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Letters to the Editor

22 July 2022


Mr Johnson and public standards

From Mr J. Alan Smith

Sir, — You write in a leading article: “Mr Johnson has been drummed out of office in disgrace” (Comment, 15 July). Up to a point, Lord Copper. Boris Johnson resigned as Prime Minister because sufficient of his ministers and backbench MPs, having weighed up his achievements against the various mistakes he has made, thought that they would stand a better chance at the next General Election under a different leader.

Current constitutional practice is that a Prime Minister who resigns while his party has a majority in the House of Commons stays on as a caretaker until his party elects a new leader. To suggest that Mr Johnson should be denied this mixed blessing introduces a nastiness into politics which you would no doubt condemn if it were used against someone with whom you had more sympathy.

You condemn Mr Johnson for Brexit and yet miss the point that Brexit was intended to allow us to govern ourselves. It is strange that Scottish, Welsh, and Irish nationalists are praised for wanting to leave the UK, even though they wish to be in or rejoin the European Union, whereas British nationalists are attacked for wanting to leave the EU.

The threat to the Union of the UK is a result of the punitive pressure exerted by the EU through Northern Ireland. Though you attribute the “jeopardising of the Good Friday Agreement” to Mr Johnson, it is the trading rules imposed by the EU, favouring the nationalist community as opposed to the unionist community which are the great threat to the Good Friday Agreement.

Under Mr Johnson, British military aid to Ukraine and the stationing of British forces in the Baltic States, thereby protecting the Eastern flank of the EU, show that Brexit did not mean our leaving the Continent to its own devices. Demonstrating that European co-operation does not need the vast bureaucracy of Brussels no doubt explains the hostility shown to the UK in certain quarters.

40 Albany Court, Epping
Essex CM16 5ED

From Dr Anthony Edwards

Sir, — Your leading article “Out in disgrace” brings disgrace to the Church Times. A piece that came across as bristling with such hatred has no place in your pages. While many will agree with the list of criticisms of Boris Johnson (and not all of us will agree with every item in your list), they should have been expressed in a more measured way. The words “Let your moderation be known unto all men” (Philippians 4.5) came to mind.

Fandango, Millbrook Park
Cardiff CF14 0UH

From the Revd Jonathan Frais

Sir, — Your leader addresses the Prime Minister’s “refusal to correct errors of fact”. May his resignation renew our resolve to correct other misinformation: abortion as merely a surgical procedure; euthanasia as a kindness to our children; marriage no better than co-habitation; man no more than a consumer; all faiths leading to heaven regardless of their view of Christ.

11 Coverdale Avenue
Bexhill-on-Sea TN39 4TY

From the Revd Donald Reeves

Sir, — One of the responsibilities of a national Established Church such as the Church of England is to hold the Government to account nationally and internationally. Such a time is now, given the hiatus in our public life.

It is is right, therefore, that members of the Church of England, together with others from church and faith communities in England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, call for a day of shame and repentance.

Perhaps some of your readers would be interested to know more about this idea. If so, could they be in touch with me directly?

Director, The Soul of Europe
The Coach House, Church Street
Crediton EX17 2AQ

Abuse survivors’ redress, and the ISB’s workings

From Mr Andrew Graystone

Sir, — For scores of people, the most significant news from last week’s General Synod sessions slipped out in an answer to a written question (News, 15 July). The Lead Bishop for Safeguarding told the Synod that the scheme to provide redress to survivors of church abuse, which had previously been promised for this summer, was to be put out to tender.

As a result, the scheme is not now expected to be open for business until at least 2024 or 2025. Survivors themselves were not given this information in advance. One of the many problems with the current safeguarding polity is that people who may want nothing more to do with the Church are forced to scour through Synod papers to find the clues to their future treatment.

Being a survivor of abuse in the Church of England is like being held without information in a long queue of ambulances, while you wait for a faceless church committee to design and build a new A & E department.

