C of E ‘Evangelical takeover’ and Thy Kingdom Come
From the Revd Alasdair Kay, the Revd Margaret Slyfield, Canon Peter Walley, and 82 others
Sir, — We are a group of ministers in our first incumbencies, representing various traditions within the Church of England, and writing in response to Canon Tilby’s column “Deliver us from the Evangelical takeover” (Comment, 27 April). We are becoming increasingly saddened by her personal perceptions, written as commentary, on the state of the Provinces of Canterbury and York and, in particular, the Thy Kingdom Come project.
We do not see this project as a takeover by Evangelicals (of any network) of the Church of England. Instead, we applaud it as the product of an earnest desire to make the Church of England fit for its purpose by bringing us back to our raison d’être: to be witnesses of Jesus Christ. The tone of Canon Tilby’s column was, we feel, cynical, patronising, and, frankly, very discouraging.
We as parish priests, many other clergy, and thousands of our parishioners will between us fast, donate time, sacrifice sleep, and give ourselves to praying for their friends and loved ones, both during Thy Kingdom Come and beyond; Canon Tilby has reduced these heartfelt acts of love and compassion to coffee, crafts, and semantics.
We are delighted that the House of Bishops, the Archbishops’ Council, the General Synod, the Church Commissioners, and dioceses up and down the land are seeking to foster greater ecumenical unity and spirituality, and to bring a mission focus to the Church. In fact, we might even say that we have no desire to return to the approach that Canon Tilby appears to be proposing. We would much rather give ourselves to the cause — for which many of us gave up former professions — of answering the call of Christ to make, and grow, his disciples.
May his Kingdom come; may his will be done.
ALASDAIR KAY, MARGARET SLYFIELD, PETER WALLEY, DAWN JEWSON, PETER KAY, CLIVE BEAZLEY-LONG, ADAM DICKSON, MICHAEL SMITH, JAMES FARAGHER, LEE DAVIES, JODY STOWELL, TIMOTHY EDWARDS, STEVE WILKINSON, ANDY HUMM, LINDA MASLEN, BEN LOVELL, PETER W. GILROY, PAM DAVIES, CHRIS KILGOUR, RACHEL MARSZALEK, IAN GALLAGHER, LYNDA DAVIES, ELEANOR JEANS, ANDY HOBBS, BEN GRIFFITHS, JOHN TELFORD, SUE COOKE, RUSSELL GANT, ANDY SMITH, ANNA ALLS, MATTHEW LING, DEBBIE LOUGHRAN, SUZAN WILLIAMS, BECCA BELL, PHYLLIS BAINBRIDGE, JULES WALKER, JULES WILLIAMS, JONATHAN IDDON, PHAEDRA PAMPHILON-GREEN CA, JANE RICHARDS, SIMON FAULKS, EILEEN HARROP, GEMMA FRASER, NEIL HOPKINS, BRIDGET BAGULEY, HELEN BARNES, HELEN FRASER, GRAHAM POTTER, TOBY TATE, IAN SMITH, MAUREEN COLLINS, CATHY BRAZIER, JOANNA MORRIS, JOHN FRY, JAMES GANDON, SUE VALLENTE-KERR, SIMON COUPER, ANNETTE HAWKINS, SHARON COPESTAKE, MEREWYN EVANS, JOHNNY DOUGLAS, MARGARET McPHEE, LERYS CAMPBELL, SONA DORAGH, STEPHEN BECK, CHRIS HILL, KIMBERLEY FORD, SALLY SMITH, SAMANTHA TAYLOR, RAY KHAN, J. E. FRYMANN, KIM E. LAFFERTY, HAZEL CHARLTON, JOKEY POYNTZ, ALISON WALLBANK, CHRIS OWEN, ADAM BEAUMONT, DIANE COOKSEY, LIZ CHAMBERLAIN, JOHN HUGGINS, LAURA LEATHERBARROW, LYNN MCKEON, LEE PLUMMER, DAVID GRANTHAM, SIMON CARTWRIGHT
c/o St Francis Vicarage
78 Collingham Gardens
Derby DE22 4FQ
From Eleanor Davies
Sir, — I am somewhat bemused by Canon Angela Tilby’s concern about an Evangelical takeover of the Anglican Church.
It is disingenuous to describe the marketing of Thy Kingdom Come as “clever”, as though it were some sort of plot to catch needy people unawares. In the church where I worship (I’ll come clean: it’s Evangelical), the Archbishop’s nationwide prayer initiative has been an extremely important part of a much wider and ongoing commitment to bringing actual practical help to a community with enormous physical, emotional, and spiritual needs.
This has included much intensive work with Christians Against Poverty, work with young mothers and toddlers, regular visits to the elderly, care of the long-term sick, help for the bereaved, and a massive engagement with youth in the area, which has been going on for more than 20 years. In all these spheres, the church fully recognises the long-term nature of the work and that there are no easy fixes. I would suggest that there are vast numbers of Evangelical churches throughout Britain doing the same.
