What next for the UK and Europe?
From the Revd Donald Reeves
Sir, — Taking immigration seriously is one of a raft of issues that have a “clear ethical dimension” (Leader comment, 18 January). Given the rise of populism and nationalism across Europe, not forgetting Islamophobia and anti-Semitism, there is an urgent need to widen, deepen, and broaden a culture of welcome.
Welcome is more than offering tea and biscuits, though that is a start. In many European cities, there are places of welcome where hospitality and friendship are offered and a “safe” space is provided: a comment on the hostile environment in which so many live. Welcome means advocacy and solidarity, standing shoulder to shoulder with those who do not experience Europe as home.
It is absurd for the UK to go its own way, drifting off when mainland Europe is our neighbour.
There is a need for a social movement across Europe. For this, there has to be a rallying-point, something like a European extended and ecumenical version of the Barmen Declaration of 1933, which called on the German people to wake up and get their priorities right — to worship Christ and not Hitler. Now it is time for a new Declaration that challenges the driving force of evil convictions of the far Right and sets out an alternative future in which all are welcome and the possibilities of the Kingdom of God can be realised.
Kindness to strangers and welcoming them is tough. It is not popular with governments, hence the need for a European movement, of which quite naturally the UK has to be a part.
Director, The Soul of Europe
The Coach House
Crediton EX17 2AQ
From the Revd David Haslam
Sir, — Your editorial, “What next?”, last week comments that, in an ethical context, the Church has set up various “tax booths” along the road towards wealth, and then refers to several, including fairness to suppliers and employees, and contributing to the welfare of the poor, but fails to ask “Are you paying your taxes?”
Later, in reference to the ethical dimension in the accountability of decision-making in Brussels, you refer to immigration, wage deals, trading, peace, but again not tax, in which the EU plays a key part, especially in relation to transnational corporations as they seek to shift their tax liabilities across borders. Brexit will weaken the EU and the UK in confronting these corporations, another reason to think again.
There appears to be much shyness, silence even, about tax in Christian circles. Is it because tax-gathering has such a poor image in the Gospels? We need urgently to talk about tax. It is an essential element in dealing with inequality, injustice, and fragmenting public services, and — through “green taxes” — climate change. Tax isn’t “next”: it’s now.
Chair, Church Action for Tax Justice
59 Burford Road
Evesham WR11 3AG
From Mr Andrew Ellis
Sir, — I have, for several years now, agreed with much that Paul Vallely has written for your paper, but I fear that his anti-Brexit bias is getting the better of him (Comment, 18 February).
He quotes words of wisdom from Edmund Burke, but these were addressed to a small (and quite possibly corrupt) electorate, which was hardly representative of the population as a whole.
He says: “Let’s leave aside the question whether the will of the majority is a proper expression of the will of the people,” but there is no question to answer. We are a democracy, and, however small the majority, that is the will of the people. To do otherwise is the road to anarchy.
60 London Road
Cheltenham GL52 6EQ
The meaning of LGBTQIA+ and rainbow flags
From Tracey Byrne
Sir, — Mr Anker (Letters, 18 January) has perhaps more reason than most to be aware of the unintended consequences of abbreviation. I am sure he speaks for many when he expresses confusion about the increasingly common term LGBTQIA+; so I am pleased to be able to be both open and frank with him — although I suspect this is not, in fact, the real intention of his letter.
Using terms such as LGBTQIA is for many people an important way of including all the different sexuality and gender identities whose lives, loves, and gifts have for so long been ignored or worse in the long story of human history — aided and abetted by the Church.
Only very recently have we begun to value those whose identities lie beyond narrowly defined “traditional marriage”.
That unfolding story is both a gift and a blessing to the Church, and a judgement on the extent to which it has colluded with the oppression of our communities, and caused the kind of harm and shame which contributes to people contemplating, and on occasion succeeding in, ending their own lives. Flying a rainbow flag is a sign of reconciliation and welcome from the churches to our marginalised communities: an important, and missional, first step, which, this writer’s letter would suggest, is still much needed.
For more than 40 years, OneBodyOneFaith has affirmed that “human sexuality, sexual orientation and gender identity in all their richness are gifts of God gladly to be accepted, enjoyed and honoured”. Mutuality, respect, and consent lie at the heart of that understanding, because any abuse of power is an affront to the teachings of Jesus.
