Social care: the money is there
From Canon John Nightingale
Sir, — The Archbishops’ Report on Social Care (News, 27 January) is much to be welcomed. However, your news report, your editorial, and even the report itself only hint at the elephant in the room. That is, of course, the question: from where are the resources to come? Your editorial states that “economic growth would improve the UK economy”. That may be true, but there is a great deal of money in the UK economy already, but in the wrong places.
A recent Oxfam report showed that, at an international level, 63 per cent of the new wealth created during the pandemic went to the top one per cent. There would no doubt be a similar story within the UK economy. The report rightly elevates the principles of mutuality and interdependence. This finds its practical expression in the kind of tax system we have: it is deeply unfair.
Church leaders seem to shy away from being specific in this area, although the Archbishop of Canterbury has spoken out in strong terms about tax dodging. There is plenty of research now available from those active in the field of tax justice.
What has clearly been essential to tackle both inequality and the decline of public services (since the French economist Thomas Piketty published his work on the global economy) is some form of wealth tax. Otherwise, the wealthy will continue to get richer by the day. The number of UK billionaires went up by 20 per cent during the pandemic, and, in 2022, the combined fortunes of the world’s billionaires increased by $2.7 billion a day. There is the money to pay for social care, and other public services, in the UK and elsewhere.
Tax Justice UK calculates that, in the UK, equalising capital-gains tax with income tax would raise £14 billion a year; applying National Insurance to unearned income £8.6 billion a year; taxing wealth of more than £10 million at one per cent would raise £10 billion; ending “non-dom” tax relief £3.2 billion; and cutting inheritance-tax loopholes £1.4 billion. Not all at once maybe, but let us not forget the tax rate on the highest incomes in the late 1940s was 98 per cent, and economic growth continued.
The World Council of Churches has issued a call for a “Zacchaeus Tax”. It was when Jesus came on the scene that wealthy Zacchaeus realised his greed and selfishness, and decided to share. Jesus said: “Salvation has come to this house today.” Don’t we owe it to the rich to introduce a system which will assist them towards salvation?
Let’s stop hinting at the elephant, and begin to colour him in.
Church Action for Tax Justice (West Midlands)
19 Berberry Close
Birmingham B30 1TB
Same-sex relationships: sacraments, the state, practice, and a bit of history
From Mr Roger McFarland
Sir, — The Bishops’ proposals for (only) blessing same-sex marriages in church would have one simple outcome. Clergy and churches who oppose equal marriage would be able to act in accordance with their faith and their conscience: clergy and churches who believe they should offer Christian marriage to LGBTQ+ couples would not.
You reported last week (News, 27 January) that the Archbishop of Canterbury told LGBTQ+ protesters that equal marriage could not be introduced because Synod would not pass the necessary legislation — as if that settled the matter, and justified the unjustifiable.
So, it was interesting to read of the timely reminder from Peter Bottomley MP, to the Second Church Estates Commissioner in the House of Commons, that the Enabling Act of 1919, which in effect allowed the Church of England to become self-governing, can be amended. If legislation to permit the marriage of LGBTQ+ couples by clergy and churches who want to do so is not passed by the General Synod, the case for Parliament to legislate may become overwhelming.
79 Humber Road
Chelmsford CM1 7PF
From the Revd Douglas Dales
Sir, — The Bishops have not safeguarded Christian marriage by their statement advocating the blessing of homosexual relationships. They have in fact undermined it.
There is a profound collision between principle and expediency that is obscured by language about compassion and inclusiveness. No Church can prosper, however, with the divided morality now being formally enshrined and permitted, which will undermine trust within the Church. Further division within the Anglican Communion is deplorable, as is the fact that a development of this kind would place Anglicanism out of step with Catholicism and Orthodoxy.
Blessing homosexual relationships, or any cohabiting sexual relationships outside marriage, undermines the key Christian principle of chastity, which itself underpins the Christian sacrament of marriage and all sound friendships and relationships.
The Glebe House, 3 Drakes Farm
Newbury RG20 7DF
From the Revd Andrew Ellis
Sir, — It should not be forgotten that, unless I am mistaken, the Church of England has only two sacraments, baptism and eucharist. In Great Britain, at certain times, the practice of those entering in to a long-term, intimate relationship was to meet in a public space with their community to commit themselves to each other, which, in due course, took place at the gate to the grounds of the church before then entering the church building in order to be blessed. That, of course, is what takes place in a number other countries.
Over the years, the church authorities moved the making of the commitment from the church gate into the building. Churches have, over the centuries, loaded a lot on to marriages. As a Relate counsellor for almost 20 years, I could never understand the idea promulgated by bishops and many clergy in the past that the vows are absolute and irrevocable. That, of course, has changed.
I have also been intrigued by the way in which many in the same-sex community have campaigned to be entitled to marry, when, in the past, a proportion of them have, not unreasonably, seen marriage as a tool of male, and societal, control and oppression.
