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Letters to the Editor

05 February 2021

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Reporting the National Health Service under strain

From the Revd Lynda Davies

Sir, — So, yet again, Canon Angela Tilby writes a column (Comment, 29 January) seemingly designed to shock or offend. She makes all sorts of assumptions that the media engagement of our doctors and nurses is “damaging to those who take part”, and that they are giving interviews they’d rather not give, “persuaded to do so by their bosses”.

Please can we give a little more credit to our hardworking NHS? Why shouldn’t our doctors and nurses speak with the authority of an experience that is definitely not over? To be able to speak honestly about a crisis that you are living through ensures that people’s experiences and voices are seen and heard, enabling the general public to respond with true empathy, compassion and respect.

Canon Tilby also writes, as if it were fact, that the NHS is “badly organised and poorly run”. Yes, there will be elements of this in every organisation, but in the middle of a pandemic with more than 30,000 in hospital and a most impressive roll-out of the vaccination programme, is her recorded view of the NHS one that the country wants to hear or indeed, in her words, be “stuck with”?

The Rectory, 6 High Street
Cambridge CB24 8SA


From the Revd Jane Proudfoot

Sir, — Canon Angela Tilby suggests that it is unhelpful to broadcast the emotional outpourings of our health workers, tired and vulnerable after demoralising and relentless shifts working in ICU. She cites the helplessness and guilt of the viewer in the face of “other people’s emotional overload” as a reason to condemn such media coverage.

May I suggest that morale and determination might be inspired by facing the pain of others? It may well be that our health professionals long for us to recognise what they are going through and, rather than paint them as super-human heroes, see them as real people.

Turning away from suffering will never end it, whereas an honest look, however painful for the viewer, is more likely to motivate us into action. We cannot empathise if we do not look, with fully open eyes. We cannot act if we do not understand. The outpouring of love for our NHS workers (and others) continues to be practical as well as emotional.

Later, we can all ask questions and lobby our MPs about the management of the health service. In the mean time, real people are facing real problems in a real crisis. Airbrushing emotion out of the picture will add to the weight of the mental-health problems faced by so many because of the pandemic. Perhaps it is also time to sanitise the Psalms, in case our morale is undermined.

The Rectory
17 Hill Top Road, Grappenhall
Warrington WA4 2ED


From Mr Roger McFarland

Sir, — “The NHS is a monster, endlessly manipulated by politicians; badly organised, poorly run, and with a savage blame culture.” At a time when most of us are unbelievably grateful for what the NHS and its staff are doing for the people of this country, I wonder why Canon Angela Tilby considers herself qualified to make such sweeping and indiscriminate assertions, and indeed, whether she has any objective evidence to support them.

79 Humber Road
Chelmsford CM1 7PF


Complaint against Dean of Christ Church, Oxford

Sir, — I am the woman who made a complaint about Dean Martyn Percy’s conduct in Christ Church Cathedral on 4 October 2020.

I was surprised to read David Lamming’s letter (29 January) stating that he does not believe that the current CDM complaint against Dean Percy meets the “Hedley test”, i.e. that a case should be referred to a tribunal only if it involved “a degree of seriousness that, if conduct is proved, will render the respondent liable to at least removal from office or revocation of licence”.

I am astonished that, as a party outside these proceedings, Mr Lamming thinks that he is qualified to pass comment on the seriousness of the complaint.

A great deal of misinformation has circulated about this case. It is time that a few points were clarified.

First, the imbalance of power between the Dean and me, a much younger employee of the Cathedral, is obvious. Second, this incident took place in a space that had been reserved for staff (not clergy), owing to the pandemic. Third, I will not give details, because I respect the confidential nature of the complaints process, but had I not judged the incident to be inappropriate and extremely distressing, I should not have decided to make a formal complaint. I made this decision myself, under no pressure from any other person. To suggest otherwise is deeply insulting.

Surely it is essential that all complaints of sexual harassment in the Church be investigated thoroughly through the proper channels, and not be jeopardised or have their legitimacy questioned by public comments from those not privy to all the details.

The Dean, too, is deserving of respect and compassion. It is known that he is on sick leave. He has been too ill to respond to the CDM complaint and the College process, and turned down my offer of independent mediation through ACAS because of ill health. I know what a toll seeing public reports of my experience has taken on me, and I am sure that it is taking a similar toll on him to find his behaviour discussed so publicly.

