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Letters to the Editor

01 February 2019

Briden report on Bishop Bell, C of E website information, and church-planting


The Briden report on Bishop Bell

From Miss Vasantha Gnanadoss

Sir, — With the publication of the Briden report on the additional allegations against Bishop George Bell, we see the record of a masterly investigation.

Chancellor Briden’s decision regarding those allegations is that “they are unfounded.” So we are left with the single original allegation against Bishop Bell by “Carol”. Chancellor Briden was prevented by his terms of reference from any consideration of the “Carol” allegation. So, too, was Lord Carlile in his earlier investigation that was restricted to the Church’s response. Lord Carlile in his report characterises the response as “a rush to judgement”.

It is disingenuous for the Archbishop of Canterbury to speak of “an impossible dilemma” and the Bishop of Chichester to plead “an uncertainty which cannot be resolved” when they have been party to the exclusion of the “Carol” allegation from two high-quality investigations. The pressure on them to restore Bishop Bell’s place in history must continue.

242 Links Road
London SW17 9ER


From Professor Peter Billingham

Sir, — It was with satisfaction that, as a former dedicated parishioner of Chichester Cathedral, I read the published findings of the Church’s own Briden report late last week.

The report’s dismissal of the allegations of historic child abuse against Bishop Bell as unfounded, combined with the subsequent apologies by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of Chichester, provides the long-awaited opportunity for the restoration of Bell’s reputation locally and nationally.

Given the Archbishop’s commitment to the completion and installation of a new statue of Bell at Canterbury, the time is overdue for the restoration of the Chichester Cathedral building 4 Canon Lane’s former name, George Bell House.

In a spirit of good will and the building of bridges, I urge the Archbishop and Bishop to support the Dean and Chapter of Chichester Cathedral in the implementation of this symbolic action at the earliest available opportunity.

51 York Road
Chichester PO19 7TL


What else should C of E websites state plainly? 

From the Revd Dr Lee Gatiss

Sir, — I find it puzzling when certain commentators appear up in arms that Evangelical churches don’t announce on their websites every area where their clergy hold traditionally Christian but currently counter-cultural views (“Bishop Thomas gives view on ‘transparency’”, News, 25 January).

I have yet to find a single church website where the unorthodox doctrinal and ethical views of their liberal clergy are clearly spelled out so that they can be honestly assessed by outsiders in advance of a visit. Why will they not openly tell the internet which of the cardinal doctrines of the faith they don’t really hold to (e.g. the actual bodily resurrection of Christ, or the uniqueness of Christ as the only way of salvation from eternal hell)?

The Church of England has a published standard of belief which all clergy solemnly and publicly declare our “loyalty” to, as our “inheritance of faith”, and our “inspiration and guide”. According to the canons, on the Church of England’s website, these Articles of faith are “agreeable to the Word of God” and “may be assented unto with a good conscience by all members of the Church of England”.

It should keep all of us open and honest, if people know where our doctrine can be found. Yet is it not to be deeply lamented that too many clergy neither know nor credibly stand by those Articles, as they openly and voluntarily seem to claim in those solemn public statements?

Church Society
Ground Floor, Centre Block
Hille Business Estate
132 St Albans Road
Watford WD24 4AE


Grants and church-planting knowhow 

From Dr Phillip Rice

Sir, — Church Planting Sunday, recognised as 27 January, and the £35-million “grants announced for ‘major projects’” (News, 25 January) are happily joined together — and singing from the same hymn-book. This turn of the tide in grant support for growth is most welcome, and affirms my experience of some 12 years in the chairs (I can’t say in the pews, as they were very quickly removed and turned into fully stackable chairs) in a church-plant in east London.

There are good reasons to welcome the substantial signs of “intergenerational fairness” and a move forward on releasing additional funds in grants through investment in church growth by way of major-change projects that are funded from the Church Commissioners’ endowment fund of more than £8 billion.

Church Planting Sunday may have escaped media attention, but it is the unique contribution of the past decade. Last Sunday, I heard in my church a list of the initiatives current in east London, and the connections fostered, such as the current release of a priest, Fr Bernhard Messer, from the RC archdiocese of Vienna, to live in our parish for six months to study how Anglicans are doing church-planting.

