Trump and No. 10’s next tenant
From Mr C. J. Ryecart
Sir, — President Donald Trump showed every sign of exploiting the vulnerability of the practically leaderless British government on the occasion of his state visit to the UK to promote his America First agenda. He views the future premiership of Boris Johnson as key to facilitating this.
First, President Trump is afraid of the growing economic and political clout of the European Union, and therefore regards an alliance with a high-profile Brexiteers such as Mr Johnson and Nigel Farage as a means of isolating Britain from the EU for economic and political reasons. This would enable him to push through trade deals with the UK to off-load into Britain US food and medical products that, in many cases, would not meet EU health regulations, and that are causing reduced life expectancy in the US..
Second, since the EU has just rejected the outline of his “Deal of the Century” Middle East peace plan, on the grounds that it denies the Palestinians their inalienable right to political self-determination, he will be desperate to persuade the UK Government to go along with Jared Kushner’s plan and to drop its historic support for a Palestinian State.
Mr Johnson, in his capacity as Foreign Secretary, was exposed as a poodle of Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, and that is one of the main political reasons that President Trump is so emphatic in Mr Johnson’s support. The facts that Mr Johnson was also instrumental in facilitating Saudi membership of the UN’s Human Rights Council and ignored the Amnesty International report on Saudi war crimes in Yemen would also be further reasons that President Trump would want to see Mr Johnson in 10 Downing Street.
CHRISTOPHER JOHN RYECART
Theology and religious-studies departments
From Imogen Ball
Sir, — I was pleased to see the recent report (News, 31 May) referrring to the lack of diversity within theology and religious-studies (TRS) departments in universities. The report Theology and Religious Studies Provision in UK Higher Education shows that both female and ethnic-minority staff are under-represented when it comes to teaching and research in these vitally important disciplines. Highlighting this imbalance is the crucial first step to amending it. It is certainly not the last, however.
More needs to be done to support and champion female and ethnic-minority students. If theology is primarily researched, written, and taught by white men, then those who resemble this particular cross-section of society will always feel more empowered or encouraged to research, write, and teach themselves. University faculties do not appear overnight: they come from somewhere. The student bodies of the TRS departments are the academic staff of tomorrow. Female and ethnic-minority students must be given active support to continue their studies, to find their voice within research, and to write in ways that are true to themselves.
Further, more needs to be done to receive the theology of female and ethnic-minority academics. If the theology studied, read, and promoted by TRS departments is primarily the theology of white men, then the theologies of others are inaccessible and unacknowledged. Theology is written by a diverse community of academics, but much of this is untouched by curricula, booklists, and essay titles.
The appointment of female and ethnic-minority academic staff is somewhat pointless if their contributions to theological learning are left on the dusty top shelves of departmental libraries. Promoting the work of female and ethnic-minority theologians changes the map of theological study, delving into unchartered territories and exploring new horizons.
Redressing the imbalance within TRS departments does not begin with a job offer and does not end with its acceptance. It begins with students and ends with theology. If TRS departments are set to change, these two questions remain: are we willing to actively support female and minority-ethnic students, and are we willing to receive the theology that their studies might reveal?
IMOGEN BALL (Ordinand)
Stoke Hill, Bristol BS9 1JP
From Anne Eyre
Sir, — If my research is accurate, in Exeter University’s faculty the gender balance is very good; the Head of Department is a woman; the age range is excellent; and the range of studies is remarkable, covering areas that are highly relevant to life in the 21st century. Academic rigour is highly valued. At a recent inaugural lecture, the whole event was alive with excitement, academic energy, youthfulness, and adult wisdom.
Whereas the report describes the necessity of theological study, inadvertently it encourages vice-chancellors to cut these faculties in a world assessing value through future economic success. Teaching, nursing, and integrity rarely bring high financial rewards. They are merely vital elements of any decent society; at present, society deems that these “outcomes” do not need proper pay, as they are “vocational”.
A particular list of Exeter’s theology faculty, as noted above, could have been a tool for demonstrating how wide, relevant, and academically vital this area of study is, in a post-modern secular society that is floundering.
