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Letters to the Editor

23 February 2018

Abuse, nuclear disarmament, Brexit, border control, George Bell, lectionary, and Anglican-Methodist proposals


Inner-healing ministry and the definition of abuse

From the Revd Janet Fife

Sir, — It is most encouraging to see sexual abuse, spiritual abuse, and bullying finally beginning to be recognised for the scourge of church life which they are.

It’s 20 years since I completed my M.Phil. on the pastoral care of sexual-abuse survivors, focusing on inner-healing ministries. In the decades since, I have tried repeatedly to alert the authorities to risks and to raise the profile of the subject, but with very little success.

Just one example: I was once interviewed for a tutor post at a theological college, and asked to give a short sample lecture. I chose as my subject a pastoralia lecture on sexual abuse and care of victims, and was given an enthusiastic reception by students. The staff, however, made their displeasure very clear. Although I was the only candidate, I was not appointed to the post.

In my thesis, I identified some forms and practitioners of inner-healing ministry as “spiritually abusive”. I’m currently engaged in bringing my research up to date, and am increasingly alarmed at what I find. Methodologies that link healing with deliverance from evil spirits and require abuse victims to forgive perpetrators as a first step towards healing appear to be gaining ground.

Often, they teach that being sexually assaulted allows a demon to enter the victim; homosexuality also can be a cause of demonic possession. Other sources of “demonic entry” include having ancestors who were Freemasons or practised non-Christian religions such as Hinduism or Islam; or life events such as accident or trauma. Healing sessions frequently involve an imbalance of power between the healing team and the subject, and may include “words from the Lord” given by the team to the person.

These practices are potentially risky, especially when conducted by people without the training to assess the mental, psychological, and emotional stability of the client.. This seems to be tacitly acknowledged, as one such healing and deliverance ministry, which is offered in Anglican and other mainstream churches, recommends asking the client to complete a liability-waiver form before the session begins.

There is an urgent need for the Church to carry out theological and risk assessments of healing and counselling practices and to issue guidelines and protocols. I hope that the General Synod and our archbishops and bishops will agree, and set up procedures that will enable this necessary and valuable work to be carried out.

12 Waterstead Crescent
Whitby, North Yorks YO21 1PY


From the Revd Anthony Oehring

Sir, — Recent articles and correspondence point to the need for an open, honest, and calm debate to explore the notion of spiritual abuse. It should not become the business of certain groups within the Church to try to define it, so as to denigrate others.

There are two obvious potential errors. First, denying that it exists is unhelpful, and may lead us up the previously trodden routes (which were clearly wrong directions) in denying the existence or extent of forms of abuse. Second, however, it might descend to a meaningless phrase that is used to try to close down theological teachings that some may not agree with. To those with no faith, extremism is then confused with committed faith or devout observance.

It is quite rightly a category of abuse within safeguarding training. That makes it important that we understand what it is, and what it is not. The recent reports of the Clergy Discipline Measure case appeared to show elements that went well beyond acceptable boundaries; we should not fall into the trap of confusing that with teaching, for example, traditional Evangelical or Catholic faith.

I am a managing chaplain in the Prison Service, where I manage a multi-faith team, in which various faiths and traditions work respectfully alongside each other. We can robustly teach our faiths, and encourage commitment, without being negative about others — which seems to me to be faithful to Christ’s ministry as described in scripture.

This might be a useful model within which to explore the whole topic of spiritual abuse. A positive “Anglican” debate and conclusion may well benefit people of all faiths and traditions in a culture that sometimes interprets any outward expression of faith as foolish or even dangerous.

Address supplied


Pleas for church voice on nuclear disarmament

From the Revd Arthur Champion

Sir, — I do hope the General Synod will take up the Bishop of Chelmsford’s call to “Break the silence over nuclear weapons” (Comment, 9 February). At best, these incredibly expensive weapons will never be used, and at worst they will destroy planet Earth.

During the Cold War, most of the UK’s political leaders warned that unilateral disarmament was too risky, and they argued instead for seemingly never-ending talks about multilateral disarmament. The Church of England report The Church and the Bomb (1982) proved that the old just-war theory was dangerous, and that a misunderstanding, an accident, or a minor conflict with conventional weapons could quickly escalate into an unstoppable nuclear exchange.

That report also introduced the completely new concept of “nuclear pacifism”: a call for active engagement in prayer and politics to destroy these weapons before they destroyed us.

New Rectory, Cowley
Gloucestershire GL53 9NJ


From Sue Claydon

Sir, — The Bishop of Chelmsford, the Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell, wrote: “Around the world we are witnessing the most promising disarmament initiative in 20 years. Our country should be part of it.”

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, to give its full title, was negotiated because many countries see the dangers of the deliberate or accidental use of nuclear weapons. Other weapons of mass destruction, biological and chemical weapons, have shown that prohibition encourages progress towards elimination.

