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Letters to the Editor

16 December 2022

Owing to postal deadlines, letters will need to reach the Church Times by 9 a.m. on Monday 19 December for publication in next week’s issue


Peace work in Russia and Ukraine

From Sue Claydon and seven others

Sir, — The Archbishop of Canterbury was in Ukraine the week before last, speaking about the ongoing conflict since Russia’s invasion in February, and speaking about what he had seen on the ground (News, 2 December).

The Russian invasion and the continued military actions that have left millions of people without light, heat, and water, and thousands of Ukrainians and Russians dead, as well as many others displaced around Europe, is indefensible. Europe is currently living under the shadow of the threat of escalating war, even risking the use of nuclear weapons.

We are disappointed that the Archbishop was not asked, in your interview, about those in Russia and Ukraine who are working for peace, including conscientious objectors in both countries, who seem to be excluded from most media coverage.

As Christians, we believe that Jesus has called us to be peacemakers, and, as such, we continue to work and pray tirelessly for peace. The Archbishop said: “It’s quite right to seek to end a war. That must happen. Wars are uncontrollable and deeply cruel.” Rather than continue to supply arms, a choice that threatens to prolong the conflict and suffering of the Ukrainian people, we urge the UK Government and all other interested parties to redouble their efforts for a lasting and just peace.

SUE CLAYDON, Chair, Anglican Pacifist Fellowship; PETER SPEIRS, Clerk to the Northern Friends Peace Board; PHILIPPA BIRD, CJP Steering Group of the Third Order of the Society of St Francis; ANDREW FOX, British Isles President of Community of Christ; ANN FARR, Chair, Pax Christi England and Wales; ROGER HORNE, Co-Chair, Christian CND; LYDIA FUNCK, General Secretary of Church and Peace; MARK WAKELIN, Chair, the Fellowship of Reconciliation

Network of Christian Peace Organisations.
c/o 112 Whittlesey Road, March
Cambridgeshire PE15 0AH

Lords Spiritual should repudiate their privilege

From Jonathan Chaplin

Sir, — The response from the Bishop of St Albans, Dr Alan Smith, to Gordon Brown’s proposal to abolish the House of Lords and replace it with an elected Second Chamber (Comment, 9 December) contains important insights, but is too defensive and cautious.

First, while the Bishop is right to fault Brown for ignoring the part played by the Church and other faith communities, he must know that in any process of Lords reform the anachronistic entitlement of 26 Church of England bishops to sit in the Lords will end. But he fails to commend this as a proper implication of constitutional equity to which the Church should be openly committed.

It is not enough to praise the Lords Spiritual for speaking up on issues of social justice or seeking to represent “faith” generally. They must repudiate their inherited privilege and positively call for an equitable representation of Britain’s diverse faiths in a new Second Chamber.

Second, while he rightly applauds the extent to which the Lords offers a platform for valuable voices from many vocations and sectors in society, he does not point out that the process by which such appointments are made in no way secures anything like inclusive representation of such voices.

The critical reform is to take the process out of the hands of sitting party politicians and entrust it to an independent body that will have regard, first of all, to making the chamber more truly representative of the nation. Anglicanism’s affirmation both of social plurality and of a vision of national inclusiveness would support such a model of vocational and sectoral representation.

Third, the Bishop is again right to point out that popular election is not the only source of political legitimacy, and that the two chambers perform complementary functions. A reformed Second Chamber need not, however, confine itself to its traditional revising and scrutinising functions but could, as Brown proposes, broaden its remit to offer better territorial representation of the nations, regions, and localities of the UK. As a body rooted in a theology of place and built up organically from local communities, the Church of England should appreciate that point.

It is hard to see how a Second Chamber could fulfil this role without including elected representatives of such territorial units. A part-elected, part-appointed chamber could perform both old and new functions with much greater legitimacy and effectiveness.

19 Coles Lane, Oakington
Cambridge CB24 3AF

Thought-provoking, but hardly a chapel sermon

From the Revd Dr John Caperon

Sir, — I was fascinated to read Joshua Heath’s controversial sermon (Feature, 9 December), and thank you for printing it: it gave food for thought.

But “sermon”? It was surely, rather, an academic lecture. I’m not sure how you would define a sermon, but one might assume at least a link with the lections of the day and direct relevance to the practice of living a Christian life, not to mention a measure of general accessibility. Academically fascinating though it was, Joshua Heath wasn’t so much preaching as lecturing. But it was a very good lecture.

