Church Matters

Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England), May 17, 2003 | Go to article overview

Church Matters


Byline: By Francis Wood

I watched the news of Clare Short's resignation from the Cabinet and asked, "Who wins now?" For more than six years she had an important influence on the Government as International Development Secretary. Church agencies such as CAFOD and Christian Aid knew they had a sympathetic ear in Cabinet. A director of the Tear Fund, Andy Atkins, said: "Clare Short has been passionate about poverty and visionary in her drive to eradicate it."

Can she be as effective from the back benches?

In the Church, the question of a committee resignation is always complex. If you find yourself at odds with the Church Council (or Synod), would you have more influence by staying and making your point or leaving and arguing from outside? If you're going to make a blistering attack, do you do it in committee or outside in the street?

Little over 10 years ago, those who opposed the ordination of women threatened to leave the Church of England in droves. In the event, far fewer resigned than had threatened to and those who stayed loyal to the "new C of E" have never been able to organise themselves to make any difference today. As for the question of who won their arguments, we shall probably never know in this life.

Another news item came from the Evangelical Alliance. An invitation was issued to the new Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, to address it in Blackpool. Now the organisers are under pressure to withdraw the invitation because some members do not agree with his modern views on homosexuality. So who wins in this situations?

Isn't it usually better to listen to what a speaker has to say rather than stop him from speaking in the first piece? As for staying on a committee, if you've been voted on, you have a duty to your supporters to stay there. So by resigning, Clare Short and her supporters all lose. But the Archbishop wins. …

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