Neither of us has been afforded the dignity of a private investigative process; and so I ask all those discussing this publicly and sharing confidential documentation to desist. Anyone attempting to derail these investigative processes is setting a dangerous precedent for the Church and University, and is creating an environment in which future survivors of harassment will not feel able to come forward.



Commissioners’ campaign for ethnic diversity

From Vasantha Gnanadoss

Sir, — So, the Church Commissioners are to warn companies that they must do more to increase the ethnic diversity of their senior teams or risk protest votes at shareholder meetings (News, 22 January). Will they be organising protests at diocesan staff meetings, the House of Bishops, and Lambeth Palace?

For the Commissioners’ Deputy Chair to say, “Yes, we’re working to increase that same diversity in our own leadership, too,” is to add insult to injury after 40 years of empty words.

In recent years, some bishops have become adept at hiding their own failures by criticising others.

242 Links Road
London SW17 9ER


Lincoln suspension and the safeguarding regime

From the Ven. J. H. C. Laurence

Sir, — It is good news that the Bishop of Lincoln has finally been allowed to return to his post after 20 months’ absence. I and, perhaps, some of your interested readers need to be helped to understand how it is that a simple mistake, readily perceived and apologised for, could have taken so long to be resolved. It feels as though some idea of punishment were involved.

In any case, the hidden cost to the diocese will have been enormous, in terms of loss of momentum and coherence, and the diversion of energies, especially those of the Suffragan Bishop of Grimsby, much needed elsewhere. The actual cost will have been tens of thousands of pounds, and the long-term losses probably much more. The Bishop’s suspension has been costly not only to himself, but to his diocese.

5 Haffenden Road
Lincoln LN2 1RP


From Mr Martin Sewell

Sir, — The day on which the Church announced the lifting of the suspension of the Bishop of Lincoln coincided with the fourth anniversary of the Channel 4 interview with Cathy Newman, in which the Archbishop of Canterbury acknowledged that he knew that John Smyth QC was a serial abuser in 2013. The response to that was, shall we say, “sub-optimal”. The promised meeting with Smyth victims has still not materialised.

Things are not improving. Before Christmas, I drew the attention of the church authorities to a meeting in March 2017 at which 36 clergy including, four bishops, convened as “The Jonathan Fletcher Group” for a three-day retreat, led by Fletcher, after his PTO had been withdrawn: it was also just after the Newman/Smyth story had broken. At least one recipient of the original Ruston report was present as they contemplated the future of the Church of England and their part in it. Five weeks later, the principal informant about that event has still not been approached for interview, despite my making clear their willingness and ability to assist.

So, we have a bishop receiving (appropriate) apology for slow and tortuous process, but not victims; we have capricious inconsistency about who gets suspended and who does not; we have clergy finding the CDM process weaponised against them; and a consistent hesitancy about investigating certain privileged sections of the Church. What good are shepherds that will not protect and tend their sheep?

8 Appleshaw Close
Gravesend, Kent DA11 7PB


Life offered, not death

From P. Brown

Sir, — The Revd Richard Martin’s letter (29 January) suggesting that the C of E should reject mission to Jews leaves me feeling puzzled.

Surely, Jesus specifically targeted Jews, and Jews first and foremost, for conversion to “the way, the truth and the life”; Christianity, in fact. As I understood it, his stated purpose was not to wipe out Jews, but to offer them everlasting life.

33 Lee Vale Drive
Glossop SK13 5HD


Diocesan costs as a proportion of parish share

From Mr Andrew Purdy

Sir, — The Bishop of Kensington, Dr Graham Tomlin (Letters, 29 January), wants debates about church finances to be based on facts. The facts are that in my benefice the diocese wants us to pay £65,629, of which £18,898 is our share of diocesan costs. Twenty-nine per cent cannot by any measure be described as a small part, and the Bishop’s comment simply demonstrates how out of touch the centre is with the realities of parish finance.

Benefice Treasurer, Upper Wensum Benefice
Molecatchers, Mill Road
Great Ryburgh, Fakenham
Norfolk NR21 0EB

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