Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Wycliffe Hall admits unfair dismissal

Updated again Thursday morning

There are reports in both the Daily Telegraph and The Times about this.

Jonathan Petre writing in the Daily Telegraph under the headline Leading theologian sues bishop over ‘bullying’ reports:

One of the Church of England’s best-known theologians is suing the Bishop of Liverpool following a row at an Oxford theological college.

Dr Elaine Storkey, a regular contributor to Radio 4’s Thought for the Day slot, told an employment tribunal in Reading yesterday she had been bullied while a senior research fellow at Wycliffe Hall.

She accepted around £20,000 from the trustees of the college after they acknowledged that she had been unfairly dismissed from the post. But the 64-year-old is still seeking a ruling of religious discrimination against the president of the 130-year-old college, Bishop James Jones, over the row…

And Fran Yeoman in The Times adds some further information:

…Bruce Carr, representing the trustees of Wycliffe Hall, acknowledged this version of events, adding: “The respondent accepts that the dismissal of the claimant was unfair.”

Charles Crow, representing Dr Storkey, then turned to the issue of alleged religious discrimination. “Within Christian evangelism there are two strands; conservative evangelism and an open and more liberal evangelism,” he said. “As an open and clear proponent of one of those strands, [Dr Storkey] has been discriminated against.”

Mr Carr rejected that, saying Dr Storkey could not allege discrimination against people of the same faith as her. “She is not saying, ‘I’m being discriminated against because of my Christianity’,” he said. “She is saying, ‘I have a particular type of Christian evangelism.’ To paraphrase, she is the wrong type of evangelical.”

The tribunal has scheduled a further hearing for 10 June, but:

urged both parties to reach an agreement before the full hearing, pointing out the difficulties in attempting to resolve a theological dispute in an employment tribunal.

Update
The Liverpool Echo has picked up this story but has a misleading headline, Bishop of Liverpool sued by BBC (the headline has now changed to: Bishop of Liverpool James Jones caught up in bullying row)

…The case has now been adjourned until June, at which point the three members of an employment tribunal will have to decide whether the Doctor’s evangelical stance constitutes a religion as compared with other evangelists.

Their decision could have far-reaching implications within religious circles.

Dr Storkey has named Bishop James as chairman of Wycliffe Hall’s trustees in her legal action along with and Andrew Dalton, the Hall’s treasurer…

…Today Charles Crow, representing Dr Storkey, said of the outstanding claim. He said: “Within Christian evangelism there are two determinate strands; conservative evangelism and an open and more liberal evangelism.

“Those are open and definable strands and as an open and clear proponent of one of those strands, Dr Storkey has been discriminated against.”

Yesterday (Mon) Bruce Carr, representing the trustees, accepted her dismissal was unfair but claimed Dr Storkey could not allege discrimination against people of the same faith as her…

And Education Guardian has Unfairly sacked Oxford college theologian sues bishop.

Tuesday evening

Ruth Gledhill has blogged about this, see Elaine Storkey: ‘Don’t shoot the heretics.’ Ruth has talked to Elaine, part of what she says is this:

…She told me this afternoon: ‘For me, this never started out as a battle between conservatives and open evangelicals. For me, this was trying to draw attention to the fact that we were unhappy with the style of management at Wycliffe Hall. But as time evolved, it started to feel more theological.

‘I am alarmed at the way big walls between people and groups have started to emerge in the way they did not before. People had nuances and differences, but we all worked well together. From the Fulcrum point of view [Elaine is chairman of Fulcrum], it is not what we are wanting. We want to work with everybody rather than create a new camp.

‘I am alarmed at the belligerence of the conservative camp, where they are seemingly going out of their way to make life as difficult as possible for the Archbishop of Canterbury. I cannot imagine what the reasons are. They are being destructive rather than constructive, finding something to argue about rather than working together to find a fruitful outcome…

Wednesday morning

Oxford Mail Ex-don settles dismissal claim

Independent Fire and brimstone! College principal says we’re all going to hell

Guardian College denies theological vendetta

Thursday morning

Ekklesia has a report, Tearfund president accused of double standards over religious discrimination.

Cambridge Evening News has Presenter in a battle of faith.

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Comments

So it's official.

It is no longer sufficient to profess faith in Jesus as described in the bible. One has to submit to the official theological interpretations, no matter how many passages of either OT or NT are ignored or selectively applied.

