Letters to the Editor

by
09 August 2019

Review of Devamanikkam case, former university teachers on the Bishops’ bench and report evidences anti-Semitism on Labour’s left

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Review of the Devamanikkam case

From Sir Roger Singleton

Sir, — Further to your report “Survivor condemns review’ (News, 2 August), I would like to point out the seriousness with which the Church has taken the issues raised in this very complex case concerning allegations against Trevor Devamanikkam, particularly the harrowing account of abuse given by the Revd Matthew Ineson.

The Church is committed to an independent lessons-learnt review of its handling of this case, and the terms of reference and reviewer are soon to be announced. An initial draft of the terms of reference was sent to Mr Ineson in March, and twice since then.

Last week, I wrote to him again seeking his comments, and hope to meet and discuss this further with him. He also met the Archbishop of Canterbury in 2017, a meeting that was followed up with a personal signed letter of apology.

Lessons-learnt reviews are not statutory inquiries, and, as with any organisation carrying out such a review, the Church is committed to working with all parties linked with the case. I am sorry that Mr Ineson feels that the review will be a sham. I can assure him that it will be carried out in a professional and objective manner, so that lessons can be learnt.

ROGER SINGLETON
Interim Director of Safeguarding
Archbishops’ Council
Church House
Great Smith Street
London SW1P 3NZ
 

Former university teachers on the Bishops’ bench 

From Professor Ann Loades

Sir, — In reply to Canon Anthony Phillips (Letters, 26 July), it should be noted that it is some time since it has been possible to move easily between ecclesial and academic institutions. Some of those well qualified to teach theology in universities have no desire to do so, given the pressures of the Research Excellence Framework and the career-long requirement to publish what is deemed to be “research”, preferably in the form of monographs.

That apart, the Churches — and not least the Church of England — bear considerable responsibility for the positive discouragement given to theological study both in initial ordination “training” and in subsequent years, as any DDO/training incumbent will know. Those who grit their teeth and embark on part-time initial or further degree study in a university have to find exorbitant fees (in parts of the UK), though some are able to register for the Lambeth doctoral programme so fortunately set up by Rowan Williams, developing a tradition that was originated and sustained by previous Archbishops of Canterbury. I am, of course, assuming that the Church of England will rarely, if ever, take seriously the theological education of the laity.

In any event, at the present time, the recent document produced by the British Academy on Theological and Religious Studies Provision in UK Higher Education makes salutary reading, as numbers drop. It is not clear what absolutely integral connection exists between having taught theology in a university and whatever kind of theological competence may be required of the episcopate, but we can be certain, given present discouragement to study theology, that any such competence will be difficult to find and identify in any context and at any level.

ANN LOADES
1A Grey Street, Tayport
Fife DD6 9JF
 

Report evidences anti-Semitism on Labour’s Left  

From Mr Rob Thompson

Sir, — I was disappointed to read the Revd Dr Jeyan Anketell’s letter (2 August), which accuses those who speak up against anti-Semitism on the Left of British politics as having “fallen for the anti-Corbyn propaganda”.

In the same week as Dr Anketell’s letter was printed, the Community Security Trust (CST) — the organisation that monitors anti-Semitism in the UK — released its report on anti-Semitic incidents for the first half of 2019. The figures released were the highest on record, and showed a ten-per-cent increase from the first half of 2018.

Anti-Semitism exists on the Right of politics, but this does not mean that the Left is immune from anti-Semitism. Last week, the CST also released another report, Engines of Hate: The online networks behind the Labour Party’s antisemitism crisis. This report identifies 36 key pro-Jeremy Corbyn Twitter accounts that, according to the CST, “are responsible for encouraging the widespread belief that allegations of antisemitism are a smear against Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party, while also, in some cases, spreading antisemitism themselves”.

The Council of Christians and Jews (CCJ) was founded in the midst of the Holocaust, with the aims of enabling positive relations between all communities in the UK — particularly Jews and Christians — and challenging anti-Semitism.

As a Christian, may I personally suggest that the calling of the Church is to be alongside minority communities, which, evidence demonstrates, are suffering appalling racist abuse, and not on the side of those who — for whatever reason —wish to deny the very existence of such racism?

