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Letters to the Editor

24 May 2024


Anglican collapse into factionalism

From Mr Arthur Burgess

Sir, — I have spent eight decades of my life as an Anglican: born into a Church of Ireland family in the Irish Free State, which, by the time I was seven, became the Republic of Ireland. We were a minuscule minority in an overwhelmingly Roman Catholic state. After graduation, I came to England, and I have spent my entire career here. I have been involved in C of E matters in every lay role from membership of PCC to diocesan synod and board of finance, and, in later years, I was the churchwarden in a rural parish. I mention this background only to make clear that I was, until the past few years, a conventional middle- to low-church Anglican. I was hugely impressed by the contrast with Ireland. I saw that the C of E was a broad church. This letter is provoked by your recent news pages.

In the past decades, the Church of England has became a group of warring cliques — and the Anglican Communion the same on an international stage. Where, I ask myself, in today’s Christianity, is the philosophy of that first-century Jew reflected? How does the Evangelical wing of the British Church respond to his assertion “The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath”? Why does Gafcon behave as the scribes and Pharisees behaved over adultery rather than hearing the admonition “Let him without sin cast the first stone”? Do the leaders of Christendom today not hear the moral that Jesus promotes in commending the kindness of the alien Samaritan rather than the behaviour of the religious dogmatists who passed by on the other side?

Jesus’s illustration of the character of God is the patriarch who ran towards his errant son. When Jesus rails at the scribes and Pharisees “Woe to you . . .”, does the Primate of Rwanda, the Most Revd Laurent Mbanda (News, 10 May), realise that Jesus is addressing him, and addressing the Primates, not the crowds listening to him on the mountainside?

It grieves me as an Irishman to echo to today’s leaders of all religions the words of Oliver Cromwell to the Scottish church: “I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken.”

I have come to the conclusion in my old age that the most besetting sin in religion is certainty. This is true clearly also in politics, but I would have hoped for more from people of faith. The Jesus I see promotes kindness rather than correctness.

16 Seven Sisters Way
Cumnor, Oxford OX2 9RX

Sea of Faith: the tides do
not only go out

From Canon Roger Arguile

Sir, — I am not sure what distinguishes Canon Stephen Mitchell (Letter, 10 May) from an atheist. He is not responsible for how bishops pray, and neither am I; but his own negativity extends by implication to the Lord’s Prayer. There is apparently no point in praying for the coming of God’s Kingdom. Our Lord was wrong to encourage this practice. Theology, meanwhile, is confined to exploring “the rich diversity of ways in which God has been (note the past tense) spoken about in the Bible and in history”. We are merely to undertake a historical review of what people have (mistakenly) believed. Why should anyone, other than a few historians, bother?

Meanwhile, in our parish churches we continue to pray for peace in Ukraine. Sea of Faith? As I pointed out to you many years ago, Matthew Arnold knows nothing about tides, and nor do the members of the Sea of Faith Network.

10 Marsh Lane
Norfolk NR23 1EG

Faith and politics: Lib Dems, Tories, and militarism

From the Revd Simon Douglas Lane

Sir, — I write this as my long-time friend the award-winning BBC journalist David Campanale is fighting deselection — deselection for no other reason than being a practising Christian — as the prospective parliamentary Lib Dem candidate in the Sutton and Cheam constituency.

I have known David’s family since the 1960s and knew him and his twin, Mark, in the pram. He has exemplary Christian credentials, as they were brought up together at St Mary’s, Hampton. Previous candidates selected for the constituency have included Muslim women. At no time was their faith brought into question concerning their suitability: so a party that makes a point of diversity and inclusivity is being neither Liberal nor Democratic.

There are other instances where to mention your Christian faith is positively inviting trouble. This really has to cease.

So, let us hope that David survives the attempts to get rid of him. When running as the Lib Dem candidate in the Spelthorne constituency, against Kwasi Kwarteng, in the 2019 Conservative landslide, David significantly increased the Lib Dem vote.

He is an experienced and hard-working candidate. Should we really have to endure this secular assault to stand any chance of being able to stand for public office on the Christian foundations of love of God and neighbour?

30a Belgrade Road, Hampton
Middlesex TW12 2AZ

From Mr Charles Clark

Sir, — The Revd Mike Plunkett, in criticising “the ethics of today’s Tories”, states that “in relation to immigration, no disciple of Jesus could accept current activity” (Letters, 10 May). Does he not realise that the Conservative Government has continued to preside over ever-increasing and record levels of immigration, and that well over one million migrated to our shores in the year end to June 2023? This is the most pro-immigration government in the nation’s history.

