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Letters to the Editor

07 January 2022


The Bishop of Llandaff and the state of her diocese

From the Archdeacons of Llandaff and Margam, the Diocesan Secretary of Llandaff, the Chair of Llandaff Diocesan Board of Finance, and others

Sir, — As members of the senior leadership team of the diocese of Llandaff, we simply do not recognise the descriptions of the Bishop, the Rt Revd June Osborne, and the diocese which have appeared in the Church Times over the past month (News, 26 November; Letters, 17/24 December, 31 December). The last thing that we want to do is to contribute to a war of words in the press, but we feel we cannot remain silent any longer.

The Bishop is a strong, decisive leader. There is no doubt about that. Making difficult decisions that not everyone agrees with is not easy. We have just come through a demanding transition from parishes to ministry areas, which none of us has found straightforward, particularly during a pandemic. Yet Bishop Osborne has steered the diocese through these changes with clarity of vision, collaboration and teamwork, and a genuine pastoral touch.

There are things that a bishop cannot say publicly, but behind the scenes Bishop Osborne works tirelessly supporting clergy and lay leaders across the diocese. That includes those who disagree with the decisions she makes.

The truth is these are exciting times for Llandaff. After a wide-ranging consultation, we are delivering the diocesan vision. Thanks to the hard work of all our lay leaders and clergy, ministry areas are now in place, and we are ready for mission and ministry in the years ahead. The diocese is planting churches, there are more lay leaders in our churches, more high-calibre clerics are keen to come and work with us, and, together, we are working hard to revitalise our churches as they come out of lockdown.

It is these things we want to celebrate publicly, and in doing so, honour our Bishop for the part she has played in their delivery.

The Court, Coychurch
Bridgend CF35 5EH


From the Revd Mark Greenaway-Robbins

Sir, — Now is an extraordinary time to serve in our diocese, in which one third of the population of Wales resides. There are many new opportunities and resources on offer, resulting in signs of new growth. Indeed, our whole diocesan culture is in the process of being transformed.

As a priest who has served for more than 20 years in three Anglican provinces under seven bishops, I have never before experienced the inspired holding together of pastoral support and challenge as I have done in the leadership of our Bishop. My family and I have experienced unprecedented pastoral care from her. She has consistently challenged me through high expectations with support.

I, too, “believe that I speak for many” (to quote one of your correspondents) clergy and laity. It is a joy and a privilege to serve in this diocese at this time.

Leader, Caerphilly and the Aber Valley Ministry Area
The Rectory, Rectory Close
Caerphilly CF83 1EQ


From Canon Edwin Counsell

Sir, — My colleague the Revd Vicki Burrows is brave and forthright in her views, and her care for those who may feel unwilling or unable to raise their voices is commendable. Yet the diocese (and the diocesan bishop) portrayed is not one that I recognise easily. In Bishop Osborne I see strength of character, clear vision and determination, without a doubt, but also a strong pastoral heart, a deep love of the Lord, and a wise head nestling under the mitre.

Christian leadership is tough going: just ask anyone who has led a church or parish into a time of change. Indeed, ask Bishop Osborne, as she leads the diverse and populous diocese of Llandaff through a long overdue restructuring of its patterns of ministry. It is now a decade since the Harries report proposed a move to larger, sustainable ministry areas across Wales, with the associated expectations of collaboration and mutual trust between clergy and churches. Bishop Osborne has implemented necessary change rapidly, while others have dithered.

Leadership is a shared and distributed task, especially at a time of change and upheaval. Formal process will always have its place, but if the leaders in our diocese, at every level, are characterised by a constant search for truth and an unstinting resolve to seek reconciliation in Christ’s name, it will be to the credit of us all.

Leader, The Glamorgan Heritage Coast Ministry Area
The Rectory, Llantwit Major
Vale of Glamorgan CF61 1SS


Jewish support for article on Holy Land Christians

From Dr David Goldberg

Sir, — Marie van der Zyl, the President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, responded crossly to the Archbishop of Canterbury’s joint article with the Archbishop in Jerusalem in The Sunday Times (News, 31 December). The Archbishops had called for prayer for the Christians being driven from the Holy Land.

Ms van der Zyl was especially troubled as the Archbishop had allowed the possibility of a comparison between “the first Christmas” and current events. “In particular”, she noted “the reference to ‘the backdrop of a genocide of infants’: a clear reference to the narrative of the ‘Massacre of the Innocents’ as recounted in the Gospel of Matthew”.

