Thursday, 17 May 2007

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

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 18 May 2007 at 12:13am BST | TrackBack
You can make a Permalink to this if you like
Categorised as: Church of England

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.

Posted by: Pluralist on Friday, 18 May 2007 at 12:42am BST

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.

Posted by: James Crocker on Friday, 18 May 2007 at 2:58am BST

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.

Posted by: Caliban on Friday, 18 May 2007 at 3:47am BST

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.

Posted by: Chris on Friday, 18 May 2007 at 4:33am BST

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...

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Friday, 18 May 2007 at 8:28am BST

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, time to be honest and open, eh?

Posted by: mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) on Friday, 18 May 2007 at 8:50am BST

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.'

Posted by: Raspberry Rabbit on Friday, 18 May 2007 at 10:10am BST

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.

Posted by: Thomas Renz on Friday, 18 May 2007 at 10:28am BST

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 limited and that God wants to exclude all but the purest.

I don't like this god that they worship, it certainly isn't the gentle messiah Jesus promised as he rode in on the donkey.

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Friday, 18 May 2007 at 11:14am BST

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?

Posted by: Lapinbizarre on Friday, 18 May 2007 at 11:54am BST

More rope! more rope!

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Friday, 18 May 2007 at 1:10pm BST

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 allows this to be taught anywhere near my wife or daughter. And I think this blatant misogyny points us to the limits of pluralism.

Posted by: Bill Carroll on Friday, 18 May 2007 at 1:29pm BST

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

Posted by: Pluralist on Friday, 18 May 2007 at 1:33pm BST

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.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Friday, 18 May 2007 at 1:57pm BST

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 who want to study at this fine evangelical college.

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

Posted by: NP on Friday, 18 May 2007 at 2:44pm BST

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 the place is crawling with opinionated theological students just itching to disagree with you (I should know as I am one of said opinionated persons)!!

Posted by: Sean Doherty on Friday, 18 May 2007 at 2:46pm BST

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 as we might infer from some of the comments - it refers for example to Dr Philip Johnston's resignation letter and other attributable material.

In whose interest is the smokescreen? - Not any of us who read 'know the truth and the truth will set you free'.

Posted by: Mark Bennet on Friday, 18 May 2007 at 2:48pm BST

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, have strong feelings of aversion and repugnance towards homosexuals and homosexuality, why should they be exempt?

And don't say they don't have these opinions and feelings. That is simply dishonest. The core of conservatives attitudes towards homosexuals and homosexuality is that is a disorder, not to be embraced but to be feared and mistrusted. They are homophobic. It is not a smear. It is a description.

Posted by: C.B. on Friday, 18 May 2007 at 3:07pm BST

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

Posted by: BobinWashPA on Friday, 18 May 2007 at 3:19pm BST

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 at the hall before writing the story, all unfortunately off the record, but all endorsing the general sense of the anonymous document.
Two of them said they feared for their pensions if they were publicly identified, which may be a reason for not speaking out more identifiably. They - and we - know that Dr Storkey was threatened with disciplinary action by the principal just for raising the criticisms at a closed staff meeting at the college. And the principal has confirmed that unspecified disciplinary proceedings are ongoing.
All of which might create some incentive for anonymity, don't you think? I am sure Raspberry Rabbit would be much more fearless in defence of academic freedom of speech, regardless of his employment - but then he uses a pseudonym even here doesn't he?

Posted by: Stephen Bates on Friday, 18 May 2007 at 3:20pm BST

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

About time this was stopped.

Posted by: Merseymike on Friday, 18 May 2007 at 4:50pm BST

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....

Posted by: mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) on Friday, 18 May 2007 at 5:35pm BST

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 and so a series of resignations are interpreted as a "staff exodus" (editor's choice?), as if half the teaching staff were leaving Wycliffe ("the college will not be capable of teaching its regular curriculum" from the ADC). This inference may or may not be correct but we have not been given factual evidence for this. You may well know more than I do but I am only aware of one faculty member actually leaving - he had resigned from a position a few months ago.

The notion that this distressing situation is the result of a drive to make Wycliffe theologically "increasingly conservative" is not well documented (it is the view of the author of the ADC but how do we know the author is right?) and there is evidence which may be seen to speak against this (see my earlier post).

Posted by: Thomas Renz on Friday, 18 May 2007 at 6:16pm BST

>>>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.

Posted by: JPM on Friday, 18 May 2007 at 7:48pm BST

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 threat of disciplinary action against Dr Storkey, staff turnover indicating rock-bottom morale as academics vote with their feet, and a supine supervisory body backing the boss no matter what. Ah, well, I await a juicy employment tribunal case...

Posted by: Alan Harrison on Friday, 18 May 2007 at 8:13pm BST

I think it was irony from Mynsterpreost.

Posted by: Pluralist on Friday, 18 May 2007 at 8:19pm BST

"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!

Posted by: JCF on Friday, 18 May 2007 at 8:22pm BST

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.

Posted by: Pluralist on Friday, 18 May 2007 at 8:25pm BST

"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 education "pure" that had been evolving for several hundred years. We had to come to understand how their faith had become so hijacked, and how they had become so disempowered about challenging or rectifying problems with aggressive theological interpretations.

It has been very helpful for world healing for souls to see that this dynamic does not belong to one particular faith, but can occur elsewhere.

