Friday, 21 September 2007

Wycliffe Hall: more departures

Updated

Religious Intelligence has this: More staff leave under-fire Anglican college:

THREE senior members of academic staff are leaving an under-fire Oxford theological College, it has been revealed today.

In the latest blow to Wycliffe College, which has come under mounting criticism in recent months for adopting a more conservative evangelical stance, its Principal the Rev Dr Richard Turnbull confirmed that three staff members are to leave, following another five academics have already left the institution in recent months.

The doctrinal change has coincided with the appointment of the new Principal, whose management style also been criticised.

In May one anonymous staff member claimed the college had become ‘openly homophobic’ and ‘hostile to women priests’ since his appointment.

The three staff members are Dr Elaine Storkey, formerly senior research fellow in social philosophy, the Rev Dr Andrew Goddard, tutor in Christian Ethics, and his wife, the Rev Lis Goddard, who was tutor in Ministerial Formation…

Update

A feature film about this saga has been made, see this review of it here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 21 September 2007 at 7:47am BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England
Comments

Sad to see this - Andrew Goddard, in particular, has been doing great work for the AC is putting clear theological arguments during this 4 year period of "VGR chaos" in the AC.

However, I am please to see that all those who have been trying to unseat Dr Turnbull (through their "honourable" anonymous briefings or their reporting of such) have FAILED to get rid of the Principal!

Nice to see Dr T reporting that female applicants to WH are up!

Posted by: NP on Friday, 21 September 2007 at 8:57am BST

NP, I need to make it quite clear, that Elaine Storkey, nor Andrew and Lis Goddard have not now or ever indulged in anonymous briefing against Richard Turnbull, or Wycliffe Hall. This has, from time to time been alleged against them on various forums, but is simply untrue.

Posted by: Simon Cawdell on Friday, 21 September 2007 at 10:38am BST

'Female applicants to WH are up!' Are these applicants for theology and are they ordinands of the Church of England who will be training for ministerial priesthood?

Posted by: Anglicanus on Friday, 21 September 2007 at 11:49am BST

I've lost track of numbers.

Is that now 6 of 13 staff who have left, or they part of the original 3, or are there more than 13 staff, in which case how many have actually left (in a more than staff capacity)?

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Friday, 21 September 2007 at 11:53am BST

Cheryl
These 3 are extra to the 5 already who have left.
8 out of 13 academic staff have now left Wycliffe.

I don't see how such an exodus can be explained away on any rational basis...

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 21 September 2007 at 12:35pm BST

The video of Richard Turnbull talking to Reform, in which he saw the "liberal evangelicals" as the first blockage to taking on the real liberals, tells us all that is needed in that finally even these members of staff have left. Comments on the Fulcrum website show that there is no illusion that the Fulcrum position can be equated with the Reform based strategy - one that, of course, has a direct link with all this to do with "schism" and "revolution". Whatever disagreements I may have with its general stance (and so what), Fulcrum at least works to keep the Communion together but that cannot be said of these other evangelicals.

Posted by: Pluralist on Friday, 21 September 2007 at 1:54pm BST

Simon Cawdell - I never said they did!

Posted by: NP on Friday, 21 September 2007 at 2:17pm BST

I think people posting on here should simply pray for the ministry and mission of Wycliffe and not spend all their time commenting on its internal issues from which they are far removed and therefore of which they have little knowledge.

Term has started really well here, and we are all geared up for our training.

Posted by: Matthew Firth on Friday, 21 September 2007 at 3:05pm BST

Simon Cawdell - just to be crystal clear, I am sure good people like Elaine Storkey and the Goddards had nothing to do with any secret briefings

(I think all 3 are great people and faithful leaders in the church......I think the same of Dr Turnbull too)

Posted by: NP on Friday, 21 September 2007 at 3:07pm BST

So it's a complete sweep out for the Fulcrum founders/supporters/etc.

That would have nothing to do with the Fulcrum boyo - Blessed Tom - swingeing attack on that awful “covenant” signed by Wycliffe’s Prin?
http://www.fulcrum-anglican.org.uk/page.cfm?ID=235

Still we shall all read about it in their autobiographies – well those of us set to last another 30 years …..

Seriously – for both the Goddards to be put out must be traumatic and we all send our best wishes and hopes for immediate gainful employment or a whacking settlement that allows a few books to be written!
I said elsewhere yesterday that young Mr Goddard was underplaying the determination of those radcons set on seeing an Anglican realignment at any cost – I did not imagine that included him loosing his job. All credit to him for his gentle generousness then.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Friday, 21 September 2007 at 8:56pm BST

Ah! I see in an email from my Fulcrumesque best friend (poor lad he has been working too hard lately) that as things stand any Anglican evangelical with a hope of being taken seriously academically these days HAS to have been sacked by Dr Turnbull……

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Friday, 21 September 2007 at 9:06pm BST

8 out of 13? That's 61.35%!

