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Church House questioned over letting of premises to warfare conference

10 August 2018


Archdeacon Gorick outside Church House, after asking a question at the AGM of the Corporation

Archdeacon Gorick outside Church House, after asking a question at the AGM of the Corporation

MOBILISATION against hiring out Church House conference centre for the annual Land Warfare Conference (News, 27 July 2014) is growing, the Archdeacon of Oxford, the Ven. Martin Gorick, reported last week.

Alerted by a cartoon by Dave Walker in the Church Times (Cartoons, 29 June), he attended the AGM of the Corporation of Church House, on 26 July, to ask about its ethical lettings policy. The conference centre is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Corporation.

His question — “Is it ethical for the Church to profit from Land Warfare?” — received a “defensive response” he said. The Chief Executive of the Corporation, Chris Palmer, a retired Royal Navy Commodore, had suggested that there was “no widespread concern” about the event. He confirmed that the lettings policy was reviewed annually and that “wide consultation” took place, which had secured approval from Lambeth Palace.

The day after the AGM, Archdeacon Gorick received an email from Mr Palmer, which said that he had been “inundated” with emails concerning the letting. Mr Palmer had since confirmed that the Council of the Corporation would be “looking into the matter further”.

The discovery that all members of the General Synod were ex-officio members of the Corporation had added to his concern, he said, “because we are all responsible in that sense”. At last month’s meeting in York, he challenged the Archbishops’ Council about the need for an ethical lettings policy for Church House (Synod, 13 July). Hannah Grivell, a laywoman from Derby, also raised the issue, during the debate on the ethics of nuclear weapons (Synod, 13 July).

The Corporation is now making grants directly to the Archbishops’ Council; they will total £2.25 million in 2019, towards the costs of safeguarding and ministerial training.

On Twitter, Archdeacon Gorick reported that the Bishops of Wolverhampton, Dunwich, Gloucester, St Albans, and Sheffield had all offered their support in writing.

The Church of England had a “long and proud tradition” of chaplaincy to the armed forces, “supporting them in difficult and dangerous work”, he said this week. “But I think there is a clear line between pastoral support of armed forces personnel and profiting directly from a land-warfare conference that is sponsored by arms-trade companies.”

The policy “runs the risk of bringing the C of E’s hard-won ethical investment credentials into question”.

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