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Letters to the Editor

18 August 2023


Safeguarding: Lord Sentamu, and a school glue gun

From the Revd John Ray

Sir, — It was good to see the Ven. John Barton’s letter (4 August) and following comments from Dr Brian Hanson and the Hon. Michael Benson (Letters, 11 August).

The issue has not been about safeguarding but about the pulling-down of a God-given lifetime of dedicated service and leadership. An archdeacon knows his bishop, and John Barton was, with Dr Sentamu, at the heart of a brilliant team in Birming­ham.

Of course, our “African chief” ruffled a few feathers, but who else among our bishops have imperilled their lives by challenging a dictator? One small memory is of an occasion when I was asked to see him at 7 a.m. at Bishops Croft. At 7.30, he came to the door, apologised, and said that he had been with the Chief Constable of the West Midlands Police for half an hour. Faced with complex cross-cultural situations, how many bishops would have been worth his time, I wondered.

Dr Sentamu would play on the carpet with mums and toddlers (a memory from the Springfield Project), but was equally known for his very early morning prayer rou­tine. In the sad case that gave rise to his current demotion, he is said to have responded to the victim’s plea by promising to pray. Perhaps that was the best response.

2 Birchfield
Hook, Goole
East Yorkshire DN14 5NJ

From the Rt Revd Dr Peter Selby

Sir, — When I wrote to express concern about the new group of vulnerable people being created by the way in which the Church was dealing with safeguarding (Comment, 8 October 2021), I little thought how much worse it could get.

To the concern expressed by the Ven. John Barton about the treatment of Lord Sentamu, I would add this. Rightly, the Church has been criticised for having too frequently prioritised its reputation over the well-being of those who have been abused. It is, therefore, astonishing to read a communication from the Bishop of Newcastle that is entirely devoted to her concern for the reputation of the diocese of Newcastle.

The issue of justice for Lord Sentamu, let alone any expression of pastoral care for someone who is being publicly punished and having his ministry terminated, appear not at all.

So, the reputation of the institution is once again shown to be its priority.

57 Girton Road
London SE26 5DJ

From the Revd Martin Hislop

Sir, — The Ven. John Barton is right to be concerned that retired clergy and others may be able to exercise ministry only subject to conformity to “the tone and culture” of a diocese.

An additional concern for retiring clergy is the practice followed by some bishops of withholding PTO for six months after retirement, thereby denying a priest the very essence of their calling and vocation.

St Luke’s Vicarage
4 Burton Road
Kingston upon Thames KT2 5TE

From Carolyn Roberts

Sir, — A year ago, you published a letter from me remarking on the dissonance between the Church’s attitude to safeguarding and that lived by many of us in the pews in our daily work (Letter, 15 July 2022).

Tediously, may I again draw attention to this? Last week, the Church Times brought us the news that “Smyth victims await review, five years on” (News, 11 August), while the letters page criticised the Bishop of Newcastle’s calm and measured action in the face of the former Archbishop’s intransigence on another matter.

But on page 3, however, you reported the events at Meridian Angel Primary School admirably and in some detail. This is the safeguarding context in which the rest of us work. When will the Church look to learn the laity’s lessons?

128 Bethwin Road
London SE5 OYY

From Mr John Boddy

Sir, — How nauseating to read of a parent’s reaction to her son’s glue-burning incident (News, 11 August). Clearly, as evidenced by the hospital diagnosis and subsequent treatment, this was a most trivial matter.

Clearly (and obviously due to pressure of work), the teacher was at fault for failing to report the incident to the parent and to the school. But, instead of taking the appropriate action and contacting the school for an explanation, the parent chose to blow the matter out of all proportion and resort to social media, the tabloid press, organising a petition, and the law.

What message does this send, particularly to her son? That if anyone commits a wrong, no matter how trivial and unintentional, there is no place for understanding, compassion, and tolerance? Instead, one must always go for the jugular, and humiliate the perpetrator?

Two thousand years ago, a crowd in Jerusalem shouted “crucify”. How sad that some people still believe that this is the way to behave.

24 St Peter’s Avenue
Scunthorpe DN16 3PJ

Concerns late in life — and beyond it

From Mr Stephen Barber

Sir, — Your leader of 11 August encourages us to make our wills. A good point; I am currently in the middle of updating mine. However, it is not quite true to suggest that posthumous generosity is not very onerous.

Having recently been executor for a relative who left donations to charity, I was astonished to find that carrying out her wishes was not a simple matter of sending a cheque and receiving a thank you. No, under the rules of the Charity Commission, you have to send them a copy of the will plus one of the estate accounts, which of course lists all other beneficiaries. I was also asked follow-up questions, about Capital Gains Tax as it happened.

So what may not be very onerous for the testator may be so for the executors — a point worth bearing in mind.

