Friday, 5 October 2007

Wycliffe Hall: Church Times report

The Church Times has a report by Bill Bowder Wycliffe Hall criticised by resigning governor.

CLARE MACINNES, a member of the Council of Wycliffe Hall, the increasingly troubled Evangelical theological college in Oxford (News, Letters, 28 September), wrote to its chairman on Monday to resign and explain her reasons.

She said on Tuesday that she had also written to the Archbishop of Canterbury, the college’s Visitor, and to the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford. “My responsibility is to tell my story,” she said. “I am deeply saddened by this, and it gave me no pleasure to write this letter.”

The chairman of the Council of Wycliffe Hall, the Bishop of Liverpool, the Rt Revd James Jones, had replied immediately, “which I appreciated”, but she declined to give any details of his reply…

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Who is in charge of Wycliffe?

This article notes "Dissension in the council was often not minuted, she said. When the council terminated the employment of three staff members, Dr Elaine Storkey, the Revd Dr Andrew Goddard, and the Revd Lis Godard (News, 28 September), staff were told that the decision was unanimous, although Mrs MacInnes, who was absent from the meeting, had sent a letter to record her opposition to the move" and earlier "At one council meeting, a member had told her not to take notes. “I was again intimidated by this.”

In Australia there is a concept of "duty of care" and officers in public office can personally be sued for failing to exercise "duty of care", which can include negligence or incompetence for failing to care for a member of the public's interest...

Clare has done the right thing by resigning. The question now is who is legally culpible for Wycliffe Hall?

The next question is where else does such abominations occur where souls foolishly think they are above rebuke? Such souls think that God does not care what happens in the human realm, or in the Christian or Jewish realms.

God tells them that if they can not keep their own houses honorable and holy, they have no right to criticize variations within their own religious streams, let alone those from outside of their streams.

You want to stop planes been flown into World Trade Centres? Then stop the selfish bullies within Christianity and Judaism... Muslims want to stop Judaic and Christian bullying? Then stop the aggressive strategies from within your own ranks...

Posted by: Cheryl Va. Clough on Friday, 5 October 2007 at 11:04am BST

The issue of the governing body should not escape comment. So many organisations seem to believe that a group of (highly qualified) individuals who see less than a hundredth of what residents see should have many times more decision making power than said residents. This in many cases will not add up.

Is the governing body therefore at fault for supporting Richard Turnbull? No - in my view the present nature/tendencies of the British media is at fault. Who can blame any organisation for seeking damage limitation and maintaining the status quo when they know how the jackals will tear into them if they do not?

Clare MacInnes so far as I know is the wife of much-loved ex-St Aldates rector David, and the fact that she here (1) acts in a Christian manner according to conscience and (2) does so only as a last resort and regretfully rather than ostentatiously - occasions no surprise.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Friday, 5 October 2007 at 12:45pm BST

Christopher Snell:

Blaming the media for the troubled management of Wycliffe is akin to shooting the messenger for the deeds of the general. This latest wave of resignations has recieved suprisingly limited attention from the mainstream press, and the reporting in the Church Times, Guardian, and Religious Intelligence seems benign to say the least. If you have particular objections to these reports and the journalists who wrote them you should say so, rather than slandering them as 'jackals'. On these threads one member of Wycliffe has already had to back down after issuing a libellous claim against Stephen Bates that he was inventing stories and manipulating the facts.

If the Principal or Council wished to close this affair, they could quite easily issue a statement either rebutting the claims, or reassuring the public that measures were being taken to investigate them, but they have not yet chosen to do this. If 'damage limitation' involves sweeping under the carpet matters of serious concern involving due process and the lawful treatment of staff, then the Council and Principal should expect to face criticism, and rightly so.

Posted by: Matthew B on Friday, 5 October 2007 at 4:50pm BST

Cheryl - The comparison that you make between the situation at Wycliffe and planes being flown into the World Trade Centre is, quite simply, bonkers.

