Forces Chaplaincy

Although the original and legitimate BUDDHIST CHAPLAINCY TO THE ARMED FORCES: ENDORSING AUTHORITY (BCAF:EA) mentioned here hasn’t met since November 2009 it hasn’t yet been wound up.

What follows chronicles what has happened regarding relations with the Buddhist Society and chaplaincy matters since the last Statement, which can be found if you scroll down and which in time precedes this most recent update.

Early in 2011 Baroness Warsi’s office contacted Lord Avebury announcing that the Government intended organising a reception for members of the Buddhist faith and asked for a suggested guest list. Lord Avebury asked me to help, which I did. I drew up a list of names and made some suggestions about the nature of the event, for example, for an evening event food and entertainments were not going to be of much use or suitable for Buddhist monks. We discovered later that the Buddhist Society was more deeply involved in the arranging of this peculiar occasion. It eventually took place in the evening of June 13th, 2011 and I attended accompanied by Dh Sunanda and Sister Khema. As we entered Louise, the Buddhist Society Registrar, the very lady whose account of what had happened at our last fateful meeting at the Buddhist Society had been so much at variance with the truth, greeted me with a gushing welcome and then a few minutes later I found myself face to face with Dr Biddulph who was even more effusive and declared that he simply had to come up to Warwickshire for a meeting. I didn’t take him very seriously and thought that would be the last I would hear of it but later, as we were leaving, I was treated to another similar performance and some weeks afterwards a meeting was arranged. Later in my Newsletter I wrote of that evening:

I also ran into Dr Biddulph of the Buddhist Society who several times said he would come up to Warwickshire and see me as though he could hardly bear to live another day without doing so. The most grotesque part of the evening had to be the military presence: uniformed and bemedalled, the Armed Forces Buddhist Society if you please. This goes to show how far some of what currently purports to be Buddhist has moved from what the Buddha taught. A few years ago when the then Government decided to appoint a Buddhist chaplain to the Armed Forces I supported the idea, not because I support the Armed Forces or in any way, shape or form condone warfare or support violence, but because I recognise that in the Armed Forces are people, men and women, suffering humanity, who might benefit by hearing about and practising Buddhism. The mistake was for the Buddhist chaplain to be directly employed by the Ministry of Defence. I was part of the original committee set up to endorse and monitor the Armed Forces Buddhist Chaplain, a committee that still exists but for the time being has no influence and I remember saying at the MoD one day that if Forces personnel converted to Buddhism they would have to resign. Why? Because what people in the Forces are trained to do and expected to do is incompatible with what the Buddha taught. Sunil, the Armed Forces Buddhist Chaplain, once disagreed with me when I said that being a soldier was wrong livelihood, he insisted that only trading in weapons was wrong livelihood! How he managed to work out that it was not all right to sell them but all right to use them beats me. Some of those medals so ostentatiously on display that evening must have been campaign medals, some might have been for extraordinary acts of bravery but I’ll bet that none were for keeping the Five Precepts on the battlefield. However splendid the uniforms and glamorous the marching bands, however stirring and romantic the tales of valour and of past campaigns, the sad and undeniable reality is that the Armed Forces and the men and women in them are there to impose the Government’s will by force and if necessary by killing, wounding and maiming fellow human beings and damaging and destroying their property. There’s no getting away from it, when the army goes into action the five precepts go out of action

On October 7th, 2011, Dr Biddulph came to see me at The Forest Hermitage. He brought me a copy of his book and some chocolate. Of course I thought that we would be talking about what had happened with the BCAF:EA. But no, when I broached the matter he declared that he hadn’t come for that and point blank refused to talk about it! I didn’t want to waste the opportunity to be on good terms and I was grateful that he had made the effort to come and see me so I let the matter drop and we continued with a cordial chat. He declared that the Buddhist Society supported Angulimala (even though he had invited the then Chaplain General of the Prison Service to a meeting at the Buddhist Society in December 2009 to hear about their Chaplaincy Support Group) and suggested I should give a talk on Angulimala at the Buddhist Society and then he appeared to suddenly think of producing a special edition of The Middle Way devoted to Chaplaincy and asked me to contribute to it, which I said I would. The meeting ended amicably and I remember suggesting that we might invite him to one of our special occasions.

I thought no more of the Special Edition of the Middle Way on Chaplaincy until more than three months later when I was in Thailand and at Wat Pah Pong, on January 15th, the day before the anniversary of the passing of Ajahn Chah, I suddenly received an email from Keith Munnings who is part of their Chaplaincy Support Group and who I believe was the commissioning editor for the Special Edition on Chaplaincy. He had this to say:

I wanted to let you know that just before christmas Desmond asked if we had enough material for a February edition of the Middle Way specifically on Buddhist Chaplaincy.This was all done at very short notice and nobody got in touch with you for a contribution, for which I can only apologise. As it is Sunil and I managed to collect up some articles on Armed Forces and Hospital Chaplaincy. We have sent them to the Middle Way editors yesterday.

Buddhist Prison Chaplaincy gets a mention in an article from Venerable Seelawimala, which is a transcript of the speech given by him at the cabinet office. It would still be possible to include an advert for Angulimala, which I understand would incur no charge.

