Comments: Wycliffe Hall: three former principals write

The letter writers are correct. It is the substance of the issue that matters.

When there are realignments going on in general, there are always specific issues involved and then a location that becomes a crucible of the issue.

Those of us who have done qualitative research and get down into a small scale narrative of a situation, who have built a "thick description" of that, know that often the minutiae represents a bigger situation.

This is what Wycliffe Hall is all about. It has become the crux of the issue for Open Evangelicalism.

Here is a personality who has come into the scene, and made some "strategic" mistakes of his own, ie showing his strategic hand, and this has given the way in for those self-identified as being on the receiving end of all the disturbance in the institution. They have been given a means to strike back. It is not just a turf war. It is the substance of the particular representing the general: it involves the substance of actual institutions: Oxford University itself, theological training as academic as well as pastoral, theologians with expertise, and Open Evangelicalism as its own 'institution'.

Richard Turnbull made it clear that in order to take on the "Liberals", the Conservative Evangelicals have first of all to remove the "Liberal Evangelicals". To do it he needs to put the institution under his and his friends' ideological control with huge consequences in the change from an institutional academic base. Chris Sugden so summarised it as well in his BBC interview.

Everyone knows the consequences of a specific result in one location going one way or the other: it has huge implications for the general outcome. The Open Evangelicals need the "two plus four" to be premature and restored to "the five plus the other one".

Posted by Pluralist at Thursday, 14 June 2007 at 1:43am BST

Usually people think that Anglicanism represents an enlightened, liberal, gay-friendly Christianity, while Roman Catholicism represents the opposite. But look at these essays by two Catholics: http://commonwealmagazine.org/article.php3?id_article=1957

In the present Anglican climate of panic and scapegoating, perhaps the Roman Church will steal a march on you, and arrive more quickly at ways of living and inter-relating that correctly express the love of Christ. One reason what this may happen is that we are not so browbeaten by the bully-tactics of biblical fundamentalism.

Posted by Fr Joseph O'Leary at Thursday, 14 June 2007 at 3:58am BST

anonymous leak......lack of courage and honour (let alone Christian principles) as some seek to attack the new Principal at WH

Posted by NP at Thursday, 14 June 2007 at 7:46am BST

NP:
that's rubbish. If people complain openly then they may be threatened with losing their jobs or never getting another one in the Church. This has happened before and in recent history. Staff are left with only being able to leak things to the press.

Posted by Frozenchristian at Thursday, 14 June 2007 at 9:31am BST

NP
I am trying terribly hard to understand what is anonymous, never mind lacking in courage and honour, about the letter described in this article. I'm failing. Please help me.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Thursday, 14 June 2007 at 9:41am BST

Simon - the letter is fine in itself - the great men who write it are entitled to their views and I respect them massively ....but they wrote privately - sadly, the letter leaked by someone with clear intent.

Posted by NP at Thursday, 14 June 2007 at 9:55am BST

Stick to the contents, NP, and stop trying to defend the indefensible.

This shows so very clearly why there needs to be a split and that we should approach conservative evangelicals a bit like the Militant tendency in the Labour party - the same outcome would also be preferable.

Posted by Merseymike at Thursday, 14 June 2007 at 11:17am BST

I wonder whether there are two forms of 'leaking'. One is to stir up trouble- 'malicious leaking' if you will. But there is another, where deeply concerned individuals find that there is a 'stopper in the bottle' - in this case apparently the Bishop of Liverpool - and the justification for leaking is parallel to the 'whistle blower' clause on confidentiality.

Strikes me that this (now very real) crisis, light years removed from NP's new-broom-it's-a-storm-in-a-teacup posting from a few weeks ago has moved on significantly. If, against a backdrop of previously reported concerns from staff and students, three impeccably evangelical former principals are being ignored by +Liverpool, it could perfectly reasonably be argued that what would admittedly normally be a dishonourable act is justifiable. Those who have a love for the Evangelical tradition in all its richness may well feel that it is better to leak a letter than to stand by and see that tradition traduced.

Posted by Mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) at Thursday, 14 June 2007 at 11:28am BST

NP: "the letter is fine in itself - the great men who write it are entitled to their views and I respect them massively"

Am I right in inferring that you disagree with those views?

