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Letters to the Editor

by
25 February 2022

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Commissioners urged to disinvest from ExxonMobil

From the Bishop of Buckingham, the Rt Revd Lord Williams of Oystermouth, and four other bishops; the Archdeacons of Chelmsford and Lindisfarne, the Dean of Newcastle, and 127 other members of the clergy

Sir, — As Church of England clergy, we are writing to support the Young Christian Climate Network (YCCN) in calling for the Church Commissioners to disinvest immediately from ExxonMobil (Letters, 4 February). We are dismayed about the Commissioners’ decision to continue investing in the US oil giant ExxonMobil, despite the Church of England’s national investing bodies’ having put Exxon on their list of restricted investments.

The Commissioners decided to make an exception and continue their engagement with ExxonMobil, after three new board members were elected at Exxon’s AGM in May 2021. Despite these changes, there does not appear to have been any progress. Earlier this month, it was reported that Exxon plans to increase capital spending on oil and gas drilling up to 45 per cent in 2022 to $24 billion, higher than pre-pandemic levels.

Unfortunately, despite years of shareholder engagement, Exxon has continued to undermine action on the climate crisis. Last June, a senior ExxonMobil lobbyist was caught on camera revealing that the company was working behind the scenes to water down climate legislation in the US.

In July, Channel 4 reported that Exxon was among several major oil and gas companies, including Shell and BP, which met the UK Trade Minister, Conor Burns, for a private dinner in Texas before COP26, a dinner at which fossil gas was championed as a “vital part of the solution” to tackling the climate crisis.

A growing number of institutional investors of a similar size are disinvesting from Exxon, including Nest, the UK’s largest pension scheme, after criticising its lack of progress on managing climate change risks.

The Presbyterian Church (USA), which has supported shareholder engagement with fossil-fuel companies for many years with its $11-billion investment portfolio, also recently announced plans to disinvest from Exxon for ethical reasons.

We call on the Church Commissioners to disinvest immediately from ExxonMobil.

ALAN WILSON, ROWAN WILLIAMS, ROBERT PATERSON, PAUL SLATER, DAVID ATKINSON, GRAHAM CRAY, ELIZABETH SNOWDEN, CATHERINE SOURBUT GROVES, GEOFF MILLER, LUCY WINKETT, GILES FRASER, SAM WELLS, GILES GODDARD, JOHN NIGHTINGALE, ROSALIND PAUL, ROY ALLEN, AL BARRETT, ANDREW LENOX-CONYNGHAM, JOHN WILKINSON, EMILY SWINERD, VANESSA CONANT, SALLY CROFT, DAVE EDMONDSON, ANN EASTER, SANDRA ELDRIDGE, JAMES GILDER, MARTYN HAWKES, SUSAN ISKANDER, BETH JOSS-POTHEN, NATHAN JOSS-POTHEN, JULIA LACEY, MARCO LOPES, ELIZABETH LOWSON, IMOGEN NAY, SHARON QUILTER, KATE SALE, SUSAN SAYERS, FRANCES ECCLESTON, BILL WHITE, DANNY PEGG, STELLA BAILEY, WIM KUIPER, DANIE LINDLEY, TOM AMBROSE, DEVIN McLACHLAN, ANNIE BOLGER, DORIENKE DE VRIES, CATRIONA LAING, ALAN DODDS, MALC ALLEN, KIM BROWN, PAULINE GODFREY, JULIE NELSON, VAL THORNE, ALAN CRAWLEY, LESLEY CRAWLEY, LUKE AYLEN, ALISON WALKER, RACHEL FIRTH, RUTH NEWTON, DEBBY PLUMMER, JON SWALES, SIMON WALTERS, KEITH CLARINGBULL, RICHARD STEEL, ELIZABETH CAMPBELL, JOHN MacKENZIE, DAVID NASH, DAVE PILKINGTON, ANNA POULSON, JODY STOWELL, AZARIAH FRANCE-WILLIAMS, LISA BATTYE, MARK COLEMAN, PHILIP DOBSON, MIKE DYSON, CLIVE HAMILTON, MARK HEWERDINE, RACHEL MANN, JOHN ROSEDALE, CHRISTINE SANDIFORD, AUGUSTINE TANNER-IHM, GRACE THOMAS, PETER DOBSON, JUDY GLOVER, GILLIAN MAUDE, TIM MAYFIELD, JOHN MCDERMOTT, BAR NASH-WILLIAMS, MARK NASH-WILLIAMS, MARTIN NAYLOR, PAULINE PEARSON, JEREMY THOMPSON, MARY WARNER, NIGEL WARNER, FIONA HAWORTH, ANGELA RAYNER, PIPPA WINTON, CHRISTINE BAINBRIDGE, CHRISTOPHER EVANS, DARRELL HANNAH, RUTH HARLEY, SIMON JONES, PIERS NASH-WILLIAMS, MARK NELSON, CHRIS OWEN, MARK OXBROW, RICHARD PEERS, PHIL WHITE, PETER SELLICK, KEVIN GOSS, WENDY NORRIS, ALAN AMOS, HILARY BOND, JONATHAN HERBERT, GEOFF ANDERSON, SIBYLLE BATTEN, MICHAEL BAYLEY, HILARY JOWETT, NICHOLAS JOWETT, MALCOLM LILES, STUART MATTHEWS, CHRISTINE REES, IAN SMITH, JONATHAN BOARDMAN, HELEN BURNETT, VANESSA ELSTON, PHIL AINDOW, ANNE BROWN, ANDREW YATES, SAMANTHA CHANDLER, JOHN FLITCROFT, VICKY EARLL, JOHANNES (JAN) NOBEL, WENDY WALE
c/o 19 Berberry Close
Birmingham B30 1TB