I am concerned that due space was not given to the good work done in prisons but I do understand that the plan is to run another Chaplaincy issue in 18 months, with more in-depth articles on the various areas of chaplaincy. I hope that you will consider joining with us on this.

The following day, the day of the big occasion at Wat Pah Pong when we remember Ajahn Chah and circumambulate his chedi, I had a flurry of phone calls and emails in a similar vein to this from Louise Marchant, the Registrar at the Buddhist Society:

The February issue of our journal The Middle Way has the theme of Chaplaincy and contains articles and advertisements about Chaplaincy. Desmond has noticed that there is nothing from Angulimala and although we are past our deadline of last Friday, we think it is important to at the very least have a one page (foc) advert that informs people who Angulimala are and what they do. Is there any chance that you could send me something or ask someone else to send something as matter of urgency before Wednesday 18th January?

Many apologies about the urgency. I am suprised that the Comissioning Editor for this issue did not contact you.

Of course it was practically impossible to do anything at such short notice and with limited access to email and internet, and in any case I reflected that it was better to have nothing than something that suggested that Angulimala was an also ran in the Chaplaincy stakes rather than the leading player. I couldn’t at the time consult with Angulimala committee members but I am pleased to say that when I was able to discuss it with them they all supported my decision.

Like me several people have wondered how it was possibly for me and Angulimala to be forgotten or ignored in the planning of a special edition on Buddhist Chaplaincy. You can’t help being suspicious! After all, I have been prominent in Buddhist prison chaplaincy since 1977, and I have also for many years been actively involved in university and hospital chaplaincy. One kind person even went so far as to say that to think of Buddhist chaplaincy without me is like thinking of Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark!

When the February 2012 edition of The Middle Way was published, there within the first five lines of the Editorial I was mentioned in a statement that implied that prior to 1977 when I took it over, the Buddhist Society had looked after Buddhist Prison Chaplaincy and it was only passed to me at the request of Ajahn Sumedho! While there may be some who think that the entire universe revolves around 58, Eccleston Square there are thankfully some of us who know it doesn’t and who know that that statement was not true. Before I left England in 1971, Kapilavaddho, the founder of the English Sangha Trust and of the Hampstead Vihara, told me that for matters Buddhist it was that address that the Prison Service had and so it was that when Ajahn Chah with Ajahn Sumedho and I in attendance came to stay at the Hampstead Vihara in 1977 that we received letters from two prisons and a phone call from a third, all wanting someone to visit their Buddhist prisoners. When I asked Ajahn Chah if I could take that on he answered with one word, ‘Go!’ And that is how prison chaplaincy began for me,  absolutely nothing to do with the Buddhist Society.

In the end I don’t mind and I’m even rather glad that we were left out of that edition of The Middle Way because there are things in it, particularly on military chaplaincy, that I don’t like and I profoundly disagree with the turn taken by the Buddhist Chaplaincy to the Armed Forces since our exclusion. Of course I am hugely sympathetic to the deluded human beings who join up and are then expected to kill and be killed, to hurt and wound and be hurt and wounded, and of course I want them to have access to the Buddha’s Dhamma but not at the expense of distorting the teaching to please the employer.

Later, to set the record straight, I was persuaded to submit an article on Angulimala for the following edition devoted to the Theravada but in the light of all that has happened I hope I may be excused for no longer being able to trust some of these people at the Buddhist Society.

Ven. Chao Khun Bhavanaviteht (Luang Por Khemadhammo) OBE

_____________________________________________

BUDDHIST CHAPLAINCY TO THE ARMED FORCES: ENDORSING AUTHORITY

A  STATEMENT

July 2009

In the late summer of 2004 the Government decided that the chaplaincy in the Armed Forces should be extended to include a Buddhist, a Hindu, a Muslim and a Sikh. Each of these chaplains was expected to minister to members of their faith throughout the entire Armed Forces. And apart from the Muslim who was to be full-time, they were to be part-time appointments and all would be civilian, although it was suggested that when the initial three year appointment had been completed each might become a uniformed post.

Some members of the wider Buddhist community were horrified at the prospect of a Buddhist chaplain to the Armed Forces and protested that Buddhism and the military were incompatible but others felt that despite Buddhism’s denunciation of war and violence members of the armed forces should be able to access guidance and comfort from a Buddhist chaplain.

It appears now that the the Ministry of Defence already considered Ron Maddox, the former General Secretary of the Buddhist Society in London, as its Buddhist Adviser and therefore asked him to organise an Endorsing Authority (EA) which they defined as ‘a United Kingdom Faith Community which acknowledges and accepts specific responsibilities when any of its members or clergy are selected for military chaplaincy service in the Armed Forces.’ The MOD also stated that the EAs would have a role in identifying and selecting suitable chaplains, would accredit and endorse them and would retain religious responsibility for their chaplains who would in turn retain religious accountability to their EAs. And the EAs must offer faith specific advice to the MOD with a nominated official EA representative as a point of contact for the MOD.

Ron Maddox invited Dr Desmond Biddulph, Colin Ash and Ven. Ajahn Khemadhammo to join the Buddhist EA and in late 2004 the MOD advertised for a part time Buddhist chaplain to the Armed Forces. In March 2005, Colin Ash and Ajahn Khemadhammo represented the EA on the Board which interviewed and selected Dr Sunil Kariyakarawana who was duly appointed as the part time Buddhist Chaplain to the Armed Forces and took up his duties later that year.

