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Letters to the Editor

14 August 2020

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Christians and the politics of Iran

From Mr John Clark

Sir, — The article “Iran’s Christians defy crackdowns” (Comment, 7 August) by Bishop Barry Morgan does a dangerous disservice to Christians in Iran. It is seriously misleading in its allegation that “Iranian Christians and members of the house-church movement” participated in an event organised by the People’s Mujahedin of Iran, also known as the National Council of Resistance (NCRI).

Those who know Iranian Christians and the house-church movement are clear that its members put no hope in the activities of the Mujahedin. They face enough challenges without engaging in this sort of political action. There is no way they would take part in such an event.

Associating Iranian Christians with the People’s Mujahedin, a dissident resistance group, which one human-rights activist characterises as holding a “mix of far-Left and Islamist ideology”, puts Christians at risk of the false charge of acting against the present government.

It is most unfortunate that a group of Anglican bishops have apparently taken a stance of support for one particular group opposed to the present Iranian government with little regard for the propaganda effect of that decision on Christians in Iran and the reality on the ground.

Chairman, Friends of the Diocese of Iran
32 Weigall Road
London SE12 8HE


Diocesan senior staffing in contrast with the US 

From the Dean of St James’s Cathedral, Chicago

Sir, — In the five years that have elapsed since I moved from parish ministry in the Church of England to serve a cathedral parish in the Episcopal Church of the United States, it has been both fascinating and dismaying to watch how life has evolved in the Church in which I grew up and was ordained.

The complex tragedy of the pandemic has demanded of churches everywhere that they work out an appropriate response to the medical, spiritual, and economic issues that it has either created or exacerbated. In this context, it has been bewildering to read in your pages in recent weeks news of the furloughing of curates, alongside what feels like an ever-burgeoning growth of assistant or associate archdeacons (two of which are announced and another of which is advertised in your issue of 24 July).

I claim no superiority for the mission and ministry of the Episcopal Church, but it is worthy of note that its processes for dealing with matters of both architecture and clergy discipline are immeasurably more streamlined than in the Church of England. One corollary of this fact is that no US diocese of which I am aware has more than one archdeacon-equivalent post on its staff.

The Church of England has more churches and more clergy than its sister Church in the US, and operates within a more complex statutory environment regarding historic buildings. But it is, perhaps, time for it to examine more clearly how best to expend its energy, time, and money in staffing the Church for mission in a post-Covid world.

St James’s Cathedral, Chicago
65 E. Huron St, Chicago, IL 60611


‘The right responses online’ to pandemic needs 

From the Revd Neil Bryson SSC

Sir, — The Revd Lyn Weston, Director of C of E Relations for the Institute for Contemporary Christianity (Back Page Interview, 7 August) declares: “There are many churches that are really making the right responses online. Others have just replicated what used to happen in the physical space, which isn’t inclusive to outsiders.”

I found this worrying. What does she mean by “the right responses online”, and who decides what “right” is? There’s the telling adverb “just”, packed with disapproval, as if live-streaming services were a trivial, stress-free, lazy activity with little value to the viewers (and, even if this were true, figures show that it still pulls viewers in).

As for “inclusive to outsiders”, I hardly know where to begin with analysing the implications of that. I think of the wedding-banquet parable: those invited made excuses; so the staff are sent (as deacons are) out to the highways and byways, ordered to “compel them to come in.” If we make online services “inclusive”, whatever that means (is this the new “relevant”?), how do we encourage (never mind compel) outsiders to come in? Isn’t the very point of outreach to bring people into Christ’s Body so that they are no longer outsiders? Isn’t that missional inclusivity?

