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Letters to the Editor

15 July 2022


Canterbury and the Communion

From Mrs April Alexander

Sir, — The motion for the General Synod debate proposed that the Anglican Communion should have a bigger say than is currently the case in the nomination of the next Archbishop of Canterbury. To this end, it proposed that the Crown Nominations Commission (CNC) that nominates the new Archbishop should include five representatives from the Anglican Communion rather than one, as is currently the case.

This is on the basis that any new Archbishop of Canterbury and his or her successors should continue to be primus inter pares among the metropolitans of the Communion.

The background paper for the above debate, however, declared that “The Church of England and the Communion cannot escape asking why a British cleric should always be primus inter pares”. Apparently, nearly everyone who spoke did “escape” this question: indeed, only one appears to have addressed it, Christina Baron (Bath & Wells) (News online, 9 July).

It surely runs counter to the Church’s newly invigorated anti-racism policy to take for granted that the new primus inter pares should be from the C of E. Moreover, the proposal in question carries a risk, according to Canon Cornes, that “those representatives [to the CNC] would be disproportionately white and rich; [people] with the time and influence to get them elected”. He continues that “hopes would be dashed if representatives were a reminder of the colonial past and not the vibrant future.”

Those hopes are likely to be far further dashed if the most senior cleric in the Communion is destined to be British and probably white for the foreseeable future.

If the C of E could seriously ask itself the question quoted above from the background paper, the way would be open to contemplate a senior cleric for the Communion who came from a different Province altogether. Such a person would need to be elected by a completely new process, which the Communion would need to design.

Then, of course, the nomination of the Archbishop of Canterbury would be an entirely separate process from that for electing the leader of the Communion and could be broadly similar to that used for the nomination of the Archbishop of York. I would hope that it, too, would allow for gender balance, as envisaged by Nic Tall in the Synod debate.

The duties of that Archbishop would then be the oversight of the Province of Canterbury alone. The new leader of the Anglican Communion, no matter from which Province he or she came, would take on all those overseas responsibilities currently held by the Archbishop of Canterbury. That Archbishop would relinquish all his or her archiepiscopal responsibilities in the home Province. It would follow that, should someone from the C of E ever be elected as that senior cleric in the Communion, he or she would relinquish any archiepiscopal duties in the C of E.

The result would not only be an Archbishop of Canterbury whose archiepiscopal duties would be confined to the C of E. but also a leadership of the Communion which was no longer redolent of our colonial past.

Further, the Church would cease to burden one Archbishop with duties which, by common consent, are more onerous than it is reasonable to expect one person to fulfil.

59 High Street, Bletchingley
Redhill RH1 4PB

The review concerning the death of Fr Alan Griffin

From the Rt Revd Lord Chartres

Sir, — There are many lessons to learn from the report into the tragic circumstances of the death of the Revd Alan Griffin. There is an inaccuracy, however, in the suggestion that the Head of Operations in the archdeaconry of London, Martin Sargeant, was appointed “by the Bishop of London in his capacity as Corporation Sole” (News, 8 July).

The report, which is helpful in many other ways, goes on to state that “such arrangements appear to be made at the sole discretion of the bishop who employs the individual and would have to be funded either from the bishop’s own working costs allowance from the Church Commissioners, or from some private stream of funding”.

In fact, the salary of the Head of Operations was not paid out of the fully audited Church Commissioners allowance, nor from any other fund under my control. I did work closely with the Head of Operations in the pastoral and policy dimensions of his work with the City churches, but I was not involved with its financial aspects.

(former Bishop of London)
Address supplied

From Mr Martin Sewell

Sir, — Like Chief Superintendent Ted Hastings in the TV drama Line of Duty, “I’m only interested in one thing — bent process.”

Bent process breaks lives, and the one guarantee that bent process will continue in the Church unabated is the near certainty among senior leaders that they will never be held meaningfully to account for their actions.

Thus, neither Dr Martyn Percy’s nor Fr Alan Griffin’s experiences of institutional bullying by the Church were discussed at the General Synod.

Last week (Letters), Canon Simon Butler railed against those who were calling out bent process during the Percy case. I invite him to reflect that with the support of what he terms “proxies”, Dr Percy just about survived his ordeal; alas, without such informed and determined support, Fr Griffin did not make it.

Bent process costs lives, but the Church does not yet want to face its responsibilities full on. General Synod members have a duty to deliver the message that learned-lessons reviews just don’t cut it any more, and should not be indulged.

General Synod member
8 Appleshaw Close, Gravesend
Kent DA11 7PB

From the Revd Dr David L. Gosling

Sir, — Seldom has there been a clearer example of the ineffectiveness of rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic deck than the conclusions of the independent review concerning Fr Alan Griffin.

There is hand-wringing, a call for a less homophobic culture, and the need for more accountability in diocesan structures. In response, there have been predictable platitudes from the top brass, and the appointment of five more safeguarding officers in the London diocese, but no major changes recommended in the Clergy Discipline Measure (CDM) procedures that played a significant part in Fr Griffin’s death.

We have seen many examples of CDM weaknesses, but my own will illustrate ones that are relevant to Fr Griffin’s case and are not sufficiently recognised. About four years ago, I wrote a letter to two churchwardens which was leaked to a person named in it, who complained first to the police and then to my local bishop. The police took six months to decide that there was no case to answer. The Bishop’s referral to the designated officer in London produced a legal bill of £6000, and the matter was sent back to the Bishop, who imposed a four-year ban on my ministry. An appeal to a tribunal might have reduced the length of the ban, but I felt that the risk of further legal costs would be too great.

In his letter imposing the ban, the Bishop stated that, although its duration would be published on the diocesan website, the reason would not. But a reason was stated on the website and was misleading; also, I had not consented. It was subsequently picked up all over the internet, including in my Wikipedia entry, and by former students whom I had taught in South Asia.

