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Letters to the Editor

by
18 June 2021

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Ignorance of immigration rules

From Mr K. Augustine Tanner-Ihm and the Revd Dr Zachary Guiliano

Sir, — The Church Times reported (News, 28 May) that one of us, K. Augustine Tanner-Ihm, experienced difficulties obtaining a title post and visa over the past year. This is accurate. Nevertheless, the reasons are not as reported. Home Office rules changed at the beginning of 2021, eliminating the resident-labour-market test, which prevented non-EEA migrants from taking up positions in the UK when a qualified settled worker had also applied. This has kept migrants out of a great number of posts, regardless of their qualifications.

The resident-labour-market test did not, however, apply to curacies, which are supernumerary training posts. It is not clear that NCIs, the dioceses of the Church of England, or their staff were fully aware of this fact. Mr Tanner-Ihm was advised by more than one diocese that he could not be sponsored for a visa, and he was not offered a curacy for nearly a year, even after securing a “Global Talent” visa with no job restrictions, the funds for which he raised by public campaign.

This represents an inexcusable lack of expertise. It has negatively affected not only Mr Tanner-Ihm, but many non-EEA migrants. Most dioceses are not even registered to act as visa sponsors, and ordinands and priests can testify that dioceses and church institutions are unwilling to pay the necessary fees to become visa sponsors or pay the application fees of their ordinands. Consider the hypocrisy and waste: the Ministry Division and the dioceses will pay tens of thousands to house and train ordinands, but not to place them in posts. They will pay thousands in moving expenses or grants for home furnishing, but not comparable amounts for visas. Possessions take precedence over people — if they are foreign.

Since the advent of the “hostile environment” policies in 2012-13, the Church has lacked the will to solve the problems that they presented, including the horrible effects on its ordinands and ministers. Some dioceses reacted by adopting the policy that migrants must gain settled status first, creating an unnecessary and perhaps illegal bar to the discernment of vocations and beginning of training or curacy, since it introduces discrimination on the basis of nationality.

We can be grateful that some of the Government’s “hostile environment” policies have passed away. But they made their mark. One of us experienced this in the form of bad advice and far too much trouble obtaining a post, after enduring explicit racial discrimination. His life has also been drawn into the public eye. The other faced other difficulties. When he (Dr Guiliano) began to apply for first incumbencies last summer, staff in more than one diocese advised him to withdraw from such processes, since he was a migrant, or told him that his application would not be considered. Both actions are illegal under the Equality Act 2010.

These are only snapshots from our lives. More could be said about us personally or about other issues, including difficulties in the diocese in Europe or the problems that European ordinands will now face while interacting with the Church of England’s processes. How many others have been negatively affected by the Church’s carelessness or incompetence around immigration? And will the Church learn?

K. AUGUSTINE TANNER-IHM
ZACHARY GUILIANO
Addresses supplied

 

C of E Communications and worship content

From the Church of England’s Director of Communications

Sir, — In reply to Richard Daniels’s concerns over the content of communications from the Church of England (Letters, 18 June), the services, prayers, and other worship content shared on our national social-media channels pass through a thorough process, involving liturgical experts and ordained members of the national church institutions’ staff. A key priority of the work is to reflect the full diversity of worship across the Church of England.

These processes are regularly reviewed and strengthened to ensure that what is shared reflects what we believe as a Church. The content of worship, and the theological expression of what we believe, are important. While our processes are not always failsafe, given the growing and dynamic scale of digital outreach and unprecedented level of demand, we are of course committed to learning lessons. For the avoidance of doubt, the content of the services is initiated and provided by clergy and other contributors taking part and is then produced and shared by the Communications Team — not the other way around.

Our national online services, which started with the first lockdown when the Government closed church buildings, have now reached in excess of four million people over the past year. More than 30 per cent of those joining us were not regularly worshipping before the pandemic, and one in five is under 25.

As thousands are still engaging with the services each week, we are continuing to prioritise their production. The national team is working hard to ensure that these services help grow people’s faith and encourage them into a local worshipping community.

MARK ARENA
Church of England Communications Office
Church House
Great Smith Street
London SW1P 3AZ

 

Curriculum imbalance is real fault with RE

From Mr Michael J. Wilson

Sir, — The Ofsted report on the teaching of RE (News, 14 May) comes as no surprise to anyone actually involved in RE teaching. The report, however, appears to criticise the teachers in the classroom rather than point out the real fault.

If you reduce a curriculum subject’s timetable allowance, restrict financial resources, and do not employ qualified teachers to teach it, the result will be obvious. There is an imbalance in the curriculum on offer in schools and academies; a little less mathematics, science, technology, and language would give more time for spiritual reflection and development, the purpose of RE!

As a subject specialist, in light of curriculum requirements, I produced policies on numeracy, literacy, science, and technological exploration in relation to RE. When I retired after 40 years of teaching, I was still awaiting a response regarding policies on spiritual awareness from the relevant subject leaders, probably for 20 years. I retired in 2011, and I doubt little or anything will have changed.

