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Letters to the Editor

21 February 2020

Changes in the divorce law, racism debate, and the Channel Islands’ transfer


Pensions Board and FTSE index

From Mr Adam Matthews

Sir, — I write in response to the letter from Mr James Buchanan (14 February) relating to the FTSE TPI Climate Transition Index. I was keen to correct the suggestion made in Mr Buchanan’s letter about how companies are assessed for inclusion in the index.

The index is deliberately designed to support the transition to a low-carbon economy in line with the Paris Climate Agreement. The index incentivises companies to transition by rewarding those that set the most ambitious targets, and therefore encouraging others to follow suit, or penalising those that have targets that are not sufficiently ambitious, or excluding companies in key high carbon sectors which do not set targets such as Exxon and Chevron.

A company such as Shell is included in the index, as it has led its peers in the oil and gas sector by setting targets covering all its emissions. While these are not yet ambitious enough and we continue to engage robustly with the company, it is clearly a company putting in place a strategy to fundamentally change its business. As such, it is not rewarded in the index, but actually has a reduced investment until such time that it is assessed as sufficiently ambitious by the independent and academically rigorous Transition Pathway Initiative (TPI).

We do believe that it is possible to distinguish between companies that are genuinely attempting to change their business models and those that are not. The index is an appropriate deployment of carrot and stick, informed by the Grantham Research Institute at the London School of Economics, which oversees TPI.

The design of the index has been hailed by many, including the Bank of England and the UK’s own UN climate envoy, as industry-leading, and, we hope, will pave the way for other investors to follow the Pension Board’s lead.

Director (Ethics & Engagement) Investment Team, Church of England Pensions Board, and Co-Chair of the Transition Pathway Initiative
29 Great Smith Street
London SW1P 3PS


Changes in the divorce law, past and present 

From the Rt Revd Lord Harries of Pentregarth

Sir, — As the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill goes through Parliament (News, 14 February), it is important to remember the truly pioneering part that the Church of England has played in making our divorce law more humane.

The 1966 report Putting Asunder, commissioned by Michael Ramsey, the Archbishop of Canterbury, argued that irretrievable breakdown should be the sole ground for divorce. This was picked up by the Law Commission and introduced to the House of Lords by the Bishop of Exeter, Dr Robert Mortimer. As the Lord Chancellor commented in response, it would in future be regarded as a truly historic occasion. So it has proved.

Those divorcing still had to show evidence of that breakdown by a period of separation or on the grounds of behaviour, but the Family Law Bill introduced by Lord Mackay in 1996 was designed to abolish all such tests. Against fierce opposition, the Church of England supported that Bill. Sadly, though it was passed, it was not implemented by the incoming government, and was eventually repealed. One reason was that the “information sessions”, a key feature of the Bill designed to save marriages, were, after testing with a number of pilot schemes, judged to be ineffective.

Nevertheless, the pioneering historic position of the Church of England as it was in 1966 and 1996 is such as to support this Bill. What is necessary is to have recognised within the present Bill some opportunity, even at the last moment, of helping those divorcing to think again, through one of the relationship-support services, or through mediation. I will be introducing a modest amendment to this effect at committee stage on 3 March.

House of Lords
London SW1A 0PW


After the racism debate, will history repeat itself? 

From the Revd Deiniol Heywood

Sir, — I would like to congratulate the General Synod on its unanimous response to the Revd Andrew Moughtin-Mumby’s private member’s motion lamenting “the conscious and unconscious racism experienced by countless BAME Anglicans in 1948 and subsequent years”.

I was sceptical that the C of E could avoid another spectacular own goal even on such a clear point of justice. I am glad that my worries that the motion would be amended and qualified away by Synod until it was just another short newspaper article about our failure to live out what we preach were unfounded.

Fr Moughtin-Mumby is to be thanked for his tenacity in bringing this to fruition. Similarly, the safeguarding debate and the promise of reparation (not just financial) to survivors of abuse is to be celebrated. I hope that this commitment does not go the way of “a radical new Christian inclusion” as it works its way through the power structures of the Church.

