Sunshine parishes split

Dear Editor,

I feel that I must congratulate Wendy Webb for having the courage to put her head above the parapet in the matter of the imbroglio within St. Vincent’s Anglican Church in the Algarve (comment The Daily Telegraph Saturday), but that is the extent of my appreciation.

Yes, I am one of the tie and collar brigade who, incidentally, make up the majority of the three congregations in the Algarve, if by this intemperate term she means traditional C of E worshippers.

Her rant against the traditional order says much about her own New Labouresque style (i.e. stifle reasoned debate by vilification of your opponents) and typifies the campaign of legal wrangling and trade union style manipulation of church council meetings – in name of the Christian church indeed – followed by Fr Britt and his closest followers. It is certainly no secret that the curse of money has led to many of the church’s problems. Mr Britt’s excessive lifestyle has placed an intolerable burden on church finances over the past few years, as the treasury strove to meet his large stipend and expense account, believed to be in excess of 60,000 euros annually (apparently ‘tax free’ if current rumours are true); all of which has to come from the collection plate, private donations or fund-raising events.

Such has been the effect of his personal style on much of the congregation in the past two years that the flow of private donations has virtually ceased and the final indignity of his trade union, which managed 32,000 pounds sterling payoff, is the last straw as far as many are concerned. Try visiting little villages in our neighbouring province, the Alentejo, to see the poverty there and realise the obscenity of this, Mr Britt! Little wonder that he has now started a clean sheet with the unconstitutional formation of a new All Saints’ Church in Almancil!

Speaking again from the tie and collar perspective, I have to admit to coming late in life to regular churchgoing, unless one counts the necessity of church parades, weddings and funerals, but, in doing so, I had until recently found a new and highly rewarding meaning to my life as a result. Consequently, I strongly resent the stigmatising and demeaning attitudes now present in our much loved church from those who should know a lot better, if we are to believe their own teaching.

Also, it seems that Mr Britt and his acolytes do not do “turn the other cheek’’ too well, judging by the threats of legal writs and other ‘legal eaglery’ that have been encountered of late by some lay persons.

As for the pathetic claims that he has had no right of reply and fails to see what he has done to deserve expulsion from the diocese of Europe, let me remind him that he and his followers have planned this breakaway movement for months. In an attempt to pervert the course of the Church Council AGM and forestall the outcome of the Visitation – called, one must remember, by Mr Britt himself – his followers first leaked highly confidential interviews between the diocese and lay members, then attempted to put forward the plan to establish All Saints’ Church as an independent solution to the pastoral difficulties caused by his own poor stewardship as Chaplain.

At the April AGM, the majority (Wendy Webb please note) of the church’s electoral roll voted against the nominees sponsored by Eric Britt for key positions on council, and rather elected those of a more traditional persuasion. The resultant swing away from Eric Britt’s control of the council (just like politics, this, isn’t it?) has more to do with his eventual resignation than any ecclesiastical considerations, and led directly, some three months later, to his appallingly duplicitous behaviour in usurping the legitimate diocesan church in the Algarve.

As one who believes the old service axiom that in many cases people in authority are promoted one level above their competence, I find that Britt’s elevated position as chaplain meets the criteria only too well, but it is singularly unfortunate that hundreds of worshippers in his churches have to suffer so badly as a result.

John Ballinger

23 July 2006