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Letters to the Editor

16 August 2019

Sustainable living, safeguarding case, peace of Ireland, and inclusive language


Sustainable living, green space, and the CT wrapper

From Dr Henry Haslam

Sir, — I was surprised to read the Rt Revd David Chillingworth’s suggestion (Comment, 2 August) that “we have tended to wait for national governments” to act in response to climate change.

As I see it, the idea that we could essentially leave it to government is fairly recent. Ten to twenty years ago, there were numerous books and magazine articles telling us how we could change our own lives so as to benefit the planet. The 2008 Teach Yourself book on Ethical Living, for example, placed care for the environment at the heart of ethical living.

Don’t underestimate people power. Sir Terry Leahy said, in a 2009 interview, “It is going to take a long time for countries to reduce their carbon emissions but consumers can do it overnight just by changing their behaviour.” In the ten years since this interview, however, the British government has reduced carbon emissions by a huge amount, by changing the way we generate electricity, but, as far as the general public is concerned, the consumer society continues to flourish.

There are numerous opportunities to reduce our environmental impact, and plenty of people living lives that show us how it can be done: reduce, re-use, and redistribute (the sharing economy), repair, recycle (the circular economy), buy and sell locally. Most of us, however, just carry on living destructive lives.

Author, The Earth and Us
46B Belvedere Road
Taunton, Somerset TA1 1BS


From Diana Wethered

Sir, — Despite the Church of England’s impressive environmental campaign, the Archbishop of Canterbury (News, 9 August) has declared support for a proposal to develop 45 per cent minimum, of Victoria Tower Gardens (VTG), beside the Houses of Parliament. The proposal removes (concretes over) 27 per cent of the existing greenspace and excludes this from the current, unrestricted, public domain.

It is excellent that so many faith leaders support an important memorial to the atrocity of the Holocaust. Contrary to the faith leaders’ statements, however, the proposal is insensitive to the current park users who enjoy the green space, unrestricted views, and the superb children’s playground, all of which would be reduced and restricted.

Victoria Tower Gardens may not be the back yard for the Archbishop, but it is for many local residents and their children in a densely populated area. The gardens also provide green space and canopy for workers having lunch breaks and for visitors of all creeds who freely come and go, currently in the absence of any security. Surely this green space is “fostering the societal cohesion” which all the faith leaders support in their letters to the Leader of Westminster Council.

The development is an environmentally and socially damaging proposal “in the shadow of the heart of our democracy”.

Address supplied (London SW1)


From Angela Ashwin

Sir, — Bravo, Church Times, for using compostable potato-starch wrap for our postal copies. This is a small but vital sign of right priorities, and any extra expense is well worth it for the sake of the long term well-being of our damaged planet.

Two important issues now arise. The first is making sure that these bags do end up in compost, or food/garden waste, and not in “recycling” bins, because, ironically, many councils will not take them into their recycling processes at present. Second, we can ask our supermarkets to use compostable wrap instead of the plastics that they presently apply to keep food fresh. Would we be prepared to say that we will gladly pay the extra cost?

83 Westgate, Southwell
Nottinghamshire NG25 0LS


Safeguarding case is not as complex as claimed

From Mr Martin Sewell

Sir, — Sir Roger Singleton (Letters, 9 August) describes the case of the Revd Matt Ineson as “very complex”. I disagree; it is undoubtedly a serious matter, not least to the parties concerned, but anyone with experience of child-protection trials will know that this dispute presents few difficulties out of the ordinary compared with other cases that principally turn on disputed testimony.

The fact of the abuse is not in issue. The Crown Prosecution Service has already decided that the evidence met the stringent criteria for bringing a criminal case 30 years after the event. Civil liability has been admitted and damages have been paid. The Church says that it has already apologised, albeit in disputed circumstances.

There is but a single complainant whose account is well recorded with police and IICSA; so are the various Bishops’ responses. There is no expert evidence to evaluate, and there are thus no disputes arising from it. The case papers have already been collated for IICSA, and I understand that the bundle of documents to be considered is unlikely to exceed 300 pages, which is modest. Specialist Legal Aid Safeguarding Practitioners regularly haul 3000 pages into court. This case is concise and material-lite.

