Letters to the Editor

by
07 July 2017

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State-of-the-nation debate needs better motion

From Dr Jonathan Chaplin

Sir, — May I offer a modest propo­sal for the short Friday-afternoon General Synod debate, called by the Archbishops, on “After the General Election, a still small voice of calm” (News, 23 June)?

Displaying all the signs of being drafted in haste, the wording of the motion lacks the coherence and pre­cision required for a really focused debate.

For example, clause (b) calls on the Synod to pray that parliamentar­ians will prioritise the common good, and clause (d) that politicians will be given courage in the face of uncertainty and weakness. A sceptic might perhaps say that the Synod could best fulfil that call by actually having a time of prayer — and not just a barrage of intercessions, but a collective waiting to hear the “still small voice” — rather than a noisy and possibly rambling debate.

Clause (b) goes on to urge prayer that the common good be priorit­ised “. . . especially in negotiations between parties to secure support for a legislative programme”. Well, that horse has already bolted (al­­though whether it will reach the finishing line is doubtful). But, in any case, why should the Church of England want to pray that support will be forthcoming for “a legislative programme”? Shouldn’t it first want to know what the programme actu­ally is, reserving judgement on whether it does, in fact, promote the common good as the Church under­stands it?

Clause (e) offers a hint, calling on the Synod to commend the Church’s work among the poor and vulner­able at home and abroad “as an ex­­ample of the priorities we hope to see in the programmes of govern­ment” — an incontestable aspiration that all political parties, including the DUP, will proudly claim to own, while advocating wildly conflicting policies to achieve it.

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Clause (c) is similarly platitudin­ous, asking the Synod to “call upon Christians everywhere to maintain pressure on politicians of all parties to put the cohesion of the nation and its communities at the heart of their programmes”. All those against? Yet, on the other hand, the tendency to indulge in bland in­­vocations of “cohesion” is a typically Anglican vulnerability, bypassing the difficult debate about the de­­manding circumstances of justice which are the indispensable pre­condition of any cohesion worth the name.

Recall that the Church of England has very recently set out in precise and thoughtful terms a credible, non-platitudinous view of all these aspirations in Who is My Neigh­bour? A letter from the House of Bishops to the people and parishes of the Church of England for the Gen­eral Election 2015.

My modest proposal for a more focused debate? The following amendment: scrap the existing clauses (a) to (f) and replace them with a single one: that the Synod “affirm Who is My Neighbour? and again call upon ‘the people and parishes of the Church of England’ to wrestle, in prayer and delibera­tion, with the relevance of this docu­ment for the radically changed, di­­vided, post-Brexit political context of 2017”.

JONATHAN CHAPLIN

Director, Kirby Laing Institute for Christian Ethics

36 Selwyn Gardens

Cambridge CB3 9BA

 

Restoration, not Reformation, marks true C of E

From Mr Simon McKie

Sir, — Professor Peter Marshall (Comment, 30 June) correctly em­­phasises the Protestant and contro­versial nature of the Elizabethan Settlement. In concluding, however, that “Anglicanism . . . [was] . . . part of the fallout from the Reformation — of the inability of any side to im­­pose a compelling vision of past and future,” he makes a judgement that only one who is, as he describes himself, an “outsider” to the Church in England could make.

For, indeed, it is just because the doctrine and liturgy of the English Church were tempered in the con­troversies of the 16th and 17th cen­turies that they were capable of inspiring so many to suffer depriva­tion, of property and livelihood, imprisonment, and death for the Church’s preservation.

Those quarrels that gave our national Church its character were not “unresolved”. They were resolved, after the terrible events of the Great Rebellion, the martyrdom of King Charles I and Cromwell’s tyranny, when, after the Restoration, those who would not conform sep­ar­ated themselves from the Church. The via media, hammered out on the anvil of treason, regicide, and des­potism, was not that milksop cre­ation the “good old C of E’”, but a robust high road, demarcated in our law, between heretical extremes.

Today, it is still the case that the Law of England provides that the doctrine of the Church in this country: “. . . grounded in the Holy Scriptures, and in such teachings of the ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church as are agreeable to the said Scriptures . . . is to be found in the Thirty Nine Articles of Religion, the Book of Common Prayer and the Ordinal” (Canon A5).

The reduced state of the Christian faith in England may be largely ex­­plained by the fact that many lay­men, and most clergy, have chosen to neglect our Church’s incompar­able liturgy for ersatz substitutes and to ignore the canonical sources of its doctrine.