 

General Synod procedure: arcane but democratic

From Canon Simon Butler

Sir, — Rebecca Chapman’s view that the General Synod is mired in process and distrust (Comment, 18 February) is unfair and curiously undemocratic.

When I first joined the Synod, I found its ways baffling. I would imagine that would be true of anyone entering a legislative body. New members should not immediately assume that, because process is necessary but sometimes arcane, the problem lies entirely with the institution and not with their own inexperience. It takes time to learn.

Ms Chapman cries foul about a motion to move to next business which I moved in the short-notice debate on safeguarding. I did this because I felt that the motion tabled made untested claims, which the unresourced nature of a following motion cannot fairly test. There was no paperwork on either side to enable Synod members to assess the claims made by the proposer, which would have led to what, I argued, would be a bad, unfair, and undermining decision.

I persuaded more than 75 per cent of Synod members that this was not the right way or the right time to have such an important debate. That is democracy and debate in action, not an undemocratic way to avoid scrutiny or difficult issues. A more experienced mover of the motion might have chosen a better vehicle for his concerns.

It is important that new Synod members take time to learn the ropes before claiming bad motives. The Synod is a democratic chamber: majority votes after proper debate win the day. When we lose, and I’ve lost plenty, far better to resolve to try better next time than simply to blame the system.

SIMON BUTLER
32 Vicarage Crescent
London SW11 3LD


We apologise for an error in the sub-editing of Rebecca Chapman’s article, which should have read that “the proposal for reducing the number of Canterbury representatives for choosing the next Archbishop of Canterbury had originated not in the diocesan synod (as was claimed in the consultation document), but in the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Council” (not Archbishops’ Council, as printed). Editor

 

Interim Support Scheme and the Smyth abuse

From Mr Andrew Graystone

Sir, — A small but life-changing announcement slipped through in oral answers to questions at last week’s General Synod. The Archbishops’ Council has “tightened” the terms of reference for the Interim Support Scheme for survivors of church abuse, so that individual survivors can receive support for only six, or in exceptional cases, 12 months. After that, there is nothing.

The Interim Support Scheme is complex and increasingly bureaucratic, but it has at least provided a lifeline for some, paying for much needed counselling and keeping some victims just out of poverty. The full Redress Scheme, which was promised by the Synod two years ago, will not be open to receive applications until at least the end of 2023, and we don’t yet know whom it will support or in what ways.

