Letters to the Editor

by
12 April 2019

CASD service at the Abbey, the impact of miscarriage, and proposed changes to divorce law

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The CASD service at the Abbey

From Captain David Brown RN retd

Sir, — The tectonic plates of the world’s power structures seem to be shifting and grinding in a way unfelt for decades. International tensions may be as akin now to those of 1938 as at any time since the Second World War. Yet the Bishop of Colchester, the Rt Revd Roger Morris, is telling the nation that “to celebrate a device designed to indiscriminately kill and destroy thousands of innocent civilians is totally incompatible with the gospel of Jesus Christ, and with our commitment as a Church to peace and the flourishing of all humanity” (News, 5 April).

Pace Kate Hudson’s CND spin, thankfulness for the weapons isn’t in the Abbey’s description of the planned service; nor need it be. Here is an opportunity for pacifists and others to rejoice publicly, in the Abbey and with the navy, at the achievement of 50 years’ continuous at-sea deterrence (CASD) and the consequent peacekeeping. The Abbey is not celebrating weaponry itself; but, after substantial peace from external threat for some 74 years, it is folly to think peace is the norm. Both scripture and history suggest the reverse.

The problem with the General Synod’s position is its limited gaze, which excludes those worrisome nations that hold many devices “designed to indiscriminately kill and destroy thousands of innocent civilians”.

If a bishop of nuclear-pacifist conviction declared what he or she would do, in a prime minister’s shoes and with a duty of care for a whole population, if faced by overt threats from a hostile nuclear power, I might be reached by a pacifist argument. The theology of the State may require closer study.

Evil does not rest in an inanimate object. Amid all the slaughter and cruelty of the first-century Roman Empire, Paul urged the Ephesians to see evil differently. The issue is not the weapons themselves, but the power behind them. Given the prevailing superficial disregard of deterrence theory, Christian leaders would do well to dwell on God’s use of deterrence in his great salvation operation. Genesis 2.16,17 started that ball rolling, later to be picked up by the apostles.

DAVID BROWN
Admaston Farmhouse
School Lane, Admaston
Rugeley WS15 3NH
 

From Sue Claydon

Sir, — The comment from the Abbey and Royal Navy that the service will not be “a celebration of nuclear armaments” seems to be contradicted by the statement “The service will recognise the commitment of the Royal Navy to effective peace-keeping through the deterrent [my italics] over the past fifty years. . .” It is an open question whether it is the deterrent that has ensured peace, and the statement implies that the deterrent is an unqualified good.

This does not begin to explain how you can recognise this “deterrent” without an understanding of the nature of nuclear weapons. They are unique. They are indiscriminate in their effects, making no distinction between unborn children, Air vice-marshals, and Chelsea Pensioners. Through radiation they continue to destroy throughout the lives of survivors and into later generations. We do not accept that weapons of mass destruction are a means of “effective peace-keeping”.

While you mention the recent General Synod motion on the ethics of nuclear weapons, you do not point out that the C of E Investment Advisory Group has, since 2010, recommended that “the national investing bodies should exclude from their investments: Indiscriminate weapons exclusion.” This is to include “any company involved in the production or supply of indiscriminate weaponry (defined as nuclear weapons, anti-personnel mines, cluster munitions, chemical weapons or biological weapons), with no turnover threshold to be applied.”

With the Bishop of Colchester, we recognise the dedication of those who serve, and respect the officers and sailors whom we, as citizens, send on this death patrol.

If the Abbey goes ahead with this service, the Dean and Chapter are faced with a fine line between the crews and the task that they are commanded to carry out, and will need to make this hard-to-grasp distinction to those present and the media.

Will a wreath be laid during this service to remember the military personnel and civilians and their descendants who suffered early deaths and ill health as a result of the UK nuclear tests in the Pacific?

SUE CLAYDON
Chair
Anglican Pacifist Fellowship
Peace House, 19 Paradise Street
Oxford OX1 1LD
 

From Mr Clive Barrett

Sir, — “Bishops seek causes of knife crime” (News, 5 April) acknowledges that community violence has societal causes. Where do people get false ideas that evil can drive out evil, and that having ever bigger weapons makes one safe?

The UK spends hundreds of millions of pounds ensuring that the Government has the largest possible weapons of war. It is national policy to drive out evil with evil. We can hardly be surprised when that is acted out on the streets.

I recall a story of a king who once rode, not on a mighty stallion, but on a humble donkey.