As far as a faux inclusivity induced by “playing with tea lights and cutting out little paper flames” goes, I would point out that my Reader husband is currently on retreat at a well-known Jesuit retreat centre (i.e., a completely different tradition) that uses painting, needlework, pebbles, prayer labyrinths, and many other creative practices as an aid to prayer. What works for one person may not help another, but let’s not dismiss such ideas as pointless. And let’s be open to learning from one another’s traditions.
I grew up in a traditional church where there was “slow nurturing of the person though unconsciously memorised texts”. Those texts have stood me in good stead in later life and, I’m sure, helped me towards a grown-up faith.
But today people have little access to such a luxury. The majority of our nation have no Christian understanding at all. The language of “letting Jesus into their hearts” may sound a trite and simplistic way of speaking, but how else can the Holy Spirit begin his long-term work of changing hearts (however slowly) and speaking into individuals’ lives?
11 Croft Drive West
Wirral CH48 2JQ
From Canon John Harwood
Sir, — Many of us are grateful for Canon Angela Tilby’s contributions to the BBC Thought for the Day. But how sad that her column pleading for deliverance from the “Evangelical takeover”, whatever that may mean, reeks of a sour party spirit unworthy of her better self!
She refers to the “communication gap between the Church and the rest of society”. The half-empty churches up and down the land bear witness to this reality. How strange, then, that it is often the Evangelical churches that attract large congregations, and that dying churches are often rescued by HTB-originated church-plants! A neighbouring church in this diocese died some two years ago, but now is on the way to resurrection through help from an Evangelical church.
A recently imported church-plant in Portsmouth, the Harbour Church, is well attended by students from the University.
How come, also, that the Alpha course — so despised by some — should have an outstanding publishing success world wide?
Canon Tilby complains about the culture of Thy Kingdom Come. Was it not our Lord who originated the culture?
And if “inside the Church there is now no shortage of talk about mission and outreach,” should we not be grateful that some, at least, are honouring the command of Jesus to proclaim the gospel to the whole creation?
14 Nile Street
Emsworth P010 7EE
From Mr Dennis Croome
Sir, — So Canon Angela Tilby will be “praying for an escape from the Evangelical takeover of the Church”. How sad! She clearly has not realised that, if Evangelicals left the C of E, there would be very little left.
(Reader and churchwarden)
40 Park Drive, Barlaston
Stoke on Trent ST12 9DP
From the Revd Joshua Penduck
Sir, — I was struck by the phrase “the abandonment of traditional religion” in Canon Angela Tilby’s article “Deliver us from the Evangelical takeover”.
The assumption here is that hers is “traditional religion”, and that she represents a settled Anglican identity that is being unsettled by a so-called “takeover” by Evangelicals. As if the identity of Anglicanism has ever really been settled! Perhaps she may join in solidarity with all those through the centuries whose “settled” understanding the C of E has been unsettled?
Perhaps now she can pray “Deliver us from the Book of Common Prayer” as well? Or “Deliver us from the Laudians?” Latitudinarians, Erastians, Tractarians, Modernists, Liberal Catholics, the radical liberals of the 1960s and ’70s, the liturgical revolution of the same period, the current debates concerning gender — these are all movements that unsettled the settled identity of Anglican “traditional religion”, and in many ways were a “hostile takeover”. They often created a disconnect between the pulpit and the parish. But each has become in its own way, or is becoming, a standard mark of Anglican identity in the C of E.
Maybe Canon Tilby should stop praying for deliverance, and start thanking God that Evangelical parishes are producing so many adult confirmations and baptisms, are reinvigorating classic Anglican practices such as catechesis, and are encouraging so many young men and women to seek ordination.
St Thomas’s Vicarage
214 Queens Road, Penkhull
Stoke-on-Trent ST4 7LG
From Canon Christopher Hall
Sir, — Thank you for publishing Canon Angela Tilby’s column last week. When Christians pray daily for God’s Kingdom to come, it is for far more than the conversion of individuals. The last words of Jesus to his disciples were μαθητεύσατε πάντα τὰ ἔθνη, literally: “Go, disciple whole/all nations”: “make whole/all nations learn of me’” — not merely “make individual disciples out of all nations.”
The Knowle, Deddington
Banbury OX15 0TB
From the Revd Richard Martin
Sir, — Thank you for publishing Canon Angela Tilby’s thoughts about Thy Kingdom Come. I completely concur. The Kingdom of God is much bigger and more important than the Church and its growth (or lack of it).
Bishop of Rochester’s Adviser for Inter-Faith Concerns
18 Brenchley Avenue
Gravesend DA11 7RQ
The Left, anti-Zionism, and anti-Semitism
From Mr Jonathan Goll
Sir, — As a Christian Labour Party and Momentum activist, and a Jeremy Corbyn supporter, I query Dr David Hirsh’s assertion that “the politics of [Mr Corbyn’s] faction [has] disproportionate and furious hostility to Israel [as] a defining characteristic” (Comment, 27 April). My experience is, instead, that people have supported Mr Corbyn because they have felt that only his leadership would really tackle the devastation being caused by austerity and neo-liberal economics.
