THINKING ANGLICANS

Wycliffe Hall: pressure is mounting

Jonathan Petre has an article in today’s Daily Telegraph headlined Dispute grows over ‘abrasive’ Oxford principal:

Pressure is mounting on Church of England authorities to take action against the principal of an Oxford theological college accused of alienating staff.

The Bishop of Liverpool, the Rt Rev James Jones, is being urged to withdraw his support for the Rev Richard Turnbull, the principal of Wycliffe Hall, who has been criticised for his allegedly abrasive management style and conservative brand of Christianity.

Alister McGrath, a leading theologian and Wycliffe’s previous principal, has pulled out of delivering a prestigious lecture in Liverpool in protest at the lack of action by Bishop Jones, who is the chairman of the hall’s governing council….

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Gordon SimmThomas RenzPluralistbertie gAlan Harrison Recent comment authors
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Thomas Renz
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Thomas Renz

“One insider compared [Richard Turnbull’s] comments to entryism, which the extreme Left-wing Militant group used to try to infiltrate Labour in the Eighties.” That’s a reference to you, Adrian Worsfold (Pluralist), isn’t it?

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

Thomas Renz said; “One insider compared [Richard Turnbull’s] comments to entryism, which the extreme Left-wing Militant group used to try to infiltrate Labour in the Eighties.” That’s a reference to you, Adrian Worsfold (Pluralist), isn’t it? I don’t myself see why. It’s an analysis at which I had arrived independently, and I can’t believe that Dr. Worsfold and I are the only ones to make that observation. And Barton-upon-Humber (or more precisely New Holland) is a long way from Oxford, so I can’t see that Adrian could count as an ‘insider’. If this analysis is from someone with a ringside… Read more »

Pluralist
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Yes, it is, but I am not an insider. Is there a cheque in the post?

Hugh of Lincoln
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Hugh of Lincoln

Does that make us all informants? 😉

Pluralist
Guest

It does make us all informants.

Let’s see. There is research. Then there is a blog from an insider. Then there is journalism. Then there is lazy journalism (eg watches TV news, reads others’ blogs), then there are columnists, there there is opinion blogged and written, and finally royal reporters because they claim intimate friendships with the royals while making it all up. Occasionally in a blog there is a bit of analysis, taking several events together, or a bit of academic insight, which does add something extra to the reportage.

Martin Reynolds
Guest

Thomas is an excellent correspondent on this matter here.

But I think that even he will agree that this story seems to have a very long life for a little academic spat. Every time you think the story is dead another journalist or columnist chimes in.

I have a feeling that nothing but metaphorical blood is going to expiate/propitiate/atone for this poor man’s signature on that awful Covenant document.

John Foxe
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John Foxe

Dear Martin,

shades of ‘it is fitting that one man die for the people’ in your comment, n’est ce pas?

Dear Pluralist,

smiling over your journalism comment. For once we agree!

Regards,

JF.

drdanfee
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drdanfee

From a great distance, all I can so far read are signs that differences and tensions exist among evangelicals. Does this really surprise us? Really? Only in the face of legendary sound bite claims like RT’s which claim to know just where everybody stands before God, far back in winding lines after his own cloned-cohort sort, naturally. Scripture, reason, tradition? No. Sola scriptura, penal theology, and policing with real teeth and real capture of strategic campaign fortresses. It sounds a shot across the bows of all ships flying open evangelical colors, I would guess, for one thing. Odd isn’t it,… Read more »

Erasmus
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Erasmus

The issue at Wycliffe seems to be open evangelicals objecting to the appointment of conservative evangelicals. Its hard to reconcile with the perception that ‘open evangelicals’ favour tolerance and diversity.

Alumna
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Alumna

Erasmus, it is by no means a question of ‘open’ versus ‘conservative’ at Wycliffe. Those who have resigned their posts can hardly be described as woolly liberals. And, consequently, staff grievances are not about the appointment of conservatives, they are about the disastrously clumsy and heavy-handed leadership of RT.

Thomas Renz
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Thomas Renz

Alumna, I know what you mean and you may well be right, even if “open evangelicals” are not “woolly liberals” (well, maybe except for one or two of them).

I am afraid “disastrously clumsy and heavy-handed leadership” in a theological college would not be nearly as interesting to our newspapers and blogs as allegations of growing homophobia and claims about internecine warfare among evangelicals. For this reason alone your hypothesis does not even deserve to be considered.