That Mr Anker can even consider paedophilia alongside loving, consensual, and committed relationships reveals a worrying thought process, to say the least. His tone suggests an attempt at light-hearted provocation, but he needs to be more careful.
As IICSA continues its hearings, we would all do well to consider the extent to which homophobia fed the historic and mistaken conflation of same-sex relationships with paedophilia. Such prejudice has prevented our hearing the real stories of survivors, and addressing the issues of power — in our institutions and even close to home in our families — within which abuse has gone unnoticed and unaddressed for far too long.
South Church House
25 Market Place, Newark
Nottinghamshire NG24 1EA
From Mr Steven Hilton
Sir, — In his letter, Brian Anker seems to be a tad confused and strays far off-piste from the words of welcome that appear on the website of the parish where, it claims, he is a licensed lay minister (St Martin’s Cambridge): “We are ordinary people who aim to serve God, welcome the stranger, care for the needy and nurture the young.”
Let us hope that there are no LGBTIQIA+ folk in his church subjected to the tyranny of his linking paedophilia with being gay, or any other shards of bullying rhetoric masquerading as Christian wisdom and faithfulness.
But, of course, the real tragedy is that there will be. There will be folk who are anxious, scared, and hurt of being honest about how they feel, because of people like Mr Anker. My hope is that Ely Cathedral not only continues to fly its rainbow flag high above the Fens, but that the Chapter invest in one that is yet bigger and brighter.
Ripon College, Cuddesdon
Oxford OX44 9EX
Care in the interpretation of ‘no room at the inn’
From the Revd Patrick Morrow
Sir, — Mr Philip Baxter (Letters, 18 January) tells us unsentimentally that, in his account of the birth of Christ, Luke is “accusing the Jews of the rejection of the Messiah; they had ‘no room’ for him”.
Now, it is, of course, true that sometimes we may be compelled to see some New Testament texts as accusing the Jews that they have in mind of bad faith. We must then make hermeneutical moves to make sure that this does not become a whole theology of the Church’s replacement of first-called Israel, or of anti-Semitism, pure.
But that does not work for Luke. Luke begins his self-consciously careful account with the “whole assembly of the [Jewish] people” at authentic prayer (1.10), and ends with the witnesses to the resurrection “continually in the [Jewish] temple blessing God” (24.53). For Luke, the birth of Jesus is celebrated by his parents, angels, shepherds — and Temple folk. There is no place to summarise his treatment of “the Jews” as those rejecting Jesus.
Mutual flourishing and unity in mission efforts
From the Revd Patrick Davies
Sir, — One of Jesus’s final wishes before he died was that his followers would remain united (see John 17.21). What will it take before we are open to the voice of the Holy Spirit and engage in genuine efforts at reconciliation?
One vehicle for that hope of reconciliation is the House of Bishops’ Five Guiding Principles and the call for “mutual flourishing”. It has to be regrettable that while traditional Anglican Catholics and Affirming Catholics hold so much heritage in common that we are often not working together, especially for reconciliation and healing within our own Church. If we are unwilling to listen to the promoting of the Holy Spirit, it may be that we will be urged on by the more pressing concerns of diminished numbers in our pews. Fear should not be our motivating factor, but the will to do as our Lord has asked.
The search for unity among Christians was one of the central concerns of Pope St John XXIII and the Second Vatican Council. The Council’s decree on ecumenism, Unitatis Redintegratio, received overwhelming approval on 21 November 1964. Its very first section says that division among Christians “openly contradicts the will of Christ, scandalises the world, and damages the most holy cause, the preaching of the gospel to every creature”.
Christians seem to be a long way from fulfilling our Lord’s prayer that we be one. But I do believe that both traditional and Affirming Catholics can work together to ensure that we remain as united as possible and share in the common task of evangelism.
Much has been discussed about Bishop’s Mission Orders (BMOs), and usually these have been eagerly taken up by our Evangelical brothers and sisters. I believe that there is scope for collaboration by Affirming and traditional Catholics in offering joint BMOs. We have common ground in teaching sacramental theology. Equally, we are often well placed to deal with social injustices and fighting to ensure our environment is sustainable.
Mutual flourishing must mean that we see past our differences and embrace prayer, teaching, and service together. Let the resolution be that we begin and continue to work together. Ultimately, may we all be one.
St Crispin’s Church, Withington
Manchester M14 7LE
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