Thinking Anglicans

more on the Wycliffe Hall row

Updated Saturday

The Church Times has this report by Bill Bowder: Principal’s changes lead to resignations and wall of silence. It starts out:

WYCLIFFE HALL, Oxford, is the focus of a dispute involving allegations of a culture of bullying and intimidation, and of an ultra-conservative attitude to women.

The governing Council of the theological college, a permanent private hall of the University, is chaired by the Bishop of Liverpool, the Rt Revd James Jones. This week it said that it had embarked on a review of the college’s governance.

The complaints centre on the management style of the Principal, the Revd Dr Richard Turnbull, and his appointment of the Revd Simon Vibert as Vice-Principal. Mr Vibert had made public his belief that women should not teach men.

He co-wrote, with the Revd Dr Mark Burkill and the Revd Dr David Peterson, a Latimer Trust paper that argued that a woman on her own should not teach men about faith or lead a congregation (Ministry Work Group Statement concerning the ministry of women in the Church today). [PDF file]

Since Dr Turnbull was appointed in 2005, six full-time or part-time academic staff have resigned posts. In a letter of resignation to Dr Turnbull in March, the former director of studies, Dr Philip Johnston, accused him of leadership “without significant regard for your staff colleagues”. Dr Johnston wrote that the new Vice-Principal had been appointed despite a “very strong consensus” of staff and students in favour of a different candidate…

The Church of England Newspaper has, via Anglican Mainstream this report: Wycliffe Council backs Principal in process of change. Part of the report:

A LEADING evangelical theological college this week responded to allegations of bullying and deep divisions among staff due to it becoming more doctrinally conservative.

The Council of Wycliffe Hall, which is part of the University of Oxford, admitted the college was going through a period of change which was ‘unsettling’. The statement follows a document circulated to the press which claims the college in ‘in crisis’ after being ‘taken over’ by a ‘highly conservative evangelical faction who are deliberately trying to drive out longstanding and highly respected staff members by their aggressive, homophobic behaviour’.

The anonymous document claims that since the appointment two years ago of the current Principal, the Rev Dr Richard Turnbull,the culture at the college has ‘become increasingly hostile to women priests and openly homophobic’, and that a ‘culture of bullying and intimidation began to develop’.

It adds that unrest grew at the college when Dr Turnbull signed the controversial ‘Covenant for the Church of England’, a document drawn up by conservative evangelicals proposing alternative Episcopal arrangements for their churches in the row over homosexuality. The document claims that several members of the teaching staff have already resigned as they feel alienated and intimidated by the college management, and calls for the Church of England to intervene.

It concludes: “This college is no longer fit to be recognised either as a training institution for the ordinands of the Church of England or as a permanent private hall of Oxford University. It is not a safe place for women or gays … the Church and university must act to do something.”

A further report is in Cherwell24 Crisis at Wycliffe Hall as five staff resign in protest

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Pluralist
Guest

I suppose one way of looking at it from a Church of England resources point of view is that, if its Militant Tendency has taken over Wycliffe then either it or Oak Hill can be closed down. There is hardly a need for two of these places.

James Crocker
Guest
James Crocker

I think it might be helpful for debate if people stopped smearing everyone with legitimate theological concern over the validity of homosexual priests as ‘homophobic’.

It’s a bit like accusing all homosexual people of being pedophiles, as in, there isn’t really any relation, but when you do it you trick naive people into agreeing with you.

Caliban
Guest
Caliban

As I have always suspected, Oxford is a bloody awful place. If you must insist on being an evangelicalista, you should at least have the decency to do it at Ridley. Not that I encourage that sort of thing.

Chris
Guest
Chris

Glad to see someone had the courage of their convictions to circulate an anonymous document.

Apparently the authors sees the Covenant for the Church of England as misogynistic and homophobic since that’s when the problems began.

Göran Koch-Swahne
Guest

Back to Dr Knox again, are we!

“The Monstrous Regiment of Women!”

