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Letters to the Editor

10 July 2020

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Diocesan finances and parish posts

From the Bishop of Barking, Acting Bishop of Chelmsford

Sir, — Contrary to the Revd Dr Ian Paul’s mistaken impression (Letters, 3 July), it is not the policy or desire of the leadership of Chelmsford diocese to cut 22 per cent of our stipendiary posts (the numbers in the paper were not intended to be a target). Rather, honesty demands that we communicate the reality that, if we do not reverse the decline in parish-share payment from recent years, we will need to move in that direction. Chelmsford diocese is not alone in this.

Our policy in this demanding time is to be prayerful, transparent, and active on the direct link between mission and financial stewardship. If he had read my recent presidential address to the diocesan synod less selectively, he would have noticed the emphasis on proportionate and sacrificial giving which has been my consistent biblical teaching down the years. Although this can be a difficult message, it is already registering positively with many of our communities, and we are committed to move from subsidy to sustainability as a diocesan family.

Having received generous Strategic Development Funding support for the creation of new worshipping communities in east London and Essex, where the populations continue to rise rapidly, we are investing for growth. For the same reason, as a diocese that has achieved a huge increase in vocations to ordination in recent years, we have no intention of reducing our curacy numbers.

As the new Archbishop of York always taught us, we need more church rather than less. That challenge is significant, exciting, and achievable in God’s economy, but we cannot make progress by sweeping the financial truth under the carpet.

Barking Lodge
35A Verulam Avenue
London E17 8ES


The UK Government and the crisis in Yemen

From Mr Symon Hill

Sir, — UNICEF are right to draw attention to the millions of children and adults in Yemen who face starvation on top of war and disease (News, 3 July).

The UK is directly complicit in the unimaginable suffering endured by the Yemeni people. British ministers have licensed arms sales worth more than £5.3 billion to the Saudi regime since the Saudi bombing of Yemen began in March 2015. In 2019, in a case brought by the Campaign Against Arms Trade, the Court of Appeal ruled that the UK Government had failed to follow their own laws in allowing these arms sales. Since then, ministers have had to apologise for licensing further arms sales despite the court’s ruling.

According to the United Nations and Amnesty International, Saudi bombers have deliberately targeted civilian venues such as schools, places of worship, and even hospitals. Despite this, the UK Government has admitted that Saudi pilots have been trained at RAF Valley in North Wales, while Saudi officers continue to train at Sandhurst. While some British troops were helping to tackle Covid-19 by building hospitals in Britain, others were training the Saudi forces who have been bombing hospitals in Yemen.

I hope that many churches will pray for people in Yemen and hold collections for them. In every church that does this, there also needs to be support and prayers for campaigns against British military collusion with the despots of Saudi Arabia.

Address supplied


Black Lives Matter: images and attitudes

From Mr Yugo Kovach

Sir, — One quite often finds in an Anglican church an icon discreetly positioned at a side altar. Not for much longer: they are, apparently, a microaggressive form of white supremacy.

Would it be better, for instance, to portray St John the Baptist as an Asian or an African? Should the 12 disciples in depictions of the Last Supper reflect the racial and gender make-up of contemporary society?

To proceed down this route is manifestly absurd. It follows that our zealots will be forced by their own logic to go the whole hog and ban the depiction of religious figures.

The Church of England will have to decide whether to go along with this nonsense. Does the Archbishop of Canterbury want to be known as Welby the Iconoclast?

Old School House
Winterborne Houghton
Dorset DT11 0PD


From the Rt Revd Jan McFarlane

Sir, — Canon Angela Tilby writes (Comment, 3 July) that, while she can just about cope with statues of Jesus, Mary, and the saints, she doesn’t see why statues of bishops, poets, scientists, explorers, and the like should be represented in church at all.

Lichfield Cathedral, like many of our cathedrals, is adorned with statues, and I love that the whole of life is there. If I could gaze only on the saints, I might be tempted to give up and go home: no hope for me. But the stories of those represented in stone give me courage because they tried, and usually failed, and yet are “ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven”.

We are starting to interpret the statues so that visitors can, we hope, recognise in the lives represented their own hopes and aspirations, and, indeed, their failings, and so perhaps see that our churches are for those who fail and fail repeatedly, but who yet are loved beyond measure. After all, isn’t that kind of the point?

JAN McFARLANE (Canon Custos)
6 Vicars Close
Lichfield WS13 7LE


From Canon Eric Woods

Sir, — Under the headline “Cass bust removed from St Botolph’s, Aldgate” (News, 26 June), you report that the statue of Sir John Cass has been removed from that church in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests. You tell us that “The removal was carried out . . . by the Archdeacon of London, the Ven. Luke Miller, after an emergency vote was held by the PCC.”

I ask — purely for clarification — whether St Botolph’s is exempt from the current Faculty Jurisdiction Rules and their necessary processes? It took Sherborne Abbey four years to remove an entirely flawed window back in the 1990s, and we were taken through the Consistory Court up to the Court of Arches. The process was expensive, and sometimes frustrating, but at least it was transparent and fair.

The thought that an “emergency vote of the PCC” is sufficient to remove an historic artefact from a church seems to me to be fraught with danger. There must be more to the story than that, before all the neo-iconoclasts get carried away.

The Vicarage, Abbey Close
Sherborne. DT9 3LQ


From the Revd Rebecca Amoroso

Sir, — A Church that rejects an able Black ordinand on grounds of colour (News, 26 June) and fails to educate a priest properly, so that the latter believes that “All lives matter” is an appropriate response to Black Lives Matter (News, 3 July), must now make a commitment to overhauling the structures of ministerial formation and continuing development.

