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Letters to the Editor

22 February 2019

Same-sex spouses at Lambeth 2020, the General Synod’s focus on evangelism, phrases common in the leading of intercessions, and Mormons’ polygamy


Same-sex spouses at Lambeth ’20

From the Revd Andrew Foreshew-Cain

Sir, — The secretary-general of the Anglican Communion, the Rt Revd Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon, presumably on the instruction of the Archbishop of Canterbury, has banned the attendance of the wedded spouses of gay bishops on the basis that he has “to take account of the Anglican Communion’s position on marriage, which is that it is the lifelong union of a man and a woman”.

This is nonsense, of course. First, “the Anglican Communion” is not a single entity. It is a Communion of independent Churches, each formulating its own policies on marriage and rightly applying them. Communion officials cannot, and shouldn’t attempt to, pretend that they can make up rules that apply to all the Churches within it.

It is also hypocritical to apply this ruling to only one aspect of the Archbishops’ statement about “the Communion’s position on marriage”. If this wasn’t about homophobia, then he would have also uninvited any Bishop married to a divorced person, or themselves married after divorce. That’s not happening.

So, let’s be clear. If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and looks like a duck, then it’s a duck. If this looks like discrimination and pandering to homophobia, then it is all those things. And, believe me, from the press coverage that this story has got outside the narrow self-referential world of the Archbishops, that’s exactly how it’s being seen.

The Old Vicarage
23 High Street
SK23 0HD


The General Synod’s focus on evangelism 

From Canon Adrian Alker

Sir, — It was reported that discussion on intentional evangelism and mission would take centre stage in this week’s General Synod (News, 15 February). The language anticipating the debates uses phrases such as the need for “confident disciples”, “well-equipped and trained agents of mission”, and highlighting the need to “reverse numerical decline”.

Such language comes as no surprise in a national Church that, for many years now, has been preoccupied with growth and management-speak, and has been convinced that its package of propositional statements of faith is the salvific answer to the world’s needs. The language of “talking Jesus to non-Christians” is profoundly patronising and completely misses the point.

Your leader comment last week tentatively suggested that the Church might do better in any mission engagement by listening as well as talking, willing to receive as well as to give. I hope there will be voices in Synod which echo your comments.

Those of us in the progressive movement would go further and suggest that the core of any mission is not the growth of the Church or adherence to its stated beliefs, but the growing of the Kingdom of God: the values and experiences that the love and passions of Jesus articulated in his context. I don’t see evidence in the New Testament of Jesus’s desiring the multiplication and filling of synagogues, but I do see a Church that is permanently stuck in a marketing and publicity mode.

The Kingdom of God is alive and well wherever the poor are lifted up, unjust structures are challenged and pulled down, and people are affirmed in their God-given sexuality. Wherever love and care is, then God is there. Please let us talk less about bringing people to church, if all that means is success in numerical growth, so that more people can be told what to believe.

Why not, as the TV programme does, simply invite folk to “come dine with me”, gather round the table, be part of a community with all your questions and doubts and difficulties, and share in the goodness of Love; learn from one another, see where God is at work across traditions, denominations and faiths. As John Robinson said in Honest to God, subject “the Church to the judgement of the Kingdom”.

Chair, Progressive Christianity Network Britain
23 Meadowhead
Sheffield S8 7UA


From Mrs Margaret Duggan

Sir, — I could not agree more with your leader comment that the most mission off-putting thing you can do in English society is to “talk about Jesus” or one’s own spiritual life. I have found, however, that my non-churchgoing friends and neighbours often like to be involved in our church’s social activities, are always delighted to be invited to carol services, but, most of all, are keen to bring their much loved dogs and other pets up to the altar to be blessed by the Vicar at our annual Animal Services.

Whether such invitations will ever turn them into regular churchgoers is a matter for the Almighty, but at least they get to know the church and its personnel, and know that they will always find a welcome.

23 York Mansions
London SW11 4DL


No plan, but an intention of saving democracy

From Canon R. H. W. Arguile

Sir, — It is perfectly true, as Canon Angela Tilby intimates (Comment, 15 February), that there was no “rational or coherent plan” for leaving the European Union. How could there be, when those of us who voted to leave did not fully understand the web of connections brought about by forty years of membership of a continuingly changing organisation?

