Thinking Anglicans

Wycliffe Hall: a former staff member speaks

Updated

The BBC radio programme Sunday carried an interview with Eeva John:

Wycliffe Hall staffing dispute
Elaine Storkey has left Oxford’s Wycliffe Hall theological college. Storkey, sometime presenter of Thought For The Day on Radio 4’s Today programme, is the latest in a long line of academic staff who have gone since the appointment of Richard Turnbull as principal two years ago.

Turnbull was brought in to improve management at the college. He has earned many critics and some have expressed fears that he is moving the college in a more theologically conservative direction.

Eeva John, Wycliffe’s former director of the diploma for Biblical and theological studies, resigned in August. She explained why she decided to go.
Listen (6m 18s)

Earlier report on this is here.

Further comment, by Eeva John herself, appears below among the comments.

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Matthew Firth
Matthew Firth
13 years ago

Yes, a former staff member has indeed spoken. Her two main points, if you listen to the recording via the link on this site are as follows: 1. She left because she didn’t like the way that change was managed. 2. The problem at Wycliffe has been misrepresented in the press as theological. She is entitled to her view in 1, and she is right about 2. So, will all those posters on here who want to make a theological battle out of this listen to the former member of staff who says the debate is not about theology? Well,… Read more »

Pluralist
13 years ago

Now Matthew, I wonder why these comments are taking the direction that they are?

http://www.fulcrum-anglican.org.uk/forum/thread.cfm?thread=4559

Cheryl Clough
Cheryl Clough
13 years ago

But Matthew, your own posting proves this is about theology. You see, how you treat souls’ emotions and listen to them (or not) is a manifestation of your theology. If your theology is oblivious or inconsiderate of the holy spark within each soul; then there is no problem with being rude, arrogant or accusatory. But if your theology recognizes that we are all here by God’s Will and that nothing can exist within the without containing a part of God, then you are aware of the need for hospitality to others. This is a fundamental pivot point about theology. Accusations,… Read more »

Slubgob
Slubgob
13 years ago

Matthew, in commenting on Eeva John’s interview, you agree that ‘The problem at Wycliffe has been misrepresented in the press as theological’; OK, a) do you concede that there is a problem?, and b) how _would_ you characterise the debate? Personal? Ideological? Ethical? Eeva’s comment about the lack of consonance between the actions of the principal and the stated Christian ethos of the college is pretty damning.

Matthew Firth
Matthew Firth
13 years ago

To reiterate, Eeva John has said that the issues at Wycliffe are not theological; an inconvenient truth for the many posters on here who would love to see Wycliffe weighed down by an internal theological disagreement. The reality is that all flavours of evangelical feel welcome here. Cheryl Clough – treating people with care, concern and respect is a practice which flows out of every type of Christian theology. However hard you try, you will not be able to make a sound case that Conservatives are nasty because they think God is a bully and Liberals are nice because they… Read more »

Matthew Firth
Matthew Firth
13 years ago

Pluralist – these comments are taking the direction that they are because while people on this forum have been saying ‘Wycliffe is hosting a battle of Conservative evangelicals vs Open evangelicals’, Eeva John, a former staff member, has confirmed that the issues at Wycliffe are not theological! And yes, I have pointed this out too on the Fulcrum forums, as you point out.

Martin Reynolds
Martin Reynolds
13 years ago

The feature film ….. LOL! – Read the plot at link (I gave up on the books after the second)…… ROFLOL!

A pleasant end to a long day, thank you Simon.

Christian
Christian
13 years ago

Spot on Matthew. This is old news, and a pretty desperate attempt by some to create further divisions in the Church. On the upside, now that Stephen Bates has gone from the Guardian, I doubt that the new Muslim in charge is going to be terribly interested in the odd coming and going at Wycliffe. Stirring up misleading stereotypes of evangelicals does nothing to help the preaching of the Gospel, and only plays into the hands of enemies of the Church. With friends like this in the Anglican church, it is hardly surprising that the fastest growing religion in the… Read more »

Mark Bennet
Mark Bennet
13 years ago

Christian – it is not old news, but rather new – and sad – news, that three members of staff have been ‘required to leave’. The fact that you regard it as ‘old’ actually supports the argument of those you disagree with, who would see this latest news as part of a pattern. The term ‘theological’ is ambiguous and is used differently by different people. I think some people are suggesting that actions at Wycliffe may not represent the best of authentic discipleship. Some people tend to think of theology (doctrine, scripture) as working in the realm of ideas. For… Read more »

Matthew Firth
Matthew Firth
13 years ago

Slubgob – Yes, there is a problem at Wycliffe: Some members of staff have not been happy with the way change has been carried out in the areas of college structure and the structure of some aspects of ministerial courses. This has caused quite a bit of friction amongst the staff, because of which some of them resigned. The Hall Council clearly felt that three others needed to be dismissed. So that is the problem Wycliffe faces, but in a sense it is a much more mundane problem than one would think if one only read the posts on this… Read more »

stephen bates
stephen bates
13 years ago

I haven’t left the Guardian, Christian. And how striking that you refer to the “new Muslim” without deigning to name my colleague Riazat Butt, merely depersonalise and thus casually attempt to demean her.
She is not new to the Guardian, or to journalism, by the way, and is an experienced national newspaper reporter.
I think we probably will still keep an eye on the comings and, it seems, increasingly goings, at Wycliffe Hall.

