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Letters to the Editor

04 November 2022


Campaign for Equal Marriage’s list

From the Revd Dr Ian Paul

Sir, — Your report that the Campaign for Equal Marriage (CEM) has a list of 1100 licensed clergy who would be willing to conduct same-sex marriages, were they legal (News, 28 October), is very significant.

According to the latest Statistics for Ministry, there are nearly 20,000 licensed clergy currently working in the Church. The CEM is very well connected, the campaign is well known, and the list is confidential; so there is no reason to doubt that this is a robust number. It might grow, especially after your article, but as yet this is only five per cent of the clergy; no information is given about how many are retired, or how many leading larger churches, or those growing, or those attracting young people to faith. And there is no hint here of canonical disobedience. So it is very hard to see why this figure would lead to the conclusion that “The majority want the current situation to change.”

Coincidentally, the proportion here is very similar to the proportion of the Anglican Communion who have allowed same-sex marriage in their Provinces. This suggests an obvious solution to our current impasse: invite those who want to change to accept oversight from the European jurisdiction of the Episcopal Church in the United States Europe, or from the Scottish Episcopal Church, or perhaps, in time, from the Church in Wales. That way, the C of E will have continuity, the Communion will not be further divided, and those who seek “equal” marriage will have it.

Why is this not the future path for us?

102 Cator Lane, Chilwell
Nottingham NG9 4BB

From Mr David Brown

Sir, — I am unclear on the Church of England’s position. Perhaps it would help if the House of Bishops was to state whether it was a human-rights issue, or a matter of biblical doctrine. That could settle it.

DAVID BROWN (Reader Emeritus)
Admaston Farmhouse
School Lane, Admaston
Rugeley WS15 3NH

Taxation of the wealthy requires change of heart

From Mr Andrew Melling

Sir, — The emphasis in your report (News, 21 October) on taxing the wealthy has unfortunate echoes of the call in an earlier age to “soak the rich”. It is confrontational.

The real issue is how to distribute fairly between us all the cost of doing what needs to be done, including supporting the disadvantaged. The principle should be that those who have more contribute more. Putting that into practice inevitably leads to higher taxes on the wealthy, but not with any confiscatory or redistributive intent. There are already examples of very rich citizens’ recognising their privilege and urging that they be taxed more.

Somehow, we must instil more generally the idea that having more and therefore contibuting more is a privilege to be proud of. Before I retired, I was paying higher-rate tax and did so ungrudgingly, appreciating my fortunate position. Shouldn’t all higher-rate taxpayers now feel the same?

It is frequently stated by politicians, commentators, and even the BBC that we are paying more tax now than we have for a lifetime. That is not true, at least not for income tax. My first pay, in 1965, was subject to tax at the standard rate of 8s. 3d. in the pound. There was earned-income relief and investment-income surcharge, but the standard rate was more than twice today’s basic rate. At some point in that era, some income tax payers had a marginal rate of 98 per cent! (There was no VAT then, but there was purchase tax, at 36 2/3 per cent in some cases.)

We are not over-taxed, and the need is obvious to increase our tax contributions, at least in the short term, to pay the exceptional costs of the pandemic. But this must be done following the principle that those who have more contribute more.

39 Salisbury Road
Bexley, Kent DA5 3QE

Further reflection on the potential of a revival in ordained local ministry

From the Revd Elaine Turner

Sir, — I am pleased to say that ordained local ministry (Comment, 14 October) is, in my opinion, alive and well in the diocese of Lincoln. I agree with Bishop Llewellin that it is a most rewarding ministry, but I take issue with the idea that, just because there is no stipend paid or house provided, the priest should be removable simply by a non-renewal of a licence if “considered a disaster”.

I have served as an OLM in one rural benefice (ten parishes) for more than 18 years, after a ministry of ten years as a Reader. My ordained ministry was discerned by the parishes I serve, I attended both diocesan and national selection conferences, I had a further two years’ training at the diocesan college of theology, and I was ordained alongside stipendiary colleagues and served a three-year curacy.

My licence is not time-limited. If there is an issue with an OLM’s being “a disaster”, then they should be treated in the same way as a stipendiary priest would be, and, when a priest has gone through the stages described above, it may be more a fault of the selection process than of the priest. OLM is not a second-rate ministry to be treated as disposable in this way.

Rose Cottage, Normanby le Wold
Market Rasen, Lincoln LN7 6SS

From Mrs Anne Foreman

Sir, — Bishop Llewellin paints an accurate picture of the increase in multi-parish benefices and its impact. But to suggest that attempts to respond pastorally to the present situation are at odds with being “Christ-centred and Jesus-shaped” and that pastoral care and mission are no longer two sides of a single coin in the C of E is not to paint a picture that I recognise.

On the contrary, I understand pastoral concern to be the very essence of being Christ-centred and Jesus-shaped. Strategies do exist and are being implemented. Indeed, the example that Bishop Llewellin gives of the priest’s turning a failing parish around sounds like interim ministry to me.

Bishop Llewellin would like to see a wholehearted, not a half-hearted, piecemeal, return to ordained local ministry. Well, here in Exeter diocese we don’t do half-hearted, and as for “piecemeal”, another interpretation might be “responding locally to local needs” — which, of course, vary tremendously and produce a glorious patchwork.

But consider what riches we are blessed with in terms of those whom Bishop Llewellin identifies as “already doing a great deal of what a priest would do if there was one”. Two vocations come to mind: that of the distinctive deacon and of focal ministries for licensed lay ministers — both part of the rich pattern of ministry in Exeter diocese. Distinctive deacons are outward-looking and community-minded and represent a range of traditions; licensed lay ministers called to a focal ministry are indeed the “parson in the parish” and regarded as such.

