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Letters to the Editor

19 May 2023


Debate on the Illegal Migration Bill

From Mr Michael Cavaghan-Pack

Sir, — The application of Christian principles to specific cases presents great challenges. It is far from clear that the Archbishop of Canterbury, in his recent speech to the House of Lords (News 12 May), recognises this or, if he does, is prepared to grapple with the difficulties.

For example, how should the principles of love, compassion, and forgiveness, which have application in the area of personal relationships, be translated into a law binding on all? And how are competing claims to be adjudicated, when to benefit one group is to disadvantage another?

The Archbishop seems more comfortable with principle and with larger issues than with addressing the problem of stemming the arrival of huge numbers of asylum-seekers in Dover. Talking grandly of conflict management and tackling the reasons for migration may add weight to his presentation, but none to his argument; for both are beyond our control.

It is difficult not to conclude that the issue for the Archbishop is not the alleviation of the social pressures created by the scale of the migration, or eliminating the risk to life, or destroying the business model of the traffickers, but simply that those arriving be treated with respect and their cases be settled as speedily as possible.

These are laudable aims, but the issue whether migration on the current scale is acceptable remains; and, even if the adjudication of cases were speeded up by the recruitment and training of additional immigration officers, in itself a challenge, the problem of repatriating those whose claims did not succeed would persist.

In the end, the questions remain whether migration on the current scale is acceptable and whether it should be discouraged. The Archbishop seems not to be facing up to this, and, in so far as he recognises the issue, he offers criticisms that are largely irrelevant to its resolution. A little more clarity on what he exactly believes rather than mere moral indignation would be welcome.

The Manor House, Thurloxton
Taunton, Somerset TA2 8RH

From the Revd David Wood-Robinson

Sir, — The recent debate in the Lords and the long struggle in the Commons to deal with the enormous pressure of people wanting to live in the UK seems to assume only two categories of such people: asylum-seekers and economic migrants.

Surely, there is a third, even larger, group: those whose countries have become uninhabitable through global warming, civil war, and a host of other causes, although admittedly many would find the traffickers’ fees unaffordable.

The sheer numbers of such people are surely impossible for us to accomodate, seeing that we are already finding it difficult to feed, shelter, and heal our own population.

We rightly feel it our Christian duty to “welcome the stranger”, but this is a global problem and needs to be tackled as such.

16 Pound Meadow
Ledbury HR8 2EU

Living in Love and Faith: principle and process

From Prebendary Desmond Tillyer

Sir, — I read with interest the letter from the Revd Paul Burr (12 May). I agree wholeheartedly with his first three paragraphs, but, sadly, the last one is inaccurate.

The theological justification for Living in Love and Faith (LLF) lies in the experience of the Church and its decisions to put into practice what St Paul in Ephesians and the Letter to the Hebrews both state categorically: that faith in the victory of Jesus over sin and death means the end of the Jewish Law.

The Church in the first century abolished the need for circumcision so that the Gentiles could be admitted to faith in Jesus simply through baptism. Also, the holy day was changed from Saturday to Sunday; the food laws were abolished; the animal sacrifices were abolished in favour of the eucharist; and all distinctions between persons — neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, etc. — such as Judaism required were abolished.

What is a achieved is a new theological understanding of who we are through the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Christ.

And the revolutionary changes that the Church achieved in the first century were the model for further changes later on in history. For example, it took emerging capitalism to make the Church realise that there needed to be a way of practising usury by the invention of banks, run by Christians, so that society could benefit by this change, which also undermined the anti-Semitism of late-medieval Europe, when the lending of money on interest was exclusively a Jewish profession, which caused racial hatred.

Similarly, in the 19th century, the Church changed its mind about the issue of slavery, despite scriptural acceptance of it in both the Old and New Testaments, and moved to eliminate it. As times change, and society sees new evils in its midst and seeks to remove them, so, too, does the Church.

A fourth example in the 20th century is contraception, now widely practised, either officially or unofficially, despite Old Testament condemnation.

LLF is simply the Church in this land attempting to catch up theologically on the elimination of an injustice towards a minority in society, which it had previously supported.

3 Millennium House
132 Grosvenor Road
London SW1V 3JY

From the Revd Marcus Green

Sir, — Many thanks for publishing the names of the bishops who will be leading the process of blessing same-sex couples forward through the General Synod, along with those who will be advising them (News, 5 May).

I was surprised to read of the inclusion of five of the 14 bishops who signed the late-January (pre-Synod) paper arguing that anyone who disagreed with their conservative stance was a secularist; and the further inclusion of five of the members of the Church of England Evangelical Council (several of them familiar from many video appearances), while the name of the most prominently outspoken (and cogently theological) bishop on the affirming side, the Bishop of Oxford, is nowhere to be found.