Posted by Mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) at Thursday, 14 June 2007 at 12:40pm BST

In recent years, George Carey has said and done things which have been interpreted as critical of Rowan Williams. Liberals have been harshly critical of him for this, and implied that he should keep quiet and not "interfere" or criticize his successor. Presumably those same liberals will now be equally critical of Shaw, France, and McGrath for interfering and criticizing their successor.

Posted by Stephen Walton at Thursday, 14 June 2007 at 1:19pm BST

Authorised but unsigned is not the same as anonymous. How is it a leak?

Posted by Pluralist at Thursday, 14 June 2007 at 1:34pm BST

Merseymike - what do you mean stick to the "contents"? Don't think I was off point at all......and what is indefensible? I bet you know very little about the situation except what The Guardian writes so maybe you should not be so sure of your position....and I still think (for your own good) that since you are not even an Anglican, you would be better off getting a life rather than bizarrely worrying about Anglican matters.

Posted by NP at Thursday, 14 June 2007 at 1:54pm BST

There has to be something else going on for an evangelical Bishop to ignore all the pressure from both inside and outside the college to discipline or sack this man? Pride perhaps - can't back down? I would be interested in who else is on the Council and what kind of reputation they have to lose. Who actually put this man there and why?

Posted by bertie.g at Thursday, 14 June 2007 at 2:24pm BST

NP: I'm wondering in whose interest it was that the report of Judge Bursell's initial investigation into the alleged drunkenness of +Southwark leaked to the press...my experience of conservative evangelicals is that they are just a guilty of leaking when it suits. In fact, one of them recently boasted of his press contacts to me. Given that the CE's pride themselves on their faithfulness to scripture, I think you're in danger of looking at the mote in someone else's eye and ignoring the beam that sticks out of the eye of those who claim biblical allegiance but who regularly ignore it when their short-term political game is at stake.

Posted by SB at Thursday, 14 June 2007 at 2:27pm BST

Does NP's approach to the critical assessment of events remind anyone else of the fellow travellers of the 1930s, who twisted themselves into pretzels to justify and believe any and everything thing that "Uncle Joe" Stalin did?

Posted by Lapinbizarre at Thursday, 14 June 2007 at 2:49pm BST

From afar I surmise that maybe this suggests to us that before CoE can be successfully realigned, the Open Evangelicals must go the way of the other believers who are not sufficiently conformed.

This highlights, if it applies, the key shift urged by the realignment campaign - other believers' differences are an affront to closed realignment conscience, indefensible and indeed oxymoron according to closed realignment hermeneutics and presuppositions, and target fodder for the emerging realingment canons of power.

Alas. Welcome to the realignment campaign. What made you think, even for a moment, that you were safe from the realignment conservative movement? The uses and abuses of institutional power, trash talk quoting scripture, the condemnations and threats and all the rest - they can be aimed at just about anybody, once we've gotten used to them by letting them be used against the queer folks. Oh yeah. Alas.

Posted by drdanfee at Thursday, 14 June 2007 at 3:12pm BST

Lapinbizarre @ Thursday, 14 June 2007 at 2:49pm BST --
It had not occurred to me before, but now that you mention it, yes.

Fr O'Leary --
Luke Timothy Johnson got a lot of flak when he criticized J2P2's theology of the body in a "Commonweal" article -- I have no doubt that this article will result in an even nastier reaction. If you liked the article, I highly recommend that you drop him a line saying so!

Posted by Prior Aelred at Thursday, 14 June 2007 at 3:33pm BST

Lapinbizarre said,
"Does NP's approach to the critical assessment of events remind anyone else of the fellow travellers of the 1930s, who twisted themselves into pretzels to justify and believe any and everything thing that "Uncle Joe" Stalin did?"

Tongue-in-cheek, are you trying to develop a corollary to Goodwin's law?

Seriously, this letter should raise questions in anyone's mind about what is happening at Wycliffe. The original, anonymous letter alone was suspect, but this should remove doubt that Turnbull should be asked to explain his actions.

The "leak" of this letter is a non-issue as these letters are meant to be leaked.