In a letter to Ron Maddox in May 2005 the MOD stated that ‘the Endorsing Authorities should encompass as wide a range of traditions and views within their faith community as possible, in order to ensure a broad base of support within that community for the chaplain and his appointment.’ Consequently two more members were added to the Buddhist EA: Rev. Saido Kennaway and Dharmachari Sunanda. This meant that Theravada, Zen and the FWBO were each represented on the EA and it was intended that a Tibetan Buddhist would be added in due course.

On December 19th, 2005 at a meeting of the EA at the Buddhist Society a constitution for the BUDDHIST CHAPLAINCY TO THE ARMED FORCES: ENDORSING AUTHORITY (BCAF:EA)was drawn up and adopted by its founding members present. It was strongly felt that it should be an independent organisation and the constitution determined that ‘all decisions will be by consensus of the membership present.’ Ron Maddox was duly elected Chairman, Dharmachari Sunanda was elected Secretary and Rev. Saido was elected Treasurer. And a bank account was opened in the name of the EA into which the MOD has ever since paid an annual grant of £2,000 to cover the EA’s expenses.

Over the following two years the BCAF:EA met regularly every quarter, usually with Sunil Kariyakarawana, the Buddhist chaplain, joining for all or part of the meeting. And some headway was made with helping and supporting Sunil with the difficulties that he faced. For instance, it rapidly became obvious that there was more for him to do than had been anticipated and much more than he could possibly cope with in 15 hours a week. The EA took up the case for extending his number of hours and by September 2006 the appointment had become full time.

In April 2007, a weekend Buddhist Conference was organised by Sunil at Amport House, the Armed Forces Chaplaincy Centre in Hampshire and Ven. Ajahn Khemadhammo, Colin Ash, Rev. Saido and Dharmachari Sunanda all took part and gave of their time and expertise.

At the September 2007 meeting of the BCAF:EA it was decided to hold an AGM on December 7th, 2007. An agenda was duly prepared and circulated. The AGM Agenda had only four items: 1) Apologies;  2) Any reports from Chair, Secretary, Treasurer;  3) Re-election of Chair, Secretary, Treasurer;  4) Any other business. The remainder of the afternoon was expected to be taken up with a regular meeting of the EA.

Then on the afternoon of December 7th as the AGM was about to begin, Ron Maddox produced his own agenda and declared that he as Chairman had decided that there would be no AGM. The other members protested but Maddox would not back down and stated that he intended to remain the Chairman for the foreseeable future. This behaviour was unacceptable to the meeting and Mr Maddox was asked to leave the room while the situation was discussed. In his absence it was decided that the afternoon’s meeting could only go ahead with someone else in the Chair and Maddox was invited back for the meeting to resume with Colin Ash as Chairman. Maddox flatly declined and stated that he would not return unless he was the Chairman. The other members then had no alternative but to abandon the AGM and rescue the afternoon with a regular meeting.

It was decided that Ven. Ajahn Khemadhammo would email the contact at the MOD to explain what had happened and request a meeting. That was done on the 10th and the reply was that it was not for the MOD to interfere in the internal affairs of a faith community.

But by the end of the week after the aborted AGM, Ven. Ajahn Khemadhammo, Rev. Saido Kennaway, Dharmachari Sunanda and Colin Ash had each received a letter from Mr Maddox, typed on Buddhist Society headed notepaper and dated December 11th, 2007, dismissing them from the BCAF:EA. Furthermore the letter received by the Treasurer, Rev. Saido, required that he return the cheque book to the Buddhist Society!

The BCAF:EA’s constitution does not give any of its members the authority to dismiss another and the letters were therefore ignored. But why they were written on Buddhist Society headed paper has remained unexplained. Apart from the hire of a meeting room the EA has had no links with the Buddhist Society and is an independent organisation.

In the weeks that followed there were attempts to effect a reconciliation with Ron Maddox and Desmond Biddulph (who was not present at the December meeting but who sided with Ron Maddox) but with no success. Requests for a meeting with the MOD were also rebuffed and the MOD declared that they were returning to what they referred to as the status quo, apparently Ron Maddox as their Buddhist Faith Adviser. But to this day, when, how or by what authority that appointment was ever made remains unclear.

Since Ron Maddox effectively ceased to act as Chairman and refused to attend meetings it was decided at the March 2008 meeting to replace him with Ven. Ajahn Khemadhammo. At that meeting the representation was further extended and strengthened with the addition of two new members, Lama Jampa Thaye (Director of the Dechen Community and Venerable Chueh Yann Shih (Abbess of the London Fo Guang Temple) although shortly afterwards she was moved by her organisation from London to Geneva.

