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Letters to the Editor

20 January 2023


Commissioners’ £100m fund

From Mrs Lesley Edwards

Sir, — I write as a vicar’s wife of 27 years in response to the the Church of England’s decision to set aside £100 million to address its past connections to slavery (News, 13 January). I write to say how absolutely sickened I am by this announcement.

The Church is made up of many faithful parish priests. My husband is one of them. For a number of years, he had dual ministry as parish priest and police chaplain. Unknown to him, as it was never explained to him, the police made up half his stipend.

He was made redundant as a police chaplain in 2012. The loss of income and entitlement to a full pension and other clergy benefits disappeared overnight. I and his churches campaigned on his behalf for years to have his status returned to full-time priest in the parish, as it always had been before his appointment in 2008.

We even wrote to the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd Justin Welby, chairman of the Church Commissioners; but our appeal fell on deaf ears. Each time the issue has been raised, we have been told that my husband’s stipend cannot be returned to full, as there is no money in the kitty, and the Church of England is struggling to pay the clergy and keep churches open.

Imagine how I feel, as a wife of a vicar whose stipend and pension were reduced by a half 11 years ago, on hearing the news that suddenly, out of nowhere, the Church of England has found £100 million to address its past connection with slavery.

The sum of £100 million is a great deal of money. We keep hearing that there is no money left. Meanwhile, my hard-working husband continues to work full-time on half pay, faithful to his vocation to be a priest, while the diocese and the Church of England as a whole continue to say that there is simply no money to raise his stipend and pension back to full.

I find it hypocritical in the light of their decision to announce the £100 million to be set aside to address their past connection with slavery.

2 East Acres, Dinningtion
Newcastle upon Tyne NE13 7NA

From Dr Phillip Rice

Sir, — The announcement of an impact investment fund worth £100 million drawn from the Church Commissioners’ own central funds and designed to mitigate their connections with historic profits accrued from the slave trade since the 18th century is finally timely. Its purpose is profound in seeking to address some of the past wrongs. This looks like a “World, take note” initiative at many levels: structured grants to redress past wrongs are a remarkable move as a result of the “conscience of the C of E”.

As a professional economist, I turned to the fund mechanism by which this is to be achieved. I find it to appear disappointingly slow and weak in its central thesis of effectively adopting trickle-down economic gains to the poorest (Dr Walker foresees benefits for West Africa and the West Indies) from the classic investment model. The fund professionals and leaders within the Church Commissioners have performed strongly in their investment choices and decisions over the past decade and built capital reserves to distribute across the C of E. But, for the task of redressing past wrongs, there is, I believe, a strong case for a consumption-based approach to help the poorest communities.

You can operate in public policy plans with an investment model or a consumption model. The former is by grants made from profits (actual investment decisions made by fund managers); the latter is by consumption more closely aligned to grants and micro finance (where expertise is drawn from the global South). The consumption model needs to be considered, working to spend the allocated money from mitigation to build trade by supplying seed corn for matters of months, not years. Current consumption is set in a one-year framework — including paying annual school fees for primary classes. My thesis is that the choice is between slow-acting investment gains or boosting the community economies at the level of current consumption.

In part, my concerns may be met within the Church Commissioners’ proposal for a new body that will be formed to help to oversee the fund, its members drawn largely from the global South. This membership may well bring in a bias to the consumption approach, and bring other insights to the legacy issues. But, at some stage, there will need to be a balance drawn between the timescale of waiting for disbursements from the profits of the investment portfolio and the benefits of grants boosting current consumption, in West Africa and the West Indies, to make good now what is promised.

There is much riding on timescales now, after two centuries or so to wait; the impetus is with the bold plan of the Church Commissioners.

Let us press for speedy choices on how soon the mitigation of the consequences of slavery is implemented.

23 Christchurch Square
London E9 7HU

Living in Love and Faith and its possible outcome

From the Revd Dr Ian Paul

Sir, — I agree entirely with Jayne Ozanne when she says that “the years and money invested in Living in Love and Faith have been in vain” (Letters, 13 January).

First, in recent weeks, we have heard bishops claim: that sexuality is genetically determined; that if a desire is experienced as given it must be moral to act on it; that the Church cannot engage with a culture that has a different moral outlook; that St Paul did not think what we did with our bodies mattered; and that, if Jesus didn’t address our specific questions, then his teaching on marriage cannot help us.

This demonstrates rather starkly that, in some parts of the Church at least, addressing the ignorance around marriage, sexuality, scripture, and culture has barely begun.

Second, if Ms Ozanne, after all this time, believes that those who continue to uphold the doctrine of the C of E, which is also the understanding of the Church Catholic, are “hermetically sealed” and “cannot be allowed to continue”, then attempts at mutual understanding and respect have also failed.

I hope and pray that, in coming weeks, we can draw a line under this fruitless discussion, and begin in earnest with teaching and sharing the good news of the Christian understanding of marriage which is our inheritance.