Any decent manager knows that high a turnover means something is going on. There is either some kind of fundamental reform, or there are outrageous working conditions. If it was a reform, then there would be a manager whose managed to do a restructure without redundancy payouts. If that is the case, their sponsors would be very pleased with the results. Since they now control the college, there is no problem with the college. Lottery winners are always happy, and too bad about the others, they are only getting what they deserve anyway, and God can get around to blessing them some other time (or not at all if they are evil).

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Friday, 21 September 2007 at 11:17pm BST

aah, Matthew, I see you're here as well and it's not just fulcrum that has become your whipping post.

what is it about wanting to silence people's voice?

jody

Posted by: jody stowell on Saturday, 22 September 2007 at 9:51am BST

Jody - I refer you to my responce to you on the Fulcrum forum. I have no desire to silence the voice of fair and honest debate. However, as I have said on numerous occasions, the debate on the pages of 'Thinking Anglicans' and 'Fulcrum' is based substantially on press reports which are notoriously unreliable and which exist solely to create a sensationalist atmosphere which helps to make money for editors. The debate is therefore seriously flawed and largely a waste of time. The honourable thing to do is to set aside the temptation to comment from the perspective of inaccurate reports, and simply pray for Wycliffe as it seeks to train men and women for church leadership and other crucial ministries. For people on the outside of the Wycliffe community or who are distanced from it by a lack of sound information, prayer is the best and most valuable contribution that they can make.

Posted by: Matthew Firth on Saturday, 22 September 2007 at 4:50pm BST

I think Simon is right that such a turnover cannot be accidental, especially given the witness of the 3 former principals. If the issue is primarily personal relationships then by all means consider the possiblility that the principal is to be faulted. But if it is doctrine, then it may be that he is simply acting by his own conscience - and no-one can be faulted for doing that.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Saturday, 22 September 2007 at 6:13pm BST

Matthew- the debate on the Fulcrum website is based on the fact that three high profile members of the college faculty, all part of the Fulcrum Leadership, have been made to leave against their will, the fact of Dr Turnbull's videoed speech to the Reform conference (see Ruth Gledhill's blog)and the fact of Dr Bray's editorial reproduced on the same blog. This has nothing to do with rumour, inaccurate reports and gossip. As a vicar who cares passionately about the future of the Church as well as the quality of her intellectual life and training, I have to say that these events are remarkable and need to be remarked upon. It looks like something very ugly is afoot, although I want to be proved wrong on this. And there is a real danger that, with events in New Orleans acting as a distraction, the scrutiny and discussion that these events require may not occur.

Posted by: Brett Gray on Saturday, 22 September 2007 at 7:13pm BST

and as I said before, you are making a huge assumption in saying that the news reports that we are commenting on are unfounded (press release from fulcrum claims an accurate nature to the 'religiousintelligence' report) and also that no-one here has any information from the inside of wycliffe except you!

Posted by: jody stowell on Saturday, 22 September 2007 at 7:33pm BST

my last comment was in reponse to matthew firth's comment (22 Sept, 4.50pm)

Posted by: jody stowell on Saturday, 22 September 2007 at 9:17pm BST

"The honourable thing to do is to set aside the temptation to comment from the perspective of inaccurate reports, and simply pray for Wycliffe as it seeks to train men and women for church leadership and other crucial ministries."

That is one honourable thing to do. But it is not the only option.

If the college has chosen to take a narrow theological perspective, then the church and/or its parishioners have the right to choose to find alternative theological training, if need be setting up a new college or training situation. Christianity has done this before, which is why Jesus' teachings weren't lost with his crucifixion.

Personally, I am really concerned at the attempts to hide, destroy or remove alternative scriptural interpretations. It's easy to have solo scriptural authority if you are the only legal version available, but that is going back to McCarthyism or Big Brother mentality.

Mind you, there are some who seem to be doing that e.g. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/10/us/10prison.html?hp (linked recently on another thread, but relevant here too).

There are some excellent online resources that have free educational mail outs e.g. http://www.hrc.org/scripture/

When the Nazis went for the gays and disabled, no body cared, then they went for the Jews... by the time they get to you, who will be left to protect you? Protect the weakest and least of humanity so that all of humanity has some hope of seeing God's promised everlasting covenant of peace being fulfilled. An ecosystem of limited variation is a wasteland of weeds and pests that have smothered or consumed all alternatives. In a human society manifestation it is known as tyranny.

