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Letters to the Editor

20 July 2018

Abolition of cathedral councils, General Synod’s climate change debate, and Church House and the arms industry


The abolition of cathedral councils

From Mr Richard Ashby

Sir, — After the publication of the draft report from the Cathedrals Working Group, I wrote to it, expressing my concern that little or nothing had been said about the part played by the cathedral congregation and community in, and their contribution to, the mission and ministry of cathedrals. In particular, the “worshipping community” appeared to consist either of the Dean and Commissioners’ Canons, or of the Chapter. Since the three or four services held daily in cathedrals each have congregations, are those who attend, either regularly or occasionally, not part of this “worshipping community”, too?

The draft report had nothing to say about the formal representation of the congregation and community in the cathedral governance or advisory structures, apart from a reference to elected representatives on the cathedral council. It had nothing to say about cathedral community committees or similar, where the views of the community can be heard and consultation with it may take place. Nothing is said about the part that it plays in welcome and hospitality, assisting in and beautifying worship, care and upkeep of the building, education and prayer, music and financial support and fund-raising, not to mention pastoral care and support. The proposal in the draft report for the part played by the Council to be changed and expanded and its composition to include “stakeholders” did nothing to recognise these concerns.

Now the final report is published, we can see that still none of these concerns has been addressed. In particular, it is proposed that cathedral councils should be abolished altogether, thus eliminating any place where the congregation might be heard. Dr Jamie Harrison, in your report on the debate in the General Synod (Synod, 13 July), suggested that the involvement of the laity as lay canons could be “supportive and prayerful”. Surely, the congregation and community are also both; yet there is, in the final report as in the draft, no means whereby this can be effected.

Bearing in mind the proposed abolition of cathedral councils, and the silence on any other form of representation and consultation, there is no indication whether or how any continuing representation of the congregation might be maintained. Does the Cathedrals Working Group regard the congregation and community purely as passive participants and spectators?

Chichester Cathedral Community Committee
11 Jubilee Mews, Prinsted
Emsworth PO10 8EA

Outcome of the General Synod’s climate debate 

From Dr Simon Kittle

Sir, — It was wonderful to see (13 July) prominent coverage of the recent General Synod vote concerning disinvestment in oil and gas, as well as powerful letters to the Editor (6 July) urging the Church to show “credible leadership” on this issue — even if the rejection of the amendment to bring forward the deadline was disappointing.

It is, however, also dismaying that the elephant in the room has, once again, been ignored. The biggest contributor to human-driven climate change? Air travel doesn’t even come close to it: it’s animal agriculture — meat and dairy farming. Whether it’s the 2006 report from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation, which puts animal agriculture’s share of emissions at 18 per cent, or a 2009 report by environmental specialists at the World Bank, which puts its contribution at 51 per cent, it is agreed that animal agriculture is the primary human-made driver of climate change.

This is why the author of the largest scientific study to date on the environmental impact of food production — which was published in Science last month, and found that livestock production contributed 18 per cent of the calories consumed for 83 per cent of farmland used — said in an interview that “a vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth, not just greenhouse gases, but global acidification, eutrophication, land use and water use.”

If the Church really is to show “credible leadership” on climate change, it should be championing — or, at the very least, discussing the ethics of — a vegan diet. One great thing about such a strategy is that it requires no lobbying, no pleading with shareholders, and no pandering to politicians. Every individual could, today, drastically reduce his or her future impact on the environment by switching to a vegan diet.

And there is another reason why the Church should be discussing the ethics of food (and veganism in particular): the intensive, mechanised farming system that produces the bulk of our food imposes horrific cruelties on the animals that it exploits.

Address supplied

From Mr Stephen Argent

Sir, — If your report of the climate-change debate in the General Synod is accurate and complete, then it would appear that those involved have missed a most crucial consideration when creating a viable long-term investment strategy.

Of course it should reflect the Church’s commitment as responsible stewards of Creation, but it should also appreciate that companies generating alternative energy sources and those with a vigorous policy to reduce their carbon footprint are those with potential for sustainable future growth. The debate should have acknowledged that, in this situation, good values represents good value.

24 Chestnuts Close, Lindfield
Sussex RH162AU

From Mr David Cragg-James

Sir, — That the General Synod is seriously discussing urgent disinvestment from fossil fuels is encouraging. The outcome, however, leaves cause for concern. One wonders whether a debate on investment in, say, the manufacture and trade in arms would now result in a similarly unprincipled conclusion: we should continue to invest to persuade the industry to abandon its raison d’être.

