. Voting for them was largely a waste of votes. And voting for either of the two leading parties in the 300 or more “safe” seats also has no effect.
People in glass houses should not throw stones. But the Church of England does not here occupy a glass house; we use the fairest system of voting known: the single transferable vote in multi-member constituencies. It is also in use in Northern Ireland and in Scottish local council elections, and it not only produces true proportions in the governing bodies, but it also enables voters to choose between individuals as well as parties, and their votes will not be wasted.
Sadly, our own use of it is not well advertised: we are in the unusual position of practising but not preaching.
My opposition to the present unjust system does not run to boycotting it. But surely those urging responsible voting could qualify their advocacy by saying “Yes, it is an unjust system; we need to change it; but don’t let that stop you voting.” And the protest should continue.
21 The Drive, Leeds LS17 7QB
From Mr Simon Court
Sir, — I write to thank Canon Angela Tilby (Comment, 28 April) for helping me realise that I am one of those Christians who, in her words, has been “more easily seduced” to vote Labour.
I was first attracted by Labour’s commitment to social justice and its opposition to the appalling Tory and Liberal attacks on welfare benefits for the disabled, the bedroom tax, and the privatising of our NHS.
My seduction was complete when I found out that Jeremy Corbyn wouldn’t push the nuclear button. He also thinks bombing unlikely to lead to peace. He gets so much criticism for being unwilling to cause the deaths of millions of people. All this makes Canon Tilby’s characterisation of Labour as “led by those who still hold to this inherently violent creed” even less credible.
Eastgate Cottage, Perry’s Lane
Cawston, Norwich NR10 4HJ
From Mr C. J. Ryecart
Sir, — If the Prime Minister believes in the importance of Christian values “in shaping society” (Comment, 21 April), why has she agreed to continue exporting arms to Saudi Arabia, whose illegal war has taken Yemen to the verge of famine?
How can it be justified for a Christian country to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia as long as it executes those whom it deems are apostates, those who seek to disseminate the Christian faith, and those who seek to proselytise? Saudi Arabia remains the greatest opponent of freedom of religious practice in the world.
The Church ought to be “embarrassed at its deep links with the State” (Canon Tilby) when the Minister of Defence refers to the PM’s latest arms deal with Saudi Arabia as a “post-Brexit role model”.
CHRISTOPHER JOHN RYECART
Kefermarkt 4292, Austria
‘Craven’ responses to the Spanish Civil War
From the Revd Christopher Martin
Sir, — As a way of marking the 80th anniversary of the German bombing of Guernica, it was good to see Peter Street’s article (Features, 21 April), and it was salutary to be reminded of just how craven was the response of the institutional Church.
The Spanish Civil War seems strangely distant from us, and there is now a widespread misapprehension that it was, loosely speaking, a struggle between the monarchists, the feudal land-owners, the generals, the fascists, and the Church on one side (the Nationalists) and the liberals, the socialists, the communists, and the anarchists (the Republicans) on the other side.
But the reality was more complex. The Roman Catholic Church in Spain was not wholly Nationalist. Gerald Brenan insists that most rural clergy were poor and were supporters of the Republic. As is well known, there were atrocities on both sides. But the hatred shown by Spanish people to the Church was not in essence anti-Christian, but was directed rather against a remote, powerful, and highly conservative church hierarchy, and against wealthy monastic foundations.
The great majority of British Roman Catholics were unhesitatingly on the Nationalist side, seeing the war as a kind of crusade against the murderers of priests and the ravagers of churches. It may be that the RC Douglas Jerrold was involved in chartering a British aeroplane to fly General Franco from the Canaries to Morocco. There was an official Bishops’ Aid for the Spanish Nationalists Fund. And Archbishop Hinsley reportedly kept a photograph of General Franco on his desk.
What is harder to understand is the public silence of Anglican church leaders, at a time when liberals and left-wingers, the intelligentsia, and the trade unions were vociferously and almost unanimously anti-Franco. Bishops such as George Bell and William Temple seem to have been strangely absent from the debate. Their silence helped maintain the British Government in its supine policy of non-intervention, while turning a blind eye to the involvement of the fascist dictators. Adrian Hastings, for example, believes that the institutional Church in the 1930s could have done much more to swing the pendulum away from European fascism.
An interesting postscript is provided by William Temple, writing to a chaplain in the Forces in August 1943: “… an authoritarian organisation of religion is always bound to find itself lined up on the whole with authoritarian politics.”
Would the House of Bishops respond differently today under similar circumstances ? I would certainly like to think so. But I am not totally confident that it would.
10 Kirkhill Terrace
Edinburgh EH16 5DQ
The aid budget and an Anglican layman’s lead
From Canon Christopher Hall
Sir, — Christian Aid’s Joe Ware writes: “in the battle for the British aid budget Anglicans have a vital part to play in shoring up support” (Comment, 13 April).
In January 1973, that was the message of the first letter published in the Church Times from John Madeley, who died recently. Forty-four years ago, John urged all your readers to write to the Prime Minister or their MP, because, he said, “we cannot love God and we cannot love our neighbour as ourselves if we stay silent and acquiesce in a system which keeps half the world in agony.’’
Nine months later, in these columns, John wrote again: “Justice for the very poorest of the world . . . is everything to do with the salvation of souls, our salvation and the salvation of those who suffer from abject poverty.’’