Does anyone notice that the letter's three authors mention "the broad range of evangelicalism." Is there any chance that idea is similar to the range of ideas held by liberal theologians or the "broad tent" of Anglicanism? Is there any change that idea could inform some of the responses here at TA from both sides of the argument?

Posted by Chris at Thursday, 14 June 2007 at 3:35pm BST

SB - you would have a point if I had ever leaked anything, that is....or if I had defended any other leaks.

Lapin - maybe you know a lot more about the situation?? If all you know is what is in the papers, you really do not have much to go on - and I do not have much to defend.....+Liverpool probably knows the situation and the college better than you?

Bertie - maybe +Liverpool just knows facts that The Guardian does not?

Mynster - I am hoping that the three old principals are mistaken....but the letter is obviously an extraodinary intervention (and I am not sure its leaking (as mentioned in the newspaper reports) was authorised by the writers)

Posted by NP at Thursday, 14 June 2007 at 3:40pm BST

It is interesting for source critics among us. "The college head thinks 95% of us are going to burn in hell" said the Guardian piece, but what Richard Turnbull actually said was "95% of people facing hell unless the message of the Gospel is not brought to them". That's quite a leap, especially as "facing" suggests possibility, albeit perhaps (by Richard Turnbull's lights) a strong possibility, but not certainty, and "hell" is not spelt out anywhere else in the article; the "burning" is a suggestion of the Guardian writer. At least with the leaked letter we have all the details, and not a paraphrase, and we can compare it with the selections made (and ask why sections were omitted) by the newspapers. The problem is that there is much too much speculation about what went on at Wycliffe - silence, dismissal of older staff, disciplinary procedures ? - and too little in the way of facts. It seems to be an ostrich mentality; surely an independent enquiry is required, during which time silence can be legitimately sub judice.

Posted by Tony at Thursday, 14 June 2007 at 4:21pm BST

No, +Liverpool is just covering his own back - if Turnbull falls, so does he. If there is one thing that +Liverpool is canny about its media management.

Posted by Merseymike at Thursday, 14 June 2007 at 5:33pm BST

No connection to Goodwin's Law, Chris. Just an observation based on the endless use of the "four legs good, two legs bad" rule as a prism through which to view and judge the rights and wrongs of church affairs.

Posted by Lapinbizarre at Thursday, 14 June 2007 at 10:33pm BST

I'd be grateful for people to treat NPs contributions with the seriousness they deserve. He constantly seems to throw heat rather than light on situations - and taunting you 'wishful thinking anglicans' seems so easy! His loyalty to his cause is a matter for him, but should be understood in a similar fashion to people's loyalties and attachments to football clubs. He is a 'fan' of his clan rather than a serious thinker.

Posted by Neil at Thursday, 14 June 2007 at 10:39pm BST

NP - presuming your post of 1:54BST to MerseyMike isn't ad hominem, you might show your *evidence* for the assertion he isn't "even an Anglican".

As for "hoping that the three old principals are mistaken", I'd abandon hope now. The last three principals have 25 years of combined experience of leading Wycliffe and undoubtedly retain links to the college - Richard Turnbull has scarcely 25 *months* as principal of the college and look at the mockery he's making of the evangelical cause, the college and the Anglican communion since his appointment.

Posted by Stephen Roberts at Thursday, 14 June 2007 at 11:07pm BST

As a current ministerial student at Wycliffe, I find strings of posts like this very sad. Apart from being saddened that the vast majority of things which have been written in the media over recent weeks bear little resemblance to the Wycliffe that I know from the inside, I am saddened that the response of many Christians has either been to derive an element of glee about what is happening, or to rush into the media frenzy with hot heads. There is also the sadness that people seem to want to turn this into a battle between 'open evangelicals' and 'conservative evangelicals', even though this issue plays no part in the difficulties at Wycliffe.

Wycliffe is going through a difficult period in its life, and therefore I believe the response of Christians should be to pray for us and to support us as we work through these issues, rather than being engaged in endless discussion (which causes pain to all at the Hall).

Pray for Richard Turnbull as he seeks to lead a college that will send out heralds of the good news of Jesus. Pray for us students as we try to answer God's call on our lives to be those heralds.

