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Letters to the Editor

by
01 April 2022

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Reaction to judgment on college’s Rustat memorial

From the Rt Revd Lord Williams of Oystermouth, the Bishops of Willesden and Woolwich, the Dean of Manchester, the Archdeacon of Croydon, the Revd Sam Dennis, and 154 others

Sir, — We write with disappointment at the recent decision to retain the Rustat memorial in the chapel at Jesus College, Cambridge (News, 25 March), and grave concern for what this will mean for the Church of England. It is our firm hope that an appeal will be possible, and that the result of the appeal will be the relocation of the memorial from the chapel to a suitable site within Jesus College.

Rustat was a committed and energetic investor in the slave trade. It is irrelevant that he was yet to profit at the time of his benefactions to the college. That his ventures were not financially successful would not have made life any better for the human beings enslaved by trading companies that he funded and assisted to direct. His goal was to support and profit from the transportation of human beings.

Christian places of worship are consecrated as places of peace, love, justice, and sanctuary.

This memorial, where it stands, undermines this holy principle, and represents the enduring legacy of the transatlantic trade in enslaved people. It has prevented many from being able to participate in the life of the chapel, and divided the college community.

The college’s intention has not been to destroy the monument, but to move it elsewhere, in the spirit of reflection and education rather than iconoclasm or erasure. Accordingly, there is no justification to retain it in situ. The presence of a memorial is never, and has never been, a condition upon which Christians pray for those — whatever their deeds — who have gone before us.

Its continued presence following this judgment leads people within and beyond Christianity, and within and beyond the college’s membership, to distrust, reject, and lose respect for the Church of England.

This case raises real questions about authority and leadership in the Church of England, and this judgment may have far-reaching consequences. The General Synod recently commissioned and received the powerful report From Lament to Action, stating that in order for the Church of England to “be a credible voice in calling for change across the world we must now ensure that apologies and lament are accompanied by swift actions leading to real change”.

If memorials to the likes of Rustat will not be removed or repositioned, will any? The college’s Master, Sonita Alleyne, noted in a recent article that this matter was a test for the Church not just to speak of God’s love, but, most importantly, to show it.

We pray for change.