Posted by: Matthew Firth on Friday, 5 October 2007 at 4:53pm BST

Sarah has an excellent post on this saga over on the Fulcrum thread, which is worth reading. Clare MacInnes raises several new points in addition to those revealed by the Maughan/Wenham/John disclosures, which relate to the operation of the Council, rather than simply the behaviour of Principal Turnbull.

i. Turnbull's appointment was made without a proper appraisal. Concerns about the process were dismissed. "This was a serious oversight, since it raised questions about the integrity of the process, including issues of charity and employment law and good practice."

ii. The council raised Turnbull's salary from that advertised to that of a cathedral dean in order to secure his services, without proper appraisal. “There was no supporting paperwork with reasoned argument, but the Treasurer simply told us that we would lose the candidate if we did not agree.”

iii. Council members who dissented were often intimidated and their disagreements were written out of the official minutes.

iv. Concerns that the Council had not followed due process over staff grievances, recruitment, and the termination of employment were dismissed. The Council also last year dismissed David Wenham's 'serious concerns' when he raised them as merely a personal disagreement.

These are serious allegations about the failure of due process, and, if true, recent decisions taken by the Council over the employment and dismissal of staff would be open to legal challenge.

Posted by: Matthew B on Friday, 5 October 2007 at 5:09pm BST

These are they who support the sackings etc and appear on the Wycliffe website as members of the Council.

What is known of these worthies?

It appears that Clare MacInnes resigned before or during July this year - either that or this page lies!

Hall Council
The governing body of Wycliffe Hall is the Hall Council, which is comprised of both clergy and laypersons, who are responsible for overall policy. Its membership includes four holding Trustees who are also Trustees of Wycliffe’s sister college, Ridley Hall, Cambridge.

As at July 2007, the Hall Council members are:

Mr Anthony Archer
Ms Fran Beckett
Revd John Cook
Mr Andrew Dalton (Treasurer & Holding Trustee)
Revd David Fletcher
Rt Revd James Jones (Chair)
Revd Bob Key
Revd Canon Frederick Kilner (Holding Trustee)
Mr Colin Matthews (Holding Trustee)
Mr Simon McGuire (Holding Trustee)
Revd Paul Perkin
Rt Revd David Urquhart
Dr David Way

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Friday, 5 October 2007 at 6:06pm BST

"Is the governing body therefore at fault for supporting Richard Turnbull? No - in my view the present nature/tendencies of the British media is at fault. Who can blame any organisation for seeking damage limitation and maintaining the status quo when they know how the jackals will tear into them if they do not?"

Yeah! blame it on the media.

It's their fault that dirty linen cannot be kept in the family any longer.

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Friday, 5 October 2007 at 6:29pm BST

This situation needs further clarification. It can't be happening again. In our best interest, it seems that we have to work more hardly to change the situation and all will be fine.
Robert Opala

Posted by: Robert Opala on Friday, 5 October 2007 at 10:19pm BST

"If the Principal or Council wished to close this affair, they could quite easily issue a statement either rebutting the claims, or reassuring the public that measures were being taken to investigate them, but they have not yet chosen to do this. If 'damage limitation' involves sweeping under the carpet matters of serious concern involving due process and the lawful treatment of staff, then the Council and Principal should expect to face criticism, and rightly so."

We can see from the comments that at least the defenders of this new order are less than democrates.

This affair seems to be about good government and proper processes in government, versus bad government and improper processes in government.

Maybe it is about what has been going on for 30 years in Pentecostal circles in Australia and the Americas, and is reappraisingly referred to as "Apolstolic Leadership."

It's astonishing that people never learn the Lessons of History and realize that what lead Mussolini, Hitler, Salazar, Franco, Quisling, Lenin, Stalin, Gomulka and lesser deities to destruction (along with their wreched countries) will work the same for them in their station.

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Saturday, 6 October 2007 at 7:31am BST

Matthew Firth wrote: "Cheryl - The comparison that you make between the situation at Wycliffe and planes being flown into the World Trade Centre is, quite simply, bonkers."

From where you are (inside) this may not be immediately obvious - that is an ancient lesson - but for churched and un-churched outside your institution of Zelots, there are no such difficulties (institutional, ideological)...

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Saturday, 6 October 2007 at 7:35am BST

No it will not be "fine".

This will have repercussions for decades.

