Page 5, 28th August 1970

28th August 1970
Page 5

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MY attention has been drawn to an article in the CATHOLIC HERALD (August 14) entitled "Poverty, Profit Motive and the Church" by Jonathan Power.

In the course of this atticle Mr. Power says: "The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel prohibited Christian instruction to its slaveS in Barbados and branded 'Society' on its new slaves to distinguish them from theeic of the laity."

This bald statement taken Out of context might cause some misunderstanding.

The circumstances in which the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (now the United Society for the Propagation of the Gospel), one of the largest missionary societies (Anglican) became involved with slaves were as follows.

Under the Will of General Christopher Codrington, a wealthy sugar planter Who became Governor of the Leeward Islands. the Society was bequeathed General Codrington's plantations ' in Barbados which contained some 300 Negroes. The General's desire was that the Society should found a medical school and theological college. General Codrington died' in 1710 and in his Anniversary Sermon that year Bishop Fleetwood of St. Asaph declared the Society's mind. "If all the slaves in America," he said "and every island in those seas. were to continue infidels for ever, yet ours alone must needs be Christians." And forthwith the Rev. Joseph Holt, skilled in physic and surgery as well as divinity, was sent out as chaplain and catechist. com missioned "besides the ordinary duties of a missionary . to instruct in the Christian religion the Negroes and their children, and to superintend the sick and maimed Negroes and servants."

The estate manager was ordered to give the slaves their Saturday afternoons free' to work in their gardens so that Sundays might be clear for religious instruction and worship.

These facts I have taken from "Into All Lends. The History of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts," written by the Rev. H. B. Thompson, and published by The Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. In this book, and also "Codrington Chronicle," edited by Frank J. Klingberg (University of California Press) may be found details of how the then Society for the Propagation of the Gospel attempted to advance the spiritual and material needs of those whom General Codrington had entrusted to its care.

Stanley Ebdale, Press Officer. United Society for the Propagation of the Gospel London. S.W.I.

ONE can sympathise wth Jonathan Power's fedi, g of frustration (leader page acticle, August 14) in our failure to narrow the gap between wealth and poverty, and one can certainly lay a large share of the blame on selfishnOs But is it fair to blame the capitalist system? What system does he propose to take its place?

He should also ask himself whether the under-developed countries would not be even worse off if we did not have the system which has enabled us to provide some aid. investment and know-how.

Every system is harmed by the greed and selfishness of men, but it seems to me that the capitalist system itself is, in a democracy and this technological age, more in accord with the nature of man as created by God than any other. A benevolent autocracy or a truly Communist society are both ideal forms, but they do not accord with human dignity or human nature.

Surely the answer is true Christianity, instead of the milk-and-water form so like ordinary humanism which we practise. that in which we give what we can spare, sometimes much less. As for racial equa• lity, we are all for it as long as our street is not invaded by non-whites or we do not live in Rhodesia or South Africa.

Similarly with the corporal works of mercy. What are we really doing to feed the hungry, visit the sick and shelter the homeless? Do we ever give a thought to our persecuted brothers in China and other Communist countries?

John Boyd Petersfield, Hants.

JONATHAN POWER's article of August 14, "Poverty, the profit motive and the Church," was a magnificent statement of Christian truth, instantly recalling to mind Matthew VI, verse 24.

Because Communism is anti. capitalist we have come to regard capitalism as a sort of essential virtue, whereas the truth is that Christianity and capitalism are incompatible. However unpalatable it may be, most of us today are not Christians at all; we either pay lip service or fondly imagine that nominal Christianity or church attendance automatically makes Christians of us.

The Word can only be preached by practice. Most of the real Christians in the world today work unseen, for when one comes to light — a real Christian, it makes headlines round the world. Matthew XIX, verse 21. might be a good place for the Church to start a new dawn for Christianity.

F. C. Byrne Romford, Essex.

Correspondents are asked to keep their letters as short as possible. Pressure on these columns Is increasing and many letters have to be discarded every week. Shorter letters would he more of our readers a chance of airing their views.— Editor.

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