The revised timescale that slipped out at the Synod is devastating news for survivors. Imagine how a further three-year delay feels if you are facing bankruptcy, or homelessness, or if you are a parent whose own childhood was stolen by the Church, and who is hoping to provide adequately for your own children. The message that victims of church abuse hear is: ‘Your call is important to us. You are in a queue. Please hold on . . . and on. . .”

Still more alarming was the news from the Chair of the Finance Committee that the costs of redress will not be met wholly by the Church Commissioners, but by individual parishes, dioceses, cathedrals, col­leges, and so on. Nothing in the Church’s recent history of caring for victims suggests that this will go well. When the scheme eventually opens, I fear that we will see an ugly and protracted scramble as each institution seeks to minimise its responsibilities. Some colleges, cathedrals, and dioceses that are likely to face multiple claims, such as Sheffield, Chester, and Chichester, may well be bankrupted by it. More importantly, this process will pitch survivors into a nightmare of long and costly legal battles, sometimes with multiple church bodies.

This is not what redress should look like. The re-dressing of survivors’ wounds is not a drag on resources, but a missional opportunity for the national Church. It is a chance to do justice, and to begin to reverse the mainstream perception that the Church doesn’t care for those whom it has wounded.

Where the national Church is serious about missional issues such as racial justice or the environment, funds are provided by the Church Commissioners. Surely, we need the same commitment from the Commissioners, together with a far greater urgency, in doing justice for those whose lives have been devastated by their contact with the Church.

17 Rushford Avenue
Manchester M192HG

From Mr David Lamming

Sir, — The Chair of the Church of Engand’s Independent Safeguarding Board (ISB), Dr Maggie Atkinson, told General Synod members at York that the ISB “did not have any quasi-judicial powers to hold people to account” (Synod, 15 July). It had not been granted the overriding authority to direct, regulate, or insist. Rather, it is limited to an oversight role in “scrutinis[ing] or review[ing] how the Church has handled a particular case” (see paras 17-18 of paper GS 2263).

Accordingly, the Secretary General, William Nye, responding to a letter to the Archbishops’ Council from Martin Sewell and other General Synod members, has made clear that the ISB will not undertake the overarching inquiry into the four-year dispute at Christ Church, Oxford, which the former Dean, Dr Martyn Percy, is seeking. Nor will it address complaints made by Dr Percy of the Church’s handling of safeguarding matters (News, 1 July) — this notwithstanding a statement to the Oxford diocesan synod in November 2018 by the Bishop of Oxford, Dr Steven Croft, in which he said: “I also want to see that any allegations of bullying are properly investigated.”

There is the further issue that, despite assertions that the ISB is independent, it is the creature of the Archbishops’ Council. As a retired High Court judge, Dame Janet Smith, who led the review of the Jimmy Savile scandal at the BBC, said at the weekend in relation to the complaints of sexual misconduct by the DJ Tim Westwood, “An independent inquiry is always better than an internal one because, however objective you think you can be, you aren’t, full stop” (The Sunday Times, 17 July).

There is a clear need for the fully independent inquiry that Dr Percy is seeking. The problem is that the issue is at one and the same time too small and too big. It is too small to justify a formal inquiry under the Inquiries Act 2005 (which would need to be ordered by a government minister), such as the current Infected Blood inquiry. But, in embracing both Christ Church Cathedral and the College, it is too big for either to handle.

Moreover, any inquiry would need to investigate the role of Oxford diocese and the NST as an agent of the Archbishops’ Council. All these bodies are charities, and it is for this reason, I suggest, that the Charity Commission should step in and appoint a judge-led or senior-lawyer-led inquiry with wide terms of reference. Only such an inquiry would be truly independent and command the necessary confidence.