Maybe this Synod reflects a new sense of realism and responsibility gripping the Church? I am sure I am not alone in feeling a terrible sense of history repeating itself. We continue our doomed attempts to use so-called “biblical” theology to justify prejudice, but in these days we are scared of sex and gender difference more than racial difference. And as for the tortured Living in Love and Faith process, I must disagree with the enabling officer that it is God who is to blame for delay.

Let us hope that we do not have to wait 72 years for the Synod to unanimously lament our Church’s behaviour towards those people we consciously discriminate against today because of their sexuality or gender identity.

140 Wycombe Road
Prestwood, Great Missenden
Buckinghamshire HP16 0HJ


From Mr Philip Deane

Sir, — I seem to recall on a BBC interview during the 2016 referendum, when asked if concerns about immigration could be motivated by “racism”, the Archbishop of Canterbury replied with an emphatic “No.” Since then, EU nationals have been murdered, have been told to “go home”, and have said they no longer feel welcome here.

Archbishop Welby’s recent breast-beating on the subject of institutional racism in the C of E would seem to suggest at least an inconsistency of thought, or a Damascene conversion, on the subject of racism.

9 Church Street
Bishop Middleham DL17 9AF


Doubts about wisdom of Channel Islands’ transfer 

From Mr Philip Johanson

Sir, — “Lord Chartres told the General Synod that he had concluded that the relationship between Winchester and the Islands had broken down” (News,14 February). Is it not more accurate to say that the relationship between the Bishop of Winchester and the Islands had broken down?

The solution of the Church of England is to move the deaneries of the Islands to another diocese. In reality, should the solution not be to move or remove the Bishop from the diocese?

I know people will say that this is not possible. If the Church can find a way to move the deaneries of the Channel Islands from one diocese to another, it is not beyond it to find a way to move or remove a bishop. Furthermore, does this action now mean that if the relationship between a deanery and its bishop breaks down, the deanery can be moved to another diocese?

The Draft Channel Island Measure explanatory notes presented to the General Synod did not include costings. It has been suggested that the legal costs involved prior to the setting-up of the Archbishop’s Commission amounted to £500,000. Will a total cost figure be published that includes legal costs, the work of the commission, and costs involved in preparing documents for the Privy Council?

The document also seems to request rushing through the legislation as soon as possible. One wonders why this is so when it took the Archbishop of Canterbury from 2014, when the relationship between the Channel Islands and the Bishop of Winchester broke down, to 2018 before he set up a commission to look into the situation.

10 Ditton Lodge
8 Stourwood Avenue
Dorset BH6 3PN


A theological model for work priests’ vocation 

From the Revd Dr Jenny Gage

Sir, — Writing about training to support the vocation of worker priests, Ben Cahill-Nicholls reported being told by a “senior clergyman” that there was “‘no theological model” for such ministry” (Letters, 31 January).

There is! I completed a professional doctorate in 2019, The Priest in Secular Employment: Participating in the Missio Dei. I am now writing the book, which was always the intended purpose of my research. It will be published by Sacristy Press in due course.

If any readers have experience that they would like to pass on to me, especially concerning current experience in the process of discerning their vocation, or as an ordinand or curate, I would be very interested to hear from them.

Minister for Social Justice. Ely Cathedral, and Bishop’s Officer for Self-Supporting Ministry
51 Henley Way
Ely CB7 4YH


Eligibility for grants from National Churches Trust 

From Mr Eddie Tulasiewicz

Sir, — In response to your report about the closure of churches (News, 14 February), I should like to draw attention to the National Churches Trust’s hard work to keep churches open, through our grant programmes. Our grants are available to any Christian place of worship in the UK which is open for regular worship.

We can offer grants to unlisted as well as listed churches. In 2019, our grants helped 24 unlisted churches. We have also helped many modern churches. Since 2014, the National Churches Trust has awarded grants to help more than 60 20th- century churches with funding for maintenance, repairs, and the installation of modern facilities.