Posted by: Cheryl Va. Clough on Tuesday, 8 January 2008 at 8:43am GMT

The second time in six months where CofE has been embarrassed publicly as "biblical" conduct has been shown not to be morally correct conduct. Will +Liverpool now put Wycliffe's house in order and save CofE the further embarrassment that Dr. Storkey was the victim of religious discrimination? Somehow I doubt it.

If secular society has to show the Church what is and isn't moral, then it is little surprise that the population at large find the Church irrelevant and that Richard Dawkins et al have plenty of material for their atheistic polemics.

Posted by: Stephen Roberts on Tuesday, 8 January 2008 at 9:03am GMT

Conservative Evangelical management behaves unethically by bullying and unfairly dismissing staff. Quelle surprise! Appropriate moral behaviour in modern society seems to be increasingly unattainable for Conservative Evangelicals. And the rest of us are supposed to regard them as the future of the Church? I think not, somehow.

Posted by: Fr Mark on Tuesday, 8 January 2008 at 11:13am GMT

Fr Mark,

The dismissal of staff is an ugly story. But pronouncing judgment before we know the whole story and tarring all evangelicals with the same brush is outrageous.

You mean that what is done elsewhere by someone in the church should be used to define you? Most do not even think in this way,that is stooping very low, incidents of this kind to defame others might be flung around every day if that is what we are reduced to.

Ben W

Posted by: Ben W on Tuesday, 8 January 2008 at 1:21pm GMT

Hi Cheryl-
'as described in the Bible' - this is precisely the point. It is rare that any group or individual ever holds any other group or individual to be heretical or heterodox unless they are satisfied that they are going either beyond or against what is 'described in the Bible'. You speak as though what is 'described in the Bible' is in all cases straightforward. In fact, most would agree that there is a sliding scale from very straightforward to not at all straightforward.

For the nth time - when will journalists learn to distinguish between evangelism (the activity) and evangelicalism (the belief-system)?

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Tuesday, 8 January 2008 at 1:49pm GMT

It is difficult to pursue religious discrimination, but she should be able to use Richard Turnbull's own "strategic" words. Presumably she has to make these stick as being the reason she was dismissed; I doubt that "none of the other reasons above" is enough - there has to be a positive association between this religious discrimination and being sacked.

As for the unethical behaviour of Conservative Evangelicalism, I took that as read. We know this with GAFCON, and indeed we know about GAFCON in part thanks to Wycliffe Hall.

Posted by: Pluralist on Tuesday, 8 January 2008 at 1:51pm GMT

At least there is justice for Elaine at last in respect of the unfair dismissal claim. Thank you to all those who have supported and prayed for her.

Posted by: Pete Broadbent on Tuesday, 8 January 2008 at 1:57pm GMT

Why hasn't the Bishop of Liverpool been called to account by the higher up's. I'm not clear about how much the ABC or ABY can do. This seems to be a festering situation that should and could be set right.

Posted by: BobinSwPA on Tuesday, 8 January 2008 at 2:48pm GMT

An ethical question that still worries and vexes many of the rest of us - admittedly mainly non realignment con evo believers categorically? - stems from realignment leaders and pundits repeatedly blowing a tire on the common sense ethical highways of modern pluralistic society.

Con evo folks characteristically claim the higher moral grounds, every time. Yet they continue to blow out, particularly when it comes to ethically treating the rest of us, not to mention being careful to tell the truth accurately about who the rest of us are and what we discern, feel, believe, and do in service to the world and the church.

How is it that in so many of these instances, special con evo realignment pleading with its special closed presuppositions about what is and what is not biblical ends up enacting poor - even clearly doubtful ethical behaviors - which so often boil down to some version of the realignment ends justifying the dubious realignment means?

Posted by: drdanfee on Tuesday, 8 January 2008 at 4:12pm GMT

"How is it that in so many of these instances, special con evo realignment pleading with its special closed presuppositions about what is and what is not biblical ends up enacting poor - even clearly doubtful ethical behaviors - which so often boil down to some version of the realignment ends justifying the dubious realignment means?"

Because that's the only way the fiction of being morally right all the time and having clearly defined "enemies" can be retained.

If you need to be right all the time you cannot afford to engage deeply with the others, you cannot afford to let them be right, ever, not even the slightest little bit. You cannot acknowledge that they might have a point, ever. And if they insist on speaking up you have to find a way of making sure they're not being heard.

