The C of E needs a Youth Synod
From Maddey Watson
Sir, — I wrote a letter (19 August 2022) out of anger and frustration, with a worry for the future of young people in the Church of England. Now, I am writing another one. But this one is filled with hope.
When I wrote my previous letter, I did not expect it to receive the response that it did. Following it, I have had numerous conversations about it, and questions on how provision for young people in the C of E can be improved. A chance meeting at Greenbelt led to the coming together of a small working party to decide on what we can do ourselves to create change.
If the Church of England is serious about wanting to grow “younger and more diverse” (as mentioned in the Vision and Strategy for the Church of England in the 2020s), it must listen to the voices of young people and young adults already in our church communities and engage them in decision-making and strategy. But how are young people encouraged to do this at the present time? If you do not involve people at the lowest ends of decision-making, how will they work themselves up the chain to make decisions at national level?
Once again, in other Christian denominations, young people are actively involved in decision-making processes; so why aren’t the youth in the Church of England? Even when the Church of England Youth Council was still running, and young people were “represented”, representatives could not vote or help to make decisions for their own future.
I, with some other former members of the Council, therefore helped some General Synod members to develop a private member’s motion. The motion seeks to include and involve young adults in the key decision-making bodies of the Church of England: diocesan synods, the General Synod, and the Archbishops’ Council. It also calls for the establishment of a Youth Synod, to give more young people a safe space to engage in the synodical structures and motions and debates that are considered at the General Synod.
Finally, the motion calls for structures to ensure that the engagement with young adults is adequately supported, through the appointment of a part-time post with responsibility for democratic engagement with young adults and with a sufficient budget. Our motion will ensure a consistent voice of young adults which will hold the Church of England to account.
I am filled with hope that we can make change. It should not have taken a young adult to get the ball rolling out of fear and frustration. But at least something may now happen. “Do not let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity” (1 Timothy 4.12).
43 Wilmington Close
Watford WD18 0AF
Unimpressed by church disinvestment lobby
From Mr Luke Appleton
Sir, — As a member of the General Synod, I have had several well-intended but misguided letters from those who wish me to lobby the Church Commissioners to disinvest from oil companies. I happen to share their concern about the damage that human greed has inflicted on the land and environment of which we have been called to be custodians.
Achieving this is, however, not simply a matter of reducing emissions. Remember, it is net zero, not carbon zero. I have read with interest in the Financial Times that the Church’s investment bodies have been applauded for helping to force the oil majors to honour their commitments. They were instrumental in forcing a historic change at Exxon Mobil, which now has a commitment to reducing emissions. Our Church Commissioners are making real change at an international level. Is that worth walking away from?
Clearly, demand for fossil fuels is still rampant. Reducing the supply of fuel for heating and electricity will harm the poorest and most vulnerable in society. Disinvestment is not the answer. Rather, we could be pushing carbon capture, both by those we invest in, but also by using the fruits of our investment to invest in natural forms of carbon capture, such as reforestation efforts and even smaller-scale nature-based projects across our vast parish portfolio.
St James wrote that faith without works was dead. So, let us be pragmatic and use the influence and financial rewards that it brings to make a real difference to our green and pleasant land.
General Synod member for Exeter diocese
48 Cecil Road
From the Revd David Keighley
Sir, — A former archbishop and 223 members of the clergy request that the Pensions Board disinvest from fossil-fuel companies (News, 16 June). How many, I ask, of the 223 are retired clergy? Can the Pensions Board guarantee that alternative investments will be able to maintain our already inadequate pensions, or is this to be a reduction on behalf of that sacred cow the climate-change crisis?
Drokensford, Chapel Road
Hampshire SO32 3NJ
Tudor tapestry raises wider question of returns
From Miss Rosina Bartlett
Sir, — Although I was delighted to hear about a campaign, supported by the Bishop of Durham, to return this Tudor tapestry to the UK (News, 16 June), I could not help but feel that it is a tad hypocritical.
I, for one, am all in favour of bringing priceless artefacts into spaces where they can be viewed by the public. Indeed, as a 22-year-old, I do not remember a time when museums charged entry fees. Throughout my life, I have been able to enjoy the more hands-on experience of history which museums offer, all without paying a penny, and it is vital that people from all economic backgrounds have access to historical artefacts. Ordinary people should have access to the artefacts that originate from their region, as Saint Paul Directing the Burning of the Heathen Books is to England.