Full details of our grant schemes can be found at: www.nationalchurchestrust.org/our-grants

Although church closures may sometime be inevitable, in good repair and with the right facilities to allow greater community use, church buildings, chapels and meeting houses can continue to play a vital part in supporting local communities for many, many years to come.

Head of Communications and Public Affairs
National Churches Trust
7 Tufton Street
London SW1P 3QB


Special school under Church of England auspices 

From the Revd Dr Stephen Evans

Sir, — Howard Dellar asks some very pertinent questions in his article “Why cannot the Church be special?” (Education, 14 February). The Church of England does, however, have one special school: the St Marylebone CE Bridge School, a co-educational Church of England Special Free School, opened in 2012, for students aged 11-16, whose primary needs are related to their speech, language, and communication.

All governors, with the exception of parent and staff governors, are appointed by the St Marylebone CE School (an outstanding Church of England Academy) and the Bridge School shares a gifted and able chaplain with its parent school. In 2016, the National Society Statutory Inspection of Anglican and Methodist Schools Report rated the school as outstanding.

Because it is a special school, there are no faith-based admissions; but the London Diocesan Board for Schools has a close association and is a member of the Academy Trust, along with the Rector and Churchwardens of St Marylebone Parish Church. The school is also affiliated to the Woodard Corporation (its only special school), a national association of Anglican independent and maintained schools and academies.

Guided by Colossians 3.12-17, the Bridge School has created a calm, safe, and enjoyable learning environment, where everyone matters, and in which pupils regularly experience success, while it ensures that all pupils reach their full potential.

17 Marylebone Road
London NW1 5LT


Dignitaries can collude in lay ‘bullying by proxy’ 

Sir, — Recent correspondence concerning laity discipline (Letters, 7 and 14 February) rightly homed in on aspects of lay bullying of clergy. Not all such cases involve members of a congregation who, with a little love and forbearance, might be locally deradicalised from their unpleasant behaviour.

Trivial, unfounded, and vexatious complaints (and I do mean trivial) to a bishop or archdeacon from parishioners who never attend a church represent “bullying by proxy”, especially when the recipient of the complaints declines to hear the victim cleric’s explanations of local tensions, demanding instead that the cleric ensure that no further cause for complaint should arise.

The undermining of parochial clergy by local politicians, often infecting members of the congregation, cannot be countered without the support of the hierarchy. The remedy for such bullying by proxy requires a suitably pastoral approach and a robust integrity on the part of the recipient of vexatious complaints rather than, in my sorry experience, a rush to appease the complainant.



No trifling with Wilde 

From Anne Foreman

Sir, — Three cheers for Terence Handley MacMath’s cookery column (7 February). In the middle of a tricky General Synod meeting, it is good have an issue of alternative importance to address.

As Oscar Wllde fans will know, it was not Lady Bracknell who said that one should always keep a diary to have something sensational to read on a train, but the much younger Gwendoline, Earnest’s “excessively pretty” ward.

Gwendoline was not only excessively pretty, but also devoted to bread and butter; so I’m not sure if she would have enjoyed Auntie Annie’s trifle, delicious though it sounds to me. For my money, a true trifle has small strips of angelica adorning the blanched almonds.

12a Baring Crescent
Exeter EX1 1TL


Advice against intinction 

From Canon Roger Hill

Sir, — In view of the welcome advice we are getting from the Church on coronavirus or COVID-19, is this the moment for us to initiate and pursue “Intinction Rebellion?”

4 Four Stalls End, Littleborough
Lancashire OL15 8SB


Blessed inheritance

From the Revd Dr Jonathan Arnold

Sir, — At a recent ecumenical gathering in the Netherlands, I was delighted to learn about, and par­ticipate in, a “fresh expression” service which is regularly filling churches up and down the country. It’s called Choral Evensong.

Director of Communities and Partnerships, Canterbury diocese
First Floor, Old Palace, The Precincts Canterbury
Kent CT1 2EE

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