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Letters to the Editor

02 July 2021

Church Times letters: letters@churchtimes.co.uk We regret that we cannot guarantee consideration of letters submitted by post under present working conditions


Church policy on sale of glebe

From the Revd Diego Galanzino

Sir, — I am looking at social media around my patch, Houghton Regis, in Bedfordshire, and I often see posts of people enraged by the sale of glebe land. These posts raise quite difficult conversations for me, both in person and online, and they foster a damaging attitude of mistrust towards “the Church” in general.

Social-media comments from angry people are often simplistic and full of hatred, I grant you, but the sentiments behind this should not be dismissed. Indeed, some of these sentiments are shared by members of my congregation as well.

I would like to point out a few causes of discontent both among the local population and among worshippers. (1) The glebe land here was sold for commercial and industrial use rather than much needed housing; (2) it was sold without involving a simple consultation with the PCC or parish representatives (indeed, without even telling the PCC); (3) part of the land could have been used for a new cemetery — we have run out of space at both the council and church burial grounds and my people have to pay three times as much to have their loved ones buried in Dunstable or Luton; (4) none of the profits from the sale have been intentionally reinvested in the town community; and (5) none of the profits from the sale have benefited the Parish of Houghton Regis.

Incidentally, the last two points have been raised at diocesan synod, with bishops, DBF chairs, and archdeacons on several occasions by other synod reps and by me, but always been brushed aside. We need new schools, new surgeries, new facilities, in a town that is rapidly doubling in size. . .

As a parish, we are shackled by quota requests that are unreasonable for our area and by the budgetary deficit created by not meeting these; we cannot have a curate again, because there is no accommodation; we have to engage in mission and to restore a Grade I listed building, pleading for funds from secular charities while parochial fees and Common Fund standing orders take most of the funds away.

Lay leaders, my partner, and I have had to bankroll or subsidise various aspects of our common life or events. Finally (truly the icing on the cake), we were asked to spend our reserves to meet the quota during the lockdowns — which, by the way, would not even have amounted to half the Common Fund bill.

I understand that there are legal matters underpinning all this, and that simplistic arguments are never the way to debate properly; but just how is this picture fair? And how can we convince the local population that the sale of glebe land was a good thing — if, indeed, this was a good thing at all? Or how can we respond to those who look at the Archbishop’s new cunning plans for glebe land nationally with mistrust and anger?

The Clergy House, Lowry Drive
Houghton Regis
Bedfordshire LU5 5SJ


Lambeth group’s CDM report and Sheldon

From Dr Sarah Horsman

Sir, — The Lambeth Working Group appears to imply (GS2219, para. 6) that Sheldon has assisted in the shaping of their proposals for replacing the Clergy Discipline Measure. It has not.

There are many shortcomings, but two really key ones. First, the essential “misconduct-less-than-serious” channel is missing. Without this, it fails to meet the criteria of “no one should be in a process that risks home and livelihood unless the allegation, if proved, would warrant prohibition.”

The second essential is a safe gateway to undertake the triage into the three channels. This needs to be independent of the diocese, with reliable training, formal accountability, and the ability to act swiftly. Bishops are the wrong people for this role.

We advocate strongly the adoption of the ELS proposals in their entirety. Further background research and in depth analysis are at www.sheldonhub.org/cdm

Sheldon, Sheldon Lane
Exeter EX6 7YT


General Synod’s debate on mutual flourishing

From Dr John Williams

Sir, — Traditional Catholics and complementarian Evangelicals feel that their positions are “tolerated at best, rather than being encouraged to flourish”, and that this means that the concept of “mutual flourishing” needs to be better explained. Everything that we learn from your story (Online News, 25 June) about the contents of the report in question demonstrates that the concept is not in need of clearer communication, but is unfortunately a fantasy, at least if it is supposed to mean more than a benign tolerance.

All the statistical and anecdotal evidence provided in the report for the current of opinion within the Church suggests that the constituency that cannot accept the ordained ministry of women priests and bishops is diminishing, and even those who have held this view are growing less immovable about it.

Any suggestion that the numbers of senior clergy appointments from the traditional Catholic and complementarian Evangelical traditions should be rising, in order to be fully representative of the numbers of clergy and laity holding to this position, would imply that the Church of England continues to believe that it is equally as acceptable to reject the ordained ministry of women as it is to welcome it.

This is an intolerable proposition, not least in the light of the first of the Five Guiding Principles, which states that the Church of England is “fully and unequivocally committed to all orders of ministry being open equally to all, without reference to gender”.

