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Letters to the Editor

29 September 2023


C of E help with Child Trust Funds

From Mr Gavin Oldham

Sir, — Your report on the Children’s Society survey (News, 22 September), showing that almost half of all respondents aged between ten and 17 were either “very” or “quite” worried about money issues, demonstrates that the Church could do much more to help disadvantaged young people to find their Child Trust Funds.

More than 845,000 young adults aged 18-20, mainly from low-income households, have unclaimed accounts in their own name worth a total of £1.6 billion because they don’t know anything about them. Almost all teenagers born in the UK have these accounts, but because so many were opened for them by HMRC (28 per cent) as their family had not taken action by their first birthday, they are unaware of their good fortune.

Anyone aged 16 and born in the United Kingdom from 1 September 2002 can take control of their account, and at 18 they can withdraw their funds, which could be worth up to £2000 or more. The Share Foundation, a registered charity that has already helped 37,000 young people to find their accounts, runs a free search facility findCTF.sharefound.org: young people just need their National Insurance number (sent to them after their 16th birthday) to find theirs.

Please ask all parishes to help with this: they should visit www.sharefound.org/talkCTF or www.CTFAmbassadors.org.uk/young-adults to find out more.

Ashfield House
St Leonards, Tring
Hertfordshire HP23 6NP

Need for a VAT scheme for unlisted churches

From Mr Eddie Tulasiewicz

Sir, — Introduced in 2001, the Listed Places of Worship Grants scheme allows Listed churches to reclaim the VAT on church repairs. Without this, repair costs would be inflated by 20 per cent. Each year, more than £20 million is paid back to churches through this scheme, which is guaranteed until 2025, and which is of great benefit to Listed churches.

Unlisted churches, however, which often serve areas of deprivation and find it harder to raise funds for repairs, are excluded.

When the scheme was introduced by Chancellor Gordon Brown in 2001, he noted: “in both urban and rural areas, our churches are essential features of our community life and are at the heart of our rich heritage as a nation.”

The current scheme is certainly doing its bit to help to protect and save heritage. But, with recent evidence from Manchester showing that unlisted churches are at more risk of closure, is it not time that consideration was given to extending the VAT reclaim scheme to all places of worship, so that more can be done to help look after church buildings, regardless of their heritage value?

Head of Policy and Public Affairs
The National Churches Trust
7 Tufton Street
London SW1P 3QB

Middle East lecture and use of word ‘apartheid’

From the Revd Dr Peter Liddell

Sir, — The letters of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s adviser the Revd Dr Richard Sudworth and Dr Jonathan Chaplin (22 September) are to be taken together.

It is not surprising that the Archbishop’s adviser feels the need to defend the Archbishop’s stance. In doing so, he shows the same distance from daily reality. “Yes, there is much in the aggression of settlement growth and in the punitive treatment of Palestinians at border crossings.” Is that it, then? What about the deliberate contamination of a village well; untreated settlement sewage flowing on to olive groves; attacks on village school buildings, teachers, parents, and children; wanton destruction of educational projects; nightly burning of olive groves; assaults on farmers and my friends accompanying them, who were chased and injured; families bereaved; children imprisoned?

Dr Sudworth asserts that “apartheid” is the central concern of the previous week’s correspondents. Jonathan Coulter does not mention it. Dr Sudworth ignores Daniel Munayer, who said that settlers live under civil and Palestinians under military rule.

“Advocacy groups”: this description downgrades. Protests are personally courageous and given with total commitment of heart, mind and body.

“Reconciliation”: the Archbishop’s grand vision of an end in time may be a theological and missionary necessity, but it cuts no ice with those who don’t know what he is talking about and some who do. It lulls the faithful into believing that someone is looking after things, and that everything will be all right.

In answer to a question, the Archbishop said, almost as an aside, but spoken with steel and finality, that things would change only when people got tired of killing, as happened at the British withdrawal from Palestine and India. The inevitable conclusion is that we are all not yet tired of the killing and thereby complicit in it.

Dr Chaplin draws attention to the widespread indifference and bewilderment felt towards the Church and its apparent lack of interest in reconfigure itself, and its ability to do so. He points to the conviction that we shall find new friends along the way. If we lose some, which is not inevitable, in what way were they friends?

25 St Marys Court
Ottway Walk
Welwyn AL6 9AU

From Dr Jim Sikorski

Sir, — The Revd Dr Richard Sudworth is concerned that it is necessary to avoid using the word “apartheid” in reference to the current situation in Israel/Palestine, to avoid losing potential partners in the struggle against injustice and the search for reconciliation.