Posted by Matthew Firth at Friday, 15 June 2007 at 1:30am BST

Stephen - Merseymike has said many times on TA that he does not belong to any Anglican group and does not believe much or any of the foundational statements of Anglicanism.....so, in answer to your question, he is not an Anglican by his own repeated admission.

Posted by NP at Friday, 15 June 2007 at 7:13am BST

NP - Thank you for your clarification, the confusion arose from advising Merseymike to "get a life" (which does look very ad hominem to a first time poster).

Matthew Firth - Your post has to be the most sensible I've read on any site regarding this whole sorry mess. There are a great many difficult issues facing the Anglican communion at the moment and the continued back-biting through the comment pages of the Times, Telegraph and Guardian only adds weight to the view of the chattering classes that Christianity is irrelevant and destructive. With that in mind, I apologise for my somewhat ill-tempered post and offer my prayers for the situation of you and your colleagues at Wycliffe.

Posted by Stephen Roberts at Friday, 15 June 2007 at 9:14am BST

I respectfully disagree Matthew Firth. Mismanagement of Wycliffe Hall, if there be such, or worse, is a matter of public concern. Wycliffe Hall is training ordinands for the Church of England and is a PPH which partly trades on its affiliation to the University of Oxford.

Trying to keep it all secret (it is a matter of public record that insiders were told not to speak to the press) and then complaining that the full story has not been told is simply absurd.

Secrecy is also not a correct response to allegations of misconduct. Of course we all wish well to people of good will, and for good work to be done, but that is no substitute for legitimate inquiry into suggestions that all is far from well, and that those in charge require supervision and, possibly, correction. Since Bishop Jones of Liverpool has said publicly that he "backs" Turnbull from the start, instead of keeping an open mind on issues which appear to be developing, it is plain that independent scrutiny may also have to come from elsewhere.

Posted by badman at Friday, 15 June 2007 at 10:18am BST

I am still a member of the Church of England, but until the split occurs, I can no longer actively support an organisation which is institutionally homophobic. If I lived in the USA I would be quite happy with TEC!

Posted by Merseymike at Friday, 15 June 2007 at 10:25am BST

It would be interesting to talk to some Muslim historians. After the World Trade Centre, there was a lot of discussion about how their religion became dominated by one main form a few hundred years ago.

I am sure they are bemused to see the parallels being played out in the Anglican Communion today.

It also stands as a firm warning that "there but for the grace of God could go this communion too".

We face a genuine risk of ending up in a world where only the bullies control theologies and we all cow in terror wondering which war lord will give our children the most safety before they actually manage to extinguish the biosphere. The only way to avoid that happening is to understand how this pattern keeps recurring and to make it a part of our educational programs to recognise and address what it is and why it shouldn't be allowed to happen.

All else is simply shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic. The Holocaust and World War II were 70 years ago and were meant to be never again (NOT wait a few decades and do it again). It's worth doing a bible search for "seventy years", it comes up a few times in the bible. I quite like Jeremiah 29:10-14 which includes “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Friday, 15 June 2007 at 12:18pm BST

_There is also the sadness that people seem to want to turn this into a battle between 'open evangelicals' and 'conservative evangelicals', even though this issue plays no part in the difficulties at Wycliffe._ Matthew Firth

What it looks like from the inside is one thing, as indeed the result of a snowstorm from within looks uniformly white, but either listen to or read the text of the Principal to Reform and how he understands his strategic role (or the dynamics of the snowstorm) regarding students like yourself.

Posted by Pluralist at Friday, 15 June 2007 at 1:51pm BST

Hi Cheryl-
Regarding the warlords of the future, who knows whether you are right. I hope you're not. But the greatest threats from the near past came from an atheist regime and an egomaniac - neither of them setting much store by any supernatural worldview.

The biggest growth in recent Christianity has come through the cell system. No doubt someone will draw the link with 'terrorist cells'. These armed pentecostal militias - they are everywhere.

Re Wycliffe: It is amazing how those with no inside knowledge 'know' what is going on, despite being contradicted by those with inside knowledge. How do they 'know' this? Answer: because, although they know little about the present case, they subsume it to their own preferred narrative of the way things are (evos are the baddies etc etc) and assume that this is, in the present case, the way things actually (er...) are.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Friday, 15 June 2007 at 2:02pm BST

"I am hoping that the three old principals are mistaken....