Desmond Biddulph and Ron Maddox continued to be invited to meetings of the  BCAF:EA and to be counted as members.  Then after a meeting between Ven. Ajahn Khemadhammo and Lord Avebury and the then Under Secretary of State for Defence and Minister for Veterans, Derek Twigg MP, Ron Maddox was specifically asked by Mr Twigg in a letter dated April 14th, 2008, as a matter of urgency, to meet with the members he had sought to dismiss to resolve the issue of the EA.  Maddox did nothing and did not attend the next meeting.  In consequence, at the BCAF:EA meeting in May 2008 it was decided to write by recorded delivery to ask Ron Maddox if his continued absence indicated his resignation, failure to reply by June 9th, 2008 was to be taken that he had.  There was no reply and Ron Maddox’s name was removed from the membership.  So far Desmond’s still remains on the membership list although he has consistently refused to answer letters and emails or return phone calls.  Despite all of this the BCAF:EAhas continued to make clear that the door remains open for a reconciliation and as recent as January 23rd 2009, Dh. Sunanda, the Secretary of BCAF:EA wrote to both of them and stated that “We are still open to meeting at any time to continue that dialogue and discussion. We hope you are too.  Please do contact any of us if you wish to engage with us to move this situation forward.”  Again there has been no reply!

Correspondence about this unsatisfactory state of affairs continued between Lord Avebury and Mr Twigg’s successor, Mr Jones and was supported by letters from a number of senior Buddhists representing important and influential Buddhist organisations and temples within the United Kingdom. At the meeting of TBSUK in August last year a letter addressed to Mr Twigg was signed by senior monks of thirteen Theravada temples. It stated that they had not been consulted about Mr Maddox’s appointment as Buddhist Adviser to the Armed Forces, nor would they wish to approve it retrospectively and that while Mr Maddox no doubt had many good qualities his ability to represent the broad scope of British Buddhism was questionable. It went on to commend the members of the properly constituted Endorsing Authority. Ven. Ajahn Sumedho of Amaravati wrote a separate letter in a similar vein and there were letters too from Rev. Master Daishin of Throssel Hole Buddhist Abbey, a senior Dharmachari of the FWBO and the Administrators and Coordinators of the Dechen Community Centres all expressing disquiet at the current situation and supporting the properly constituted Endorsing Authority that Ron Maddox has tried to disband. Despite all this, Mr Jones and the MOD continue to say that the provision of a Religious Endorsing Authority for the Buddhist Civilian Chaplain to the Armed Forces is a matter for the Buddhist communities to agree on.  But then they obstruct that process by continuing to champion Maddox.

Unfortunately it is perceived by some and probably put about by others that Ron Maddox was badly wronged by the four members of the BCAF:EA who attended the aborted AGM in December 2007 and that at that meeting they were going to remove him from the BCAF:EA.  But even if that had been their intention it couldn’t have happened because the Constitution specifically states that decisions have to be by a consensus of the members present and in any case the relevant item on the agenda was Re-election of Chair, Secretary and Treasurer!

What in fact has happened is that it is Ven. Chao Khun Bhavanaviteht (Ajahn Khemadhammo), Rev. Saido Kennaway, Dharmachari Sunanda and Colin Ash who have been wronged and their reputations tarnished by the divisive actions of Ron Maddox, who, having issued notices typed on Buddhist Society paper purporting to dismiss them from the BCAF:EA, has since with the support of the MOD recruited an alternative EA. Furthermore, the MOD have told Dr Sunil Kariyakarawana, the Buddhist Chaplain to the Armed Forces, to have no contact with any of them.

Out of this mess emerge three serious and important questions that ought to be answered:

How should Government and its agencies contact and relate to the Buddhist communities?

How should Buddhist teaching and practice be made available to the Armed Forces, bearing in mind that Buddhism is essentially pacifist?

How can a split amongst Buddhists, such as this, be remedied?

Ven. Chao Khun Bhavanaviteht (Ajahn Khemadhammo) OBE

Abbot of the Forest Hermitage

lpkhem@foresthermitage.org.uk

tel: 01926 624385

 

Rev. Saido Kennaway

Order of Buddhist Contemplatives (OBC) European Adviser

saidotbp@googlemail.com

01952 615574

 

Dharmachari Sunanda

dhsunanda@gmail.com

0121 441 5088

 

Colin Ash

j.c.k.ash@reading.ac.uk

014946 71043

Lama Jampa Thaye

Spiritual Director of the Dechen Community

The Lama’s Office   www.dechen.org

_____________________

Dh Sunanda has had a reply to questions he requested answers to under the Freedom of Information Act.


Release of Information
Your reference
Our reference SP 01.06.14
Date 27 May 2009
Thank you for your e-mail of 24 April 2009 to the Secretary of State for Defence about
the Buddhist Religious Adviser to the Armed Forces. Your letter has been considered to
be a request for information in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and
I have been asked to reply. I am sorry that you did not receive a response to your
previous enquiries and that it has taken so long to respond to you latest letter.
Taking each of your questions in turn:
1. because of organisational changes in the Department, I have not been able to
establish precisely when the Religious Advisers to the Armed Forces, including
the Buddhist Religious Adviser, were nominated, although the roles seem to
date from the mid-1990s;
2. the current Buddhist Religious Adviser to the Armed Forces is Mr Ronald
Maddox;
3. for the reasons set out at 1. above, we have not been able to establish what
consultations were undertaken prior to the nomination of the Religious
Advisers to the Armed Forces, although it seems likely that the individuals
were selected on the advice of faith group organisations and the Home Office
which, at the time, had cross-Government responsibility for faith issues;
4. there is no specific time limit for the role of Religious Adviser to the Armed
Forces;
5&6. the Religious Advisers to the Armed Forces are voluntary appointments and
not MOD employees and therefore have no formal terms of service;
7. a number of letters have been received from members of Buddhist
community about the Buddhist Religious Adviser;
DGSPPo(
INVB8TOR Dl PBOPLB
8. the role of the Religious Adviser is voluntary and no monies from public funds
have been paid to the Religious Advisers, although they are entitled to claim
any expenses incurred as a result of attending meetings.
If you are unhappy with this response or you wish to complain about any aspect of the
handling of your request, then you should contact me in the first instance. If informal
resolution is not possible and you are still dissatisfied then you may apply for an
independent internal review by contacting the Director of Information Exploitation, 6th
Floor, MOD Main Building, Whitehall, SW1A 2HB (e-maillnfo-XD@mod.uk). Please note
that any request for an internal review must be made within 40 working days of the date
on which the attempt to reach informal resolution has come to an end.
If you remain unhappy following an internal review, you may take your complaint to the
Information Commissioner under the provisions of Section 50 of the Freedom of
Information Act. Please note that the Information Commissioner will not investigate the
case until the internal review process has been completed. Further details of the role and
powers of the Information Commissioner can be found on the Commissioner’s website,
http://www.informationcommissioner.gov.uk.
I hope this is helpful.