Pluralist
13 years ago

The declaration of theological war was made by the Principal of Wycliffe in his infamous video. He was the one who categorised “liberal evangelicals” as well as “the liberals”.

Matthew Firth
Matthew Firth
13 years ago

Stephen Bates is of course one of the journalists who has been spinning stories about Wycliffe for the past few months. So he doesn’t need to ‘keep an eye on Wycliffe’. Why bother when he can just make something up?

stephen bates
stephen bates
13 years ago

Nothing I have written about Wycliffe Hall has been made up, Matthew. Your remark is libellous and actionable and I expect an immediate apology from you. All my stories have been sourced from people inside or with good connections with Wycliffe Hall. None of them originated with me: I have no reason to create stories about an Oxford PPH. I have merely reported what are the active concerns of those intimately connected with the hall, several of them at a senior level. Are you suggesting that the principal’s speech to the Reform conference, the letter from the three former principals,… Read more »

acb
acb
13 years ago

Stephen does not make things up. He is one of the best religious correspondents I have worked with. He goes out and talks to people — and listens to them too. Then he writes down what they say; then they hate him for it.

If you accuse him of “making things up”, you merely demonstrate that you are yourself ignorant at best.

Cheryl Va. Clough
13 years ago

One of the bullying strategies that I expected to see, and God bless them, they keep serving it up is the attempt to discredit the voices of conscience who do not approve of their conduct e.g. in this thread about Bates and Butt. I spent yesterday contemplating the suggestion that this not about theology. I occurred to me that could well be true. How is that possible? If an institution and its leaders consider it to be just another human organisation and that it is reasonable to use whatever practices will ensure their vision is fulfilled. So it doesn’t matter… Read more »

Matthew Firth
Matthew Firth
13 years ago

Stephen – I retract and apologise for my post of 6:16pm.

Matthew Firth
Matthew Firth
13 years ago

I have decided not to post on this topic again. I have made the defence of Wycliffe Hall that I wanted to make.

stephen bates
stephen bates
13 years ago

Thank you Matthew. I accept your apology and retraction. Be more careful what you allege of others in future.

Christian
Christian
13 years ago

Stephen: thanks for replying to my comment. I did not question the integrity of your journalism, but implied that your angle on Christian affairs is a very particular one, as Andrew Carey argued in his review of ‘A Church Asunder’. To quote one of your pieces in the Guardian, if the Church of England is a band of ‘invertebrates led by a jellyfish’ your readers must be forgiven for believing that you do not hold a large portion of the church in high regard. I’m surprised that you think reference to Ms Butt’s faith is demeaning. The point I made… Read more »

Cheryl Va. Clough
13 years ago

Stephen B Well played You might like to refer your journalistic network to the experiences of Australia’s NSW government. A couple of scandalous corruptions led to a public outcry and the formation of the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC). It had become clear that organisations had ways of systemically dealing with “whistle blowers” that were not pretty and sometimes down right illegal. There was a need to protect the whistle blowers, which is why the independent body was created. One case that ICAC exposed and resolved was in the morturaries. There were a layer of souls who were removing organs… Read more »

Ford Elms
Ford Elms
13 years ago

“Stirring up misleading stereotypes of evangelicals does nothing to help the preaching of the Gospel, and only plays into the hands of enemies of the Church.” I speak as someone who has some very nasty stereotypes of Evangelicals that are very hard to fight against, though I do try, with limited success. I would suggest though that Evangelicals examine their own behaviour and, if necessary, stop living up to those stereotypes, since if such behaviour reinforces such stereotpyes in someone like myself who is trying to fight them, how much more effective must it be in those who are only… Read more »

Göran Koch-Swahne
13 years ago

Matthew Firth wrote: “To reiterate, Eeva John has said that the issues at Wycliffe are not theological; an inconvenient truth for the many posters on here who would love to see Wycliffe weighed down by an internal theological disagreement. The reality is that all flavours of evangelical feel welcome here.” Obviously not. Matthew Firth wrote: “Cheryl Clough – treating people with care, concern and respect is a practice which flows out of every type of Christian theology.” It most certainly doesn’t. Matthew Firth wrote: “However hard you try, you will not be able to make a sound case that Conservatives… Read more »

Peter
Peter
13 years ago

Mr Bates,

What an extrraordinary and heavy handed way to deal with the suggestion from Matthew. Must I now prepare myself for a threat of court action from you also ?
You really do need to take a little of the pressure you are more than happy to apply to others.

