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Letters to the Editor

18 December 2020

Church Times letters: letters@churchtimes.co.uk We regret that we cannot guarantee consideration of letters submitted by post under present working conditions


Hunting on Church of England land

From the Revd Dr Helen Hall

Sir, — On a number of occasions in 2020, senior Church of England clergy have spoken out in robust condemnation of secular authorities’ flouting the rule of law (e.g. in rela­­tion to Dominic Cummings’s journey to the north-east, and more recently, governmental disregard for international undertakings with the European Union).

Advocating for justice, and con­fronting the powerful with uncom­fortable truths, are part of the prophetic mission of the Church. Furthermore, these inter­ven­tions were broadly welcomed by society, even from quarters not always sym­pathetic to religious figures in public life.

In light of this, it would be very unfortunate if the Church of Eng­land were to undermine its moral credibility by condoning illegality on its own property. In light of admis­sions that trail-hunting is being used as a smokescreen for unlawful fox-hunting, many large landowning organisations (for example, the National Trust and Forestry Eng­land) have acted to ban or suspend trail-hunting. Thus far, the Church of England has failed to do so, and thus to prevent what are now known to be criminal activities.

Parliament has passed legislation to ban fox-hunting, and in a liberal democratic society it is appropriate and necessary for persons of good will to respect the law. In the past, it has been stated that the Church of England could not prohibit hunting on its property, because the terms of the relevant leases did not permit this. An appropriately drafted lease, however, will contain clauses for­bidding the tenant from using the land for illegal or immoral purposes.

Now that trail-hunting has transi­tioned from being a contro­versial sport into an acknowledged cover for illegality, this argument can no longer apply. If the Church of England wishes to maintain its moral standing to make pronounce­ments on illegality, and fulfil its spir­itual obligations, then it must keep its own house in order. We would, therefore, urge rapid action to end trail-hunting on its lands.

Chair, The Anglican Society for the Welfare of Animals, on behalf of the committee
PO Box 7193, Hook
Hampshire RG27 8GT


What about the laity’s callings and well-being?

From Mr Andrew Rainsford

Sir, — Whilst I applaud the development of the Church Times webinar on 21 January, “The Weight of this Calling: Clergy burnout, well-being, and resilience”, and encourage as many as possible to attend, I note that, yet again, lay people employed in salaried positions in the Church are ignored.

As one who worked in three dioceses, across two UK provinces, for 21 of the past 30 years, I have first-hand experience of a calling to the field of ministry in which I was engaged. It was no less real than that experienced for an ordained ministry. In all three of the dioceses in which I worked, it fell outside of the formal support structures, although, in the first one, there was strong encouragement (bordering on a requirement) to engage with my local chapter. I was also included in the ministry-review scheme.

Since my retirement, almost two years ago, there has been increased pressure on all lay employees — be they in parishes or dioceses. I read reports of parochial and diocesan income collapsing and the need for redundancies. I am aware of former lay colleagues working in a manner that they had not envisaged (or were trained for) even ten months ago. I see no events of this nature where they can explore the issues to be discussed in this seminar.

Stonehaven, Edgefield
Melton Constable
Norfolk NR24 2AX


Gambling is detrimental, but so is boxing

From Mr Philip Deane

Sir, — I find it extraordinary that the main concern about the boxing event in Church House, Westminster (News, 11 December), was that it was sponsored by an online gambling website, and not the possible damage to the brains of the contestants. The object of this “sport” is, if possible, to concuss your opponent to render him or her incapable of continuing the fight. Future dementia is almost inevitable after a career in boxing.

In the contact sport of rugby, players are taken off the field for head-injury assessment at the slightest suspicion of concussion, and heading the ball in Association Football is now widely considered to be the cause of dementia in many retired professional players.

In my view, this relic from the era of bare-fist pugilism, cock-fighting, bear-baiting, etc., should be consigned to the history books.

9 Church Street
Bishop Middleham DL17 9AF

From Mr Tim Goodacre

Sir, — I am dismayed at the recently reported promotion of a gambling company within the confines of Church House. Regardless of the exact nature of the responsible authority (and who, I might question, managed the separation of the Corporation of Church House from the national church institutions such that they “have no say on how the building is let”?), it is a dreadful own goal for any such promotion to be seen within the space from which the Church attempts to promote the highest aspirations of communal life.

