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Letters to the Editor

26 August 2022


Complaints about a recent cartoon

From the Revd Paul G. Rider

Sir, — I am a priest serving in the Norwich diocese, having moved here more than four years ago after 30 years of ministry in the Episcopal Church in the United States. In those 30 years, I had the privilege of serving in the dioceses of South Dakota, North Dakota, and Minnesota: dioceses with a great number of Native American (Indigenous) parishioners and clergy.

My journey to priesthood began in South Dakota, and I was mentored through the process by people with surnames such as Two Bulls, Brokenleg, Hawk, Robertson, and Fox: all members of the various tribal ancestries that comprise the native peoples of that land.

I served with Lakota, Dakota, Nakota, and Ojibwa clergy and laity. While I am not myself a Native American, I was deeply formed by the faith tradition of those whose ancestors have lived on that land for centuries.

Mitakuye Oyasin is a Lakota phrase meaning “all my relatives” or “all are related.” It is a deep and abiding understanding of the interconnectedness of all creation. This is a concept of relatedness which encompasses the universe. All are my relatives, and, when one group is marginalised or oppressed, their pain is my pain.

And so it was with great sadness that I viewed the most recent St Gargoyle’s cartoon (19 August). This is a most offensive and racist cartoon and never should have been published. I do not speak for my Native American friends, as that would be presumptuous, but I do speak as someone who has spent most of his ministry alongside the very people this cartoon is mocking.

I think your readers are due an apology from the Editor, along with a sincere commitment to learning from this and how these kinds of racist stereotypes are not fit for publication, especially not in a church newspaper.

In case you are considering that I am being a bit reactionary about this, ask yourself: “Would I allow a similar cartoon which depicted a person in blackface wearing African costume?”

Old Lakenham Vicarage
Harwood Road
Norwich NR1 2NG

From the Revd Wealands Bell

Sir, — Interpreting the arts is an inexact science, but what I see in last week’s St Gargoyle’s is a vicar showing the door to a congregant whose response to the drought has been to mimic a spiritual tradition not his own. Such borrowing would certainly be insensitive, but not necessarily racist. And what is the priest rejecting? It may be the crass attempt at cultural appropriation; perhaps it’s the lack of Bible belief? He may even just be worried about Canon B5.

What is more obvious to me is that artistic reference entails no intrinsic racism. This isn’t Blackface or Jewface, the destructive arrogance of Charlie Hebdo, or the downward sneering laughter of the privileged. And it is dangerous to act as if it were. As we are increasingly aware, any anxious (self-)silencing of benign voices undermines their own credibility, narrowing the range of permitted intellectual discourse, and ceding yet more ground to the unscrupulous populist Right.

A rich artistic life is a strong bulwark against such malign outcomes, while constantly and indiscriminately calling out perceived offences lends unmerited plausibility to those who dismiss all moral demands as the unfettered howls of wokery. We should save our indignation, and the national attention span, for evils that do in fact exist.

Magdalen College School
Oxford OX4 1DZ

From Denise Noble

Sir, — The inclusion of the aforementioned cartoon in this week’s Church Times is, at least, highly insensitive and, at worst, downright offensive. How did this get past editorial scrutiny? It makes a mockery of reports in your pages about the Church’s statements of intent around race and representation. An apology and withdrawal are called for.

2 Denhall Close
Chester CH2 2HT

We apologise for last week’s St Gargoyle’s cartoon. Tropes are a stock in trade of cartoons, but can be offensive, and we clearly made a misjudgement on this occasion. We have removed the cartoon from our website. — Editor

Same-sex relationships and Anglican practice

From the Revd Marcus Green and Canon Richard Peers

Sir, — The Archbishop of Canterbury and the Lambeth Conference have now acknowledged that same-sex marriages are within Anglican polity, and there is no censure or sanction for Provinces who honour them (Lambeth Conference, 5 August). Will the same courtesy be extended to same-sex clergy couples within the Church of England who enter into civil marriages?