It's a natural consequence of the belief in the moral superiority and sole righteousness of one's own beliefs.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Tuesday, 8 January 2008 at 4:41pm GMT

This is endemic of conservative evangelicalism in its bid for 'purity' of belief....

Posted by: Merseymike on Tuesday, 8 January 2008 at 5:32pm GMT

When will the media get the terminology correct? 'Evangelical' does not equal 'evangelism'. Evangelicals may evangelize, they may also squabble and get things wrong. 'See how these Christians love one another' - oh dear! If Christians can not acknowledge and respect each others' beliefs, and trust God enough to have honest, open discussion about Him, we are in a sad state.
Brian Woolnough, Abingdon

Posted by: Brian Woolnough on Tuesday, 8 January 2008 at 5:34pm GMT

Ben: As a gay person, I'm quite used to Conservative Evangelicals using every opportunity to scream judgement against us as a group for our supposed faults. Why should you be so jumpy if I return the compliment by expressing the view that some key Con Evo leaders (Turnbull is one of the chief stirrers-up of unChristian hatred of gay people in the C of E) themselves appear to me (and an employment tribunal, in this case) to behave in an unethical way? My view is that people who are rabidly homophobic generally behave pretty unpleasantly in other ways too.

Posted by: Fr Mark on Tuesday, 8 January 2008 at 6:28pm GMT

"But pronouncing judgment before we know the whole story and tarring all evangelicals with the same brush is outrageous."

I hope you don't consider yourself an Evangelical, then, Ben.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Tuesday, 8 January 2008 at 7:15pm GMT

"For the nth time - when will journalists learn to distinguish between evangelism (the activity) and evangelicalism (the belief-system)?"

And therein lies the problem.

For some there is a distinguishment between their activities and their belief-system. For some, if their belief-system is divinely endorsed, then any activity to promote and protect that belief-system is acceptable.

We had the debate a few months ago, and we will have it again today. Endorsement or repugnance about aggressive conduct is theologically based. There are evangelicals who purport that their conduct is not held to account.

Wrong e.g. Jeremiah 8:10 to 9:14 "…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. So they will fall among the fallen; they will be brought down when they are punished, says the LORD... We hoped for peace but no good has come, for a time of healing but there was only terror... every brother is a deceiver, and every friend a slanderer... With his mouth each speaks cordially to his neighbor, but in his heart he sets a trap for him. Should I not punish them for this?” declares the LORD… The birds of the air have fled and the animals are gone…. Jerusalem a heap of ruins... Why has the land been ruined and laid waste like a desert that no one can cross? The LORD said, “It is because they have forsaken my law, which I set before them; they have not obeyed me or followed my law. Instead, they have followed the stubbornness of their hearts; they have followed the Baals, as their fathers taught them.”

Or Mark 11:47-48 ““Woe to you, because you build tombs for the prophets, and it was your forefathers who killed them. So you testify that you approve of what your forefathers did; they killed the prophets, and you build their tombs.”

Thus those who claim centuries of scriptural authority have made the same errors. So cling to your fathers’ teachings, shout them from the rooftops, your refusal to repent of your fathers’ sins makes them your own.

Posted by: Cheryl Va. Clough on Tuesday, 8 January 2008 at 7:18pm GMT

I'm a little intrigued by the idea that a church can by called on the carpet by committing an offense called "religious discrimination."

Posted by: rick allen on Tuesday, 8 January 2008 at 7:41pm GMT

No wonder they never translated Jones to York.
However this illustrates that there is a serious split within evangelical Anglicanism.

Posted by: Robert Ian Williams on Tuesday, 8 January 2008 at 7:51pm GMT

Brian
"If Christians can not acknowledge and respect each others' beliefs, and trust God enough to have honest, open discussion about Him, we are in a sad state."

You may have noticed that the whole Anglican Communion is falling apart because one group of people is unable to accord the other any respect at all, to the point of denying that they're Christians at all.

Yes, it is a sad state. Very.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Tuesday, 8 January 2008 at 8:02pm GMT

What Bruce Carr is saying doesn't even make any sense to me -- would anyone be persuaded by it (I guess we'll find out, but I suspect that the result will be the widespread impression that the C of E is stupid & discriminatory).

The ethos of puritanism requires that there be some group that it is impure & must be rooted out. It is a frightening & self-destructive mind-set!

