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Letters to the Editor

15 November 2019

Small urban congregations, Dr Sentamu on racism, and the CDM survey


Small size of urban congregations

From the Revd Dr Malcolm Torry

Sir, — The Bishop of Burnley, the Rt Revd Philip North, asks: “Why are urban churches numerically so small?” (Comment, 8 November). Research undertaken by Canon Rodney Bomford 30 years ago, and by Liz Newman and this author 20 years later, might be relevant.

Canon Bomford used statistics gathered for the diocese of Southwark’s “Fairer Shares” exercise to show that congregation size and average income of congregation member were closely correlated. He developed the hypothesis that members of different social classes related differently within organisations, members of social classes in which low incomes were prevalent feeling more comfortable when able to relate well to everyone in the organisation, and members of social classes in which higher incomes were more common feeling comfortable relating at a variety levels, enabling them to relate closely to a few members, and at different intensities or hardly at all to others.

The former relationship pattern would tend to generate small congregations in which everyone could know each other, whereas the latter could generate much larger congregations in which a wide variety of social and organisational groups could coexist.

When, 20 years later, the Revd Liz Newman attempted to replicate Canon Bomford’s findings, she found that the correlation had largely disappeared. By combining surveys on the ethnic profiles of the diocese’s congregations, and on congregation size and the income of the average congregation member, I discovered a new pattern. The white British portions of congregations continued to exhibit a close correlation between congregation size and average income of congregation member; and the nearer the average income of congregation member was to the mid-range, the more black and minority-ethnic (BAME) members the congregation was likely to have.

A hypothesis was developed: that BAME members of congregations were more likely than white British members to prefer a “member of a crowd” mode of belonging to a “member of a club” mode; that where sufficient organisational functions were already being carried out by individuals operating in “club” mode, joining in “crowd” mode was more possible; and that in a small congregation in which any new member might feel pressure to function in “club” mode, a new BAME member might leave and seek an alternative congregation in which “crowd” mode was more possible.

In relation to congregations in low-income areas, the conclusion was the same as Canon Bomford’s: congregations would be small.

This research is now ten years old, and much has changed during that period. The research would benefit from replication.

Detailed results and discussion can be found in my book Managing Religion: The management of Christian religious and faith-based organisations, Volume 1 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), pages 170-175.

286 Ivydale Road
London SE15 3DF

Dr Sentamu on racism; and Nailsworth’s painting 

From the Revd Rajinder Daniel

Sir, — I was most interested to read the interview of the Archbishop of York with Damian Arnold in The Times (9 November). I have known the Archbishop since his days at Tulse Hill, when we both served on the General Synod and we participated in the BBC documentary Children of an Imperial God. I am one of the first persons of colour ordained (1963) in the Church of England.

I agree with most of what the Archbishop said about the Church of England and racism and the lack of few senior appoinments from the ethnic minorities. In my time, there were only two black bishops: the Rt Revd Wilfred Wood and Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, who were appointed by white bishops.

Neither of those two bishops and since then the Archbishop have appointed black “senior” clergy — though this was in their gift. I wonder how he has the voice to criticise the C of E: after all, he is the C of E (second most senior cleric). During our struggle in the 1990s, he never joined the Association of Black Clergy or participated in its activities. I would like to know.

508 Chester Road
Birmingham B36 0LG

From Miss Vasantha Gnanadoss

Sir, — Our sympathies are with the congregation at St George’s, Nailsworth, after their Last Supper painting was damaged by an air-rifle pellet. The incident has, however, served to remind us of this fine artwork by Lorna May Wadsworth, dating from 2010, and its imaginative re-expression of a traditional theme including its depiction of a black Christ.

Such depictions are sorely needed to off-set the countless representations, over the centuries, of Jesus as a white European. As I pointed out in a review earlier this year (Books, 7 June), “It is very hard for truthful words, however well crafted, to undo the damage done by relentlessly misleading pictures.”

So, thank you, Lorna May Wadsworth. I wonder whether Church Times readers know of other such artworks in our parish churches or elsewhere.

242 Links Road
London SW17 9ER

Sheldon survey on the Clergy Discipline Measure

From Dr Sarah Horsman and Mr Carl Lee

Sir, — The Ven. Christopher Laurence (Letters, 8 November) asks why the survey being circulated on the Clergy Disicpline Measure (CDM) is only for clergy to complete, and makes a plea for the voice of congregations to be heard, too.