Perhaps the question is too old-fashioned for today’s world: “Is it sinful financially to support that which will necessarily bring about the death of human beings, of the fauna and flora of our earth, and perhaps within three generations its ability to support life?” The Bishop of Oxford and Lord Williams of Oystermouth appreciate that this question cannot be left hanging for five more years: the Commissioners have not grasped the urgency of the question.

Rose Cottage, Stonegrave
York YO62 4LJ

Church House and the arms-industry bookings 

From Ms Laura Whitmarsh, Mr Dave Walker, the Revd Chris Hill, and 51 others

Sir, — We are writing in response to recently learning about the hosting by Church House, Westminster, of the RUSI Land Warfare Conference.

We recognise that RUSI is a respected and influential think tank on matters surrounding defence and security. It is also recognised that these are issues that need to be discussed and not simply ignored, or given no importance. We are not naïve about the current climate.

There still lies within this conference, however, an explicit promotion of the arms industry through its sponsors.

We feel that these ties have meant that the Church House and, therefore, the Church of England have wilfully, or inadvertently, condoned the act of profiting from war through associating with these companies, and through any potential income that may have been taken.

As such, it is our view that this connection, in this form, flows fundamentally against the life that Jesus taught, and continues to lead us in as a Church.

Before the AGM of the Corporation of the Church House on 26 July, we graciously ask that Church House would stop taking bookings for this conference, and that the Archbishop of Canterbury take note of this issue so that an open dialogue may begin surrounding how the Church could be an alternative voice in a world torn apart by violence.


c/o 52 The Pines, Woodside
Hazelwood Road, Bristol BS9 1QD

Reply to Evangelical criticism of GAFCON 

From the Revd Andrew Symes

Sir, — Space does not permit a point-by-point reply to the Revd Rachel Marszalek’s critique of GAFCON on behalf of Fulcrum (Comment, 13 July). But here are two observations.

First, she is concerned that Lambeth Resolution 1.10 is quoted “selectively” in the final Conference Statement. But it is GAFCON that holds to 1.10 in its entirety. The whole resolution was prominently displayed in the programme booklet of the recent Conference. GAFCON-related Provinces have not rejected the pastoral sections of the resolution, as she implies (though, of course, practice can always be improved). Rather, some other Provinces have rejected the biblical doctrines of sex and marriage as expressed in the first part of 1.10; this has torn the fabric of the Communion, creating the need for GAFCON.

Then, Ms Marszalek suggests that GAFCON is split over whether to leave the Communion or remain in it. She chooses to ignore the repeated refrain at the Jerusalem Conference: “We are not leaving the Anglican Communion.”

In Provinces where the official, Canterbury-related structures have departed from biblical orthodoxy, it cannot be right that Anglicans wishing to remain faithful to that orthodoxy have to remain tied to those structures to remain Anglican. GAFCON provides a way for them to separate, and then remain in communion with the majority of Anglicans worldwide.

If Fulcrum disagree with this, are they suggesting that official recognition by Canterbury is more important than biblical faithfulness, and fellowship with most of the global Church?

Executive Secretary
Anglican Mainstream
21 High Street, Eynsham
Oxford OX29 4HE

SCIE methodology 

From Patricia Lyon

Sir, — In view of serious concerns about the safety and methodology of the survivors’ surveys produced on behalf of the Church by the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) (Synod, 13 July), I asked a range of people, all familiar with the ethics of research, whether they shared my views. Without exception all did.

To establish ethical compliance (built-in safeguards so the participant is not harmed), I made a Freedom of Information request to SCIE, and their response confirmed that there was no independent ethical standards check for safety, and, in spite of their saying that IICSA had asked for the results of the project, they haven’t, meaning that the survey is not only unsafe and could potentially cause serious harm, but that participants are completing it under false pretences.

I have asked the National Safeguarding Team and SCIE to address these issues by sending the survey for independent testing, but both have refused. It is clear that the safeguarding of survivors remains of far less importance than PR.

12 Trentham Road, Redhill
Surrey RH1 6JB

Boon or burden? More on the gardens of the clergy 

From the Revd Mervyn Wilson

Sir, — Sadly, I fear the cause is lost: at Bulwick Rectory (1978-2003), I was able to realise and enjoy all that the Revd Toddy Hoare (Letters, 29 June) describes as the advantages of an extensive and well-worked garden — almost all the work done by me. The garden attracted many people — as a Quiet Garden, as a venue for the Rural Theological Society, Peterborough Theological Society, the village youth club, mothers and toddlers, etc. It was also open to the public once or twice a year.