The UK Government has legal obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which it did sign, to negotiate for disarmament. This new treaty offers a clear pathway towards disarmament.

There is a clear choice for the Government: to engage constructively with signatories and parties to the new treaty and foster a culture of dialogue and compliance, or to see its influence over disarmament policy-making diminish. We pray that it will choose the former.

Chair, Anglican Pacifist Fellowship
Whittlesey Road, March, Cambs PE15 0AH


Alienated by the C of E’s shortcomings over Brexit 

From Helen De Cruz

Sir, — I am a European Union citizen (Belgian) living in the UK, and a member of the Church of England. While I am not speaking on behalf of all EU-citizen members, I speak for many when I say that I am deeply disappointed about the lack of moral leadership exhibited by the Church with regard to Brexit, and, particularly, our rights as citizens and our dignity as human beings.

In particular, I was mortified and disgusted when the Lords Spiritual voted down an amendment to the Brexit Bill which would secure our rights in the event of no deal. Watching the Archbishop of York’s speech in the House of Lords, where he argued that we needed to get on with it, made my stomach turn. I should have thought that if anyone knew what it was like to feel like a foreigner, it would be he (he has talked about this on other occasions).

Now, we are months further, and it’s still quite possible that there is no deal, and our rights are all up in the air, because nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. A simple amendment to the withdrawal Bill could have stopped it. But it was not to be; so our uncertainty continues. Maybe the transitional deal will be scuppered because it is apparently such a burden to have EU citizens come in here to get the same rights as other EU citizens.

The Church, meanwhile, remains silent. My letters to Lambeth Palace go largely unanswered. When I do receive an answer, it is along the lines of “We’re already doing enough.” I quote from a recent letter I received: “I trust that these examples will reassure you that the Archbishop is aware of the concerns you have and is sympathetic to them.” (The examples are a few wishy-washy speeches about difficult and changing times.)

I used to go to church quite often, about weekly, but after the referendum it all changed. I felt that I could not show up there any more. The past two Novembers, I watched from a distance the 11 November ceremonies and wondered how I was ever part of it. Did I honestly sing “God save the Queen” along with the congregation? Who am I kidding? She is not my Queen, and the C of E is the Church for English people. I can’t talk to my vicar either, as my former vicar moved away shortly before the referendum and I have not been in touch with the new one.

So I feel lonely, alienated, and angry at the Church. Perhaps I am also angry at God for making this happen and staying silent while this is all going on under the guise of democracy. I doubt that my letter will change anything in the Church, but I just wanted to let you know: no, you are not doing enough; you need to stand up and show moral leadership.

Address supplied


Shameful treatment

From Canon Janice Scott

Sir, — State-sanctioned suffering (Comment, 16 February) is routinely occurring at border control.

In January, my daughter’s black Grenadian boyfriend flew to Gatwick for a holiday in the UK with my daughter. At border control, he was strip-searched, and his luggage was searched. Nothing was found. Border control then inspected his papers. He had a return ticket and an airport hotel room booked for the night before his departure. He had a detailed itinerary for his stay in the UK, a letter of sponsorship from my daughter (a doctor working at Greenwich University), and a letter from his boss in Grenada stating that his job was waiting for him when he returned.

Despite all this, border control decided that he was attempting to become an illegal immigrant. This took all day. My pregnant and distressed daughter was, meanwhile, waiting in Arrivals, but at no point allowed to see him or even speak to him. Nobody came to see her. They phoned her late that afternoon to say that he was being sent to a detention centre overnight, and would be deported to Grenada in the morning.

He was not allowed his mobile phone, passport, or any of his luggage. In the morning, he was flown to Trinidad, a different island, 166km from Grenada. Since he had no ticket for Trinidad, border control at Trinidad deemed him illegal and stamped his passport to ban him from ever entering Trinidad again. He was then sent home to Grenada, where his passport and belongings were returned to him. All in all, this took 72 hours.

There is no appeal, and this is happening routinely. There are times when I am ashamed of my Christian country.

19 Ipswich Grove
Norwich NR2 2LU


Unity and ‘bouncing around’ in lectionary

From the Very Revd Alan Warren

Sir, — I urge that readings relevant to the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity should be added as alternative to the Epiphany readings in the Common Worship lectionary for the Sunday-in-the-midst.

It seems clear from enquiries that a majority of our regular Sunday worshippers are not now attending the special services and meetings of that week. Our worship on that Sunday has, therefore, become especially significant.

The fine readings listed on the Special Occasions pages in the lectionary would be ideal. Otherwise, I suggest, there might at least be an added sentence such as “Unity of the Church. See page 86.” This would be a small but worthwhile step forward, I hope.