Date 27 May 2009

Dear Mr Sunanda,

Release of Information

Thank you for your e-mail of 24 April 2009 to the Secretary of State for Defence about the Buddhist Religious Adviser to the Armed Forces. Your letter has been considered to be a request for information in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and I have been asked to reply. I am sorry that you did not receive a response to your previous enquiries and that it has taken so long to respond to you latest letter.

Taking each of your questions in turn:

1. because of organisational changes in the Department, I have not been able to establish precisely when the Religious Advisers to the Armed Forces, including the Buddhist Religious Adviser, were nominated, although the roles seem to date from the mid-1990s;

2. the current Buddhist Religious Adviser to the Armed Forces is Mr Ronald Maddox;

3. for the reasons set out at 1. above, we have not been able to establish what consultations were undertaken prior to the nomination of the Religious Advisers to the Armed Forces, although it seems likely that the individuals were selected on the advice of faith group organisations and the Home Office which, at the time, had cross-Government responsibility for faith issues;

4. there is no specific time limit for the role of Religious Adviser to the Armed Forces;

5&6. the Religious Advisers to the Armed Forces are voluntary appointments and not MOD employees and therefore have no formal terms of service;

7. a number of letters have been received from members of Buddhist community about the Buddhist Religious Adviser;

8. the role of the Religious Adviser is voluntary and no monies from public funds have been paid to the Religious Advisers, although they are entitled to claim any expenses incurred as a result of attending meetings.

If you are unhappy with this response or you wish to complain about any aspect of the handling of your request, then you should contact me in the first instance. If informal resolution is not possible and you are still dissatisfied then you may apply for an independent internal review by contacting the Director of Information Exploitation, 6th Floor, MOD Main Building, Whitehall, SW1A 2HB (e-maillnfo-XD@mod.uk). Please note that any request for an internal review must be made within 40 working days of the date on which the attempt to reach informal resolution has come to an end.

If you remain unhappy following an internal review, you may take your complaint to the Information Commissioner under the provisions of Section 50 of the Freedom of Information Act. Please note that the Information Commissioner will not investigate the case until the internal review process has been completed. Further details of the role and powers of the Information Commissioner can be found on the Commissioner’s website, http://www.informationcommissioner.gov.uk.

I hope this is helpful.

Yours Sincerely,

John Gow

_____________________

THE MINISTER HAS REPLIED TO LORD AVEBURY

19th April 2009

Dear Lord Avebury,

Thank you for your letter of 15 March 2009 about the Endorsing Authority for the Buddhist Chaplaincy to the Armed Forces.

I note that you felt it necessary to disclose my letter to you of 27 February 2009 to a wider audience.

As you are aware, I have discussed this issue with Mr Maddox and I am satisfied that he consults with a range of representatives from different Buddhist traditions in his role as Endorsing Authority representative. I know that there are a very wide range of different Buddhist traditions and that it would accordingly be impractical to seek the views of them all. The individuals whom Mr Maddox consults are:

Dr D R Biddulph

Revd G E Rock

Mr S Sessions

The Venerable B Seelawimala

I regret that you did not feel able to accept my invitation to discuss these issues and, given our lengthy previous correspondence, I do not think there is anything further that I can  usefully add to what I have said in my earlier letters. Nevertheless, we do periodically revisit our processes for the review appointments as Religious Advisers and Endorsing Authorities. Although we do not have an agreed timescale for the next review at present, the next time we conduct one of these reviews I will inform you of the outcome.

Yours,

signed

KEVAN JONES MP

_____________________

LETTER FROM LORD AVEBURY TO THE MINISTER

March 15, 2009

Dear Mr Jones,

Thank you for your letter of February 27, ref D/Min(Veterans)/KJ MC00598/2009, about the Endorsing Authority for the Buddhist Prison Chaplaincy. Will you please let me have the names of the persons on the EA which has been appointed by Mr Ron Maddox, and how you reached the opinion that they represent a broad spectrum of Buddhist traditions – other than being assured of this by Mr Maddox himself?

