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Letters to the Editor

by
25 September 2020

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Ecclesiastical discipline and safeguarding processes

From Dr Sarah Horsman and Carl Lee

Sir, — We support the broad outline of the proposals from the Ecclesiastical Law Society (ELS) to replace the Clergy Discipline Measure (CDM) with two separate new processes (News, 18 September). We welcome separation of “service-level complaints” to be handled locally and allegations of “serious misconduct” to be handled independently of the diocese.

No one should be under threat of losing home and livelihood unless the allegation, if proved, is of sufficient severity to warrant such a sanction. Given the short and inglorious career of the CDM, it would be wise to avoid rushing to a replacement that repeats the egregious failures. We, therefore, welcome the proposal for rapid implementation of an interim system for service-level complaints, to minimise the ongoing harm until the CDM is repealed.

During our research into the CDM, we have been joining the dots on other serious situations that run so parallel to the CDM issues that they need to be included in reform of the Measure.

First, the frequency of failures of process justice in safeguarding allegations against clergy suggest that all such allegations could be more safely triaged and investigated under the two new systems that replace the CDM. Second, there needs to be a system for independent review and appeal of withdrawal of permission to officiate. Without this, there will continue to be opportunity for the arbitrary abuse of power and the bypassing of any safeguards built into the new legislation.

This is a time for deep reflection on the fundamental purpose of the new systems of accountability for clergy. Are they looking to nurture cohesion in relationships while demarcating the limits of professional conduct in ministry? Are they to govern ministry in a prescriptive way? Or are they punitive, trying to protect the reputation of the institution at the expense of those who serve within it?

Clergy and those who train, support, and work alongside them are welcome to contribute to the ongoing conversations about these matters in the Sheldon Hub (www.sheldonhub.org), which continue to feed into both the ELS and Lambeth working groups.

There is much essential detail still to be worked up. We are grappling with complex issues, but all clergy will be living with or under whatever replaces the CDM; so it is important that grass-roots voices be heard.

SARAH HORSMAN (Warden)
CARL LEE (Lay Chaplain)
Sheldon (Mary and Martha)
Sheldon Lane
Doddiscombsleigh
Exeter EX6 7YT

 

From Messrs David Lamming and Martin Sewell

Sir, — The further attempt by malcontents on the Governing Body at Christ Church, Oxford, to oust the Very Revd Professor Martyn Percy from his position as Dean of the college has spectacularly failed, as an investigation by the Church of England’s National Safeguarding Team (NST) found that he acted “entirely appropriately” in respect of four instances when he received confidential information from former students of the college, all competent adults (News, 11 September).

The statement by the lead bishop on safeguarding, Dr Jonathan Gibbs, does not just report a finding that Dr Percy is “not guilty” of the baseless allegations: it is a positive affirmation that the Dean acted wholly properly.

Accordingly, the college’s announcement on its website, stating that it “will be reviewing the NST’s findings with regard to Christ Church’s safeguarding responsibilities”, is graceless: it ought to celebrate the reassurance that the Dean understands safeguarding practice better than his accusers, who should now consider their own positions on the Governing Body.

But there is also a lesson for the Church. We are the “two supporters” of the Dean who wrote to General Synod members in June stating that the NST was being “used” by the malcontents (effectively as a cat’s paw) to further their vendetta against the Dean, having lost a costly 11-day tribunal hearing in 2019 chaired by a retired High Court judge (News, 19 June).

As we pointed out, “No person, survivor of abuse, or vulnerable adult has made any complaint, ever, against Dean Percy.” The NST announcement on 8 September vindicates our assessment.

While the outcome for the Dean is indeed welcome, there must now be an investigation into the way in which the Church came to be so embroiled. As the Bishop of Willesden, the Rt Revd Pete Broadbent, has commented (on the Thinking Anglicans blog), “a full interrogation of how the NST became the patsy of the CC Oxford dons/plotters and into the procedures the NST employ must now take place.”

On 14 August, you reported the letter sent to the Charity Commission by many survivors, lawyers, academics, and Synod members, urging the Commission to intervene in the light of the Archbishops’ Council’s failure to call to account those with operational responsibility for the Church’s safeguarding practice. That letter was acknowledged on 11 September, a senior specialist case manager noting the “serious concerns” that the letter raises.

The Archbishops’ Council should now state how it intends to respond.

DAVID LAMMING
20 Holbrook Barn Road, Boxford
Suffolk CO10 5HU

MARTIN SEWELL
8 Appleshaw Close, Gravesend, Kent DA11 7PB
(General Synod members)

 

Free school meals for the neediest children

From Suzanne Fletcher

Sir, — Paul Vallely wrote a good article (Comment, 11 September): he talked about Marcus Rashford’s campaign about free school meals, and the need for the National Food Strategy to be implemented.

Rightly, the children of those on low incomes must have access to food. If the recommendations of that strategy are taken up, however, it does not cover families on income less than Universal Credit. There are many children from families in this situation, including some asylum-seekers and all who have “no recourse to public funds”.

Those in that situation were included in the emergency response to the Covid crisis, and, thanks to Mr Rashford, that policy was continued in the form of vouchers throughout the school holidays. As the situation stands now, however, those poorest children will be back to no free school meals when schools are back to “normal”. The system is under review, but it needs to be a review positive for those in need.

