Letters to the Editor

by
05 October 2018

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The safeguarding culture-change

From the Revd Simon Cade

Sir, — Revelations about safeguarding have made this an uncomfortable year for the Church of England. The appointment of an independent chair for the Church of England’s National Safeguarding Panel is to be welcomed, as is her call for “deep cultural change” (News, 21 September).

What, I wonder, might that “deep cultural change” look like?

First, survivors will need to be part of decision-making and policy-forming at national, diocesan, and local level. Too oftenm survivors and victims are treated as “evidence” in a kind of weird human-resources or quasi-judicial process rather than as partners in bringing justice.

Second, a new accountability at every level. Through the Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse (IICSA), we have watched bishops squirm as their decisions are scrutinised. This kind of transparency is the new normal. Robust governance at every level is not too much to ask.

Third, the unhealthy culture of deference to bishops must end. It is a toxic, addictive, and beguiling sin that has no place in Christ’s family. The humblest prelates are ill-served when we fail to recognise that they are fallible.

Fourth, safeguarding is gospel, not something that the world is making us do. This has to be the key: only theology will give us the words and ideas to shift and guide that deep cultural change.

SIMON CADE
22 Robinsons Avenue
Redruth TR15 3SP

 

Christian attitudes to climate change: reflections on survey methodology

From Dr Simon Radford

Sir, — I was delighted to take your survey on how the Church and Christians should respond to the issue of climate change. Besides reminding me how much more we all could do to be better stewards of our environment (and, you know, avert ecological catastrophe), I felt it necessary also to issue one note of caution around the issue of polling on environmental issues more generally.

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As a social scientist who has also worked on political campaigns, I know from experience that everyone says that they care about the environment, but getting to voters’ true feelings about the topic is rather harder. A paper a few years ago by Yamamoto et al. advocates that political scientists should use what survey methods geeks call a “conjoint design”: as Yamamoto explains, “people’s preferences about car colour are almost independent of whether or not the car has a manual transmission. But in political decisions, or social decisions in general, those aspects can interact with each other.”

Campaigns note that, when asked to rate how much they care about the environment, or choose a preference among political issues, people’s passion for environmental issues seems evident (it is fashionable to be pro-environment). But when a conjoint design is used that asks people to select among pairs of issues, or asks people to make a sacrifice on one issue (e.g. pay more taxes, higher unemployment) for progress on another (lower carbon emissions, better public services, etc.), the environment typically fares much more poorly than one might have at first assumed compared with other issues that might have previously polled less strongly when voters have been asked to pick which issues they care about from a list.

As Christians know only too well, it is harder to do the right thing than the easy thing. Conjoint analysis allows us really to understand people’s faith in environmental issues by splitting these two things apart and seeing how people really feel. As only God can see us in the polling booth, it is perhaps worth the Church reminding us more often that saving the environment might well come at no little personal and financial cost. But if God could sacrifice his only son to save the world, perhaps we can shun a cheeseburger more often and walk to the shops.

SIMON RADFORD
55 Weymouth Street
Apsley, Herts HP3 9SJ

 

No, medieval churches weren’t a secular hub

From Professor Nicholas Orme

Sir, — Dr Emma Wells (Comment, 28 September) is quite wrong to repeat the old supposition (where does it come from?) that medieval English churches “were hectic places” of secular activity: “meeting halls, markets, bartering houses, etc.”

Any research into medieval church law and the pronouncements of church authorities will show, from at least the 13th century, a consistent prohibition against holding courts, games, or markets in churches or churchyards. It was for this reason that church communities built “church houses” near by for such pursuits. There were, indeed, breaches of the rules, but they were breaches, not the rules!

NICHOLAS ORME
Department of History
University of Exeter
Exeter EX4 4RJ

 

Leavers and Remainers: further Brexit debate

From Mr Geoffrey Taylor

Sir, — I much appreciated your Brexit special (21 September) and the responses on your letters page (28 September). I feel that I must respond to the letter from Professor Grayson. He, along with many Leavers, misses the point.

The origins of the European Union lie in the attempts, so far in the main successful, to bring unity and reconciliation after the disasters of two world wars. The coming season of Remembrance will surely unite us all to say “Never again.” The failure of the victors of 1918 resulted in a disunited Europe with all the attendant nationalism and racism and led to a second, admittedly necessary, conflict.