With respect, that is how democracy works and why as from the lips of Wolfgang Schäuble, the German Finance Minister, came the words that democracy could not be allowed to overrule economics. It was why the referenda of France (2005), the Netherlands (2005), and Greece (2015) were all ignored. Democracy does not depend on fitness to vote or possession of wisdom; nor on the opinion of others about where lies “their ultimate good”.

Perhaps it is time to abandon the fiction of democracy. Most people hate it. David Cameron broke his promise once to have a referendum; he did not dare to do it again. Everyone I knew expected that people would see where their good lay; but apparently they did not. As Robert Peston made clear in his book, those rulers of this country and those who live in their shadow discovered how fed up ordinary people were that others always knew better.

It may cause tears; but abandon democracy, and who knows where it will lead? Some, of course, do. That was why I voted leave, benighted as I am.

10 Marsh Lane
Norfolk NR23 1EG


Phrases common in the leading of intercessions

From Mr Christopher Benson

Sir, — As someone involved in leading intercessions, I was puzzled by the Revd Geoffrey Wilkinson’s disapproval of the formula “We pray for” (Faith, 15 February).

I agree with him that intercessions should be addressed direct to God, not to the congregation. Nevertheless, to say that intercessions are “pleading on behalf of God’s people” implies that the part that the congregation plays is purely passive. Surely, intercessors are also seeking to draw the congregation into their prayer, and make it theirs as well, so that it becomes a collective act. Otherwise, the response “Hear our prayer” to the words “Lord, in your mercy” is meaningless.

It is a matter of taste whether “We pray for” is less felicitous than “We beseech thee to”, but, in essence, they are saying the same thing: making a request to God that what we pray for in faith may be granted.

It is certainly true that “We pray for” can be irritatingly over-used. “Bring peace to the world” can be better than “We pray for the peace of the world.” But the imperative approach can also be overdone, sounding more like delivery of a restaurant order than an appeal to God’s mercy and justice.

Ultimately, genuine prayer comes from the heart and is, therefore, wordless; the words we use are only means to that end. “We pray for” still has its place.

46 Thorndon Gardens
Surrey KT19 0QW


Careful what you ask for

From Mr N. J. Inkley

Sir, — The Revd Mark Hunt has unease about the Archbishop of York’s prayer being for the Duke of Edinburgh only (Letters, 1 February). The Church of England prays regularly for the royal family; so I had no qualms about that. I was delighted, too, that Dr Sentamu used of Book of Common Prayer template for his composition.

The last petition, “and bring him to thine everlasting kingdom”, is, however, a little disconcerting. This could be regarded, in the case of a 97-year-old seemingly in a spot of trouble, as a gentle push.

The BCP prayer is capable of being more gracious than this. It has the little phrase “at the last” (to follow “bring him”), which I consider was sadly missing.

6 Knot Lane, Walton-le-Dale
Preston PR5 4BQ


Mormons’ polygamy

From the Revd Dr Elizabeth Koepping

Sir, — Had Mormons been polyandrous in their early years rather than polygynous, (Press, 15 February), there would probably have been fewer of them, a single wife with a gaggle of husbands producing fewer children than one man with a multiplicity of wives.

Blenheim Cottage, Charlbury
Oxfordshire OX73SJ


Common ground on RE 

From the Revd Stephen Terry

Sir, — I am delighted that the Dean of Westminster, the Very Revd John Hall, has given the Accord Coalition a positive name-check (Education, 15 February). I should point out, however, that Yasmin Alibhai-Brown was not one of our speakers at our ten-year anniversary event, to which he refers. It was, in fact, Becky Francis (Director of the Institute of Education at University College London) who was on the panel with our other speakers.

We are grateful to all our speakers for a stimulating evening, and we urge the Department for Education to pay proper attention to the Dean when he discusses with it the Commission on Religious Education’s proposals.

Chair, the Accord Coalition for Inclusive Education
36 Church Mead, Hassocks
West Sussex BN6 8BN


The Two Doors score 

From Mr Graeme Calf

Sir, — One small correction to the television review (Media, 1 February): Cathy does not come on to Beth’s gay son, Ian, but to his boyfriend, Gordon. The nice thing about Two Doors Down is that Ian and Gordon are treated as just a normal couple. Gordon is the outsider, a Yorkshireman in Scotland, the “son-in-law”, and gay, and yet, aside from Beth, he is probably the most well-balanced and likeable character.

54A Manville Road
London SW17 8JN


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