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Saturday, 6 October 2007 at 7:38am BST

Think USA's standing in the World after the war on Iraq.

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Saturday, 6 October 2007 at 7:39am BST

Matthew F wrote "Cheryl - The comparison that you make between the situation at Wycliffe and planes being flown into the World Trade Centre is, quite simply, bonkers."

So at what point were the Muslims meant to draw the line between aggressive theology and what was manifest in this world?

One week before the World Trade Centre - who believes that would have made a difference? (That is a bonkers statement!)

How about when aggression became a "legitimate" form of Islam? That would have nipped the problem in the bud.

But who are those who aid and abet aggression to complain when other theologies also manifest and justify aggression as an ends to a means?

I might be "bonkers" but I have credibility with Muslims because I have not demanded more of them than I have of Christians or Jews. Similarly, I am prepared to rebuke Christians or Jews, before I rebuke their younger siblings.

Further, Muslims are more able to deal with God intervening in this reality and expect Jesus's wife to become manifest in order to heal the problems of this world. The Jews know the Shechina and recognise her as the one who protected them in her cloud/fire during the forty years of Exodus.

Thus I have credibility with both Jews and Muslims, and they can accept that I work for both their faiths' benefits. Jesus also knows who and what I am.

The "Christians" who attack me do not see in Spirit, do not understand the Trinity, and have no authority because they are rude and ignorant. Jesus asked for forgiveness for those who knew not what they did, Jesus also knew there was one who could do more than damage the body. Even Jesus is not game to face me head on, because Jesus knows I came from God and have the turbo charge factor of righteous anger on my side.

The covenant of peace for all the peoples of all the nations as promised to the Daughter of Zion will be fulfilled, because the alternative is extinction of all humanity.

That some humans call me "bonkers" is irrelevant. They simply demonstrate their blindness and arrogance.

Posted by: Cheryl Va. Clough on Saturday, 6 October 2007 at 7:53am BST

The Revd Paul Perkin has a history of not wanting meetings recorded accurately:
http://www.churchtimes.co.uk/28820

He was also the sponsor of this PMM at England's February General Synod
http://www.thinkinganglicans.org.uk/archives/002166.html

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Saturday, 6 October 2007 at 10:01am BST

In response to the comment above from Martin Reynolds about the list of trustees, I looked at this list on the Wycliffe website earlier this week and Mrs McInnes was included then. It looks as if whoever edited the list to remove her name forgot to change the date at the top from July to October.

Posted by: Peter Owen on Saturday, 6 October 2007 at 12:13pm BST

I wonder if I might solicit a discussion about what might be driving the Hall Council: why they were so desperate to secure their candidate that they were prepared to pay him at the level of Cathedral Dean, and why they have backed him to the hilt when fast losing better women and men. Bishop JJ's motives are anyone's guess. One can only imagine he is appalled at the thought of losing face; though supporting RT is injuring his reputation far more than admitting his mistake would have done.
But other Council members present a more interesting picture. We have two founding members of Reform: David Fletcher and Paul Perkin. Fletcher is known for his tireless work in 'the toughest mission fields of the 20th century': the top British public schools. See http://www.e-n.org.uk/p-825-Doing-the-impossible.htm for a breathtaking account of the mission organisation Iwerne's ministry and values. 'Key boys in key schools' was their slogan.
Paul Perkin became infamous in Southwark diocese for an episode at his Battersea church last November: see http://www.churchtimes.co.uk/content.asp?id=28820
and also http://www.fulcrum-anglican.org.uk/news/2006/20061110butler.cfm?doc=165 for an eyewitness account. Regarding the suggestion that church resources be diverted to the Global South, a church member said "The thing that alarmed me was that Paul said he didn't want to go into much detail, but wanted us to trust him on this." This sounds much like the kind of leadership modelled at Wycliffe lately.
Bob Key, General Director of CPAS and associate of Perkin at the National Evangelical Anglican Congress (2003) also signed with Perkin a statement entitled 'Leadership in Society Today' in November 2002. Drafted largely by members of Reform and the Church Society, it reaffirmed the Church's responsibility to uphold 'biblical norms of sexuality and sexual relationships' especially 'the norm of lifelong heterosexual marriage'.
Anthony Archer from the Diocese of St Albans put forward a Private Members Motion at General Synod in 2004 calling for reform in senior appointments. He wanted Synod 'to ensure that all appointments are transparent and encourage the confidence of the Church in the procedures that support the final selection'. (This was around the time that Jeffrey John was made Cathedral Dean.) I wonder how he'd defend the controversial appointments procedures at Wycliffe?
About the rest, I know little: but if anyone else can shed any light on the political context of all this, that might be helpful.

