15 APRIL 1995, Page 30

Glad tidings

Sir: Mr Oddie appears to have an obsession for attacking the Church of England; he must undermine the Church of which he was once a member ('Hard Church times', 11 March).

He says that the Church of England is facing a desperate shortage of clergy and a financial crisis. What he omits to say, of course, is that they are as nothing com- pared with the difficulties which, I under- stand, face some dioceses in the Roman Catholic Church, of which he is a member.

The number of clergy in the Church of England without a post at present is in sin- gle figures. There are, however, more than 10,000 clergy in post. It is true that there are some vacant posts, but that is inevitable.

On the question of finance, it is true that the investments of the Church Commis- sioners cannot generate income to support as much of the Church's work as in the past. And the cost of pensions is rising. The parishes are being encouraged to give more and are doing so. Mr Oddie's figures on giving bear no relation to the published fig- ures. The weekly average per subscriber in 1992 was £4.14 — an increase, in real terms, of 16 per cent over the previous five years. Preliminary evidence for 1993 sug- gests that total giving by this means has increased by a further 8 per cent.

Additionally, parishes gave £9.7 million to relief organisations and other charities. This is hardly the vote of no confidence that Mr Oddie seems to be looking for.

He claims that he wants a better re-align- ment of English Christianity. Realignment will most certainly not be fostered by the sectarian vindictiveness of Mr Oddie.

Colin Semper

Canon Treasurer, Westminster Abbey, 8 Little Cloister, London SW1