You say that the appointment of Mr Maddox was made on the advice of the Buddhist Society, of which Mr Maddox was an official at the time. The Buddhist Society doesn’t ‘represent a broad spectrum of Buddhist traditions’ but has been run by a small inner circle for some years. Perhaps that helps to account for its declining membership and other internal problems. I used to be a member of the Society but discontinued my membership some years ago, after Christmas Humphreys died.

You now repeat, as you have said several times already, that the provision of a Religious Endorsing Authority is a matter for the Buddhist communities to agree on There was a working EA, and by your own logic there ought to have been consultation when Mr Maddox decided to write to the majority of its members purporting to dismiss them. Why did you not then say to Mr Maddox, as you keep reiterating to me, that the EA is a matter for the Buddhist communities? I agree with you, it shouldn’t be for one autocrat to decide or suddenly alter the composition of the EA, without any consultation whatsoever.

Equally, by the principle you say you are following, the appointment of Mr Maddox should be a matter for periodic consultation with the Buddhist communities. You haven’t responded to my challenging the permanence of this appointment, and I ask you to address that point now.

In the meanwhile, as I said in my last letter, since we have made no progress through private correspondence, I agreed with the Ven Khemadhammo Mahathera that your letter be made available to a wider circle of the Buddhist communities, and to this end he has placed your letter on his blog, accompanied by the attached comment. I am considering whether any additional means of disseminating the problem are needed, so that you may know whether ‘the Buddhist communities’ think there has been adequate consultation, either on the appointment of Mr Maddox as Buddhist Adviser t the Armed Forces, or his purported dismissal of members of the Endorsing Authority. In the meanwhile, I venture to hope that your letter of February 27 wasn’t your last word on the subject, and that you will now heed the advice we have been trying to offer, which I respectfully suggest is more representative than the advice your officials have taken so far.

Yours Sincerely,

Eric Avebury


Kevan Jones Esq MP,

Ministry of Defence,

Floor 5, Zone B Main Building,

Whitehall,

London SW1A 2HB

_____________________

BUDDHIST CHAPLAINCY TO THE ARMED FORCES: ENDORSING AUTHORITY

AN UPDATE

15th March 2009

More than fifteen months have elapsed since Ron Maddox purported to dismiss the four of us from the properly constituted Endorsing Authority for Buddhist Chaplaincy to the Armed Forces (see the Statement below), even though the constitution gives no one the power to dismiss another, let alone the entire membership. The four of us strengthened by the addition of Ven. Lama Jampa Thaye continue to meet under my chairmanship but without any contact with the Ministry of Defence or the Buddhist Chaplain to the Armed Forces and without Ron. We understand that another group has been formed and although we are not entirely sure who are its members, we have heard that they include Ron Maddox, Desmond Biddulph, a former Colonel of the Gurkhas, Ganshin Rock and a Theravada abbot. We presume that the Theravada abbot is Ven. Seelawimala of the London Buddhist Vihara. We know that he was approached and may have been considered a member, although he never attended any meetings and recently told Ron that he wanted nothing to do with it.

In those fifteen months there have been a number of representations to first Mr Twigg when he was the Minister responsible, including a meeting with Lord Avebury and myself, and more recently Mr Twigg’s successor, Mr Jones. These representations have been mostly through correspondence between the Minister and Lord Avebury but have also included letters from a number of senior Buddhists representing important and influential Buddhist organisations and temples within the United Kingdom. At the meeting of TBSUK in August last year a letter addressed to Mr Twigg was signed by senior monks of thirteen Theravada temples. It stated that we had not been consulted about Mr Maddox’s appointment as Buddhist Adviser to the Armed Forces, nor would we wish to approve it retrospectively and that while Mr Maddox no doubt has many good qualities his ability to represent the broad scope of British Buddhism is questionable. It then went on to commend the members of the properly constituted Endorsing Authority. Ven. Ajahn Sumedho of Amaravati wrote a separate letter in a similar vein and there were letters too from Rev. Master Daishin of Throssel Hole Buddhist Abbey, a senior Dharmachari of the FWBO and the Administrators and Coordinators of the Dechen Community Centres all expressing disquiet at the current situation and supporting the properly constituted Endorsing Authority that Ron Maddox has sought to disband.

Those letters and recent correspondence from Lord Avebury have been answered in a letter from Mr Jones, a scan of which I reproduce here with the text below.

Dear Lord Avebury,

jones_2009_03_082

Thank you for your letter of 5 February about the Endorsing Authority for the Buddhist Chaplaincy to the Armed Forces. I have also received letters from representatives of a number of Buddhist organisations, and I hope you will accept this as a response to those letters.

I would like to begin by explaining that Religious Advisers to the Armed Forces from the Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim and Sikh faiths were appointed on the recommendation of faith bodies recognised as the primary points of contact by the Home office, who were then lead Government Department on matters of religion and belief. On the advise of the Buddhist Society, Mr Ron Maddox was appointed as Buddhist Religious Adviser to the Armed Forces.