Sarum, Twyfords
Crowborough TN6 1YE

Focal ministry is not really new: the lessons from OLM need to be learnt

From the Revd Dr John Williams

Sir, — In his helpful article about focal ministry, the Archdeacon of Salop, the Ven. Paul W. Thomas (Comment, 9 December), is careful to distinguish this from ordained local ministry, as commended in Bishop Richard Llewellin’s earlier article (Comment, 14 October). I assume that the key difference is that focal ministers need not be ordained. The two, however, have much in common, in so far as both are seen as positive strategies for reviving public representative ministry in a situation of declining numbers of stipendiary clergy.

Archdeacon Thomas rightly recognises that focal ministry arises within a wider context of lay ministry, or, more accurately, the ministry of the whole Church, in a particular place, typically a small rural congregation. Bishop Llewellin commends ordained local ministry as a suitable way of maintaining the traditional ministry of the “parson”, but does not make any particular reference to the wider context of a shared or collaborative ministry.

What matters most, however, is to bring these two components together: ordained local ministry was originally understood as an expression of traditional priestly ministry in a collaborative context. Unfortunately, the concentration on creating more priests often resulted in neglect of the collaborative nature of ordained local ministry; now, it appears that it is being reinvented in the new guise of focal ministry. Rather than pursue this as yet another “new” strategy, the Church would do well to learn from the experience of ordained local ministry in the past.

First, it should make clear that local ministry of any kind must be shared and collaborative in nature (often, but not always, in the form of a “ministry team” of some kind), and the “focal minister” will be identified from within that context, and not as an individual acting alone as the “parson” often tended to be.

Then, and perhaps more controversially, the Church needs to recognise that, ecclesiologically, it makes no sense for the focal minister to remain “lay”, since such ministry in fact satisfies the principal criteria for the nature of priestly ministry, uniting the public representative dimension with that of identifying, gathering, and animating the local church.

This will require a bold rethinking of how the Church discerns vocations, and selects and trains candidates for such a ministry rather than forcing them to conform to the pattern of the inherited full-time stipendiary incumbency, as tended to happen over time with ordained local ministry. The same challenge will confront focal ministry: whether the Church will seize it as an opportunity for a radical reimagining of ministry, or be content to welcome it as another measure for keeping the show on the road.

Visiting Fellow in Theology and Religious Studies, York St John University
75 Quarrydale Road
Sutton in Ashfield
Nottinghamshire NG17 4DR

From the Revd Tony Redman

Sir, — The Ven. Paul W. Thomas makes some good points about the need for leaders with a single-community focus. Indeed, the pioneering book on the subject by one of his predecessor archdeacons in Lichfield diocese, the Ven. Bob Jackson, Leading One Church at a Time (Grove, 2018), which he surprisingly fails to mention, not only makes the same point, but demonstrates that churches with local ministers tend to grow.

Both writers fall into the trap of believing that the only workable model for multi-parish benefices is for the oversight of a stipendiary priest. In the new mixed ecology of ministry, what is there to prevent self-supporting ministers with the appropriate skills from being considered as such leaders? As the late Jenny Gage (Obituary, 25 November) demonstrated in her last book, Priests in Secular Work (Sacristy Press, 2020), this is not only a very effective form of ministry, but one based on biblical models.

In many dioceses, rural ministry, in particular, relies on a vast and often invisible army of highly motivated and skilled clergy with permission to officiate, and self-supporting ministers, working alongside equally competent locally discerned lay leaders as focal or local ministers. The trouble of what to call them is a matter for debate. Isn’t it time that we properly valued the contribution made by those already in ministry who simply choose not to take a stipend, and to change the language and culture of the church to simply call such people “vicars”, which is what they are probably already known as within the communities in which they serve.

Co-convener, National Network of SSM Advisers and Officers; Bishops’ Adviser for SSM, St Edmundsbury & Ipswich
The Cottage, Great Livermere
Bury St Edmunds
Suffolk IP31 1JG

Freudian slips

Sir, — Canon Nicholas Cranfield’s excellent review of Lucian Freud-related exhibitions (Arts, 9 December) states that Freud and Francis Bacon both “survived schooling, art college, and . . .”. Bacon ran away from school repeatedly, having never actually attended schooling full-time, and also never even went to an art school.


The curators of the National Gallery exhibition were Daniel F. Herrmann, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Projects, in collaboration with Paloma Alarcó, Chief Curator of Modern Painting, and not as stated in the review. Freud’s long-term friend and associate David Dawson is acknowledged to have provided generous advice. Editor

Deep Waters course

From Cat Jenkins

Sir, — Thank you for running an interview with me (25 November). I would like to add that my experience of Green Christian’s Deep Waters course (which I mentioned) has been very positive.

Using many varied resources, it is a gentle and supportive exploration of our emotions around climate grief and eco-anxiety, and aims to lead people to a place of hope, while also exploring wisdom, love, and hope along the way. The vast majority of participants find Deep Waters extremely helpful. I hope that my comments didn’t lead readers to think otherwise.

Address supplied

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