One vital element in the process of achieving peace and justice for all is the recognition of the truth as it exists on the ground today. If we listen to the voice of the most extensive Palestinian Christian ecumenical movement (A Dossier on Israeli Apartheid: A pressing call to churches around the world, Kairos Palestine and Global Kairos for Justice, 2022), we are reminded that truth matters, and it matters most when it is named.

They point out that partners will be lost: “We can expect that taking a prophetic stance will be disruptive to the dynamic of traditional dialogues.” We are, however, called to trust that new partnerships will develop and that “former partners may be fruitfully challenged.”

To use the word “apartheid” is not, as Dr Sudworth suggests, “to corral language”, but to be concerned with the people who are corralled and oppressed by the current regime. Apartheid is a crime against humanity.

The Churches in this country are being challenged by our Palestinian sisters and brothers to respond in creative non-violent ways. “We ask our sister Churches not to offer a theological cover-up for the injustice we suffer, for the sin imposed upon us. Our question to our brothers and sisters in the Churches today is: Are you able to help us get our freedom back?”

30 Cator Road
London SE26 5DS

Governing Body address by Archbishop of Wales

From Dr Nicholas Mason

Sir, — The recent address by the Archbishop of Wales to the Governing Body of the Church in Wales (News, 8 September) highlights many of the reasons for the continuing decline of the Anglican Church in Britain and, in particular, here in Wales. The Archbishop’s address warrants a comprehensive response, but three key issues stand out:

1. The use of incomprehensible managerial language that masks the adoption of worldly standards. The Archbishop talks of introducing healthy competition, and increasingly, among episcopal statements, the health of the Church appears to be judged not by how faithfully it follows Christ, but by its success in numerical growth.

2. A preoccupation with peripheral matters, however important, in the desire to be taken seriously by the world, but at the cost of teaching the orthodox faith of the Church and deepening its life of prayer.

3. The cognitive dissonance that characterises so many episcopal statements. The claim by the Archbishop that the work of the Church in Wales is well regarded, understood, and appreciated stands in stark contrast to the experience of those of us who live and work in the secular world, where the Church is seen as wholly irrelevant and our Christian faith — or, rather, an ignorant interpretation of what our society thinks that it means to be Christian — is subjected to increasingly hostile ridicule.

Nowhere, however, is this cognitive dissonance more apparent than to claim that there is a commitment to listening and learning, when those of us who have sought to raise serious concerns about the conduct of affairs in the Church in Wales have met with denial, obfuscation, and a blunt refusal to engage in discussion.

Until our bishops place the teaching of the orthodox Christian faith at the heart of all that they do, and until they recognise that the root of church decline lies with them and their insistence on remaking the Church in the image of the world, the Anglican Church will continue to wither on the vine.

15 Kyveilog Street
Cardiff CF11 9JA

Revive link between bank holidays and holy days

From Mr Garry Humphreys

Sir, — Referring to your leader comment (25 August) about the connections between our national public holidays and religious festivals, I have long wished that the Government would restore the traditional holidays, such as Whit Monday (instead of the meaningless Spring Bank Holiday, and on the correct date), and therefore remind the public — whether believers or not — that this is how and why we have these days, and at a particular time. They are part of our heritage and traditions which should be understood, valued, and preserved, as they are in Europe.

And, if Scotland and Northern Ireland have a public holiday in honour of their patron saints, why should Wales be denied the same opportunity?

9B Church Street
Woodbridge IP12 1DS

Bishops and curates

From Canon Andrew Warner

Sir, — When things go wrong, there are always lessons to be learned, and never more so than after the recent departure from Winchester of Bishop Tim Dakin, and the circumstances of it. I was surprised, therefore, that one of the most important lessons to be learned had no mention either in your original article (News, 8 September) or in the letters (15 and 22 September). I refer to the need for a bishop to have had the experience of being a parish priest before becoming the father-in-God to so many others.

Meanwhile, our part, clearly, is to continue to pray for Bishop Dakin and his wife, Sally, in the situation in which they now find themselves.

5 Pearman Drive
Hampshire SP10 2SB

Hedgehog house

From the Revd Laura Garnham

Sir, — The article “Things brought into the light” (Features, 22 Sep­tember), about The Hedgehog Diaries by Sarah Sands, brought to mind a recent vigil held in our church — prayer for Creation and the envir­onment.

After 12 hours of prayer and re­­flection, at 10 p.m., as we were saying compline, a large hedgehog wandered into church, up the aisle, to join us in our closing worship.

Address supplied (Wrabness, Manningtree, Essex)

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