What the subsequent Principles go on to say about “mutual flourishing” needs to be read in this light; what is required are the simplest arrangements necessary to enable tolerance of the ecclesiological duality of a majority and now normative view, unambiguously confirmed, and a divergent minority view, permitted but no longer mainstream, until the need for it is no more.

75 Quarrydale Road
Sutton in Ashfield
Nottinghamshire NG17 4DR

From the Revd Mike Smith

Sir, — I was surprised to read that there had been even a single suffragan bishop appointed since 2014 who “identified as complementarian Evangelical”, before realising that this referred to the Bishop of Maidstone. Given that this solitary bishopric was revived specifically to minister to that constituency, he could hardly have identified otherwise.

The report notes that there is a common concern among complementarian Evangelicals (as we are designated; I think that I am just a Cranmerian Anglican who would cheerfully subscribe ex animo to the Thirty-Nine Articles!) that our “positions are tolerated at best, rather than being encouraged to flourish”.

Setting aside the lone bishop who by definition couldn’t be anything else, I’m grateful that the report allows us to review the appointment data from the past seven years. It analyses the remaining 212 mainstream senior appointments from that tradition as follows: Zero (of 12) diocesan bishops, Zero (of 34 remaining) suffragan bishops, Zero (of 80) archdeacons, Zero (of 19) deans, and Zero (of 67) residentiary canons.

As the Implementation and Dialogue Group report notes, “There is a need for everyone in the Church, and particularly those from minorities, to see themselves reflected in the structures of the Church and particularly in positions of leadership.” (Recommendation 17)

I agree; but until reports and rhetoric give way to mainstream appointments, “mutual flourishing” will continue to have a hollow ring for many of us.

The Vicarage, 7 The Green
Hartford, Northwich
Cheshire CW8 1QA


So, in which class do you put your fruit and veg?

From the Revd Professor Ian Bradley

Sir, — Your front cover (25 June) polarises the high and the low in a very un-Anglican (or perhaps Anglican?) way. It is surely the admirable, Broad Church, middle-of-the-road, classless Tesco and Morrisons — the supermarkets of choice of the majority of us church-going baby-boomers, who according to The Sociological Review (News, same issue) are more likely to trust our neighbours and donate to charity — which provide a model for the Church to follow.

I certainly find their aisles provide a better social mix and more genuine interaction and friendliness than those of the four stores illustrated, and, indeed, of a fair few churches that I have frequented.

Let’s not engage in too much navel-gazing and breast-beating about the Church’s middle-class bias. Surely, the important thing, as Natalie Williams says, is that we hang out with and learn from those of different backgrounds and experiences — which happens for me in the queue for the checkout with unfailingly rich and uplifting results — and I’m with Canon Tilby (Comment, same issue) in wanting rather less being lectured at and more being listened to.

Good pastoral engagement from the “steady, gentle people” whom she commends comes irrespective of class background or education. We need to nurture and value it more. Maybe the rather charmingly old-fashioned quality of “fruitfulness” proposed in the new clergy-selection framework could be tested and honed by a spell serving in the Tesco fruit and veg aisles.

4 Donaldson Gardens
St Andrews, Fife KY16 9DN


Four days plus Sunday

From the Revd Christopher Ketley

Sir, — I wonder what is considered a “full-time” working week in the Chester diocese.

In last week’s Church Times, there was an advert for a priest in the Chester diocese. It suggested a 0.6 stipend for “4 days plus Sunday”. If this is five days’ work, a full-time post would be eight-plus days a week. If Sunday is considered a half-day, a full week would be 7.5 days. The old joke is that clergy work only an hour on a Sunday, which would bring the Chester-diocese appointment to the equivalent of working 6.875 days a week.

The Bible’s position is that God created the world in six days and asked us to rest on the seventh. Could Chester diocese be rewriting scripture?

In my experience, there is no such thing as a part-time priest.

St Ninian’s Rectory
68 St Andrew Street
Castle Douglas
Dumfries and Galloway DG7 1EN


‘Let us order online. . .’

From the Revd Claire Wilson

Sir, — In the course of a sermon in May, I recommended Simon Parke’s new book, Gospel: Rumours of love (Features, 22 January, 1 AprilPodcast, 22 January), offering to lend my copy to anyone interested. After the service, a young man approached me with obvious eagerness, but declined the book I held out. “No need, thanks: during the intercessions I ordered it online.”

26 Frognal Lane
London NW3 7DT

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