From Mr Andrew Wilcockson
I was surprised and dismayed to come across an article in this month’s New Directions: The Ancient Constitution of the State – J Alan Smith. It strikes me as a not so thinly veiled endorsement of the current Prime Minister’s actions and his administration. I have never grouped New Directions in the tabloid press category, and so I find an article such as this completely inappropriate.
Plans to reform the judiciary and scrap or reform the Supreme Court along American lines echo the sentiments of several hard-right Conservative MPs, should they be returned to office. Many would put a grave question mark over what this may mean for civil rights in this country, and the capricious actions of any future government. I am for social justice, compassion, inclusion and tolerance – qualities which have been sadly lacking in this Conservative government’s agenda – Christian values much espoused in the Diocese of Liverpool, where I am based. Should a Christian publication such as New Directions be siding in any way with such a morally and legally questionable Executive, and one which has demonstrably caused so much hardship to the most vulnerable in society? In order to redress the balance perhaps you would consider soliciting a piece which takes an opposing view. However, in the meantime I may well consider my membership of Forward in Faith going forward, and associated receipt of New Directions. Such an action would sadden me after many years of faithful and happy reading.
Received by email
Editors note: We would welcome articles on the theme suggested by Mr Wilcockson. We remind readers of the note on page 3 of this magazine that articles are printed for the interest of our readers and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Editorial Board or Forward in Faith.
From Bishop Joe Aldred
I greatly enjoyed reading the article ‘Death of a dictator’ by Nicolas Stebbing in the November 2019 issue. His warmth for and insights into Zimbabwe is evident. I was informed by his pointing out that black farmers lost out too in the farm grab; and welcomed his highlighting the gospel’s values of strength in weakness. However, I was also struck by the ease with which the writer glosses over the corrosive effects of generations of apartheid on a nation, stating ‘it is true that he led Zimbabwe to independence overthrowing the unjust rule of the white minority…’ As though this were a mere footnote on a benign form of government instead of the systematic dehumanising and murderous regime that followed colonialism – as though that were not terrible enough. I was also struck by the writer’s easy denunciation of Mugabe as not economically incompetent, but ‘never a true liberator’ and his ‘deliberate pauperization of a people’. These value judgements seem so Eurocentric.
Bishop Dr Joe Aldred
Principal Officer for Pentecostal and Multicultural Relations
Received by email
From the Bishop of Salisbury
I have greatly valued the contributions of Colin Podmore over many years. I am therefore astonished by his careless remark about a service broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on 29 September from St John’s Devizes at which I preached as the Church of England’s lead bishop on the environment. The curate leading the service introduced it, “In the name of the Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer”. It was not a baptism service, about which Dr Podmore was writing, but a Harvest Festival and therefore the priest’s introduction was appropriate. Dr Podmore’s article objected to baptism in anything other than the name of the Trinity. As he wrote, the use of any other names would not be Christian baptism. So I wonder who Dr Podmore thinks baptizes in any other name? He gives no evidence, provides no examples and specifically says that no Anglican church has authorised baptism using anything other than in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and then says, “But that doesn’t mean it does not happen”. He then refers to me and to the broadcast Harvest Festival and by innuendo appears to break the ninth commandment. It does not necessarily follow that because baptism is always in the name of the holy and undivided Trinity it is heretical at another service to begin by reminding the people that they meet in the name of the Trinitarian God described by actions attributed to each of the persons of the Holy Trinity – to create, to redeem and to sustain. The mediaeval mystic Mother Julian of Norwich said similar when she saw in something as a small as a hazelnut everything that is; that God made it, loves it and sustains it. This is not to say that these are the only actions of each person of the Trinity nor that those persons cannot exist simultaneously in one God. When a priest is licensed at the beginning of a new ministry, the bishop reads the Preface to the Declaration of Assent: “The Church of England is part of the One, Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church worshipping the one true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit”. That is the basis for the ministry of all clergy who hold a bishop’s licence in this and every diocese in the Church of England. To imply anything else without evidence is wrong and gratuitously divisive.
The Rt Revd Nicholas Holtam
Received by e-mail.
Dr Podmore writes:
As Clerk to the General Synod, I always listened with especial appreciation to the Bishop of Salisbury’s judicious contributions in the House of Bishops. I am therefore particularly sorry that my article has offended him.
Baptism ‘in the name of the Creator, the Redeemer and the Sustainer’ is well attested. In 2008 ‘events that have taken place in some English-speaking countries’ prompted the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) to publish a Response, approved by Pope Benedict, making clear that such baptisms are not valid.
That Bishop Nicholas agrees that this is not Christian baptism is no surprise to me. It was not my intention to imply that such a baptism had occurred in his diocese or with his approval. In writing that ‘the morning service on Radio 4, broadcast from a Wiltshire parish church [which I carefully did not name] in the presence of the Bishop of Salisbury, opened with the words “In the name of the Creator, the Redeemer and the Sustainer” ’, it did not cross my mind that anyone would imagine that the BBC’s morning service had been a baptism service, still less one that had opened with the baptism itself.
I argued that using this formula in baptism is unacceptable not just because it is unscriptural but also because it is theologically incorrect. Creating, redeeming and sustaining are among the actions of God the Holy Trinity: they are not the names (or indeed the exclusive actions) of the individual Persons. The official commentary on the CDF’s Response says that ‘substituting other names for Father and Son undermines our faith in the Trinity’ and that ‘The trinitarian faith is not adequately expressed when the three divine Persons are designated by names common to the three, while attributing by appropriation each individual name to a Person.’
In the Church of England, ‘In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit’ is one of the authorized ways to begin a service. Which is more ‘gratuitously divisive’: to use instead, in a broadcast service, a theologically problematic formula that replaces the names of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit with other names, or to draw attention to this having occurred in the presence of a diocesan bishop?