Posted by: Sarah on Saturday, 6 October 2007 at 3:32pm BST

I forgot to mention that one of the Holding Trustees, Simon McGuire, is currently a student at Wycliffe: but bizarrely there doesn't seem to be a staff representative on the Council. And where is the input from/accountability to the University? None of these individuals have any formal relationship to the University.

Posted by: Sarah on Saturday, 6 October 2007 at 3:38pm BST

May be the situation at Wycliffe is another example of people, in this the council and leadership of the college, being corrupted by power and driven by fear?

Jeff

Posted by: Jeff on Saturday, 6 October 2007 at 4:14pm BST

The different so-called parties in the C of E will vary in size as history progresses, and accordingly at certain times certain colleges which lie on the cusp will become especial battle grounds of ideology. For example: Oak Hill is not a battleground because it is clearly in one camp. Likewise Ridley has a long liberal evangelical tradition. Wycliffe, however, is one classic candidate to become a battleground between Conservative and Open Fulcrum Evangelicals.

It has to be said, by the by, that some of this ideology stuff is very silly. Any honest person is going to come to a variety of types of conclusions on a variety of different issues. Can anyone with integrity come to (e.g.) Open Evangelical conclusions on everything but everything? To come to liberal/pluralist conclusions on everything but everything, for example, is actually a logical contradiction. What the newspapers with their battleground imagery do not like to contemplate is that the same individual may profitably draw on a number of different 'traditions' - insofar as those 'traditions' are in conflict at all, which often they are not in the first place. For the newspapers, everyone has to be in one camp or another: either a fascist bully or a wishywashy etc.. It is a Punch and Judy worldview.

Individuals such as David Fletcher (and indeed younger individuals like Paul Perkin) will have seen, in their lifetime, parts of the C of E coming to regard as good things which are just about as opposed to historic Christianity as one can get. They will see this as a battle for the soul of Britain: no compromise. Coming from where they are coming from (or indeed from anywhere else), this is perfectly understandable. They probably think the world has gone mad. Are they wrong? The battle - and there is a battle here - was not started by them. It began at the point when the revisionists revised.

David Fletcher and Andrew Dalton, among others maybe, are from the Varsity Public School 'Bash Camp' tradition. (Bob Key is ex vicar of St Andrew's, North Oxford.) Muscular Christianity will have been the group most bemused and saddened by the recent crisis. The camps have always had such a beautiful and holy atmosphere: a place where true Christianity can be found. They don't want all the good things that generations of young Christians have found there to be destroyed. Bravo!

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Saturday, 6 October 2007 at 6:26pm BST

The different so-called parties in the C of E will vary in size as history progresses, and accordingly at certain times certain colleges which lie on the cusp will become especial battle grounds of ideology. For example: Oak Hill is not a battleground because it is clearly in one camp. Likewise Ridley has a long liberal evangelical tradition. Wycliffe, however, is one classic candidate to become a battleground between Conservative and Open Fulcrum Evangelicals.

It has to be said, by the by, that some of this ideology stuff is very silly. Any honest person is going to come to a variety of types of conclusions on a variety of different issues. Can anyone with integrity come to (e.g.) Open Evangelical conclusions on everything but everything? To come to liberal/pluralist conclusions on everything but everything, for example, is actually a logical contradiction. What the newspapers with their battleground imagery do not like to contemplate is that the same individual may profitably draw on a number of different 'traditions' - insofar as those 'traditions' are in conflict at all, which often they are not in the first place. For the newspapers, everyone has to be in one camp or another: either a fascist bully or a wishywashy etc.. It is a Punch and Judy worldview.

