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Letters to the Editor

10 August 2018

The financial state of Leeds diocese, Lord Carey’s PTO, and C of E schools


Financial state of Leeds diocese

From Canon Ian Gaskell

Sir, — Our diocese’s financial challenges (News, 3 August) should come as no surprise.

The Leeds diocese has more bishops and accompanying staffs than the dioceses that were subsumed when it was created. Further, it has purchased expensive new city-centre diocesan offices not offset from the sale of former premises. In addition, it has been allowed to maintain the status quo with regard to the number of cathedrals. But, above all, and more significantly, even after redundancies, there is a ratio of one specialist member of staff per four benefices, both great and small.

If this is the model of well-laid foundations, then we are on very shaky ground with regard to sustainability, and, for sure, without firm action this will become a serious problem and obstacle in the future. We cannot start, and certainly not progress, from such a poor self-designed basis.

Spiralling central costs are just one element of our situation. Of course, these should be controlled. The financial landscape and social milieu and hard-pressed nature of many of our parishes, sadly, mean that ability to pay is becoming ever less.

Northern dioceses and the Bishop of Burnley may look enviously at the historic and contemporary resources of the south, and plead for help from the institutional financial structures, but the challenge for Leeds is to have a clear, discernible, understandable, and transparent purpose, so that our giving is to a missionary and creative Church, doing what is of Christ.

21 Old Royston Avenue
Royston, Barnsley S71 4FZ

Lord Carey’s permission to officiate after IICSA 

From Mr Andrew Purkis

Sir, — Paul Vallely adds his voice (Comment, 3 August) to those calling for Lord Carey to be deprived of permission to officiate in church services. As one who worked with Lord Carey at Lambeth Palace in 1992 onwards, I have a different perspective.

By his own admission to the IICSA review, Lord Carey made serious errors of judgement in handling the Peter Ball case. Mr Vallely singles out the former Archbishop’s support for Ball after the latter accepted a caution for a single offence of gross indecency which the police and CPS decided did not warrant prosecution.

The Bishop resigned at once when the caution was accepted — and the resignation of a diocesan bishop was no small thing. Against that background, the voices of those suggesting that the Archbishop was treating Ball too harshly in subsequent years were probably louder than those who thought that he was being too lenient — until the eventual prosecution and conviction threw a radically different light on the matter.

It is a big jump of logic to say that, because an Archbishop made admitted serious errors of judgement (shared to a greater or lesser extent with many others at the time) in the Ball case, the Church should now regard him as soiled goods, unworthy to exercise the ministry of priest (or honorary assistant bishop).

Hands up, all bishops — indeed, all clergy — who have not made a serious error of judgement. How many would be left if they were all stripped of their priestly or episcopal ministry?

Ah, but this one is different, runs the argument, because this particular series of misjudgements, together with the mistakes and omissions of others, caused additional pain and suffering to those who had been abused by Ball. Moreover, it brought the Church into disrepute. It is so important to convey the message to suffering victims, and to society at large, that the Church is now fully aware of the horrors of abuse and heeding the voice of victims, that unfrocking, even a bit of rough justice to a former Archbishop, is a necessary price to pay.

I understand that way of thinking, but am unhappy with it for two reasons.

First, we should be consistent and fair about the criteria for exercising episcopal and priestly office. The desire to send a message to somebody else should not interfere with those criteria. It would be worrying if admitted errors of judgement in the past were to become a determining factor without the most careful qualification, because otherwise it won’t be the pews that are empty: it will be the pulpits and Bishops’ bench.

Second, it is wrong to define a whole person, even a whole archbishop, by a particular set of errors that he or she has made. It is an unjust way of “othering” and diminishing a human being, against which in other contexts the Church stands firm.

Lord Carey is not to be defined as the man who messed up aspects of the Ball case. He also led the Church into a definitive decision to ordain women to the priesthood. He led the Decade of Evangelism. He played his part in lifting the Church’s ambition in its place in the educational system. He led reforms of the Church Commissioners and what is now the Archbishops’ Council. He raised the spirits of Christian people in South Sudan and in many other troubled parts of the world. He helped keep alive the principles of restorative justice in the prison system in the dark days of “Prison Works”. He challenged the privatisation of morality.