ROWAN WILLIAMS, LUSA NSENGA-NGOY, KAROWEI DORGU, ROGERS GOVENDER, ROSEMARIE MALLETT, SAM DENNIS, MAE CHRISTIE, ANDREW MOUGHTIN-MUMBY, ELIZABETH HENRY, CHRISTOPHER ROGERS, JUDITH MALTBY, SONIA BARRON, ARUN ARORA, ELLEN CLARK-KING, SALLY HITCHINER, AZARIAH FRANCE-WILLIAMS, RÁMOND MITCHELL, GEOFFREY RIBA-THOMPSON, BRUTUS GREEN, CHANTAL NOPPEN, CÉCILE SCHNYDER, MATTHEW HALL, MOLLY BOOT, DANNY PEGG, ROWAN WILLIAMS, MARTHA ANN WOOD, JOYCE FORBES STEPHANIE BURETTE, JUDITH MALTBY, DEVIN MCLACHLAN, KATIE ROBERTS, JAREL ROBINSON-BROWN, BRETT GRAY, MARIKA ROSE, BENJAMIN THOMPSON, BEN SOLANKY, DAVID VYVYAN, LLOYD BROWN, BERNI EXCELL, COLIN LUKE BOSWELL, BEN BELL, ALICE GOODMAN, ANNA MATTHEWS, ZACHARY GUILIANO, HANNAH CLEUGH, TIM BONIFACE, RAYMOND BAUDON, ARWEN FOLKES, DAHLIA STERLING, SERENA DYETT, IMOGEN VIBERT, ANTONY F. PYBUS, ANDREW FORESHEW-CAIN, DANIEL TROTT, NICK FLINT SMMS, HANNAH SWITHINBANK, STEVEN COOPER, DANIEL MATOVU, GRACY CRANE ANDERSON H. M. JEREMIAH, STEVEN SHAKESPEARE, CAROL BATES, ANDREW HARLE, JACK BELLOLI, ROSALIND LUND, MARK CHAPMAN, LAURA BAKER, CAROL BATES, L. ALI, GEORGIA LATCHMORE, ROSEMARY HILL, JEAN YEARWOOD, SAM HOLE, ELIS MATTHEWS, DR MARIAMA IFODE-BLEASE, TRACEY PUSEY, ANTHONY MURLEY, FUNKE OLORUNNISHOLA, SIMON ROBINSON, SUSANNAH CORNWALL, CATHERINE JACOBS, BETHAN RODDEN, HELEN SIMS-WILLIAMS, KERRY COOK, DARIUS WEITHERS, MARGARET PRITCHARD HOUSTON, ALISON HOPE, KENDELL AUGUSTINE TANNER-IHM OMS, BRUNEL JAMES, EMILY ASHWORTH, STEVEN WALING, PHILIP DOBSON, CHRISTOPHER HENRIETTE, ANTONIA BROTCHIE, CLARE JOYCE, SARAH BRUSH, JONATHAN SEDGWICK, MICHELLE HALABI, DEAN PUSEY, DAVE PILKINGTON, JACQUELINE SHALLOE, ANGELA RAYNER, CHARLIE BELL, ADRIAN CHATFIELD, GRACE WEITHERS, HANNAH LEWIS, FRAN SMETTEM, JO KERSHAW, BRANDON FLETCHER-JAMES, CHARLES HIGGINS, SAM WILSON, CATHY CHAPMAN, JULIE GITTOES, SIMON FOSTER, CATHERINE SHELLEY, TREVOR THURSTON-SMITH, JONATHAN BISH, MIKE WALKER, ANDY DELMEGE, SHEENA GINNINGS, JENNY HARRIS, ANDREW KWAPONG, HELEN WALKER, HELEN WALKER, ABIMBOLA OGUNSEYILA, DAVID LAPPANO, DAVID NEWTON, AVERIL WATAN, DOUGLAS MACHIRIDZA, BEN FULFORD, GILES JOINER, KAREN HARLE, EMMANUEL ADELOYE, SEBRINA BLACKSTOCK-MILLER, PETER ORGAN, TERESA SHERIDAN, BERHANE ASMELASH, ANNE CLARKE, ZELDA MCCOLLUM, CORDELLA DAWSON, SIMON BEES SSS, OBL OSB., JENNY DAWKINS, P. MYRIE, WILLIAM LAMB, PETER GINNINGS, JONATHAN CHAPLIN, SARAH COTTERILL, ALASTAIR NEWMAN, GEMMA BIRT, SHAVAUN SHODEINDE, LYRENE WILLIAMS, GILL O’NEILL, ROXANNE F. EVERSLEY, SAMANTHA WHILEY, LAURA JØRGENSEN, MARIA ONUIGBO, JAY GREEN

c/o St Luke’s, Woodside
Portland Road
London SE25 4RB

 

Harsh economic winds and the Church of England

From Dr Phillip Rice

Sir, — As a former government economist and churchwarden, I have not seen in my career the portent of inflation expected to be peaking at about nine per cent and stipends on a recent trajectory of rising at between one and two per cent. If this were to be maintained for a year or more, the squeeze on ministerial personal budgets would be dire, the effect on diocesan finances would in practice be almost as dire, and the effect on PCCs might be not quite as bad — depending on the shielding effect of rising incomes from property rental and church lettings, plus the net effect on personal giving.

Nevertheless, my request is for an urgent and effective response from the Archbishops’ Council by producing a statistical parish-church estimate of what their net deficit by decile is expected to be.