Whatever the faults of the EU, it is better to remain and seek to remedy them than to walk away and assist the dangerous nationalists hovering on the edges of European politics to lead us once more into what Churchill called a “new dark age”.

The EU is not perfect, but the alternative is worse. Professor Grayson claims not to be an ignorant, racial bigot, and I am sure he is not. A significant number of leavers undoubtably are, however. We must never forget the cost of past conflicts.

GEOFFREY TAYLOR
14 Academy Gardens
Gainford
Co. Durham DL2 3EN

 

From Mr Alan Bartley

Sir, — The debate over Brexit and demanding a new “People’s Vote” because people may have been misled about the complexities and consequences have resonances with similar debates about whether money can buy elections by swamping the media.

The late Justice Antonin Scalia once gave a profound but simple rebuttal of such fears on a C-SPAN Q&A. In May 2008, when asked: “Do you worry at all that there is too much money in politics?” he replied: “No, you know I really don’t. I forget what the figures are but I think we spend less on our presidential campaigns each year when there is a presidential election than the country spends on cosmetics.”

In follow-up questions that “People are worried that the corporations can now buy . . .”, he replied: “If you believe that — we ought to go back to monarchy — that the people are such sheep that they swallow whatever they see on television or read in the newspapers. No, the premise of democracy is that the people are intelligent and can discern the true from the false. . .”

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While Justice Scalia, as an American, clearly was not advocating a return to monarchy, we, on the other hand, are technically still a monarchy.

There is a further point, however. If the electorate did not give sufficient diligence to studying the question, and allowed itself to be misled on the very important Brexit vote, given such negligence, what right have they to determine any government? Further, if they don’t stand behind their Brexit decision, how can any politician claim endorsement for for any point of a manifesto — especially, such points as have never been discussed or debated, let alone the ones only superficially approved?

In business and other walks of life, we often make decisions on insufficient information; often, with hindsight, we would have decided otherwise. But all this is part of God’s providence, in which even our sins and mistakes are overruled for our good. Whatever the process leading to a pro-Brexit vote, at least it concurs with what our Church claims to believe: that “The King’s Majesty hath the chief power in this Realm of England . . . and is not, nor ought to be, subject to any foreign Jurisdiction” (Article XXXVII).

If our Bishops no longer accept this, they need to resign or get it amended.

ALAN BARTLEY
17 Francis Road
Greenford UB6 7AD

 

Scargill’s developments

From the Rt Revd Chris Edmondson

Sir, — As Chair of the Trustees of Scargill House since 2009, I was delighted that it was included as an example of “new monastic communities” (Features, 28 September), though I had to smile at the word “new”: we prepare to celebrate 60 years of Scargill’s ministry in 2019.

We were indeed delighted, as you note, that the Yorkshire Dales National Park has recently approved our development plans, but it is far from a matter of “reopening Scargill House, a retreat centre in the Dales that closed in 2008”. That reopening took place in 2010, since when we have run a full programme, welcoming thousands of guests there each year. At its heart is an international community of 30 people, some of whose experiences form part of the article.

The “Scargill Movement” is the name of the new charity that was formed in 2009 with a fresh vision: “Lives shared, lives transformed — with Jesus at the centre”.

CHRIS EDMONDSON
16 Cavalier Drive
Apperley Bridge
Bradford BD10 0UF

 

Bequests to medicine in relation to funeral costs

From Mr Ben Woods

Sir, — “Funeral costs causing poverty” (News, 21 September) took me back two decades to reading an article in your paper recommending that one should bequeath one’s body to medical science and training. My wife and I did this, wanting to give back to the medical profession something in return for all that had been done for us during our lives.

My wife died in early May and is now at the National Repository Centre, Nottingham. Not only is she now fulfilling her wish, but the only cost incurred was that of conveying her from Swindon to Nottingham: £276.

There are several organisations keen to receive bequests. Understandably, there can be reasons for them to decline an offer, but I urge your readers to follow the same course.

BEN WOODS
25 Bingham Close
Cirencester GL7 1HJ

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