The vulnerability of many in our society to gambling is well understood. The iniquitous spread of promotion by online sites (exemplified in the past by the sponsorship of Everton FC by SportPesa, a gambling site profiting from some of the most vulnerable poor in the world in Kenya) continues unchallenged in many situations, and it is no surprise that football and boxing, sports enjoyed by many with limited means, are prime targets.

The Anglican Church should be setting a standard. A full apology with a better standard mandated in future is demanded after this faux pas.

24 Staverton Road
Oxford OX2 6XJ


Safety of buildings

From Mr Mick Oliver

Sir, — Deuteronomy 22.8 states “When you build a new house, put a parapet along the roof, or you will bring the guilt of bloodshed on your house if anyone should fall from it.” What this passage does is to put the responsibility for safe construction (Leader comment, 4 December) on the party that has the opportunity, materials, means, and knowledge to achieve it. Very much the same philosophy that is the basis of the Health and Safety at Work Act, as appropriate now as when both were written.

19 Woodcroft Avenue
Stanmore, Middlesex HA7 3PT


Reformation divisions in Hilary Mantel’s novels

From the Revd Neil Bishop

Sir, — In his interesting article (Comment, 11 December), Paul Vallely does Hilary Mantel a disservice. In her novels, he detects a bias against Thomas More because of the latter’s steadfast adherence to Roman Catholicism. But what the novels are reporting is Thomas Cromwell’s bias, which Mantel skilfully weaves into her story.

The novels are written from Cromwell’s perspective, as a stream of consciousness, and we are soon made aware that when More persecutes Protestants, Cromwell interprets his actions as cruel, hypocritical, and misguided, whereas when he persecutes Roman Catholics — and sometimes Protestants, too — it is always an unfortunate necessity. Surely the irony is not lost on most readers?

There may be similar subtle attempts to convey different points of view in The Crown, but I agree with Paul Vallely that they are harder to detect. Just as, in Hilary Mantell’s trilogy, they may only become apparent when the viewer takes the long view. The problem with television — and perhaps with all drama — is its immediacy. It leaves momentary impressions — in a scene or a line — which are not so easily put into a broader context.

I agree wholeheartedly with Mr Vallely that dramatising the lives of “living persons” in this way is unfair. But then, as he admits, all historical fiction is unfair, because it invites us to accept one version of the truth rather than consider all of the different interpretations of events. All we can do is be on hand to keep reminding people that they are seeing — or reading — only one version of the truth, no matter how skilfully written.

48 Hockley Lane
Coventry CV5 7FT


Authorship of research on women’s leadership

From Canon Felicity Scroggie and others

Sir, — We thank you for Pat Ashworth’s coverage (News, 4 December) of the report Women in Senior Leadership Roles in the Church of England. May we point out one gentle correction, that this report was not produced by Women and the Church (WATCH), as the item stated, but by a small group from cohort 2 of the Senior Leadership Development Programme (SLDP), working together on a final-year research project.

The authors of the report are most grateful for the support of WATCH in providing the helpful statistics, and also for the support of the National Association of Deans and Advisers in Women’s Ministry (NADAWM) in hosting our report on their website. Anyone wishing to read the report in full can find it using the link https://tinyurl.com/y2qpdsvb. The full report has now been sent to all the dioceses; and the team await their responses and look forward to hearing of constructive moves in the promotion of diversity from each diocese.

c/o St Mary’s Rectory
19 Mill Street, Kidlington
Oxon OX5 2EE


Parish ministry that was far from ‘humdrum’

From the Revd Simon Nicholls

Sir, — As a former congregant and Reader at St John’s, Waterloo, Liverpool, I would like to assure your readers that, Prebendary Patrick Dearnley’s ministry there was far from humdrum (pace Dr Colin Buchanan, Gazette, 4 December).

Pat’s arrival came at a very dif­fi­cult time for the parish, and his gentle and stable leadership and generosity of spirit gave hope and encouragement to us all. He had a wonderful knack of knowing how to help others flourish, and he was well loved and respected by parishioners.

Pat was a great mentor on my own journey to ordained min­istry, as he was to others I know. Pat sug­gested I might find Ridley Hall a good place to pursue my training. It was a recommendation that turned out to both wise and in­­spired, and I am very grateful for that. I, with many others, will miss him.

29 Coppice Drive, Marlpool
Heanor DE75 7BW


Editor’s note: The Dean of Blackburn, Canon Pailing, and Bishop North say that it was not their intention to accuse the Revd Paul Benfield (Letters, 11 December) of attempting to interfere in a safeguarding process, and say that they were making a general point about synodical privilege, just as Fr Benfield was making a general point about cathedral housing.

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