14 Lubbock Court
Lubbock Road, Chislehurst
Kent BR7 5JW

From Mr David Pybus

Sir, — I hope that Paul Bickley and George Lapshynov don’t think that only Muslims’ voting intentions are subject to the so-called “Gaza effect” (Comment, 17 May). Many of the larger marches in London have had the support of people of a large variety of backgrounds, with or without a religious faith.

Reactions by our political leaders, of all parties, to the wars in the Middle East and in Ukraine definitely influence my politics, as does my Christian faith. Mostly, I am dismayed by politicians’ continued investment in the military options, which has meant that their other calls for pauses or ceasefires seem only mealy-mouthed.

Rather, I echo John Cooper’s proposal that we should ask parties how they will invest to achieve peace rather than fund wars (Comment, 3 May).

84 Wildlake
Orton Malborne
Peterborough PE2 5PQ

Makin and the African aspect of Smyth’s activities

From Mr Andrew Graystone

Sir, — Last Sunday was a bleak anniversary, as the Makin review of the Church of England’s response to the serial abuser John Smyth is now four years overdue (News, 17 May). I notice that the latest announcement, without apparent irony, blames one of the survivors for holding up the process. Having read the review in draft form, he withdrew his support for it in despair.

The Makin review may eventually be published, though there is still no date for this to happen. But we already know that it will be full of holes. We are told that the review will not deal with Smyth’s thirty-year career of abuse in Africa, presumably because the Church of England still shares the belief of the 1980s Iwerne movement that African children are less important than English public-school boys. A number of key witnesses who spoke to me on the record for my book Bleeding for Jesus tell me that they have not been contacted to give evidence to the review. Indeed, Keith Makin has spoken to me only briefly, and not at all for the past two years.

This vastly expensive, wholly inadequate piece of work has been managed from start to . . . erm . . . present, by the National Safeguarding Team. If ever we needed an argument that the Church of England should not mark its own homework when it comes to safeguarding failures, the Makin review is surely it.

Professor Alexis Jay wrote of the complete collapse of confidence in the Church’s safeguarding. She was correct. The fully independent safeguarding that she recommends cannot come soon enough.

17 Rushford Avenue
Manchester M19 2HG

Catholics and a mooted bar on ordinations

From Mrs Mary Davies

Sir, — I have been following with interest the correspondence (3, 10, and 17 May) in the Church Times which has resulted from the WATCH Conference (News, 26 April), and discussing it with others, one of whom asked me if I thought the endgame would be the destruction of the Catholic tradition in the Church of England. I offer, for what it’s worth, my reply.

Life has taught me that sometimes people who claim to be seeking equality are actually trying to turn the tables and gain power over those whom they perceive to be their enemies. This is, of course, destructive behaviour, though they may not see it as such.

I believe that the Revd Martine Oborne (Letters, 17 May) may have shot herself in the foot by claiming the power of veto over God’s call through wishing to ban certain ordinations. I am a lay person with an interest in theology, and no formal training, but even I can see something wrong with that.

4 Honeysuckle Lane, Selsey
West Sussex PO20 9JN

Rejoice with the angels

From Dr Neill Burgess

Sir, — I am disappointed that in your “Quotes of the Week” (17 May), someone chose to include a cruel personal attack on Russell Brand from the Guardian writer Marina Hyde, after Mr Brand’s baptism. I would hope that all Church Times staff and readers would rejoice with the angels of God in celebrating the repentance of this and any other sinner. Please join with me in praying for Mr Brand’s new life of faith in our Lord.

9 Emerson Avenue
Middlesbrough TS5 7QW

Liturgical ad-libbers

From Mr Richard Fagan

Sir, — I totally agree with Canon Angela Tilby (Comment, 3 May) about the clergy making changes and additions to liturgical pronouncements. Another irritation is the insertion of “may” before the Grace and “us” instead of “you” at the end. This is a benediction from God through the presiding priest to those present, and not from the priest alone. “May the grace of the Lord . . .” suggests hope over certainty and weakens God’s authority over the matter.

26 West Common, Gerrards Cross
Buckinghamshire SL9 7QS

Hymn for the pageboys

From Mrs Penny Keens

Sir, — Choosing hymns for our wedding, 59 years ago, we thought of one that the pageboys would know — “All things bright and beautiful” (Quotes, 3 May; Press, 10 May) — and that the congregation would join in confidently. I would do the same today.

377 Japonica Lane
Milton Keynes MK15 9EG

Clergy not murderous enough for Cluedo?

From Ms Christina Baron

Sir, — In replacing Rev. Green with Mayor Green, the makers of Cluedo (Letter, 17 May) have presumably decided that the murderer is more likely to be a mayor than a minister of religion.

As someone who has known and worked with many mayors and many clergy, I suggest that this decision may be evidence-based.

(Mayor of Wells 1980-81)
10 Lewmond Avenue
Wells, Somerset BA5 2TS

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