From where I sit, his omission is somewhere between extraordinary and inexcusable.

Worcester College
Oxford OX1 2HB

‘In the grey’ and being aware of mental health

From Canon Zoë King

Sir, — It is the beginning of Mental Health Awareness Week and there will be many social-media references to this as well as op-eds and articles. Politicians will make statements, and many words will be spoken.

I have been ordained priest 16 years. In that time, I have found myself in the darkest of spaces, and twice have been diagnosed with depression or anxiety and ended up taking medication; initially, I was embarrassed and kept it hidden, as if somehow I had failed. After all, I have a calling and a relationship with God: how could I speak out of the sheer overwhelming nature of ministry at times?

It is important to speak of these things in the open; so here is what ministry is for me right now and, I fear, for most of my colleagues. Up to the beginning of the first lockdown, I had officiated at five funerals at which the person had chosen to end their life. Since lockdown, I have done more than double that, as well as funerals where there is now a new insidious “Oh, they found lockdown hard,” which hints that alcohol or other mind-altering substances had an impact. The impact of lockdowns will take far longer to understand fully; and now a cost-of-living crisis is adding exponentially to people’s pain.

This is where we find ministry much of our time: “in the grey”, as I refer to it, helping people in their pain, and endeavouring to show the love of God in the darkest spaces that people find themselves in. There comes a price with this type of ministry, a bone-aching weariness that, while we celebrate the love of God, there is a hidden toll. While we always strive to move forward, wanting to embrace new ideas, mission, and doing all that we can for the Kingdom, many of us, I am afraid, are also needing refreshment and care along the way.

I still love what I do and believe strongly in my vocation; but somewhere there needs to be more understanding of how ministry in the grey can exhaust, and, in this Mental Health Awareness Week, a consideration of all who are trying to spread the love of God while upholding those who feel far from it.

3 Park Road
Barry CF62 6NU

It is time for the Lords Spiritual to dress down

From Mr Alex Fryatt

Sir, — The Archbishop of Canterbury has touched royalty and commoners around the world with the part that he played in the Coronation. He has also touched nerves, necessarily and eloquently, with his widely publicised speech on illegal migration.

In the Abbey, the vestments speak volumes. In the House of Lords, the antiquated rochet and chimere are, at best, an unnecessary detraction from the contemporary relevance of his message. Everyone else in the chamber appears to be wearing a suit; so why do the Bishops make themselves the target of ridicule?

Wearing a purple shirt with a suit will not stop some people calling for the Bishops’ privileged position to be abolished, but it will make the Lords Spiritual appear more relevant and rooted in reality.

Address supplied (Amesbury)

C. S. Lewis marriage
would be illegal now

From the Ven. Paddy Benson

Sir, — I read with gratitude Professor Philip Graham’s moving article about C. S. Lewis’s grief after his wife’s death (Faith, 12 May).

It is interesting to recall that, had Lewis’s marriage to Joy Davidman happened today, Lewis would have been liable to 14 years’ imprisonment.

26 West Park Drive
Leeds LS16 5BL

Rarity of personation

From Mr Michael Robinson

Sir, — I do not think that Bob Timmis (Letters, 12 May) need worry much about being able to vote twice, without photo ID, after having received two polling cards in error. Assuming, of course, that he were not recognised on his second visit to the polling station, his one extra fraudulent vote would be very unlikely to affect the result. Apparently, there were only seven cases of alleged personation in polling stations recorded by police forces in 2022.

36 Trevelyan Way
Berkhamsted HP4 1JH

Diary’s Anglican virtues

From Mr Robin Baird-Smith

Sir, — I am a Roman Catholic, but also a devoted and loyal reader of the Church Times. I look forward to its arrival each week.

I am writing in praise and gratitude for the Revd John Wall’s Diary column (12 May). This piece of writing has all the qualities that I appreciate in your paper. It is wise, and laced with self-deprecating humour. I don’t find these qualities in many, if any other, religious papers. And it is so very Anglican!

Editorial Director
Bloomsbury Continuum
50 Bedford Square

London WC1B 3DP

Visitors travel from US to Ely to view Coronation

From the Revd Geoff Dodgson

Sir, — I would hate your readers to think that the gathering in St Bartholomew the Great, Smithfield (News, 12 May), to view the Coronation was an exception. In Ely Cathedral, where I was on duty as a day chaplain, a crowd of around 1000 gathered to view the event and share in the joyous feeling.

Particularly surprising was meeting three couples, from Ohio, Wisconsin, and Brooklyn, who had flown from the United States to view the event in Ely.

Lavenders, Cootes Lane
Fen Drayton, Cambridge CB24 4SL

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