Saturday, 6 May 2017

Dear Archbishops (a response) #GE2017

9/5/17 Thank you for all the positive comments, and additional names for the letter. I'm now struggling to keep up with adding new names to the body of the letter itself, but do leave your name in the comments below if you'd like to.
There are also articles in The Guardian today, and on the Premier website late yesterday.
Alan Storkey has also written a very thorough and considered response to the Archbishops letter here.
8/5/17 There's a write-up of this letter (pretty verbatim) by Christian Today online here]

Dear Archbishops Justin and Sentamu,

Thank you for your pastoral letter, which many of us read eagerly when we received it. We do indeed live in 'frantic and fraught' times, and deeply-rooted Christian wisdom in the lead-up to this most critical of General Elections has the potential to make a valuable, even crucial contribution. As those who share with you both the weighty responsibility for helping Christian congregations reflect on the current political challenges with Christian faithfulness, your efforts to support and resource us are appreciated.

Thank you also for highlighting the vital issues of education and housing, of community-building and healthcare, of overseas aid and campaigns against slavery, trafficking and sexual violence. Thank you for pointing to the need for justice in our economic and financial systems, and for "a generous and hospitable welcome to refugees and migrants". All of these we welcome, as crucial issues to be placed at the centre of our political conversations and decisions.

There were, however, aspects of your pastoral letter which have given us cause for deep concern, and which have driven us to respond to it with urgency.

Most prominently among those concerns is your use of the word 'stability'. We appreciate the word's Benedictine roots, and the critical contemporary challenge of "living well with change". However, words also acquire meaning from their common usage in the present, and it is impossible to escape the fact that the leader of one of the major political parties competing in this General Election has used the phrase "strong and stable" almost as a mantra throughout the election campaign thus far. For your pastoral letter to focus so positively on such a politically freighted word seems to us, at best, as a case of desperate political naivety, and at worst, an implicit endorsement of one party in this election.

Our concern goes deeper than the level of perception, however. Your focus not just on 'stability', but also on 'cohesion' (as "what holds us together"), your commodification of 'courage' as "aspiration, competition and ambition", and your conflation of the deeply-contested discourses of "our Christian heritage" and "our shared British values" (a conflation often appropriated by far-right nationalist groups) are also all deeply troubling. The quest for reconciliation and unity of course has a vital place within both the Christian tradition and the work of politics, but at this point in the history of the United Kingdom, politicians issuing calls to 'unite' risk concealing deep divisions under a banner of conformity, rather than addressing these divisions at their roots. The emphases on stability and cohesion in your pastoral letter risk colluding with such dangerous political rhetoric. As you will of course know, the Benedictine vow of 'stability' goes hand in hand with the vow of 'conversion of life' - an ongoing process of allowing our hearts to be changed. That process often involves plunging into the heart of our divisions and conflicts, coming face to face with our 'others' and our 'enemies', and confronting our own tendencies towards self-deception, greed, exclusion and violence. There is a prophetic calling for the church here, that goes well beyond appeals to shared values.

The third Benedictine vow is that of 'obedience'. Understood in a purely hierarchical way, it could be argued that this response to your pastoral letter is an act of disobedience. Our understanding of Benedictine obedience, however, is more mutual: as Rowan Williams has put it, "[n]ovice and senior monk are ‘obeying’ one another if they are attending with discernment to one another and the habits that shape their lives are habits of listening, attention and the willingness to take seriously the perspective of the other, the stranger". At a time when the voices of the poorest, the most vulnerable, and the most marginalised are being ignored, silenced, even demonised, we want to respond to Benedict's call to obedience with our whole hearts, and listen most attentively to those voices, not in the centres of power, but in its margins. When those voices are not being heard at the heart of our deliberations and decision-making, Jesus himself is being silenced.

You remind us at the beginning of your pastoral letter that we are currently in the season of Eastertide. We pray, with you, that the risen Christ will be seen and welcomed among us, as in the stranger on the Emmaus Road, that hearts will be changed, and that the peace of Christ will break down all our dividing walls.