This is with the aim of picking up the skills to lead a team of lay people in planting for the first time in a run-down city-centre parish in Vienna from September.

The big issue is to build up and build upon these planting experiences, and make them transferable in the diocese, in other C of E dioceses, and even internationally — while the door is open.

23 Christchurch Square
London E9 7HU


Poor choice of prayer after car crash 

From the Revd Mark Hunt

Sir, — While I fully endorse the Archbishop of York’s prayer for Prince Philip after his recent car accident (News, 25 January), I feel uneasy about why the three occupants of the other car were not included. I wonder whether, in God’s sight, a royal duke’s life is more precious, and of greater value, than a commoner’s.

57 Queen’s Road
Bury St Edmunds
Suffolk IP33 3EW


Not enough is being done to lessen the burden on churchwardens 

From the Revd Toddy Hoare

Sir, — Now that I enjoy all the pleasure and none of the responsibilities of parish life, I am in demand around the numerous interregnums that surround us. In the course of these Sunday duties, I am struck that much of my effort needs to be directed towards encouraging church officers and churchwardens.

The church hierarchy is lacking in appreciation and gratitude for all those volunteers who serve their local church, because it does not weigh up the burdens being imposed. Too often, willing hands are taken for granted and burdened with more tasks, forms, and responsibilities. Yes, locals are keen to keep their church going, but too often they all say that all the work from above falls on the same people, and people start to stay away so as not to be grabbed. It is hardly surprising that many seek to worship anonymously in cathedrals.

Dioceses have caught up, on the whole, with providing training days for churchwardens, but fail to take on board how much more they should not be saddled with. Few churchwardens realise their responsibility to lead, or say, the Office, if there is no incumbent on a Sunday, but would benefit from simple encouragement to build up their confidence.

The burden of maintenance of the fabric would be eased if dioceses had a small maintenance team to travel around clearing gutters of churches and vicarages to prevent the ingress of damp, as few churchwardens whom I encounter are young enough to ascend a ladder — even if there is another volunteer to steady it.

Faculties are beyond the ken of those not into churchspeak, though I do not mind filling them in myself if the facts are there. Maybe, if the system was modernised and streamlined, and some of the work was centralised on staff in the diocese, who are taken on and trained to do it, the burden on volunteers would be lighter. Then there might be more help offered, and the growing bureaucracy of the Church would begin to take care of itself, if not be rationalised.


Pond Farm House, Holton

Oxford OX33 1PY


Missing words in the book mar Cana story 

From Canon Malcolm France

Sir, — How many people in church on Sunday 20 January noticed that they were short-changed by the omission of the first four words of John 2.1 from the Gospel reading for the Third Sunday of Epiphany, as printed in their Lectionary book? “On the third day” is the pivotal phrase by which the meaning of the story of the wedding at Cana of Galilee is indicated.

Without those words, the message is one of a magician turning 30 gallons of water into 30 gallons of wine. With those words, the message is one of a Saviour who is Christ the Lord uniting a forgiven people with the God of their creation, in resurrection. I know the message to which I will always drink.

Perhaps, on the occasion of a reprint of the Lectionary book, the first four words may be reinstated, and the gospel message included with the reading.

7 High View Park, Cromer
Norfolk NR27 0HQ


Cartoon fun in the sun 

From the Revd Dr Paula Clifford

Sir, — I am very sorry I was on holiday when your cartoonist visited our chaplaincy here in North Tenerife (St Gargoyle’s, 25 January). I should have enjoyed introducing him to some of the challenges as well as the joys of ministry in this part of the world.

We are, of course, hugely grateful to locum priests who enable chaplains to take decent breaks. But it’s not all about lounging on sunbeds. Part of the deal is that locums may well have to engage with difficult situations in an unfamiliar setting. To suggest otherwise is to undermine the ministry of locum and chaplain alike.

All Saints’ Anglican Church
Ctra. Taoro, 29
38400 Puerto de la Cruz,
Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Spain


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