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Letters to the Editor

20 August 2021

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


Marriage law too narrow for today

From the Revd Dr Nicholas Henderson

Sir, — I admire the heroic attempts by the Bishop of Crediton, the Rt Revd Jackie Searle (News, 6 August), to persuade couples of the delights and merits of weddings in church. Nevertheless, with religious ceremonies at just 22 per cent of all marriages now taking place in the country, once again the Church of England fails to understand what is really going on.

It isn’t so much that couples don’t want a religious ceremony: it is that, in England, religious ceremonies are confined strictly to religious buildings, never more so than with the Church of England.

The clergy must be allowed to go where the people want to hold their ceremonies, hotels, castles, and numerous other venues, including, just recently, in the open air. Instead, no religious input whatsoever is allowed outside church buildings, and clergy like me have to say “No, sorry not possible,” when asked to officiate anywhere other than a church.

In the United States and in Scotland, clergy may go with the couple wherever they wish to exchange their nuptials. Despite repeated enquiries, I have never received a satisfactory answer to why the Church of England still clings to the historic “in church only” principle. If we don’t free our ministers to be with their people, despite the best efforts of the Bishops, the number of religious ceremonies will continue to shrink relentlessly.

38 Caledonian Wharf
Saunders Ness Road
London E14 3EW


Plan from St Luke’s to ease ‘business as usual’

From Dr Claire Walker

Sir, — Your leading article (6 August) summarises the need to address, maybe reimagine, the relationships between clergy and laity.

We at St Luke’s Healthcare for the Clergy are all too aware of situations where — now more than ever — clergy are struggling under the weight of expectation from their congregations. Both clergy and laity need time and supp­­­ort to process what they have been through during the pandemic: particularly if they face a call to return instantly to “business as usual”, with its challenges of parish life and diocesan and national initiatives.

We believe that, whether we are lay or ordained, “our bonds of shared discipleship oblige all Christian people to exercise an appropriate mutual care so that those called to lead may do so ‘with joy and not with sighing’ (Hebrews 13.17)” (Clergy Covenant: GS2133). St Luke’s seeks to help laity and clergy thrive together.

For that reason, St Luke’s, with experienced professionals, has developed and piloted new workshops and tailored interactive sessions to address some of the issues clergy face post-Covid — including negotiating relationships and managing expectations. These will be rolled out in the autumn, when more information will be available on our website, stlukesforclergy.org.uk.

Chief Executive
St Luke’s Healthcare for the Clergy
Room 201
Church House
27 Great Smith Street
London SW1P 3AZ


Missionary disciples

From the Revd David Dean-Revill

Sir, — The Revd David Ford (Comment, 13 August) opposes taking lay people and “pressurising them into becoming disciples” and is concerned that “the insensitive use of language” will lead to “our own demise”.

Surely, our o­­­­wn demise will arrive all the sooner if we think we can ignore God’s call to “go and make disciples of all nations.” Christ’s commands cannot be replaced with keeping churches open; nor must we tell anyone that God requires any less than their entire life.

The Vicarage
Bellhouse Road
Sheffield S5 0RG


From S. Binns

Sir, — Clearly missionary discipleship is a prerequisite of being a Christian, ordinary or otherwise. We may not all be called to travel far away, but we have been told to go and spread the word. So, we do have the responsibility to tell others about Jesus, and why wouldn’t we want to share our faith? Surely, how we live our lives and respond to others is a demonstration of this.

22C Lamplugh Road
East Yorkshire YO15 2JU


Synodical silencing of the retired clergy

From the Revd Terence Colling

Sir, — As an active “retired” priest in the Church of England, I am used to circulated letters from bishops and other church hierarchy which flatter me with thanks for my steadfast work that helps the Church continue its mission. This is well-meaning, but hides the fact that under our synodical rules I have no vote to influence the future direction of the Church.

I am happy to continue my priestly duty with very little financial payment, while financially supporting the church where I assist, but, seeing now how our parish system is under severe pressure from the top echelons of the Church, following consultations with “experts”, I have growing concerns.

These experts seem to have little knowledge of the place of Church of England within the Holy Catholic Church, or the centrality of the sacrament of holy communion within our Church, and have, it seems, an agenda that would convert the Church of England into something like a Protestant sect.