SIMON McKIE

Rudge Hill House, Rudge

Somerset BA11 2QG

 

‘Invidious’ position after Scottish invitation

From Susie Leafe and 14 other Gen­eral Synod members

Sir, — In 2016, the Primates of the Anglican Communion made it clear that, though they desired to walk to­­gether, the decision to permit same-sex marriages represented “a funda­mental departure from the faith and teaching held by the majority of our Provinces” and “further impair(s) our communion and create(s) a deeper mistrust between us. This results in significant distance be­­tween us and places huge strains on the functioning of the Instruments of Communion and the ways in which we express our historic and ongoing relationships.”

It is, therefore, entirely wrong that the Archbishops have chosen to invite the Bishop of Edinburgh as an honoured guest to our General Synod this week. It has put those who stand with the vast majority of the Anglican Communion in an invidious position on whether they participate fully in the Synod and are thereby seen to endorse the Scottish Episcopal Church’s deci­sion, or whether to follow our con­sciences and withdraw and in so doing be prevented from fulfilling the roles for which we have been elected.

It is manifestly clear that this is an attempt to impose good disagree­ment on the Church against the conscience of those for whom this matter is not, and never can be, adiaphora.

LORNA ASHWORTH, ANDREW BELL, STEPHEN BOYALL, SARAH FINCH, CHRIS GILL, HELEN LAMB, SUSIE LEAFE, JANE PATTERSON, ANDREA WILLIAMS, DEBBIE WOODS (HOUSE OF LAITY), GRAHAM HAMILTON, MARK LUCAS, ANGUS MACLEAY, ALISTAIR MCHAFFIE, GILES WILLIAMS (HOUSE OF CLERGY)

c/o 6 Troy Court

Daglands Road

Fowey PL23 1JX

 

Next step for Anglican-Methodist relations

From Deacon David Clark

Sir, — As a Methodist deacon, I read with encouragement the report (News, 30 June) on the plans to further the interchangeability of the ministries of Anglican and Method­ist presbyters. Has any thought been given by either Church to where deacons fit into these plans?

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At present, neither Church ap­­pears to be clear about where its permanent diaconate fits into the ministries of the Church present, let alone the Church to come. For Such a Time as This (a report to the Gen­eral Synod in 2001) and The Dis­tinct­­ive Dia­conate (a report to the diocese of Salisbury in 2003) were hugely optimistic about the poten­tial of a permanent diaconate to give fresh impetus to the Church’s en­­gage­ment with wider society. The re­­­sponse from most dioceses was a resounding silence. Since then, the C of E has done little to clarify the relationship between transitional and distinctive deacons. The latter’s potential to help equip the Church for mission has been wasted.

Methodism has addressed the role of the distinctive diaconate with much greater awareness of its being a mission resource. The Methodist Diaconal Order (MDO) is now an order of ministry (as well as a religi­ous order). In practice, however, it is still treated as subordinate to presbyteral ministry.

Many of us believe that the future potential of the MDO, and a re­­newed diaconate across all Churches, will not be realised until full equality of diaconal and presby­teral ministries is achieved. That means an end to a hierarchical un­­derstanding of ordained ministries, which is where the Methodist Deed of Union has always taken its stand.

Will the plans for the interchange­ability of Anglican and Methodist presbyteral ministries also embrace plans for the inter­changeability of diaconal ministries? And will they do this in a way that moves the equal standing of all ordained ministries forwards not backwards?

DAVID CLARK

Hill View, Burton Close Drive,

Bakewell DE45 1BG

 

From Mrs Chris Stand

Sir, — As a Methodist married to an Anglican, I read your report on “a plan for Methodist bishops and ‘anomalous’ priests” with interest. Given that the Methodist Con­ference covers Great Britain, and the General Synod covers England, are the discussions going to be widened to include the Church in Wales and the Scottish Episcopal Church?

CHRIS STAND

The Vicarage, Jasmine Close

Worcester WR5 3LU

 

Coventry Cathedral

From the Dean of Coventry

Sir, — We were delighted with your positive report (News, 23 June) on our work here in Coventry to attract the funds necessary to sustain and develop the Cathedral’s mission.

We would like to correct any impression given that the Cathedral had in recent times cut its recon­ciliation ministry: whilst this has been true in the past, recent years have seen the expansion of the work, especially in the worldwide community of the Cross of Nails.

As you report, it is precisely this work that is most urgently needed, and the ultimate goal of our appeal is not only to safeguard but to further develop this unique and vital area of our work in both training and direct intervention.

JOHN WITCOMBE

Cathedral Office

1 Hill Top

Coventry CV1 5AB

 

Minster’s bell solution

From Mr John Brydon

Sir, — It will be good to hear the York Minster bells ring out again (News, 16 June). But at what cost has this been achieved? A previous dedicated voluntary service is now to cost an initial £7000 a year, to which presumably must be added National Insurance and the poten­tial for future pension contributions.

