letters to the editor
Caught in the middle
From the Archdeacon of Bromley
May I be permitted to respond to Simon Heans's article in the January edition. Firstly, whenever I facilitate a Ministerial Review it is conducted on the clear understanding that any thoughts or ideas shared during that session are strictly confidential unless agreed otherwise.
Therefore to read that one of the clergy undergoing this process had apparently shared' comments made by me is deeply disappointing.
Secondly, I would never use such an opportunity to talk about another parish and another priest in that setting, nor do I divulge information shared from a Bishops Staff meeting unless appropriate. Thirdly, Simons comments that the 'Archdeacon was not prepared to give a straight answer' is most uncharitable because as any priest in my Archdeaconry knows only too well that is not my style. Some reticence on my part will have arisen simply because the Bishop was not clear at that stage as to the best way forward; I'm not a mind reader!
The editor uses the title 'Bitter church rivals'; therefore can anyone blame me for being nervous in bringing this group of clergy together. I am deeply saddened by what has happened (and it's not over yet) and have tried to support Simon in a most difficult situation. My reputation is not the issue here: what is, is that the parish priests in my Archdeaconry can trust me.
The Archdeaconry, The Glebe,
Chislehurst, BR7 5PX
In the article by Simon Heans on church planting [January], he stated that a fellow priest had learned details of a church plant during his ministerial review with the Archdeacon of Bromley. It was not a review, but an open meeting with other clergy.
From the Bishop of Willesden
Golden mitre - yup, I've been knocked off top spot this year. A few comments:
1) Running a London Area is like running a small diocese (we're bigger than some of the dioceses), so it's bound to cost more than most suffragans. You need to compare our costs with Coventry, Portsmouth and Bradford.
2) Most of the cost is that of our full-time PAs (and we mostly don't have chaplains), who cost more because we're in London and pay London rates. Most suffragans don't have or need full-time PAs. We do.
3) As you'll see from the spreadsheet [supplied], a large chunk of my money goes on clergy training and conferences and on hospitality for clergy, which I think is the sort of stuffour money should be going on.
4) My expenses have been at or around £16k, plus the cost of my PA, since 2001, so I don't think I'm a major contributor to inflationary increases.
5) George Austin obviously worked in a diocese where the Archdeacons were under-resourced. Here in London, all our Archdeacons have secretarial/PA assistance, again because the workload necessitates it.
6) The housing grandeur stuff is nonsense in relation to suffragans. We live in diocesan-provided houses (none of this freehold of benefice nonsense for us!) Mine happens to be a former rectory.
7) There is a need to scrutinize and cut episcopal costs. The Commissioners are so completely inefficient and chaotic that they aren't the people to do it. But I'm committed to bringing in a more rigorous system. It'll take time, because the bishops don't like being accountable.
What New Directions could do is assist with the process by carrying on with the critique and asking the questions. But you need to be a tad more well informed than the George Austin article. I could write you a better and more up-to-date critique - but I'm not going to - yet!
From Brother Martin SSF
There is saying about using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. If you want an example, you need only to turn to the workings of the newly constituted Clergy Disciplinary Tribunal.
A priest known to me was recently required to appear at a tribunal (we will call him Fr A). One of his four village PCCs had made a formal complaint about him to the bishop. The grievance was that his methods of accountancy were not sufficiently transparent.
I wrote a good character reference for him, and was therefore asked to speak on his behalf on the second day of the tribunal. The proceedings took place behind closed doors, and I was somewhat harshly told to sit in the corridor, where I remained for three hours without any facilities to make coffee and with no reading matter available. At 1 p.m. the legal team had their lunch-break.
After another hour had passed, I was called. I then had to swear on the Bible, and a barrister tried hard to discredit my statement. At the end of three minutes I was dismissed.
I was at the tribunal just long enough to observe its way of working, and I was very upset for Fr A. Later I learned that he had been subjected to some belligerent questioning. Even his wife was quizzed and humiliated. About seven weeks later Fr A was told that he had been 'conditionally discharged' and he was informed that there was no evidence of any dishonesty on his part.
It is difficult to understand why the whole matter could not have been settled out of court. I have been told that the cost to the Church of this one tribunal goes into six figures. Before this method is used again, I do hope that the Church of England will get its act together so that future tribunals will be less intimidating.
From Fr John Hunwicke, SSC
Many of us will have sympathized with the tone and point of Fr Pinnock's article [February] on '(re-)ordination'. May I supplement the facts just a little? Apostolicae curae is not the last word of the Roman Magisterium on the subject of Anglican Orders. A factor later than 1897 was the participation in Anglican ordinations from the 1930s onwards of Dutch 'Old Catholic' bishops. This was taken into account when Graham Leonard became a Roman Catholic: after Rome had inspected a bundle of yellowing documents from the Pusey House archives, his 'reordination was ordered to be explicitly sub conditione, and it was explained that this was because the 'Dutch Touch' created a situation in which the nullity of his presbyteral orders was doubtful.
English RC bishops have vigorously discouraged convert priests from asking for the Leonard procedure, but it remains true that it is part of official Vatican precedent and praxis, and thus available as a possibility when we get as far as talking about a group solution. Those who want more details and have enough Latin to
read the documentation involved will find that I have provided both in Reuniting Anglicans and Rome [1994, ISBN 085191296 6].
