A new Prime Minister — and the Church’s responses
From Jane Thomas
Sir, — Your report on the letter from leaders of the Christian Churches in Britain to the Prime Minister (News, 26 July) was a reminder that that not one bishop of the Church of England or the Church in Wales, nor any bishop of the Church of Ireland serving dioceses in Northern Ireland, has, at the time of writing, added his or her signature. It underlines the inexplicable (and inexcusable) silence that typifies the dereliction of duty by our bishops at this time of profound national crisis. It signifies a depressing lack of theological resilience and imagination among the current cohort of senior Anglican leaders. It also substantiates the widespread belief that the failure to speak truth to power is being orchestrated at the highest level, and driven by an obsession with institutional survival.
There is deep irony in that, around the time when this letter was being drafted, Bishop David Jenkins’s remains were being interred in Durham Cathedral, almost 35 years to the day since he robustly challenged Margaret Thatcher’s economic policies as part of his enthronement sermon.
His witness, coupled to the unprecedented political challenges currently facing us, has reminded me of words from Elie Wiesel’s novel, Night: “We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must . . . become the centre of the universe.”
Do the Bishops agree? and, if they do, will they now sign this letter?
University of Manchester
Manchester M13 9PL
From Michael R. Cavaghan-Pack
Sir, — The reconciliation that the Bishop of Chelmsford, the Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell, seeks will not come about by an attempt to unite opposing views. Diametrically opposed policies cannot be pursued simultaneously.
In a mature democracy, such differences are resolved by an elective process and the ensuing outcome, accepted by the electors, however they voted. After the 2016 referendum, all political parties did indeed accept the decision of the people with MPs passing the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Act 2017 by 498 votes to 114. Subsequently, however, some have chosen to oppose this democratic decision in a variety of ways.
Reconciliation is, therefore, not the challenge of bringing opposing views together, but, rather, of encouraging people to accept the most basic principle on which our democracy is based, i.e. accepting and working constructively with those who have secured a majority, even if you disagree with it. Is it too much to expect our bishops to do this?
They should cease blaming those who are seeking to deliver the democratic mandate, support their efforts, and deplore the demonisation of individuals and the misrepresentation of their views through outrageous and inflammatory comparisons, of which there can be few more egregious examples than the letter from Canon Paul Oestreicher (26 July).
MICHAEL R. CAVAGHAN-PACK
The Manor House
Thurloxton, Taunton TA2 8RH
From Mr J. Alan Smith
Sir, — The emotional letter from Canon Paul Oestreicher, equating those who wish the UK to leave the EU with the Nazi Party, rests on his equating Europe with the European Union. Once this equation is questioned, his argument falls apart.
I am sure that there are many who support our departure from the EU and who would have been happy to stay in l’Europe des Patries, a European Commonwealth of independent, self-governing states, working together in those areas in which their common interests justify it. No doubt, we shall be told that we should work within the system to reform it; but, after so long, does anyone think that this would be possible?
J. ALAN SMITH
40 Albany Court, Epping
Essex CM16 5ED
From Mr Richard W. Symonds
Sir, — The Church of England’s ecumenical legacy in Europe is being airbrushed out of history by the totalitarian mindset of Brexiteers.
The Bishop of Bayreuth and Chichester Cathedral Canon of Honour Dr Dorothea Greiner is determined that that legacy not be sidelined within the diocese of Chichester and beyond.
The next Coburg Conference will be taking place in the cathedral city this October, and the European delegates — including the Cathedral Chapter — will focus on the ecumenical vision of the theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the wartime Bishop of Chichester George Bell, in the light of today’s political situation.
RICHARD W. SYMONDS
The Bell Society
2 Lychgate Cottages
Ifield Street, Ifield Village
Crawley, West Sussex RH11 0NN
The episcopate and its ordination advisory panels
From the Revd Philip Welsh
Sir, — An astonishing statistic is tucked away in Canon Kate Goulder’s letter (26 July) about the aftercare of Bishops’ Advisory Panel (BAP) candidates in the diocese of York. For almost half the very few diocesan candidates not recommended for training in recent years — nine out of 19 — that decision has been “set aside” by the diocese.
What level of confidence in the national selection process does this suggest? What might this do for the future confidence of clergy who feel they have got in by the back door? How far has this assumption that the diocese knows best proved right over time? And how does this compare with other dioceses?
When, exceptionally, a BAP decision is believed to be flawed, instead of overruling the recommendation, why not overrule the two-year moratorium on a further BAP and send the candidate straight back to another panel?
The bishop’s final discretion is a quite proper principle, but demonstrating confidence in the Church’s national selection procedure is surely important for the confidence of all those who go through it, whatever the outcome.