In the meantime, Australia has just seen a landmark case go through where a child was compensated $1million for suffering bullying at school. There is a lot of discussion about how and where this could ripple out e.g.

If we want to stop wars, genocides, abuse and violence; then we need to stop bullying occuring within or by our faith communities. That includes not just our parishes, but also our theological colleges and outreach programs e.g. adoption services.

If we deny that we should have to treat any sector of any community with any less respect than we would wish to be treated ourselves - then we are hypocrites and have refuted the purpose of Jesus' unique sacrifice.

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Friday, 18 May 2007 at 10:49pm BST

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 you want, but it is used to deride those who do legitimately disagree with the ordained ministry of acting homosexual people, even such people of whom it is not accurate (see my first point).

Of course, I cannot criticize you for generalizing conservatives you do not know and then do the same myself. For myself, I am not homophobic, 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.

Now, since I have made that statement, there are two options, either you can choose to call me a liar or a fool, which is not a way forward but, dare I say it, a 'violent' action, or you can accept that there are somethings outside of conceptual framework you are working with. Far be it from me to expect a liberal to be open minded, but this seems to me to be a better way forward.

Posted by: James Crocker on Saturday, 19 May 2007 at 2:54am BST

Stephen Bates,

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

Posted by: James Crocker on Saturday, 19 May 2007 at 2:55am BST

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.

Posted by: Bill Carroll on Saturday, 19 May 2007 at 3:34am BST

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.

Posted by: Thomas Renz on Saturday, 19 May 2007 at 10:57am BST

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.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Saturday, 19 May 2007 at 12:39pm BST

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 but two) as of others in similar posts.

(3) He quotes an anonymous source without even questioning its possible bias. Strangely enough the anonymous source presents exactly the picture he would have wanted, as well as making some pleasantly Batesian sweeping statements.

(4) He continues to present the standard (until recently: the only) Christian view of homosexuality as some extremist blip, thus confirming his cultural limitations and international blinkeredness.

Rant over, you can come out now. :o)

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Saturday, 19 May 2007 at 1:02pm BST

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 acknowledged within the organisation that was putting on the dinner, of which I am a member of the governing council.

My point is that we were the only couple not seated together - the reason behind it has not been articulated. What does that say for the person who set out the seating plan, who occupies a position of high trust for the success of the evening? I would be reluctant to impute homophobia as a conscious actuating factor (after all, this person might well have a dozen other reasons to want to put me in my place!), but do you seriously believe it should be discounted altogether? Given that the first response was centred on 'what you people do', such a common line in the love-the-sinner-hate-the-sin claptrap one hears in certain quarters, how can one avoid the obvious conclusion? Given that care had been taken to seat all the other couples together, regardless of marital eligibility or status - it can't be dismissed as an oversight - how is one to account for this?

Homophobia doesn't have to be queer bashing, you know. Sometimes it's quite subtle.

Posted by: kieran crichton on Saturday, 19 May 2007 at 1:19pm BST

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 ;=)

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Saturday, 19 May 2007 at 1:42pm BST

"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?

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Saturday, 19 May 2007 at 1:44pm BST

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.

Posted by: Mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) on Saturday, 19 May 2007 at 1:45pm BST

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 to be parents or teachers of young people either. Not only does this viewpoint breed mistrust and fear, it comes from a point of mistrust and fear due to there being "something wrong" with homosexuality and by extension those who are themselves homosexuals. You may feel that this is not your viewpoint, but that of Scripture. As a Christian, I assume that that is a distinction without a difference.

I do not think I am generalizing in the least, most conservatives are very vocal about there being "something wrong" with homosexuality and homosexuals. And they are not the least bit open-minded about it.

Perhaps there is a legitimate disagreement regarding whether a society is ready, willing and able to examine its homophobia and redress some of the harm it has caused. I can be quite open minded about that. But not whether or not those who wish to circumscribe the inclusiveness of gays are homophobic. They are so by definition.

And as you may know, homophobia is not limited to heterosexuals. Many homosexuals are homophobic as well.

Posted by: C.B. on Saturday, 19 May 2007 at 3:04pm BST

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.

Posted by: JF on Saturday, 19 May 2007 at 3:46pm BST

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 the Evangelical movement. The flak he has taken suggests that Pluralist is 'on the money'.

For me, that discussion is a little like a conference I was at on the Joint Declaration in 1999. As the arguments raged back and forth, the two Anglicans and one Methodist (Geoffrey Wainwright) couldn't really understand the heat of the debate, having never signed up to the theology in question. I can't understand why PSA is such a sacred totem in Evangelicalism, and even less can I understand the opprobrium landed on an Evangelical who wants other orthodox, traditional insights to be considered.

Posted by: Mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) on Saturday, 19 May 2007 at 4:03pm BST

"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?

Posted by: Lapinbizarre on Saturday, 19 May 2007 at 4:56pm BST

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!

Posted by: Lapinbizarre on Saturday, 19 May 2007 at 5:01pm BST

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 College in Lynchburg VA.

Posted by: counterlight on Saturday, 19 May 2007 at 5:31pm BST

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 claim in the ADC that Wycliffe has become more homophobic.

Now there may be those who seek to minimise the role theological differences have to play in all this by talking about leadership style and pains associated with re-organising the course. But equally there may be others who are all too happy to give a theological spin to a crisis which may have little to do with theology.

I do not know whether the theological culture at Wycliffe has changed and I have no interest in arguing this one way or the other.

