Pastoral Measure disappointment
From Sir James Burnell-Nugent
Sir, — Rebecca Chapman asks (Comment, 30 June) that the Synod be “trusted to debate, discern, and implement through voting”. Yet another attempt to steamroller the General Synod is imminent.
The Mission and Pastoral Measure (MPM) review — which is a rehash of the ill-fated GS2222 (known to 1600 objectors as the “Church Closures Charter”) — is tabled for discussion in York as the last item on the penultimate evening of the General Synod sessions (News, 30 June), when time will undoubtedly have been squeezed by the recent safeguarding débâcle and ongoing agonising over Living in Love and Faith.
This review is nothing short of a disappointment. In effect, it proposes that the chronic power imbalance between bishops and parishes remain substantially in place. The paper (GS 2315) claims “an emphasis on good conversation and a pastoral approach to the processes”. Really? How is that going to be enforceable in practice?
The proposals do not guarantee anything in place to redress the gross imbalance of knowledge and experience of pastoral reorganisation between diocese and parish; nor do they offer any mechanism for parishes to object to breach of process until the final stage of consultation, by which time the affected parishes will probably have foundered. There is not even a glimmer of hope that, if there is a public hearing by the Mission and Pastoral Church Property Committee of the Church Commissioners, the affected parish(es) will be able to bring a lawyer, let alone get help with travel expenses. The absence of any of these proposals, which are essentially a matter of fairness, will serve only to erode further the dwindling levels of trust across the Church of England.
The MPM revision, in its present form, needs to be roundly dismissed by the Synod and sent back with a mandate to provide stronger self-determination powers for parishes, as a key step to restoring trust.
Sheepham Mill, Modbury
Devon PL21 0LX
Resource churches and the parochial system
From Canon Alison Milbank
Sir, — The Bishop of Worcester, Dr John Inge, in a review of Will Foulger’s Present in Every Place (Books, 30 June), reminds readers of his comments on the back cover of For the Parish, in which the Revd Dr Andrew Davison and I defend the parochial system, and urges us to look, rather, to the non-parochial as often being more reflective of local community.
Dr Inge does not mention that our book commended all forms of local outreach but asked for connectivity and porosity between parish and fresh expression.
The irony of his remarks is in his chosen example of the resource church in his own diocese. Both Worcester resource churches are actually parish churches (All Saints’, and St Thomas and St Luke respectively) and are to be praised for offering parochial life events ministry and holy communion, unlike many others, while Top Church, as it is now known, has a chaplaincy with those in supported housing. These churches enjoy ministry teams of vicar, associate vicar, curates, ordinands, and several administrators and worship leaders of which even the most well-resourced ordinary parish church could only dream.
In contrast, too many parishes share in unsustainable groupings or languish in vacancy for years, and no wonder they lose confidence. I delight in the success of the Worcester resource churches, but wish that the Church of England could find a middle way between lavishing vast sums on single churches in short-term bursts and abandoning so many small parishes, who are now to add the guilt of not being representative to their other travails.
Burgage Hill Cottage
Southwell NG25 0EP
Application of Pastoral Principles in court
From the Director of Faith and Public Life for the Archbishops’ Council
Sir, — Your leader comment (“Test case”, 23 June) is insightful, but attributes too much foresight to the Archbishops’ Council and its staff. Work began more than four years ago on the intervention that was finally heard in the case of Mrs Higgs v. Farmor’s School — long before the potential implications of Living in Love and Faith were even imagined.
Whether we should have been able to see that far ahead is a moot point. Our motivation in putting forward a Proportionality Assessment based on the Pastoral Principles, however, was wholly concerned with making a helpful contribution to mature public debate and to the freedom of religion and belief in an increasingly fractious and confrontational society.
Church House, Great Smith Street
London SW1P 3AZ
Anti-Semitism definition and its impact on debate
From Mr Stephen Silverman
Sir, — Dr Salim J. Munayer writes that British clergy are “fearful of addressing Palestinian oppression for not wanting to offend the Jewish people”, because of the International (IHRA) Definition of Antisemitism, which, he claims, “has been increasingly used to censor journalism, attack free academic discussions, and discipline clergy” (Comment, 23 June).
Leaving aside Dr Munayer’s personal views, and those of his organisation, Musalaha, which can easily be found online, his baseless attack on the definition cannot be left unanswered.
The definition does not prevent full and frank discussion of the Arab-Israeli conflict or the policies of any Israeli government. Indeed, the definition clearly states that “criticism of Israel similar to that levelled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic.” It simply observes, inter alia, that describing the existence of a Jewish state as racist, imposing on it expectations that would not be applied to other democratic nations, or comparing its conduct to that of the Nazis, are antisemitic. Surely there is scope for a far-reaching discussion about Israel that avoids calling for politicide, applying double standards, or associating the Jews’ state with the people who committed genocide against them?
