No, not private

From the Rector General, Society of Catholic Priests

In your interpretation of Affirming Catholicism’s recent submission to the Legislative Drafting Group [May, Comment], you state that ‘the theological understanding of the office of a bishop within Christ’s Church is deemed to be a private one.’ May I point out that our entire submission was based not on ‘an ethical a priori’, but on a theology of the Church.

Very briefly I will outline the thrust of our argument. At present, the Church teaches that women may not be admitted to the episcopate. All loyal members of the Church are required to accept that fact, whether they agree with it or not. If and when the Church decides that women should be ordained bishop, the same principle, we argue, should apply. Whether or not any individual agrees or disagrees with the decision, as sons and daughters of the Church we must all accept the decision that has been made. It is the Church’s decision, not one for any individual conscience.

Individual conscience should, however, always be respected, and so we argue for what we believe to be the maximum possible space, within one Church, for those who dissent from the decision. In essence, what we propose resembles as closely as possible the provisions now in place.

Jonathan Clark

Chaplaincy role models

From Fr M. Stewart

I agree with the FiF priest [May] who posits the significant role that chaplains can, and must, have in the continuation of (orthodox) Anglicanism as parochial influence recedes, and his fear that there is little room made for such priests. My experience as a chaplain is that those making appointments, particularly in higher education, are wary of orthodox candidates and will frequently bring to bear bovine, ill-informed prejudices -and these are clergy! The same is true of health care chaplaincy, which is becoming a women-only job.

But a wider problem is that FiF has been too slow in approaching the jobs issue with rigour and efficiency. A central database of available and upcoming posts should exist, together with a seekers’

list, with perhaps some priority offered to those who need to move rather than merely wish to. A particular pinch point is curacy-to-incumbency. We must also be honest with aspirant priests: they will ceteris paribus find the securing of posts difficult – the cost of conscience.

M. Stewart

S Edmund Hall, Oxford OX1 4AR

Not an election

From Mr Mark Stevens

Paul Griffin [‘All democrats now’ May] seems to be under the impression that Matthias was elected by a majority of the remaining eleven; but not so. He was chosen, in time-honoured Jewish fashion, by the casting of lots [see I Samuel 14.41-42 and Jonah 1.7]. The point surely is to demonstrate that membership of the Twelve was by the free and sovereign choice of Jesus. Even the unanimity of the other eleven could not have secured such a place for Matthias. From the details in Acts we can further conclude that though the person of the replacement was left to the discretion of the Holy Spirit, his male-ness was taken for granted. No doubt, to Tom Wright’s considerable disappointment, neither Mary Magdalene nor Junia were deemed eligible candidates.

Mark Stevens

43 Long Street, Cerne Abbas, Dorset

Bishop Michael Houghton

From Fr Simon Ellis

With Diana Houghton’s blessing, I am compiling a booklet to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the consecration of Bishop Michael Houghton, the second Bishop of Ebbsfleet. Bishop Michael touched our lives as bishop in so many ways and this book will, with your help, draw on material from sermons, talks and stories connected with him throughout his ministry.

Whether you knew him as your Bishop or were with him in Wellingborough, St Helena, South Africa or Folkestone, please will you write to me or email me with your accounts. Humour is permitted. To produce something in time for the anniversary, please send by the end of August. The present Bishop of Ebbsfleet, +Andrew Burnham, will be writing a preface.

Simon Ellis

The Vicarage, Regent Street, Long Eaton NG10 1JX

Casting votes

From Mr John Lewis

I was pleased to see that Paul Griffin [‘All democrats now’ May] understands the election of Matthias to the number of the apostles as an election. Each person present, among the quorum of 120 (women included), cast their lot/pebble/ vote, and whereas Peter as chairman seems to have favoured Joseph, the Holy Spirit ensured that the majority went to Matthias.

Although guided by the Spirit, this ‘casting of lots’ is not, as is so often supposed, the same as the form of divination found in the Old Testament; but whether it is democratic (of the people) is another matter: it was surely understood and practised as the divinely inspired means of allowing the Holy Spirit to rule in Christ’s Church.

John Lewis

Pay your share

From the Bishop of Blackburn’s Chaplain

I read with some interest your ‘To the point’ in May’s ND, concerning the link between the non-payment of parish share and the stipend of the parish priest.

Whilst your response sets out the legal position quite correctly, it was disappointing that you chose to ignore the fundamental question the church faces when a parish either refuses or cannot meet its financial commitments. Since over 85% of parish share is used to finance the stipends of the clergy, from where are dioceses to finance the stipends of their clergy if parish share commitments are not met? Dioceses can only ask other parishes to pay more, which is likely to be grossly unfair, or reduce the number of stipendiary clergy.

This is the real issue. The article stated, ‘The financial maintenance of the clergy is a fundamental aspect of church life.’ You are right, but is it morally acceptable then to obviate yourself of all responsibility for that financial commitment?

Philip Gray

79 Ribchester Road,

Blackburn BB19HT

Letters for publication should be sent to: The Editor New Directions 2A The Cloisters, Gordon Square London WC1H OAG