Cross must be central to vision
From Professor Richard Carter
Sir, — The Vision for the Church of England in the 2020s which the Archbishop of York, the Most Revd Stephen Cottrell, presented to the recent meeting of the General Synod (Synod, 4 December) is greatly to be welcomed. After decades of trying different approaches to reversing the decline of the Church in England, with little success, we have finally come to realise the importance of returning to the basic principles of the faith.
Nevertheless, as I started to reflect on how the vision of our own church might be based on this document, I began to feel that, crucially, something was missing in it. Although the Cross is mentioned twice in passing, there is no sense of its place at the very centre of our faith: the place where the boundless love of God reveals and meets our every need.
St Paul explains the centrality of the Cross in his preaching (1 Corinthians 1.17-2.5). He invites us not to consider the theology of the Cross, but to contemplate the Son of God crucified for us. This appeal is not to the head, but to the heart. It spoke powerfully to the people of Corinth, and it has been central to the renewal of the Church in the past.
It would be good to see what is implicit in the Vision made explicit to avoid the risk that we rely, once again, on our own energies and not on the power and wisdom of God.
4 Lindeth Road, Silverdale
Carnforth LA5 0TT
‘Comfort and Joy’ speaks of comfortable England
From Canon Jonathan Kimber
Sir, — The national Church’s “Comfort and Joy” animation (News, 4 December) has clearly been prepared with great thought and professionalism. It stands tall within its genre. It is the choice of genre, however, which I wish to question.
When I watched it, I nearly wept — and not only because I had just watched the BBC item on clergy serving people in acute poverty (search “Burnley vicars”). My fear is that many in England would see this animation as confirmation that the C of E is not for folk like them, but only for those whose lives are free of much sustained stress or mess; whose Christmases have generous food and new bicycles; whose lives are largely shiny and sorted. Yes, there was mention of absence and separation, but, for this viewer, it was just too smoothly and swiftly resolved.
My concern is that the animation will be seen as the C of E’s (and thus God’s) simply not “getting” what life this year has really been like — roughly (and sadly) the opposite of the Christmas message.
And so my genuine questions are these:
First, is it actually possible — or not — to create an “advert” that can chime helpfully across the whole population — even if doing so means creating a new genre?
Second, if so, next year, what process of conception and development, involving which people, would make such connection most likely?
4 Silverdale Avenue
Worcester WR5 1PY
Proposed method for communion in both kinds is impracticable
From the Earl of Kimberley
Sir, — Reading the report about the Archbishops’ letter describing a way of administering communion in both kinds (News, 4 December), I would like to suggest that no one has actually tried doing this as the instructions dictate.
My wife, who is a priest, and I could not see how this could be done even for a few people, let alone a larger number, say 30 or more. It can only make the president’s task even harder than it already is, and makes the whole act of administration more like a French farce.
I cannot see any priest wanting to attempt this; and the congregation will be even more mystified by the process than at present.
Conservatives hampered over LLF by legal threat
From Dr Henk Carpentier Alting
Sir, — Your website covers some early responses to Living in Love and Faith (News, 30 November), including a video on the Christian Concern website which is critical of the introductory film to LLF. Part of the critique is of an ordained couple. One partner was a trans man who reported the Christian Concern video as a possible hate crime. While the video has its shortcomings, there is a more serious point.
This couple are privileged to be the opening speakers for the introduction to LLF. The positive portrayal of their story is potentially influential as the first item in LLF which many will come across. Criticism is inevitable and should be heard alongside the stories themselves. After all, the point of these lived stories is to focus discussions which are not just about “deep reflection”, but also critical reflection.
The coming discussions will get nowhere if those expressing traditional views — and it will be only those — face being reported to the police. In terms of the Pastoral Principles that guide LLF, it is unacceptable to use the power of the State to silence others by fear.
HENK CARPENTIER ALTING
30 Buckingham Road West
Stockport SK4 4BA
Ely clergy’s Sunday off
From Mr John Radford
Sir, — I suspect that many clergy will be taking Sunday 27 December off to visit family, irrespective of whether they work in the diocese of Ely (News, 4 December). It should not, however, be an excuse to suspend public worship on that day.
There are many retired clergy and Readers who will be more than willing to officiate. Even if a parish cannot find anyone to conduct their service, it should still take place, as there are many folk who will be unable (or unwilling) to attend public worship on Christmas Eve or Day, but for whom a “quieter” service (numerically speaking) on the 27th would still suffice.
The diocese of Ely provides excellent resources via its website for lay-led services.
Wimborne St Giles
Dorset BH21 5LZ
Abbot of Ampleforth
From Mr Adrian Roberts
Sir, — Your report on the recent ban on new pupils at Ampleforth College (News, 4 December) contained two inaccuracies in relation to the removal of the Abbot, Fr Cuthbert Madden. Fr Cuthbert was the Abbot, not the Headmaster; so Deirdre Rowe would have been replacing not him, but the former head. The accusation against Fr Madden was fully investigated by the North Yorkshire Police, who found no case to answer, and therefore decided not to proceed with a prosecution.
Why the Middlesbrough diocese and the English Benedictine Congregation then failed to reinstate Fr Cuthbert is anyone’s guess, though the whole affair has a whiff of ecclesiastical politics about it. It is very sad when church authorities in any denomination, having concealed clerical abuse for generations, then rush to the other extreme by treating as guilty of some offence a priest who has been exonerated by the police.
Ripon HG4 3QQ
A significant cloud?
From Dr Ruth Hildebrandt Grayson
Sir, — Many people will be bemused that the National Safeguarding Team (NST) has cleared Archbishop Welby over allegations that he failed to act correctly in the John Smyth affair (News, 20 November).
For one thing, the NST is hardly the independent organisation that the Archbishop himself plans to set up to investigate safeguarding allegations within the Church of England in response to the recent IICSA report. For another, this leaves the Archbishop’s own status unclear.
The NST states that the claim against him has not been substantiated. Does this mean that the Archbishop is innocent? Or does it mean, as in the case of a certain illustrious late Bishop of Chichester, that, in Archbishop Welby’s own words, “a significant cloud” remains over his reputation?
If a presumption of guilt is the basis on which safeguarding issues are currently being investigated by local and national safeguarding officers in the Church, then Archbishop Welby’s own words will continue to haunt him — unless, of course, he honours the law of this country as it currently stands and publicly declares that bishop to be innocent.
RUTH HILDEBRANDT GRAYSON
25 Whitfield Road
Sheffield S10 4GJ