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Letters to the Editor

12 November 2021

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Churches and the climate crisis

From the Revd Dr David L. Gosling

Sir, — Andrew Brown (Press, 5 November) is correct in drawing attention to the Archbishop of Canterbury’s unfortunate comments at the beginning of the COP26 conference in Glasgow. But a much more important issue is why the Churches as a whole have so little to say about moral choices that will influence generations to come.

Had the British Council of Churches (BCC) still been in existence, then somebody of the calibre of John Habgood or Hugh Montefiore would have been asked to draw up a position paper for the ecumenical assembly to discuss. A booklet elucidating the consequent recommendations would then be prepared for distribution among the Churches and related organisations, and a slot would be procured in the COP26 proceedings for a presentation to be made.

Such a procedure was followed at the 1977 Windscale Public Local Inquiry, and in 1992 the Council of Churches for Britain and Ireland (CCBI), which partially replaced the BCC, presented a case for the British Churches (including the Roman Catholics) at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.

I was one of the two British CCBI participants; the other was Rachel Stephens, from the Methodist Church. The fact that the Roman Catholic Church was included was of great interest to many churches, especially in Brazil. (This was largely as a result of Cardinal Hume’s personal interest.)

Today, all we have are a few sentences hastily put together by a single archbishop, plus some comments by bishops in their dioceses. Is it any wonder that the Church of England is no longer taken seriously by decision-makers and the general public?

3 Tavistock Road
Cambridge CB4 3NB

From the Revd Dr David Wheeler

Sir, — Surely the prime factor behind the climate emergency is pure, simple greed. We conflate a happy lifestyle with a richer one. We want to become richer, to spend our money however we want. We don’t want to forgo what we have, and we want a future where we have more. Just look at the advertising industry! And that is going to cost our descendants dear. More than that, we who believe that we know a little of God have to set an example.

So, a simple question: how do we change people’s attitudes, and show them that always wanting more is a sin (for most in the richest countries, at least)? Older people like me not only should become carbon-neutral, but carbon-negative, to compensate for the carbon we’ve released into the atmosphere over our lifetime (and for the ways in which our true carbon costs are passed to others: e.g. all the goods that we buy made in other countries)? It is a challenge, but it can be done.

As with Black Lives Matter, we need to recognise past sinfulness/greed, which is having devastating consequences (generally elsewhere at present).

One last point: if we say the Church will become carbon-neutral, should that not mean that our entire worshipping congregation is carbon-neutral?

22 Glamis Avenue
Bournemouth BH10 6DP


Culture change sought in appointments advice

From the Revd Dr Evan McWilliams

Sir, — I was bemused to read that under Caroline Boddington the senior leadership of the Church of England has acquired “greater diversity” (News, 5 November).

While there may be more women and UK minority-ethnic people in positions of authority, they are hamstrung by a system that insists on conformity to increasingly centralised diktat, brand identity, and a mistaken understanding of collegiality which robs individuals of the ability to dissent with any vigour.

If true diversity is sought at a senior level, Ms Boddington’s successor will need to be willing to stand up to the powers that be and insist that candidates not only possess diversity of sex and background, but that they be encouraged to express publicly and cogently the all-important diversity of theology and thought which has shaped their vocations to ministry.

Hospitaller, St Batholomew the Great
Church House, Cloth Fair
London EC1A 7JQ


Positive power of prayer for hospital patients

From Mrs Heather Erridge

Sir, — How lovely to read of the support and encouragement that Katie Piper received from a nurse after her terrible acid attack in 2008. “In my time of need, a nurse talked to me about the power of prayer, and she prayed with me and for me” (Features, 5 November).

While volunteering as a hospital chaplain in Lancashire some years ago, I was asked to visit an elderly lady not expected to survive the week. When I arrived at the four-bed bay, she was very pale and propped up in bed, sleeping. I stood by her side, praying for her, and placed my hand on her arm as I did so. She did not stir or seem to sense that I was there in any way.

The next week, I noticed that her name was still on the ward board; so I walked down to see her. Again, she was pale, sleeping, propped up in bed; so again I stood by her bed, praying with my hand resting on her arm. Again, she did not stir or acknowledge me in any way, but slept on.

