Comments: yet more on Turnbull and the Reform video

Bureaucrateze is required to build an organisation and is independent of whether that organisation is moral or ethical.

I am sure there are some souls who could give a good accounting of how they are going building their terrorist cells and educating and appropriately placing their cadets.

Having worked across socialist organisations, unions, government at various levels, the private sector, churches and voluntary organisations; I can tell you that administration is administration and bureacracy is bureacracy.

The big question is whether what you are building is moral and good.

Something that decrees that life on this earth should be destroyed so that the elite souls can experience the pure new earth they were promised is fundamentally corrupt.

I am sorry, but I have not heard such spiel from just Mr Turnbill.

Early in 2005, I was talking to a senior parishioner after a service in an Anglican sermon and naively commented that wouldn't be nice if Jesus came to heal the world right now. The signs were all there, and God knew that only Jesus had the capacity to heal some of the problems humanity was facing.

This senior male very calmly explained to me that I had not understood the bible. The bible was very clear that Jesus was coming down with fire in his eyes on clouds to destroy this earth and all its sinners (e.g. Revelation 1:7-8).

There is a fundamental difference of interpretation between the apocalyptic readers and myself. They see Jesus coming to smite and destroy their enemies. I see their consciences pricking them as they come to realise how much they have perverted Jesus' mission and promises.

Their interpretation allows desecration of the environment, dismisses the seriousness of the wounds of God's peoples, and colludes with tyranny. My interpretations exhort souls to revere that which God created, help as and where one can with the poor and suffering, and challenge tyranny.

My enemies call me evil. If what I stand for is evil, then what is the name for what they stand for?

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Friday, 25 May 2007 at 9:22am BST

Charles Nevin's comment is a must read. Amusing beyond comparison. Not sure that Turnbull would get it though.

Posted by Swedish Lutheran at Friday, 25 May 2007 at 9:26am BST

Charles Nevin's piece certainly reads better as satire than serious commentary.

Posted by Thomas Renz at Friday, 25 May 2007 at 11:58am BST

Serious commentary can of course take the form of satire - but for that it would need to be illuminating in some way, would it not?

Posted by Thomas Renz at Friday, 25 May 2007 at 12:00pm BST

Cheryl - So much of this is about basic psychological differences and viewpoints. Those who are uncomfortable in the world, who find it all so fallen, impure and empty that we need a strong might authoritarian leader(s) to come in and thrash, trash and hash it up and then vaporize it leaving only a pristine remnant (namely themselves). It's all about dividing and separation in order to feel more comfortable. Then there are those who strangely do not find themselves so at odds with this imperfect world, but actually enjoy it, others and themselves profoundly. They do not feel so tainted, and merely long for themselves and others to be made whole, more loving, more open more vulnerable. It is a simplistic analysis I know. But I see it break out this way again and again.

Posted by C.B. at Friday, 25 May 2007 at 12:01pm BST

“This senior male very calmly explained to me that I had not understood the bible. The bible was very clear that Jesus was coming down with fire in his eyes on clouds to destroy this earth and all its sinners (e.g. Revelation 1:7-8).

“There is a fundamental difference of interpretation between the apocalyptic readers and myself. They see Jesus coming to smite and destroy their enemies. I see their consciences pricking them as they come to realise how much they have perverted Jesus' mission and promises.”—Cheryl Clough

Sounds like typical “Sydney ‘Anglicanism’” to me.

Posted by Kurt at Friday, 25 May 2007 at 1:55pm BST

The article reproduced at Anglican Mainstream is more moderate in tone and more marketing in tone than the lecture at Reform, but entirely consistent with the lecture. He is intensifying the party identity of Wycliffe, and he is narrowing down even the evangelical identity.

What all this means is that things like overlapping that used to keep the Church of England together are being divided.

When you look at these liberal colleges, the one he says that "captures" students, you see a broader ethos altogether, the notion that there are other views, churchships, other denominations even, even other faiths to learn from. It is an ethos that, whatever its ideology, seeks to bring in than to push out. What Wycliffe is being used for is precisely the opposite.

Posted by Pluralist at Friday, 25 May 2007 at 2:22pm BST

I found this one, from the Independent article, highly ironic, and not the first time I've seen such rhetoric:

`"The Church of England is increasingly polarised into two churches: the one submitting to God's revelation, Gospel-focused, Christ-centred, cross-shaped and Spirit-empowered; the other holding a progressive view of revelation, giving priority to human reason over Scripture, shaped primarily by Western secular culture, and focused on church structures."'

Really? What's interesting is that I'd claim to be Gospel-focussed and Christ-centered and all the rest *because* I use what little brain I have, dammit!