There are many more examples. He worked his heart out for the Church, sometimes succeeding, sometimes failing. Soiled goods?

44 Bellamy Street
London SW12 8BU

C of E schools’ ethos and admissions 

From Canon Christopher Hall

Sir, — Dr Peter Shepherd, the former head of Canon Slade School, defends the right of Christian parents to choose a church school for their children (Letters, 3 August). It is not the principle that is in question, but the operation.

I chaired the governors of Canon Slade School in Bolton for five years up to 1990. I tried to get some places reserved for children of other faiths, e.g. from those keenly enjoying the benefits of my two C of E primary schools. I was told by a Canon Slade parent governor that, if we did that, parents would not send their second or other children there.

This suggested what was the motivation for the only “white” secondary school in a multi-cultural town to be heavily oversubscribed by “Christian” parents. They fell over themselves to attend church to get their children admitted.

We twice conducted surveys of the clergy who had supported and secured the admission of children to the school. This revealed that, during their first year at the school, 50 per cent of “C of E” children admitted were no longer attending church. Other denominations did better.

I was not only concerned at the hidden racism that this suggested. I was deeply concerned at the view that children at an impressionable age thus formed of the Church — not only those who were successful, but a fortiori those who weren’t — when the pressure to attend church ended: an institution primarily encouraging a culture of earned rewards.

The Knowle, Deddington
Banbury OX15 0TB

From the Revd Stephen Terry

Sir, — I am troubled by the view of the Revd Dru Brooke-Taylor (Letters, 3 August) that the aim of Christian education should be to “bring up children in the fear and nurture of the Lord”. Is that all that the Church should be aiming for in its educational work?

Historically, Church of England schools have avowed that they are schools for the entire community (just as Church of England priests at parish level are responsible for the spiritual welfare of all who live within the parochial borders, regardless of their belief). Their aim is not merely to ensure a steady supply of good little Christians as pew fodder, but to equip our children and young people to live good and useful lives in our culturally diverse, open, tolerant and diverse society — assuming that survives Brexit!

In this context, Roman Catholic and other schools that take a mainly or entirely denominational approach need to operate within a strong national framework that requires them to deliver the kind of education which fits the needs of the society that I have described.

Charles Clarke and Professor Linda Woodhead have given some useful pointers for the achievement of this.

Chair, the Accord Coalition for Inclusive Education
36 Church Mead, Keymer
Hassocks, West Sussex BN6 8BN

Profits from slavery taint British institutions 

From Mr Alpha Bird Collins and the Revd Louise Collins

Sir, — The High Commissioner for Barbados, the Revd Guy Hewitt, laments the estimated 12.5 million enslaved Africans trafficked to the Caribbean and Americas between 1525 and 1866, and states that “as many as one fifth of wealthy British Victorians derived all, or part, of their fortunes from the slave economy” (Comment, 3 August).

He goes on to suggest that the 70th anniversary of the arrival of the MV Empire Windrush, the 50th anniversary of Enoch Powell’s “Rivers of Blood” speech, and the 25th anniversary of Stephen Lawrence’s murder should suffice to prompt soul-searching and “unity” in the UK.

But isn’t the truth that not only wealthy individuals, but also the Government, Church, business, and institutions in Britain were all beneficiaries of the Transatlantic slave trade; and that, until we offer a far-reaching and meaningful apology to Africa, together with creative reparations, there is little likelihood of justice and lasting reconciliation?

St Michael’s Vicarage
142 Brook Road
Hertfordshire WD6 5EQ

Looking back to the UK’s entry into EEC 

From Dr Hugh James

Sir, — John Horsfield writes: “Mr Vallely is obviously too young to know of the lies that helped to get us into the EEC” (Letters, 27 July).

I am not. I remember a country with little vision for the future of whom Dean Acheson wrote: “Great Britain has lost an Empire and has not yet found a role in the world.” I remember a country with repeated trade deficits. I remember a country that was horrified when General de Gaulle twice said “Non!” to our request to join the EEC, because he did not believe that we shared the vision of the other countries for Europe.

So, when we renewed our request after his departure, it was fully clear what destiny we were seeking. For myself, the loss of that vision of unity and cooperation is a tragedy that I hope we will not come to regret.

36 Ridgeway, Oadby
Leicester LE2 5TN

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