Individuals such as David Fletcher (and indeed younger individuals like Paul Perkin) will have seen, in their lifetime, parts of the C of E coming to regard as good things which are just about as opposed to historic Christianity as one can get. They will see this as a battle for the soul of Britain: no compromise. Coming from where they are coming from (or indeed from anywhere else), this is perfectly understandable. They probably think the world has gone mad. Are they wrong? The battle - and there is a battle here - was not started by them. It began at the point when the revisionists revised.

David Fletcher and Andrew Dalton, among others maybe, are from the Varsity Public School 'Bash Camp' tradition. (Bob Key is ex vicar of St Andrew's, North Oxford.) Muscular Christianity will have been the group most bemused and saddened by the recent crisis. The camps have always had such a beautiful and holy atmosphere: a place where true Christianity can be found. They don't want all the good things that generations of young Christians have found there to be destroyed. Bravo!

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Saturday, 6 October 2007 at 6:27pm BST

Sarah: Thanks for posting - this really is most interesting. There seems on the Council a nucleus of people who are either leading members of Reform or are extremely sympathetic to its agenda, but the political context is no doubt more complicated than that.

The link between Reform, or at least conservative evangelicalism and the public school sector is often overlooked. Friends from top public schools provide a picture in which their school Christian Unions behave in a much more hardline way than those I've ever experienced in the state sector (there is historical precedent for this, if we consider the contribution of leading public schools to the CMS in the 19th and much of the 20th centuries).

The mindset of those working in this field is going to have a particular character, as perhaps Christopher Shell's post demonstrates, with his talk of 'battling for the soul of Britain'. It will come as no surprise, for instance, that Andrew Dalton is a Conservative councillor (and current Mayor) of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. And it is striking too, that with the departure of Clare MacInnes, there is now only one female voice on the council.

What is also notable is the strong link to the Global South. +Birmingham (Urqhuart) is chair of the CMS, and has close working links with Bishop John Chew and other GS primates. John Cook was one of those who signed a recent letter of praise for the African consecrations now intruding on the Episcopal Church.

If they believe, as Christopher Shell does, that open evangelicals are coming to 'liberal/pluralist conclusions on everything', then we really could be seeing a battle emerging.


Posted by: Matthew B on Saturday, 6 October 2007 at 9:06pm BST

Jeff asked "May be the situation at Wycliffe is another example of people, in this the council and leadership of the college, being corrupted by power and driven by fear?"

One of my earlier concerns is that this was possible. The leadership at Wycliffe were quick to reassure us that all was well and that the graduates are held in high regard.

That then raises another concern, how do they hope to keep such a high standards when they have lost so many staff so quickly, how are they doing the handovers to ensure the high standard is maintained?

Of course, if there is an intention to fundamentally reform Wycliffe, then why would they rest on the laurels of that they are about to discombulate?

Plus as more souls have come forward, it appears our concerns might be legitimate.

Goran, thanks for the plays, there's an interesting article on Catholic News Service where the Pope is advocating that the Natural Laws be remembered and reaffirmed so that things do not degenerate into ugly power grabs. It appears it is not just GLBT loving liberals who can "get it".

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Saturday, 6 October 2007 at 10:56pm BST

"The leadership at Wycliffe were quick to reassure us that all was well..."

This is always a very bad sign. The next step is saying "Let's not dwelve on the past" - and then they invariably continue as before.

"... and that the graduates are held in high regard."

Blaming the bystander or the powerless in any form (e.g. faint praise ;=) or claiming their support, is the mark of bullies, and a clear indication that oppression is at hand.

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Sunday, 7 October 2007 at 7:55am BST

Sarah's comments about the VPS camps effect on the present situation at Wycliffe is a very interesting. Yes, with Godly motives those 'officers' (using a handbook called 'camp efficiency') were heavily into control; 'campers' were love-bombed into conversion, then your profession (vicar or public school teacher if a man, vicar's wife or RS/RE teacher at girls' public school if woman) was designated. Your marriage was to be to another in the circle. Yes, masses of vicars, public school teachers, vicars' wives were produced. There were also casualties. Great men (eg Lord Butler) left the scene after graduation, despite the best efforts of eg All Souls.

This was the scene in the 60s and 70s, anyway.