(Member of General Synod 2015-21)
20 Holbrook Barn Road
Boxford, Suffolk CO10 5HU

Commissioners’ first bond issue and a parable

From the Revd David Haslam

Sir, — I was taken aback to see the Bishop of Manchester, Dr David Walker, so assuredly quoting the traditional interpretation of the parable of the talents to justify the Church Commissioners’ first bond issue (News, 15 July). He should at least be aware there is a very different understanding of that parable, in which the “hero” of the story is the third servant who refused to participate in the exploitative and, indeed, oppressive economic system of the time.

The third servant knew that the master was a hard man, who reaped where he had not sown and gathered where he had not scattered. He made his money otherwise: what kind of contribution to the real economy is that? And such a man was the “master” that he had the “useless servant” flung into the darkness, even though nothing had been stolen, and he had been given back what belonged to him. Is that master really in the divine image?

The Gospel-writers clearly also had trouble with this parable, and it can take a great deal of analysis of the economy of the time to unpick what is really being said, here and in other places in the Gospels.

The problem with Jesus and his parables is that he came to turn the world upside down. That would mean, in today’s terms, radical changes in our global economic system — including the City of London — if humanity is to survive in a future of decency and dignity. It is a message desperately needed; but would Dr Walker and the Church Commissioners prefer things to stay the same way up?

59 Burford Road
Evesham WR11 3AG

Disinvestment protest

From Karen Grattage, Caroline Harmon, and Anne Blair-Vincent

Sir, — Thank you for your coverage of our disinvestment protest (Synod, 15 July). We are sure that the motion would have been carried without our protest. The Routemap is an excellent piece of work. We welcome the Church of England’s progress in working towards net zero by 2030, and the Synod’s support for the motion.

But we are disappointed that the Routemap makes no mention of disinvesting from fossil fuels, and that the Church of England continues to pursue a strategy of engagement with multinational oil and gas companies. This was the reason for our protest. It is highly unlikely that these companies will become Paris-compliant or take net zero as seriously as the Church itself does.

Total disinvestment from fossil-fuel companies would allow the Church to speak more clearly on how such companies, supported by government, are contributing to the climate emergency.

On behalf of Christian Climate Action
c/o 18 Cotes Drive
Loughborough LE11 1JD

Scottish publisher’s penchant for mini editions

From Mrs Sheila Shrigley

Sir, — I was interested to read Glyn Paflin’s comments (Diary, 15 July) about miniature Bibles, as I also have a miniature chained Bible and lectern. It has been in our family for as long as I can remember and is an earlier edition than those previously mentioned. We think that it belonged to my paternal grandfather, who was born in 1886 and may have acquired it on his confirmation.

sheila shrigleyMrs Shrigley’s Bryce Bible, shown on a modern Bible for scale

It was published by D. Bryce of Glasgow in 1904 and contains many line drawings as well as the magnifier in a pocket bound into the cover. Unfortunately, the binding could be best described as distressed, though the pages are in good condition. I have tried, unsuccessfully, to interest the BBC’s The Repair Shop in re-binding it to preserve its integrity.

When I began researching this edition, as I am a retired librarian, I checked various library catalogues and websites and discovered that D. Bryce of Glasgow published many miniature editions of books. As well as the Bible and the Qur’ an, works of popular authors were produced, including an eight-volume Complete Works of Shakespeare.

The National Library of Scotland, the British Library, the London Library, and some university libraries have copies of the Bryce Bible in different editions.

55a Fernbank Road
Ascot SL5 8HA

Sheffield clarification

From the Bishops of Sheffield and Burnley, and Catherine Fox

Sir, — In the light of your assertion (Synod, 15 July) that the Bishop of Sheffield is the Rt Revd Philip North, all three of us would be grateful if you could please clarify to whom Catherine Fox is now married.

c/o Bishopscroft, Snaithing Lane
Sheffield S10 3LG

The speaker on spending plans was Bishop North, of Burn­ley, not the Bishop of Sheffield, Dr Pete Wilcox, to whom Catherine Fox is married. We apologise for the error. Editor

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