Posted by: Thomas Renz on Saturday, 19 May 2007 at 5:35pm BST

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

Posted by: Merseymike on Saturday, 19 May 2007 at 6:45pm BST

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 he represents to the cause. He is a media figure of the evangelicals, and because he has been deemed to let the side down he is being marginalised and ejected.

In a sense Jeffrey John is not relevant to the atonement argument. Jeffrey John gets his relevance from his sexuality and, despite his lifestyle, the defence of his sexuality as legitimate. So he comes under fire from many for that, and ought to be defended for precisely that. The issue here though is somewhat different, and watching a theological college shift its position, as a particular definition of evangelical flexes its muscles.

Posted by: Pluralist on Saturday, 19 May 2007 at 7:28pm BST

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.

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 19 May 2007 at 8:33pm BST

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.

Posted by: David Gould on Saturday, 19 May 2007 at 8:52pm BST

"... 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"."

I am so relived ;=)

Sorry Thomas, but you don't seem to understand that discrimination no longer a matter of opinion as to whom it is legitimate to discriminate against.

The whole concept is in disrepute.

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Saturday, 19 May 2007 at 10:05pm BST

I suppose my problem is the automatic equating of disapproval (on whatever grounds) of homosexual behavior with fear of homosexuals. Maybe I'm being to literal, but I take 'homophobia' to mean fear of homosexuals, manifested in a number of ways, of course, it can be subtle, or it can be outright.

What I'm saying is simply that I believe that it is possible to disapprove of homosexual behavior on biblical grounds and I don't think that that exegesis is being motivated by a latent or subconscious fear.

Now of course you are free to disagree with me, and psychoanalyze my self and my motivations, but at this point you show me an extreme lack of respect as a human person. You are free to disagree with my beliefs, just as I should be free to disagree something I see as immoral, but to try to go behind my motivations and read some fear into me which I simply deny is to treat me as an object to be studied and dissected rather than as a human person.

When this happens, when all opposition to a position (in this case the morality of homosexual action) is summarized and dismissed as fear, two things result. First of all, dialog stops necessarily as you do not dialog with a subconscious fear, you simply diagnose, and secondly, your argument becomes non-falsifiable (as all opposition is dismissed and no criteria for falsification are logically possible) and as such your position becomes non-academic as well. Now, this might not seem like a big deal, it does not mean that it is false in every day life, but rather that arguments for this position cease to have a right to exist in an academic environment, an environment of dialog. They become propaganda (though not necessarily false) and as such should not be taught in a place like Wycliff hall except as a historical curiosity.

Posted by: James Crocker on Sunday, 20 May 2007 at 1:40am BST


The hostess evidently doesn't know about seating arrangements. I agree with Lapinbizzare "Frightfully "wrong" to seat a couple next to one another at a dinner party."

One thing is the hostess showed her true colors and her bigotry. I wonder what the other guest thought.


Posted by: Bob in SWpa on Sunday, 20 May 2007 at 4:23am BST

Simon - thanks for the link to the Latimer paper. I seemed to remember that it did not state categorically "that a woman on her own should not teach men about faith", as the Church Times article implies, let alone that women are unfit to teach, but I had been unable to find the document on the web. Now, as you say, everyone can see for themselves - provided they've got eyes to see.

And before people here jump to the conclusion that I must agree with the paper because I am prepared to defend it against misrepresentation, let me state it clearly: the paper does not represent my own position.

Posted by: Thomas Renz on Sunday, 20 May 2007 at 9:38am BST

"Maybe I'm being to literal, but I take 'homophobia' to mean fear of homosexuals, manifested in a number of ways, of course, it can be subtle, or it can be outright."

As I first was told about it, "homophobia" means fear of homosexual-ity in s e l f.

Otherwise, homophobia seems not to be a phobia proper, but a behaviour taught.

A social game of ostracism.

(among several others similar :-(

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Sunday, 20 May 2007 at 1:47pm BST

Over here in the Global North, seating couples together is not "done" outside of Skåne, where it is perfectly correct to do so.

Otherwise only unwed coples engaged to be married are seated together.


Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Sunday, 20 May 2007 at 1:53pm BST

I have just read the following in a newsletter from a pastor. It reflects on church leadership but seems eminently applicable to leading a theological college:

"Those who know me also know that I have a rather strong personality, very firm convictions and a sense of committed direction. These often combine either to creating a team of competent, dedicated supporters of an individual's vision, or a group of dedicated yes-men who affirm the visionary's every decision. Neither option is the correct one when speaking of church life. A church should be led by a team ... who share a similar but not identical vision, hold to the same convictions and are characterized by the same dedication, but who differ significantly from each other in terms of personality, mode of action, aptitude and preferences.

The primary, formative, leading personality in the church must be Jesus, and strong leaders need strong colleagues who will challenge, modify and – at times – alter plans and visions which motivate their leaders."

Posted by: Thomas Renz on Sunday, 20 May 2007 at 3:26pm BST

The Latimer Comment 66 states: “We agree that all Scripture is God-breathed, internally consistent, and authoritative in doctrine and practice for the Church today. A range of Biblical texts must be interpreted and synthesised when considering appropriate roles for men and women in contemporary public ministry.”

It seems to me, that the sub-ordinating Patriarchy of all pre Modern societies, found in the Bible, is basically a way to distribute tasks (unevenly, as it be) along (temporary and changing) gender and social lines; Senior => junior: Man, celibatarian, woman, child, slave.

