Friday, 11 January 2008

Wycliffe Hall: Church Times report

Bill Bowder has Wycliffe Hall admits breach of law over sacked lecturer:

THE Bishop of Liverpool and the Mayor of Kensington, named trustees of the Oxford theological college Wycliffe Hall, in an action brought against them and against the Hall’s Trustees as a body, have admitted this week that they broke employment legislation….

…Dr Storkey also claimed that she was religiously discriminated against by the college. That claim was now due to be tested at a two-day preliminary hearing on 11 and 12 June, which opened up the possibility of a “Punch and Judy” battle between conservative and liberal Evangelicals, the pre-hearing was told.

Mr Lewis said that the preliminary issue to be tested at that June meeting would be “whether the religion/belief rested on by the claimant in these proceedings which she defines as open Evangelicalism, liberal Evangelicalism, and/or membership of Fulcrum constitutes a religion or belief for the purposes of the 2003 regulations as distinct from conservative Evangelicalism”. Was open Evangelicalism “a religion or belief within the meaning of the regulations and could it attract the protection of the discrimination laws”, he wondered.

Mr Carr said that Dr Storkey, who chairs Fulcrum, was saying that she had a kind of belief that stood in distinction to conservative Evangelicalism. She would have to say that this nuanced difference between liberal open Evangelicals and conservative Evangelicals was a religion or belief protected by the discrimination laws.

The tribunal would have to decide whether those differences were enough to amount to a separate belief protected by the regulation. He said that the position of the Trustees was that there was no such difference. They believed that there was nothing in the regulations that required a further definition within a sub-set of beliefs.

For Dr Storkey, her counsel, Mr Charles Crow, said that she should not have to show that open Evangelicalism was a separate religion or belief, only that she had been discriminated against on the basis of those beliefs. That her beliefs might match the beliefs of others did not deprive her of protection. It would be sectarian to argue that she was protected only if she could that show her beliefs were different.

Mr Lewis said that the ability to make such theological distinctions was “wholly absent” from his job description; but the matter was important, and the tribunal would be prepared to hear it. He ruled that for the preliminary hearing one witness and one expert witness should be heard from both parties. They should exchange the papers they would rely on beforehand.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 11 January 2008 at 9:02am GMT | TrackBack
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Comments

If two people agree on everything apart from one thing (e.g., flowers in church), they can still be said to have different belief systems. That being the case, everyone in the world has a different belief system from everyone else. Some are more or less different from others, but how does one go about measuring that? I suppose the only way of seeing whether a given pair of people subscribe to the same general beleif system is for each individual to articulate their four or five most fundamental general beliefs, and see whether they agree on them all.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Friday, 11 January 2008 at 1:00pm GMT

It doesn't matter how you measure belief systems.

Even if the only difference were whether you agreed with flowers in church, it would still be wrong to lose your job because you held that view and your employer didn't and because he wasn't prepared to tolerate your belief.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Friday, 11 January 2008 at 1:16pm GMT

The only necessity, surely, is evidence that she was discriminated against. The basis of this, as far as I can see, is either something direct, that she was identified as having beliefs highlighted by someone like Richard Turnbull for her to be removed, or that there has been a pattern of removals that show this general pattern of which she was one (and replacements being distinctly conservative believers). However, there then has to be the issue of whether a theological college can regulate which sort of believer it can hire, or does it have to hire any sort of believer (Muslim, atheist, Pagan, Liberal Christian, Open Evangelical Christian) so long as they can teach the conservative evangelical decided syllabus.

Posted by: Pluralist on Friday, 11 January 2008 at 1:42pm GMT

To teach, say, Patristics to ordinands, is it necessary to subscribe to a particular belief system? Surely, one isn't so much trying to make people agree with one's own views, but rather wants to explain what a particular tradition has believed - believing in a particular way oneself doesn't have any bearing on the ability to do that, does it? When I was trained for ordination, I don't think the individual beliefs of my tutors had any relationship to how well they taught their subject areas.

Posted by: Fr Mark on Friday, 11 January 2008 at 4:51pm GMT

Christopher

That is admirable, but it presumes honesty and integrity.

I've had enough of souls who purport to cherish love, patience, faith, trust and humility but actually embody accusations, intolerance, fear, selfishness and arrogance.

Also, even if someone honestly share their four or five most fundamental beliefs does not mean that we are alike or agree on everything. Someone doesn't have to agree with me for me to be obligated to be civil and respect their needs for nurturing and safety. I don't have to like someone to recognise that they a human being.

Luke 16:8 "For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light."

Matthew 5:43-48 "You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect."