Posted by: Gillian Argyle on Sunday, 7 October 2007 at 10:03am BST

David Way is a staff member at thew Ministry Division.All Colleges have a Min Div person on teir governing body. I understand he does not attend many Council meetings - but if that is incorrect, someone can easily correct it.

Who are the General Synod reps on the Council?

Posted by: f on Monday, 8 October 2007 at 9:35am BST

What has happened to the New Testament replacement for David Wenham? The lecturer who had been appointed seems to be back in his old job, and with no sign of moving. Have the Council or Principal made any statement about this?

Posted by: philbody on Monday, 8 October 2007 at 12:42pm BST

Anthony Archer, Paul Perkin and of course Bishop James Jones sit on GS. So GS is pretty well represented.
Thank you Matthew B. for sounding a salutory note of caution about linking Reform too casually with the Wycliffe situation, for shedding light on the Global South connection, and for your elaboration on the ‘character’ of public school conservatism which I wanted to take up.
I too find it tempting to link upper-middle class evangelicalism with the kind of controlling leadership we've seen modelled in conservative churches/ institutions lately (although Turnbull himself is a grammar school boy). And I can't help but think that it IS a matter of class ideology - these men are trained to see themselves as natural political leaders, born to govern the less privileged. When Paul Perkin says to his congregation 'you don't need to understand this, I just want a mandate to act on your behalf', he is basically saying that he alone can be trusted to decide what is the right thing to do.
I'm afraid that this attitude has permeated evangelical leadership at all levels, even in networks like New Wine which used to be wonderfully collaborative. Particularly in large churches, there is dangerous potential for megalomania and the cult of personality.
Christopher's post was most illuminating: I hadn't realised that Andrew Dalton (Council treasurer, the person who insisted on boosting Turnbull's salary) was also a 'Bash Camp'/Iwerne/VPS product. I also find it surprising and mildly alarming that the language of 'muscular Christianity' is still current. Is this the sort of Christianity which finds liberal tendencies in the Church a mark of its feminisation or emasculation? If the remarks of Reform's David Banting on women's ordination are anything to go by, it looks that way. Gillian’s fasinating comments on the sex-specific roles prescribed at the VPS camps also suggest that there is a gendered dimension to this ideology of leadership, and points to the ways in which these schoolboy groups have influenced the conservative discourse on women’s ordination.

Posted by: Sarah on Monday, 8 October 2007 at 1:22pm BST

philbody, was it going to be Andy Angel from SEITE? According to the July newsletter from SEITE he was not due to take up his Wycliffe post until December.

Posted by: James on Monday, 8 October 2007 at 5:07pm BST

Sarah

I'm not sure that "f" was asking which of the Council were on General Synod, but rather which were appointed by General Synod. In fact it would be interesting to know the various bodies entitled to nominate people to the Council and which members they each put up.

I have to say that in my view there is more likely to be early action on the part of Oxford University that by the Church, partly because while there is the possibility of legal action it would simply be imprudent of anyone to mount an investigation into the material facts, and there is no point anyone investigating immaterial ones.

But the OU authorities still have to make a response to the report on the Private Halls - and given some comments in there about academic freedom and staff representation they might, in the light of recent events at Wycliffe, do something interesting like insisting on the right to appoint one, or perhaps two, people to the Councils of each of the Halls to ensure that staff matters are properly raised and responded to, and that staff procedures are both adequate on paper and applied in practice. If they wanted to be even more robust they could insist that one of their independent members sat on any disciplinary or grievance panel.

I don't suggest such action is likely or inevitable, but minds cleverer than mine will be on the case, and I guess Council members will find they have rather less leverage in the decision making of the University than they do within the Church. And actions such as this can be taken without prejudice to the specifics of any pending matter.

Posted by: Mark Bennet on Monday, 8 October 2007 at 9:42pm BST

Hi Matthew B-

I think you misunderstood my point. I did not say that the Open Evangelicals were coming to liberal/pluralist conclusions. I said that there is a danger that any given group, whether Open Evangelical, liberal/pluralist or whatever, will come to onely one kind/stamp of comclusion, whatever the matter that is being discussed. Which is not what honest people do. Honest people treat each question on its own merits, and (having weighed the evidence) may potentially come to a variety of types of conclusion.