Contrary to that, the hierarchic de-valuing, characteristic of the Philosophical systems of Europe and India, ideologize Patriarchy, and expand it; claiming that “is” is Right (= the Indian philosophic principle of Rita).

Why then, I ask, in the light of principles stated in the Comment, do people “interpret and synthesise” the 6 misogynic places found in the NT (all mid 2nd century additions) in a way as to make them into the only “authoritative” “internally consistent” interpretative frame for the Bible in its entirety, turning what seems to be merely a (factual) pre Modern distribution of tasks into hierarchic de-valuing, into Ideology?

Why not the other way around?

Why not instead “interpret and synthesise” the 6 misogynic places in a way as to make them “internally consistent” with the rest of the Bible – where “difference” is not Ideology, but “merely” pragmatic; practical?

Or, indeed, why not “interpret and synthesise” these 6 places to be “internally consistent” with the saving Gospel of Christ Jesus – where there is no difference, but only oneness in Christ?

Why the one and not the other? Why hierarchic de-valuing and not the Gospel?

Given the above stated Latimer principles, both seem equally possible, to me.

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Sunday, 20 May 2007 at 4:49pm BST

How about I promise to keep my big mouth shut once every 10 minutes?

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Sunday, 20 May 2007 at 4:53pm BST

David Gould raises a good point. The relationship of Wycliffe Hall to Oxford University must be looked at carefully.

Posted by: Audrey on Sunday, 20 May 2007 at 9:40pm BST

Come off it, Thomas Renz, which bit of "We agree on the basis of 1 Timothy 2:11-12, that women should not be admitted to an office that involves the regular teaching or leadership of a congregation" do you not understand?

Posted by: badman on Sunday, 20 May 2007 at 10:03pm BST

The use of the term homophobia has changed from its original psychological origin

Colloquially, it is simply used to mean 'anti-gay' - and describes those who do not ascribe equality to gay people and their relationships, in every way.

Conservative Christianity is, thus, institutionally and inherently homophobic. That is why it requires revision.

Posted by: Merseymike on Sunday, 20 May 2007 at 10:43pm BST

Latimer paper 7. "We agree on the basis of 1 Timothy 2:11-12, that women should not be admitted to an office that involves the regular teaching or leadership of a congregation."

If the media reports have misrepresented the Latimer paper, this line still sticks in the craw and seems pretty unambiguous. Similarly "because of the teaching of 1 Tim. 2:11-15, we contend that it is inappropriate for a woman to be a congregational leader in a solo capacity or head of a team ministry" is pretty definite as well.

Thomas R is probably technically correct in what he says above, but the tenor of the document isn't far off what the earliuer reports said, is it. I do think some very hard questions need to be asked of one of the authors about how he will respond to female headship candidates at Wycliffe. Or will he exercise doublethink, on the grounds that their first posts will be subordinate ones?

Posted by: Mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) on Sunday, 20 May 2007 at 10:57pm BST

Merseymike - Yet again you say in one sentence which takes me five. Thanks.

Posted by: C.B. on Monday, 21 May 2007 at 2:19am BST

Actually, I think that there would have been s o m e kind of excuse for a phobia, if authentic, but I can see no excuse whatever for social games.

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Monday, 21 May 2007 at 8:53am BST

Thesis 7 of the Latimer paper follows on from thesis 5 which establishes the apostle's expectation that women would prophesy in church which is interpreted as "to preach occasionally or at least to give informal words of encouragement or challenge to the Church". So, yes, I think I am "technically correct" when I state that the document does not claim that women must never teach men. We must not assume either that the three signatories have precisely the same view on these questions. Speaking of David Peterson, I know that (a) he is most definitely in favour of the ordination of women, (b) he has always been encouraging of our female ordinands and sought to attract more female ordinands to Oak Hill, (c) he has always had (ordained and non-ordained) women preach in chapel and teach as faculty members and has argued from Scripture for the propriety of this.

For those who uphold the principle of tolerating both integrities (or, rather, affirming one and tolerating the other), no double-think is required for training candidates of either integrity. The problem may be that there are actually few who uphold the principle of "two integrities" which involves affirming one view, while allowing that those who hold another view may do so with integrity.

Posted by: Thomas Renz on Monday, 21 May 2007 at 9:50am BST

David Gould and Audrey - the observation that some may have a vested interest in interpreting the current crisis at Wycliffe Hall as a fundamentalist take-over should precisely make us doubly cautious about distinguishing facts from hypotheses, should it not?

Posted by: Thomas Renz on Monday, 21 May 2007 at 9:55am BST

good work, MerseyMike - always helpful to define words to suit your agenda........what is your definition of heretic?

Posted by: NP on Monday, 21 May 2007 at 10:03am BST

personal definition of heretic - someone so fixated on one aspect of orthodoxy that they lose the rest. EG - divine transcendence can become docetism; Divine impassibility moves towards deism, perhaps. And so on.

Good chapter 9 in Radcliffe 'What is the point of being a Christian' - suggests ways round the endless name calling and urges acceptance of the wide spectrum of Christian belief. He uses the categories of 'Kingdom Catholics' and 'Communion Catholics'. Useful.