Momentum has acted as a cheerleader for Mr Corbyn. Its founder, a Jew (Jon Lansman), recently spearheaded a reform of Momentum to make it a purely Labour organisation, which included ending affiliations with some other groups, such as Momentum Black Connexions, to which the recently expelled Marc Wadsworth belongs. Many on the Left are not even in the Labour Party, and it is not necessarily easy to identify who is trolling.
Now, the Chakrabarti report has acknowledged that there is a problem with anti-Semitism in the Labour Party (though does this problem in fact extend right across British politics?). But the action that some of Mr Corbyn’s critics are demanding that he take may be unwise. The Board of Deputies of British Jews has made some reasonable requests, but two worry me: that he take “visible leadership” on the issue; and that Labour MPs, councillors, etc., should not share a platform with those suspended or expelled for anti-Semitism.
The Labour Party has an elected National Constitutional Committee for disciplinary matters; is it wise for the leader to interfere? If you can’t be on a platform with dodgy people, aren’t you leaving them unchallenged? How many clergy reading this have shared a platform with people holding dubious views?
Momentum and we “Corbynistas” in general, are mainly involved — as, in all fairness Ruth Sneeth (who brought the complaint against Marc Wadsworth), is also mainly involved — in trying to revivify Labour activity in working-class areas, which have been neglected, mirroring their general neglect by society (and by the Church?). If this work is hindered, some very nasty forces indeed might fill the political vacuum.
16 Beechcroft Estate
Halesowen B63 2BP
From the Revd Martin Jewitt
Sir, — Given the long and shameful history of anti-Semitism, I find the current reports of its revival disturbing, especially being a member of the Labour Party, against which allegations are rife. But a lot of heat is being generated without shedding much light on actual examples.
Dr David Hirsh sheds more of that much-needed light than most of the media. His examples of Holocaust denial, and caricatures of Jews as bourgeois, greedy bankers, creating a “Jewish question”, do put some meat on the bones, and such hate talk needs to be dealt with, as does all racism.
He also mentions issues around the State of Israel. All states, and their governments, are answerable to all of us in how just are their dealings with their people and other nations. Israel is no exception, and its treatment of the Palestinian people is as disproportionate as is hostility to Israel on the part of some.
The State of Israel as a Jewish nation has obvious connections with world Judaism. So, anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism are inevitably closely connected. But they are not the same. As Dr Hirsh says, organisations dedicated to the destruction of Israel are genocidal, and if that is the aim of Hamas and Hezbollah, then the label sticks on them.
As for Jeremy Corbyn, he believes in talking to people, as do all politicians, but he is open about it. Dr Hirsh admits not really knowing what he said to Hamas leaders (“not a word of criticism, at least in public”).
It is really important to keep anti-Semitism and legitimate criticism of Israel separate. Both Israeli authorities and hard line anti-Zionists are guilty of muddying the waters, as Dr Hirsh’s article does to some extent.
Clearly, there are issues that many institutions in society, and not least the Labour Party, need to deal with. And those who lean to the Left are very likely to support the Palestinian people; but there are others who will wish to muddy the waters because they will do anything to stop Mr Corbyn becoming Prime Minister.
12 Abbott Road
Kent CT20 1NG
Reviews of the Sheffield nomination and the CNC
From Sir Philip Mawer
Sir, — Mrs Anne Foreman (Letters, 20 April) suggests that, whereas I exonerated Ms Jane Patterson in relation to her remaining on the Crown Nominations Commission (CNC) that nominated the bishop for her own diocese, Professor Oliver O’Donovan, the chairman of the theological review of the CNC, “took a very different view”, namely, that such a member should stand aside because “no one should wear two hats.”
The suggestion that Professor O’Donovan and I are at odds is based on a misunderstanding. In paragraph 116 of my report on Bishop North’s nomination to the see of Sheffield, I drew attention to the recommendation made by Baroness Fritchie (a former Commissioner for Public Appointments) in 2010 that “it would be advisable for central CNC members to wholly withdraw from taking part in an appointment which is being made in their own diocese.” Baroness Fritchie’s recommendation was, however, considered but not adopted at that point as a matter of policy.
There was therefore, I found, no basis on which Ms Patterson’s decision not to stand down from the Sheffield CNC could be criticised. Nevertheless, I went on to say, “the issue of influence and perception of influence raised by Baroness Fritchie is a powerful one. It would, I suggest, be timely to revisit it” (report, paragraph 117).
This and other policy questions about the CNC have now been thoroughly and persuasively addressed by Professor O’ Donovan and his group. If policies are to be changed, whether on this issue or in relation to the declaration of their interests by those who seek election to the CNC, the remedy lies squarely in the hands of Mrs Foreman and the other members of the General Synod.
c/o The Archbishops’ Council Secretariat
Great Smith Street
London SW1P 3AZ
From the Revd Robert Torrens
Sir, — Concerning the atonement (Feature, 29 March; Letters, 6 and 20 April): in the 1950s, the Dean of Trinity College, Cambridge, the saintly John Burnaby, wrote: “There never was and never can be a ‘theory’ of the Atonement that is worth the paper it is written on.” Bigots beware.
68 Barons Road
Bury St Edmunds IP33 2LW