I hope that Mr Rashford and your readers will promote the need for the children of all on very low incomes to have a nutritious meal, both at school and during the holidays.

Those of your readers with the listening ear of any parliamentary representatives may like to use this information. Those readers who have contacts with schools could check that their schools do know that those with “no recourse to public funds” and some others are eligible at the moment. Hackney Migrant Centre has the full details for schools if needed.

SUZANNE FLETCHER
3 Hoylake Way, Eaglescliffe
Stockton-on-Tees TS16 9EU

 

Eucharistic practice during the pandemic

Sir, — How I agree with your correspondent (Letters, 18 September), who quite rightly requested to remain unidentified.

I have watched with horror on Zoom as our priest used hand-sanitiser before administering the sacrament. As a retired nurse used to the steps involved in “good hand-wash” or hand-sanitising procedure, may I state that it is not sufficient to rub the palms of the hands together and then rub the palms over the backs of the hands in a hand-wringing motion.

We were taught that there are seven steps to effective hand-washing, and that contamination lurks in the webs of the fingers, around the fingers, the tips of the fingers, the thumb web, around the thumb, and around the wrists, as well as on the palms and backs of the hand; any deficiency in our technique was demonstrated using a special gel and ultraviolet light to view our hands after we had performed a hand-wash procedure — a salutary lesson for those who had any glowing bits!

It is time for the Church of England, in its copious communications to incumbents, to send out a video demonstrating the correct steps needed to sanitise a celebrant’s hands effectively; and also, in agreement with your previous correspondent, the correct order of priestly preparation needed to administer the sacrament safely.

(In all other respects, our priest is exemplary in preparing a Covid-safe environment for those returning to church and continuing to accommodate worship on Zoom for those not yet ready or unable to return to the church.)

NAME AND ADDRESS SUPPLIED

 

From Mr Michael Winterbottom

Sir, — I have read with interest your correspondence columns (4, 11, and 18 September) concerning the receiving of holy communion in both kinds and the use of individual communion cups to avoid the spread of Covid. To my mind, however, the major argument against these cups is not Covid-based, but, rather, that they represent a worrying shift in the received eucharistic doctrine of the Church of England.

As the Revd Dr Peter Anthony (Vicar of Kentish Town, in London) states in his recent excellent article, “A Shot of Salvation” (on the All Things Lawful and Honest blog), the Church of England has never in any of its formularies distanced itself from the doctrine of concomitance, which teaches that the grace of the sacrament of the eucharist is received in its fullness even if communion is administered under only one kind.

At the Reformation, the return of the chalice to the people was a significant and welcome liturgical reform, but did not come at the expense of ditching the doctrine of concomitance. Common Worship liturgies for the communion of the sick make it clear, for example, that if the sick person is very weak, or encumbered somehow, communion in one kind as an exception to the rule is entirely acceptable.

The Church of England has for many years now dealt with periods of infection or epidemic by withdrawing the chalice as a temporary action. A good example would be the swine-flu outbreak in 2009. It has always been restored when the time of emergency is over: the suspension of the common cup has only ever been a time-limited injunction. As such, it has never undermined the important Anglican liturgical tradition of the laity receiving the chalice as the norm.

Let us continue to receive in one kind until this pandemic is over and then, as in times past, return to the common cup and rejoice when we so do.

MICHAEL WINTERBOTTOM
Harper Place
Ashton-under-Lyne
Lancashire OL6 6LR

 

From Dr Lynn Nichol

Sir, — As a lay person, I read with interest the theological discussions about the use of individual communion cups. Should we not be concerned that if, this was adopted, many, to keep Covid-secure, would opt for disposable cups, and, therefore, there would be an increase in single-use plastic?

LYNN NICHOL
The Rectory, Pedmore Lane
Stourbridge DY9 0SW

 

Sudanese appeal

From the Bishop of Salisbury

Sir, — Thank you for reporting the good news about our diocesan emergency appeal in July for Sudan and South Sudan (News, 18 September); but the result was even better. The diocese exceeded our £50,000 target by raising £78,600.

The wonderful gift of £50,000 from family friends in honour of our parents was additional, as was some further fund-raising by parishes and deaneries for their particular Sudanese links. Thanks be to God.

Owing to the impact of Covid-19, this diocese is also having to address its own finances. The pressure is considerable. It was important to begin with the needs of others. Paradoxically, for the Church to be outward-facing and caring for others will help us.

NICHOLAS SARUM
The South Canonry, 71 The Close
Salisbury SP1 2ER

 

Franciscan Sisters

From Sister Helen Julian CSF

Sir, — I was delighted to read Lavinia Byrne’s positive review of my book, Franciscan Footprints (Books, 18 September).

Just one correction: my community, the Community of St Francis (CSF), is not the Second Order of the Anglican Franciscan family. The Second Order is the Community of St Clare, our enclosed contemplative Sisters.

We in CSF are First Order Sisters, a parallel community to our First Order Brothers, and, as far as we are aware, the only First Order Sisters in the worldwide Franciscan family.

The First and Second Orders have distinct vocations, and therefore provide two distinct ways for women to follow Christ in the ways of Francis and Clare.

HELEN JULIAN CSF
Address supplied

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