As I have said before, the provision of a Religious Endorsing Authority for the Buddhist Civilian Chaplain to the Armed Forces is a matter for the Buddhist communities to agree on. I understand that Mr Maddox, on his own initiative, chose to convene an Endorsing Authority committee in an attempt to represent a broad a spectrum of Buddhist traditions. It is regrettable that differences, which appear to be irreconcilable, have meant that the committee with its original membership became unworkable and Mr Maddox felt that he had no option but to disband it and reconvene a new committee with a different membership. However, I am satisfied that this new committee also represents a broad spectrum of Buddhist traditions (although clearly with over 600 Buddhist groups in the UK, it cannot claim to represent them all). I further note that Mr Maddox has the support of the Buddhist Chaplain to the Armed Forces who, in turn, is well respected by members of the Armed Forces who follow the teachings of Buddha.

It was disappointing that you felt unable to accept my invitation to discuss these matters, but I hope this helps to explain the position.

 

Kevan Jones MP

In particular this letter raises the serious point about how the Government should contact and consult the various schools and organisations that together make up the Buddhist community in this country. It is unclear how long ago the Home Office considered the Buddhist Society of Eccleston Square, London SW1 as the Buddhist primary point of contact and whether even then other Buddhist groups knew about it and would have agreed. Right now it is obvious that such an arrangement whereby the Buddhist Society is the Government’s primary point of contact for Buddhist matters is no longer tenable, out of date and must most urgently be reviewed.

Other points that have not been answered include whether this appointment of Ron Maddox as the Buddhist Adviser to the Armed Forces is for life or not, and why when the Minister keeps on saying that it is for the Buddhist Communities to agree on the provision of an Endorsing Authority he doesn’t take notice of the fact that senior members of those communities have voiced their disagreement and concern about the current situation that he, the Minister, stubbornly continues to accept and support.

Ven. Chao Khun Bhavanaviteht (Ajahn Khemadhammo) OBE     15/03/09

_____________________

A LETTER TO RON & DESMOND

Friday 23 January 2009

Dear Desmond and Ron

Buddhist Chaplaincy to the Armed Forces: Endorsing Authority

The members of the BCAF:EA committee have asked me to write to you regarding your involvement with the EA.

We remain disappointed that there has been no substantial communication between us for over a year. We have written to each of you several times asking about your involvement.

But we have received nothing since 11-Dec-2007 when Ron sent letters on Buddhist Society note paper to Rev. Saido, Yen Khemadhammo, Mr Colin Ash and Dh. Sunanda. The letters stated that Ron was taking immediate action to terminate their membership of the Endorsing Authority.

As you may remember, we did not endorse Ron’s action; and we have remained active as the formally constituted Endorsing Authority, pending further dialogue and discussion.

We are still open to meeting at any time to continue that dialogue and discussion.

We hope you are too.

Please do contact any of us if you wish to engage with us to move this situation forward.

With best wishes,

Dh. Sunanda

_____________________


 

A STATEMENT

March 9th, 2008

In the late summer of 2004 the Government decided that the chaplaincy in the Armed Forces should be extended to include a Buddhist, a Hindu, a Muslim and a Sikh. Each of these chaplains was expected to minister to members of their faith throughout the entire Armed Forces. And apart from the Muslim who was to be full-time, they were to be part-time appointments and all would be civilian, although it was suggested that when the initial three year appointment had been completed each might become a uniformed post.

Some members of the wider Buddhist community were very worried by the prospect of a Buddhist chaplain to the Armed Forces and protested that Buddhism and the military were incompatible but others felt that there would be some amongst the suffering humanity who are in the Army, the RAF and the Royal Navy who would benefit by hearing the Dhamma. It has been necessary however to make clear that Buddhism neither condones nor supports war or the threat of war.

The Ministry of Defence contacted Ron Maddox who had not long retired after a number of years as the General Secretary of the Buddhist Society in London and asked him to organise an Endorsing Authority (EA) which was defined as ‘a United Kingdom Faith Community which acknowledges and accepts specific responsibilities when any of its members or clergy are selected for military chaplaincy service in the Armed Forces.’ The MOD went on to explain that the EAs would have a role in identifying and selecting suitable chaplains, would accredit and endorse them and would retain religious responsibility for their chaplains who would in turn retain religious accountability to their EAs. And the EAs must offer faith specific advice to the MOD with a nominated official EA representative as a point of contact for the MOD.

Ron Maddox invited Dr Desmond Biddulph, Colin Ash and Ven. Ajahn Khemadhammo to join the Buddhist EA and in late 2004 the MOD set about advertising for a part time Buddhist chaplain to the Armed Forces. In March 2005, Colin Ash and Ajahn Khemadhammo represented the EA on the Board which interviewed and selected Dr Sunil Kariyakarawana who was duly appointed as the part time Buddhist Chaplain to the Armed Forces and took up his duties later that year.

In a letter to Ron Maddox in May 2005 the MOD stated that ‘the Endorsing Authorities should encompass as wide a range of traditions and views within their faith community as possible, in order to ensure a broad base of support within that community for the chaplain and his appointment.’ Consequently two more members were added to the Buddhist EA: Rev. Saido Kennaway and Dharmachari Sunanda. This meant that Theravada, Zen and the FWBO were each represented on the EA and it was intended that a Tibetan Buddhist would be added in due course.

On December 19th, 2005 at a meeting of the EA at the Buddhist Society a simple Constitution for the Buddhist Chaplaincy to the Armed Forces: Endorsing Authority was drawn up and adopted by its founding members present. An important principle enshrined in that constitution is that ‘all decisions will be by consensus of the membership present.’ Ron Maddox was duly elected Chairman, Dharmachari Sunanda was elected Secretary and Rev. Saido was elected Treasurer. And a bank account was opened in the name of the EA into which the MOD has ever since paid an annual grant of £2,000 to cover the EA’s expenses.