To my amazement, and that of the ward staff, her name was on the board the following week. I walked down the ward, fully expecting to find her asleep. As I put my head round the doorway, I saw that she was sitting up in bed fully awake. I opened my mouth to say hello, and before I could say anything, she looked straight at me, pointed her finger, and said: “I know you. You were warm and came and stood next to me and prayed.”

The lady left hospital the following week, and so we did not meet again, but that final week, her face was pink and bonny-looking, and she was fully awake and alert. She had indeed made a complete and real recovery.

Prayer works. Looking at the photo of Katie and thinking about the seriousness of the wounds that she experienced, I am sure that definitely has a part to play in healing.

The Rectory
17 Coronation Road
North Somerset BS24 0PG


Synod members and revision of clergy discipline

From Canon Lynda Barley

Sir, — New General Synod members may be surprised by the volume of papers coming their way before the November meeting, but I hope that they will find time to take extra care to reflect on the background to the report of the Clergy Conduct Measure Implementation Group (News, 5 November). They have an important part to play in generating momentum towards a fundamental revision that reflects gospel values and rectifies the injustices suffered by the numerous clergy caught up in the periphery of CDM procedures.

Their stories are gathered in the independent Sheldon survey reported on the Sheldon Hub at hwww.sheldonhub.org/CDM. Its evidence reveals an open wound in the life of the Church, which, as we have seen in recent months, continues to fester with tragic consequences. Too many have had their lives and ministries damaged and destroyed.

As one of the researchers, I hope that Synod members grasp the concerns of those looking on from outside that the Church afford its clergy basic human rights.

Skinners House, Willand EX15 2RB

From Mr Michael Gear

Sir, — You report the not-guilty verdict returned in the case of the Revd Veronica Green, a vicar in Chester diocese (News, 18 October); but her case looks set to be yet another instance of heavy-handedness in the CDM system.

Mrs Green is being left under suspension when, in any other profession, she would be back in her post. The alleged offences took place 45 years ago when she was a young teenager. How many of us can look back at some of what we did in our youth without feeling shame? But we have moved on and received forgiveness.

The C of E needs to separate discipline from safeguarding and show more care for clergy against whom allegations or complaints are alleged. No wonder hundreds of clergy feel that they need professional protection, and so join a trade union for advice and help.

As laity, we value our parish priests, but have doubts about the capabilities of some who are in effect their line managers. What training is given to archdeacons and others? Recent unfortunate cases demonstrate that such training is essential, and so should be a given and put in place without delay.

Crosslands, Hatherton
Nantwich CW5 7QY


Sanctity irrespective of denominational loyalty

From Mr Adrian Roberts

Sir, — In her excellent article on the saints (“How to choose your heroes”, Faith, 5 November), Catherine Pepinster mentions the ecumenical significance of non-Anglican commemorations in the Anglican lectionary.

I would want to add to the examples that she gives the Church of England’s commemorations of Thomas More and John Fisher (6 July), both of whom were martyred for their allegiance to the Pope and for their resistance to the Church of England’s being established in the first place; and of John Bunyan (30 August), imprisoned by the Restoration Church of England for his Nonconformist beliefs.

Now, there’s ecumenism for you, and one of the reasons that, even in these troubled times, I remain proud to be an Anglican.

West Farmhouse
Kexmoor Farm
Kirkby Malzeard
Ripon HG43QQ


From the Revd Robert Gould

Sir, — Catherine Pepinster’s article on the progression of saintly Anglicans to become saintly Roman Catholics seems oddly uni-directional. A Roman Catholic friend with whom I work in a foodbank more than once praised the great chances offered by Pope Benedict’s Ordinariate.

Eventually, I mentioned that there was two-way traffic. I had recently been in conversation with two Anglican priests, being the only one of the three not ordained in the Roman Catholic Church. My friend, I must admit, got the last word. “Well, Bob, we could do something about that!”

80 Strathearn Road
Edinburgh EH9 2AF


Assisted-dying debate

From Mr Stephen Barber

Sir, — With great respect to Lord Harries (my sometime boss when I worked for the diocese of Oxford) (Comment, 22 October, Letters, 29 October), what is so wrong with not wanting to be a burden?

4 Meadow Lane
Jacobs Mill, Witney
Oxfordshire OX28 6DN

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