Given the legal and financial complexities that are bound to be generated, it is highly unlikely that any survivors will receive any redress for at least another two years. In the mean time, this cruel decision to rein in the Interim Support Scheme, about which no victims were consulted, has created a cliff-edge of support and brought alarm and despair to survivors.

We must remember that the people looking for support from the Interim Support Scheme are those who have been injured by the Church itself. Does the Archbishops’ Council really believe that those who have lived with abuse for 20 or 30 years can be sorted out by six or 12 months of counselling? In what other circumstances does the Church place a time limit on the support that it is prepared to give to a person in chronic need? And how is it appropriate for the Church to take two, three, or four years even to complete a lessons-learned review, and yet expect survivors to go away grateful after six months?

ANDREW GRAYSTONE
17 Rushford Avenue
Manchester M19 2HG

 

From Mr David Lamming

Sir, — Dr Christopher Shell (Letters, 18 February), in seeking to honour the memory of an Iwerne camps leader, the late Revd David Fletcher, says that he “could not reasonably have known of [John] Smyth’s secretive beatings at the time”. As Andrew Graystone makes clear in his book Bleeding for Jesus, however, Fletcher was one of the recipients of the 1982 Ruston report that detailed Smyth’s abuse (describing the scale and severity of the practice as “horrific”) and acknowledged that it was criminal.

As I pointed out in my letter of 24 August 2018, which you published just after Smyth’s death, his crimes should have been reported to the police in 1982 rather than, as happened, Smyth’s being banished to Zimbabwe, where African boys were to become victims of his sadistic abuse.

There may well have been some UK victims (or their parents) who did not want Smyth’s crimes against them to be known publicly, but what amounted to a cover-up to avoid reputational harm to the Iwerne brand cannot be excused so lightly as Dr Shell argues.

DAVID LAMMING
20 Holbrook Barn Road
Boxford, Suffolk CO10 5HU

 

False argument against conversion-therapy ban

From the Revd Huw Thomas

Sir, — Oddly enough, the ministers’ letter opposing the banning of conversion therapy (News, 18 February) is actually a good argument for just such a ban. These ministers fear that the use of the term “conversion” creates an equivalence between its use in the context of calling people to Christ, and the abhorrent practices to be banned.

Really? Such ministers, I presume, are aware that the word “conversion” is also a rugby term, and yet I doubt they fear that they may, when leading a soul to Christ, accidentally boot the convert between two posts.

Such faux concern is, however, indicative of a more troubling muddle. If these ministers really believe that it is so easy to confuse the manifestation of their views, however misguided, with coercive therapies, then we have a problem. In their stated belief that the two could be confused, they evince the risk that they may actively confuse them. It is to protect folks from such “ministry” that a legislated ban is necessary.

HUW THOMAS
140 Abbeyfield Road
Sheffield S4 7AY

 

Engaging with a scholar

From Mr Michael Cavaghan-Pack

Sir, — The Revd Ravi Holy’s letter (18 February) does nothing to address the issues raised by Dr Renie Chow Choy in the excerpt from her thought-provoking work Ancestral Feeling (Comment, 4 February) or those in my response (Letters, 11 February). It is simply an ad hominem attack.

If the Revd Ravi Holy had read Ancestral Feeling (and it is surely apparent that he has not), or even read with a little care the excerpt that you published, he would appreciate that the nub of her work is the tension that ethnic-minority Christians experience in reconciling a heritage arising from race and national identity with a European heritage that, by virtue of colonialism, they also share.

That I consider that Dr Renie Chow Choy has made more of this tension than is warranted, extrapolating from her own experience, in no way detracts from the interest of her work or its exceptional scholarship.

That my comments should be regarded as patronising rather than an acknowledgement of the importance of her contribution is disappointing. And to be accused of parroting a racialist trope is frankly ridiculous when the only way to engage with her work is in the terms that she herself has set.

MICHAEL CAVAGHAN-PACK
The Manor House, Thurloxton
Taunton, Somerset TA2 8RH

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