Sheldon is an independent charity and has commissioned this independent academic research from its own funds (a legacy). We believe that there is a pastoral emergency around the CDM. The institutions of the Church, however, have so far shown no appetite for investing in an objective understanding of how it is really working. Research is expensive, and we could not afford to fund more than this initial pilot study. We chose to investigate the lived experience of the CDM by case respondents as the best starting-point, and hope that this will act as a catalyst for others to take research forward.

This research is completely separate from the C of E working group chaired by the Bishop at Lambeth. It is a matter of concern that contact details for clergy who have been prohibited for life appear to be no longer held by anyone. While GDPR compliance is clearly important, this has obvious pastoral implications. It also makes it very challenging to locate such “disappeared” people for the research.

We would appeal to readers who know anyone who has been through the CDM and is now out of ministry, or has moved to another denomination or province, to pass on to them details of the research so that their voices may be included. They should email cdm@sheldon.uk.com for the survey link.

CARL LEE, Lay Chaplain
Sheldon, Sheldon Lane
Doddiscombsleigh, Exeter EX6 7YT

Vulnerable Syrians 

From Mr Andrew Todd

Sir, — The UK’s Syrian Vulnerable Persons and Vulnerable Children’s Resettlement Schemes rely on the UNHCR to identify potential candidates within “host” countries, based on UNHCR knowledge of the refugee population, determine their desire and eligibility for resettlement, and then make referrals to the Home Office (News, 1 November; Letters, 8 November).

Religion is recorded on the UNHCR’s Resettlement Registration Form, with reason for refugee status, including the need for continued protection.

Figures derived from Freedom of Information requests by the Barnabas Fund reveal stark disparities, in terms of minority-faith representation, between the former Syrian population and numbers of refugees accepted for resettlement in the UK. Suggested explanations do not conclusively rule out an element of systemic bias in the selection and referral process.

Without equality of access to the UNHCR resettlement programme, the “religion-blind” policies of the UNHCR and UK mask rather than prevent faith-based discrimination and possible secondary persecution.

What evidence does the UK obtain from the UNHCR to confirm that resettlement opportunities of those belonging to persecuted minority faiths are equal to those of other refugees, regardless of eligibility category (torture, medical needs, women at risk, etc.), desired country of resettlement, and whether they are living in camps or the community in “host” countries?

22 Pegasus Court,
Shelley Road,
Worthing BN11 4TH

Dr Ursula von der Leyen’s new appointment 

From Mr Tim Saunders

Sir, — The Revd Alexander Faludy’s analogy, “Europe’s new Prime Minister” (Comment, 1 November), does not hold water. Dr Ursula von der Leyen is, by no stretch of comparison, Europe’s Prime Minister. In so far as such a person exists, it would be Donald Tusk, chosen as the President of the European Council quite openly by the member states, including the UK.

Dr von der Leyen is, in effect, the head of the European Union’s civil service (at fewer than 40,000, it is smaller than the staff of some local authorities). Again, she was appointed openly by the member states. Her UK equivalent is Sir Mark Sedwill. Most people in the UK have never heard of him, and very few could explain how he was appointed.

28 Australia Road, Gabalfa
Cardiff CF14 3DB

Pym and The Crooks 

From the Ven. Paddy Benson

Sir, — I read with great interest Dr Serenhedd James’s article on Bishop Pym and the Cowley Fathers (Features, 1 November). Unlike Dr James, my theological sympathies are largely with Pym; but the course of their spat is a reminder that being Right is not enough if we are to bring honour to the name of Christ.

I can report that Pym’s memory (by the way, he was known as Ruthven, his second name, rather than Walter) is kept green among his many descendants. Every two years, a large and now international gathering meets in the presence of the Bishop’s crook. The pastoral staff is a surprisingly ornate affair. The Pym descendants refer to one another as The Crooks.

26 West Park Drive,
Leeds LS16 5BL

Pullman’s Magisterium 

From Mr James Ashdown

Sir, — The Revd Gillean Craig should rest easy (Television, 8 November). I don’t think Philip Pullman has the C of E in his sights when creating the Magisterium: it is far too diffuse an organisation for that!