In other words, the Board of Deputies is concerned by the possible comparisons being made between the current flight of families from violence and the biblical flight of Holy Family. Indeed, currently, Palestinian children face intense monitoring and surveillance and brutal treatment and imprisonment. In 2020, Israeli forces killed 15 Palestinian children in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem (and 61 in the Gaza Strip) (Defense for Children International — Palestine, www.dci-palestine.org).

Ms van der Zyl does not think that such historical references should be made, because they would disturb good relations between Christians and Jews. On the contrary, sweeping appalling truths under the carpet can never be the way. Good relations between Christians and Jews require honestly facing up to the bad things that have been done, past and present.

Just as our Jewish communal leaders have required and obtained Christian acknowledgment of past wrongs, so they must also be prepared to acknowledge the wrongs perpetrated by the State of Israel in the name of Jews. We urge our Jewish and Christian leaders to join together in calling out those wrongs.

Jews for Justice for Palestinians
Address supplied


Archbishop Tutu’s campaigning and his legacy

From the Revd Dr Fiona Haworth

Sir, — Thank you for the extensive coverage of the extraordinary life and work of Desmond Tutu. His loss will be keenly felt, not just in his deeply loved homeland, but around the world. His passionate commitment, rooted in the gospel, to opposing oppression and injustice of all kinds is a remarkable legacy.

There was, however, a significant omission in your coverage: the longstanding support that Archbishop Tutu offered to the Palestinian peoples, recognising in their experiences of the occupation of the Palestinian Territories the experiences of black South Africans under apartheid.

While critical of Palestinian attacks on Israelis, Tutu recognised the systemic damage done by the occupation and the expansion of settlements. He was a prominent supporter of the Divestment, Boycott and Sanctions (DBS) movement, and saw the pursuit of justice and reconciliation as the only way to secure a lasting peace for both peoples.

40 Heigham Road
Norwich NR2 3AU


From the Revd Simon Grigg

Sir, — Am I alone in feeling dismayed by the Archbishop of Canterbury’s contribution to the celebration of Archbishop Desmond Tutu on BBC Radio 4’s Sunday Worship?

Archbishop Welby rightly praises Tutu for having been on the side of the oppressed throughout his life. But he totally ignored the fact that Desmond Tutu turned his huge moral authority to the matter of LGBT+ rights and fought as courageously for these as he had in the fight against apartheid.

Archbishop Welby, in contrast, cravenly gave into the Ghanaian bishops on the matter of gay rights. As an example of hypocrisy, it takes some beating.

Isn’t it time that Archbishop Welby took a leaf out of Archbishop Tutu’s book and started showing some moral courage, fighting for the oppressed, not for the status quo?

Parish Office, St Paul’s Church
Bedford Street
London WC2E 9ED


From Dr Paul Burnham

Sir, — The decision of Archbishop Desmond Tutu that his remains should be prepared for burial by aquamation (aka resomation) will inevitably lead to enquiries about the availability of the process. Sadly, despite its desirability on aesthetic and environmental grounds and its compatibility with Christian traditions — as I argued in the Church Times (Comment, 25 October 2019) — it is not yet available in Britain.

In South Africa, it has been introduced by a mutual society, AVBOB. In Ireland, a young innovator, Elizabeth Oakes, has attracted widespread popular support and a government grant. So, with all permissions in place, a facility is expected to open in June or July 2022. Transport of subjects from the UK will be possible with a coroner’s certificate. The arrangements are set out in her excellent website Pure Reflections New.

In the UK, Resomation Ltd has formed an associated company, Kindly Earth Ltd, which proposes a first installation at Darlington. Their website for an intended nationwide service is entitled simply Kindness, but there is no date yet for its opening. It might seem obvious that the process should be made available as an alternative at existing crematoria, but this seems unlikely at present, except where existing equipment needs replacement. This is under consideration at Bradford. More widespread provision awaits evidence of demand.

24 Chequers Park, Wye
Ashford, Kent TN25 5BB

[Correction. Our obituary should have referred to Archbishop Tutu’s call for an “anti-apartheid-style” (not “anti-apartheid”) campaign against fossil fuels. Editor]


Ghostly counsel

From Canon Andrew Lenox-Conyngham

Sir, — I always enjoy the Revd Gillean Craig’s TV reviews. May I, however, point that M. R. James, the author of the famous ghost stories, was an Anglican layman, not a priest (31 December). Also, “apocryphal scholar” is a bit ambivalent. He was, indeed, a scholar of the “Apocryphal New Testament”, which was edited by him.

9 Hitches Lane
Birmingham B15 2LS

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