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Letters to the Editor

11 November 2022


Dr Croft’s Together in Love and Faith

From the Revd Huw Thomas

Sir, — An excellent pamphlet (News, 4 November), but the contribution by the Bishop of Oxford, Dr Steven Croft, also offers something else to the Church’s debate. In going public, the Bishop is embracing and speaking honestly to the wider Church.

The House of Bishops’ impersonation of a conclave may not be the wiser approach. In respecting the ability of the laity to share a breadth of views and understand a work in progress, Dr Croft is not just contributing to good debate. He is also modeling how it should be conducted.

140 Abbeyfield Road
Sheffield S4 7AY

Sir, — The Bishop of Oxford has written very thoughtfully to explain why he is now in favour of equal marriage. Several of his episcopal colleagues have now lent their support. I am, though, surprised that, at the time of writing, there is only one woman bishop among their number.

I accept that some will not share Dr Croft’s perspective, but all women bishops must have recent memories of how it felt to be discriminated against in church. Would they have argued then that maintaining church unity was more important than speaking out against discrimination? Or was ending an injustice a more important goal? Perhaps it still is.


There may be other support among the women bishops that we are not aware of. Editor

Hardship on a stipend

From Mr Tom Benyon

Sir, — Clergy friends tell me that they are unable to live on their stipends.

The Church has not given sufficient pay increases in recent years to enable clergy to live without intense worry cased by their inability to pay household bills.

May I suggest that PCCs should take the initiative to financially assist their clergy so they can at least pay their way.

Rectory Farmhouse
Oxfordshire OX20 1RS

Not a new incumbent’s fault if style doesn’t fit

From the Revd Robert Bennett

Sir, — It is always saddening to hear of church members who are distressed at goings on in their local church. Clearly, both your recent unidentified correspondents (Letters, 28 October, 4 November) are very distressed.

As far as I know, I have no connection with either of these churches, but I do wonder how these difficult circumstances came about and were unexpected.

I assume that the PCC would have worked on details of the needs in the parish and what sort of person they believed would be able to take the parish forward. They would also have chosen parish representatives to be part of the interviewing panel, and I understand that these people have a veto on any appointment that they do not support.

The interviewing panel would have been made up of these local representatives and a few others, most of whom would have had experience of making appointments like this.

The interview panel would have considered all the input from the parish and the application forms. It would have interviewed the candidates carefully, assessed their characters, and discussed what sort of changes they might envisage making, especially if their theology would be new to the parish.

After that, it would select the candidate who was best suited for the parish, and an offer would be made. The panel could decide not to make any offer, but that might raise the question whether any better candidates would apply next time round.

On that basis, if the “wrong” person with the “wrong” agenda is appointed, that person is hardly responsible for the situation that they find themselves in.

10 Barricane,
Woking GU21 7RB

Time of collapse

From Deborah Tomkins and Duncan Forbes

Sir, — To take seriously the emotional and spiritual responses to climate change (Feature, 4 November) is a vital task for the churches. Christians are confronted not only with the consequences of a rapidly heating planet, but also with the concomitant challenges that these pose to faith. Within Green Christian (greenchristian.org.uk), we realise the need for profound moral and spiritual reorientation if we are to live truthfully in a world that more than ever is crying out for justice.

An acknowledgement of the collapse of our old securities is a necessary first step towards finding new ways of discipleship and of faithful living with others. At borrowedtime.earth, we provide opportunities for this inner work to be undertaken collaboratively within a Christian framework. Our Deep Waters programme is well established, and is available for churches to run themselves.

Co-Chair, Green Christian
Borrowed Time team member
6 Elm Crescent, Charlbury
Oxfordshire OX7 3PZ

Further responses to plea for OLM parsons

From the Ven. Dennis Wight

Sir, — Bishop Llewellin’s article on parsons for parishes (Comment, 14 October; Letters, 21 October, 4 November) has outlined the maxim that the church is not the church unless it is local. There are so many priests doing stuff that they never envisaged, while ministering among many congregations, PCCs, and buildings. The old image of one parson for each parish is long gone, if ever it was a reality.

The Bishop is right to state how half-hearted we have been towards a local non-stipendiary ministry. There is, however, some good work being done in this area. The problem is that there is an alarming lack of co-ordination. There are some innovative and imaginative schemes encouraging pastoral ministry, and local people trained and ordained to be that local “parson/person”: a focal ministry of known, trusted and dependable people who have become the local go-to contact for church and congregational life. It is my hope that the experiences of such focal ministry around our land can be brought together in such a manner for the good of congregations.

Bob Jackson’s Grove booklet Leading One Church at a Time has some useful evidence of success in local ministry. Also, the Bishop of Oxford, together with others, set up the Foundation for Church Leadership in part to equip stipendiaries to become enabling leaders. Also, in west Wales, there is an excellent programme of discernment and training for those who have shown promise in their local “parsoning”.