Hi Sarah-
If you knew even the little about muscular Christianity that I know, you would not say that. The products of Iwerne are quite rightly regarded as the most eligible and upstanding men on the market. They are not ashamed (quite the reverse) to be masculine, just as the best kind of women are delighted to be feminine. They are often army types, who though they may be called to exert authority are also happy to obey it, just like the centurion in the gospels. They love the outdoor life in an age when one often feels about people that they should get out more. And they know about leadership qualities such as vision and strength, which is the one big deficit of the otherwise praiseworthy Rowan Williams.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Tuesday, 9 October 2007 at 9:22am BST

A further comment to Sarah and Gillian:

I think it is correct to see VPS as a massive stakeholder here. But regarding the 60s and the 70s things are not that way now. Both genders have been on equal footing certainly in Christmas and New Year conferences for over 20 years. Anyway, let's balance the postives with the negatives: most of the most effective pastor-teacher-evangelists in the C of E from around the 1950s onwards were connected with VPS. Surely we would not have sacrificed them for the sake of a bit more political correctness?

In terms of personal warmth and pastoral care, these guys are simply the best - and a perfect illustration of exactly what we have lost and why we are so impoverished now.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Tuesday, 9 October 2007 at 2:19pm BST

Hello Christopher,

Thanks for the clarification. I think my interpretation was probably the most natural reading of the way you strung the two sentences together (question followed by statement; parallel structure), but I am very happy to take you at your word if you do not believe that open evangelicals are liberal/pluralist.

I'm not sure, however, where your point about ideology is leading. No-one here is claiming that theological orientation involves ticking a set of boxes, but this doesn't mean that the distinctions are devoid of meaning. In the same way that a person grounded in Kantian ethics will approach moral questions in a different way to a Utilitarian, even if they end up reaching the same conclusion on a particular issue, so different theological approaches will manifest themselves in surprising and often telling ways.

Eeva John noted this in her description of what was happening at Wycliffe. As she says, issues of management are profoundly theological. Christianity is a radical way of living, not a list of legal precepts, though many in Reform would perhaps disagree given their obsession with Doctrinal Bases and Covenants. The behaviour of people in positions of command tends to reflect their own theological principles. Crushing dissent as a means of exerting authority may be the road of Calvin, but it is rejected by Christ in the Gospels in favour of a non-judgmental love. Eeva puts this well when she says that '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.'

Your comments on the martial nature and strength of the Varsity men is most interesting, though I think it will probably confirm Sarah's concerns about the rigid gendering promoted by these camps.

Posted by: Matthew B on Wednesday, 10 October 2007 at 2:48am BST

Hi Matthew-

The point of what I said was that if people exhibit the same type of conclusion on every single issue, then all one has to do is ask them whether or not their overall position corresponds (coincidentally) to their preferences and wishes. Chances are it will do exactly that. In which case the preferences and wishes (as opposed to beliefs and conclusions arrived at by evidence) are at the root of the whole thing. Which means that their position lacks integrity.

There is a lot of misinformation about VPS camps:
(1) A high proportion of the cleaning/sweeping/mopping and washing up, sandwich making and so on is done by 'senior campers' ie the male university students. This has been so for over 50 years, maybe for 70 for all I know. If any ladies or teachers' wives etc wish to help then their help is thoroughly appreciated: an entirely positive and unsought bonus - just as male help at an all-female camp would be.

(2) It would hardly be helpful for all-male educated children to be confronted with female peers when their minds are supposed to be on higher things. There are corresponding female camps too, as well as mixed ones.

(3) The person who believes all camps should be mixed is scarcely a believer in choice. I believe some should be all-male (not that Iwerne really deserves the label 'all male'; any more), some all-female, and some mixed. And that is choice.

(4) In short, if anyone combines the outdoor life with Christ they tend to learn what life is all about. Real life, not artificial life. Who was it that wrote the poem ending 'the park has no manners'? In the great outdoors we discover what the world (reality) is really like.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Wednesday, 10 October 2007 at 9:26am BST
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