Posted by: mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) on Monday, 21 May 2007 at 12:35pm BST

Goran - I too think that there is such a thing as a phobia that relates to homosexuality. I even am open to discuss whether some aspects of it are hard wired meaning useful from an evolutionary stand point. But society is constantly having to grapple with aspects of our nature the usefulness and wisdom of were outmoded eons ago. Perhaps, one day we will be able to discuss our sexual history without it being used to hurt and harm others.

In the meantime, I don't think the term is used in this fashion, or with this insight.

Posted by: C.B. on Monday, 21 May 2007 at 12:54pm BST

Its not my definition, NP, simply the way that the word has come to be used. Words do change meaning over time as language is dynamic.

The contemporary use of the word goes far further than the narrow psychological origin of the word. t really doesn't make any difference whether you or I like or approve of that - its just the way it is.

As for heresy, a pointless term, since it assumes a 'truth' which means little in postmodern context.

Posted by: Merseymike on Monday, 21 May 2007 at 2:26pm BST

What are ordained women to do? Run around different places and offer occasional thoughts. Are they to say, "Sorry, I must not let myself get too regular." Or perhaps, "Whoops it looks like I'm leading here; is there a man in the house?"

It is just bonkers.

Posted by: Pluralist on Monday, 21 May 2007 at 2:54pm BST

"We must not assume either that the three signatories have precisely the same view on these questions."

Thomas Renz, seriously!

I tried to remind you that Discrimination is in disrepute, these days. It shall probably be only more so as Time advances towards its goal.

This is not a discussion on how many angels to a pin, but about the God-given Lives of fellow human beings, and of God's calling and of the calling of the Church catholic.

It is true that the Sun shines equally on both the good and the bad and also that "views" are free under the Sun, but "acts" are under the Law-book.

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Monday, 21 May 2007 at 2:59pm BST

"We must not assume either that the three signatories have precisely the same view on these questions."

When their published paper states that they all agree on a point, we can take it that the point stated reflects the view of each - no exceptions.

I find this special pleading very feeble. Stand up for disgusting views if you will, or for a person's undoubted right to hold and publish such, but don't pretend that a pile of manure doesn't smell.

Posted by: badman on Monday, 21 May 2007 at 3:52pm BST

"As for heresy, a pointless term, since it assumes a 'truth' which means little in postmodern context" says Merseymike

Sorry Pilate, modern Anglicans have decided there is no such thing.....

Sorry, Yeshua - your claim to be the truth is not acceptable to Merseymike (a much more sophisticated, postmodern being than you - so he thinks)

Posted by: NP on Monday, 21 May 2007 at 5:18pm BST

What are ordained women to do? Well, it would depend on their own convictions concerning the ministry of women in general and the shape of their specific vocation in particular, would it not? There is actually a spectrum of views even within conservative evangelicalism which is maybe rather superficially summed up with reference to the two integrities.

There are women who know themselves called to ordained ministry which involves teaching men and preaching to the whole congregation but who do not consider it right that women should lead congregations or take on the responsibility of providing direction to a parish church. There should be plenty of ministry opportunities for such women: as assistant ministers or in various forms of team ministry as well as in work place, hospital or prison chaplaincies. (And acknowledging this need not prevent me from seeking to persuade them -and men holding similar views- that women leading congregations does not subvert God’s design.)

But to stay on topic: it seems to me that we don’t actually know whether or not disagreements about the extent of the ministry of women have much or anything to do with the current crisis at Wycliffe Hall.

Posted by: Thomas Renz on Monday, 21 May 2007 at 6:02pm BST

RE: Homophobia

It might help to rethink, just a bit. Maybe homophobia is a learned cluster of social attitudes, beliefs, opinions, and prepared springs for negative actions against others.

This builds on the famed work that Gordon Allport did on attitudes and prejudice. So homophobia falls right on the known spectrums of what we know about prejudice, period. And that may be a great gain in measure/method.

Allport at:

Riddle Homophobia Scale. At:

Thirdly, the emotions that drive may not be classical fight/flight fear, but disgust and repulsion at dirt/contaminations, at:

At minimum, then, this emerging model of homophobia as a prejudiced attitude complex, with significant ties to disgust-repulsion (instead of classic fight/flight fear drives), requires the legacy pledgers of allegiance to condemnation to do their homework. There is way too much in their legacy views that cannot any longer be simply taken for granted as true of non-straight people. Nor is this prejudice wholesome in fact, either for the target people who are verbally and otherwise attacked, or for the prejudiced people who feel compelled to do the attacking as a gospel witness.

The classic ploy has served, but now it fails, mostly. That is, we can no longer reply by making theory distinctions - between the so-called sinner and the so-called sin.

Why not?

Because our entire view of human nature/sexuality is changing for the better.

We are now investigating heterosexualities every bit as much as we are investigating non-straight sexualities. The geni of research is well out of the bottle. New questions are asked, new facts are found, new paradigms are forming.

Any conservative theology which does not grapple with our being repositioned is going to miss its main evangelism target – how the rest of us are thinking and understanding and living.

Negative legacy believers may need to carefully sort out their revised views, because after all even hard-line evangelical believers infrequently still believe that, say, oral sex causes bad weather or crop failure. Yet such beliefs were taken for granted, not all that long ago in church history. Is that piece of change a model for other changes that conservative believers could make?

Still, today, in some countries, the negative beliefs are nearly as magical as in any ancient civilization, presuming that same sex life has very bad juju connected with it.