I would expect a skewed distribution, with an answer that the poorest parishes would be the worst affected. This is along the lines of how the prices index can be viewed by poorest households (by income deciles). But I would also want to put on notice the money funds in the national church institutions for which inflation is in part shielded by holding equity investment. I believe the case for a partial pension-fund holiday to bring immediate help should be looked at with the highest priority.

PHILLIP RICE
23 Christchurch Square
London E9 7HU

 

From Canon Mark Bennet

Sir, — Recent commentary on resource allocation in the Church of England seems to me to have missed some important points, amounting to the misdiagnosis of some underlying issues.

The cutting of the posts in Life Events and Children and Youth ministry exemplifies two of these (News, 18 March). First, these are posts with which those of us at the front line can readily identify: we know what the people in them do, we know they do it well, and we know it helps us. The job titles that are emerging do not have that “front line” resonance, and however good the people, there is no instinctive connection with what is happening on the front line. The emerging job titles themselves represent a distancing of a relationship which needs to be close if it is to be effective, and lead to a confusion on the front line about why “the Church” should pay people to do these things. And it is no good saying “We’ll explain it all”: there is no appetite to listen to long explanations: the argument has already been lost.

Second, there seems to be a balance towards investing in projects and programmes rather than people and gifts. The people who have left the central team are known to be gifted and effective; so how does the discernment of their gifts play into their intentional deployment in effective roles within the Church? We do not have to read far into St Paul’s letters to see the significance of such questions brought to the foreground. In whole areas of spending, such as the Strategic Development Fund, the design of programmes for growth is primary, and the strategic significance of the gifted people whom God has called to service in our midst finds a place only in the background.

Among my colleagues in ministry over the years, I would count one as exceptionally gifted in making disciples, but others in pastoral care and making community. On the front line, we know that there are gifts that differ, even though we all have the same Lord, and we know the task of making the most of those gifts, and of building effective teams with an appropriate mix and balance of gifts. Although it isn’t often named, I think that the lack of narrative about our existing people and their gifts is one of the things that make the “central narrative” feel distant from the faith life that most of us experience.

To add to the challenges of talking about what we are doing in ways that make sense on the front line, and being more acute about people and their gifts among the strategic concerns that grab attention, I would add a third point. Bold initiatives like the Strategic Development Fund, which adopt what I call a “challenge funding model” (an alternative would be “consistent core funding”, though this does not give an exhaustive classification of funding models), tend to try to measure success.

Our core texts and teachings, however, value faithfulness above success, and, if our “body language” starts to value success at the expense of faithfulness, or even to give them equal status, we will have lost a countercultural edge essential to our corporate identity. During Covid, large numbers of parish churches found reserves of faithfulness which surprised them. Those churches notice when this is taken for granted rather than celebrated as a mark that we are comprised of truly missional communities.

That is not to say “None of it should be done.” Rather, what is needed is to step back and to notice some things that a narrowing of focus over the past few years has thrown out of view: things that are so obvious on the “front line” that they are perhaps not mentioned as often as they might be, and for lack of mention are easy to miss from a greater distance. The gain in getting this right would be huge. It would be a tragedy to miss the opportunity.

MARK BENNET
General Synod representative for Oxford diocese
The Rectory, 2 Rectory Gardens
Thatcham, Berks RG19 3PR

 

President Putin’s war on Ukraine, the nuclear deterrent, and Christian hope

From the Revd Dr David Isiorho

Sir, — Lent or the Paschal fast grew out of the fast that people new to the Christian faith had to keep before their baptism at Easter. The unbaptised were not allowed to receive the eucharist, and the candidates or learners had to fast for two or three days before baptism, and so did their sponsors. It was from the fast that the sponsors kept that the fast spread to the whole congregation.

So, in this context, what does this fasting signify? The idea here seems to be one of cleansing, purging, getting ready for action. It is not so very different from the modern idea of the health farm or a diet to get us back into shape or fitness. This preparation before baptism was a period of wrestling with sin.

This is a very brief sketch of the history of Lent, but this history is more than mere information. It gives the meaning and significance to what we do. It shows that Lent is a time when we truly must do battle with sin.