MICHAEL J. WILSON
Southwell & Nottingham Diocesan Lay Chair
54 Queen Street
Balderton
Newark NG24 3NS

 

Clergy-discipline reform

From the Revd Peter Hobson

Sir, — Your report (News, 28 May) rightly refers to the immense work that Sheldon has done in uncovering the awful impact of the misapplication of CDM and its processes to countless clergy. Sheldon has indeed had to step back, but they are commending the proposals brought together by a working group of the Ecclesiastical Law Society (ELS).

The Church of England Clergy Advocates are not mentioned in your coverage, but we believe that we are as well-placed as any to be part of the group pressing for an effective completion of the task. We recognise all the important groundwork that has been done, not only by Sheldon but also in the group led by Bishop Tim Thornton, who will be reporting back to the Synod next month. But we don’t yet know what they will be proposing.

As this now enters the synodical arena, it is of vital importance that active dialogue on what a good replacement should look like continues. I would encourage all readers who believe in the importance of this to sign up to the Sheldon Hub as Associate Members and join in the task

PETER HOBSON
Chair, Church of England Clergy Advocates
Unite House
128 Theobald’s Road
London WC1X 8TN

 

The church’s open door

From the Revd Dr Kenneth Padley

Sir, — The Revd Pip Martin (Comment, 11 June) is absolutely right about the value of open churches, both in general and during the last year in particular. The decision to close places of worship in March 2020 looks no wiser in retrospect than it did at the time.

I was very struck during the period between October and March (usually the quiet time of year for my churches during the week) by the numbers who came in to light a candle, sit (suitably distanced of course), and find solace — some for hours on end. Open churches celebrate a welcoming God.

KENNETH PADLEY
The Vicarage, St Michael’s Street
St Albans AL3 4SL

 

Courageous frankness of Bishop of St Davids

From the Revd Paul H. Morgans

Sir, — “Bishop is sorry for anti-Tory tweets” (News, 11 June).

The Bishop, Dr Joanna Penberthy, need not apologise for her commitment to the social gospel, given that most of us in the east of her diocese support her courageous frankness. Jesus has told us that “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man [or woman] to enter the Kingdom of God” (Matthew 19.24, Mark 10.25, Luke 18.25).

I congratulate Dr Penberthy on her commitment to dare to sharing gospel values, and therefore, challenging us, despite being shot down by the bureaucratic, grey secretariat of the Church in Wales. How refreshing to encounter an Anglican bishop demonstrating backbone and conscience.

PAUL H. MORGANS
Flat 2 8 Great Western Crescent
Llanelli, Carmarthenshire SA15 2RL

 

Parker was no pilferer

From Mr John Clare

Sir, — In his review of the British Museum’s Becket exhibition (Arts, 11 June), Canon Nicholas Cranfield accuses Archbishop Parker of “pilfering” manuscripts from Canterbury to give them to Corpus Christi, his Cambridge college.

This is grossly unfair. Parker’s action was inspired by the well-founded fear that, after the dissolution of the monasteries, the safety of the cathedrals and their possessions could no longer be relied on in the climate of the post-Reformation Church. So removing them from Canterbury to Cambridge, far from a piece of “pilfering”, was a commendable act to ensure their preservation,

JOHN CLARE
Blunsdon, Faringdon Road
Abingdon OX14 1BQ

 

Resurrection and the state of the faithful departed

From the the Revd Simon Law

Sir, — I was somewhat surprised and disappointed by “Beyond the grave” (Leader comment, 7 May).

Spiritualism, in all its forms and guises, is the worst distraction in helping bereaved people through the diffi­cult and painful funeral process; and it detracts from the Church’s call to proclaim the resurrection.

The results of the survey are shock­ing, but I find the writer’s comments about St Paul “undermining the concept (of bodily resurrection)” and “that clergy will occasionally collude in imagery about which about which they ought to be agnostic” even more deeply disturbing.

St Paul is trying explain a mystery, and his model is Jesus Christ. Jesus died and rose physically from the dead. He had a body and could eat: cf. Luke 24.36-49, and says, interestingly that he was “flesh and bones” — not “flesh and blood”. So, it was a physical body — but it was also spiritual, because it was different — Jesus could appear and disappear at will; appear in a room with locked doors; travel distances in no time at all; be unrecognisable to some, and yet still bear the marks in his body of his physical life and death.

Also, I don’t think that St Paul is undermining the concept of resurrection by using the picture of a seed and plant. Jesus used the same imagery in John 12.24 — a single grain dies and is buried, and then it produces fruit. The point is that what dies is buried and from that death new life appears. So, it is with us: humans die and are buried, then on the day of resurrection that same, dead person is raised up and transformed “in the twinkling of an eye” into the perfect, eternal person.

What happens in between physical death and physical resurrection? According to Jesus and the Old and New Testament writers: sleep. “Our bodies will return to the dust of the earth, and the breath of life will go back to God, who gave it to us” (Ecclesiastes 12.7).

We rest in peace, ready to rise in glory: there is no “waiting room” or “other side” where disembodied spirits send (usually inane) messages back to loved ones.

Perhaps a pertinent question to ask is “Who is sending these strange words to the grieving relatives?” We should not collude with any fictional imagery, but lovingly and compassionately share, with the bereaved, the certain hope of resurrection given to us by our Lord Jesus Christ.

SIMON LAW
The Rectory, Rectory Road
Pitsea, Basildon
Essex SS13 2AA

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