Posted by Tim at Friday, 25 May 2007 at 2:40pm BST

The Church of England Newspaper cites a "source close to the college" in the following words:

"The document was sent out in frustration after the Council issued a statement backing the Principal. The whole situation is a tragedy as the college remains firmly evangelical, it's just Richard Turnbull has different emphases and it's over finer shades of grey. The homophobia claim is a red herring, it's actually about management styles and working together as a collective team in a collegiate atmosphere, and that's been the difficulty."

Posted by Thomas Renz at Friday, 25 May 2007 at 2:59pm BST

Why does Richard Turnbull think that two publications by staff members in a year constitutes 'a commitment to academic excellence'? I think we should wait for the reviews.

Posted by Sarah at Friday, 25 May 2007 at 3:18pm BST

This Reform and similar stuff is bait and switch Anglicanism if my memories of college days serves. Canterbury will soon have its hands very full, as the realignment split comes to manifest itself even more vigorously inside UK.

Alas. Lord have mercy. Our beloved big Anglican tent can find - and has found? - ways to cope with a great many things, at least in passing; except maybe the conservative evangelical believers who say God has especially told them to either narrow/conform the tent or burn it down completely.

Posted by drdanfee at Friday, 25 May 2007 at 3:41pm BST

"Dr Turnbull was thinking only of the atheists, agnostics, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, people who are too lazy to get up on Sunday morning, and anyone who fails to make it to a regular church service."

Has Dr. Turnbull excluded himself from those invited into heaven?

Jesus in the Gospels warned the disciples against judging others, and that the same kind of judgment they mete out to others would be applied to them.

As far as Jews are concerned, Dr. Turnbull seems to accept only portions of St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans as divinely inspired, excluding those that hold out hope of salvation for the Jews.

Moreover, Dr. Turnbull, given his antisemetism, anti-islamism, etc., has disgraced Oxford University, which has had a long history of opposing all kinds of religious intolerance.

When will the CofE bishops who exercise oversight over Wycliffe Hall give Dr. Turnbull the boot? Failure to act decisively will place Evangelical CofE bishops among the ranks of fundi bigots!

Posted by John Henry at Friday, 25 May 2007 at 4:36pm BST

This whole episode only proves that Calvinist evangelicalism is toxic, and that it contaminates everything it touches.

Posted by Kurt at Friday, 25 May 2007 at 4:47pm BST

The paper edition of Andy Smith's Independent article shows Bosch's 'Hell' from the triptych 'Garden of Earthly Delights' painted in 1500.

Posted by Hugh of Lincoln at Friday, 25 May 2007 at 5:23pm BST

Actually the thing which worries me most in this whole debate is that the polarisation of theological education into "them and us" will render practical collaboration at deanery level, when colleagues come with different perspectives and backgrounds, almost impossible to achieve. And how does any of this relate to team working?
There is such a definite sense of "evangelicalism as I/we define it is the church" in the Richard Turnbull comments.
And perhaps behind the issues and comments about training in particular places (eg Wycliffe and Oak Hill, which have been mentioned in the same breath) is some wisdom that the colleges are preparing ordinands for service in a church which has on-the-ground realities and structures - they have their strengths and weaknesses no doubt - but that some ordinands are not adequately prepared so they can engage constructively with the realities and structures which are there.
I sense in various ways (and Forward in Faith is the most obvious example) that 'party' support networks are becoming much more important to significant numbers of clergy, rather than the deanery networks. I am not at all sure that this is good for the church.
If ordinands leave whatever college they attend without understanding the strengths of people who bring different perspectives it is a recipe for fragmentation.

Posted by Mark Bennet at Friday, 25 May 2007 at 6:25pm BST

Ah, cooperation within deaneries! I've been in the job of vicaring for thirty plus years, and the best cooperation I ever experienced in a deanery was in my early years in Birmingham when we put on the entertainment for the Diocesan Clergy Conference.

Apart from that, I've always found that deaneries are the best place not to discuss theology or mission as it just spoils the lunch.

The Church of England has been divided by 'churchmanship' since time immemorial - and always more so at the level of clergy than laity. The present divisions are only new insofar as the lines have changed.

As to 'partisan' colleges, doesn't anyone here remember Kelham theological college or the early Cuddesdon? And what about Queen's Birmingham, whose own website states, "Its traditions have often been described as ‘liberal catholic’. In the 21st century Queen’s continues and develops this ..."

Posted by John Richardson at Friday, 25 May 2007 at 7:10pm BST

Most ordinands are not training in colleges at all but on regional courses where a breadth of traditions is normative.

Posted by JBE at Friday, 25 May 2007 at 7:36pm BST

Back in October 1984, considering putting myself forward for ministry, I visited Queens College, travelling from Hull, to stay some days on a rather private initiative but seeing the Essex University chaplain afterwards.