32 Exe Vale Road
Exeter EX2 6LF
Date suggested for ‘Walk to Church’ Sunday
From the Revd Neil Patterson
Sir, — On the idea of “Walk to Church” Sunday, in response to Charlotte Stansfield (Letters, 31 May), with whom I have corresponded: yes! I had a similar idea some years ago after a churchwarden ruminated to me, “There are so many churches, as if there was one in walking distance of everywhere.” Although I managed some polite mumble at the time, I subsequently thought, “Yes Jim, there’s a reason for that.”
I have been in recent correspondence with the General Synod Environment Working Group, who are supportive of the principle, and suggest the Sunday nearest to World Car Free Day, 22 September (in fact a Sunday this year). Of course, some may in fact Pedal to Pray or Scoot to Service, and some will need planned car-sharing. But there is a growing number for whom this feels like a practical idea to be promoted, with more information to follow. We shall be attempting to promote it in Hereford this year.
Rural Dean of Hereford
Diocese of Hereford (Ludlow)
8-9 The Business Quarter
Eco Park Road
Ludlow SY8 1FD
Experiencing the Spirit in the Christian life
From Mr Roger McFarland
Sir, — It was enlightening to read the article (Faith, 7 June) by the Bishop of Worcester, Dr John Inge, about Spirit-filled encounters and the power of these special experiences of the Holy Spirit to transform people’s lives. I was blessed with one such life-changing experience myself, through which I recovered my faith, by God’s grace, after more than 20 years’ living as a sincere atheist.
I feel that it would be a serious mistake, however, to suggest that it is only these unique, mystical, or Pentecost-like “special” moments of revelation which qualify as “experiences of the Holy Spirit”, as this article at times seemed to imply (perhaps unintentionally). Dr Inge began with the question, “When did you last have an experience of the Holy Spirit?” Since I was reading it at about 8 a.m., my own answer was, “When I prayed just after I woke up.”
The Spirit is an ever-present reality for all who have faith in Jesus Christ. We live in the Spirit, and the Spirit lives in us and will never leave us (John 14.16-17, Romans 8.9-11). Within the Common Worship baptism liturgy, the president prays that those who are newly baptised “may daily be renewed by [Christ’s] anointing Spirit”.
Experiences of the Holy Spirit are, thankfully, not reserved for special occasions, nor for special kinds of people; on the contrary, they are (or should be) every Christian’s lifeblood.
ROGER McFARLAND (LLM)
79 Humber Road
Chelmsford CM1 7PF
From Hilda Walter
Sir, — What a joy to read the article by Dr Inge. Looking back, I thank God for the priests who have shared my journey. Here in Cornwall, I am grateful for the help of Martin Thornton. We need our priests to be our soul-friends, for their sakes as much as ours.
Strange notion of the connected retreatant
From Mr Tim Binder
Sir, — It was interesting to read the back-page interview with Karen O’Donnell (24 May), who said that even on retreat she still accessed her “social-media profiles and watched a couple of videos on YouTube”.
Am I the only one who finds this a little strange? I was under the impression that one of the great benefits of a retreat (at least, all the ones that I’ve been on, anyway) was to leave behind the everyday world (to say nothing of one’s ego) and spend time pondering more important things.
Maybe retreats have changed. On the other hand, maybe I’m just a grumpy old buffer.
2 Adderstone Mains
Northumberland NE70 7HS
Goodbye to lead roofs
From Mr Greg Warren
Sir, — As I read yet another report of lead-theft from church roofs (News, 7 June), I am left wondering why these roofs cannot be covered in some other material that is less attractive to criminals. Fibreglass would probably do just as well, and could be produced in a colour resembling lead, and at a fraction of the cost.
I am familiar with the English Heritage argument that lead must be used as the traditional material to preserve the church in its original state. Nevertheless, most of the churches in question did not originally have things like electric light, voice amplification, central heating, running water, flush toilets, or even pews. To be consistent, the traditionalists who insist on lead on the roof should also require the removal of all modern amenities. That would highlight how absurd it is that hard-pressed churches should be required to continue putting money into the hands of thieves.
Yew Tree Lane
Harrogate HG2 9JS