While serving on the parsonages committee, I realised how few clergy valued their gardens but found them a burden, owing to lack of knowhow, or even the possession of an efficient mower. There also seems to be something in a people-centred ministry which excludes the natural world, even though experience shows that people trapped in themselves through grief or loss can be helped to move on in such places.

Mervyn Wilson
Red Post House
Fivehead TA3 6PX

From Mrs Hilary Pollard

Sir, — Canon Rodney Nicholson (Letters, 22 June) complains about the large size of vicarage gardens and sees them as a burden to the clergy.

Perhaps he should develop a more positive approach to them and see them as a parish asset used at times by parishioners for activities such as croquet, fund-raising activities, or simply fun parties for the church and neighbours. This way, the parishioners would value the garden and, I’m sure, be prepared to help with grass-cutting. Nor does a large sum need to be expended on bedding plants, with a judicious planting of perennials.

Alternatively, a large area could become a wildflower meadow. We desperately need such areas to replace those lost to farming activity.

98 Penistone Road, Waterloo
Huddersfield HD5 8QX

From the Rt Revd Michael Baughen

Sir, — When my wife and I moved into our second curacy house in Reigate in 1959, we saw this white flowering weed everywhere. We were told that it was “ground elder” (“bishop’s weed”!).

Two days later, I was asked by a parishioner how our garden was faring. I told her about the ground elder. “Oh,” she said, “I have just heard on the radio what to do if you have that in your garden.” “What?” I asked, expectantly. “Move!” she replied.

Flat 23, The Atrium
Woolsack Way,
Godalming GU7 1EN

Retired priests, the eucharist, and pastoral work 

From the Revd Brian Harris

Sir, — “Retired priests now equal in number the stipendiary clergy” (Features, 22 June).

Stipendiary clergy are usually licensed to a church/congregation or group of parishes, and so are a priest for those for whom they have pastoral care. Retired clergy have permission to officiate, usually in one diocese, but not related to any specific worshipping community. Priesthood is not a “professional body”, like doctors or lawyers, whose services can be engaged as and when necessary, simply to take services.

Nearly 100 years ago, our present predicament (the shortage of clergy) was predicted by the Revd Roland Allen, who had been a missionary in China and foresaw that the same situation could arise here in England, as has now come to pass. He believed that the ministerial priesthood should be seen not as external to the church community, but as an integral and organic part of every worshipping community — like Readers and churchwardens, for example, comprising the corporate priesthood of all believers.

A further consequence of the shortage of priests is that many churches where the eucharist had been restored as the central act of worship every Sunday must now be satisfied with a celebration once or twice a month. This results in the disintegration of the locally gathered Christian community and the eventual demise of the parochial system, which is the basis of the ministry and mission of the Established Church.

For nearly four years, as a retired priest, I had the privilege of regularly doing duty in two vacant parishes. I came to know the people, they came to accept my ministry as a priest for them, and I was able to exercise a quiet pastoral ministry among them and in the community — rather than be simply someone who came, to put it crudely, “to do the magic bits”.

To quote Paul McPartlan, “The Eucharist makes the Church. If the Eucharist is not there, the Church is not there.”

York Archdeaconry Retirement Officer
2 Furness Drive
York YO30 5TD

Clarity about Brexit, or an emotional spasm? 

From Mr J. Alan Smith

Sir, — Paul Vallely (Comment, 13 July) writes that neither of the two main political parties has a clear policy on membership of the European Union. This should not be a surprise since, for the past 50 or 60 years, each party appears to have been part of a conspiracy to exclude EU membership from the list of critical subjects on which the electorate could make a decision at a General Election.

He writes: “Meanwhile, the Europeans look on in bewilderment at how a nation that was once so known for its common-sense pragmatism has been seduced by this unholy alliance of dangerous dogmatists, ignorant ideologues, and romantic fantasists deluded by nostalgia foe the glories of Britain’s imperial past.”

Quite. Why bother with rational argument when an emotional spasm can fill the space much more easily?

He concludes: “Whatever deal finally emerges when the negotiating clock runs down, it must be put to the British public in another referendum.” This is the federalists’ policy on determining public opinion: keep having referendums on a subject until the voters get the answer right.

40 Albany Court, Epping
Essex CM16 5ED

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