The McGrath Delusion?

Posted by Hugh of Lincoln at Friday, 15 June 2007 at 2:27pm BST

http://www.anglican-mainstream.net/?p=1789

Has a letter from those supporting Wycliffe College and its new Principal.

People here will know of signatories and churches better than me, but I recognise Christ Church Fulwood, Sheffield all right because it is the Reform church down the road from the Unitarian one (always doing quite nicely in its small old building those leafy parts).

David Banting (St Peters Harold Wood)
Richard Bewes (Former Rector of All Souls Langham Place)
Mark Ashton (St Andrews the Great, Cambridge)
Clive Hawkins (St Marys Basingstoke)
Paul Williams (Christ Church Fulwood, Sheffield)
Andrew Wingfield Digby (St Andrews North Oxford)
Michael Lawson (Archdeacon of Hampstead, former Vicar of Christ Church, Bromley)

Posted by Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) at Friday, 15 June 2007 at 4:11pm BST

Pluralist noted those supporting Wycliffe College and its new Principal

Looking at the names and doing a spot of day off googling, of the seven four have very strong Reform connections, Wingfield Digby was at the anti-Jeffrey John rally in Oxford, To have such a line-up rather increases the feel of a radical takeover, does it not?

Posted by mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) at Friday, 15 June 2007 at 10:02pm BST

In response to Stephen Roberts: Thank-you for your post. It's very encouraging to hear that you are praying for us at Wycliffe as we work through this tricky time.

In repsonse to Christopher Shell: I couldn't agree more!

In response to badman: I agree with you that if there is mismanagement at Wycliffe then it is indeed a matter of public concern, for the reasons you cited. And that is why the two bishops who sit on the Hall council, and the Hall council itself, are dealing with the issues at Wycliffe as representatives of the wider church. This is the best way to serve the public interest.

However, the public interest is not served by people from inside Wycliffe talking to the national press. The press simply want to stir things up and fill their pages with juicy gossip. It is not a matter of secrecy, it is simply a matter of realising the sad fact that talking to reporters will only ever serve to put half-truths and gossip into the public domain.

In response to Pluralist: You suggest that I should read/listen to Dr Turnbull's speech to Reform so that I can find out how he understands his strategic role regarding students like myself. But why should I do that? I can ask him about that over breakfast at Wycliffe! I am fully aware of Dr Turnbull's strategy: he wants to see the Church of England training men and women in preaching, theology, evangelism and pastoral care so that the good news of Jesus can get out to as many people as possible. Simple as that. It's an exciting vision.

A question for all posters on this site: Why don't you talk about Jesus a bit more? He's much more interesting than the gossip and argumentative wranglings that go on on this site.

Posted by Matthew Firth at Friday, 15 June 2007 at 11:16pm BST

Christopher Shell writes: "The biggest growth in recent Christianity has come through the cell system. No doubt someone will draw the link with 'terrorist cells'. These armed pentecostal militias - they are everywhere."

Heavens, Christopher Shell! Have you never heard of Latter Rain, Joel's Army, the Laughing Church and the Toronto Blessing? Ask Sandy Millar -- he's quite familiar with these Pentecostal offshoots. And, yes, Joel's Army could quite reasonably be described as an "armed Pentecostal militia" in the making, who believe it their duty to cleanse the earth through violence.

Posted by Charlotte at Saturday, 16 June 2007 at 1:02am BST

I'm very happy to discuss Jesus, and do so very often. Indeed I have just read a conversational sermon about him at the old Fulwood church...

http://www.fulwood-old-chapel.org.uk/jesus.htm

But this is the point, isn't it: I don't accept the version that Richard Turnbull and friends proclaims, nor do I accept that we should all believe it along such lines.

Even then I would be less concerned had Richard Turnbull simply laid out his vision and his beliefs. But rather like the rest of us, he spent a considerable section of his Reform speech talking about libeal evangelicals to be opposed on his way to opposing liberals like me; he gave liberals dubious motives for action when he was displaying the same; and I am on record (at Fulcrum) of having a rather different view of the Principal of Oak Hill (one of Turnbull's "2" colleges) in his contribution on BBC Radio 4 despite the fact that I am equally well distant from Oak Hill theologically. Thus I suggested you listen to the video, as well as talk over breakfast, and ponder on variety and difference within the Anglican Church.

