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Letters to the Editor

05 August 2022


Divisions and distractions at Lambeth Conferences

From the Rt Revd Dr Peter Selby

Sir, — When Lambeth Resolution 1.10, passed on Transfiguration Eve 1998, came to be described as the “overwhelming” view of the Anglican Communion, some of us who had voted against it had a wry sense of what it was like to be among the “overwhelmed”’. Not just gay people, but so many others were overwhelmed by the tidal wave that carried that awful set of words.

We learned afterwards, for instance, of the immense distress that the events occasioned among the spouses of bishops, including those who had urged their husbands on to issue those condemning words, as at some level it dawned that the debate and the resolution had been as patriarchal as it had been homophobic.

In the process, the world’s most indebted had been swept off the headlines as the theme of international debt, intended as top of the agenda for the conference and carefully worked on by the section that I convened, disappeared from the public perception of what the Conference was mainly going to address.

Then, in the headlining of the sexuality row, other vital themes were overwhelmed out of consciousness. On the next day, the Feast of the Transfiguration itself, the organisers had appropriately asked the Japanese bishops to preside at the Conference eucharist. It was an event with a healing graciousness, marked especially by Canon Susan Cole-King’s remarkable sermon recalling the mental transfiguring by her father, Bishop Leonard Wilson, of those who were torturing him in his wartime captivity, maintaining his vision of their humanity by reimaging their faces as they had been as children.

As we left the worship, we were handed the profound statement of war apology by the Nippon Sei Ko-Kai for what had been done in Japan’s name during the war. But somehow the reason for choosing 6 August as the day when the Japanese bishops would preside got airbrushed from our consciousness, and there was no commensurate apology for the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Thus it was that the sexuality debate drove all else from our minds. As someone who was part of the events of Transfiguration-tide 1998, I find the current attempt to bring back one part of it, the resolution itself, simply repeats that “overwhelming” of vital issues and vulnerable people which are for me the memory of 1998.

When a group of gay clergy and their partners met in my study in the aftermath of the Conference, the intention was to reassure them of their value as colleagues and friends. But, in the process, one of them asked the rhetorical question from the Passiontide hymn which is just as insistent now: what makes this rage and spite?

57 Girton Road
London SE26 5DJ

From Canon Paul Oestreicher

Sir, — As the Anglican bishops gather in Canterbury, the World Council of Churches prepares to meet in Karlsruhe, Germany. The Revd Dr Susan Durber, Chair of the Faith and Order Commission of the WCC, has wisely written that the only way forward in a divided Christendom is to rebuild the WCC as a movement of the heart, based on mutual love. That, I believe, must include all Christians and most certainly the Roman Catholic Church, and must somehow finally strive to embrace the other great religions of the human family. There is no way forward without God’s all-embracing love in the Holy Spirit.

If that is true of the world Church, it must be true of the Anglican Communion. Reconciled diversity is the only meaningful policy for an acceptable Anglican future. It is futile to try to be of one mind on all the great issues facing our world. If we cannot live and work together in love, respecting our diverse ethical convictions, our faith will not deserve to be taken seriously.

If, to take one example, Christian pacifists like me can live lovingly with members of the armed forces in our common struggle for a more peaceful world, why can’t Christians be seen to live lovingly across our deep divisions on the nature of human sexuality? To love each other conditionally is not love at all.

42/8 Leeds Street, Wellington 6011
Aotearoa-New Zealand

From the Revd Andrew Foreshew-Cain

Sir, — The Campaign for Equal Marriage in the Church of England welcomes the changes to the Lambeth Conference Call on Human Dignity to remove the offensive and wrong-headed attempt to reaffirm Lambeth 1998 1.10 and its profoundly homophobic attitudes towards LGBTQIA+ people and our relationships.