I do so wish these people wouldn’t change the subject all the time…

mynsterpreost (=David Rowett)
Guest
mynsterpreost (=David Rowett)

Well, it’s good to know that Stephen Bates’ report was no more than an unfounded anti-Christian typically Guardian piece of polemic. When did the idea that women should not teach men become part and parcel of the Church of England? With the advent of the smoking ban in England, I wonder whether we should be forced to take a leaf out of the health campaigners’ books and place warning signs above our church notice boards, something on the lines of ‘please note that this institution believes women to be unfit to lead or educate men.’ Like NP keeps telling us,… Read more »

Raspberry Rabbit
Guest

The Anonymous Document Circulating (hereafter known as the ADC) cannot really be taken seriously (by anybody other than the press and the blogs). It will almost always contain elements which cannot fairly be uttered in a tribunal or even written with a signature at the bottom. No reviewing body will be able to take an ADC seriously and its author will not likely be able to say ‘Oh, and btw, I was the cowardly piece of shit who wrote this about my college and leaked it to the press.’

Thomas Renz
Guest
Thomas Renz

Simon Vibert is cited as having gone on record saying “that women should not teach men”. I know that David Peterson would disagree. We have women teach and preach at Oak Hill College. I do not know what Richard Turnbull’s own view is. He may well be close to Simon Vibert but he has also appointed Will Donaldson who is cited as being in favour of women’s ministry “at every level”.

From this we may conclude that Wycliffe Hall, like Oak Hill but maybe unlike many other Anglican training colleges, has faculty members of either integrity.

Cheryl Clough
Guest

I have heard several conversations and read numerous documents where Anglicans who posited that it is inappropriate for women to teach men – we are to submit to them. It is okay to teach children and non-Christians, but not superior men. With people being more honest about their theology, we should see more open articulation by those who agree with these positions. My observations are that there are interesting correlations with those that judge women as inferior and other habits of accusation and rejection against other souls. There seems to be a core underpinning paradigm that God’s heart is too… Read more »

Lapinbizarre
Guest
Lapinbizarre

The most disturbing aspect of these reports is that both state that Dr. Turnbull declined comment because “disciplinary proceedings were under way” (Church Times); “ongoing disciplinary procedures [are] taking place at the college” (C of E Newspaper). Against whom? On what charges? Is this an ongoing purge?

Göran Koch-Swahne
Guest

More rope! more rope!

Bill Carroll
Guest

I’m not sure how this works in the Church of England. In the U.S., bishops can keep students from going to Trinity (evangelical) or Nashotah (nasty, misogynistic, homophobic AC) seminaries and can refuse to license graduates to serve. They could do it for any seminary and I’m sure it happens the other way. I would think that the ideal would be that any seminary was acceptable to the whole Church. I don’t personally want anyone who holds that women may not teach men anywhere near any seminarian. And I don’t want any graduate from any theological college or seminary that… Read more »

Pluralist
Guest

Ask why documents, hereafter known as the ADC, get generated and circulated?

Christopher Shell
Guest
Christopher Shell

Although a lot of the salient facts are clear enough, one can’t use an anonymous document to obtain access to a single fact. Its credibility would very likely be enhanced (though who can say yet how far enhanced?) if we knew who wrote it, their credentials, and their degree of knoweldge of the situation.

NP
Guest
NP

Goran says “More rope! more rope!” Distasteful glee What is behind this, Goran? Maybe you are pleased to see WH receiving bad press (from the Left) because, from your unconvincing, pseudo-itellectual musings round here, you clearly would never have got a place at Wycliffe yourself? Hope you will not be too disappointed when you find out the problems are not as bad as you hope! Despite the anonymous notewriter’s agenda and Bates’ help in stirring up publicity based on unverifiable sources, you are going to find that the biggest problem WH has is fitting in all the brilliant young people… Read more »

Sean Doherty
Guest

Bill Carroll: I am sorry that you want to keep ordinands away from honest theological discussion with people with whom they may disagree! I am from the old-fashioned school of thought which says that you can learn from people you disagree with by *listening* to them. The Church of England recognises two integrities on this issue even if you do not. In any college people will always disagree. The point is how you handle it. Wycliffe is a place of vigorous and open debate – the idea of someone trying to impose their views (let alone succeeding) is daft since… Read more »

Mark Bennet
Guest
Mark Bennet

Several of the books of the Bible are anonymous, or of highly contested authorship. Some of the careless generalisations being made here about anonymous or contested documents are very unwise. The saddest thing about the posts here is that there seem to be some genuine causes for concern at Wycliffe, but instead of addressing these (and asking how serious they might be) we get ‘homophobia’, ‘othodoxy’ and ‘fundamentalism’ – the trigger words of conflict which are beginning to have very little useful content in any contribution to understanding. The Church Times does not base its article exclusively on anonymous documents… Read more »

C.B.
Guest
C.B.