CLIVE BARRETT
81 Becketts Park Drive
Leeds LS6 3PJ
 

Deans, Chapters, and lay governance models

From the Revd Dr Alvyn Pettersen

Sir, — In the recent cathedrals review, there is, in the section on leadership and management, although interestingly not in those on governance and on worship, a subtle move away from collegiality to hierarchy, from the dean’s being with and for the cathedral canons to the dean’s being over them.

Others have commented on some of the consequences for cathedrals (Comment, 29 March; Letters, 5 April). I would wish to add that it has consequences, also, for the mission of the wider Church; for central to the Church’s mission is its modelling, in its own structures, and for the world, its being a community consecrated to service, because Jesus, its Lord, came as one to serve.

Leadership, even in the field of management, is, therefore, better exemplified in interdependence and reciprocity, more readily reflected in a dean’s remaining the primus inter pares, the first among equals, in all aspects of cathedral life, and not becoming the primus. Given that cathedrals are called to be “mother” churches in dioceses, the proposed change in the understanding and exercise of authority in cathedral leadership and management raises significant questions for the mission of the whole Church, whose calling it is to be, without exception, an earnest, sign, and instrument of Jesus, its servant.

ALVYN PETTERSEN
1 Plantation Road
Oxford OX2 6JD

From Dr N. P. Hudd
Sir, — I confess that I do not know the best model for governance of our cathedrals, but, as a retired hospital consultant who has observed the changes in healthcare, I am certain that following commercial models of management cannot be appropriate.

Cathedrals (and indeed the smallest parish church) may be businesses in a secular sense, but the lay (not professional) models of management are predicated on giving priority to the survival of the monolith. No professional can act in that manner. Loyalty must always be to the individual, not the organisation. The lay model has come close to destroying professional nursing, and is determinedly attacking the other health disciplines.

Reading my Church Times usually reveals examples of the rush to “efficient” management. This can never be gospel-orientated. The sole “target” of a minister (as it is of a doctor, a lawyer, or whomever) is the person you are dealing with at this moment. As St Gregory told St Augustine, only behaving the gospel will proclaim the gospel. Secular and professional management of finance is essential, but policy must always be gospel-driven, as unpolitical as possible, and disregarding of “organisation” concepts.

The Bishops and the General Synod will, I hope, stop now and think again.

N. P. HUDD
13 Elmfield, Tenterden
Kent TN30 6RE
 

How an exercise in simplification will be simplified 

From Mr David Lamming

Sir, — The ten lay chairs from the Dorchester Area of Oxford diocese whose letter you published last week (Letters, 5 April) are right to draw attention to some of the adverse consequences of the provision contained in rule M8(5) of the revised Church Representation Rules (CRRs) limiting service of parochial representatives of the laity on a deanery synod to two three-year terms.

The revised rules (a complete rewrite of the CRRs as contained in Schedule 3 to the Synodical Government Measure 1969) are contained in Schedule 1 to the draft Church Representation and Ministers Measure that received final approval from General Synod in February (Synod, 1 March). May I, as a member of the revision committee for the draft Measure, correct certain statements in the lay chairs’ letter, but also offer some reassurance that their concerns will be addressed.

First, it is not correct to say that the “two-terms” rule was a “last-minute addition” to the Measure. It was added by the revision committee in consequence of representations made during the normal revision process for any draft Measure. At the revision stage in full Synod at York in July 2018, an attempt was made to remove the new rule, but after a short debate the amendment was defeated. It is likely that Synod members were influenced by a speech in favour of retaining the new rule by the Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, in which he drew attention to the paragraph (now rule M8(7)) enabling an APCM to disapply the rule in respect of their parish: “so, friends, it is flexibility.”

Under the Synod’s Standing Orders, the issue could not be revisited at the final-approval stage in February: hence the “composite resolution”, as the letter-writers call it. The only alternative to giving final approval was to vote the whole Measure down, and with it all the revised CRRs with the beneficial changes that they contain. Several speakers, however, highlighted other “unintended consequences” of the two-terms rule, and it is clear from the commitment given by the chair of the Business Committee to refer the issue to the Elections Review Group (ERG) that a proposal to delete or amend the rule will come back to Synod. Clive Scowen (who chairs the ERG) told the Synod that all options would be on the table.