Nevertheless, it is important to remember that historical artefacts that are not native to the UK can be found in London museums. To me, it is nonsensical that we should demand the return of a magnificent Tudor tapestry to England, while the local people of Agra, Athens, and Amhara are unable to view the Koh-i-Noor diamond, the Parthenon marbles, and the Maqdala Manuscripts, respectively.
If we are to support the ongoing campaign to restore a priceless English artefact, which, I believe, we should, it is paramount that we should also lobby our Government to return the world’s treasures that we stole during the colonial era — for the sake of avoiding hypocrisy, if nothing else.
39 Joyces Road
Stanford in the Vale
Faringdon, Oxfordshire SN7 8HT
Back to ‘Presbies and Piskies’ on ministry issue?
From the Revd Professor Ian Bradley
Sir, — I am puzzled and saddened by the statement apparently made during the Scottish Episcopal Church’s General Synod debate on inter-Church relations by the Bishop of Argyll & The Isles, Dr Keith Riglin, of whose doctoral thesis on the polity of the United Reformed Church I was the external examiner some years ago (News, 16 June).
He is reported as saying: “I simply do not believe that the eucharist should be used as a means for unity, when it is, in fact, an expression of unity.” I am baffled by what this means and distressed about its seeming anti-ecumenical tone.
Over the years I, a Church of Scotland minister, have concelebrated the eucharist with Episcopalian priests and have, indeed, on occasions been invited to celebrate single-handedly in Episcopal churches.
I am also aware of several occasions when priests from the Scottish Episcopal Church have been warmly invited and welcomed to celebrate communion in Church of Scotland churches. I thought that we were long past the stage of worrying about intercommunion in our two Churches, and that it was effectively now established and essentially confirmed by the Saint Andrew Declaration.
The opposition shown by the Bishop suggests that I am wrong, and that we are still back in the dark ages of Presbies v. Piskies. How sad!
Emeritus Professor of Cultural and Spiritual History, University of St Andrews
4 Donaldson Gardens, St Andrews
Fife KY16 9DN
Ecumenical concern over cut to BBC faith output
From the Bishop and the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Liverpool
Sir, — We write with concern regarding the BBC’s proposals to drastically cut their local radio faith output. The proposals will threaten the very essence of how faith communities interact with their local communities. But more than that, we know that the local radio faith programming is a vital way many committed Christians can remain connected to their church community.
So as a church community and faith community we must not let this happen and keep local programming so local people can be sustained in their faith in every community in the country.
c/o St James House
20 St James Road, Liverpool L1 7BY
Cost of living for the clergy — and everyone else
From the Revd Dr Simon Stocks
Sir, — The Revd Sam Maginnis (Comment, 16 June) implies, without quite saying so explicitly, that clergy remuneration is inadequate. He is not the first to do so.
The Central Stipends Authority report for 2022 valued clergy remuneration for 2022/23 (at the national benchmark stipend level plus housing) as £48,770. This is possibly conservative, being based on adopting the lower of two alternative calculations of the value of housing.
For comparison, the Office for National Statistics reports that, in April 2023, the average weekly total earnings for individuals were estimated at £648, equating to just under £34,000 per year (“Average weekly earnings in Great Britain: June 2023”, ons.gov.uk). Median earnings are likely to be less than that, owing to the influence of a small number of very high earners. The figures are not directly comparable, but the difference is pronounced.
I recognise that some clergy find themselves in genuinely challenging circumstances. Equally, I wonder what are the pastoral implications of clergy generally suggesting that an income level considerably higher than the majority of the population’s is “inadequate”, particularly when the same population is expected to fund the institution that the clergy represent.
316 Coulsdon Road
Coulsdon CR5 1EB
Waddow Hall could house asylum-seekers
From the Revd Christopher Wood
Sir, — In my parish lies Waddow Hall, one of the residential properties belonging to the Girl Guide movement. The Guiding movement have recently announced their intention to sell off their residential property portfolio. While our diocese and many others who make use of Waddow Hall will be disappointed, is this not an ideal opportunity? Should not the Girl Guides and HM Government get together to solve the pressing problem of asylum-seeker accommodation? It would appear to be a good match, as well as a gospel-based solution.
The Vicarage, Slaidburn Road
Waddington, Lancs BB7 3JQ