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Letters to the Editor

02 December 2022


Assisted dying: change is coming

From Lord Carey of Clifton

Sir, — I agree with Canon Angela Tilby’s concern for compassion and human rights (Comment, 25 November); but her view does not seem to extend to the grave injustices inflicted on British citizens by our blanket ban on assisted dying.

It is undeniable that, despite the best efforts of palliative care, many people suffer inexorably against their wishes as they die. This leaves some terminally ill people faced with no option but to take matters into their own hands, either by travelling to a country where assisted dying is legal — provided they are fortunate enough to have the financial resources and physical strength to travel — or by ending their lives behind closed doors at home. Loved ones often feel compelled to offer assistance, for which they are then criminalised.

How can one argue that these people or their families are being treated with compassion under the current law, or that their human rights are being upheld?

Concerns about other countries’ assisted-dying legislation are not reasons for the UK to do nothing and maintain a dangerous and unpopular status quo. They are reasons to ensure that we get our own laws right, with strict eligibility criteria, safeguards, and transparency at their core.

Canon Tilby is right that change is coming to our shores, as Holyrood, as well as the parliaments of Jersey and the Isle of Man, consider legislative proposals, and Westminster increasingly catches up with public opinion. If the Church wishes to remain a credible and constructive voice in this debate, it would do well to listen to its lay members and the wider public, who overwhelmingly support law change and see end-of-life choice as a compassionate way to ensure that everyone has the right to a “good” death, regardless of what they might ultimately choose.

House of Lords
London SW1A 0PW

Nothing to stop parishes seeking a priest sooner, except the bishop, maybe

From Mr David Lamming

Sir, — Philip Johanson (Letter, 25 November), in responding to Barry Ewbank’s letter on 18 November, has once again highlighted the issue of the apparent disconnect between the process for appointing a new incumbent and that for the appointment of a suffragan bishop.

I can once again point out (as in my letter of 18 January 2019) that the relevant legislation, the Patronage (Benefices) Measure 1986, now helpfully amended by the Legislative Reform (Patronage of Benefices) Order 2019, enables the process for finding a new parish priest (including advertising the vacancy) to start well before the benefice actually becomes vacant — in Mr Ewbank’s case, on the retirement of his vicar.

Under the 1986 Measure, as amended, the bishop can initiate the process for finding a new incumbent as soon as he or she is “aware that the benefice is shortly to become vacant by reason of resignation or cession” which, in the case of retirement, will be when the vicar announces his or her intention to retire on a certain date.

There may be circumstances that make an immediate search for a successor inadvisable, thus justifying a delay in the bishop giving the requisite notice under section 7(2A), but the “procedures laid down by the Church of England” do not prescribe any such delay. If Mr Ewbank’s PCC has been advised that they could “not even think about advertising for a new incumbent until the last one has actually left their post” that is incorrect advice, and I suggest that he takes the matter up with his diocesan bishop, the Archbishop of York.

20 Holbrook Barn Road
Boxford, Suffolk CO10 5HU

From Mr Andrew Connell

Sir, — I have never understood why the Church refuses to allow parochial, and even episcopal, posts to be advertised until after the previous incumbent has actually left (Letters, 18 November). Certainly it does not seem to apply this policy to lay administrative and strategic posts. I have heard, from time to time, mutterings about the need for a parish/ diocese to have an opportunity to reassess its needs. I suspect that what is actually meant by this is an opportunity for the diocese to save some money by not paying a stipend for a few months.

Meanwhile, the sheep go unfed.

74 Pullman Court
Streatham Hill
London SW2 4ST

From the Revd Henry Whyte

Sir, — With reference to recent correspondence about the appointment of clergy to parishes, I long for the day when the word “interregnum” will no longer be used to describe vacancies. It is a word that speaks of a period between sovereigns (and therefore subjects), of power over others rather than service. I realise that it has long been used to describe the time between the departure of one incumbent/priest-in-charge and the arrival of his or her successor. However, is its continued use something that really helps to convey what God’s Church is all about?

6 Horn Park Lane,
London SE12 8UU

When C. S. Lewis lost to George Best

From Canon Brian Stevenson

Sir, — Canon Malcolm Guite’s article on C. S. Lewis (Poet’s Corner, 11 November) was an illumination to read, reminding us of Lewis’s Irish roots and the influence that the Irish landscape had on his life.

I first became interested in C. S. Lewis when I worked in a petrol station opposite the Rectory of St Mark’s, Dundela, in east Belfast, its first inhabitant being Lewis’s grandfather. We knew that the Rector was having trouble with his sermon when he came in on a Saturday evening to buy cigarettes.

Belfast City airport is near St Mark’s, and there was a campaign, which I supported, to have it named after C. S. Lewis, but he lost out to George Best, the footballer.

Lewis’s love of Donegal is understandable, but I was intrigued that Canon Guite said he loved Co. Louth, a rather overlooked county; but it does have the glorious view of Slieve Gullion and the Mourne Mountains.

A few years ago, I was in Magdalen College, Oxford, and a party of Japanese tourists asked me which room in the New Buildings C. S. Lewis had lived in. I bluffed — “third from the right on the first floor” — and we talked for a short time about the great man. I realised that they, like many others, were not aware of his Irish background.

I hope that, when Canon Guite visited Bushmills distillery, they gave him a bottle of their best whiskey: the 16-year-old single malt.