A year ago, I met the Bishop of Ely, who was sympathetic to my concerns, but felt constrained by the existing system. A few days later, he sent me a handwritten note that he would take matters further, but I have heard nothing since. Although the Church of England is legally mandated to provide me with pastoral support during my CDM suspension, none has been forthcoming in the past year, in spite of a letter from a supportive colleague.

I don’t consider myself to have a suicidal disposition, but I can well understand the despair which led Fr Alan Griffin to take his own life. Nothing short of a root-and-branch transformation of the Church of England is going to make a scrap of difference to the current unjust and ineffective system, and the recent independent review has done little more than scratch the surface.

3 Tavistock Road
Cambridge CB4 3NB

From Carolyn Roberts

Sir, — Reports on Fr Griffin’s treatment make the jaw drop anew each time. As a comprehensive-school head teacher, if I sat on memories and allegations until a “brain-dump”, I would be sent to prison.

The Church of England still has many state-school leaders in its pews. Might I suggest that every diocese be required to have at least one such on its safeguarding board, and that every Bishop’s Council invite a state head teacher to audit diocesan safeguarding at least annually? Perhaps that might help the Church to understand how far its practices lie from the acceptable minimum in secular life.

Perhaps that could happen before head teachers choose to leave the Church to avoid being professionally tainted by smug, sloppy, and shameful safeguarding?

128 Bethwin Road
London SE5 0YY

The Archbishop of York and Save the Parish

From Mr Brian Garner

Sir, — I attended the Save the Parish (STP) Conference in York on Thursday of last week (News, 15 July) and found the speakers very helpful and informed.

The Archbishop of York opened the proceedings in an interview. This seemed at first to be a constructive dialogue, but, in a telling flash of petulance, the Archbishop warned that, if STP supporters showed their anger, they would lose all credibility (in the eyes of the Bishops).

In short, the Archbishop paid lip service to “saving the parish”; but not to worry: the Bishops know best.

The astonishing amounts of money squandered on failed “initiatives” give the lie to that. I wish the STP movement God speed in abolishing the failed, top-down systems of the Church, and reforming it to redirect resources to the parishes that hitherto have been stripped of their funds by the burgeoning, bureaucratic dioceses.

77 Beverley Crescent
Bedford MK40 4BZ

From Mr Rory Macdiarmid

Sir, — I attended the Save the Parish meeting in York last week and was heartened to see the Church represented by the Archbishop of York, who bravely sat through an hour of question and answer with Canon Giles Fraser. The Archbishop then took questions from the audience.

He obviously didn’t listen to a word that we all said: the Vision and Strategy does not address any of the issues raised by the grass roots.

Do we need to spend millions on “net zero” and “racial justice”? No. We need to spend money on the core of the Church of England that we all love, and that means more clergy. How can we grow, with all our resources spent on top-down, centre-led, hugely expensive wokery? Surely, history tells us that “An increase in clergy is associated with the likelihood of growth, while a decrease in clergy is associated, on average, to a decline in attendance” (the Revd Marcus Walker).

It is deeply unfair to treat the millions of us in the parishes with such contempt and foist an unrealistic Evangelical vision on us. The Church needs to think again. The Save the Parish movement gives us hope, but the church hierarchy must listen to the drums.

RORY MACDIARMID (Churchwarden)
Cary Cottage, North Street
Babcary TA11 7EA

Allow the clergy to stay in post until they are 75

From the Revd Geoffrey Pengelly

Sir, — It is not appropriate for me to comment on the retirement of the Revd Paul Williamson (News, 10 June). Nevertheless, it does raise several issues around the retirement age for the clergy.

In many occupations now, it is possible to work full time beyond the age of 70, as people are living longer. At a time when we are being told that clergy retirements are exceeding the numbers of those being ordained, surely it would make sense to allow clergy who wish to do so to remain in full-time ministry to the age of 75. Obviously, this would have to take into account health matters and the ability in meeting all the challenges associated with ministry in the contemporary world.

No one is suggesting that a priest should remain in a parish indefinitely, but, in today’s society, many people at 75 are perfectly fit and capable of doing their job well, including those in vocational employment.

Congratulations to the former Dean of Canterbury, working until 75. Why not for all clergy who wish to do so?

Higher Kergilliack Cottage
Budock, Falmouth
Cornwall TR11 5PB

Learn from parable not to avoid Big Issue sellers

From Mr Philip Belben

Sir, — The Revd Dr Cally Hammond (Sunday’s Readings, 8 July) makes a number of excellent points about the story of the Good Samaritan, but spoils the effect about halfway through by identifying herself and her readers with those who “deliberately avoid taking notice of . . . a Big Issue seller”.

I confess that I do not walk past such people every day, but I try always to have a word of greeting for Juana or Feral if they are on duty when I am walking down the High Street, whether or not I am in a position to buy from them. Surely, those who do ignore them have failed to learn from Jesus’s tale.

The Chapel, Maitlands CLose
Nettlebridge, Radstock
Somerset BA3 5AA

Finding time for prayer

From Mr Keiran Proffer

Sir, — Canon David Goodacre (Letters, 24 June) asks whether we need a large conference to think through how how clergy found it difficult to allow time for prayer. No. All you need do is read a decent book of spirituality.

There are times for prayer throughout the day: while brushing your teeth, while getting dressed, while walking from the vestry to the altar, and — most of all — while travelling from one parish to another. Even the Introduction to the Devout Life (Part II.12) mentions spiritual recollection as a “certain means of your spiritual advancement”. The Cloud of Unknowing talks about nothing else.

17 Edington, Allcroft Road
London NW5 4ND

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