Posted by: Prior Aelred on Tuesday, 8 January 2008 at 8:39pm GMT

Fr Mark,

I think you help make the point. Earlier it was "evangelicals" now it is "I return the compliment by expressing the view that some key Con Evo leaders . . . themselves appear to me . . . to behave in an unethical way?"

It is the generalizing I question, taken far enough it is simply false.

Ben W

Posted by: Ben W on Tuesday, 8 January 2008 at 8:45pm GMT

This tribunal follows that of Reaney v. Hereford where it was wrongly claimed by the diocese that Reaney was the wrong type of gay, ie. not stable celibate.

In Storkey v. Wycliffe Hall, could it be claimed that open and conservative evangelicalism are two different religions, or branches? The Hall has a history of accommodating both. It seems unlikely that Wycliffe could claim an exemption on the basis that "being of a particular religion or belief", ie conservative evangelicalism, "is a genuine and determining occupational requirement".

It remains to be seen whether this amounts to religious discrimination, or unfair dismissal based on a philosophical dispute not covered by the Regulations.

Posted by: Hugh of Lincoln on Tuesday, 8 January 2008 at 10:51pm GMT

Ben W - "incidents of this kind to defame others might be flung around every day if that is what we are reduced to"

They already are, and we already have seen a reduction to that level. For example, the recent polemic against Davis MacIyalla on Virtue Online...
http://www.virtueonline.org/portal/modules/news/article.php?storyid=7404

Christopher Shell - "when will journalists learn to distinguish between evangelism (the activity) and evangelicalism (the belief-system)?"

The fact you care about the differentce between a verb and an adjective more than indisputable unfair dismissal of Dr. Storkey by Wycliffe amazes me.

Ben W, Christopher - come on admit it (as Wycliffe have grudging had to) - Dr. Storkey was mistreated by fellow Christians. It may be for her open evangelical stance, it might be because she ate the wrong biscuits at the staff meetings - the circumstances are irrelevant next to the basic failure of a "Christian" organisation to act in a Christian way.

Posted by: Stephen Roberts on Tuesday, 8 January 2008 at 11:22pm GMT

"It seems unlikely that Wycliffe could claim an exemption on the basis that "being of a particular religion or belief", ie conservative evangelicalism, "is a genuine and determining occupational requirement"."

But this is not in any way "conservative". Conservative is a political term, this is about new - that is novel - distinctly 20th century heresies.

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Wednesday, 9 January 2008 at 9:43am GMT

The ingredients come from different parts; the "Leadership" issues from Australian Pentecostalism, so called "Apostolic" leadership.

It is currently causing great conflicts in Swedish Pentecostalism.

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Wednesday, 9 January 2008 at 9:46am GMT

It really is about time that Oxford University closed down this faintly ridiculous fundamentalist degree mill, which is clearly entirely unconnected to academic credibility and is bringing the university into disrepute.

Posted by: Merseymike on Wednesday, 9 January 2008 at 12:49pm GMT

Hi Stephen-

Of the two issues, I care about both, but I care more about her unfair dismissal. More than with the other departures from Wycliffe, hers seems to have been the result of personality clashes (and to sack someone on the basis - whether or not this basis is admitted to - of personality clashes is a form of 'might is right') and/or plain speaking (which should be actually rewarded, not punished, since it conforms with truth and truthfulness).

She confirms my suspicion that the sacking was not a theological matter - or (as she qualifies it) not in the first instance. Conservative and Open Evangelicals are now both significant constituencies in their own right. Sociologically, when evangelicals were a despised minority they had to huddle together; now, however, the real issue for them is not 'evangelical vs non-evangelical' but 'evangelical A vs evangelical B'. This change is a symptom of evangelical success at disseminating (and convincing by means of ) their message. Divide and rule, but never stop speaking to one another, otherwise how can one hope to increase one;s understanding.

Hi Cheryl-
You make out that evangelism is the outworking of evangelicalism, and they are intrinsically linked. This is true; but it cannot be said that evangelism is tied to one type of Christianity. It is a dimension of all types. It is one fifth of the so-called fivefold ministry of Ephesians 2. What sort of Christian does not believe in the verbal and nonverbal living and spreading of the gospel? No sort of Christian. Evangelism is not a party activity but a Christian activity/mode/lifestyle/attitude.