ROB THOMPSON
Senior Programme Manager
The Council of Christians and Jews
Mary Sumner House
24 Tufton Street
London SW1P 3RB
 

What being the Church’s middle third is about 

From Gillian Newton

Sir, — Thank you for your report (News, 26 July) on the place of mid-sized parish churches. I am a licensed lay minister in such a church on the outskirts of Salisbury and was encouraged by the recognition of the distinctive calling that we have within the national picture. It can be an uphill struggle, because we don’t have large congregations to draw on for time, money, or skills; but living as a church body in total reliance on God, praying in faith for the human and material resources that we need, and being thankfully aware, month by month, of God’s provision aren’t such a bad thing.

We are of a size where we can know each other well as a church family, and people do value and support each other and take responsibility for being the church in this community where we live. Especially for us at this present time, when we are in interregnum, every one of our members is needed to be the particular part of the body of Christ here that they are — loving, caring, listening, befriending newcomers, praying, and carrying out all the tasks that have to be done. And being, too, the light and salt and yeast that we are called to be in our neighbourhood, alongside those other Christians who live here but belong to other denominations, or one of the large churches elsewhere in the city.

Collaborative, every-member ministry is our modus operandi by necessity — but is what being the Church is about.

GILLIAN NEWTON
2 Woodside Road, Bemerton
Salisbury SP2 9ED
 

Beware making jibes about ‘political correctness’  

From Natalie Jennings

Sir, — It astounds me that there continues to be a lack of sensitivity in the Church regarding our responsibility to speak kindly and without causing offence to one another. It is not unusual to hear disparaging remarks about our “having to be PC”, which are often followed by derisive laughter.

When introducing himself at a recent ecumenical gathering, one person mistakenly referred to himself as “the wife of . . .”. There was laughter in the room as he joked about not knowing which gender he was that day; and this was followed by more laughter and a comment from another leader that “We have to be PC . . . and transgender!” which provoked yet more laughter.

What the person who made the final comment was unaware of was that the friend of mine who was seated beside them is transgender. Neither of us will forget how uncomfortable we felt, being the only ones in the room not to laugh at these comments, in which my friend became the unwitting butt of the joke.

In his letter (2 August) on the chairing of PCCs, David Lamming makes a throwaway comment about the inclusive language being introduced into the Church Representation and Ministers Measure 2019 in reference to the use of the title “chair”, “politically correct gender-neutral language having replaced the term ‘chairman’”.

Comments such as this are unnecessary and attempt to make a point out of something that should be commonplace: the lack of reference to gender in a title. I was aware as a child (in the late 1990s/early 2000s) of the conscious effort being made in wider society to replace gendered titles with inclusive ones. It is lamentable that the Church of England is not yet up to speed with this.

Surely, it is time that we who seek to love our neighbours as ourselves, who worship and serve the God in whom there is no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, male and female, stop seeing inclusive language as “having to be PC” and instead see it as part of our calling. We should use it not because we have to, but because we want to; it isabout making sure that we don’t harm others through our careless use of words.

NATALIE JENNINGS
72 Dracaena Avenue
Falmouth
Cornwall TR11 2EN
 

Miracle of marriage  

From Mr Frank McManus

Sir, — Pace the Revd Andrew Foreshew-Cain and his co-correspondents (Letters, 19 July), “equal marriage” is a fantasy of Orwellian Newspeak. It is as plain as a pikestaff that a same-sex duo differs from a normative traditional married couple. It is churlish not to limit the special term “marriage” to the miracle of human procreation in its best setting, since the historic “sworn friendship” is available and honourable for wider use.

Hebrews 13.4 applies; for Jesus clearly expressed concern for social morality, shown in his listing of “fornication” among the human flaws at Matthew 15.19, his words to women at John 4.18 and 8.11, and his “first miracle” at Cana, where, our Prayer Book says, he “adorned and glorified” matrimony with his presence.

FRANK McMANUS
(Reader Emeritus)
49 Yewtree Court
Todmorden OL14 7TF
 

Not his avowed intent 

From the Revd Geoffrey Asson

Sir, — Reading Canon Angela Tilby’s column (Comment, 2 August), I was reminded of my son’s comments about a hymn when he was about seven years old. He announced at lunch one Sunday that he did not want to be “a Bill Grim”.

GEOFFREY ASSON
Mimulus, Mutton Dingle
New Radnor
Presteigne LD8 2TL

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