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Monday 7 January 2013
Letters: The home life of a gay bishop
I wonder if the Church of England will be giving guidance to gay bishops as to what is acceptable behaviour. ("Gay bishops allowed – but they can't have sex", 5 January). Looking lovingly into partner's eyes: OK. Touching: only above the waist. Holding hands: not encouraged. Kissing: certainly not, whatever next? Perhaps cameras will need to be installed in shared homes to check levels of passion.
Will flocks be required to blow the whistle if they suspect inappropriate levels of satisfaction in the episcopal marital bed?
So: if one is a straight man, single or married, one can be a bishop. If one is a single gay man, one can be a bishop (providing one promises faithfully never to be intimate with another man). If one is a partnered gay man, one has to renounce everything promised at the civil partnership and promise to be celibate, and then one can be a bishop. If one is a woman, one cannot be a bishop, whether gay or straight, single or partnered, regardless of one's intimacy (or lack thereof) with anyone, male or female.
I am so pleased the Church has managed to clear all of this up: some of us were in danger of becoming very confused.
Solihull, West Midlands
It is surely time for the Church of England to reclaim its traditional values of tolerance, to become the beacon of liberal Christianity that many of us thought it once was and that it could still be. Wider society has moved on, and fudges designed to placate the implacable, unappeasable, ungenerous and – dare one say it? – unchristian conservative evangelicals will please no one, and will yet again make the Church appear foolish in the eyes of the world.
Perhaps it is time for conservatives to question their obsession with sex and gender above the vastly more important fundamental values of Christianity.
Doesn't it ill become those in the Church who accuse the Coalition of "redefining marriage" to redefine celibacy from being "a gift of the Holy Spirit" to an obligation on potential gay bishops? Or will the US military's discredited "Don't ask, don't tell" policy be made operative?
Dr Michael B Johnson
Although I am an agnostic, I attend services in two churches most weeks, for the spiritual atmosphere, for the music and for the opportunity to receive a blessing from my son who is a priest in one of them.
I love the Anglican Church, but am increasingly squirming with embarrassment as it persists in inviting ridicule over its outdated and irrational obsession with sex. I can imagine historians in the future studying our times and comparing transcriptions of church debates with Monty Python scripts.
Apparently, gay men can become bishops, even if they are in a civil partnership. However, they must repent any sexual behaviour and promise to live a celibate life.
Perhaps this is the way forward for women – renounce your vagina and any children that you have had and you too can lead this incredibly forward-looking organisation!
Tivetshall St Mary, Norfolk
Rail commuters don't sob – but they are angry
I think Mary Dejevsky misses the point ("Don't fall for the rail commuters' sob stories", 4 January). Commuters aren't sobbing, at least this one isn't. Nor do they feel uniquely put-upon – check out your next water or energy bill; we're all in the same fix. Many also don't choose to live away from metropolises, but are pushed out by cost of housing.
But they do feel angry paying way more than most rail travellers on the Continent for a service widely considered one of the worst. They feel even more annoyed buying a standard ticket for a third-class service when they can't get a seat.
Most commuters think rail privatisation, like that for water and energy, is a thieves' charter for second-rate businessmen who couldn't hack it in the real corporate world far from public subsidies. This has done nothing for customer choice or empowerment and even less for corporate competitiveness and accountability. Safe journey.
Mary Dejevsky is right. Rail passengers have odd ideas about value for money. Perhaps the strangest is that they should receive it and be treated like humans rather than criminals.
I challenge her to experience more than a few weeks of daily rail travel between Sheffield and Leeds and not let out at least one small, bitter sob of despair. It is an unremittingly horrible grind. People cram on to the few Cross-Country services because they are the only ones that can do the 40-mile journey between Yorkshire's two largest cities in less than an hour. They would rather stand than put up with the other slow, clapped-out trains.
Weekly rubbish collections
The assertion that fortnightly rubbish collections are needed to increase recycling is lazy analysis and simply wrong ("Let's see you rubbish recycling, Mr Pickles", 2 January).
It was the policy of the Labour government to make it as difficult as possible for householders to responsibly dispose of their rubbish – introducing new bin fines, telling councils to cut services and planning new bin taxes. Letting rubbish pile up and issuing £1,000 penalties is a pretty crude way to treat residents.
By contrast, this government believes that households can go green and still have a comprehensive weekly service, through adopting innovation, rewards and better technology. For example, Windsor and Maidenhead increased recycling by at least 35 per cent by offering reward points rather than fines.
Our £250m Weekly Collection Support Scheme has saved weekly bin collections for up to six million families across the country and will help boost recycling rates through carrots not sticks. Households typically pay £120 a month in council tax – it's not unreasonable that they get a proper rubbish and recycling service in return.
Eric Pickles MP
Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government
Sort out the lazy academics
There may be something to be said for David Willetts' request to the Office for Fair Access to incentivise universities to privilege entry applications from working-class aspirants. However, it will do those students no favours to clear their path to universities whose complacently laissez-faire teaching methods continue to perpetuate educational disadvantage.
The changes necessary to make the university experience a wholly satisfactory one for more than the exceptionally gifted among disadvantaged students would go far beyond the present limited mindset of both the universities and the universities minister and his civil servants.
The most important single starting point would be to demand that lecturers lecture and tutors teach to minimum standards of quality. A significant proportion of undergraduates express dissatisfaction with "feedback".
The lazy lecturer who merely reads from a chapter of a standard student textbook and the tutor who scrawls a one-line comment on an essay are equally responsible for many universities' reputations as truly interested only in research. Contrast the late-stage, distinguished career academic who after decades' experience regularly delivers a long course of substantial, originally argued lectures. Compare the bright, dedicated young tutor who takes a student's best efforts and subjects it to detailed, point-for-point, constructive criticism.
Add to those basic teaching standards continuous, intensive, remedial teaching on substance and method for those students whose starting achievements are well below their evident potential, and you have a process of value addition truly worthy of the name education.
Radio voices of the Fifties
Sorry, Michael McCarthy (5 January), but we baby boomers most certainly remember the name of Daphne Oxenford – for the very good reason that the announcer always said, before the signature tune of Listen with Mother: "When it finishes, Daphne Oxenford will be here to speak to you."
And our radio was not wooden! It was curved, shiny cream bakelite, stylish and very "Festival of Britain." But thanks for the memory.
It's interesting to reflect that Charles Chilton, the BBC radio pioneer (obituary, 5 January) rose from office boy to such a prominent creative and executive position, as did Louis Heren, Foreign Editor of The Times during the same era. We have widened opportunity enormously, but with 50 per cent of our young people going to university, is there any longer a chance to rise for a young person with no qualifications or money, even in the media?
Service with a scowl
I so agree with Natalie Haynes (Voices, 5 January) about the curse of the cheerful counter-hand. Having lived through the era when service with a scowl was the accepted norm, I find it all rather unsettling. There are, though, welcome exceptions.
At my local supermarket recently the young man at the checkout asked routinely how I was today.
"I'm fine," I replied civilly, "and how are you?"
"What do you care?" he muttered, without lifting his eyes from the barcode scanner.
My heart leapt and I left with a spring in my step. Unhappily, on my next visit I spotted him stacking shelves.
Loyal to what?
How absolutely sickening it is to see the Union Jack being debased by so-called "loyalists" in Northern Ireland. Can the Government make it totally clear to these moronic thugs that their actions in attacking the police make genuine and decent British people more inclined to want to sever all association with Ulster. The "loyalists" should understand they are rapidly achieving what the nationalists want.
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