Michaelmas Cottage, Stan Lane
West Peckham
Kent ME18 5JT

Rural staying power

From Mr Luke Appleton

Sir, — Last week, I met two struggling parishes: small congregations both from rural, affluent and demographically older villages. Both parishes depend on an ever- decreasing small number of volunteers and, to be frank, they are struggling. They feel without hope for their church’s future.

They’ve asked for help but hit many walls. Their congregation is too small. Their church is not in an urban enough area. Their average age is not young enough, and their community is not poor enough. They fear that the Church no longer regards them as being part of its future. Forget mixed ecology: they face a future of no ecology.

Our rural churches are not money-makers. They are, however, part of the English fabric and an important witness to the Kingdom across our entire nation. Their neglect by the central Church is an act of cultural vandalism, not to mention the lost missional opportunities. Rural communities matter every bit as much as urban ones.

I concluded my meeting with the parishes on a hopeful note. Do not give up. Rural parishes may not feature in the Church’s grand plans, but they’ll still be here long after those plans have fizzled out. It’s time we all started supporting them.

General Synod member for Exeter diocese
48 Cecil Road, Paignton
Devon TQ3 2SH

Double up to be safe

Sir, — In response to your story about the National Safeguarding Team’s briefing document (News, 18 November), it does concern me, a retired priest, that working in pairs with vulnerable people is not consistently recommended for all church work.

At events in our area, when 13 schools were invited on different days to “The Journey to Christmas”, I enabled more than 60 people to do the CRB (in those days) and to work in pairs with the children as they took part in different activities. Before each session, I would go over the child-protection instructions with them.

One time, before starting a meditation in a small room, the teachers preferred to stand outside and chat. I had to go out to ask a teacher to sit in with me, otherwise I could not do the meditation.

I have seen organists training one child, but the child’s mother is sitting in the church, too, watching. That’s good practice.

Good practice means that every person is protected: child, adult, clergy, organists, and all. It’s an effort, it’s not always easy, but it’s so worthwhile. Protect each other by working together. It’s not always convenient, but it is effective.


God debate deserves better reasoning

From Mr Philip Belben

Sir, — When reading books in which militant atheists attempt to dismiss the concept of God, it is always amusing when they introduce an idea that has been debated by theologians for centuries, and present it as if it is an obvious clincher that conclusively disproves God, if only people would notice it.

It is rather worrying, however, to see a similar lack of research from someone who claims to have studied the issues of both sides.

The anthropic principle, for example, is not the absurdity that Martin Kochanski (Features, 18 November) sets up as an easy target, that a universe that cannot support human life is “illegal”.

It is the entirely reasonable observation that unless the universe is capable of producing complex, intelligent beings, no such beings will arise to ponder its origins. As such, it is used by some, quite legitimately, as evidence in favour of the existence of God! Others posit a multiverse, accepting that this, like the existence of God, is an untestable hypothesis.

Kochanski’s final weapon to aim at the multiverse — that it makes science impossible — is one that has far more often, and with good reason, been fired at religion; the debate deserves better than to take the same weapon, turn it round, and fire it back at science with no acknowledgement of the issues.

The conclusion that Kochanski seems to reach looks depressingly like a “God of the gaps” argument — that we should accept that some things are inaccessible to science, attribute them to God, and move on. This is fine until some other scientist, who refuses to accept the inaccessibility, makes a discovery that closes our most precious gap.

The Chapel, Maitlands Close,
Nettlebridge, Radstock BA3 5AA

From the Revd John Cossins

Sir, — Martin Kochanski is mistaken in representing “multiverse” theory as a “fear-induced fantasy” to avoid a belief in God. It is offered by serious physicists as a solution to fundamental problems in physics and not as Kochanski implies in order to make God redundant. If we believe in a God who is infinite, then He is capable of creating an infinity of universes. Kochanski’s God is too small.

68 Brookwood Farm Drive
Knaphill, Woking
Surrey GU21 2FW

Advent decorations

From the Revd Dr Che Seabourne

Sir, — Perhaps it will feature in your Quotes of the Week, but if not, I imagine a certain post on the Church of England’s social-media feeds has nonetheless caught the attention of many of your readers? I am of course referring to the encouragement to share “before and after” photos of Advent decorations in our churches.

In particular, #AnglicanTwitter has been full to the proverbial brim of people sarcastically decrying the post, and or bemoaning its apparent lack of theological literacy. Admittedly, some of your readers may feel that the latter point is a subject for debate; but shouldn’t ministers of Christ take the time to think about how their comments make the Church of England’s comms team feel? Or indeed, what sort of witness this is to seekers? I have to assume they don’t do so, otherwise their approach is utterly mystifying.

Decorating our church during Advent and Christmas has helped us to create a welcoming environment for missional services, offering a springboard for conversations about our faith. Surely this is the positive intention behind the Church of England’s #FollowTheStar posts?

Peace to all this Christmas. Especially the Church of England’s comms team.

General Synod member
Rectory, 1 Vicarage View
Kirkstall, Leeds LS5 3HF

The Lord’s dress code

From Mr Cyril Pavey

Sir, — A propos of Mr Minter’s letter and responses (18 and 25 November), it would be interesting to know whether churchgoers among MCC and Middlesex members, who are required to wear jackets and ties in the pavilion at Lord’s cricket ground, dress similarly for church.

35 The Avenue
Camberley GU15 3LN

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