The only reason this has come to be so widely misunderstood by journalists, lawyers and others (who regularly call evangelicals 'evangelists' even in their obituaries, e.g. Jim Douglas) is that some have started claiming one can be a non-evangelising Christian, so turning normal Christians (who evangelise) into 'the other', from their point of view.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Wednesday, 9 January 2008 at 12:57pm GMT

Make that Ephesians 4. (1) Apostles; (2) Prophets; (3) Evangelists; (4) Pastors; (5) Teachers. Or, alternatively: (4) Pastors-and-Teachers.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Wednesday, 9 January 2008 at 12:59pm GMT

"The only reason this has come to be so widely misunderstood by journalists, lawyers and others (who regularly call evangelicals 'evangelists' even in their obituaries, e.g. Jim Douglas) is that some have started claiming one can be a non-evangelising Christian, so turning normal Christians (who evangelise) into 'the other', from their point of view."

No, this has become an issue because Evangelical Christians have co-opted the word 'Christian' to mean 'Evangelical Christian'. Thus, what Evangelicals do is "evangelism". The prevailing belief about Christianity among non-believers in the West, as far as I can see, is that Christians all practice glossolalia and other types of what used to be called "enthusiasm", all believe the Rapture, all sit in smug judgement on everyone else, are all literalists and Creationists and are anti-science. Also, the Gospel is about degrading yourself in appeasement of an angry vindictive God who is usually referred to as "the Sky Bully". If people don't know what the Christian Gospel actually is, it's because it has been presented to them in an incredibly distorted form. I've never heard anybody claim one can be a "non-evangelizing Christian", whatever that is. If one is living a Christian life, one is evangelizing by virtue of letting one's light so shine before others.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Wednesday, 9 January 2008 at 6:30pm GMT

Christopher

Do you ever feel like you've been in a fight where it was not clear who was leading. Have you ever looked up to notice that your pirouette put you exactly in alignment with that you thought you were fighting against?

You wrote "Evangelism is not a party activity but a Christian activity/mode/lifestyle/attitude. The only reason this has come to be so widely misunderstood by journalists, lawyers and others (who regularly call evangelicals 'evangelists' even in their obituaries, e.g. Jim Douglas) is that some have started claiming one can be a non-evangelising Christian, so turning normal Christians (who evangelise) into 'the other'... Make that Ephesians 4. (1) Apostles; (2) Prophets; (3) Evangelists; (4) Pastors; (5) Teachers. Or, alternatively: (4) Pastors-and-Teachers."

That is exactly what has happened to the puritanical conservative evangelicals. They made women into "the other" and then purported that meant they were not capable of being either pastors or teachers, especially to "mature" Christian men. They might grudgingly tolerate us teaching to an infidel, or spoon feeding a child, but these "big boys" don't need any girl telling them what to do.

Nor is that fundamental error restricted to women, many of their other errors are nuances of the same mistake.

Genesis 1:27 "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them."

Why did God create man AND woman? Genesis 2:18 "It is NOT good for the man to be alone"

At the end of the 6th day "God saw all that he had made, and it was VERY good." (Genesis 1:31) That VERY good Creation included BOTH male and female, because it was NOT good for man to be alone.

Similarly, there were times God would tell Abraham to listen to Sarah as she understood better how to manage the tensions in the household e.g. boundary managing aggressive members. God has always respected the feminine, matriarchs were not taken away because they were too stupid or to impure, they were taken away because of the males' transgressions (Isaiah 50:1).

Those who continue to justify denying or insulting the gifts God bequeaths to females demonstrate they are the ilk of priest who approve of killing prophets and sacrificing children. Such souls do not honor the everlasting covenant of peace and are an anathema to Zion.

Posted by: Cheryl Va. Clough on Wednesday, 9 January 2008 at 7:58pm GMT

Very interesting about Tearfund, and the ways and means of perceived exclusion there via statements of belief having to be signed.

Posted by: Pluralist on Thursday, 10 January 2008 at 1:11pm GMT

I think there is a tendency now for the Hall to represent this matter as just a failure of procedure, in an attempt to limit the damage. The assumption seems to be that if they own up to the unfair dismissal claim on the grounds that they had no proper processes in place, they can ignore the wider question of why they were seeking to rid themselves of these members of staff in the first place, and whether there was bullying/discrimination/prejudice against staff.