I understand that the Church of England does not claim to be truly democratic, and is greatly skewed in favour of secretive Bishops’ meetings, but if active retired priests are so valuable, why is it that they cannot have a vote to influence the Church that they still support with their ministry?

2 Roman Close
Claybrooke Magna
Lutterworth LE17 5DU


Assessment of carbon emissions for targets

From Canon Christopher Hall

Sir, — The Church of England Pensions Board, allied to investors wielding $55 trillion in assets, is putting pressure on the steel industry as well as energy firms to decarbonise (News, 13 August). What is to be included in the assessment of meeting the Paris Agreement target? Energy and steel firms are being expected in Scope 3 to include the emissions from their products which make an indirect impact in its value chain.

The UK is pledged to become net-zero by 2050. Will the assessment of that net-zero target include the carbon embedded in the products that we import? For instance it should include the widely used products imported from China, in which is embedded the carbon from China’s much criticised coal mines, which some use as an excuse for the failure urgently to maximise green energy here. Those products make a direct impact on our nation’s value chain.

The Church Times reported (News, 12 February) that the Church of England had estimated the annual carbon footprint of its church buildings to be 185,000 tonnes. Is that a sufficient assessment of the Church’s use of carbon? It did not include the carbon footprint of those who use their fossil-fuelled cars to travel miles to reap the benefit of what, week by week, our churches provide. A new Energy Footprint Tool should include a Scope 3 for carbon-costly church miles, a direct impact in the Church’s value chain.

The Knowle, Deddington
Banbury OX15 0TB


Games in which it’s the taking part that counts

From Canon Brian Stevenson

Sir, — I normally enjoy the Revd Gillean Craig’s TV reviews, but I feel that I must write in reply to his review (13 August) of the BBC’s coverage of the Olympic Games. He is very critical of it, saying that it showed that we have taken on the morals of the braggart.

In contrast, I found the BBC coverage riveting, and liked the way in which athletes were able to speak to their families and neighbours. Team GB should be allowed to rejoice in their success. I write as an Irishman, and we know what it is like to be near the bottom of the medal table — not as nice as being near the top.

Your reviewer could have said a little more about the beauty of the Games shown in such sports as diving, the high jump, gymnastics, the 100 metres, and, not least, the equine events. The athletes have put in years of training, and they deserve a bit of applause.

Our gardener’s son was an Olympic triallist for the 1500 metres, but failed to make it to Tokyo, and instead had to pull up dandelions, etc., in our lawn. We watched the 1500-metres final and were excited that Josh Kerr of Team GB won a bronze medal, but agreed that the Norwegian gold-medal winner Jakob Ingebrigtsen was magnificent — as did the BBC.

Your reviewer ended with a Pauline text. Let me offer another: “Your body is the Temple of the Holy Spirit.” I think that the competitors at Tokyo showed that St Paul was right.

Michaelmas Cottage
Stan Lane, West Peckham
Kent ME18 5JT


From Mr Michael Hawkes

Sir, — My sincere thanks to the Revd Gillean Craig for his review of the BBC’s coverage of the Olympics. After enjoying the opening ceremony, I became increasingly uncomfortable with the incessant language of Team GB, our “heroes”, our medal “haul”, etc. It seemed to reduce the Olympics to the status of a school sports day

Since when has it been heroic to win an athletics or cycling race and be rewarded with a knighthood or damehood? It seems to me that our broadcasters and even our broadsheets have been seduced by the populism that has taken over our political life.

May Fr Craig keep up the good work as the Church Times TV critic.

15 St Chads Road, Lichfield
Staffordshire WS13 7LZ


Senior appointments

From the Hon. Michael Benson

Sir, — As Philip Johanson says in his letter (13 August), the appointment of the current Bishop of Winchester was unfortunate; but, sadly, in recent times, there have been other questionable appointments. I was summoned to Lambeth, some years ago, to be “interviewed” by Caroline Boddington and a colleague, concerning the appointment of someone I knew to a senior post.

After I expressed the view that the person was not right for that position, the interview was cut short. The appointment was made, and, after a few years, it all went wrong, as I had predicted.

Possibly, as Mr Johanson suggests, it is time for there to be a radical overhaul of the appointment process — a view shared by a number of senior clerics I know.

Grange Farm, Westow
York YO60 7NJ

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