I am sure that there are many other examples. It would be so good for us to share these gifts for the good of our church communities and the relief of overstretched and undervalued stipendiaries.

6 Llys Holcwm, Ferryside

From the Revd Brian Harris

Sir, — Congratulations to Bishop Richard Llewellin on his excellent article, especially the emphasis on the importance of the ordained priesthood as an essential ingredient of the local ministry of the Body of Christ —“called out from within the local Christian community — the identifiable local person”.

If an individual priest is is not to prove disastrous, it is essential for there to be, at least, two “voluntary” clergy in a parish, just as there are two churchwardens, not one — and more in more populous parishes — so that the regular Sunday eucharist that “makes the Church” (Paul McPartland) can be sustained locally in every parish without interruption because of sickness and holidays, etc.

This arrangement would make the important point that a priest is not there as a sole performer, but as the coordinator of ministry within the priesthood of all believers.

2 Furness Drive
York YO30 5TD


Alternatives to sweet distribution on Hallowe’en

From the Revd Ravi Holy

Sir, — I know that many Christians feel, as Mrs Ann Wills does (Letters, 4 November), that Hallowe’en is not something that they should encourage; but for most children it’s simply great fun: dressing up, staying up late, lots of sweets, and being a bit naughty. What’s not to like? So, being against it risks making us look like Scrooges.

The Revd Ravi Holy and friends in church on Hallowe’en

Therefore, in Wye, we now have an annual Hallowe’en party in church, with games and craft activities for primary-school-age children, and I read spooky stories in the graveyard (photo right). This year, about 500 people attended it, and surely having hundreds of children saying “I had so much fun when I went to church” is what we’ve all been praying for.

The Vicarage
Cherry Garden Crescent
Wye, Ashford
Kent TN25 5AS

From the Revd Simon Walsh

Sir, — Mrs Wills is reluctant to give out sweets at Hallowe’en and would like something with “a Christian message”. On 23 October 2015, the Church Times cookery column considered the “venerable medieval custom of the soul cake, which was given to children who would come at Allhallowtide to say prayers for the dead . . . [with] raisins, said to represent Christ’s blood-drops, and a cross to denote giving in alms”. Might this help?

5 Scafell, Stanhope Street
London NW1 3QB

The Cromwells at Hampton Court Palace

From Canon Nicholas Cranfield

Sir, — In his review of Anna Keay’s The Restless Republic, Professor Michael Wheeler comments on a painting of “Hampton Court in the 1660s, when Oliver and Elizabeth Cromwell occupied the first-floor rooms in the two-storey range on the right of the royal palace” (Books, 4 November). Oliver Cromwell’s death (3 September 1658) at Whitehall had put paid to their joint occupancy.

Although “her Highness dowager”, as some styled her, kept rooms there and at Hampton Court while St James’s House was prepared for her, she left London in April 1660 to live with her son-in-law at Northborough (Northants), where she died and was buried in November 1665.

John Evelyn visited Hampton Court in June 1662, when he commented on the newly planted row of lime trees “and the Canale for water neere perfected”, which suggests that the Danckerts painting probably dates from soon after that summer.

10 Duke Humphrey Road
London SE3 0TY

Deanery-synod electors of the General Synod

From Mr David Lamming

Sir, — Professor Michael Winter (Letters, 28 October) says that a PCC “nomin­ates a deanery-synod representative who casts their vote for the Synod as a PCC representative”. Deanery-synod members do elect lay members of the General Synod, but are neither elected by, nor repres­ent, their PCCs.
“Parochial representatives of the laity on a deanery synod” (Church Representation Rules) are elected every three years by the annual parochial church meeting (APCM). It may be that in some parishes it is largely, or even solely, PCC members who attend the APCM, but, in voting for the deanery-synod represent­atives (where there is a contested election), they do so as members of the electoral roll, not of the PCC.

It is only when there is a casual vacancy (or the APCM fails to fill all the available seats) and the next annual meeting is not due to be held within two months that the PCC is required to elect a person to fill the vacancy. As for consulting the elec­torate, in many, if not most, dio­ceses, hustings are held when deanery-synod members can ques­tion those standing for the Synod.

Professor Winter raises a serious point about the electorate for the Synod’s House of Laity. Widening the franchise to all those on the electoral roll was one option when the issue was considered in the last quinquennium, but the majority opinion was for maintaining the status quo (Synod, 14 July 2017).

General Synod member 2015-21
20 Holbrook Barn Road
Boxford, Suffolk CO10 5HU

Bishops on bicycles

From the Rt Revd David Wilbourne

Sir, — Like the Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Revd Graham Usher (Feature, 4 November), I also used to cycle to confirmations, waterproofed from head to foot, as it was rainy south Wales. During one monsoon, I was parking my bike in the church porch, and the churchwarden rushed out: “You can’t park your bike there, boyo. We’ve got the Bishop coming.”

As Monty Python’s Flying Circus might have said, “No one expects the cycling bishop!”

8 Bielby Close
Scarborough YO12 6UU

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