That is to say, will the current practice of letters of reprimand, refusal to appoint to other posts and, sometimes, removal of licences or permission to officiate cease? This would require no decision of the General Synod, no change to canon law, no new liturgy.

The scandal of Christian leaders’ discouraging Christians from entering into marriage at a time when marriage is under threat because of the many pressures of our time has to come to an end.

We need this moral leadership from our bishops.

Worcester College
Oxford OX1 2HB

Sub Dean
Christ Church
Oxford OX1 1DP

From the Revd Alice Jolley

Sir, — I do not normally write letters to the Church Times while on holiday, but Susan Hinds’s letter (19 August) prompts me to make an exception.

I am grateful for what I take to be her allyship in matters of LGBTQ+ inclusion, but I’m troubled by her suggestion that, to move in a more inclusive direction, the Anglican Communion must concede that the Bible is not true and — even more worryingly — that the resurrection of Jesus did not truly happen.

It is possible to strive for full inclusion of same-sex relationships, including extending the sacrament of marriage to same-sex couples, without dismissing the Bible as inconsequential or as fiction. I am convinced that permanent and faithful same-sex relationships are not biblically inconsistent. I am not alone in this view.

As for the resurrection, the Church teaches and Christians believe that it literally happened; Jesus really died and he really lived again, the disciples “experienced” his risen body as living and breathing, with wounds not yet healed. We do no good and we do no one justice if we claim otherwise: we simply make a mockery of our faith.

This is not to say that we do not need to examine our matrices of authority and power; perhaps undue authority is being held, but not by scripture. If we are to move forward, we may need to rethink or redistribute that authority. The death and resurrection of Jesus teach us that transformation is not without pain, and, sometimes, for there to be new life, things have to die.

St Benedict’s Vicarage
Bennetts End, Hemel Hempstead
Hertfordshire HP3 8EP

Pressure on consumers is not helpful to climate

From Mr Philip Belben

Sir, — I was shocked to read (News, 19 August) that a member of the Church of England’s energy advisory group could say that in our world, the “only” driver to reduce consumption or emissions is cost, as though this were a good thing.

One of the principles of free-market economics is that the drivers placed on individuals by price and cost cause them to take the action that benefits the system as a whole. Over my career in the energy industry, I have seen again and again how this does not actually work.

One reason is that energy projects — whether a new power station or insulating one’s home — so often require a large capital outlay to be paid back over several decades.

In today’s world, people know well that if they could afford the cost (both in money and disruption) of major work on their house or church, it would pay for itself in reduced bills — over 20 years or more.

But they simply cannot afford to have the work done. Many can barely afford to pay their expenses for the week ahead: how can they be expected to fork out thousands for a payback over several decades?

Increasing the cost of their day-to-day bills does not improve this: it makes the issue at once more urgent and harder to deal with.

Surely, it is time to recognise that the free market, for all its benefits, is not a solution to every problem; and to discuss how else we might solve the energy and climate crisis.

The Chapel, Maitlands Close
Nettlebridge, Radstock BA3 5AA

C of E figures should follow Dalai Lama’s example

From Mr Andrew Lane

Sir, — I, like Canon Andrew Lightbown, lament church “managerialism” (Letters, 19 August). Eventually, all businesses fail. They may have success over a few decades, but then changing fashions, loss of vision, fatigue, or complacency result in terminal decline or eventual takeover.

This is a simple fact of business life, which makes it all the stranger that the Church increasingly casts itself as a business with targets, marketing campaigns, straplines, and mission statements. Finance and numbers are at the core of their belief: the raucous marketplace is where it’s at! But it isn’t; and the “business” is failing.

I would respectfully urge the Church to look at where there is real spiritual traction, particularly among the young. The Dalai Lama is arguably the most loved and revered figure in global religion. I have never heard the Dalai Lama ever use any kind of slogan; he is unlikely to put particular emphasis on his burgeoning following; and Buddhism does not proselytise. His simple mission is to exemplify wisdom and a compassion for all beings which arises from deep contemplation and insight.