9 Queens Drive
Norfolk PE36 6EY


From Professor James D. G. Dunn

Sir, — In preparing to preach on Sunday 25 February, I was very surprised to find that the Gospel for that day is Mark 8.31-end. Since Mark 8.31ff. is Jesus’s explanation of what his role as Messiah will involve, presumably to explain what Peter’s confession (8.29) really involved, the obvious and most coherent reading is Mark 8.27-38.

The way in which the lectionary often bounces around in the Gospel readings greatly increases the difficulty for readers or hearers in following the Evangelist’s plot. But to so disjuncture the core/central episode in Mark’s presentation of Jesus as Messiah makes no sense at all.

As a Johnnie-come-lately Anglican, may I ask who is responsible for such a mindless sub-division of Mark’s telling the story of Jesus, and what is the theological raison d’être for such a division? This is not the only example that I could cite.

65 Maplehurst Road
Chichester PO19 6RP


Proof, not reputation, is crux of Bell affair

From Marilyn and Peter Billingham

Sir, — Canon Angela Tilby (Comment, 16 February) is indeed right to say in her column that those fighting for Justice in the George Bell case would be naïve to rest the case for his defence on his fine reputation. But they don’t.

The George Bell Group, the theologians, the lawyers, historians, academics, journalists, and, indeed, the independent reviewer Lord Carlile QC together present an overwhelming case that the evidence against Bishop Bell would not find its way to the criminal court at all were he to be alive.

Further, the evidence does not even meet the lower standard of proof, “the balance of probabilities”, required by the civil courts, now that he has passed away. In English law, he is innocent. The evidence would be too weak to take to court at all. Character references would not be required. Nevertheless, since when have character references been inadmissible in a court of English law?

51 York Road
Chichester PO19 7TL


Further debate on the Anglican-Methodist proposals

From Prebendary Simon Cawdell

Sir, — I wish to correct an impression given in your reporting of the Anglican-Methodist Covenant debate (General Synod, 16 February). I moved my amendment to “note” rather than “welcome” the report as it seemed to me to brush aside some significant differences in the way our two Churches conduct their ministries in practice.

I noted that this view was shared by Methodists I know, and then went on to quote a Methodist colleague who had written to me including the words: “This document . . . is doomed to failure, and I won’t vote for it.” You report the words accurately, but the impression is given that they represent my view. In fact, after the Bishop of Portsmouth’s amendment, I felt able to vote for the motion.

I hope that the opportunity is taken to consider carefully the reservations that have been expressed in the debate. I am aware from conversations that the support of a significant number of Synod members who voted in favour of taking the report further is conditional on their concerns’ being met. Further, we are asking a great deal of the Methodist Church, which has a great deal to share with us. We should be careful not only that our concerns are being addressed, but that we do not crush all that is best in our sister Church, too.

At worst, our disunities are an affront to the body of Christ. At best, our differentiation enables the body to reach much further into areas of our nation which its individual denominations could not reach. That can be a gift, and we must be careful not to squander it on an ill-thought-out rush for uniformity.

The Rectory, 16 East Castle Street,
Bridgnorth, Shropshire WV16 4AL


From Deacon Dr David Clark

Sir, — Having been a Methodist presbyter for nearly 40 years and, more recently, a Methodist deacon for 12 years, as well as a passionate life-long ecumenist, I believe Mission and Ministry in Covenant to be a dangerous distraction.

During my lifetime, all mainstream Churches in the West have been in steep decline. We remain stuck in the mould of Christendom and unable to respond to a completely different world. We urgently need a vision of “the Church to come” and how we can begin to make that vision a reality. Mission and Ministry fails to offer any such vision. Worse still, it entrenches a model of the Church and its ministry which is no longer fit for its purpose.

Both the Methodist Church and the Church of England embody “foundations of hope”, but these have been missed or ignored. Methodism’s most important contribution to the Church to come lies in its Deed of Union’s core clause (1932 c14) that presbyters “hold no priesthood differing in kind from that which is common to all the Lord’s people”.

On this foundation of hope is built the primacy of the laity in mission, the profoundly communal nature of Methodism as a “Connexion”, and the collective authority of Conference. On this foundation, too, is being built the vision of a renewed diaconate as a new and dynamic order of mission.

I see the Church of England’s most important contribution to the Church to come as being the pride of place it gives to liturgy and the eucharist, the parish system, with its insistence that every person is a child of God, and the rich heritage that it offers society through the splendours of architecture, art, and music.

Mission and Ministry faces backwards. The liberation of genuine unity is replaced by the stagnation of an enforced uniformity. To my Methodist colleagues and many Anglican friends, I simply say: “Come on, sisters and brethren: we can do far better than this.” In his new book, the Archbishop of Canterbury urges us to “reimagine Britain”. It is also high time that we began to “reimagine the Church”.