When I was first ordained, I very quickly found people coming to me asking for me to bless all sorts of things, from a young child with a pet or a doll to a Filipino couple wanting their first car to be blessed. I quickly decided that I would bless anything that was alive, was good and of God, and then added those things that were not animate.
What the C of E and other Churches need to do is to encourage Christians, whatever their sexual orientation, to enter into a legal marriage or civil partnership at the registry office and then have it blessed and celebrated in their church.
From the Revd Kevin Skippon
Sir, — My late partner and I entered into a civil partnership in 2006. Three years before this, our friends and families had gathered for a celebration of our love and commitment. Very much like the new draft LLF prayers, it was a beautiful liturgy, and six Anglican priests (male and female, straight and gay) conferred upon us God’s blessing. Ten years later, I married my new partner in a Quaker wedding ceremony. We were embraced by the love and support of all those around us. Once again, God’s blessing, albeit unspoken, was conferred upon us.
As an Anglican priest myself, I have enabled the blessing of the relationships of a number of same-sex couples — as indeed have many clergy in this country throughout the Anglican Communion for several decades. Whilst reluctant to acknowledge it, Archbishops Justin and Stephen and all the Bishops must be very well aware of this fact.
Yes, God has been blessing her/his beloved LGBTQI+ children for a very long time, and S/he hasn’t needed the permission of the Church to do so. Why, then, have we been having this interminable fandango?
Beech Cottage, 25 Banks Head
Shropshire SY9 5JL
From April Alexander
Sir, — Among the comments about the House of Bishops document are many which imply that the anti-discrimination campaign for gay priests in the Church of England began about a decade ago.
It began in 1986 when Tony Higton brought a motion to General Synod declaring that homosexuality, adultery, and fornication are “sinful in all circumstances”. The matter had not been discussed in General Synod before that, and there were approximately 400 Anglican clergymen in the Lesbian and Gay Christian movement at the time.
This motion was defeated in Synod, but another was carried, stating that “adultery, fornication and homosexuality fell short of the Christian ideal of confining sexual intercourse to marriage”.
Shortly afterwards, a discussion document suggested that, while homosexual acts were acceptable for lay people, clergy should abstain. Ordinands and clergy were required to sign up to it, even though a recent question in General Synod elicited the information that there was no record anywhere that Synod or the House of Bishops had decided this or agreed to it.
Now, after LLF, there is to be a group to consider whether the time is right to dispense with intrusive questioning of ordinands. Many would consider that there is now very little to discuss, but the Archbishop was far from unequivocal last week. “How long, O Lord, how long?”
59 High Street, Bletchingley
Redhill RH1 4PB
Ordinand funding changes: two caveats
From Mr Jonathan Baird
Sir, — Proposals for the stability of funding for the training of ordinands (News, 27 January), should be welcomed wholeheartedly. They will address uncertainty and inefficiency, caused in part by diocesan timidity in applying the precautionary principle to clergy recruitment. Bravo, but with two caveats:
- In order to secure said stability of funding, the TEIs will be required to sign service-level agreements with the Archbishops’ Council, which will require a commitment to promote Vision and Strategy. The General Synod has not approved nor agreed to Vision and Strategy.
- The unspecified funding ambition for training ordinands is lamentably modest and, frankly, de minimis. While spending vast sums on uncosted vanity projects elsewhere, the Church’s biggest problem is the paucity of stipendiary clergy.
Unless and until the Church addresses this lacuna, and ramps up significantly the training of ordinands, we might as well all pack up and go home.
Flint Cottage, Conock
Wiltshire SN10 3QQ
Music moved me to explore ministry
From Frederick Vanden-Bempde
Sir, — Many years ago at evensong at Magdalen College, Oxford, I remember hearing Psalm 78 sung to a chant by Philip Stopford.
To hear the words of the psalm recited so masterfully, and in such a remarkable compositional rendering, made me so aware of God’s presence in my life, and ignited a twofold calling both to compose music and to explore a vocation to ordained ministry. The latter calling is still in the works, but the former is a reality. I am about to have an anthology of my own Anglican chants published.
Let this stand as an example of the power that church music can have in encouraging vocations.
Christ Church, St Aldate’s
Oxford OX1 1DP
From Mr Derek Wellman
Sir, — I was greatly amused by the Revd Mark Rudall’s examples of differences between the spoken and the written word (Comment, 6 January). It reminded me of a member of the clergy who always began services by telling the congregation that they were “all most welcome”.
Unfortunately it tended to come across as “almost welcome”.
52 Nettleham Road
Lincoln LN2 1RH
From Mr Timothy Beecroft
Sir, — Michael Wheeler’s review of Jason Whittaker’s Jerusalem: Blake, Parry and the fight for Englishness (Books, 16 December 2022) reminds me of a conversation I had with a C of E priest.
“The thing you have to remember,” he said, “is that the answer to the first verse is ‘no’ and to the second verse is ‘Why should I? Fetch them for yourself.’”
8 Lindum Place
St Albans AL3 4JJ