Meanwhile, it is to be hoped (absent a “snap” General Election upsetting the timetable) that the Measure can be given the green light by the Ecclesiastical Committee of Parliament and then receive Royal Assent in time for the new CRRs to be brought into force with effect from 1 January 2020. Since rule M8(6) makes clear that the two-terms rule is not retrospective, it will not “bite” until 2026 at the earliest. This gives adequate time for the Synod to remove or amend the rule by resolution pursuant to section 7 of the 1969 Measure.

Moreover, the wide powers set out in clause 3(3) and (4) of the draft Measure would enable the Archbishops to exclude the two-terms rule from any commencement order bringing the new CRRs into effect.

DAVID LAMMING
General Synod member
20 Holbrook Barn Road, Boxford
Suffolk CO10 5HU
 

Male perspective on the impact of miscarriage 

Sir, — Thank you for your feature (5 April) on miscarriage, its effects on the women concerned, and the continued lack of a helpful liturgy to aid the healing needed after what is a very common, though under-reported, event. I write as a man still affected, some 40 years later, by a series of miscarriages in our marriage.

More attention could have been paid by the author to the man’s perspective. The miscarriages that my wife and I underwent (and I frame it deliberately like this) represented a loss of hopes, dreams, and a future, and is a void that I still feel, more so than my wife. Nor am I foolish enough to think that I am the only man left bereft by this experience.

Let whatever can be planned and said to aid healing take account of the complementary but, probably different, needs of the man and woman involved, besides committing the unborn child to God’s mercy and protection.

NAME & ADDRESS SUPPLIED

Consider the lilies  

From Mr James Ashdown

Sir, — In this time of Lent, when people are, perhaps, considering the return of flowers for Easter, may I suggest that our many creative church florists turn their skills to thinking about how they can avoid using lilies in their displays.

I and many others find their scent overpowering, and there are some people who cannot enter a church in which there are lilies. They give me migraines and turn Easter from a joyful time into one of anxiety.

In our supposedly inclusive times, I think this is an issue that we should now address. I might also add that scented daffodils cause similar problems: they are, I believe, of the lily family.

JAMES ASHDOWN
Rex House, Cockfield
Suffolk IP30 0LX
 

Proposed changes to divorce law reward caprice 

From Dr Christopher Shell

Sir, — Three-quarters of divorce petitions are already against the will of one spouse. The present proposals (predictably a fait accompli) intensify this inequality rather than alleviate it.

Let’s put ourselves in the shoes of an abandoned spouse. The law, no guardian of morals, now rewards caprice, control, demand, divisive­ness, entitlement, impatience, power-imbalance (a mere fiat, possibly temper-driven, is, archaic­ally, enough), promise-breaking, short-termism!

The pain of abandon­ment is com­pounded by the crippling message “I don’t need to give any justification for abandoning you, and the law gives me the thumbs up” — some­thing scarcely likely to alleviate the bitter­ness (which was what motiv­ated this single-factor “reform”).

This same law deserts the already deserted one and her or his opposite qualities: steadiness, equality, matur­ity, peacefulness, responsibil­ity, kindness, faithfulness, the long-haul mentality. This is bound to increase disrespect for law and lawmakers — the same disrespect as they are hereby teaching. Ever-lowered expectations produce ever-lowered results for children, families, and society.

CHRISTOPHER SHELL
186 Ellerdine Road
Hounslow TW3 2PX
 

Lobbyists’ bias is not to the poor 

From Dr Robin C. Richmond

Sir, — A report on British overseas aid from the so-called TaxPayers’ Alliance (TPA) must be taken with a large pinch of salt, and is quite rightly condemned by NGOs (News, 5 April).

It is well known that the “parts of Parliament’’ in which “the anti-aid lobby is becoming brazen’’ are within the Conservative Party. The TPA claims to be a think tank, but in reality it is a right-wing lobbying organisation for small state, lower taxes, and lower public spending, led by laissez-faire free-marketeers, and is secretly funded by wealthy business interests with direct links to the Conservative party. It does not represent working taxpayers.

The TPA lobbied for the closure of SureStart Centres and the scrapping of child benefit and is, therefore, complicit in the shaming increases in child poverty in the UK. Matthew Elliott, who founded the TPA, was also Chief Executive of Vote Leave, the Brexit campaign group. Vote Leave has been fined £61,000 and referred to the police after an Electoral Commission probe said it broke electoral law.

It must be asked of the TPA what attracts a right-wing bunch of wealthy, free-marketeer business people to lobby to reduce the proportion of gross national income spent on overseas aid and to commission a report that recommends that overseas aid be spent on British private investment rather than on eradicating global poverty.