James Crocker – First off, you consider the term homophobic to be a smear. It is intended to be descriptive. The fact that we don’t like people who meet that description may present problems for them and us, but it is not a smear. Second, someone who is homophobic displays the characteristics of homophobia – a fear or mistrust of or strong feeling of aversion or repugnance towards homosexuals and homosexuality. You say that people who hold up the Bible as their rationale for homophobia should be exempt from being called homophobic. But if they do fear and mistrust homosexuals,… Read more »

BobinWashPA
Guest
BobinWashPA

My first teacher of religion was a women, my mother. I’m sure most of us learned about our faith first from our mothers. Over the years I’ve learned more from her than any priest (no offense to the priesthood). Maybe women shouldn’t do anything but make babies and clean house? How sick is that?

Peace, Bob

Stephen Bates
Guest
Stephen Bates

Sorry if Mynsterpreost finds my article unfounded: it seems pretty well endorsed by the separate Church Times and CEN reports to me. I also received an unsolicited email on the morning my story appeared from a senior evangelical bishop (whose identity might be a surprise to some on this blog) thanking me for exposing something that needed to be said, so clearly concerns are circulating both within Wycliffe Hall and in the wider evangelical community. No one has challenged the essential facts about the recent resignations of nearly half the hall’s academic staff. I spoke to several members of staff… Read more »

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

We need a second Oak Hill like a hole in the head.

About time this was stopped.

mynsterpreost (=David Rowett)
Guest
mynsterpreost (=David Rowett)

Apologies, Stephen: my first line was meant to be ironic, on the grounds that a number of contributors on TA’s previous thread, and many on T19 were impugning your report, claiming it to be groundless anti-Christian sensationalism from a typically unreliable (=Guardian) source. A phrase (with regard to such contributors) involving ‘egg’ and ‘face’ runs through my mind….

Thomas Renz
Guest
Thomas Renz

Stephen Bates – I think Mynsterpreost’s post was a (sarcastic) reaction to my comments on the earlier thread on which I mentioned that I do not trust you to distinguish carefully between facts, inferences and speculation and so does not express his real opinion about your report. Your story contains facts. I for one have never disputed that. But in relying so heavily on an “Anonymous Document Circulating” (ADC), it also buys into a number of inferences and speculation without distinguishing these from the facts. Thus, e.g., the distinction between resignation from a position and resignation from employment is blurred… Read more »

JPM
Guest
JPM

>>>I still hope Dr Zahl is on his way over!!

Me, too!!!!

We can pack up all of our Talibanglicans and send them over, if you like.

Geez, why is everyone acting so surprised that fundamentalists are engaged in a purge? That’s what they do. It’s like being shocked to learn that fish swim, birds fly, and Lance Armstrong rides bikes. The real stunner here would be a group of fundamentalists *not* trying to drive one another out.

Alan Harrison
Guest
Alan Harrison

When I opened my Grauniad yesterday, I must confess that my first reaction was, “Hmmmm, Wycliffe Hall’s protty – shock! horror! No doubt tomorrow we’ll have an exclusive revelation of the religious allegiance of the Pope.” On reading on, I realised that Stephen Bates had been ill-served by headline writers, and that there is something pretty nasty going on here. Mr Bates has succinctly summed up the issues in his response here. Wearing my secular hat, as an activist in the AUT until I was sacked, I can see that industrial relations at Wycliffe Hall are in turmoil – the… Read more »

Pluralist
Guest

I think it was irony from Mynsterpreost.

JCF
Guest
JCF

“Revd Simon Vibert as Vice-Principal. Mr Vibert had made public his belief that women should not teach men. He co-wrote, with the Revd Dr Mark Burkill and the Revd Dr David Peterson, a Latimer Trust paper that argued that a woman on her own should not teach men about faith or lead a congregation”

You know, this would be FUNNY (like some gawdawful ‘Kerrrrristchun’ stereotype in a sketch comedy?), if it were so serious (seriously real).

Lord have mercy!

Pluralist
Guest

Conservative evangelicals do have disagreements. There is a big disagreement on women’s headship. But what is happening at Wycliffe Hall is an attack on the Open Evangelical position. We have seen the dispute regarding Spring Harvest, the dispute over Steve Chalke brought to the surface by Jeffrey John (the real dispute here is with Steve Chalke and what he represents), we see the international angle with Akinola, and now – connected with that shabbily written Covenant for the Church of England – we see a takeover in one of the colleges.