Christians are no less susceptible to — at best — unconscious bias and — at worst — overt prejudice than any other people. But church leaders must be held to a higher standard. This must be reflected, with the same right and proper urgency as safeguarding, in our education, in our resources, and in our churches.

We have no shortage of Black Christians, Christians of Colour, and brothers and sisters of other faiths with whom to consult, who are longing for their voices to be heard. When we fail — structurally and personally — to support and promote Black People and People of Colour, we are in danger of becoming more identified with the statues being thrown into the sea than with the saints in light.

HM Prison Durham
19B Old Elvet
Durham DH1 3HU


Comments on church life in the pandemic

From the Revd Sharon Copestake

Sir, — At a time when incumbents and church leaders are navigating the easing of national lockdown personally and on behalf of their congregations, much has been said about the need to maintain good levels of self-care and to pay attention to personal well-being. It is, therefore, regrettable that the House of Bishops Covid-19 Recovery Group, and other central church bodies continue to disseminate significant information via social media late into the evening.

Surely, information such as this can wait until the following morning to land into various feeds and inboxes rather than bombard those trying to switch off after an already long day. Such action only adds to the already significant pressure already experienced. We need a whole-Church approach if we are to take well-being seriously, and acknowledging appropriate times and channels for communication would help considerably.

The Vicarage
Galahad Avenue
Rochester ME2 2YS


From Dr Yvonne Craig

Sir, — If our holy-communion wafers were each shielded within little plastic covers, concerns about infection raised by the Government, medical advisers, Church, and public could be overcome. Producing and providing these holy-communion wafers would be a wonderful way of promoting and progressing ecumenical co-operation.

40 Ridgmount Gardens
London WC1E 7AT


Changes to maternity and paternity leave

From the Revd Dr Helen Dawes

Sir, — The situation concerning entitlement to maternity leave is not as bad as the curate quoted in your report “Women describe pitfalls on the path to priesthood” (News, 3 July) feared. For clergy on the national payroll, a change of parish or even of diocese does not affect eligibility to maternity, paternity, or adoption pay. Until recently, however, there was real potential for problems as ordinands moved into curacies, and some people were falling through the gaps.

The recent new guidance to dioceses from the Ministry Council recognised and sought to address this. From my perspective as a Dean of Women’s Ministry, it has moved us on a long way. Dioceses are now asked, as a minimum, to treat all stipendiary clergy as entitled to maternity, paternity, and adoption leave, regardless of their statutory entitlement.

In practice, that means that clergy should be eligible for paid leave, even if it starts soon after they start their curacy or return to parish ministry from a break or from another kind of post. The situation is far from perfect, but it will be a great shame if people are put off pursuing a vocation to ordained ministry by thinking that it is worse than it is.

The Shaftesbury Team Ministry
5 Gold Hill
Dorset SP7 8JW


Civil Service ethos

From Dr Stephen Pacey

Sir, — Paul Vallely (Comment, 3 July) is obviously right to draw attention to the alarming and increasing politicisation of the civil service. This is, however, not confined to the appointment or dismissal of mandarins.

In decades of public service, as a judge, I regularly and frequently came into contact with all sorts of civil servants. Over the years, I noticed a subtle but, none the less, perceptible change in the attitudes of many middle- and higher-ranking civil servants. Instead of being impartial implementers of government policies, many of them morphed into little more than enthusiastic supporters of those policies, and spin doctors in furtherance of them. This was especially noticeable in the Department for Work and Pensions and the Home Office.

History has surely taught us that politicisation in this way is one of the hallmarks of a repressive and authoritarian state.

3 Dickinson Way
North Muskham
Nottinghamshire NG23 6FF


Relativity: a tale of two theories, not one

From Professor Kevin Walsh

Sir, — I am very grateful to the Bishop of Worcester, Dr John Inge, for his encouraging review of Professor Alister McGrath’s new book about Einstein (Books, 3 July), but may I suggest that there has been a mix-up between either the theories of relativity or two celestial phenomena?

Einstein’s 1905 paper concerned Special Relativity while, as I understand it, the observation in 7 November 2019 helps verify the General Theory, proposed in 1915. In fact, that event was not an eclipse, but a planetary transit (of Mercury), though an eclipse was used to verify the theory a hundred years earlier in 1919.

Dr Inge refers to “the” theory, but one usually draws the distinction between the two rather than refer to a single theory. A solar eclipse is certainly an appropriate example regarding “the awe and wonder at the glory of creation”, meanwhile; it doesn’t get much better than that.

148 Tachbrook Street
London SW1V 2NE


The laity’s life of prayer

From Pam Hall

Sir, — I find the Bishop of Burnley’s remarks on prayer (Post-Pandemic, 26 June) somewhat patronising. Christians do not need to “learn to pray at home”, as he suggests. Christians have always prayed at home.

Surely he is not suggesting that the institutional Church is the only guardian of prayer, and clerics its only teachers? If churches close, and priests find themselves dispersed, and needing to find other work, like the monks of old, then we may have confidence that other structures will emerge to support the work of prayer, at home and in the community.

47 Victoria Avenue, Didsbury
Manchester M20 2QX


Safeguarding lapse

From Mr Andrew Graystone

Sir, — Did nobody, at any point during the appointment process for the new Archbishop of York, think to ask him whether there were any past safeguarding failures (News, 3 July) that he ought to disclose?

17 Rushford Avenue
Manchester M19 2HG

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