But what Pullman is quite clearly channelling is that uncomfortable five-centuries-old aspect of British culture: anti-Catholicism. The roots of His Dark Materials are in Foxe’s Book of Martyrs.

Church Cottage, Singleton
West Sussex PO18 0EY

‘Mean-spirited’ change over the fees for crematorium funerals 

From Canon Paul C. O. Dawson

Sir, — When a licensed parish minister conducts a funeral service at a crematorium, the current fee of £195 is shared between the diocesan board of finance (DBF) (£165) and the PCC (£30). The PCC share is modest and barely covers the cost to the PCC of the various expenses incurred in sustaining funeral ministry. PCCs have, however, generally seen such ministry as part of their responsibility, and have faithfully maintained the capacity for clergy and Readers to exercise it.

The 2020 table of fees indicates that the revised fee of £199 will go entirely to the DBF, the PCC receiving nothing. The rationale for this is explained in GS2116X, paragraph 12, where is says, “there is no clear justification for a PCC to receive a fee where a funeral takes place in a building or other place for which the PCC has no responsibility (unlike the position where a funeral takes place in a church or churchyard).”

If we have crossed the line of seeing a funeral service held at a crematorium as being a ministry for which the PCC bears no responsibility, then I suggest that we have done something very significant that has far-reaching consequences.

Yesterday, I was honoured to be invited to lead an Act of Remembrance at Winsford Salt Mine, remembering workers from the mine who had fallen in conflict. Our PCC would usually gladly cover my expenses, seeing this as a ministry that they have responsibility to uphold. The General Synod seems to think otherwise.

This is a mean-spirited decision that adds pennies to DBF coffers at the cost of a huge deficit of good will from parishes.

The Vicarage, Cinder Hill
Whitegate, Northwich CW8 2BH

From Mr Robert Andrews

Sir, — As a parish treasurer, I have just received a copy of the revised table of fees for 2020, and was disappointed to see that the full fee for a funeral conducted at a crematorium is now payable to the diocesan board of finance.

I work as company secretary/accountant for a funeral business with several branches in East London/Essex. When I joined the company 20 years ago, the default minister for funerals was the local parish priest, but now most of our funerals are conducted by professional funeral officiants.

This is partly because more families are seeking non-religious funerals, but we have found it increasingly difficult to persuade the local clergy to conduct funerals, ranging from outright refusal to failure to respond to phone calls/emails.

If all the funeral fee is now payable to the diocese, with no contribution to the parish, then there is even less incentive for busy clergy to take time out from parish duties to conduct crematorium funerals.

My wife is a priest, and that was her immediate reaction. As a result, the Church is missing out on an important ministry to the bereaved. Over the years, I have met many Christians who have come to faith as a result of the Church’s funeral ministry; and at my own church I can name at least three current members of the PCC who came into the church family that way.

If the Church is to continue providing this important ministry to the bereaved, then I feel that clergy should be given more, not less, encouragement to conduct funerals.

3 Sewards End
Wickford, Essex SS12 9PB

Rebellion priest’s arrest 

From the Revd Sue Parfitt

Sir, — I can’t believe that I am the only Anglican priest who was arrested during the October XR Rebellion (News, 25 October). My Bishop has been very kind and sympathetic, but, nevertheless, feels that she must consider whether to remove my licence. It would, therefore, help me very much to know how other arrested clergy are being dealt with by their bishops.

My email address is sueparfitt123@gmail.com.

Garden Cottage
Rectory Gardens
Bristol BS107AQ

An alternative to the use of social media

From Miss Primrose Peacock

Sir, — Mr Rodney Wolfe Coe (Letters, 25 October) is not alone, like myself, in having no TV, mobile phone, etc. — although, owing to running an overseas organisation, I soon found that an “office computer” became essential.

There is over-use of electronic communications by churches in general, and some snide attitudes towards people who prefer not to have them, which is rather unchristian and uncharitable to a frequently elderly section of the congregation.

For this reason, I now distribute, with full support from the Chapter, the 10 a.m. Sunday sermons at Truro Cathedral to housebound people of sound mind, by either mail or email as a voluntary service.

“Sermons” are becoming an appreciated alternative, and Mr Wolfe Coe’s church and others could copy it. There are also plenty of visiting opportunities available that are not accompanied by begging letters or rattling cans.

4 Crescent Rise
Truro TR1 3ER

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