Deep questions remain, nevertheless. Bishop Kevin Robertson, who was on the drafting panel for the original text of the Call, has said that the passage on Lambeth 1.10 was inserted without the knowledge of the drafting group. So, we would like to know: who authorised the originally published text of the Human Dignity Call? How was it possible for the objectionable wording to be added? Did the Archbishop of Canterbury know of the wording of the Calls before they went to press?

All human relationships, both personal and ecclesial, are based on trust — and trust requires honesty, openness, and truthfulness. None of these is evident in the recent actions stemming from Lambeth Palace, which bodes ill for the future of the Communion and for the Living in Love and Faith process that is playing out its death throes in the Church of England at present.

On behalf of the Campaign for Equal Marriage in the Church of England
Lady Margaret Hall
Oxford OX2 6QA

From Canon Nicholas Cranfield

Sir, — Thank you for giving such extensive coverage to the last-minute attempts to reintroduce the notorious (and now, in many countries, illegal) 1.10 Resolution from the 1998 Lambeth Conference by the back door, and the subsequent cover-up at Lambeth.

You report that the Bishop of York-Scarborough, a member of the drafting group on Human Dignity, has stated that reaffirming the homophobic text of Lambeth 1.10 (1998) was never even discussed by that group. He disassociates himself from such a claim. You also record that the Bishop in Egypt was too busy to attend to his responsibilities to the group.

If that is correct, the attempt to turn the clock back and damn those of us who identify as LGBTQ Anglicans in the 21st century comes from Lambeth itself. Presumably it is now only a matter of time before a leaked email (or a freedom-of-information request) reveals who was responsible at Lambeth for interfering with the agreed submitted text. What did the Archbishop of Canterbury know, and was he complicit in allowing this?

The wilderness years beckon Boris Johnson for his attempts to downplay advancing a sexual predator knowingly. Archbishop Welby might find people less willing for him to continue in office if he is found to have given false promises of a Conference that would not seek binding resolutions on issues that have caused pain and disagreement.

There is no need for the successor of St Augustine to have any authority in the diverse world of the “Anglican Communion”, and this Lambeth Conference might intelligently agree to be the last.

All Saints’ Vicarage
London SE3 0TY

C of E support for survivors and victims of abuse

From the Bishop of Truro

Sir, — In response to your report “Survivors upset by delay to redress scheme” (News, 22 July), I repeat our apology to victims and survivors that the scheme is not going to be fully functioning as soon as we would have hoped. As we have previously pointed out, other schemes of a similar scale took three years to establish, owing to their significant complexity. But I would like to emphasise that we are committed to there being no gap of provision of support for survivors and victims, whether through our current interim support scheme for those in urgent need or through a possible pilot redress project before the main scheme is in place.

The Redress Board, which I chair, and which is tasked with establishing the scheme, continues to work closely with a survivor working group, and two representatives serve on the Redress Board. Their input is key to development of the redress scheme.

Lastly, let me clarify what the principle of subsidiarity refers to. This is about ensuring that appropriate responsibility is taken across the Church for our safeguarding failings, wherever abuse has actually taken place. It is about the national and local Church’s working together, with details still to be agreed. But it is vital to emphasise that this will not affect the survivor-facing aspects of the scheme. Claims will not be thus delayed, and survivors will have a single point of contact, and will certainly not be passed from institution to institution, as has been suggested.

It is important that, as a Church together, we do not forget the failings, highlighted in our three IICSA hearings, that allowed abuse to happen, and that we work together to make our Church a safer place for all. In working to establish the redress scheme, the Board as a whole is deeply committed to putting in place a scheme that is robust and evidently fit for its purpose, and to do so in as timely a manner as possible.

The Redress Board
Church House
Great Smith Street
London SW1P 3AZ

Diversity in leadership

From the Revd Dr Ian K. Duffield

Sir, — Despite the cleverness of the Revd Brunel James’s comparison of Conservative Prime Ministers with Archbishops of Canterbury, his article is misjudged (Comment, 29 July). His description of Boris Johnson as “the worst kind” of white male leader shows scant regard for history. Moreover, whatever one thinks of Mr Johnson, to describe him as “stale” is simply wrong in the colloquial sense of being out-of-date (i.e. elderly), and in the straightforward sense of being boring. To flag up John Major as someone from humble beginnings, of course, ignores the first female PM, Margaret Thatcher.