In joyful obedience to our Risen Lord,

Revd Al Barrett, Rector
Revd Dr Sally Nash, Associate Minister
Revd Dr Genny Tunbridge, Common Ground Community
Penny Hall, Church Warden
Sarah Maxfield, Community Development Worker
Paul Wright, Street Connector Mentor
Jane Barrett, Youth & Community Worker
Bob Maxfield, Julia Bingham, Jo Bull
(all of Hodge Hill Church, Birmingham Diocese)

Revd Dr Richard Sudworth, Christ Church Sparkbrook, Birmingham Diocese
Revd Dr John White, Kingsbury, Birmingham Diocese
Revd Priscilla White, St Faith & St Laurence Harborne, Birmingham Diocese
Revd Kathryn Evans, St Paul Blackheath, Birmingham Diocese
Revd Andy Delmege, St Bede Brandwood, Birmingham Diocese
Revd Dr Susannah Snyder, Oxford Diocese
Revd Kate Pearson, Coventry Diocese
Revd Canon Kathryn Fleming, Coventry Cathedral
Revd Elaine Evans, Vicar, St Bertelin Stafford St John the Evangelist Whitgreave, Lichfield Diocese
Revd Judith Jessop,  Methodist Pioneer Minister, Parson Cross, Sheffield
Revd Ray Gaston, Team Vicar, St Chad & St Mark, Parish of Central Wolverhampton , Lichfield Diocese
Revd Simon Douglas, Team Vicar, Parish of Tettenhall Regis, Lichfield Diocese
Revd Mark Hewerdine, Priest-in-Charge, St Chad's Ladybarn / Fresh Expressions Enabler, Manchester Diocese
Revd Jo Musson, Claines and St George's Parish Churches, Worcester Diocese
Revd Dr Keith Hebden, Leicester Diocese
Revd Paul Nicolson, Taxpayers Against Poverty
Brother Barnabas-Francis OSF, St Barnabas Bethnal Green, London Diocese
Fr Damian Feeney, Vicar, Holy Trinity Ettingshall & Catholic Missioner, Lichfield Diocese
Revd Pam Smith,
Revd John Hayes, Tower Hamlets Methodist Circuit
Revd Simon Nicholls, Markfield, Leicestershire
Revd Jonathan Clatworthy, St Brides Liverpool
Revd Claire Turner, Birmingham Diocese
Revd Dr Kevin Ellis, Vicar Bro Cybi, Bangor Diocese
Revd Canon Barry Naylor, Leicester
Revd Malcolm Liles, Sheffield Cathedral
Revd Naomi Nixon, Coventry Diocese
Revd Michael Futers, Associate Priest, St Mark's Derby, Derby Diocese
Revd Mark Nash-Williams, Vicar, Alston Moor, Newcastle Diocese
Revd Sarah Bick, Vicar, Mid-Wyedean Churches, Gloucester Diocese
Revd Rosie Austin, Team Rector, Shirwell Mission Community, Exeter Diocese
Revd Deborah Scott-Bromley
Revd Jonnie Parkin, Ely
Revd Dr Catrin Harland-Davies, Methodist Chaplain, Sheffield University
Revd Victoria Ashdown, Vicar, Ampfield Chilworth & North Baddesley
Revd Helena del Pino, Church of the Holy Spirit, Bretton, Peterborough Diocese
Revd Mark Coleman, Vicar, Rochdale St Chad, St Mary in the Baum & St Edmund
Revd Mark Rodel, All Hallows Lady Bay, Southwell & Nottingham Diocese
Revd Susan Height, Priest in charge, St Faith North Dulwich, Area Dean Dulwich
Revd Sally Coleman, Wesley Ebenezer, Sheffield
Revd Richard Cattley, retired priest, Maidenhead
Mother Carrie Thompson, Vicar, Forton St John the Evangelist, Portsmouth Diocese
Revd Ali Dorey, North Sheffield Estates
Revd Nick Jones, Rector, Acton
Revd Claire Carson, Lead Chaplain, St George's Hospital, London
Revd Tony Whatmough, Team Rector, Headingley Team Ministry, Leeds
Revd Stella Bailey, Vicar, Kenilworth, Coventry Diocese
Revd Andy McMullon, Parish of Sedbergh, Carlise Diocese
Revd Elaine Dando, Chichester Diocese
Revd Patricia Holmes, retired priest, Leeds Diocese
Revd Lesley Crawley, Parish of Badshot Lea and Hale
Revd Denise Harding, Methodist presbyter, Cheshire South Methodist Circuit
Ven Alastair McCollum, Archdeacon of Tolmie, Rector St John the Divine, Victoria BC
Revd Fiona Haworth, Associate Priest, St Peter Mancroft, Norwich Diocese
Revd David Bouskill, Chichester Diocese
Revd Mark Abrey, Chase Benefice, Oxford Diocese
Revd Jeanette Hartwell, Director of Reader Training, Lichfield Diocese
Revd David Kirk Beedon, Southwell & Nottingham Diocese
Revd Dr Chris Shannahan, Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations, Coventry University
Revd Steve Ingrouille, Methodist presbyter, Isle of Man
Revd Nick Jowett, retired priest, Dinnington, South Yorkshire
Revd Dr John Peet, Leeds Diocese
Revd Dr Graham Southgate, Team Rector, Nadder Valley, Salisbury Diocese
Bishop Laurie Green
Revd Wendy Wale, Chaplain, Wadham College, Oxford

