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Letters to the Editor

02 February 2024


LLF lead bishops’ proposal of a ‘reset’ of the process

From the Revd Dr Ian Paul

Sir, — The call from the Bishops of Newcastle and Leicester for a “reset” to the post-Living in Love and Faith (LLF) process (Comment, 26 January) is surely right and to be welcomed. The LLF debate has unleashed a demoralising civil war in the Church which is damaging clergy morale, discouraging vocations, and distracting us from the task of making the good news of Jesus known in our nation.

Their call for “honesty and transparency” must, of course, be retrospective, and not just prospective. Without openness about processes in the House of Bishops, and without publishing the critical legal advice, trying to move on will be like building well a house that has no foundations.

And their call to “live well with difference” must also be explored with the same integrity. At last November’s sessions of the General Synod, the Bishop in Europe, as chair of the Faith and Order Commission, confirmed that the Church’s doctrine of marriage was not “a thing indifferent” on which we could simply agree to disagree. We need the proper theological work done before we are clear on where the boundaries to difference lie.

In 2 Corinthians 5, Paul urges us to “be reconciled” to one another because we have first been reconciled to God. There will be no reconciliation between different groups in the Church until we are first reconciled to the clear teaching of Jesus, and all of scripture, in our understanding of marriage.

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

From April Alexander

Sir, — It was interesting to note the proposals from the two lead bishops for Living in Love and Faith. They are hoping for “reconciliation, humility and repentance, honesty and transparency, and freedom of conscience”.

I wonder whether I might suggest, in this connection, that all parishes should involve all persons on their electoral rolls in any decision about where they sit in any new structures that might emerge? This provision could stand, whatever the settlement reached between the various parties, and should be “baked in” to current discussions as early as possible. The Church Representation Rules rely on the PCC for most decisions, but this would be a decision of greater magnitude than PCCs have had to take up to now. To get the participation of everyone involved, it should be a matter for the APCM.

The discussion and decision would be recorded in the minutes of the APCM, which would be subject to normal scrutiny by everyone present. With this endorsement, churches will be keen to inform their communities. The decision could be posted in the church porch (or equivalent) and on the parish website in a way that is readily accessible to members of the public, including those looking for a place to worship and/or seeking one of the occasional Offices.

I might also suggest that candidates for the General Synod and for any of its committees or commissions should name their own parish in their election addresses and state where it stands on such matters, having participated in that decision. Should they not be happy with that position, they could, of course, say so.

Only in these ways will everyone involved be both heard and aware of the implications of the decision. Where parishes stand will be a matter of public record. There may be some who are dismayed with the decision in the first instance, whichever way it goes. The current regime, ostensibly limited, as it is, to the issue of women as priests and bishops, has a considerable propensity for dismay, however, which would be greatly alleviated by openness and participation. “Honesty and transparency” would be a prize indeed.

59 High Street
Redhill RH1 4PB

From Mr Stephen Linton

Sir, — What a sensible and helpful article from the Bishops of Newcastle and Leicester! Accepting the faithfully held views of our Christian brothers and sisters is the only way forward, and I pray that we will take it. Neither side will be persuaded that it is wrong, and our ongoing divisions are a terrible witness, and will result only in a bitter split.

Yet we are called to love one another. Jesus prayed that we would be united, and reconciliation is badly needed in our world. Alternative episcopal provision or even threats of withholding parish share will only make matters worse.

18 Bridgefield
Farnham GU9 8AN

Israel-Hamas war and Holocaust Memorial Day

From Olivia Marks-Woldman and Laura Marks

Sir, — As CEO and chair of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, we wish to express our disappointment in the platform that you gave to the Revd Richard H. Spencer (Comment, 26 January), and we confirm that he is not a representative of our organisation.

Moreover, you published his comments on the eve of Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD), the international day on 27 January to remember the six million Jews murdered during the Holocaust, alongside the millions of people murdered under Nazi persecution of other groups and during more recent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, and Darfur.

The 7 October attacks by Hamas against Israel were horrific. The ongoing suffering of Palestinian civilians has been devastating to witness. The impact of this conflict has undoubtedly been felt in the UK, with drastic increases in both antisemitism and anti-Muslim hatred. In the face of these heightened tensions, we all have a responsibility to choose our language carefully.

HMD is not a day for division. It provides a collective opportunity for us all to consider ways that we can challenge hatred and prejudice, wherever it is found. Our role is to bring people together to learn about the past, empathise with people today, and act for a better future. In the face of rising hatred, this mission is more critical than ever.

Holocaust Memorial Day Trust
PO Box 61074
London SE1P 5BX

From Marie van der Zyl and the Bishop of Shrewsbury

Sir, — It is with profound regret that we feel the need to write to you regarding the Revd David Haslam’s letter (19 January). Contrary to what Mr Haslam writes, the facts of what happened on 7 October have been very much established.

Hamas terrorists launched an incursion into Israel and murdered well over 1000 people. The initial number — 1400 — was given because it was not immediately possible to identify all the bodies, given the severely burned remains that the terrorists left behind them, as well as its not being immediately apparent exactly how many hostages had been dragged into Gaza. When a more accurate number was determined — around 1200 — the Israeli authorities made that clear.

Instead of seeing that as it should be seen — as a commitment to accuracy — certain individuals have chosen to portray this as supposed evidence of a lack of reliability.

There are eyewitness accounts of what the terrorists did in Israeli towns surrounding the Gaza Strip, as well as at the Nova Festival. There is video footage, which was taken by the terrorists themselves. And there are the accounts from the first responders on the scene, which are too graphic to describe easily.

Almost immediately after 7 October, conspiracy theories began to circulate about this gruesome mass murder. Initial reports of the situation in various massacre sites were seized upon by people for the slightest deviation in wording, which was then held up as evidence of lies or a cover-up.