ROBIN C. RICHMOND
Providence Cottage, The Downs
Bromyard, Herefordshire HR7 4NY
 

Exeter climate protest 

From the Revd Mark Nash-Williams
Sir, — I am not, of course, privy to the police briefing that the Dean of Exeter received (Letters, 29 March); but if, as I suspect, the civil-disobedience group that he mentions was Extinction Rebellion (XR), the cathedral has missed a valuable opportunity to show solidarity with a movement supported by the Rt Revd Lord Williams, which aims to persuade the governments to take emergency action on the Climate and Ecological Crisis.

XR actions are explicitly non-violent and non-destructive, aimed at challenging government, raising awareness, and gaining support.

Given Exeter diocese’s commitment to EcoChurch Southwest, I should have thought that the cathedral should be actively engaging with and supporting XR rather than excluding them.

There will be another Youth Climate Strike in Exeter today: I do hope that this time the cathedral will throw its doors wide open. Perhaps it might also join in the “Sounding Twelve Years” initiative on Monday, to raise awareness of the 12-year window of opportunity we have to prevent the global temperature rise from exceeding 1.5°C.

MARK NASH-WILLIAMS
Bishops’ Adviser on the Environment
The Parsonage, Brampton Road
Alston, Cumbria CA9 3AA}
 

Marie Kondo and parochial spring cleaning  

From the Revd Catherine Pickford
Sir, — I found Dr Eve Poole’s article on the work of Marie Kondo (Features, 15 March) very helpful. Perhaps the guru of tidying-up can transform our churches as well as our homes.

Many churches struggle to keep items moving out of the door as quickly as they move in. When generations of people have contributed to the sheer amount of stuff that churches hold, having a clear-out can be an immensely complex task.
We all have different perspectives on what is important and what brings joy, and Kondo’s drive to reduce the scale of our possessions can be easier said than done when we need to make decisions together.

I think that Kondo’s apparently rather odd way of imbuing objects with personality, thanking them, and saying goodbye is a helpful steer in a church context. She recognises the challenge of getting rid of items that have fulfilled their original purpose, and the fact that letting go can be a form of bereavement.

For example, when our church disposed of most of our copies of the Book of Common Prayer, we were acknowledging that we had stopped using it for our main service and weren’t going to start again. That was hard for some people. Saying goodbye to the item is often saying goodbye to something else, too, and that needs to be done well.

We had a lovely example of a successful goodbye in our church last year. Lizzie, a member of the congregation, had given the church a pot plant when she was five. No one knows exactly why, but this plant was kept. It grew to be bigger than Lizzie, who is now a teenager, and had to be kept on the floor. It was constantly in the way and was not thriving; so it dropped leaves everywhere, but it was Lizzie’s plant, and getting rid of it felt tantamount to saying Lizzie wasn’t valued.

In the end, it was Lizzie herself, with the flower group, who came up with a solution. On Palm Sunday, they carefully took all the leaves off the plant and strew them down the aisle because, as one of them said, what could be a more noble end for a plant than to welcome Jesus as he came into Jerusalem on a donkey?

CATHERINE PICKFORD
Priest-in-Charge of St Mary’s, Stannington, and
Continuing Ministerial Development Officer for the diocese of Newcastle
The Vicarage, Stannington
Northumberland NE61 6HL

From the Revd Sarah Cawdell and Prebendary Simon Cawdell
Sir, — We enjoyed your article about tidying up with Marie Kondo, and recognised her influence on a recent scourge of the bedroom by our daughter. We wonder how this might be applied to the vestry, and other church glory holes?

As a recently installed incumbent of three rural churches, I have been having a lovely time working through piles of already secondhand and damp hymn books, ancient holey blocks of Oasis, and diocesan newspapers well past their date. Ancient Bibles are more problematic. We plan a Flower and Bible Festival to admire, at least, the many specimens offered to the church for safekeeping. Worn out altar cloths, faded watercolours of the church, vases, and occasional tables brought joy once, and when the joy had waned they were passed on, or put away.

Perhaps this accumulation of other people’s past joys, or communal belongings, is only an issue for small churches, where smaller congregations allows greater space for stuff. Nevertheless, there is a great satisfaction in getting to the back of the glory hole, and sweeping up the last bat (or mouse) dropping, and assigning ancient papers to the county archives. Then all that remains is put back as before.

SARAH AND SIMON CAWDELL
16 East Castle Street
Bridgnorth WV16 4AL
 

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