That way, they get to clean up their governance (which I know they intend to do anyway), but neither have to say sorry to those who were affected, nor own up to the their patterns of behaviour. Which I suspect is why the next claim (of religious discrimination) has to be taken up. A tribunal will do what the settlement did not do - bring the evidence into the public arena. Of course, they could just apologise unreservedly to Elaine Storkey and the other members of staff. That might save them from further reputational damage.

Posted by: Pete Broadbent on Thursday, 10 January 2008 at 2:04pm GMT

"Tearfund"...


Tear- or tear-?

;=)

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Thursday, 10 January 2008 at 4:42pm GMT

"That might save them from further reputational damage."

This is called "in statu confessioni" in Lutheran. Which means there is an ABSOLUTE obligation to witness to Truth, that is to REJECT any such false games.

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Thursday, 10 January 2008 at 4:44pm GMT

But then, the people involved are not Lutheran...

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Thursday, 10 January 2008 at 4:45pm GMT

"It really is about time that Oxford University closed down this faintly ridiculous fundamentalist degree mill, which is clearly entirely unconnected to academic credibility and is bringing the university into disrepute."

That's funny, Ruth Gledhill http://timescolumns.typepad.com/gledhill/2008/01/elaine-storkey.html describes it as "Oxford's top theological college".

Posted by: Robert Klein on Thursday, 10 January 2008 at 5:06pm GMT

Pluralist,

Is it really surprising that an agency that has served quietly and accomplished great good for the sake of Christ should take care to maintain its own clear identity? (Often the very people you think evangelicals are simply down on in largely overlooked places of the world).

One can be clear, I think evern you would recognize, about one's own identity and as part of this itself respect others. I think it is your language that actually borders on "reverse discrimination."

Ben W

Posted by: Ben W on Thursday, 10 January 2008 at 5:28pm GMT

Pete: I agree with what you say above. I think this case, along with the recent Hereford one, does indicate a problem that we have in many areas of the Church's management culture, which is simply that practices and management attitudes no other bosses can get away with elsewhere are tolerated at a high level in the Church. Again and again one sees people put in responsible management roles in the Church who are just not up to task, and who haven't been through the same kind of mentality development that everyone else in the workplace has, particularly with regard to issues around bullying and treatment of minorities.

Equivalent professions have undergone radical change in their work culture over the last couple of decades - look at how medical professionals, teachers, the armed forces have all dramatically changed the way they work in the direction of implementation of equal opportunities policies, etc. The spur to this kind of development has been the enormous changes in employment law. The Church has barely begun to work in a modern way, and gives the impression of being in no hurry to do so.

I think the C of E needs to learn from other employers - we should employ human resources staff, who should take that whole area of work off the shoulders of bishops unqualified to do it, and they should bring the Church into line with best practice in equivalent professions like healthcare or education. People like Dr Turnbull or the Bishop of Hereford would be out of a job in those professions if they managed people the way they currently are able to get away with in the Church. Institutional tolerance of incompetence and injustice is not a good witness to the rest of society.

Posted by: Fr Mark on Thursday, 10 January 2008 at 5:33pm GMT

Ah yes, Robert, that 'top theological college' where any staff member with a shred of reputation has left and which was clearly being referred to in recent concerns about such colleges made by the University.

An admittance of unfair dismissal is going to do them a power of good, too....

Posted by: Merseymike on Thursday, 10 January 2008 at 8:43pm GMT

Well said Mark. The New Statesman has an excellent article by Simon Edge, marking Richard Kirker's retirement from LGCM. It deals with the issue of discrimination - and Wycliffe crops up:

http://www.newstatesman.com/200801100026

"One mark of the ascendancy of the anti-gay wing of the Church is the present wave of resignations and dismissals at Wycliffe Hall, the theological college affiliated to Oxford University. This follows the arrival of a conservative evangelical principal who hit the headlines with his professed belief that 95 per cent of the population will go to hell unless they follow the gospel. He also opposes the ordination of women, the irony of which is not lost on Kirker: the LGCM has always supported the cause of female priests, alienating Anglo-Catholic gay priests who might otherwise have been its natural constituency, but the support is not reciprocated by liberals.

""Many of the most ardent advocates of the ordination of women felt it necessary to disso ciate themselves publicly from our cause, not because they disagreed with it, but because they thought it would do them harm," Kirker says - noting that the late Tablet columnist Monica Furlong was an honourable exception. "It's another example of the ground that the liberals have given to the evangelicals."