Posted by Pluralist at Saturday, 16 June 2007 at 3:35am BST

Matthew Firth said
You suggest that I should read/listen to Dr Turnbull's speech to Reform so that I can find out how he understands his strategic role regarding students like myself. But why should I do that? I can ask him about that over breakfast at Wycliffe!

Matthew, Matthew, remember you're training as an Anglican priest. If Wycliffe is teaching you to believe that the hierarchy is completely open and guileless when it comes to sharing information and strategies with the foot soldiery, then I suggest that is evidence enough that the college is not Anglican!

Do you REALLY think that any poitically astute operator will tell all to members of oi polloi like you and me over a breakfast table?

Posted by mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) at Saturday, 16 June 2007 at 9:21am BST

I am generally not comfortable with this type of story.

Like Stephen Bates – my first reaction is to leave such things alone – they have a horrible tendency to become a witch hunt.

I also experienced a change of college leadership when I was a theological student and remember how difficult and divisive that became.

While the world has lately been exposed to the bitter wrangling of the disparate factions within the Anglican Communion, few are aware of the even more poisonous and vindictive world of academe – and where these two combine, as they do here, the mixture is explosive.

So, in this sense, I am grateful that this matter has (to some extent) been brought into public focus. We can understand from what Dr Turnbull says how important the ethos of ministerial training is to the future wellbeing of the church and this is not a debate that should be allowed to go on behind closed doors. Historically theological colleges have been founded by this or that movement within our church to support a certain ethos and others have been “captured” as a new principle with definite ideas has been appointed.

We should all be interested in this present story; it tells us a something of the spiritual temperature of the Church of England and the tensions within it. But as we contemplate the machinations of the principle players in this we are reminded by Matthew of the collateral damage this can be caused to those who are preparing for public ministry in this college and I certainly have a heart for them!

The physical and spiritual harm done by fellow Christians to their lesbian and gay brothers and sisters, sometimes directly but more often as a consequence of the vicious theological knockabout, should be on all our minds as we engage here.

Matthew, you and your fellow students are the main focus of my prayer. I sincerely hope that through all this you will be strengthened in your resolve to emerge from your training to “Tell them about Jesus” – that’s what it’s all about!

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Saturday, 16 June 2007 at 12:06pm BST

Hi Charlotte-
Well, in a work of 8 billion (?) people, I suppose you can find anything if you look hard enough. I myself have rarely passed a pentecostal church without seeing a few offensive weapons poking out of side pockets. They're coming, I tell you. One of the key features of the Toronto Blessing was the street riots generated. Ask any riot-shield-wielding policeman.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Saturday, 16 June 2007 at 1:49pm BST

Well, Christopher Shell, it may just be that we in the USA have more experience than you do with the dangers of some of the more extreme Pentecostal offshoots.

Oral Roberts -- he of the "university" that forbade "race-mixing" among its students -- was a product of the Latter Rain movement.

John Ashcroft, the former US Attorney General who was the architect of Guantanamo's detention camps and the unrestricted domestic surveillange provisions of the Patriot Act, is a Pentecostal.

Alberto Gonzales, the present US Attorney General now embroiled in political scandals, is a parishioner of the Pentecostal-inflected Falls Church (CANA).

Presidential Kingmaker Pat Robertson, who declared on national television that God sent the 9/11 terrorist attacks to punish the US for tolerating feminists and homosexuals, is a Pentecostal.

Watch the documentary "Jesus Camp" if you want to get a sense of where US Pentecostal movements are heading. In the movie, counselors lead pre-teens in chanting "This means war!" and smashing coffee cups that symbolize secular government.

And no, I'm not sure that everything I hear on the US-based Bible Broadcasting Network about "swords" and "battles" and "horses in blood up to the stirrups" is meant metaphorically!