Clearly, the Dean and Chapter have found a good financial model, which perhaps they could share with less fortunate cathedrals, Peterbor­ough being one. Then again, given all the circumstances, perhaps not!

JOHN BRYDON

8 Daniels Road, Norwich NR4 6QZ

 

Refugee professionals

From Miss Vasantha Gnanadoss

Sir, — Your informative feature on refugees (16 June) included ex­­amples of skilled professionals among refugees arriving in this country. During the following week, Refugee Week, Battersea deanery synod carried a motion that I had drafted about refugee professionals.

The motion encourages dioceses to support refugee professionals in gaining UK recognition of their qualifications so that they can prac­tise here. This will both contribute to reducing shortages and assist refugee families to become better integrated.

The motion now moves on to Southwark diocesan synod and, we hope, the General Synod.

VASANTHA GNANADOSS

242 Links Road, London SW17 9ER

 

The House of Bishops’ sexuality working groups

From Canon Bill Croft

Sir, — The announcement that the Bishops of the Church of England are to produce a new teaching docu­ment on human sexuality (News, 30 June) is most welcome. There ought, however, to be an additional them­atic working group looking at the ecumenical and global Anglican context.

The Church of England sees itself as part of the one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic Church, and so should always take other Churches’ views into consideration. Also, one of the difficulties that the Church of Eng­land finds at present with the issue of human sexuality is its relation­ships with Anglican Churches serv­ing in very different contexts. The issue of contextualisation in a global context should not be overlooked.

BILL CROFT

23 Westhawe, Bretton

Peterborough PE3 8BA

 

From Sigrid and Sylvia Rutishauer-James

Sir, — It is clear that a lot of hard work and careful thought is going into the plans for developing a new teaching document on sexuality. The scope of its inquiry is very en­­couraging.

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Just one question: can a really worthwhile document on marriage and sexuality emerge, intended to be fit for the 21st century, if, from the outset, women are not to be equally represented at all levels of the working groups?

SIGRID RUTISHAUER-JAMES

SYLVIA RUTISHAUSER-JAMES

8 Bridge Road, Illogan

Cornwall TR16 4SA

 

The support of the clergy and houses for duty

From Canon Christopher Hall

Sir, — It is very good news that the vocations of so many more ordin­ands are being recognised (News, 16 June). But I wonder how their min­istry will be remunerated. How many will carry out their pastoral ministry in house-for-duty posts — even as they serve their title?

As such, the costs of their accom­modation will, indeed, be fully met. Just as in the gig economy, however, the Church of England as their em­­ployer does not accept responsibility for their pen­sions. They have no clerical income to qualify for NI contributions. Housing is part of the remunera­tion package for stipend­iary clergy. Should not the Church at least accept that the housing ele­ment of the remunera­tion package of house-for-duty clergy qualifies them for recognition when they retire from licensed ministry?

Has the Archbishops’ Council considered the relevance of the ad­­vice of St Paul to Timothy, quoting Deuteronomy: “You shall not muzzle the threshing ox”?

CHRISTOPHER HALL

The Knowle, Deddington

Banbury OX15 0TB

 

The Church Commissioners’ holding in Glencore

From Marilyn Hull

Sir, — I was glad to learn that the Church Commissioners are review­ing the £2.7 billion bid from mining company Glencore for a huge coal­field in Australia (News, 16 June).

Glencore is the world’s largest ex­­porter of coal burned for power. In 2016, the company reported re­­venues from its coal-mining busi­ness of $6.9 billion (£5.6 billion). The Methodist Church has already disinvested from Glencore because of its high exposure to coal.

Carbon Tracker says that Glen­core “fails to reflect fundamental supply and demand changes” with its belief that global coal production will continue to grow into the 2030s. Its practice is completely incompat­ible with protecting humanity from the most severe impacts of climate change.

In addition, it exposes its inves­tors to massive financial risk. Ac­­cording to one mining analyst, the fact that Glencore is “obviously choosing to grow [its coal] business while everyone else is running in the opposite direction — either they are geniuses or they are buying into stranded assets for the longer term, which will incur hefty costs”.

Whether Glencore succeeds in generating increased profits from the most heavily polluting fossil fuel or risks being left with stranded as­­sets, surely the Church of England cannot be comfortable to continue investing in Glencore from an ethi­cal or financial point of view.

Since Glencore is clearly seeking to expand its coal-mining opera­tions at a time when coal production needs to start falling rapidly to meet the Paris Agreement targets, will the C of E join the Method­ist Church in disinvesting from Glencore?

MARILYN HULL

132 Oakfield Road

Birmingham B29 7ED

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