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Letters to the Editor

16 March 2018

Ministry, organ donation, Archbishop of Canterbury and Brexit, and the abuse culture


Patterns of ministry in the C of E

From the Revd Gill Kimber

Sir, — Nigel Holmes (Letters, 9 March) writes of Readers’ being “encouraged to move seamlessly to ordained ministry unless they wished to stay lay”.

He is, I think, missing the point. Dr Sentamu’s bold initiative is less about ordained and lay ministries than about the distinctive aspects of the callings of the Reader and the vocational deacon. Readers in York are being encouraged to consider whether their current ministries are more akin to those of the diaconate. Do they find themselves primarily focused in the community outside the church, characteristic of the outward-reaching, missional, and developmental ministry of the deacon?

Or are they primarily focused on the teaching and preaching ministry of the church, and the building up of people in the faith, characteristic of Reader ministry?

Over the years, many Readers have recognised that in fact they are deacons at heart. The main reason that they did not become deacons was that they were never told that this was an option for them. Now is the time to offer them this opportunity.

Warden, College of St Philip the Deacon
10A Belle Vue Court
Paignton TQ4 6ER


From Prebendary Nick Shutt

Sir, — The Revd Dr Jenny Gage’s assessment (Comment, 2 March) of the life of a self-supporting minister (SSM) does not chime with my experience. Since 2008, I have been the self-supporting Rector of six rural parishes on Dartmoor. I am assisted by a fantastic ministry team (two stipendiary ministers, two ministers with permission to officiate, two licensed Readers, and a Reader with permission to officiate, together with lay teams who all work tirelessly).

Since 2011, I have been a Prebendary of Exeter Cathedral. I am currently Acting Archdeacon of Plymouth. Yesterday, I attended the Senior Staff meeting; today, I was part of Bishop’s Strategy Group looking at ways to promote the gospel in Devon. I am part of a diocesan working party looking at how we can promote the ministry of SSMs in the diocese of Exeter.

So, I agree with Dr Gage that SSMs are not “priest-lite cherry-pickers”. SSM is not about recognition or status, however: in my view, it’s all about service. Perhaps, once again, the diocese of Exeter is ahead of the game?

12 Blackbrook Close
Devon PL20 6JF


Ethical questions about organ-donation Bill

From the Revd Stephen Cooper

Sir, — Currently, the Organ Donation (Deemed Consent) Bill is making its way through Parliament. I have significant ethical questions about organ donation in principle, and more so about its becoming something that people should have to opt out of if they do not wish to become a part, or parts, of such a scheme.

That it can be done, and that recipients can benefit from it, doesn’t make it either right or good. It raises a series of questions about whether people should be able to benefit from the death of another, whether or not consent is given, and especially if express consent is not given. This is particularly the case in respect of deemed child donors under this Bill, where responsibility for express consent should lie with parent(s) or guardians. Should we be enshrining the notion that the end justifies the means in this way in new British law?

One way to look at this is through the idea of deemed or presumed consent, which lies at the heart of this Bill. Currently, we are dealing with the introduction of GDPR 2018, which requires express consent for the storage and use of personal data because presumed consent does not suffice.

All human organs contain personal data in the form of DNA. This personal data relates not only to the person from whom the organ comes, but also relates in part to any offspring he or she may have. To deem or presume consent to the use of such personal data in the form of DNA through organ donation would seem to be in breach of the principle of express consent, which is seen to be of such importance in private and public life that it is enshrined in the GDPR 2018.

I appreciate that this might seem an odd way to think about the rights and wrongs of organ donation, but consent is one of the questions that lie at the heart of it, and GDPR is making us look at the question of consent anew.

Notwithstanding my concerns, I respect those who through organ donation want to to make that gift to another, and I appreciate that those who are not prepared to be part of an organ-donation scheme should not be able to benefit from it.

The Vicarage, Goosnargh Lane
Goosnarg, Lancashire PR3 2BN


Primate is too gloomy about post-Brexit Britain

From Mr George Richards

Sir, — It was very disappointing to read of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s pessimistic views on Brexit (News, 16 March).

Far from being a catalyst for “British introspection” and “self-pity”, it may well lead to a much more “outgoing” Britain as it turns away from the encasement of the European Union ( for which the political tie-in was never given a “yes” vote by the British people), and will give the opportunity to get economically closer to the rest of the world. Specifically, greater attention could be given to getting much more economically involved with the 53 countries of the Commonwealth, which include at least ten great economies.

Some people argue that Britain is not so much part of Europe (being physically separated) as much more a part, for example, of the Commonwealth countries, with their historical origins and mainly common language.