As resources publicly available on our website have shown, the definition does not limit freedom of expression in law; nor is there evidence from universities that it has inhibited free speech. In fact, universities have reported the opposite.
The Church of England has commendably adopted the definition. Its bishops recognise that calling Jews Nazis or lamenting their actualisation of self-determination are beyond the pale.
It is regrettable that Dr Munayer does not.
Campaign Against Antisemitism
From Mr Bill Risebero
Sir, — Mr Cavaghan-Pack (Letters, 30 June) suggests that criticism of the IHRA “definition” of anti-Semitism is “somewhat hysterical and unfounded”. But will he say this to the members, including Jewish ones, of the Labour Party expelled for allegedly transgressing it? Or to the pro-Palestinian students banned from activism on their campuses? Or to the artists whose exhibitions or concerts have been cancelled, and the speakers whose engagements have been withdrawn? Or to the 100 or more international NGOs, including Amnesty, B’Tselem, and Human Rights Watch, which have petitioned the UN about it?
He also criticises the idea of boycotting Israeli goods and services. But the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement is not so easily set aside. It comes to us as a considered international demand from Palestinian civil society, offering an alternative to violence, as a way of ending Israeli apartheid. Do we have something better to offer?
Mr Cavaghan-Pack seems to favour a two-state “solution”. Most, however, would now say that he is too late. A de facto single state now exists. To refer to a recent article in the prestigious US journal Foreign Affairs (14 April), a choice for this state lies ahead, between a system of Jewish supremacy and a liberal democracy. So far, Israel has favoured the former, “wherein non-Jews are structurally discriminated against or excluded”.
Dr Salim J. Muntayer is quite right to be critical of the IHRA’s stifling of criticism of Israel, which, it seems to me, helps to perpetuate this inequality.
4 Reachview Close
London NW1 0TY
More to life than a rota
From the Revd John Hereward
Sir, — I appreciated the article by Huw Spanner about clergy retirement (Features, 23 June). I like to think of us as being “more than service-providers” and wish to challenge the prevailing mentality that sees retired clergy with permission to officiate as being merely useful for filling rota gaps. In broad terms, many of us can look forward to some years of active retirement before limitations of mobility and mind move us into a more passive role. During those years of active retirement ministry, we have a golden opportunity to be agents of mission, freed from the previous administrative burdens.
We who are in this fortunate position can devote time and energy to being disciples on the front line, engaging with people in a whole variety of ways, e.g. by volunteering at the foodbank, being a governor of a local school, or charity trustee, leading pilgrimages and retreats, and mentoring, to name a few.
Our years of wisdom and experience should be seen as a rich resource for the Church and celebrated. We are, after all, more than service-providers.
Little Margate Cottage
Faith in the City’s continuing work through CUF
From Mr Andrew Barnett
Sir, — Thanks to Greg Smith (Comment, 23 June) for raising important points about the state of inner-city mission. As Mr Smith reminded readers, the Church Urban Fund (CUF) was formed in response to the 1985 report Faith in the City — and we have been supporting local, faith-based social action ever since. While the nature of poverty has changed in the past 40 years, CUF is still working hard to equip churches to identify and respond to the needs around them, and grow in connection to the wider community where they live. Our Growing Good resources (www.growing-good.org.uk) help churches to explore the connection between social action, discipleship, and growth. Growing Good has been used by more than 300 churches, and we are already seeing the positive impact that these resources are having across parishes.
We understand that poverty is not only about having enough money to be able to eat and heat your home, but that it also affects your sense of identity, your access to information, the relationships that you hold, being listened to and feeling part of your community. We believe that churches are well-placed to address this complex web of poverty. We are grateful to our Together Network partners who support local social-action charities across a number of dioceses. They help churches to respond to need by opening Places of Welcome, social supermarkets, befriending networks, and other activities that invite people into community life — be that at church on a Sunday or helping out midweek.
We will continue to work with churches through the parish network because our experience shows us that connected and loving communities are key to building a future free from poverty and injustice.
Chair of Trustees
Church Urban Fund
The Foundry, 17 Oval Way
London SE11 5RR
Big conservation area
From Canon Christopher Hall
Sir, — “Climate change could have three outings at the meeting of the General Synod in York” (News, 30 June). There is a fourth opportunity to discuss climate change in the faculty-relaxation proposal to allow “solar panels (on buildings not in conservation areas)” (News, same issue). The planet is a conservation area. Churches with photovoltaic panels on their south-facing roofs, often above the tree-line, could help conserve the planet for future generations, and maybe even earn revenue by powering electric-vehicle charging points.
The Knowle, Deddington
Banbury OX15 0TB