Posted by: drdanfee on Monday, 21 May 2007 at 6:04pm BST

Sorry to return to an off-subject, but Göran's Sunday post re Swedish table manners ("Over here in the Global North, seating couples together is not "done" outside of Skåne, where it is perfectly correct to do so") has been eating at me. Is this a statement of fact, or is it a Swedish in-joke that is right over the heads of the rest of us? If the latter, please explain.

Posted by: Lapinbizarre on Monday, 21 May 2007 at 7:19pm BST

drdanfee - "Any conservative theology which does not grapple with our being repositioned is going to miss its main evangelism target – how the rest of us are thinking and understanding and living."

I don't think conservatives can grapple with it. The best they can hope for is that we return to a more "primitive" view of ourselves and others. But unlike times past, nothing in our culture supports such a viewpoint or way of living. To whom then do they preach?

Posted by: C.B. on Monday, 21 May 2007 at 7:20pm BST

Badman - sorry I did not make myself very clear: I did not mean to say that the three signatories did not agree (at the time) with the theses stated in the Latimer document but rather that those who agree with these theses may still disagree on some of the details not addressed in the document and particularly on the ways in which these theses work out in practice. No doubt from a large distance these disagreements are barely, if at all, visible. But if Simon Vibert did not have women preach in his congregation, while David Peterson has women preach in his, a difference should not be too difficult to spot.

Posted by: Thomas Renz on Monday, 21 May 2007 at 7:22pm BST

We have an astonishing range of competing definitions of homophobia now. The traditional definition is still the basis of the discussion at : "Homophobia is defined as the irrational fear of homosexuals, homosexuality, or any behavior, belief, or others which does not conform to rigid sex role stereotypes." identifies "feelings of disgust" rather than fear or anxiety as the focal point of homophobia. suggests that "Homophobia, generally, is a negative attitude or feeling based on a misleading generalized belief about lesbian, gay, and bisexual people."

At one end of the spectrum drdanfee offers "prejudiced attitude complex", at the other end of the spectrum Merseymike thinks "homophobic" is now used for all "those who do not ascribe equality to gay people and their relationships, in every way" which would apply to anyone who believes that sexual relationships should be limited to heterosexual marriage, regardless of whether any negative feelings accompany this belief, whether fear and anxiety or disgust and repulsion.

The question at hand is not which of these is the best use or even whether there is a best use but this: How did the author of the ADC and Stephen Bates (assuming that these are two different people) use the term and what do they mean when they claim that Wycliffe Hall has become "more homophobic"?

Posted by: Thomas Renz on Monday, 21 May 2007 at 7:44pm BST

Lapinbizarre à écrit: “Is this a statement of fact, or is it a Swedish in-joke that is right over the heads of the rest of us? If the latter, please explain.”

Je m’excuse! I actually thought about this, this morning – and then forgot about it!

It’s a statement of fact.

Skåne apart, we only seat couples together, if and when, engaged to be married.

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Monday, 21 May 2007 at 8:24pm BST

“No doubt from a large distance these disagreements are barely, if at all, visible.”

Oh, oh! this reminds me of the 1970-ies everything-is-political Alphabet Soup : - (

Those days, I did have an inkling – nowadays I don’t even remember the acronyms.

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Monday, 21 May 2007 at 8:25pm BST

“The question at hand is not which of these is the best use or even whether there is a best use but this: How did the author of the ADC and Stephen Bates (assuming that these are two different people) use the term and what do they mean when they claim that Wycliffe Hall has become "more homophobic"?”

With respect, I think that the question at hand is not whether Wycliffe Hall has, or will, become more homophobic - it might concievably be either way - but What is happening at Wycliffe Hall?

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Monday, 21 May 2007 at 8:28pm BST

It's easy to see how a Christian institution could become "more homophobic" if fundamentalism takes hold.

Homophobia derives from the sense that homosexuality is a crime against God or nature.

Biblical homophobia is one of the hardest to confront, since those who express it tend to claim Biblical inerrancy. You could argue it is the AC's corporate blindspot - many refuse to recognise homophobia as being a problem in the Communion. Take a look at the Windsor Report to see how the Lambeth Commission failed to identify homophobia when it hit them over the face. Its conclusions are a masterclass on how to maintain institutionalised homophobia.

This is the prevailing difficulty for those seeking to bring justice for LGBT people in Christian organisations such as the AC.

Posted by: Hugh of Lincoln on Tuesday, 22 May 2007 at 1:10am BST

This link is perhaps more significant:

Posted by: Frozenchristian on Tuesday, 22 May 2007 at 12:25pm BST

Hi David Rowett-

This is what I do not get. One would almost think from what you are saying that there are 8 or 9 different theories of the atonement on offer and everyone chooses one and discards/disbelieves the other 7 or 8.

This is jolly odd, as all the theories are not theories at all. They are metaphors. The metaphor of the lawcourt, the slave market, the battlefield, the family, the sacrificial ritual etc..

Theories are capable of being mutually exclusive but metaphors are not, or not to the same extent. So (in my view) you have framed the issue inaccurately.