Many will have seen Archbishop Desmond Tutu in company with him at some great events, both clearly taking great joy in each other and showing that real spiritual leadership is as much about “being” as it is about “doing”.

The Church of England requires deeply realised spiritual leadership. The Church is not a business. It is, or should be, a well of great depth, drawing people to it by the power of its wisdom, its equanimity, and its magnanimity.

Take that path, and the future will confidently take care of itself.

ANDREW LANE (Churchwarden, Warleggan)
Castle Dewey, Warleggan
Cornwall PL30 4HE

The Duchess of Cornwall and the state prayers

From Mr Charles Barton

Sir, — The Revd David M. Goldberg (Letters, 19 August) may be reassured to know that it is lawful for any officiant conducting public worship to refer to the Duchess of Cornwall by name when saying the prayers to which he refers (the “Prayer for the Royal Family” in Prayer Book morning and evening prayer, and the corresponding prayer in the Accession Day service).

It is true that no Royal Warrant has been issued providing for such a reference to be inserted into these prayers. But that just means that the publishers of the Prayer Book continue, correctly, to print copies of it without an explicit reference to the Duchess. After referring to the Prince of Wales, however, each of the prayers continues “and all the Royal Family”. The Duchess of Cornwall is undoubtedly a member of the Royal Family. Therefore, interpolating her name when reading the prayer is merely making explicit that which is already implicit. It surely follows that this is not a variation of substance, and is therefore permitted by Canon B5(1) which provides that “The minister who is to conduct the service may in his discretion make and use variations which are not of substantial importance.”

In the 17 years since the marriage of the Prince of Wales to the Duchess of Cornwall, I have attended Prayer Book services in a wide range of different churches in the C of E. In some of them, the Duchess is named explicitly, and in others not. The diversity of practice in this respect has always intrigued me. When I visit a new church, I like to guess whether she will or will not be mentioned, and am often proved wrong.

Prayer Book purists may deplore deviating from the letter of the prayer as authorised, but, as the Prince of Wales is the Patron of the Prayer Book Society, many of my fellow members may take the view that praying expressly for our Patron’s wife is a suitable and seemly thing to do.

As your correspondent points out, it has been customary for the heir apparent’s spouse to be identified by name (or unique title) in the State Prayers. Moreover, since the death of the Duke of Edinburgh last year, the Prince of Wales has been the only member of the Royal Family named in the “Prayer for the Royal Family” (the Queen herself being, of course, the subject of a separate prayer).

Not since the brief period between the death of Prince Albert in 1861 and the marriage of the then Prince of Wales in 1863 has this prayer named only one person (in that case “Albert Edward, Prince of Wales”, later Edward VII). In recognition of the Queen’s desire that the Duchess should one day become Queen Consort, it is surely time for the most unusual brevity of the current State Prayers to be ended by adding the traditional reference to the heir apparent’s spouse.

CHARLES BARTON (retired barrister)
76 Claylands Road
London SW8 1NZ

Ad libs during evensong

From the Revd J. G. Miller

Sir, — May I issue a plea, through your columns, to deans, precentors, and the producer of Radio 3’s Choral Evensong? Please let the liturgy speak for itself.

There is an increasing tendency among clerics to add commentary and interpretation when introducing items in the service. We do not need this, and it detracts from the integrity and simplicity of the worship. There is no need to tell us where the cathedral is, how long it has stood there, and what it does from day to day. If we don’t know this (which is highly unlikely), we can look it up. Nor is there any necessity to tell us what the hymn-writer or psalmist meant, or what the scripture is saying. We can listen to it. Rarely do these commentaries add anything of value. I fail to see that they serve any educational or evangelistic purpose.

If it were left to me, I would not interpolate at all. I will concede that a very brief welcome after the introit might be desirable, but please leave it at that. If you really must interpret the scriptures, then weave in a very short homily, but don’t interrupt the flow of the liturgy. Cranmer et al. knew what they were doing, and they don’t need improving by you. Thank you.

The Rectory, Kirtlington
Oxon OX5 3HA

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