24 Fawcett Street
London SW10 9EZ
The chairing of PCCs: new Measure may help
From Mr David Lamming
Sir, — Tony Schur (Letters, 26 July) questions the “rule” that the chairman of a PCC “has to be an ordained member of the Church”, suggesting that the chairman should be elected each year by the PCC or the “annual parish meeting” (by which I assume he means the Annual Parochial Church Meeting, or APCM).
While the current Church Representation Rules (CRRs) provide that “the minister of the parish shall be the chairman of the parochial church council” (Appendix II, para 1(a)), they also provide (by para 1(b)) that a lay member of the council is to be elected as vice-chairman and that he or she “shall act as chairman and have all the powers vested in the chairman”, inter alia “when the minister invites him to do so”. Accordingly, it is always open to the minister to delegate the chairing of PCC meetings to the vice-chairman, and many in practice do so, particularly in multi-parish benefices.
Royal Assent was given recently to the Church Representation and Ministers Measure 2019, Schedule 1 of which enacts a completely revised set of CRRs, expected to be brought into force with effect from 1 January 2020. The model rules provide (M19(1)) that the minister is “the chair of the PCC” (politically correct gender-neutral language having replaced the term ‘chairman’), but continue to require the PCC to elect a lay member as vice-chair, who is to have “the powers vested in the chair” where, inter alia, the minister “invites the vice-chair to act as chair”: rule M19(2)(c).
Thus, the issue raised by Mr Schur is not (or need not be) an issue in practice. Further, to address Mr Schur’s concern that “the problem is exacerbated when the priest is involved in more than one parish,” the new rules will, for the first time, enable one or more parishes in a multi-parish benefice to make a scheme to establish a joint council, which council will be a legal entity “as if it were a PCC”: Model rules M37(1) and M38(1).
In all this, it needs to be remembered that the first function of a PCC is “co-operation with the minister in promoting in the parish the whole mission of the Church, pastoral, evangelistic, social and ecumenical”: Parochial Church Council (Powers) Measure 1956, section 2(2)(a). How this is best done must be for each PCC to work out with its minister.
Member of General Synod and of the revision committee for the Church Representation and
Ministers Measure 2019
20 Holbrook Barn Road, Boxford
Suffolk CO10 5HU
Don’t fall for propaganda against Mr Corbyn
From the Revd Dr Jeyan Anketell
Sir, — Canon Angela Tilby seems to have fallen for the anti-Corbyn propaganda (19 July) of the Conservatives, Labour’s Right, and the Israeli government and its allies in Britain, including Jewish Labour Voice.
Canon Tilby and others talk of the Left’s “historic” problem with anti-Semitism; but the Tsars who periodically inflicted pogroms on the Jews of Russia were not left-wing, nor was the king who expelled the Jews from England, nor were Sir Oswald Mosley’s followers, who tried to march through Cable Street, nor their then supporters, such as the Daily Mail, nor those who still periodically deface Karl Marx’s statue in Highgate cemetery.
Not since the retirement (and subsequent death) of Sir Gerald Kaufman, Jewish Labour MP for Manchester Gorton, has there been a Jewish Westminster voice publicly daring to criticise the Israeli Government’s treatment of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, although there have been Jewish individuals and groups (such as Jewish Voice for Peace and its allies in the UK) who have done so.
After two years or so of unsuccessfully trying to “deselect” Jeremy Corbyn from the leadership of the Labour Party, his opponents have more recently banded together to accuse him of anti-Semitism in the light of his own past criticism of the Israeli government. Mr Corbyn’s Labour opponents act as if they believed that even an extremist Conservative government were preferable to a Corbyn-led Labour government!
7 Wissage Lane, Lichfield
Staffordshire WS13 6DQ
From Mary Adams
Sir, — I congratulate Hope Street Church on being awarded a grant from the Church in Wales Evangelism Fund (News, 19 July).
Canon Kate Tiltman hopes that Hope Street will be a “wonderful opportunity to engage with younger people” (a sentiment that I share), and will appeal to those “on the fringes of the Church” who are put off by a formal style of worship and the “older congregations of our parish churches”.
I am one of the “older” people who are apparently “putting off” young folk; what exactly would Canon Tiltman like us to do?
We have done our time on committees, PCCs, tea duties, etc. I can now just manage being a member of the Welcome Committee; we are happy to share what we are and what we know.
I am well aware that our generation are responsible for the present situation, but please do not punish us by dismissing us. We need to build communities. These must include Grandma. We need you, even if you do not need us.
4 Swanbrook Court
Maidenhead SL6 1YZ