Cheryl Clough
Guest

“Several of the books of the Bible are anonymous, or of highly contested authorship.” Good point Mark. It is not a surprise to see forms of bullying in some theological colleges, we have been seeing it elsewhere too. One overnight contemplation is that after the World Trade Center, a lot of souls went on to blame all Muslims for what some souls had done in the name of their interpretation of the bible. A lot of harsh accusations and counter accusations went flying. What did become clear was that in some strains there had been a dynamic to keep their… Read more »

James Crocker
Guest
James Crocker

C.B., thanks for answering frankly and openly, but I have to disagree with a couple things. First of all, I reject your characterization of those who have legitimate problems with acceptance of homosexual people in ministry as fearing and mistrusting said people. The notion that you can generalize about conservative attitudes like this clearly shows a form of closed-mindedness. Note, I do not believe that being open minded means accepting everything as true, but rather trying to understand before accepting or rejecting. Secondly, I reject the notion that ‘homophobic’ is not a smear. You can call it a description all… Read more »

James Crocker
Guest
James Crocker

Stephen Bates,

let’s not jump to conclusions, how do you know Raspberry Rabbit is a pseudonym?

Bill Carroll
Guest

Those who refuse to listen to half of humanity scarcely have the right to complain if we won’t listen to them as they advocate silencing others. We are long past the point where we should be taking any of these arguments seriously. They are silly and sad, and it would be better to close down an institution which saw offering them as part of its purpose.

Thomas Renz
Guest
Thomas Renz

Just in any case anyone is really wondering about the identity of Raspberry Rabbit. He is Fr Robert J Warren, episcopal priest in the Diocese of Edinburgh. His pen name is more fun than cover. He does use his “real name” on his blog as well as the pseudonym.

Christopher Shell
Guest
Christopher Shell

The mention of Steve Chalke is a red herring. SC is not remotely in a position (as he would admit) to institute a shift in scholarship. He takes the position he does on the basis of:
(a) what message connects with contemporary postmodern Britain (which is a great priority, but irrelevant to the actual meaning of the texts);
and (b) his own somewhat partial overall theory of Jesus’s mission.

Christopher Shell
Guest
Christopher Shell

One difficulty is that it is unlikely that we will get a straight unskewed opinion from the man who has interviewed several of the staff: Stephen Bates. Witness the following examples of spin – how does he justify them? (1) Rather than seeing it as his mission to inform his readers, he will unfailingly also pander to their existing preconceptions. (2) He studiedly avoids mentioning that Richard Turnbull (whom I know nothing of) has a doctorate and a first class degree, thus presenting a skewed image. His list of publications is short, as was that of Geoffrey Shaw (last principal… Read more »

kieran crichton
Guest
kieran crichton

James, I think an example of what might be meant by homophobic, or at least ‘ick!’, behavior might help to illustrate C.B.’s point. My partner and I recently went to a dinner where every couple (married and otherwise) in the room apart from ourselves were seated together. When I pointed this out to the person co-ordinating the event, she immediately wanted to make it clear that she has no problem with ‘what you people do’ – but didn’t offer to rearrange the seating either. Frankly I felt it was an abuse of my goodwill, given that the relationship is widely… Read more »

Göran Koch-Swahne
Guest

It seems to me that those who defend what they (hopefully) do not yet know, about what is going on at Wycliffe Hall (or the intentions behind whatever is going on), are illustrative examples of the Modernist (= positivist) error par préférence: making a (temporary) absence of “proofs” deny the Thing.

Not yet proven is not necessarily “speculation”, methinks.

Also, I second what somebody already said (apparently to no avail); the 2nd century pseudo-epigraphs of the NT show that anonymity does not, in it self, necessarily exclude trustworthiness (or only in part ;=)

Göran Koch-Swahne
Guest

“Mr Vibert had made public his belief that women should not teach men. He co-wrote, with the Revd Dr Mark Burkill and the Revd Dr David Peterson, a Latimer Trust paper that argued that a woman on her own should not teach men about faith or lead a congregation”

With friends like these; who needs enemies?

Mynsterpreost (=David Rowett)
Guest
Mynsterpreost (=David Rowett)

Am I right in thinking that many (if not all) of the surviving English theological colleges are independent trusts, and that some, in the past, have threatened to ‘go it alone’ when subjected to too much pressure from above? I heard a (fairly reliable) account of this concerning one college about ten years ago.

