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Letters to the Editor

29 July 2022


Boris Johnson and his legacy

From Mr Malcolm Dixon

Sir, — Pay no attention to those who criticise you for the “intemperance” of your leader (Leader, 15 July; Letters, 22 July), in which you reflected critically on Boris Johnson’s time as Prime Minister, and which seemed to me an excellent summary of his many failings in office.

You were, perhaps, unwise to begin the list with Brexit, which remains a folk religion among its supporters, where any apostasy is to be roundly condemned. For me, the most disastrous part of his legacy is that, by his constant and blatant lying, he has polluted the well of trust which is essential for the functioning of a democracy.

Such is the scale of the pollution that it is hard to see how the situation can be recovered, and certainly the populist “race to the bottom” currently being indulged in by his would-be successors gives no cause for encouragement.

It is perverse that our unwritten constitution imposes a brutally quick handover of power after a General Election, when the outgoing administration may have done nothing worse than fail to persuade a sufficient proportion of the electorate to vote for them — and yet, in our present situation, where the PM has been drummed out in disgrace by large numbers of his own ministers, his Party still holds a large majority in Parliament, and we are condemned to endure many weeks of uncertainty with the disgraced PM still holding the reins.

It is time that we had a written constitution with provisions to address this situation. Creating that will not be easy, and it cannot begin until we have a government where probity and honour come before anything else.

26 Tubbenden Drive
Orpington BR6 9PA

From Miss Vasantha Gnanadoss

Sir, — Reading from his diary on BBC’s Broadcasting House on 17 April, Lord Hennessy comes to a grim conclusion about Boris Johnson: “The Queen’s first minister is now beyond doubt a rogue prime minister, unworthy of her, her Parliament, her people, and her kingdom. I cannot remember a day when I have been more fearful for the well-being of the constitution.”

Lord Hennessy is recognised as perhaps our leading constitutional historian.

By contrast, there has been little or nothing by way of spiritual comment from C of E leaders on politicians who fall short of acceptable standards. They seem to be more concerned about forgiveness, regardless of repentance. Unlike this week’s objectors (Letters, 22 July), many of us feel indebted to the Church Times for addressing the situation boldly in its leading article “Out in disgrace”.

242 Links Road
London SW17 9ER

From Mr Geoff Baguley

Sir, — Leader-writers are damned if they do and damned if they don’t.

Am I, too, a member of a nasty party if I go along with your castigations? The mantra that declares that “I got Brexit done” leaves one asking “Promised NHS weekly largesse?” “No border in the Irish Sea?” Really? “Prorogation of Parliament” and “Judges are enemies of the people”? The stories go on: “No parties in Downing Street” . . . “It’s all the fault of the French/Germans. . .”

Work to achieve the Good Friday Agreement was marked by due diligence and respectful listening on all sides. It took long and careful negotiation. It was widely accepted in the good faith that it was founded upon and has been honoured.

We now have a Protocol signed with unseemly haste, without proper consultation, on an untrue promise, and producing a situation from which any future government can apparently extricate itself only with dishonour or complete breakdown of the good relationships so painstakingly achieved.

Mr Johnson appears to continue to provoke division and to lack all contrition. It is perhaps only human to express concern and exasperation and succumb to the temptation to leave it to Christ to love the sinner, but not the sin.

12 Hardwick Road
Wellingborough NN8 5AB

back Save the Parish movement, too

From Mr John Humphreys

Sir, — I am sympathetic to the aims of the Save the Parish movement but, if those aims are set in opposition to “net zero” and “racial justice” (Rory Macdiarmid, Letters, 15 July), it will become much more difficult to support them. Surely “net zero” and “racial justice” are concerns of even greater importance than saving the parish — it must not be “either or” but “both and”.

61 Josephine Avenue
Lower Kingswood
Tadworth KT20 7AB

From Mr Anthony Jennings

Sir, — As Director of Save Our Parsonages, I spent 16 years trying to mediate between the parishes and their dioceses. Throughout that time, the main reason for the growing dissatisfaction in the parishes was the failure of the dioceses to listen to what the parishes were telling them, together with a reluctance to engage in dialogue, even though they relied on the parishes for most of their funding.

According to your report on Archbishop Cottrell’s reaction to Save the Parish (News, 15 July), he believes the solution to church decline is “doing things differently”. This must involve spending more money on things about which the parishes have no say or consider quite irrelevant, which obviously just increases the prospect of resistance, and greater reluctance to pay parish share.

It follows, then, that there is, indeed, little hope for the parish system or even the future of the Church unless the dioceses can be persuaded to consult the parishes at an early stage about any new ideas they may be giving thought to, and to take what the parishes say about them seriously.