Posted by: Cheryl Va. Clough on Friday, 11 January 2008 at 9:25pm GMT

Pity this happens on the very day that Liverpool began as European city of culture. Not the image that brings glory on the internal goings on of the church. At least there is little prospect that the city of Hereford will one day inherit the same honour!

Posted by: Neil on Saturday, 12 January 2008 at 11:36am GMT

Granted - but none of that was the point I was making. I was simply making the point that if one proposed to examine whether Open Evangelicals and Conservative Evangelicals had different belief systems or the same belief system, this was a fruitless exercise, since however similar 2 belief systems are, they are always going to be different in at least one respect. Consequently, there are as many belief systems as there are people. One has therefore to find some other way to identify whether 2 people share the same belief system, and not only is that a very complex task, it is also a very subjective one.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Saturday, 12 January 2008 at 1:55pm GMT

"One has therefore to find some other way to identify whether 2 people share the same belief system, and not only is that a very complex task, it is also a very subjective one."

True, but might it be a matter of degree? So, in my Anglo-catholic parish, there are those who do not believe in invocation of the saints, for example, or veneration of images, or might be OK, even edified by these things, but aren't comfortable with Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. Next door, there is an Evangelical parish that repudiates Baptismal Regeneration, sacrificial elements in the Mass, veneration of images, invocation of the saints, prayers for the dead, ritual elements in worship, practices glossolalia, claims Penal Substitutionary Atonement is the core understanding of the Atonement, etc. Surely the differences between our two parishes are much greater than thoses between members of our parish. So, are the differences enough to call one a "belief system" and not the other? I don't know. It may not be possible to draw a line at precisely the point where one can speak of "different belief systems", but I am sure that I have a very different one from the aforementioned Evangelical parish. I base that on a very different understanding of authority, obedience to law, the meaning of redemption, the nature of the relationship between God and human beings, and numerous other factors. In short, it is easy to see different 'belief systems' in the extremes, not so much in those who are very near to each other. The bigger question would be at what point does the "different belief system" however defined preclude one from teaching theology at a particular theological college?

Posted by: Ford Elms on Saturday, 12 January 2008 at 4:49pm GMT

Ford-

Exactly. There is an extent to which one can distinguish between minor and major differences. But the question then arises: Why do broadly definable 'types' arise at all (e.g., conservative, radical, institutional/establishment, broad etc)? The possible reasons that occur to me are: psychological (people go along with the system that suits their temperament - which is surely dishonest, as they cannot wish to universalise their own temperament at the expense of all others, nor can they be unaware of the existence of other temperaments); sociological (people go along with the majority of their own culture and/or subculture- which seems to lack integrity); or philosophical (which does have integrity: people have differing bases for their worldview, with the result that they end up with differing views on more minor points too). But if the only acceptable ground for difference is philosophical (difference of worldviews), then this whole thing seems to be a matter of truth and not of temperamental preference. We need to face the fact that either all groups are wrong, or all but one are wrong, in their general worldview/stance/position.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Monday, 14 January 2008 at 1:41pm GMT

http://inthylight.wordpress.com/2008/01/16/richard-turnbull-speaks-at-rts-orlando-on-the-state-of-evangelicalism/

Richard Turnbull's latest:

heading: We are hamstrung on the ever-widening definition of “evangelical.”

1. Need to recover sola Scriptura

Turnbull exhorted us that we need to reclaim the authority of the Holy Scriptures as our sole foundation of faith and life. It was encouraging to hear an Anglican brother admit heartily that the most important aspect of recovering the Word is recovering the preaching of the Word. Further, Turnbull admitted that this desire is a core value for his leadership at Wycliffe Hall.

2. Need to recover Reformed theology

Turnbull said he is not ashamed to admit that he is trying to call the Anglican church back to her Reformed heritage.

3. Need to recover spirituality

He speaks here of the “age old need to connect the head and the heart.” Again, it was encouraging to hear Turnbull’s pastoral heart for students to develop not just academic acumen, but spiritual piety as well.

Posted by: Pluralist on Thursday, 17 January 2008 at 2:23pm GMT

"the most important aspect of recovering the Word is recovering the preaching of the Word."

To which my response is that the most important aspecyt of recovering the Word, as though the Word were somehow "lost" is recovering the worship of the Word made Flesh and uniting with Him and each other in the Sacrament of His Body and Blood.

"trying to call the Anglican church back to her Reformed heritage."

Away from Her Catholic heritage? Why should these be an either/or, can we not, are we not intended to be both?

"Need to recover spirituality"

Total agreement with this one.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Thursday, 17 January 2008 at 5:31pm GMT
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