"The principal of Wycliffe has been backed to the hilt by James Jones, the Bishop of Liverpool, who is the head trustee of the college and a vocal opponent of gay law reform. It may discomfort those who trumpet new Labour's legacy of tolerance that Bishop Jones was given his diocese following the personal intervention of Tony Blair, but it does not surprise those who keep up with Church of England appointments. Another of Blair's choices was Graham Dow, Bishop of Carlisle. It was Dow who blamed this year's catastrophic floods in England on God's wrath over gay marriage."

Posted by: Hugh of Lincoln on Thursday, 10 January 2008 at 8:44pm GMT

Fr Mark wrote:
"Pete: I agree with what you say above. I think this case, along with the recent Hereford one, does indicate a problem that we have in many areas of the Church's management culture, which is simply that practices and management attitudes no other bosses can get away with elsewhere are tolerated at a high level in the Church."

You and +Pete B are right on the button. I recall the recent clergy discipline measure being debated in London diocesan synod, of which I was then a member. (6/7/05 - a date I remember because of the horrifying events the next morning, when I was attending a union meeting near Russell Square)

The "debate" on clergy job security lasted about nine minutes, and this in the diocesan synod of what is, I believe, the Anglican Communion's largest diocese. The C of E needs to take its role as an employer or quasi-employer much more seriously.

Posted by: Alan Harrison on Friday, 11 January 2008 at 11:51am GMT

Hi Cheryl-

I don't get the relevance of what you are saying, since I have never been anything but rabidly pro-women.

Hi Ford-
If nonChristians in the west are so misinformed, then they can only be wilfully misinformed, ie imagining an alternative reality that fits in with their stereotypes. In short, if they really are as you characterise them (as the young among them may indeed be: I am less sure about the others), then they are not making an effort to understand, so why should we perceive them as hard-done-by? Such nonChristians are in a different category from honest seekers, who are concerned to be even-handed in their sifting of the evidence.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Friday, 11 January 2008 at 1:13pm GMT

"If nonChristians in the west are so misinformed, then they can only be wilfully misinformed, ie imagining an alternative reality that fits in with their stereotypes."

Christopher, they see it 24 hours a day on TV. In North America there are entire television stations devoted to fundamentalist Christian broadcasting, and it is appalling what they present as "Christianity". What do you expect when the loudest voices in the public forum claim "Christians believe....." by way of introduction to the often bizarre beliefs of their particular sect? When Christians mount court challenges to keep Evolution out of schools, or dismiss it as a mere "theory" do you think people are going to see Christians as respecters of knowledge and truth? In my own context, all of my friends were raised in Christian homes. All of them speak of abuse of power, demand for unthinking obedience, arrogant disrespect for the "flock", manipulation of the political process, etc. I can't tell you how much damage is done by the Roman Church's court attempt to avoid paying it's victims. When Fundies then claim anti-gay slander is merely expression of religious belief, or claim they shouldn't have to face a gay person when they walk into a shop (an argument made in our House of Commons, BTW), or claim gay people want the Church to bless promiscuity, which is obviously untrue, what are people to think? Everybody with a gay friend or family member knows that homosexuality is pretty much fixed. So when a bishop, no less, claims we can change, and cites dangerous "therapies" in which people's brokenness and self hatred are manipulated for a particular agenda, driving some to suicide, what are people to think? These are not made up things, Christopher, these are real experiences. The wonder is that there are still some of us whose faith in God remains intact despite this. What is worse is that an entire population can tell people clearly why it is they find Christianity reprehensible, using that word, and rather than try to understand and behave better so that their light may shine, the loudest representatives of Christianity just defend their right to go on insulting and mistreating people.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Friday, 11 January 2008 at 3:56pm GMT

Christopher

Good.

Those who are anti-women, especially as priests/bishops/primates or teachers, might find it relevent. Those of us who debate them find it relevant

Ben wrote

"Is it really surprising that an agency that has served quietly and accomplished great good for the sake of Christ should take care to maintain its own clear identity?"

Is is surprising that Zion might take care to maintain her own clear identity? God does not go to war on a lie, nor does God forsake everlasting covenants e.g. the one made to Zion for peace (see Isaiah 54 & 49)

If you want to besmirch Jesus' name, go ahead. But Jesus warned you not to blaspheme against Holy Spirit.