With a twinkle in my eye…

Alan Harrison
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Alan Harrison

Let me begin by confessing to a brief flirtation with Militant back in the eighties. I have long severed any connection either with that professedly non-existent organization or with the Labour Party. However, many comrades supporting Militant certainly perceived themselves not as infiltrators, but as trying to keep the Labour Party true to its socialist roots. The real, and much more successful “entryists”, I would suggest, are those who have turned the Labour Party into an openly pro-capitalist and dubiously ethical body, in which the payment of bribes to members of a corrupt feudal regime is only to be expected… Read more »

Pluralist
Guest

My point was as general one about entryism as a method. What about the Labour Party and Militant, however? The problem was Militant was determined to impose its socialism under its own control, as a group within a group. In that Labour was drifting leftwards (before Kinnock and company) a split took place, with the SDP being formed. Electorally you have to play to the centre and suggest competence, but memories of Labour up to 1979 and a worn out situation allowed in the Keith Joseph style economic liberalism that some Conservatives had only dreamed about. Labour realised it faced… Read more »

Alan Harrison
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Alan Harrison

Pluralist, you write: “Whilst a donkey would have won an election in 1997, Labour had so much gone for the centre and for economic competence in capitalism, that it was well into Conservative territory and left its normal voters with no other option.” The problem is, I think, that people do have another option – not to vote at all. A small number of committed lefties like me might seek out a “left of the left” party, even though the candidate for whom we vote has no chance of winning, but there is plenty of evidence that seeking the centre… Read more »

bertie g
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bertie g

I do find Thomas Renz strangely incapable of recognizing that theological positions do not just address issues of doctrine or the bible. They are surely just as relevant to the way we relate to each other, work for justice and integrity or manage a college? To admit that you are intending to subvert the direction of a whole institution, throw your weight around with your colleagues then hide behind an evangelical Bishop who is going to carry on turning a blind eye hardly smacks of evangelical orthodoxy! It is profoundly unbiblical. Why does Renz seem to want to attack all… Read more »

Pluralist
Guest

That is my point – that by lurching to the right the Labour Party started to lose its support by people in rented accommodation, low paid jobs and so on. The miniumum wage was important, but that is but one act, and that also ignores the huge underclass that is surviving or hardly on ever diminishing benefits. Watch when Gordon Brown comes in of the Protestant work ethic and indeed an enthusiastic privatiser as well as a deceiver at present of the number of jobs vanishing from pubic services. He is a boom and bust chancellor – a boom in… Read more »

Thomas Renz
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Thomas Renz

In my first comment on the Wycliffe situation I wrote: “The situation at Wycliffe is obviously very serious and the main contribution of this article is to bring it to the attention of the wider public. The article documents the breakdown of trust and discontent among staff with Richard Turnbull’s way of leading and managing the college. But it is less clear that any of this relates to a change in theological direction.” (17 May) I have been concerned then and now about the lack of distinction between facts, inferences and speculation. I observed that “The notion that this distressing… Read more »

Gordon Simm
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Gordon Simm

I have been puzzled by the silence of the Bishop of Liverpool over the last few weeks. I apologise if he has commented on the situation but if he has made comment it has not appeared on the diocesan web site. For some light relief I reread a speech he made in Oxford earlier this year on Women Bishops – available on the diocesan site. Now I am completely confused over his silence. In his speech he reformulates the question of whether women ‘can be ordained to the episcopate’ to ‘can a woman feed the church, the Body of Christ?’… Read more »

Thomas Renz
Guest
Thomas Renz

Gordon – a good question for the Bishop. I do not presume to know the answer. We all know that sometimes silence is commendable, at other times culpable; sometimes it takes courage to speak out, sometimes it takes courage to remain silent. Those who see in the Wycliffe Hall crisis simply a reflection of strife between “open evangelicals” and “conservative evangelicals” may want to ponder James Jones’ enthusiasm for the priestly and episcopal ministry of women in the sermon you mentioned or his statement that “All those involved in the debate [on human sexuality] are genuine in their beliefs, and… Read more »

Gordon Simm
Guest
Gordon Simm

Thomas,

Thank you for your comments.
I do not envy the bishop at this time but perhaps I look to him to lead, at least those of us in his diocese, in our thinking, praying and sharing so that we may come to some common understanding. Silence is, I fear, the only option not available to him.