Mr Ineson undoubtedly disclosed his abuse to the police, his lawyers, and various bishops. All that needs to be resolved is to whom, when, in what terms, what was done with the information, and whether the bishops’ actions met the requisite standards of their office. They are entitled to a presumption of innocence, and proof must be on the balance of probabilities. It really is not that hard.

The prompt resolution of disputes depends on well-developed good practice. Essential requirements are: an agreed comprehensive chronology; an agreed summary of facts not in dispute; an agreed summary of facts in dispute; an agreed summary of issues to be determined; case summaries from either side, identifying any relevant law and guidelines; and a decent index. The skill is all in the preparation of these documents. Once they are in place, most of the judgment writes itself.

I have long argued that the Church needs to employ one or two specialist lawyers to sort these things out. We seem to pay a lot of money to expensive lawyers who advise that these matters are complex. We should invest a little in those who do the majority of this kind of work and for whom it is utterly routine.

Securing a clean and competent review is relatively easy, but the survivors I talk to doubt the Church’s commitment to running a simple and fair fact-finding process. Talk of a learned-lessons review sounds reasonable, but actually represents a deliberately narrow defining of the process, one that excludes the more embarrassing aspects of the case.

If past reviews are anything to go by, any such process will not even result in a free debate of any report at the General Synod and will be quietly consigned into the same oubliette into which past reviews have disappeared without trace or noticeable change.

Speaking to the BBC Sunday programme, Kate Blackwell QC, an expert in such inquiries, described the review as “compromised before it’s even started”. Sir Roger and his team need to go back to the drawing board urgently. The Church still doesn’t get it.

General Synod member for Rochester diocese
8 Appleshaw Close
Kent DA11 7PB


Do not sacrifice the peace of Ireland in my name 

From the Rt Revd John D. Davies

Sir, — Twenty-one years ago, the Good Friday Agreement was signed. It brought a measure of peace to end 30 years of death and destruction. Millions of people saw the Agreement as a gift of God, in response to years of fervent prayer. But now our politicians seem to be willing to jeopardise the peace, by opting for a no-deal Brexit without the protection of an Irish backstop.

This is, in effect, to throw the Good Friday Agreement back in the face of our Creator. Can we do this, and still pray and hope for peace along that border? Our learned economists are busy with speculation about the economic effects of Brexit; but peace on that border should surely have priority over economics.

To many of our neighbours there, the London-based Government will be giving the impression that the well-being of Ireland is expendable, just to fulfil the rash promise to leave the EU at the end of October. That will come across as criminally irresponsible. Can the leaders of the Christian communities in England shout “Not in our name,” and urge our Government to preserve the blessings that have been given in the past 21 years?

Nyddfa, By Pass Road
Gobowen SY11 3NG


Inclusive language in pursuit of the mot juste 

From Mr Andrew Connell

Sir, — Natalie Jennings (Letters, 9 August) refers to “something that should be commonplace: the lack of reference to gender in a title”.

Interestingly, in French the tendency towards inclusivity in language appears to be in the opposite direction, entailing creating feminine versions of titles to ensure that women are visible.

Of course, French has gendered nouns in a way that English hasn’t. But it is useful to be reminded that what we consider to be commonplace might not be seen as such in other linguistic and cultural contexts, even by those who share our basic objectives.

8 Marlborough House
Westgate Street
Cardiff CF10 1DE


Salute the BBC National Orchestra of Wales 

From Anna Joubert

Sir, — I was delighted to read Roderic Dunnett’s excellent and informative coverage of the recent Three Choirs Festival (Arts, 9 August). Please might I make one correction?

The orchestra playing in the “bristling” performance of An English Requiem, written by my late father, John Joubert, was not on this occasion the Philharmonia as stated. We should read: “His mastery of orchestration showed: the BBC National Orchestra of Wales went to town.”

I know my Dad would have been unhappy had that orchestra’s superb playing been overlooked. Huge thanks to your cover star Adrian Partington of Gloucester Cathedral and all the performers. The concert was recorded by BBC Radio 3 for broadcast at a later date.

61 Oxford Street
Birmingham B30 2LH

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