Does the CofE have any real control over places like Wycliffe, Cuddesdon, Mirfield et al (thus covering a wide range of traditions)? I know that there are MinDiv inspections of colleges and courses, but that’s not quite what I’m asking.

C.B.
Guest
C.B.

James Cocker – “I do not fear or mistrust homosexuals, and yet I would have a problem with a homosexual person being in ministry based on my theological and biblical understanding of ministry.” To me this is an oxymoron. I have no idea how deeply you have examined your thinking on this matter, but it seems to me at some point you have to come to the conclusion that at base you think this because there is “something wrong” with the homosexual orientation, and because of that “something” homosexuals are not fit to be priests. Perhaps, they are not fit… Read more »

JF
Guest
JF

NP wrote: ‘…from your unconvincing, pseudo-itellectual [sic] musings round here, you clearly would never have got a place at Wycliffe yourself?’

Oh please! Firstly, getting into Wycliffe isn’t exactly the greatest test of ability, (mainly because they’re desperate for the money), and secondly, ‘unconvincing pseudo-intellectual musings’ are exactly what they’re best at.

Mynsterpreost (=David Rowett)
Guest
Mynsterpreost (=David Rowett)

Christopher: Whether SC is or is not capable of instituting a shift in scholarship isn’t the point. It’s rather that he, a faithful Evangelical, thus inside the camp, is telegraphing to the Evangelical end of the Christian faith that (a) the PS theory of the Atonement is not the only one on offer from the Christian tradition (and there’s no shortage of scholars already maintaining that), and (b) that it is not devoid of serious shortcomings. Given that (eg) the CU statement of faith has raised PSA to an article of faith, SC’s role is to challenge that assumption within… Read more »

Lapinbizarre
Guest
Lapinbizarre

“Going it alone” in this instance, Mynsterpreost (Dickens of a name to spell right!) would, by the sound of things, also involve going it alone from the U. of Oxford. Given the “Oxford Snob Factor”, recently raised elsewhere on this site, don’t believe that’s going to happen, do you?

Lapinbizarre
Guest
Lapinbizarre

Kieran. You were the only couple in the room where the hostess got it right. Frightfully “wrong” to seat a couple next to one another at a dinner party. That’ll learn ya’ – going to one of Hyacinth’s candlelight do’s!

counterlight
Guest
counterlight

So, is a person who objects to having Jewish teachers, doctors, neighobors, seminary professors (somebody has to teach Hebrew and rabbinical literature), and supervisors on Biblical grounds NOT an antisemite? I can remember from my native Texas a saying that the only thing anyone needed to qualify to teach in a Bible college was “a Bible and a clean white shirt”. Even there at that time, such institutions were not exactly famous for being intellectually adventurous or demanding. The only possible exception that I can think of in this country might be Wheaton; certainly not Bob Jones U or Liberty… Read more »

Thomas Renz
Guest
Thomas Renz

Göran may think otherwise but I am not seeking to defend anyone. I am trying to distinguish between what we know and what we don’t know. Fact is that Richard Turnbull has not only appointed someone who believes that Scripture limits women’s ministry to men but also someone who is open to the ministry of women “at all levels”. Fact is that the resignation letter cited in the press claims that the Principal failed to work in consultation not only with long established staff but also with staff appointed by him. Fact is that no evidence is given for the… Read more »

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

Kieran ; I would have demanded that I should be sat with my partner, I wouldn’t have waited for her to offer!!

Pluralist
Guest

The mention of a shift in scholarship is a red herring. It is not about scholarship. It is about instutitions and power, and representatives of them. The point I am making is that in a takeover, you go for the nearest first, those that undermine the definition you want. If there are evangelicals who disagree, then they are the ones undermining the cause and are dealt with first. This is why Steve Chalke is important. Steve Chalke in his viewpoint is completely unoriginal and there is hardly a scrap of scholarship involved. What matters is who he is and what… Read more »

Simon Sarmiento
Guest

I’ve added a link in the main article to the paper by Mark Burkill, David Peterson, and Simon Vibert so TA readers can see for themselves what it said.

David Gould
Guest
David Gould

Few have noted Stephen Bates’ comments about the review going on in the University of Oxford about PPHs – Wycliffe is a PPH (a bit like a college) but might not be for much longer. There are many within the University who would like to ditch Wycliffe because of its teaching. I don’t blame them.