Unfortunately, such misjudgement continues when he talks about archbishops. Robert Runcie, who was from humble beginnings, was appointed before George Carey; and Rowan Williams is ignored because he fails to fit the argument. And to castigate “privileged” holders of the post would be offensive to the memory of the greatest and most influential archbishop of the 20th century, William Temple, who coined the term “welfare state” and was a key advocate of it.

Mr James does little better when describing the diverse array of Conservative candidates by ignoring the part that David Cameron (dismissed as an “Old Etonian”) had in setting up processes (without commissions, affirmative action, or hectoring) that have led to diversity in the ranks of Conservative MPs from whom the “pale and stale” Mr Johnson selected the most diverse Cabinet in history, and which looks as though it will mean Britain’s third woman as Prime Minister and a fourth minority-ethnic Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Director of Research
Urban Theology Union
Victoria Methodist Hall
Norfolk Street, Sheffield S1 2JB

Problems with bank accounts and mandates

From Mr Bob Soutter

Sir, — As a long-retired Barclays Bank manager, my heart sank when I began to read the article “Gary in Mandates says no” (Comment, 29 July). I was relieved, however, when I learned that eventually matters were sorted out, and that they were able to meet someone face to face. I am impressed.

But of course, Martyn Sloman’s experience is not a one-off. Having just retired from the post of treasurer, after more than 50 years in various places, part of my time now is spent helping to train PCC treasurers. Never a course goes by without the telling of a similar story.

For my own part, I have been involved with similar problems, with TSB, NatWest, and now, currently, with Lloyds. In this case, to cut the story short, we were given some misinformation, and, as a result of that, Lloyds has replaced all the signatures on the church account with ones relating to an affiliated work club. Currently, there is no online access to either account. It is proving a long job to get matters reversed — and, as usual, we are having to do all the work. What is particularly galling is the fact that no one from Lloyds will say that little word “Sorry”.

So, why is this happening? Just as in Barclays, the hard-working branch staff of all the banks are powerless to make changes to mandates themselves: all must be done centrally, and contact with that department is inevitably via a call centre. If those two factors are not a recipe for disaster, nothing is. In the case of the NatWest dispute with which I was involved (which lasted nine months), call-centre staff were denying that a branch had sent documents off — whereas they had been sent, and I had been watching while it happened! It was easier to blame the branch than admit that the documents had been misfiled in Birmingham.

I would urge all PCC treasurers who have these problems to make sure that the appropriate person in the diocesan office knows. Here in the Exeter diocese, our Director of Finance has done wonders in collating information and offering practical advice. It was he who put me in touch with the right person in NatWest. Once that particular person heard the story, the whole matter was resolved very quickly indeed.

I am reassured that the gentleman from Barclays says that it still welcomes community accounts. I am a bit sceptical, as that cannot be said for some of the other banks, who refuse to open new accounts for churches. In the case of some clubs, etc., even a longstanding account is not safe. I heard of a cheque landing on the doorstep of the treasurer of a club, from the bank, for the balance, saying that the account was now closed. He is still trying to find somewhere else to bank.

12 Westlands, 25 Douglas Avenue
Exmouth EX8 2HB

Correct poetry, please

From Mr Humphrey Clucas

Sir, — Canon Brian Stevenson (Letters, 29 July) misquotes Philip Larkin’s “What will survive of us is love”; the verb is “survives”, not “remains”, and the first letter of “love” should be lower-case. More seriously, he misses Larkin’s undercutting of the statement in the previous line, where it is described as an “almost-instinct” and “almost true”.

19 Norman Road, Sutton
Surrey SM1 2TB

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