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Letters to the Editor

09 October 2020

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C of E in Brussels and Strasbourg

From the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Representation to the European Institutions

Sir, — I am grateful to the Revd Alexander Faludy for his provocative piece “C of E ties with Europe need an energy boost” (Comment, 25 September). Nevertheless, I offer some factual correction and comment.

The diocese in Europe is involved actively in the work of the European Institutions. Thus, the Bishop in Europe, the Rt Revd Robert Innes, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Representative to the European Institutions, was one of eight senior religious leaders to participate in the October 2018 High Level Dialogue, chaired by European Commission First Vice-President, Frans Timmermans.

The Dialogue considered migration, social integration, and the sustainability of our way of life, in advance of the 2019 European Parliamentary elections. The Bishop has since participated in European Parliament discussions chaired by Mairead McGuinness MEP, parliamentary lead on the Article 17 Dialogue, and currently a European Commissioner-designate.

Our current priorities in the EU are: responding to the impact of Brexit, on which Bishop Innes has campaigned since the 2016 Referendum; working on the EU Migration Pact (published last week) and the EU Covid-19 recovery plan; and Freedom of Religion and Belief (FoRB) in the context of EU human-rights dialogues with third states of concern.

In the Council of Europe, we are focusing on the Istanbul Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence.

Anyone with serious experience of working in both ecumenism and diplomacy will tell you that they require a balanced combination of informal influencing approaches and public advocacy. We work in forums that are action-orientated, and where our distinctive European Anglican voice can be represented; and we collaborate closely with individual European Churches or groups of Churches, as well as with like-minded organisations and faith groups.

There is a dedicated web page on our advocacy and media work on the diocese in Europe’s website at europe.anglican.org.

Of course, with more resources, we could do more. But I hope that this will help boost the confidence of Anglicans everywhere that ties with “Europe” are being driven energetically in Brussels and Strasbourg — as they are by bishops in the UK Parliament — and we welcome all interest, engagement, and support in our efforts.

Office of the Bishop in Europe
rue Capitaine Crespel 47 bte 49
1050 Brussels, Belgium


NHS general practice during the pandemic

From the Revd Dr Simon Wright

Sir, — I write to correct Canon Angela Tilby’s article (Comment, 2 October). No GP surgery has shut up shop, relying only on remote consultations, as she rashly asserts.

Face-to-face consultations take place each day, but are appropriately triaged first. As a GP, I can assure you all we do this neither lightly nor for our benefit.

GP surgeries are places where ill and vulnerable people congregate. That is an ideal focus for infection; you’d be safer going to a Trump rally. Also, healthcare professionals can be super-spreaders.

Everyone working at my surgery has had the antibody test that shows previous infection. The one person to be positive was a GP who had been completely asymptomatic throughout. Just consider how many patients they might have infected under normal circumstances.

Finally, there is the matter of capacity. Via the internet, phone, and video link, I can deal with 40-50 patients a day, giving me, by the way, a new-found respect for call-centre workers. If I see patients face to face, the changing of PPE and the cleaning of the consultation room afterwards means that I can see two to three patients an hour.

Yes, the present situation is uncomfortable for all concerned, but we are doing our best and are actually quite exhausted.

Frankly, offhand and ill-considered remarks such as Canon Tilby’s are both unhelpful and hurtful.

General practitioner, and OLM of St Mary the Virgin, Davyhulme
12 Davyhulme Road
Manchester M41 7DS


Archbishops’ open letter on safeguarding

From the Revd Dr Margaret Wilkinson

Sir, — Broken Rites welcomes the Archbishops’ open letter regarding the IICSA report on the Church of England and the Church in Wales and hopes and prays that it will mark a new beginning for those who have been abused by members of the clergy and a new attitude within the Church to those who have suffered.

We stand in solidarity with survivors of clerical child abuse, as many of our members have suffered domestic abuse from the clergy. The Church’s current policies and practices are just as inadequate in this situation as they have been in child sexual abuse. Because they live in tied housing, many of our members have suffered abuse for years through fears of becoming homeless. Others become homeless.

A large number describe the Church’s response to their situation as re-abuse.

We will, therefore, be asking the Archbishops for confirmation that the external audit of safeguarding arrangements will also include the safeguarding of victims/survivors of clerical domestic abuse, and that the voice of survivors of domestic abuse is sought, heard, and included in any revision of safeguarding policies.

On behalf of Broken Rites
27 River Grove Park
Beckenham BR3 1HX


Rural deaneries and the Welsh mission areas

From the Bishop of St Asaph

Sir, — I read with interest the article by the Archdeacon of Salop, the Ven. Paul W. Thomas (Comment, 2 October), suggesting that the time had come for the deanery to emerge as the locus of mission. The Archdeacon is warmly invited to visit to the west of his archdeaconry, across Offa’s Dyke, where we in St Asaph have been living out his vision for the past seven years.

After the Harries report, we invested in transforming our 14 deaneries into what are now 20 mission areas across the diocese, based exactly on the principles that he has now started to advocate. It has not all been an easy journey, and old culture dies hard, which is one of the reasons that we abandoned the terminology of deaneries, and moved instead to mission areas.

Old names buttressed old ideas, but one of the driving visions was to lower the boundary walls between the parishes, and to give the mission areas greater definition, precisely as he argues, to generate critical mass and play to the strengths of team ministry.