We see a lot of comments similar to Mr Haslam’s, as you might imagine. But when such views are given column space in such a respected publication, we feel the need to respond.

In 2018, Yahya Sinwar, the leader of Hamas in Gaza, vowed that “we will take down the border [with Israel] and we will tear their hearts from their bodies.” On 7 October, Hamas did exactly that. In November, Ghazi Hamad, a member of Hamas’s politburo, told a Lebanese TV station that the organisation would repeat the attacks of 7 October until Israel was “annihilated”.

We mourn the loss of all innocent life, Israeli or Palestinian. We hope that all your readers will do the same.

Board of Deputies of British Jews
2nd Floor, 55 Ludgate Hill
London EC4M 7JW

Council of Christians and Jews
Faith House, 7 Tufton Street
London SW1P 3QB

Concept of gender identity in C of E schools

From Dr Sarah Rutherford

Sir, — LGB Christians is a newly formed network of lesbian, gay, and bisexual Christians and their friends. We would like to add our voice to the concerns raised by many parents and others over the media report of a four-year-old’s being allowed to join a C of E primary school as a girl while the other parents and children were not informed of the child’s male biological sex (The Times, 27 January). There are very serious safeguarding issues to be considered. We think the Church of England Education Office and the General Synod must take substantial responsibility for this débâcle. It has, since 2017, actively participated in the promotion of the idea that all children have a gender identity and may be born in the wrong body via its teaching resource Valuing All God’s Children (VAGC) for schools.

Despite the C of E’s insistence that this is just a guidance on homophobic, biphobic, and transphobic bullying, the resource introduces the contested concept of gender identity uncritically and contains a glossary that is, word for word, the same as the glossary on the LGBT charity Stonewall’s website. We would, rather, have expected the C of E to conduct broader and more objective research on this topic.

The 2019 VAGC guidance states that “schools can make the adjustments to meet the needs of a trans pupil without being accused of discriminating against non-trans pupils.” This neglects the fact that sex is another protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010 and the Public Sector Equality Duty requires schools to balance the needs of all protected characteristics. The legalities aside, last month, the Government updated its guidance that warns against the social transitioning of children and says that treating children as a different gender is not a neutral act and may have psychological consequences (following on from the findings of the Cass Interim report, March 2022).

While we are pleased to see in another media report that the Church will be updating VAGC after this new government guidance, we hope that this will be done urgently. The previous guidance of 2017 was found to have legal errors — erroneously equating gender reassignment with gender identity as a characteristic of the Equality Act — and was, therefore, republished in 2019. It has now been five long years during which many schools will have adopted and put in practice the beliefs and subsequent policies of VAGC with potentially damaging consequences for the children involved.

27 Old Gloucester Street
London WC1N 3AX

Waving goodbye to it?

From Mr Tobias Thornes

Sir, — I was interested to read your report about the loss of the Daily Service on Long Wave (LW) proposed by the BBC for the end of March (News, 12 January). Your readers may like to know that a campaign exists to keep LW, including a petition. Please see our website: www.keeplongwave.co.uk

We are very concerned that the loss of LW would leave many people behind who currently rely on it, including the elderly. It was recently reported that there are ten million “digitally deprived” people in the UK, and there will be many without access to the internet or digital radio who continue to depend on LW.

As a listener to the Daily Service, I am also very concerned that its relegation to digital only could lead to the death of the programme, especially as Radio 4 Extra is set to be axed, which would leave the Daily Service floundering in a hidden corner of BBC Sounds.

Three Wells, Hadzor
Worcestershire WR9 7DR

Who will take the books? Advice for downsizers

From the Revd John Davies

Sir, — Anna James’s helpful article, “Last homes for lost tomes” (Features, 19 January), might have also detailed another option available to those clearing their libraries: online book-buyers. These, including Ziffit, WeBuyBooks and SellitBack, simply require the seller to scan their book’s barcode into the smartphone app, whereon a price is offered, and the book is instantly added to the list of items to be then boxed up and dispatched free of charge.

The work required is no more onerous than any other method of selling; the pricing is fair, and the resultant direct payment to the bank account means that the seller can choose to give to charity if desired — or, maybe, add to their collection one or two of those desirable Lent books advertised in the same issue.

The Vicarage, Clapham Road
Austwick, Lancaster LA2 8BE

From the Revd Ann and the Revd Don Irvine

Sir, — Anna James made several helpful suggestions for the disposal of unwanted books. We should like to offer an additional option, namely Books2Africa.org, whither, a couple of years ago, we dispatched some 300kg of books. This UK-registered charity, based in Canterbury, accepts all manner of books (and computers) and sends them to Africa. Boxes of donated books are collected by national carriers at a reduced fee, sorted in Canterbury, and consigned to schools and colleges across Africa. The charity publishes a monthly e-newsletter giving information about final recipients of donations.

67 Greenwood Drive
Angmering BN16 4JW

From the Revd Malcolm Lorimer

Sir, — We have a bookshop that accepts people’s libraries and uses them for a charitable organisation, a local Christian museum. We have more than 70,000 books in subject order on all kinds of subjects. Run by volunteers, our shop is pleased to accept donations, especially from clergy. No book goes to landfill, and many go to other parts of the world. Bibles are among our bestsellers.

Alsager Book Emporium
Hassall Road Methodist Church
Hassall Road, Alsager ST7 2HH

Hymnological football

From the Revd Alan Davies

Sir, — The weakness in Professor Bradley’s suggestion (Letters, 19 January) that Rogers and Hammerstein’s “You’ll never walk alone” become the nation’s unofficial anthem is that it would never be sung by a Manchester United supporter.

5 Margetts Close
Kenilworth CV8 1EN

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