A tutor made a point to me, that you cannot have a liberal party college. A student said the place just wanted views explaining all the more. Someone also said there was more of a party atmosphere and less ecumenical - a phase - where there were many parties present. Its liberality was because of the space within the ecumenical. I noticed how fierce Anglicans were towards one another - one wanted to "burn" the Book of Common Prayer. My impression (then) was the academic level was weak and would not allow much initiative (I was into a Ph.D - these days it certainly markets itself for academic output).

I had a very positive interview with the Principal (to be told "we need people like you in the Church" and I related to staff, but discovered how out of step I was with so many students. It was through a chat with one tutor however that made me think this stuff was all in another world and an illusion. They were inside the illusion and I was outside. The chaplain in Essex said I hadn't identified myself with the students who were getting narrower.

I have my records! Later on I did write to the DDO but put how I did connect with staff but not with students. Further on I went through a dual phase and settled with Unitarians up to 1990, and a marginal time with them 1994 to 2000.

It must be different now at Queens College, and I am, but be careful of headlines. I do not think there is a dedicated liberal college at all, anywhere, but just places where there are different views probably because there have to be.

Posted by Pluralist at Friday, 25 May 2007 at 10:26pm BST


I agree "...there are those who strangely do not find themselves so at odds with this imperfect world, but actually enjoy it... They do not feel so tainted, and merely long for themselves and others to be made whole, more loving, more open more vulnerable."


I concur with "...I'd claim to be Gospel-focussed and Christ-centered and all the rest *because* I use what little brain I have..."

It is disgusting how they decide to make a decision for what we stand for and then pronounce to the world what we are: which involves following a torturous path of hyperboles, conjectures, and omissions. The path and deliberations are never shared with their victims, simply the decree of what we are and why they denounce us.

The purpose of most of their denouncements is to whitewash over their inadequacies so they don't have to raise the bar on their performance.

We have watched Mahatama Gandhi's model played out again and again over the last few years "First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they attack, and then we win." I would add a permutation "First they ignore you, then they ridicule, then they realise they've lost, then they act with bravado that they have been saying the same thing as you all along." We saw that on the environment, justice in this world, compassion for the poor, elitism, and slavery.

Another contemplation is that their table banquet and behaviour is worthy of the Indiana Jones "Temple of Doom". Their whitewashing is worthy of the orphanage official in the movie "Annie".

They are all smiles and charm to the naive, but don't consider what they are eating or its costs, and don't notice their perturbing behaviours, and do not look behind closed doors unless you are prepared for a shock.

Further, I do not think that the mother of all living things (Genesis 3:20) would be prepared to write off 95% of her children.

My current joke is has anyone contemplated that judgement day came and went and Jesus locked all the evil in its box? We don't see Jesus because we are in the box! Maybe that pure 5% might want to think about why they are here with us. Perhaps it is God's way of telling us that none of us are going to get out unless we coooperate with each other, including our enemies.

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Saturday, 26 May 2007 at 1:12am BST

The question whether there is a "dedicated Liberal college anywhere" (Pluralist) hangs on how you understand Liberalism. The essence of modern Liberalism is precisely the (somewhat vague) post-modern commitment to meaning lying in the individual and truth lying beyond our reach. Hence it is the very essence of contemporary Anglican Liberalism to claim to embrace all views.

In this respect, every Regional course is essentially Liberal, and is designed to produce Liberals - people who claim to welcome and embrace all stripes of opinion.

That this Liberalism is a particular viewpoint, and not merely the embracing of all views, however, shows itself most clearly, perhaps, when it has to engage with a Turnbull-type. See "Thinking Anglicans" comments passim.

Posted by John Richardson at Saturday, 26 May 2007 at 7:57am BST

As I understand it, postmodernism is not about a truth lying beyond our reach, but that there is no beyond or that the metaphor is useless.

Look, the individuals at Queen's College varied. They were not all liberals. I was reading what I wrote at the time including a run in with a tutor there who put me off banging on that salvation was in the death of Jesus (these days I'd be more resourced), and a number of students who were clearly evangelical. They had to work out these beliefs among others.

The college was a mixture. What it had to be was tolerant, and this was necessary as a start because people were in there from different denominations.

If you like, there is an ideological liberalism and a constitutional liberality. There are no ideological liberal colleges, and certainly none that are regional. Ideological liberals (whether modernist or postmodernist - there are conservative postmodernists) are usually individuals or small groups.

When I was at Luther King House for a year, as a Unitarian, there was a small group of liberals gathering together from different denominations, and there were some liberal tutors. But there was also a strong evangelical element. Again, it was a mixture.

I like having other liberals around of course but hopefully I am confident enough have others around and a mixture is good for debate, for learning. But then I would have a Muslim college and a Hindu college next door, a Buddhist centre, with a number of common rooms to meet in.

It seems that some Christians can only have their own kind around themselves, and exclude others as beyond.

Posted by Pluralist at Saturday, 26 May 2007 at 3:23pm BST
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