For the rest of his life, John campaigned for global justice. He lived to see the 2010 election, in which all the major parties pledged their support for the UN 0.7-per-cent target of GNP for overseas aid, which the coalition government then passed into law.
The struggle continues to ensure that the victory John Madeley helped to achieve is not diminished. Through our MPs, let the daughter of Wheatley Vicarage hear our combined voices.
Banbury OX15 0TB
Sheffield appointment in light of referral process
From Mr N. J. Inkley
Sir, — Pending Sir Philip Mawer’s review, if the “five principles” are to mean anything in the Church of England, and if, indeed, the Dean of Liverpool was the second nomination for the see of Sheffield (News, 13 April), I think it would have been seemly for him also to decline the appointment — of course without prejudice to his deserved future preferment.
6 Knot Lane, Walton-le-Dale
Preston PR5 4BQ
Parish Share in interregnum and ‘postregnum’
From Mr Edward Jones
Sir, — I doubt there can be a diocesan financial secretary in England who has not previously heard the argument advanced by Mr John Boddy (Letters, 28 April).
Mr Boddy may find it instructive to attend, as I have done, an annual budget presentation by his diocesan board of finance. There is so much more that needs to be financed than the stipend of each incumbent: support for the training of new clergy, to name but one item that may interest Mr Boddy.
This parish will also be in vacancy shortly; so, while I instinctively have some sympathy with anyone else in this position, I am thankful that the diocese of St Albans at least makes a 20-per-cent rebate of the stipendiary element of the Share; one could wish for more, but burden-sharing is all part of our journey.
Vice Chairman, Bromham PCC
6 Manor Close, Bromham
Bedford MK43 8JA
From Mr John D. R. Lloyd
Sir, — Mr Boddy asks whether Parish Share should be paid during an interregnum. But what about parishes in a “postregnum”?
As a result of our deanery’s choosing to deal with the problem of how to share nine clergy between 15 parishes by assigning them to “partnerships”, we now have an unpaid, voluntary, lay Local Missional Leader, but are still expected to pay the Parish Share in full, effectively subsidising other parishes with full-time clergy, some of which have smaller congregations than ours.
We are grateful to those visiting clergy who come to preside at holy communion and who graciously waive their fees; but, to add insult to injury, we have been told by the Archdeacon that, since we are not in an interregnum, there will be no sequestration fund from which those who do charge can be paid, meaning that we are paying twice over.
The time has come for a radical reappraisal of the Parish Share system.
JOHN D. R. LLOYD
Churchwarden, All Saints’,
4 Grange Avenue
Southport PR9 9AH
Proposal of joint chrism mass in Exeter diocese
From the Revd Geoffrey Squire SSC
Sir, — I note the letter from Mr Richard Barnes concerning the two chrism masses in Exeter Cathedral (Letters, 28 April).
The suggestions that he makes are interesting, but for many reasons I doubt whether they would be practical. As for the suggested use of the Lady chapel for one section: I was at the 2016 “traditionalists’” chrism mass that was held in the choir area, much larger than the Lady chapel, and it was absurdly crowded; many had to sit in the nave.
This year’s arrangement, with both masses in the nave, was made in a spirit of harmony and generosity. The fact that for the past two years both chrism masses have been held in the cathedral with the Bishop of the diocese present at both, is, I believe, a step forward. It was indeed a joyful occasion, with large numbers participating.
Having a second chrism mass also provides for those unable to get there on Maundy Thursday and then get back across the vast diocese for their evening Maundy Thursday liturgies, or even those who find parking in Exeter difficult with the great pre-holiday shopping rush.
GEOFFREY F. SQUIRE
Little Cross, Goodleigh
Dementia Awareness Week and a conference
From the Revd Dr David Primrose
Sir, — Dr Peter Kevern’s article on dementia (Comment, 28 April) rightly asserts the gospel’s theological challenge to a hypercognitive culture that devalues people living with dementia.
Christians have an opportunity, during Dementia Awareness Week (14-20 May), to demonstrate a deeper understanding of personhood.
The following week, there will be a conference with colleagues from 20 dioceses, discussing the ministry that we share with those living with dementia, including our own diocese’s Dementia-Friendly Church programme, which Dr Kevern is currently evaluating. Your readers are invited to contact me if they would like to know whether their diocese is represented.
Director of Transforming Communities
Diocese of Lichfield
1A Small Street
Walsall WS1 3PR
From Mr Richard Hough
Sir, — I was very interested in the transcript of Dr Charlotte Woodford’s Radio 3 talk about Luther’s wife, Katharina (Features, 28 April).
Some years ago, my wife and I were in Wittenberg on a Sunday in June. The whole town was en fête. We asked the reason, and were told it was to celebrate the anniversary of Martin Luther’s wedding.
This was being celebrated with typical German gusto, with several brass bands playing and numerous stalls selling beer and sausages. From time to time, we came across couples dressed in 16th-century style as Martin and Katharina. Clearly the wedding is still remembered with great affection.
RICHARD HOUGH (Reader)
138 Hartford Road
Sunday off for lambs
From Elaine Bishop
Sir, — Your cookery column (13 April) begins: “It is Easter; so it must be Paschal lamb.” Why? The very last “Paschal lamb” was eaten by our Lord and his disciples on the night before he suffered. The next day, Jesus, our Paschal Lamb, was sacrificed for us, once and for all in time and eternal in heaven.
There are no more Paschal lambs, ever. Roast lamb to celebrate Easter is the most inappropriate dinner imaginable for Christians.
188B Orchard Street