Over the following two years the EA met regularly every quarter, usually with Sunil Kariyakarawana, the Buddhist chaplain, joining for all or part of the meeting. And some headway was made with helping and supporting Sunil with the difficulties that he faced. For instance, it rapidly became obvious that there was more for him to do than had been anticipated and much more than he could possibly cope with in 15 hours a week. The EA took up the case for extending his number of hours and by September 2006 the appointment had become full time.

On the weekend of the 20th – 22nd of April a Buddhist Conference was organised by Sunil at Amport House, the Armed Forces Chaplaincy Centre in Hampshire and Ven. Ajahn Khemadhammo, Colin Ash, Rev. Saido and Dharmachari Sunanda all took part and gave of their time and expertise.

Although the EA’s Constitution made no mention of an Annual General Meeting it is usual for organisations like the EA to have one, to review the business of the previous year, develop a strategy for the year ahead, and elect or confirm the re-election of the officers. By the end of 2007 most members of the Buddhist EA felt it was high time for such a review. It was therefore decided at the meeting of the EA in September 2007 to hold an AGM on December 7th, 2007 and an agenda was duly prepared and circulated. The Agenda had only four items: Apologies; Any reports from Chair, Secretary, Treasurer; Re-election of Chair, Secretary, Treasurer; Any other business. The remainder of the afternoon was expected to be taken up with a regular meeting of the EA.

When on the afternoon of December 7th the members of the EA, with the exception of Dr Biddulph who as had often been the case was unable to be present, sat down to commence the meeting, Ron Maddox produced and distributed another agenda which he said that he as Chairman had decided would be followed that afternoon and there would be no AGM. The other members were shocked and surprised and protested but Ron Maddox would not back down and stated that he intended to remain the Chairman for the foreseeable future. Understandably this behaviour was not acceptable to the meeting and he was asked to leave the room while the situation was discussed. In his absence the other members of the EA present decided that in the circumstances the meeting could only go ahead with, for that meeting, someone else in the Chair and Ron was then invited back to continue the meeting with Colin Ash as Chairman. He flatly declined and stated that would not return unless he was the Chairman. The other members then continued with a regular meeting.

Mr Maddox was no doubt aware that his style of chairmanship had not been popular with other members of the EA and he may have acted as he did to preempt any decision to elect another member of the EA as chairman. But here it must be repeated that the Constitution states clearly that ‘all decisions will be by consensus of the membership present.’

It was decided that Ven. Ajahn Khemadhammo would email the contact at the MOD to explain what had happened and request a meeting. That was done and the reply was that it was not for the MOD to interfere in the internal affairs of a faith community.

By the end of the week following Ven. Ajahn Khemadhammo, Rev. Saido Kennaway, Dharmachari Sunanda and Colin Ash had each received a letter from Ron Maddox, typed on Buddhist Society headed notepaper and dated December 11th, 2007, dismissing them from the EA.

The Constitution does not give anyone the authority to dismiss anyone from the EA, and the letters were accordingly treated as invalid and of no effect by the recipients. For the same reasons, furthermore, the demand made in the letter to Rev. Saido, the Treasurer of the EA that he return the cheque book to the Buddhist Society was ignored.

Since then there have been attempts to effect a reconciliation with Ron Maddox and Desmond Biddulph (who was not present at the December meeting but who appears to have sided with Ron Maddox) but with no success. Requests for a meeting with the MOD have also been rebuffed and they have said that they are returning to what they refer to as the status quo which they say is Ron Maddox as their Buddhist Faith Adviser. When, how or by what authority he was ever appointed to this position is not clear.

In the meantime the EA continues. There have been two meetings, one in January and another in March and Ron Maddox and Dr Biddulph have been informed of these and invited but have not appeared. Since Ron Maddox has effectively ceased to act as Chairman it was decided at the March meeting to replace him with Ven. Ajahn Khemadhammo. At that meeting the representation was further extended and strengthened with the addition of two new members, Venerable Chueh Yann Shih (Abbess of the London Fo Guang Temple) and Lama Jampa Thaye (Director of the Dechen Community), making eight in all. And of course the EA continues to be there to support Sunil, the Buddhist Chaplain.

To avoid any split or conflict within the Buddhist community, if anyone reading this is or has been approached about possible membership of an alternative Endorsing Authority or participation in the forthcoming Buddhist conference for the Armed Forces in May this year, it would be helpful if you would kindly contact Ven. Ajahn Khemadhammo, Rev. Saido, Colin Ash or Dh. Sunanda.

Ven. Chao Khun Bhavanaviteht (Ajahn Khemadhammo) OBE

Abbot of the Forest Hermitage

lpkhem@foresthermitage.org.uk

tel: 01926 624385


Rev. Saido Kennaway

Order of Buddhist Contemplatives (OBC) European Adviser

saidotbp@googlemail.com

01952 615574


Dharmachari Sunanda

dhsunanda@gmail.com

0121 441 5088


Colin Ash

j.c.k.ash@reading.ac.uk

014946 71043