I do not think that we in St Asaph recognise the creation of distance and loss of authenticity which he describes, however. In Welsh, we have a word, bro, which means the community that shares a common life and geographical district. Our mission areas were discerned on the basis of the bro, the area where people had a common identity and shared educational and shopping facilities. I think that one of the results of this is a gentle shift to realising that our churches do serve a common locality, and were all the stronger and more authentic for it.

Covid-19 has proved to be the real test of our mission areas, when they were challenged to work together to respond to finding new ways of being Church in a situation in which the old was simply not available. And I’m proud to say that the Teulu Asaph (the family of St Asaph) has responded: mission areas have worked together to support one another.

Churches with stronger finance have supported the weaker, and clergy and laity have co-operated and encouraged one another in pastoral care, online liturgy, and mission. Mission areas have given us a resilience and hope for the future.

In reality, it is still early days, and I wouldn’t want to claim too much, but I am increasingly thankful for a diocese and a Church that are confident about the future, and in which we are learning to work together.

If the Archdeacon of Salop would like to give us the deanery of Oswestry back (after we lost it 100 years ago at disestablishment), I am sure we would find ways of co-operating across the boundary of our two national Churches. . .

Esgobty, St Asaph LL17 0TW

Tied and green housing offered to the clergy

From the Revd Richard Adams

Sir, — I was very impressed by the work described in Maddy Fry’s article (Features, 25 September) on green vicarages. Surely, we are overdue for a national policy to take all parsonages in this direction rather than leave it to local initiative. It would be a clear way of publicly demonstrating Christian commitment to environmentally friendly action, and would, coincidentally, be very beneficial for clergy families. The ongoing sale of redundant parsonages could provide part of the funding.

But one thing struck me as odd: the houses featured are said to be generating 85 per cent of all their power, and yet one of them has energy costs down from £3000 to £1000 p.a. If £1000 represents 15 per cent of full energy costs, then the total has in fact gone up to £6666 p.a. for that house. Not sure if the sums are right?

Tros y Mor, Llangoed
Beaumaris, Anglesey LL58 8SB


Mark Wild, the Worcester diocesan surveyor, responds: “The issue is that, although they are designed to generate 105 per cent of what is needed to run the house for the year and with only two people in, actually generate 85 per cent, you still to buy in electricity at night and in the winter when generating is not possible. If you only used the electricity that you generated and used all that you generated, the bill would be zero.

“Not available when the houses were built and only now becoming available are batteries that are large enough to run a house for a day. One of these would make a big difference, particularly at this time of the year, when daytime generation is still quite good, but the times of darkness when lights are needed are increasing. I hope that this makes sense.” Editor


From Mr Anthony Jennings

Sir, — Heather Erridge’s plea that classified advertisements of clergy vacancies should mention what housing is being provided (Letters, 18 September) touches a nerve with some of us.

Since the Second World War, the Church has sold off more than 8000 of its once fine stock of rectories and vicarages, representing in today’s values about £8 billion, largely to the benefit of already wealthy private buyers. This has inevitably led to the decline of the Church in the community.

Most of these houses were specifically designed for clergy use, and many of the Georgian and Regency houses in particular were practical for clergy families, being quite compact and yet having enough space for meetings and social events. Many of the new houses, in contrast, are of much inferior building quality and not only lack space, but often also need further expenditure to make them more suitable for clergy use.

Our archive includes a collection of recent classified advertisements, and it is notable that those that do mention the house tend to be from the benefices still offering the more traditional type of house. The adjectives more frequently used to describe them include “spacious”, “attractive”, and “four-bedroom”, and they often mention proximity to the church. Yet these are the sort of qualities that diocesan officials tend to disparage.

Director, Save Our Parsonages
Flat Z, 12-18 Bloomsbury Street
London WC1B 3QA


UK call for debt jubilee

From Mr Heinz Toller

Sir, — The Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Church of Scotland, and the Methodist and United Reformed Churches have united with Church Action on Poverty behind the report Reset the Debt (News, 2 October). Where are the voices of the Church of England, the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Church in Wales, and the Roman Catholic Church calling for a debt jubilee for the six million households in the UK worst affected by a cut in their income caused by the pandemic?

Isle of Iona
Argyll PA76 6SW


Anglican use of hymns was rare in the 1830s

From Mr Robert Andrews

Sir, — Pat Ashworth (Diary, 2 October) is having difficulty finding hymns that might have been sung in church in 1835-36. The reason for her difficulty is that hymns were not widely sung in the Church of England during that period.

The influence of Methodism at the end of the 18th century encouraged the more Evangelical parishes to introduce hymns into worship, but not everyone was happy about this. In 1819, members of the congregation of St Paul’s, Sheffield, so objected to hymn-singing that they brought action against their Vicar in the York Consistory Court (Holy & Ward v. Cotterill).

The outcome of the Cotterill case gave tacit approval for hymn-singing to be allowed, and there was a flood of locally produced hymn books. We had to wait until 1861, however, for the first national hymn book to appear, when the first edition of Hymns Ancient and Modern was published.

3 Sewards End
Essex SS12 9PB


A voice of singing?

From the Very Revd John F. A. Bond

Sir, — I have been following with interest the various letters regarding worship in church at this time. In the Church of Ireland, we can sing (Letters, 2 October) quietly in our masks, but not aloud! Perhaps this is an Irish solution to an Anglican problem.

3 Rectory Green, Broughshane
Co. Antrim BT42 4LH

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