Member of the Archbishops’ Council
102 Cator Lane, Chilwell
Nottingham NG9 4BB

From the Revd George Day

Sir, — I am not surprised that Ed Shaw’s article (Comment, 6 January) provoked a strong response from Jayne Ozanne. May I suggest that what we now need is to find some acceptable way forward, and this requires that those on both sides of the debate accept that, in the end, we all want to know and to do the will of God, even though we disagree on what that will is in regard to same-sex relationships.

If we do this, then perhaps some sort of compromise can be worked out that enables us to hold together. But, for that to happen, the conservative side need to stop claiming that they and they alone are biblical. They hold a biblical position, but it is not the only one possible. Equally, they need to cease implying that those who hold to, or act on, a different view need to repent of their sin.

Sadly, at the moment, such claims appear all too often from the conservative side, but this approach is far more like that of the Pharisees and teachers of the law than that of Jesus. It would be good, then, if there were far fewer such claims, and instead a mutually respectful willingness to work together to find the way forward.

5 Abbey Grange Close
Buckfast, Devon TQ11 0EU

From the Revd Jonathan Frais

Sir, — Jayne Ozanne calls the teaching of Ed Shaw a “significant safeguarding risk”. Yet, his teaching is the historic and current teaching of the C of E. Should action be brought against him, I request that it be brought against me, too; for I teach the same things.

11 Coverdale Avenue
Bexhill-on-Sea TN39 4TY

From Mr John Quenby

Sir, — The Revd Paul Burr (Letters, 6 January) rightly questions the Living in Love and Faith (LLF) discernment process. Even the published detailed analysis of the responses contains negligible statistical information.

All I can gather is that, out of 65 churches studying LLF, there was a tendency to ask for change in practice, while, out of 22 churches that replied without obvious detailed study, there was a massive demand for no change. Of 38 individual replies where there was no engagement with LLF, “change” or “no change” had about equal weight. From 114 individual replies from persons who studied LLF, there was a slight majority favouring no change.

This lack of specific information would seem to be related to the design of the questionnaire.

Fortunately, the survey conducted in 2022 by the Ozanne Foundation tells us something useful. The result that 55 per cent of the Church of England believe in same-sex marriage refers to a statistical sample including both regular and non-regular church-goers. Clearly, the result is biased towards the “irregulars”.

What the result emphasises is the difficulties that the Church faces if it continues with no change. It also tells the Synod that to know what the “regulars” think, a random sample of electoral-roll members needs to be conducted, which will encourage un-biased response without fear of comeback, and will ask for a straight answer, yes or no.

72 Pilgrims Way East
Otford, Kent TN14 5SJ

rogressive education

From Deborah Colvin

Sir, — When I read the review (Books, 23 December) by the Dean of Llandaff, the Very Revd Richard Peers, of Inequality and Flourishing by the Revd Dr Mariama Ifode-Blease, I wondered whether we had read the same book.

Like Dean Peers, I have more than 30 years’ experience of schools and education, mostly in London. The progressive educational ideas of the 1970s which he so derides have, thankfully, left a thread of creativity for educators in subsequent decades to follow. This thread can be traced through aspects of curriculum reform in the 1990s and early 2000s, in initiatives such as All our Futures (Creativity, Culture and Education) and Creative Partnerships.

And then the dead hand of control of the Gove years and beyond descended, with its narrowing of curriculum, obsessive testing, and erasure of difference in the name of rigid outcomes. Fortunately, Dr Ifode-Blease and other courageous souls are pushing back and have picked up the progressive baton for a new generation.

I wonder what Dean Peers counts as theology, and who this God is whom he puts at the centre of an education system based on command and control. In contrast, Dr Ifode-Blease offers us scriptural reflection alongside carefully researched historical context and verbatim truth-telling by those in the thick of it. For those who care to look, think, and feel, what emerges is a theology of educational liberation.

For readers who clicked through to Katharine Birbalsingh online as a result of the review, and may be thinking that assimilation, good behaviour, and preparation of economic fodder are the best that our schools have to offer, please do also look at the work of Dr Debra Kidd on pedagogical activism and curriculum reform, alongside Dr Ifode-Blease’s book. These proudly child-centred educators are working to build a future based in celebration of the riotously diverse potential of every learner.

3 Nelson Gardens
London E2 7AA

Confusion of agendas

From the Revd Martin Jewitt

Sir, — The Revd David Haslam has rightly drawn attention to the injustices perpetrated against the Palestinian people (Letters, 13 January). On the same page, Ol Rappaport has rightly warned against the anti-Semitic stereotyping of all Jewish people as supporting Israeli action against Palestinians.

These two agendas get confused with each other. I hear a deafening silence on the part of politicians over the plight of Palestinians, for fear, I suspect, of suffering the media accusations of anti-Semitism which Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party experienced.

Yes, anti-Semitism should be recognised as an example of racism, and opposition to atrocities against Palestinians should be called out more loudly, making clear that it is not about Jewish people, but about Israeli political and military actions.

12 Abbott Road
Folkestone CT20 1NG

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