Incidentally, Rome declined to make any decision, negative or positive, about Bishop Leonard's episcopal orders. It has been suspected this may be because Rome did not want to face the possibility of having to declare them valid, when this would present her with the unfamiliar phenomenon of a married bishop!
28 St Thomas Street, Oxford OX1 1JL
Stop the progress
From the Bishop of Ebbsfleet
I much enjoyed Fr Digby Andersons friendly broadside against Fr Philip Norths January article. I too should prefer to live in a world in which Mass was beautifully sung, facing east and in Latin, with well-choreographed ceremonial, stimulating sermons, profound prayers and a laity fired up (if that's not too progressive a phrase) to pray and work for the Kingdom. I too am convinced that if we managed to create such centres of excellence - as my predecessor Bishop John Richards referred to them -they would be packed to the doors.
Cathedrals and college chapels continue to demonstrate the effectiveness of choral evensong and find themselves having to lay on double doses of Christmas carol services. We need more of that excellence out there in the parishes and we need catechetical and liturgical excellence even more than we need musical excellence. This, I judge, is the vision of renewal which Pope Benedict is commending and we Anglo-Catholics are better placed than many English Roman Catholic parishes to respond to it.
Fr Norths Working Party (of which I was proud to be a member) had a different, and I should say complementary task. The vision I have described above - my own imaginings and not those of the working party - is miles out of reach for many parishes at present. They are dealing too often with small congregations with few, if any, in the age-group 13-55. Their choir and servers is the group of enthusiasts who first gave themselves to their tasks a generation ago and are bewildered that they have not had the opportunity to give way gracefully to the next generation. In short, we are in a state of emergency for which Fr Andersons prescription may be salutary but which surely needs a number of strategies.
Going round the parishes, I find that not everyone who is faithful to the tradition manages to create new vitality. Some try valiantly and there is not too much to show for it, apart from the admirable quality of
perseverance, itself a form of faithfulness. Others are blessed with remarkable success: there are big, bustling Anglo-Catholic churches out there. Serving a crucified Lord, 'success' is a tricky concept, but I do find three encouraging features.
One is that those who adopt new 'inculturated' approaches are sometimes very successful indeed in the emergency recovery of youth work and work with young adults and families. The Walsingham Youth Pilgrimage, presided over by Fr Philip North, is a justly celebrated example of this approach.
The second is that success - measured numerically or in more intangible ways -- almost always, in my experience, emerges from faithfulness to the traditional, pastoral model of parochial ministry. Everything green is not grass but all thriving parishes, in my experience, are based not on gimmicks, missions and strategies but on faithfulness and skill in the daily round of prayer, preaching, visiting and visibility in the community.
The third feature I find is that excellence does not depend on any one cultural, liturgical or musical approach. There are enthralling liturgies, old-style and new-style, and there are liturgies, old-style and new-style, that reek of death and decay..
Fr North's second article ends 'The renewal of the laity lies right at the very heart of effective evangelization'. As he says, 'if the working party had been asked to make one single recommendation, this would have been it'.
+ Andrew Ebbsfleet
From Mr Paul Lansley
The Christian world at the end of January mourned the passing of Archbishop Christoloulos, the Primate of Greece. His funeral was that of a Head of State, with government offices closed, and representation of Church and Civil Authorities, the other Orthodox Churches, and a 12-man delegation from the Vatican; the Bishop of London represented the Archbishop of Canterbury.
While his dealings with Rome (positive) and with the Greek Government (difficult) have been widely commented upon, his small but significant brush with Anglicans has escaped notice.
At his first meeting as Archbishop with the Standing Holy Synod in 1998 a strong protest was made at the 'ordination of women to the priesthood. The Catholic Societies Council wrote to him, supporting the Synods stand and expressing the hope that some sort of relationship might continue with those Anglicans who con-
tinued to 'hold fast the tradition. A friendly and judicious reply was received from His Beatitude; but alas, nothing more seems to have come of it - so far, anyway.
From Fr Christopher Channer ssc
Here we go again! Another bout of clergy-bashing! I refer to Fr North's February article Ardour in the laity'.
Clergy processions, as at Walsingham, are not done to 'impress' our lay folk. They are done to the glory of God and as an act of witness to the wider world.
I take more serious issue with the suggestion that 'we are locked into the stranglehold of a suffocating clericalism in the Catholic movement...where the people of God are left unused, their gifts unacknowledged.' Anyone who has been a parish priest for any length of time will know that if the laity are unused, it is usually because of their hectic, frantic lifestyles; they do not want to be used.
We all believe in the resourcing and renewing of the laity; it is trying to get them to believe in it that is the problem.
St Michael's Rectory, St Andrew's Lane, Lewes BN7 1UW
From the Administrator of SOLW
I was pleased to see that the editor chose to print Digby Anderson's piece 'Stop the Progress' for no doubt there are others who share his recidivism.
I pass over in surprised silence his fundamental misconception about the nature and meaning of tradition and limit myself to a single observation. Dr Anderson appears to demand a church that is 'smaller and purer,' one that preoccupies itself with maintaining the customs of the past and in particular the liturgical practices of the sixteenth century and one which, in its process of purification, eliminates people like me.
In other words, he wants the church to shrink, an objective which his proposals would no doubt swiftly and effectively achieve. At the behest of FiF our working party was charged with the task of seeking ways in which the church might grow through making new disciples. Which, I wonder, is the more biblical?
The College, Walsingham NR22 6EF
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