Mark Bond-Webster, Norwich Cathedral Jane Hyde, soon-to-be-licensed Reader, St Mary in the Baum / St Chad Rochdale
Andy Macqueen OblSB, All Saints Basingstoke
Margaret Townsend, All Saints Bath
Rob Ellis, St John the Baptist CofE, Wonersh
Stephen Davy, London Jane Perry, Social Policy Researcher / Trainee Lay Pioneer, Lewes, Chichester Diocese
Patricia Hardman, Baptist
Hannah Land, Nottingham
Marie Holmes
Craig Nobbs, LLM, Parish of Badshot Lea and Hale
David Rhodes, writer
Anne Roberts, Bolton
Ian Wood, Local Preacher, Nottingham (East) Methodist Circuit
Laura Whitmarsh, Ordinand, Bristol
Sue Peach, Reader, Christ Church Shooters Hill, London Alison Kaan
Wendy Edwards, University Church of St Mary the Virgin, Oxford
Aidan Greenwood, Manchester Diocese
Sarah Claire-Swift, Stoke on Trent
Toby Forward
Lisa Adams, Portsmouth
Ruth Wilde, Selly Oak Quaker Meeting, Birmingham
Anne Roberts, Bolton Dr Nigel Pimlott
Liam Massey, St Paul Stockongford, Coventry Diocese
Erika Baker, St Andrew's Blagdon, Bath & Wells Diocese
Kath Rogers, All Saints with St Frideswyde, Liverpool Diocese
Jennie Liebenberg (ALM in training), St Matthew's New Waltham, Lincoln Diocese
James Ballantyne, North East pioneer development worker, Frontier Youth Trust Dr Simon John Duffy, Centre for Welfare Reform
Savi Hensman, ekklesia
Simon Barrow, ekklesia
Carrie Pemberton Ford
Barbara Wheeler
Matthew Arnold, LLM for FxC St Augustine, Mansfield & St Barnabas, Pleasley Hill, Southwell & Nottingham Diocese
Marion West, Local Preacher, Purley Methodist Circuit, London District
Tom Skinner, Manchester
Mark Bick, Pioneer Reader, Coleford, Gloucester Diocese
Angela Partoon, All Saints Walsall
Paul Keeble, Manchester
Mel Parkin, Cambridge Jessica Holmes-Stanley, Birmingham Diocese Susi Liles, Sheffield Cathedral
Ruth Harley, Children's Youth & Families' Minister, All Saints High Wycombe, Oxford Diocese
Rachel Holdforth, All Saints High Wycombe
Karin McDonald, St Mark's Godalming
Sue Williams, Lay Worship Leader, Sheffield Manor Parish
Jenny Sills, Reader, Ladywood, Birmingham Diocese
Kathryn Rose, Harrow Green, London
Ray Leonard, St Andrew Blackhall, Durham Diocese
Ann Marie Gallagher, Roman Catholic, Birmingham
Adam North, St Peter's Hall Green, Birmingham Diocese
Nick Waterfield, Methodist, Chair of Sheffield Church Action on Poverty
Kim E Lafferty, St Stephen's, Kearsley, Manchester
Dr Charles Pemberton and Ms Irene Roding, St Margarets Church, Durham
Jo Chamberlain, All Saints Ecclesall, Sheffield Diocese
Annie Weatherley-Barton, St Peter & St Paul Gosberton, Lincoln Diocese
Antony Lowe, St Christopher's, Springfield, Birmingham Diocese
Simon Cross, Oasis, Grimsby
Symon Hill, Oxfordshire
Greg Smith, Lancashire
Simon Foster, Birmingham
Jenny Richardson, Sheffield
Jacob Theunisz, Reader, The Netherlands
Paul Magnall, Church Warden, All Hallows' Leeds
David Carter, Church of Martyrs, Leicester
Denis Beaumont, Methodist Local Preacher, Wombourne