With all the effort that so many of us parish clergy are making even to live-stream services at all (often with limited resources and little prior experience), while being encouraged by the sustained number of “views” over the weeks, I found Ms Weston’s statement depressing and demeaning. One of my ministry team points out:

  1. It appears that Ms Weston would prefer some “right” alternative to live-streaming of the service, but without telling us what that actually is.
  2. This seems inconsistent with what came from the central C of E, which was keen for parishes to start live-streaming services in the first place.
  3. Live-streaming — any live-streaming, even what Ms Weston disparages as “just replicating” what we did before — is potentially more inclusive, as it allows viewers to experience, and get comfortable with a church, without the apprehension of actually needing to put one’s head around the door.
  4. Without doubt, online steaming provides a connection (pun intended) to the Church which would otherwise be in jeopardy when restrictions prevent our actual physical attendance.

What we in parish work need to have is some encouragement for the pioneering work that we are doing in unparalleled circumstances; we have, since the lockdown began, been working at least twice as hard. Here, our pro-diocesan and our Provincial Episcopal Visitor have done so in the warmest terms, giving us a real boost (I hope that this has happened in other sees): could not this come from the central C of E, also?

416 Tonbridge Road
Maidstone ME16 9LW


Japanese surrender on the cards before A-bomb

From Canon Christopher Hall

Sir, — Your leader comment (7 August) suggests that the deadliest air raid of the war on Tokyo in March 1945 seemingly had no effect on the bellicose Japanese leadership.

On 20 June 1945, six weeks before Hiroshima, the Japanese War Council met with the Emperor. They agreed they had to do a deal with the Americans or suffer invasion and occupation by the Soviets, who, after VE Day, had moved 1.5 million troops from West to East to launch an attack in Manchuria. This is the real reason that Japan approached the United States to talk about surrender.

Winston Churchill said: “It would be a mistake to suppose that the fate of Japan was settled by the atomic bomb. Her defeat was certain before the first bomb fell.’’

Dropping the atomic bombs was a gratuitous display of force by the US government to demonstrate its technical lead over the Soviets. The then US Secretary of War, Henry Stimson, said that the bombs were used “to gain political advantage over the Soviet Union in the post-war situation’’.

Thus the atomic arms race was started and continues to this day.

The Knowle, Deddington
Banbury OX15 0TB


Online weekly service and social-media response 

From the Revd Tom Brown

Sir, — May I say how encouraged I was by the C of E’s online weekly service led by Revd Dr Lee Gatiss this Sunday. It was a wonderfully pastoral mix of joy, hope, gospel truths, and a clear call to unbelievers to respond to a God who is so rich in mercy.

I was also struck by the vitriol that Dr Gatiss was subject to on different social-media channels. For many people, it seems that holding to the Church’s own (orthodox) teaching on sexuality, and a complementarian view of headship in the Church is beyond the pale for some, and gives them carte blanche to shut down the conversation and label “opponents” as misogynistic bigots. And all this in response to Dr Gatiss’s sermon on kindness and mercy!

I fully understand that some find both the orthodox position on sexuality and the conservative position on women’s ministry a challenge, but mustn’t we also heed the apologetic force/responsibility of John 13 and pass on the grace that we ourselves have received from the Lord?

In the mean time, we would do well to reflect again on the joyful good news of Romans 10, and unite together to hold this out to a watching world.

c/o St Thomas’s Church Office
The Vicarage
Highthorn Road
Mexborough S64 5TX


Disappointed by decision over Wells Old Deanery 

From the Revd Dr Marcus Braybrooke

Sir, — I was very disappointed to read that the proposal to use the Old Deanery at Wells as an art gallery or museum has been rejected (News, 31 July). The building in fact dates from the 12th century, although it was extensively remodelled in Tudor times and has had many subsequent alterations. In 1645, the Dean Walter Raleigh was murdered, probably in the building.

In the 1980s, ours was the last family to live in part of the Old Deanery, and, for the first time since the 1920s, the stables had a horse in them. This meant that people from the far corners of the diocese who came to the offices on business could also receive hospitality from us, or at the Palace from Bishop and Mrs Bickersteth.

A museum or arts centre would be of great value to the local community and would allow visitors not only to admire the beautiful cathedral, but also to feed their minds as well as the swans.

17 Courtiers Green
Clifton Hampden
Abingdon OX14 3EN

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