Posted by: Cheryl Va. Clough on Friday, 11 January 2008 at 9:31pm GMT

OK - though surely even evolution's proponents would not dispute that it is a 'theory'. After all, there is such a thing as a correct theory - its correctness or otherwise does not stop it being a theory. Evolution is actually a classic example, since there remain data that do not fit it, or the classic models of it; rather than abandoning the theory in the face of the evidence, the evidence is made to fit the theory. The theory is actually accepted prior to its being understood how it accommodates all the data (if it does). To deny that something is a theory at all, to present it as brute fact, no debate allowed - surely that is precisely what fundamentalism is.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Saturday, 12 January 2008 at 2:10pm GMT

Evolution is a fact; no reputable biologist says otherwise.

The "theory" is how it occurs...a theory, in this case, being a description that best satisfies all the evidence. If new evidence is found, the theory is revised. Darwin's basic theory has been revised--mostly in small parts--for nearly a century, thanks to discoveries not only of fossils, but of genetics.

BTW, our current understanding of gravity and electromagnetics are largely "theory" as well. Going to dismiss those as well?

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Saturday, 12 January 2008 at 6:03pm GMT

All a very sad matter and one that certainly didn't need to be in the press. Sadly, it seems as though Dr Storkey wanted to make it all very public and so obviously contacted the newspapers. How dignified of both Bishop James Jones and Wycliffe hall to not fuel her desire for a slanging match in the press. It sounds as though it was a matter of improper procedure rather than bullying.

Posted by: John on Sunday, 13 January 2008 at 6:01pm GMT

Hi Pat-

To read my comment is to see that I was not 'dismissing' evolution in the first place. The fact that the term 'correct theory' is correct English shows that it is no shame to be classified as a 'theory'. But it is also the case that closed-mindedness hinders open enquiry. If one already knows the answer (orrange of answers) one is automatically closed to other possibilities, with the result that 'conclusions' can predetermine themselves. I am completely unequipped to comment on evolutionary biology, but in gospel studies there are instances of the received view surviving because of the weight of tradition, and because of a self-perpetuating chain of succession, more than because of actual proportional weight of evidence. Challengers of paradigms are generally not appreciated in their own day, in whatever branch of studies. If this can be so in gospel studies I assume it can be so in evolutionary biology or in any other field. The trick is not necessarily to review one's assessment of the preponderance of evidence, but simply to broaden one's horizons so that all possibilities are considered in the first place.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Monday, 14 January 2008 at 1:50pm GMT

"The theory is actually accepted prior to its being understood how it accommodates all the data (if it does)."

Christopher, yet again you show your unfamiliarity with science. No theory is intended to provide all the answers. We have constructs that explain the evidence as it is known at the time. As further evidence is gained, the theory must be adjusted, or even discarded, to fit the evidence. One does not start with all the evidence then come up with an explanation that fits all of it. That would be impossible, since we can never have all the evidence. Any scientific theory of anything can only be a best fit approximation for the available evidence. It must also have predictive value, good evidence that it provides a good understanding of the topic in question. Indeed, this predictive value, because of its ability to provide answers to questions not yet considered, is taken to be a very good sign of the accuracy of any theory. One may not decide what one wants to find, then go in search of it, that's why people like Paul Cameron are discredited. One must observe, and then seek to explain one's observations as best one can, publishing one's work so the rest of the scientific community can critique it, come up with problems one may not have considered, detect flaws one may be blind to, and suggest further avenues of inquiry. This has been done repeatedly for Evolution, so, while it remains a theory, it is a theory in the sense that it is an approximation to reality, albeit one that fits all the evidence we have so far. Fundamentalistss bland dismissal of it as "just another theory" just reveals their ignorance not only of Evolutionary theory, but of science itself.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Monday, 14 January 2008 at 2:32pm GMT

Christopher, what does any of this have to do with the fact that most Westerners, including a great number of Christians, consider Christianity to be fundamentalist Christianity, despite the fact that the mosjrity of Christians are NOT fundamentalist and do not adhere to fundamentalist doctrine? The reason is simple: Fundamentalists co-opted the word "Christian" a long time to mean them and them alone. They have been quite open in declaring anyone else "not Christian", or to put it another way "unsaved". It is not a matter of laziness on the aprt of the unchurched. It is a result of the fact that Christian fundamentalists have done a very good job of loudly proclaiming that they, and only they, are Christians.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Monday, 14 January 2008 at 7:46pm GMT
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