Posted by Charlotte at Sunday, 17 June 2007 at 7:45pm BST

Christopher

You are right about the cell theory and its parallels. It was also useful in Latin America and Vietnam, the Nazis found it worked too, and it has kept Judaism intact for several thousand years. I am also sure that it is working very well in Gaza and Iraq today.

There is a lesson there that the cell method of organisation growth is a very effective organisational model. There is another lesson there that fast growth does not necessarily mean healthy growth.

One of the lessons that my children often hear is that "there is a difference between can and should", just as "there is between whether between what is and what should be".

Just because there is war, does not mean there should be war. Just because you can win a war does not mean you should go to war.

Jesus' victory did not come through military might, it came through moral righteousness.

Jesus was not complacent about others' suffering, Jesus was not a puppeteer for cruel tyrants and their corrupt priests, Jesus acknowledged all of creation before God (including himself), Jesus gathered those who accept the gospel and evidence by faith and often disciplined those who rejected others or sought to limit God's graciousness.

God does not care how many souls attend church on Sunday evenings. If they walk out of the temples and are full of themselves and cruel or indifferent to their neighbours, then they are worse off than if they had never attended church in the first place. God seeks out the lonely, the broken hearted, the afflicted. God loves those that are unloved by the establishment. God knows our hearts and our intents; he judges by those, not our appearances, resumes or network connections.

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Sunday, 17 June 2007 at 11:32pm BST

Hi Charlotte and Cheryl-
Best thing to do is list all the wars currently being fought by pentecostal armies.

The conclusion will be: 100% of them are spiritual, not physical. This is in accord with the NT injunction to spiritual warfare and with Jesus's role as Prince of Peace.

The scandal is, rather, those who tamely defect to the prevailing culture (ie - in some cases - the enemy) and will not fight.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Monday, 18 June 2007 at 9:19am BST

Charlotte-
In the name of love, surely you don't regard it as more important that coffee cups are smashed than that babies' limbs are smashed? The former is merely a parable to bring home the awfulness of (among other abuses of government) the latter.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Monday, 18 June 2007 at 9:22am BST

Christopher Shell: On the contrary, there are a number of physical, shooting wars currently being fought by Pentecostal child soldier armies -- in Uganda and Congo, particularly.

European history also bears witness to the atrocities that cult-like charismatic sects can inflict on those deemed "enemies" by their leaders. The "Kingdom of God at Munster" is among the best-known of these, however much it has been sentimentalized by modern Left historians. Certain incidents in the English Civil War might be added to the list.

The "Kids on Fire" summer program featured in "Jesus Camp" was a ministry of Pastor Ted Haggard's megachurch. His rise and fall illustrates other, more spiritual dangers that arise when charismatic leadership is not subject to accountability.

And, finally, Christopher Shell, did Jesus say we were to indoctrinate children into smashing the limbs of our spiritual enemies? I don't think so.

Posted by Charlotte at Monday, 18 June 2007 at 2:20pm BST

Charlotte said,
"Pentecostal-inflected Falls Church (CANA)"

Not to interrupt your rant, but The Falls Church is not inflected (sic) with Pentecostals. There are Charismatics at TFC. Many would include Charismatics as a branch of Anglicanism along with Anglo-Catholics, Evangelicals and Liberals.

Pentecostals are a completely separate denomination with very different views on ecclesiology and a generally have very low view of the Sacraments.

Additionally, your allusion to child soldier armies in Uganda and Congo is more about tribal warfare and modern day slavery than people who worship by speaking in tongues.

Posted by Chris at Monday, 18 June 2007 at 10:13pm BST

Chris, "Dinner with a Warlord," Nicholas Kristof's column in the New York Times this morning (6/18/07) describes his meeting with the Congolese General Laurent Nkunda:

"He described himself as a devout Pentecostal and said that most of his troops had converted as well; he showed us a church where he said they pray daily, and he showed photos of baptisms of the soldiers. Then again, the government has issued an international arrest warrant against him for war crimes, and human rights monitors like Refugees International say that his troops have killed and raped civilians and pillaged their villages."

Denial doesn't help, Chris.

Posted by Charlotte at Monday, 18 June 2007 at 11:45pm BST

Charlotte,

Thanks for the book reference. The man may call himself a Christian and Pentecostal and get it totally wrong. That doesn't mean all Pentecostals are evil.