If you wonder why PSA is taken so seriously, I'd guess it is because the debate perfectly illustrates the thing that centrally concerns Evangelicals: namely, that their so-called opponents form their worldview not on the basis of facts, evidence or exegesis, but on the basis of personal aesthetics and 'what is acceptable to the contemporary hearer': ie on the basis of something irrelevant. Important in itself, yet irrelevant. For example, they may find mentions of blood distasteful, and the idea of God's wrath is unfashionable (though extremely biblical). Fashion and personal aesthetic response are irrelevant.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Tuesday, 22 May 2007 at 12:28pm BST

Christopher - its not about aesthetics, but whether one would wish to believe in, let alone worship, such a god. I certainly wouldn't. And 'biblical' - frankly, the Bible and the way that some regard it as inspired rather than inspiring is the major problem

Posted by: Merseymike on Tuesday, 22 May 2007 at 1:44pm BST

I seem to remember that we had a long thread about PSA not long ago, which included outstanding links and descriptions to other theories/metaphors, as well as the Church of England Doctrine Commission's views on it.
Do we really need to go over it all again now?

Whether you see them as theories or metaphors, it is clear that there are several equally legitimate ways to understand the atonement.

I really don't understand why so many people are so desperate to cling to only one way of seeing everything.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Tuesday, 22 May 2007 at 2:50pm BST

The content of many of the blogs on this subject is a sad reflection of the state of the Church of England today. When I was at Oak Hill (in the years shortly before the 1992 vote) there were people(staff and students) on both sides of the 'male headship' debate. I suspect that is true today, of both Oak Hill and Wycliffe. However, the tone of many of the comments on this subject would suggest that suddenly it is to be ruled 'out of court' to hold to one side of that debate (ie, to advocate male headship). If that is so, which side of the debate is being narrow and bigoted?

Posted by: Andrew Wilson on Tuesday, 22 May 2007 at 3:31pm BST

Christopher: yes 'metaphor' or 'model' if you wish - but I don't think it's possible to maintain that culture has not played a part in the shaping of all atonement models, and that (for want of a better word) 'fashion' is precisely what has given us the various partial models with which we work. I just can't understand why the latecomer PSA is such a shibboleth.

Posted by: mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) on Tuesday, 22 May 2007 at 4:38pm BST

Perhaps some of you will be able to help me with a question I have regarding the Wycliffe row.

Wycliffe it seems it nolonger a safe place for gays to train, and new regime is "homophobic." Does this mean that under the previous regime, gay ordinands were, at the very least, tolerated at Wycliffe? Or am I missing something here?

Posted by: Ro Mody on Tuesday, 22 May 2007 at 8:13pm BST

RE "plants", I thought I'd throw in this short answer/observation I wrote the other day on an other place, on the resulting Fruits - from last time "plants" were à la mode:

Actually, I also think “plants” damages not only many souls, but all of the mission of the Church over Time.

Parishes where the clergy was sympathetic, or even actively promoting forms of Calvinist/Pietist Penal Substitution "mission" 150 to 50 years ago, today are Parishes where the "Missionhouse" is perhaps only open once each year in high summer, and very few go to church regularly.

There are maybe a couple of very small, very separatist, free congregations - quickly dwindling.

At this church I had 1 "visitor" for Ascension... and I have seen this before, in other places.

And the thing is: it is v e r y difficult to make anyone gather for a n y kind of activity – secular or church – in such a parish.

Such are the long-time Fruits of the "numbers game", of feeling manipulated, of having been taken for a ride.

Of substituting Imitatio Imperii for Imitatio Christi.

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Wednesday, 23 May 2007 at 7:30am BST

Hi David R

The question is (obviously) whether PSA is indeed a latecomer. How else do you see the blood/sacrifice language working?

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Wednesday, 23 May 2007 at 1:10pm BST

Hi Erika

You are doing the same thing as David, namely speaking as though there were different ways of understanding the atonement from which one can pick and choose.

This has never been the Christian view. The Christian view is that all the biblical pictures of the atonement are accurate, and all illuminate a different dimension of it. They are complementary and mutually supportive. But they belong together, and excluding any of them will impoverish our understanding.

Surely you don't think that everyone should have their own favourite atonement theory and discard the rest as inaccurate.

Even if they did, on what basis would they do so? Personal preference (aesthetics) is obviously no way to determine truth.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Wednesday, 23 May 2007 at 1:15pm BST

Via Fulcrum linking there is this found:

Rev. Turnbull of Reform discusses "capturing" theological colleges, and getting generations, by liberals, and warning against liberalism getting strategic influence. Pot and black-called kettle here.

He is also against an Anglo-Catholic view of the Church (early on).

He also wants to be clear about evangelical identity and against generalities in this - substitutionay atonement at the heart of this in the specifics.

He refers often to Oak Hill and Wycliffe together.

The picture is clear.

Posted by: Pluralist on Wednesday, 23 May 2007 at 2:08pm BST


This isn't really a thread about PSA. You maybe should go back to the TA thread which includes the following:

The most recent statement by the Church of England on the meaning of the Cross is the Doctrine Commission’s report The Mystery of Salvation (1995).

It restates the view of the 1938 Commission that “the notion of propitiation as the placating by man of an angry God is definitely unchristian” (p. 213). It also observes that “the traditional vocabulary of atonement with its central themes of law, wrath, guilt, punishment and acquittal, leave many Christians cold and signally fail to move many people, young and old, who wish to take steps towards faith. These images do not correspond to the spiritual search of many people today and therefore hamper the Church’s mission.”

Instead, it recommends that the Cross should be presented “as revealing the heart of a fellow-suffering God” (p. 113).

The CofE is still accepted by conservatives as part of the AC, so its views certainly carry some weight!

