Stephen Bates in the Guardian has Theological college’s head is undermining it, say predecessors. And Jonathan Petre in the Daily Telegraph has Oxford college row escalates. The Guardian begins:
The principal of Wycliffe Hall, the Oxford University Anglican evangelical theological college, was under renewed pressure last night after his three immediate predecessors claimed he was undermining its reputation and threatening its survival as an academic institution.
The unprecedented intervention, in the form of a joint letter leaked among members of the evangelical community, represented the latest twist in the crisis that has gripped the 130-year-old permanent private hall, which trains theological students and candidates for ordination in the Church of England, and its conservative evangelical principal, Richard Turnbull, following revelations about his conduct of the college…
The full text of the letter to Bishop James Jones described in the articles is as follows:
The three most recent former Principals of Wycliffe, Geoffrey Shaw, Dick France and Alister McGrath, met today in view of the publicity given to the crisis in the Hall. Were it simply a matter of media speculation and sensationalism we would not have written to you. Our enquiries from a variety of sources have convinced us of the seriousness of the situation and filled us with deep foreboding.
The resignation of so many competent and dedicated teaching and admin staff all together in such a small community cannot be written off simply as a new broom sweeping away out of date and out of touch lumber. Nor as a supporter of Richard Turnbull has written “a few ruffled feathers reacting with sourness and extreme bad grace”! These are men and women who have given outstanding service to the Hall and its students and it is due to them that Wycliffe has gained a worldwide recognition for its excellence in biblical scholarship, study, exposition, personal devotion and praxis. Yet they have been made to feel stumbling blocks to a new regime by a man who despite the qualities many attribute to him has had no experience of academic and spiritual formation leadership in a college context.
The repercussions of all this are deeply disturbing. Already voices are being raised in the University as to the suitability of Wycliffe as a PPH. Bishops and DDOs may decide to give the Hall a wide berth. Staff with suitable qualifications may not apply for vacancies. Students from the broad range of evangelicalism which has traditionally characterised the Hall are unlikely to apply and the resultant limited focus on one strand of evangelicalism is unlikely to commend the Hall to the wider church. The Hall is running on borrowed capital and we fear for its future. If this sounds melodramatic it is realistic and is prompted by our love and concern for the Hall.
With very great sadness we must in all seriousness ask you to recognise before it is too late that there is a widespread lack of confidence in the present Principal, both in his managerial style and his myopic vision. We find it hard to envisage the Hall maintaining its erstwhile acknowledged reputation under its present leadership.
Not personally signed but authorised by
Geoffrey Shaw Principal 1979 – 1988
Dick France Principal 1989 – 1995
Alister McGrath Principal 1995 – 2004