4 Meadow Lane, Jacobs Mill
Witney, Oxfordshire OX28 6DN

From the Revd Gabriel Anstis

Sir, — The Revd Marcus Gibbs is right to highlight the poverty of the clergy pension (Letters, 4 August). One of the reasons that the clergy pension is so poor is that it was reduced by around a third from 2011 onwards and has not been restored since. It is those young in orders who will suffer the most from this, and yet it is those older in orders who have the greatest influence to do the right thing and restore the pension to what it was. Given that it was not a large pension to begin with, this is the very least that should be done.

108 Highbury New Park
London N5 2DR

From the Revd Andrew Hunt

Sir, — For those of us for whom the state pension represents an actual increase in income over their previous earnings, I find it hard to understand comments in the letters from the Revd Marcus Gibbs and the Revd Clive Edmonds (4 August).

For instance, £12,759 plus £10,500 is described as “miserly”, and I have no idea what a private pension might look like.

In the real world, there are many people like myself, who live on little money, often quite happily.

58a Cowl Street
Shepton Mallet
Somerset BA4 5EP

Ring-fence funds to compensate abuse-survivors

From the Revd Sonia Falashi-Ray

Sir, — The rising number and potential future scale of abuse claims being made against the Church of England with the uncertainty of their outcomes which could lead to open-ended financial obligations has a similarity with the crisis/scandal which brought down the asbestos manufacturing company, Turner and Newall.

Might it be possible to ring-fence a compensation fund, so that claimants are appropriately, swiftly, and fairly compensated for the egregious damage that they have suffered?

Simultaneously, this approach could prevent ongoing claims crippling the mission of the C of E.

Such a fund could be financed through contributions from Ecclesiastical Insurance, the Church Commissioners, the perpetrators, and the dioceses; the latter, perhaps, in proportion to the number of their cases to date.

A standardised scale of compensation could be formed, thereby avoiding lengthy litigation and disproportionate payments to those with the best lawyers. Criteria could range from sexual assault of a minor all the way through to domestic abuse within clergy households. Levels of appropriate compensation could be advised by the Government’s incoming Victims’ Commissioner.

The obstruction, delays, and obfuscation which Turner and Newall perpetrated to avoid responsibility and compensation payments are embarrassingly similar to the historic behaviour of some of the Church’s hierarchy. Perhaps a ring-fenced financial instrument might enable the Church to reset its safeguarding in a timely and proportionate manner whilst restoring confidence in the Church’s processes.

27 Church Lane, Barkway
Hertfordshire SG8 8EJ

Sorry, Sinead, we didn’t recognise you as a prophet

From the Revd Jan Ashton

Sir, — May Sinead O’Connor rest in peace and rise in glory. I remember the publicity around the tearing-up of the picture of the Pope. A disgustingly profane act, was my immediate response. Then, cheap publicity, and, how dare she bad mouth my Catholic brothers and sisters.

I forgot both that prophets are truth-tellers and often use actions to enhance their words, and that God often calls not the most obvious people to declare the sins which are hidden or dismissed. And I didn’t listen to her.

I offer this prayer if, like me, you need to confess this sin:

For not listening to the victims of abuse, Lord have mercy.
For not remembering the prophets were a mixed bunch, Christ have mercy.
For not believing holy people can be abusers, Lord have mercy.

I’m sorry, Sinead, as part of God’s Church, that we didn’t listen to you.

15 Oregon Close
Bootle, Merseyside L20 7AU

Let our cakes rise up, and enjoy the fresh air

From Brenda Wolfe

Sir, — I can go into my independ­ently owned bakery where the cakes and bread are on glass shelves open to the public, and choose what I want. Even the supermarket has a variety of uncovered such items.

But the Mothers’ Union, which has been baking cakes since it began, with no ill-effects, is now subjected to ridiculous constraints and rules. All cakes must be covered until the moment of consumption. The bakers have to take a course in hygiene, which is not only laughable, but pointless, unless someone actually watches over them in the kitchen, but that may well be on its way. A church near me had to suffer the indignity of an inspector, no less, calling in to see that this was being done.

This is not safeguarding but paranoia. I would advise all Mothers’ Union branches to completely ignore the rules and call the bluff. Welcome 1984.

23 Hunters Lane
Liverpool L15 8HL

Parked cars should be rewarded, not charged

From Mr Ian Sheppard

Sir, — Surely the Winchester parking charges are all back to front (News, 11 August)?

If a vehicle is parked for a long time, it is not emitting anything, so its owner is being a responsible citizen and should be charged less accordingly. Those who come and go at short intervals are the serious serial polluters and perhaps should suffer accordingly?

5 Drumblane Strand
Kirkcudbright DG6 4EX

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