Far from any prospects of self-pity, this turning away from the European Union to a much larger “Union”, with common interests, could lead to a huge increase in the pride of our country.

The assertion that the exit from the EU could be “morally wrong in and of itself” needs to be strongly challenged. It was morally wrong that Britain ever became a part of a political union without the offering of the opportunity of a referendum to the British people.

2 Grant Gardens
Harpenden AL5 4QD


Bishops ought to clarify the change in culture on abuse

From Mr Andrew Graystone

Sir, — At the General Synod in July 2013, the Archbishop of Canterbury said that there should be a “complete change of culture and behaviour” towards victims of abuse in the Church of England. He also said that “this change must be done with the survivors, not to them.” At the Synod last month, Bishop Peter Hancock said that “the pace of change must be accelerated.”

It is easy to promise culture change, but much more difficult to deliver it. To counter the widespread and justifiable cynicism among victims of church abuse, it seems important for the Bishops to clarify what that change of culture and behaviour will mean in practice; which survivors have been engaged in the process; how the change in culture and behaviour will be measured; and what timescale has been set for it.

17 Rushford Avenue
Manchester M19 2HG


The English Ordinal and the Wesleyan ministers

From Prebendary Norman Wallwork

Sir, — Alan Bartley’s historical sketch of 18th- and 19th-century Methodist ordinations (Letters, 23 February) is somewhat one-sided. After Wesley’s death, regardless of the directions of the Methodist Conference, long before 1836 there were Wesleyan itinerants who continued to receive ordination as elders or presbyters by the laying on of hands from one or other of Wesley’s lieutenants or presbyter-bishops.

Into modern times, a number of Methodist presbyters (some of them Presidents of Conference) have traced their orders directly to 18th-century ordinations by Wesley or Thomas Coke. Every current British Methodist presbyteral ordination includes the laying on of hands by a leader of another Methodist community from the world Church — often a presbyter-bishop whose “orders” are derived from the unbroken presbyter-bishop tradition of American Methodism.

Though a number of Methodists would want, like Mr Bartley, to hold out for the principle of lay presidency at Methodist communion services, John Wesley would have had none of it. Only a handful of those Methodist itinerants whom Wesley or one of his fellow presbyter-bishops had ordained for overseas ministry were permitted to celebrate the Lord’s Supper in Britain.

Mr Bartley’s one-liner about tracing one’s ordination back to “unordained laity” is a dangerous one. Somewhere along the line, the argument has unfortunately to include one or two fishermen and the odd tax-collector: laity whose apostolic commission probably did not include the laying on of hands.

Brookside Lodge, Three Horseshoes
Cowley, Exeter EX5 5EU


From Mr Alan Bartley

Sir, — The Revd Alexander Faludy (Letters, 23 February) is mistaken when he says: “It was only with the 1662 Act of Uniformity . . . a Preface was, for the first time added to the Ordinal.”

The Preface to the Ordinal — including the words “It is evident unto all men, diligently reading holy Scripture and ancient Authors, that from the Apostles’ time, there have been these Orders of Ministers in Christ’s Church; Bishops, Priests, and Deacons. Which offices . . .” — goes back to the Ordinal of 1549, and is found in all revisions since.

Those with the Prayer Book Society’s 1999 First and Second Prayer Books of Edward VI will find it twice included, though at first it was a separate publication.

17 Francis Road
Greenford UB6 7AD


Treatment of NPDs is raised by correspondents

From Dr Mark Vernon

Sir, — After the publication of my article “Gazing into the pool” (Features, 23 February), on narcissistic personality disorders (NPDs) in churches, I received a significant postbag. It made me aware that access to treatment for borderline personality disorders and NPDs is difficult and confusing.

My personal view is that a correct diagnosis and psychotherapeutic treatment are essential. It is also my sense that psychiatrists can be reluctant to diagnose personality disorders because medication is not a helpful treatment, except to alleviate short-term crises.

There are three forms of psychotherapy designed to address the suffering of personality disorders, for which there are evidence bases: dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT), mentalisation-based therapy (MBT), and transference-focused psychotherapy (TFP). Information about them can be readily found online.

200 Benhill Road
London SE5 7LL


All glorious within

From Canon Anthony Phillips

Sir, — I was surprised by the full-page advertisement for a clerical shirt (Church Times, 2 March, page 9). As one of my female governors said during my headmastership, when we designed a new uniform for girls, “Let them express their individuality in their underwear.”

47 Warwick Street
Oxford OX4 1SZ

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