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Saturday, 22 September 2007 at 10:54pm BST

Jody - The vast majority of press reports on which you base your comments are unreliable.

Cheryl Clough - Your comments are both volatile and extreme, and have little to do with this debate. You speak of the internal affairs of a theological college in the same sentence as comments about the Nazis persecuting disabled people; this is just plain weird!

Posted by: Matthew Firth on Sunday, 23 September 2007 at 12:19am BST

My reply on the more recent Wycliffe thread also applies here: http://www.thinkinganglicans.org.uk/archives/002636.html#comments

It would do well to remember I have come from a diocese where parishes have been scandalised at how former priests were removed from office, or how they had little choice as to who would be their new minister (or they would be in a parish with no minister at all).

Ezekiel 3:17-22 "...I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. When I say to a wicked man, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn him or speak out to dissuade him from his evil ways in order to save his life, that wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood. But if you do warn the wicked man and he does not turn from his wickedness or from his evil ways, he will die for his sin; but you will have saved yourself. “Again, when a righteous man turns from his righteousness and does evil, and I put a stumbling block before him, he will die. Since you did not warn him, he will die for his sin. The righteous things he did will not be remembered, and I will hold you accountable for his blood. But if you do warn the righteous man not to sin and he does not sin, he will surely live because he took warning, and you will have saved yourself.”"

Jeremiah 6:13-15 “From the least to the greatest, all are greedy for gain; prophets and priests alike, all practice deceit. They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace. Are they ashamed of their loathsome conduct? No, they have no shame at all; they do not even know how to blush."

The latter easily applies to those who have managed to expel/shed nearly two thirds of Wycliffe with no sign of remorse or regret.

I might be weird, but I am a God's girl kind of weird.

Jesus cried out “forgive them Father, they know not what they do”. Cheva states, “separate and judge them Father, they know exactly what they do, and have no remorse”.

Posted by: Cheryl Va. Clough on Sunday, 23 September 2007 at 10:48pm BST

I note significant variations of interpretation regarding my comments on the Radio 4 Sunday programme as to whether or not the issues plaguing Wycliffe Hall are theological. My point about misrepresentations of the situation at Wycliffe is that they have been such because they have only represented the views of some stakeholders in the Hall. Until voices from the inside are heard, the media reports will continue to be misrepresentations – of both the management and the theological issues that have been at stake.

There have been contradictory signals from the Principal and the Council regarding theological emphasis. The Principal did sign the Covenant for the CofE without consulting staff. He did appoint a Vice-Principal who reinforced rather than complemented the Principal theologically. He has narrowed the curriculum for ordination training towards an even greater emphasis on preaching at the expense of other aspects and he has taken decisions concerning churchmanship that leave less room for manoeuvre. Finally, he has made unambiguous public statements about his ‘theological’ intentions for the Hall. On the other hand, two women have been appointed to academic posts as well as a Director of Leadership with ‘charismatic’ sympathies. The Chair of the Council has insisted that ‘the breadth of [the Hall’s] evangelical ethos’ will be maintained. The debates that continue to surround these facts suggest a need for more convincing integral theological leadership.

But more importantly, issues of management are themselves profoundly theological. The way in which the Hall has been managed by the Principal and the Council does not match my understanding of the Christian gospel. Retreating to a baseline of legality as a measure of righteous behaviour is, in my view, antithetic to the teachings of Jesus. Using control as a means of exerting authority is what scripture tells us God renounced in favour of love, freedom and inclusion despite the inevitable cost in pain and suffering. Jesus was the master of creatively and genuinely including the ‘unincludable’, even into his leadership team, which included men and women as well as financiers and fishermen. These are the paradoxes that Christ invites us to live out in churches and Christian organisations. They are countercultural and counterintuitive, but without them the kingdom cannot advance. When they are embraced and practised, issues of churchmanship and so-called theology fade into the background and the gospel returns to centre stage.

Posted by: Eeva John on Wednesday, 26 September 2007 at 10:37am BST

"Retreating to a baseline of legality as a measure of righteous behaviour is, in my view, antithetic to the teachings of Jesus. Using control as a means of exerting authority is what scripture tells us God renounced in favour of love, freedom and inclusion despite the inevitable cost in pain and suffering. "

But why is it surprising that a college that identifies itself as Evangelical should behave in this fashion? From every experience I have had, I would be very surprised if they agreed with your first statement, and even if they claimed to, their actions clearly show otherwise. They would, as far as I can see, equally vehemently disagree with your second statement. If this is not a correct assessment on my part, I would like some Evangelicals to explain how I'm wrong, and, if I am, why it is that the behaviour of Evangelicals actually confirms this belief.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Wednesday, 26 September 2007 at 1:11pm BST
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