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Letters to the Editor

by
06 August 2021

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Divisive construal of climate crisis

From Mr Michael Cavaghan-Pack

Sir, — Jeremy Williams’s article on climate change as an issue of racial injustice (Comment, 30 July) seems to amount to little more than the unexceptional proposition that, owing to disparities of wealth, the consequences of global warming will be more acutely felt in the developing rather than the developed world. The claim that these “power imbalances” are a result of historical racism is, however, surely wrong.

The industrial revolution, in which they are rooted, arose in Western Europe not through racial exploitation, but through the exploitation of indigenous natural resources by new technology. And, even if the later sourcing of raw materials from overseas territories may be regarded as exploitation, nevertheless its driving force was essentially economic rather than racial, while the colonial infrastructures that were put in place were what made possible the eventual creation of new independent states.

The claim that weak climate change targets are racist is again an unhelpful over simplification. In fact, it is China and Asian countries, such as India, that are reluctant to commit themselves to targets that they view as damaging to their continuing development.

Surprisingly, or perhaps not so surprisingly as it does not fit with his narrative, Mr Williams makes no mention of the commitment of the G7 to helping poorer countries to adapt to climate change. This assistance is of the order of £100 billion a year, although it is currently running at some £20 billion short of the agreed target.

Reducing the complex issues of climate change to a simple white-against-black dimension is facile and unhelpful. Mr Williams laments that it is to be found only “in the margins in academic texts and in radical activist circles”. But for that we must be grateful. It polarises opinion in a way that encourages enmity while diverting attention away from the real issues; it offers no analysis of how in practice the projected consequences of climate change are to be ameliorated; and its particular moralising stance is dismissive of those who recognise that these issues are located not in racial politics, but in a compassion for the poor, whatever their colour or their location.

It is a disappointing, even regrettable, contribution to what is an important debate.

MICHAEL CAVAGHAN-PACK
The Manor House, Thurloxton
Taunton TA2 8RH

 

Suspension, the CDM, and bullying in the Church

From the Revd Mark Bennet

Sir, — I was concerned to see that, in the case of Revd Stephen Kuhrt (News, 30 July), the diocese of Southwark was reported as referring to suspension as a neutral act. While this may be true in technical, legal, and procedural senses, the proper analysis of suspension needs to recognise that it is not merely a technical, legal, or procedural step, but also a public act. As a public act, suspension has wider consequences potentially including a profound personal and reputational impact. In this sense, suspension is often far from neutral.

The guidance for schools “Keeping Children Safe in Education” (KCSIE) has long regarded suspension for teachers as a last resort, to be employed only where necessary to keep vulnerable people safe: see paragraph 361 of KCSIE 2021:

“361. Suspension should not be an automatic response when an allegation is reported. All options to avoid suspension should be considered prior to taking that step. The case manager must consider carefully whether the circumstances warrant suspension from contact with children at the school or college, or until the allegation is resolved. It should be considered only in cases where there is cause to suspect a child or other children at the school or college is/are at risk of harm, or the case is so serious that it might be grounds for dismissal. If in doubt, the case manager should seek views from their personnel adviser and the LADO [Local Authority Designated Officer], as well as the police and children’s social care where they have been involved.”

­­­In Mr Kuhrt’s case as reported, had he been a teacher under KCSIE, it is almost inconceivable that he would have been suspended, though some administrative duties may have been reallocated for the duration of the investigation. Of course, it is always possible that there are unreported facts in these cases, but there does seem to be a sense in the Church of England that suspension is a pretty automatic response. I commend the guidance given to schools as indicating a more appropriate alternative approach.

MARK BENNET
The Rectory, 2 Rectory Gardens
Thatcham, Berkshire RG19 3PR

 

From Mr Charles George QC

Sir, — As a former Dean of the Arches and Auditor, I cannot applaud too strongly your recent, pertinent editorial comment (“Game-changer”, 23 July), identifying the priority with which church leaders need to address the three issues of disclosure, support, and speed.

There is a misconception, promulgated at the highest level, that the Clergy Discipline Measure (CDM) is not fit for purpose.

As identified in para. 1.5-6 of the Final Report of the Ecclesiastical Law Society’s Working Party (24 February 2021), of which I was a member, there are indeed “serious issues that need to be addressed”, but these are all readily remediable in the way we indicated.

In my view, what is not fit for purpose is the present safeguarding system, which operates largely outside the CDM. This is where attention needs to be focused on the three matters addressed so succinctly in your editorial comment.

CHARLES GEORGE
Church Field, 2 Oak Lane
Sevenoaks, Kent TN13 1NF

 

From Mrs Margery Roberts

Sir, — A deeply troubling aspect of recent high-profile cases, including the inquest into the suicide of Fr Alan Griffin, the near-persecution of Canon Paul Overend and his wife, and the various troubles in the diocese of Winchester, has been the issue of bullying.

It is not always the clergy who are bullied. Laity can also be the targets. When, four years ago, I found myself, as a long-serving churchwarden, in opposition to the diocesan hierarchy over the iniquitous business of the Museum of the Bible at St Mary le Strand, I faced a mixture of pressurising tactics.

In what was an attempt to undermine my position I was accused, quite wrongly, of arranging services including an illegal rite during a previous vacancy. From another quarter, I was privately promised a diocesan honour if I would move to another parish. Naturally, I refused.