Both ministries work under the oversight of their incumbent. Of course, such ministry does not include presiding at the eucharist, but parishes, even in multi-parish benefices, find ways to ensure that this vital priestly ministry happens. Distinctive deacons and focal ministers are not watered-down priests, but people recognised in their communities as servant leaders, Christ-centred and Jesus-shaped. underpinned by pastoral and missional hearts. Praise God for them.

Lay member of Exeter diocesan synod
12a Baring Crescent
Exeter EX1 1TL

From Mr Anthony Stansfield

Sir, — Professor R. G. Faulkner (Letters, 21 October) asks “What other professional organisation would propose that its most important front-line workers be drawn from a voluntary workforce?” Setting aside the question whether a Church is best described as a “professional organisation”, might I suggest that the National Trust, the RNLI, and the Fire Service seem to be able to run their operations with a well-integrated mix of paid and voluntary staff?

12 Rushmoor Grove, Backwell
Bristol BS48 3BW

A new broom — and how, perhaps, to be rid of it

Sir, — Your unnamed correspondent (Letters, 28 October) has our heartfelt sympathy, as we know exactly what they are going through. Much the same thing is happening here: a priest who makes his own decisions, and we are all expected to fall in line. He arrived and immediately started changing everything, and made no attempt to get to know his congregation. His style of leadership is like that of the correspondent’s incumbent.

The position is not helped by the fact that the high-ups think that he is wonderful. To be fair, he works his socks off — but not necessarily in and for the parish. Many of us are very sad indeed. Another . . .


From the Ven. Christopher Laurence

Sir, — The predicament described by “Name and Address Supplied” last week puts me in mind of a prayer group in a strong Evangelical congregation during a long vacancy in the 1970s. For 18 months, they prayed constantly for the leader of God’s choice to be appointed. When the appointment was finally made, they concluded that God’s choice had not in fact been made, and continued to pray. In six months, the new incumbent had gone.

5 Haffenden Road
Lincoln LN2 1RP

A treat, but not a sweet

From Mrs A. Wills

Sir, — I don’t really like encouraging “Trick or Treat” by giving sweets to callers at our door. I wish we could think of something that we could give which has a Christian message — and is fun for children. Any ideas on this for next year?

67 Dulverton Road, Ruislip
Middlesex HA4 9AF

Extension of DBS checks on church officers

From Susan Holland

Sir, — Canon Angela Tilby (Comment, 14 October) makes interesting and, I think, valid points about the reactions of the Church to accusations of abuse.

I was disappointed, however, that Canon Tilby seemed to accept with­out question and in their entirety the rules that the Church is putting in place in its frantic effort to improve safeguarding and head off further instances of abuse.

Moreover, in large part, the Church seeks to justify the rules by reference, not only to safeguarding of vulnerable individ­uals, but also to financial matters, in which it has enlisted the Charity Commission in an attempt to give added authenti­city to the rules.

The problem is that in a blanket manoeuvre the Church now appears to insist on DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) checks on all members of those parochial church councils in receipt of annual income exceeding £100,000; and all church officers, including churchwardens. This draconian measure is said to be required for safeguarding purposes, when it manifestly has little or nothing to do with safeguarding.

Why would a member of a more affluent PCC have a greater propensity to commit abuse (or even financial misconduct) than a member of a slightly poorer one? Extending the authority for such checks to the Charity Commission is at best muddying the waters and at worst implementing a smokescreen.

Though the guidelines appear to admit the possibility of allowing a churchwarden, say, who objected to this intrusive measure to continue in office, this is not how the rules are being interpreted locally. Moreover, if there is any complication in establishing identity via the online process (e.g. if one does not have a driving licence, or a passport) there follows an invasive procedure in which the local incumbent is supposed to view various highly personal documents in order to “clear” the individual.

In my view, this opens up the very possibility that has caused the Church to protect so many actual abusers: namely, “vouching for” someone on a personal rather than an objective basis. And there may be considerable sensitivity around displaying the documents.

I (PCC member) have no criminal record; nor has my husband (churchwarden). Even if we had one, however, it would be largely or wholly irrelevant if it were not related to abuse or to financial impropriety.

The Second Past Cases Review highlights the fact that a very substantial majority of instances of abuse are carried out by members of the clergy, often continuing after the behaviour has previously been identified, because the Church wished to maintain its reputation and avoid exposure.

The most important thing is to prevent that sort of cover-up from happening; and to watch out for the behaviour of suspect individuals rather than impose arbitrary rules on innocent church members, potentially with drastic and life-changing results.

13 Brandreth Delph
Lancashire WN8 7AQ

Deliverance ministry has a place in the parish

From Canon Stephen Treasure

Sir, — The Bishop of Manchester’s BBC Thought for the Day on Monday dealt with evil, the day being Hallowe’en. Dr Walker described how, as a parish priest, he had had to allay people’s fears over the apparent effects of evil in their homes, but how Jesus told us that real evil comes from within. It is highly selective of Jesus’s teaching, when there are so many accounts of his dealing personally with evil.

As a parish priest, I have often been called into homes where there have been drawers opening and closing, footsteps heard on the stairs, kettles switching on and off, and, frequently, inexplicable cold in a room. After prayer in the name of Jesus and his cross, the occupants have almost always found sudden and immediate relief, and I have felt the difference, too. It would be arrogant to assume that such experiences come from unbalanced or naïve people.

The positive impact of a deliverance has a powerful effect, and is one of the most obvious testimonies in our ministry to the power and presence of God.

4 Endican Lane
Thornton Le Moor
Northallerton DL7 9FB

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