Posted by Chris at Tuesday, 19 June 2007 at 12:54pm BST

Hi Charlotte-

Are there budding VCs at Wycliffe then? Spiritual warfare - against principalities and powers, wrong structures, wrong ruling ideas etc - is both biblical and right. Whereas watrfare against people is wrong.

How can a child call himself or herself a pentecostal? So did the Iolanthe nightwatchman/soldier wonder 'how every little boy or girl that's born into the world alive is either a little liberal or else a little conservative'.

Joking apart, I was not aware of the horrific African instance you cite. Not that it is in any way typical - let's get some balance here. Alas, these denomination names all become formalised, culturalised and nominalised in the end.

Re: the 9/11 bombings - there is always a danger of the USA being solipsistic or following the Manifest Destiny doctrine. How on earth anyone can call that tragedy a divine thunderbolt I don't know. That shows a chilling coldness to the relatives. But there are lessons of that kind to be learnt: (1) America's moral laxity (combined -incongruously- with assumed superiority) is one of the things that so alienates the Muslims; (2) the same moral laxity, muslims aside, is no sort of crumbling foundation to build a great nation on; (3) antisemitism is a shocking thing, but American favouritism towards Israel is not blameless either; (4) America can be thought to be in a prolonged 'look-at-me' adolescence until it admits the fault of its imperialistic attitude and 19th century genocide.

The related issue currently in the news is Salman Rushdie's knighthood. It reminded me of the way we reserve the highest honours for those who have been most responsible - through policy formation and attitude formation - for the deaths of the most children and the most consciences: 'Lord' Jenkins (RIP), 'Lord' Steel, 'Baroness' Warnock, 'Baroness' O'Neill, 'Baroness' Neuberger, 'Professor Sir' Bernard Williams (RIP), 'Sir' John Mortimer, 'Lord' Harries, 'Archbishop' Habgood, 'Primus' Holloway. While those who lead many to righteousness must be content (as they certainly are, because their horizons are bigger) with being like the stars for ever and ever.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Tuesday, 19 June 2007 at 1:04pm BST

2 quick points CS - 'Moral laxity' in the US needs quantifying. I hold no candle for Dubya, but there are many aspects of US ethics which are to be admired. And why the inverted commas around 'archbishop' and 'baroness'? Seems a cheap swipe to me.

Posted by mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) at Tuesday, 19 June 2007 at 10:01pm BST

PS CS. I'd be a lot happier if them as oppose abortion were not so often also those who oppose contraception (even within marriage), decent sex education and the like. And (frankly) in view of recent RC pronouncements on Amnesty, I wonder whether some devout Christians of a particular hue remember the disgraceful treatment the Church handed out to 'fallen women' and whether they have any great moral right to pontificate?

Posted by mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) at Tuesday, 19 June 2007 at 10:05pm BST

Hi David R-
Pontificating is one thing; stating the truth as one sees it is another. Everyone has the right to do the latter without being labelled 'pontificators'. They are only so labelled when they stir guilt in their hearers.

America is a big country! It is, therefore, aximoatic that it will contain many instances of moral good and many of moral laxity. I am remarking on the laxity because some of it is even written into the constitution and legislation. One is bound to get laxity anyway so there is no need for it to be officially encouraged and condoned!

The inverted commas - because it would be illogical to recognise any validity in such titles.

On sex education the statistics prove you wrong. Yes, 'prove' is a strong word - but in this particular instance justified. Almost without exception, the more sex education, the more premature sex, abortions, pregnancy etc etc..

Why should people feel guilty for treatment of fallen women when they were not themselves the perpetrators? They should in some instances abhor it - but why should they feel guilt by association? Isn't there enough genuine guilt around without manufacturing more?

In any case, why is our present free-for-all message to women any better?

I don't get your point about Amnesty. Amnesty's previous stance - morally neutral on abortion - strikes one as psychopathic. OK, an unfeeling person could be morally neutral, but a feeling person? Their present stance, however, is measurably worse. Maybe I misunderstood you here?

Posted by Christopher Shell at Wednesday, 20 June 2007 at 1:54pm BST
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