Devotees of Anthony Trollope will know that such tactics are hardly new in the Church of England. In 1851, the historian J. A .Froude wrote in a letter to the philosopher, George Lewes: “The Church of England is the great lie which we must get burnt up.” The situation is now, however, very different from that of the 19th century. The Church is no longer in a position of authority and power. It struggles to find the confidence and expertise to deal with matters such as safeguarding and dwindling finances.

It is hard to know sometimes whether the clergy are serving the laity or vice versa. Many parishes feel that the dioceses are in opposition to them rather than supporting them. And the need for honesty and transparency is lost in pathetic attempts to retain credibility and status. This is a culture in which stress and bullying can, and do, thrive.

The current efforts to overhaul the Clergy Discipline Measure are praiseworthy. I was a minor contributor to the Ecclesiastical Law Society’s excellent work on that subject. But we need to raise our eyes much higher than that if, as Christians, we are to have an institution worthy of our faith.

Many will share my view that we should begin work on a complete reappraisal of the structures and mission of the Church. As a starting point, I suggest that we should all learn to treat each other with humility, decency, and respect, if that is not too idealistic an aim.

MARGERY ROBERTS
7 Nunnery Stables
St Albans AL1 2AS

 

Taskforce did abide by its terms of reference

From Mr John Tasker

Sir, — I wonder what the Revd Dr Ian Paul thought that he was doing (Letters, 30 July) by criticising the Archbishops’ Anti-Racism Taskforce in public for recommending diocesan anti-racism officers and suggesting that this demonstrated that they came up with their own ideas instead of focusing on unimplemented recommendations from the Committee for Minority-Ethnic Anglican Concerns (CMEAC).

In their report, From Lament to Action, the Taskforce set out 161 previous recommendations. These include the appointment of diocesan officers to resource work on combating racism, which was recommended in 1991 by CMEAC’s predecessor Committee on Black Anglican Concerns in the report Seeds of Hope.

Members of the Archbishops’ Council may agree or disagree with the Taskforce’s recommendations, but it is clear they took an idea from 30 years ago on how the Church in mission could be resourced to combat racism and re-presented it for a different missional context.

Dr Paul ended his letter with an appeal to the “startling theological vision” of Revelation 7.9. If we are to stand together as “a great multitude from every nation, tribe, people and language”, I suggest we must start with recognising that others who are different from ourselves share a common identity in Christ as children of God. Then we might be able to move with the Taskforce on the same journey “from lament to action” in order to reconcile to God those who are fighting against this vision.

JOHN TASKER
3 Hope Close
London N1 2YS
 

Anglican ‘palaver’ and lay-led church-planting

From Mr Mike Hawthorne

Sir, — I have been involved in Christian leadership for more than 40 years. Around half of this — on and off — has been in non-Anglican settings. In such contexts, I have been free to lead services, to preach, to administer communion, and to join conversations at “top tables” without questions being asked about my status.

None of those opportunities are available to me without much palaver as a lay member of the Church of England. If that cannot be called a “limiting factor”, both in terms of what I have been able to offer to the Church and in terms of my personal ministry through the years, then I do not know the meanings of the words.

MIKE HAWTHORNE
Arboyne House
Church Road, Eardisley
Herefordshire HR3 6NH

 

From the Revd Dr Christian Selvaratnam

Sir, — A few years ago, I had the privilege of talking to Dr John Gollapalli, Bishop of the Free Methodist Church of South India and a theological educator. I was challenged and inspired to hear that he doesn’t have a vocational conversation with an ordination candidate until they have planted three village churches.

Rather than see lay-led church-planting as a threat to the ministry of clergy and parishes (Letters, 9 and 23 July), I wonder whether we should see the former as a possible means to more of the latter. What can the Church of England learn from the global Church here? Might it become normal for our bishops to ask ordination candidates: “How many new congregations have we helped you plant?”

CHRISTIAN SELVARATNAM
Director of Church Planting
St Hild College and Centre for Church Planting
Stocks Bank Road
Mirfield WF14 0BW

 

Christmas greenery on a Sunday afterTrinity

From the Revd Peter Simpson

Sir, — Am I the only reader who finds the idea of a Christmas service on 25 July slightly bonkers (News, 30 July)? I agree with the claim that Christians should celebrate the birth of Jesus all year round — just as we should celebrate his death and resurrection.

I would, however, prefer the principal celebration to be on the same day as that observed by most Christians in the Western Church. I find the Church’s Year a valuable instrument for both celebration and teaching, and recommend Dunstable Priory Church follow suit.

PETER SIMPSON
32 Cardinal Court
Bishophill Junior
York YO1 6ES

 

King and Magna Carta

From Mr Christopher Barnard

Sir, — I read with interest your report (News, 30 July) on Hereford Cathedral’s 1217 Magna Carta. It would have been very difficult for King John to “sign” the document, however, since he was dead. There is some dispute over whether John could even write; but the important fact is that the King’s seal would have been attached to the various editions: the document would not have been signed. Salisbury Cathedral has one of the four surviving 1215 editions, but only one has the seal still attached. Damaged by fire, it is in the British Library.

CHRISTOPHER BARNARD
Head Guide, Salisbury Cathedral
54 Albion Way, Verwood
Dorset BH31 7LR

 

Incentives all round

From Canon Adrian Copping

Sir, — Performance-related pay for Church of England clergy clearly has arrived. A diocese is looking (Jobs, 23 July) for a house-for-duty priest-in-charge and hoping that “the successful candidate will grow the church to an extent that will justify and underwrite the payment of a stipend or part-stipend.” At least this should enliven the parish’s giving campaigns.

ADRIAN COPPING
57 Briar Hill, Woolpit
Suffolk IP30 9SD

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