In the early Middle Ages, the beginning of Lent was marked by the formal expulsion of penitents. That is the most serious offenders or notorious sinners were actually taken out of the church and not re-admitted until Maundy Thursday or Holy Thursday, when they were absolved by the bishop.

This may be a little drastic for our time. But, having said that, I believe that it would be good if the Russian Orthodox Church expelled the war criminal Putin and took him back only once he had agreed a ceasefire. Amen.

DAVID ISIORHO
The Rectory
Charnes Road
Ashley TF9 4LQ

 

From Dr J. T. Hardy

Sir, — The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament is not enjoying a high media profile these days, as the war in Ukraine painfully grinds on. The deadly consequences for combatants and civilians, plus economic pain across the wider world, are the subject of frequent news updates. Maybe we should all be raising a glass of porter (or rum) to the Royal Navy submariners in Trident submarines.

Wherever they are, somewhere between the North Pole or South Pole and the equator, it is good to know that Vladimir Putin will be disinclined from ever launching an attack on the UK or other NATO countries. A great life lesson for younger people is being spelt out: evil forces are all too real, and bullies need to be confronted. That is also the message of the Easter Cross when we open the Bible: “And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.”

Evil powers and principalities most definitely exist in our disordered world, and that’s why we need a Royal Navy. It was possibly never any different, though, when we consider these words attributed to King Charles II (1630-85): “It is upon the navy under the good Providence of God that the safety, honour, and welfare of this realm do chiefly depend”

J. T. HARDY
Address supplied

 

From Canon Wyn Beynon

Sir, — Three years ago, at the General Synod in York, I warned that dark days and bad things were coming. I specifically pointed to Russian aggression. Many took me seriously, but some laughed at me. I am no prophet, but I know a sycamore tree when I see one. It wasn’t a speech about the future, but about that very day.

We collude with the last vestiges of modernity’s optimism and a doctrine of hope that is little more than whistling in the dark. True Christian hope is in the resurrection, which requires us to die daily. Yet we teach resuscitation.

We have the simple, but difficult, task of teaching the world that we live (and die to ourselves) today, not tomorrow. Western society, fixated on a better future, finds the future unattainable, because it has no idea how to live (and die to itself) in the present moment. And this is true of the Church.

The world has changed today. A Church living out the example of the Lord Jesus, living day by day, can speak to the world — a prophetic act. Otherwise, we have no reason to be here.

WYN BEYNON
89 Stourbridge Road
Halesowen B63 3UA

 

Correspondence in The Guardian on prayer

From the Revd Alec Mitchell

Sir, — It might be inferred from Andrew Brown (Press, 25 March) that Jenny Haynes’s “magnificent squelch” of a letter to The Guardian (published on 9 March) was “followed” (next, as it were) by one from the Revd Kenneth Cross — which he then quotes at length.

If only for the sake of accuracy, however, it should perhaps be pointed out that the Cross letter was published on 19 March, and that in the ten days between Ms Haynes’ “squelch” and that date, The Guardian printed several other letters on the subject of praying for peace. These included the one from Peter Nuttall (at the top of your own Quotes of the Week column); and the first reply to Ms Haynes, which led to Mr Nuttall’s adaptation from Joseph Heller.

ALEC MITCHELL
4 Stanley Crescent
Holyhead
Anglesey LL65 1DD

 

Fathers and sons, too

From the Dean of Ely

Sir, — As always, the Revd Dr Cally Hammond’s reflections (25 March) on the Sunday’s readings were excellent. I wonder how many chose to use Lent 4 readings for Mothering Sunday this year. In Year C, it is the only time that the parable of the Prodigal Son (or whatever you might call it — “The Absent Mother”?) appears, and it is a loss, I think, to lose that for one of the bite-size readings offered for Mothering Sunday.

MARK BONNEY
The Deanery
Ely CB7 4DN

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