Posted by: Erika Baker on Wednesday, 23 May 2007 at 4:18pm BST

Erika - some evangelicals definitely need to be encouraged to reflect on the atonement more broadly and/or to nuance their understanding of penal substitution but denying PSA is hardly the way to go about it. The Bishop of Durham is not very popular here but he was a member of the doctrine commission which produced the 1995 document to which you refer, so he should be worth hearing:

"The Mystery of Salvation notes that substitutionary atonement is taught in the Thirty-Nine Articles, and that this enshrines 'a vital truth', which can best be got at through the language of 'vicarious' suffering (p. 212). And, while perfectly properly emphasizing that the ultimate subject of the action in the death of Jesus is God himself (presumably God the Father), the Report notes (p. 213), immediately after the passage quoted from the 1938 Report to which Dr John refers ('the notion of propotiation as the placating by man of an angry God is definitely unChristian'), that 'it is nevertheless true that in Paul's thought the effect of expiation is the same as that of propitiation - to neutralise the sin that is the cause of God's displeasure and so to avert God's wrath (however that should be understood).' While noting the obvious problems with a crude doctrine of propitiation (a loving Jesus placating a malevolent God), the Report goes on to point out (p. 214) that both Athanasius and Augustine, as well as Calvin, spoke in terms of God himself providing the propitiation for his own wrath. The problem of the crude formulation was, in other words, already well known in the Greek and Latin Fathers, and this did not prevent them from continuing to see Jesus' death in terms of propitiation even while insisting that the work from start to finish was the result of God's love. Granted, the 1995 Report does scant justice to the history of the idea of substitution, both penal and otherwise, giving the bizarre impression that the idea was merely invented by Anselm and developed by Calvin, as though it were not also to be found in several of the Fathers, a good many of the mediaeval writers, and more or less all the Reformers, not least Martin Luther. But that is only to say that the Report, like all such productions, should not be taken as a definitive account either of what Anglicans are supposed to believe or of what they believe in fact."

Posted by: Thomas Renz on Wednesday, 23 May 2007 at 5:36pm BST

Thought long about posting this. From Ceasars Palace!!. Huge issues that in the real world which are looked at Biblically in a different light. I dare anyone from Wycliffe to show Biblical texts which show how the managment style is correct. Just think some of the thinking on this and like that on gender issues is wildly wrong, just like slavery in the past. Um pity we can't be thinking about all the big issues in the world. Or do we just hide away.

Shalom, um could write another 20 pages but cant!!

Posted by: Leigh on Thursday, 24 May 2007 at 7:24am BST


Of course - but neither you nor I believe everything in C of E documents, so the question is qwhy believe this particular statement?

In any case, that was not the question I was addressing. That question was:

(1) What makes you think the different pictures of the atonement are of such a nature that everyone should accept one and reject the rest? I had never heard that they were mutually exclusive or either/or. Christians have always accepted *all* of them as mutually supportive valid illuminations of the central reality.

(2) Surely you do not think that the basis for choosing or rejecting them is whether we like them or not. How does liking them make them any more or less true?

Regarding PSA, the C of E statements are rejecting it because they find it to be unbiblical, not (as you suggested) because they were free to pick and choose the pictures of atonement which they most liked.

For the question of whether PSA is biblical, we need to go to more detailed studies than the ones you cite. That is why the Oak Hill tutors wrote their book, why John Stott wrote 'The Cross of Christ' and so on. Any acceptance or rejection of PSA should be based on careful study of books like these. The approach which you take (rejection without argument and/or rejection by reference to some brief formal statement) is not a possible way of settling the issue.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Thursday, 24 May 2007 at 2:04pm BST

I have made no approach to settling the issue, all I did was to mention that this isn't the subject of this particular thread, and to point you back to a whole thread on TA where a large number of people contributed to the discussion, including engagement with scripture.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Thursday, 24 May 2007 at 2:53pm BST

The narrative which attempts to equate liking/disliking PSA with a thoughtful investigation/critique of PSA simply will not do. There are a number of credible intellectual angles or lenses through which PSA falls short, especially when it is the single aspect of atonement theories lifted up as a standard for orthodoxy.

One criticism which so far hasn't been much addressed by conservative believers is put well by Fr. James Alison.


So far as I can tell, none of our atonement theories is entirely satisfactory from a modern educated thinking perspective, and we would be quite remiss if we fudged that recognition and if we failed to remain open to new ideas or ways of approaching reconciliation with God which at least make an effort to rethink, avoiding some or many of the perceptible intellectual atonement theory conundrums. Compared with justice for the poor of the planet, it is a puzzle-solving theological pastttime, however, in my lefty view.

Posted by: drdanfee on Thursday, 24 May 2007 at 3:40pm BST

Hi Erika-
Once again, that is nothing to do with the point I am making. I am not discussing the issue of PSA. I am simply questioning two of your much more general presuppositions:
(1) that doctrines are held because of personal preference;
(2) that the bible gives us several pictures of the atonement, of which we only need to choose one.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Friday, 25 May 2007 at 2:17pm BST
Post a comment

Remember personal info?

Please note that comments are limited to 400 words. Comments that are longer than 400 words will not be approved.

Cookies are used to remember your personal information between visits to the site. This information is stored on your computer and used to refill the text boxes on your next visit. Any cookie is deleted if you select 'No'. By ticking 'Yes' you agree to this use of a cookie by this site. No third-party cookies are used, and cookies are not used for analytical, advertising, or other purposes.