In other words, there must be a reversion from a control culture to a service culture. The centralisation of control has created the distrust and is, therefore, itself a contributor to decline.

Flat Z, 12-18 Bloomsbury Street
London WC1B 3QA

From the Revd R. C. Paget

Sir, — Mr Rory Macdiarmid’s bogeyman use of the term “Evangelical” in his letter to describe the new ideas and plans for reordering ministry in our dioceses is highly misleading.

There are many Evangelical clergy and laity who warmly welcome Save the Parish’s questioning of the theology, desirability, and, indeed, morality of the Archbishop’s and others’ proposals, not to mention their worldly and unbiblical agendas.

As an increasing number have discovered, the track record of parish amalgamations is terrible, new (often irrational and hopeless) “projects” and “initiatives” have either misfired or backfired, “centralising” power rather than localising it contradicts all evidence for success, and the competency of those initiating these innovations is such that they would not long hold their posts in the real world.

The Vicarage
Kent TN12 7NN

Bishop Thomas Ken? Yes, we ken

From the Revd Colin Alsbury

Sir, — Reading Ian Marchant (Diary, 22 July), I am moved to write in reassurance that at St John the Baptist’s, Frome, where Thomas Ken was buried in 1711, he is well remembered.

A new stone slab was placed just inside the west doors in 2020 bearing the words of his prayer “May the doors of this church . . .”

The chapel on the south side of the chancel has a fine window by O’Connor from the 1840s commemorating Ken, and that chapel was rededicated as the Ken Chapel.

During the restrictions of Covid, when only the officiating priest could take communion in both kinds, it has been Ken’s own small personal chalice that has been used. Pre-Covid, that same chalice has on a number of occasions been taken to Wells Cathedral to be placed on the altar there during solemn evensong on the day commemorating Ken.

The stained-glass window in Wells Cathedral can readily be missed by visitors, but is a worthy remembrance of his character and faith.

Be assured, Ken is well remembered and commemorated at Frome and beyond.

St John’s Vicarage
Vicarage Close
Frome BA11 1QL

Christian women and their influence on Larkin

From Canon Brian Stevenson

Sir, — Like Edward Wickham (Radio, 22 July), I found listening to the five short programmes on Radio 3 about how Philip Larkin’s poems have affected present-day authors very engrossing. They were related to Larkin and faith.

The closest to a discussion of the loss of faith was Sinead Morrissey, the former Belfast Communist, who discussed “Absences” and her abandonment of her youthful Marxism. Larkin may not have had an active Christian faith, but he was fond of women who were religious.

His first successful book of poetry, The Less Deceived, of 1955, largely written while in Belfast, contains the fine “Church Going”. He had a number of female admirers in Ireland and they most probably were churchgoers. The two women with whom he had the longest relationships were both interested in faith: Maeve Brennan was a committed Roman Catholic who struggled with Larkin’s desires, and Monica Jones was a great admirer of English cathedrals, and she and Larkin usually visited one most Januarys — hence the poem about the Arundel tomb in Chichester.

At his death, Larkin was generous to Monica, and, on her death, she left large sums in her will to St Paul’s and Durham Cathedrals, and Hexham Abbey. I listen to many sermons nowadays, and most of them agree with Larkin’s greatest final line: “What will survive of us is love.”

Michaelmas Cottage
Stan Lane
West Peckham
Kent ME18 5JT

Sacramental approach to wedding fees

From Dr Tony Fitchett

Sir, — It may well be that, as suggested by the Revd Tom Woolford (Letters, 1 July), “increasingly expensive fees are putting couples off church weddings.” But there is another consideration.

When my fiancée and I met the Very Revd Tim Raphael, then Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral, Dunedin, New Zealand, before our marriage 54 years ago, after discussing the service (the 1928 version, with “obey” still part of it), I asked him about fees. Tim fixed me with a stern look and said, emphatically, “The Church does not charge for its sacraments!”

Setting aside debate about interpretation of Article XXV, that seems a position that every church should adopt.

14 Forrester Avenue
New Zealand

Traditionalist’s choice of Underground train

From the Revd Simon Douglas Lane

Sir, — I don’t know who advises you on matters of rolling stock, but the sight of an elderly and long since departed Circle Line train emerging from a tunnel rather than the new stock that has been in use for quite some time gave the impression of being out of touch: if the Revd Fergus Butler-Gallie (Faith, 22 July) is practising prayer on the train shown, then I fear he will be static in the London Transport Museum.

It’s the thought that counts.

30a Belgrade Road
Middlesex TW12 2AZ

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