Hill View, Burton Close Drive
Bakewell DE45 1BG


From the Revd Alexander Faludy

Sir, — Canon Andrew Davison (Comment, 2 February) criticises the present Anglican-Methodist proposals as an “intolerable departure from order”, and a statement from Anglican Catholic Future (30 January) was couched in very similar terms. History reveals a far greater flexibility in Anglicanism and wider Catholic tradition than the authors allow for.

Interchangeability of ministers was practised between the Church of England and the Presbyterian-ordered foreign reformed churches in the period between 1559 and 1662. One of the most important early literary defenders of the practice of English episcopacy (contra Puritanism) was Adrian Saravia, a Dutch Reformed minister exercising his ministry in the C of E without episcopal ordination.

It was only with the 1662 Act of Uniformity that the practice of interchangeability ceased and a Preface was, for the first time, added to the Ordinal, making episcopal ordination indispensable for ministry. But in the 18th, and well into the 19th, century, presbyterally ordained German Lutheran missionaries in India administered the sacraments beneath the umbrella of Anglican mission agencies. After 1814, they had licences from colonial Anglican bishops.

St Irenaeus, first apologist for apostolic succession, was himself consecrated to the episcopate by his fellow presbyters at Lyon in 177/178. Although ordination of priests by non-episcopal abbots proceeded largely on the basis of custom in the medieval West, two early-modern popes (Boniface IX and Martin V) are well documented as issuing bulls granting priests exceptional power to ordain. The practice was finally abrogated by the 1917 Code of Canon Law.

Even Archbishop Laud defies expectations. He was unhesitating in acknowledging authentic episcope among German Lutherans who lacked titular bishops and a succession but practised superintendency. Famously, he opined that among them “the thing [episcope] is retained though not the name.” It is difficult to see how their situation differs materially from that of modern Methodists.

Eastern Orthodox writers have long maintained a principle of “economy” in respect of ecumenism which can seem radical to Westerners. As the Greek Orthodox theologian K. Dyovountis wrote a century ago, “The Church is able to recognise the priesthood and sacraments . . . [where] they are not accomplished canonically or the apostolic succession has been broken.” This is achieved simply by acceptance of a separated body into organic union by formal declaration of communion with it. What is being asked of the Church of England in the present context is to have no less confidence in our own Catholic ecclesial authority.

Opposition to Anglican-Methodist reunion, as presently articulated by Anglican Catholic Future, seeks to defend a pipeline theory of apostolic succession just as Rome seems set to broaden its understanding. The move was first signalled by Pope Benedict XVI when he told the late Bishop Geoffrey Rowell that Apostolicae Curae (1896) need not be finally determinative: “We cannot do anything about Leo XIII’s words but there are other ways of looking at things.”

His views were recently amplified by Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio. At an ecumenical forum in Rome in May 2017, he argued: “When someone is ordained in the Anglican Church we cannot . . . say nothing has happened, that everything is invalid.” Later, speaking to the National Catholic Reporter, he cited Vatican II’s graduated language of “real but imperfect communion” with Protestants, and said: “Maybe we have to reflect on this concept of validity or invalidity.” If Anglicans hope to benefit from a more generous attitude from Rome, can they in conscience withhold it from others?

33 Solent Road, Portsmouth
Hants PO6 1HH


From Mr Alan Bartley

Sir, — Before explaining why the latest Anglican-Methodist proposals endorse lay celebration of the eucharist, may I say that I hold the older view that ordination is not a sacrament. With Archbishop Laud, I hold that the church Fathers meant a succession of true doctrine, so that where the doctrine is not apostolic, other successions are immaterial. Like marriage, the rite of ordination is the recognition of a Christian vocation. In Bishop Burnet’s judgement, the laying on of hands is but an attitude of prayer indicating the person being prayed for.

Even very late in life, as illustrated by his sermon on the ministerial office (Hebrews 5.4), John Wesley had a very high view of ordination. This sermon was not part of the early sermons that bound his preachers, who, after his death, at first attempted to suppress it. Again, while Wesley vacillated between a tactile apostolic succession conveyed through either bishops or only presbyter, on his death most of his preachers were not ordained, not even as presbyters.

In 1793, two years after Wesley’s death, his Conference of Preachers voted by 86 to 48 that, without any pretence of ordination or laying on of hands, the distinction between ordained and unordained ministers should cease. In 1836, a later generation reintroduced the laying-on of hands with the usual words for their ordinations. Those ordaining, having not been themselves ordained in the traditional Presbyterian fashion, had nothing of any Presbyterian tactile apostolic succession to pass on, however. The various Methodist denominations that reunited in 1932 have no better claim to any tactile apostolic succession.

One must conclude that, according to the sacramental view of ordination, the Methodist presbyters must trace their ordination back to unordained laity, and thus, from even the Presbyterian high-church point of view, must be adjudged laity, with all that that implies for our conceding lay celebration of holy communion.

17 Francis Road
Greenford UB6 7AD

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