Peter

Ford Elms
Ford Elms
13 years ago

“extrraordinary and heavy handed way “

It is a serious thing to tell someone who deals with truth that he is a liar and makes things up and calls it fact. Sorry, no, but this is not a disagreement between two people in which some hot words were said. The accusation was that someone who deals in fact actually does not report fact, but whatever he thinks or wants to say. This is a serious thing to do to a journalist, and I don’t think Steven was heavy handed at all.

poppy tupper
poppy tupper
13 years ago

Peter, it shows how far out of touch people have become that you can post your last comment. To accuse a religious correspondent of making things up is about as serious a charge against professional ethics as you can make. Stephen Bates was firm, but very charitable in his reply and his requirement of an apology. In my view, Matthew got off very lightly after all his shrill and dogmatic remarks.

Cheryl Va. Clough
13 years ago

Thanks Goran Ford wrote “…nasty stereotypes of Evangelicals that are very hard to fight against…” Priests, get thy houses in order. Put up with the voices that warn souls not to be naïve about priestly corruptions. Be warned, there are dioceses whose “clean face” of the church is so important that they collude to discredit individuals – even if that means destroying their careers and families or suicide. Yet when corruption and tyranny get out of hand God sends messengers to expose corruptions and heal the existing churches or make new ones. Effective ones like Jonah leave no church of… Read more »

stephen bates
stephen bates
13 years ago

Peter: Your professional and personal reputation may not mean much to you – I don’t know – but it means a great deal to me. If I don’t have trust as a journalist, or if I gain a reputation, casually, for making things up, then my career is undermined. I simply could not allow Matthew’s sweeping allegation, seemingly so lightly made, to go unchallenged. Had I not challenged it, who knows what credibility it might have gained among some who have no charitable thoughts towards my work? It would have been seen as an acknowledgement that the charge had substance,… Read more »

Göran Koch-Swahne
13 years ago

Your welcome, Cheryl.

Simon Cawdell
Simon Cawdell
13 years ago

Eeva John has clarified her Radio 4 interview in detail on the Fulcrum forum.

http://www.fulcrum-anglican.org.uk/forum/thread.cfm?thread=4559

Peter
Peter
13 years ago

Stephen,
You might therefore like to moderate your own attacks on the reputation of Christians and their leaders, given your own expressed sensibilities.

Your articles are heavy with condemnation for the personal and professional conduct of christians

Ford Elms
Ford Elms
13 years ago

“Christians and their leaders”

Steven Bates not being a Christian and all! See how easy it is for people like me to hear “Evangelical Christian” whenever Evangelicals use the word “Christian”? It’s these little slips of the tongue that show that you DO actually think that only those like you are Christians and the rest of us are not. I have more respect for the Pentecostals of my youth who came right out and said it than I do for those Anglicans who don’t think I’m a Christian but pretend otherwise.

Mark Bennet
Mark Bennet
13 years ago

This is a very instructive set of comments. The interaction with Stephen Bates has taught us something about how we interact with the press. Eeva John’s gracious decision to elaborate her comments on the Fulcrum forum gives us a chance to compare what she says with what has been said by her various interpreters. Applied to the interpretation of scripture, and developed into the key pastoral skill of listening (or whatever the blogging equivalent is – suggestions please), these lessons could usefully inform a whole generation of pastors and preachers. Thanks to Eeva and Stephen for their contributions. [NB this… Read more »

Robert
Robert
13 years ago

“If your theology is oblivious or inconsiderate of the holy spark within each soul; then there is no problem with being rude, arrogant or accusatory.”

Does this include comparing the leadership of Wycliffe Hall to Nazi war criminals, Cheryl?

Matthew B
Matthew B
13 years ago

Robert: if this is a reference to Elaine Storkey’s supposed comment it has already been acknowledged to be false. The damaging intervention and retraction of Jonathan Aitken, from where this orginated earlier in the summer, was nothing other than a disaster for those who shipped him in to write propaganda. I’m puzzled though why there should be disagreement between Anglican Mainstream staff and the Principal. Theologically they must be in agreement on the Covenant. On the Fulcrum site there are some interesting posts about the way in which politics has now come to dominate conservative evangelical practice: the male priests… Read more »

poppy tupper
poppy tupper
13 years ago

robert, i missed the post that compared the leadership of WH to nazi war criminals (if that is what it said), and, of course, the two are not the same. but you can’t get around the fact that the nazis persecuted gay people and denied them their human rights, and that the leadership of WH also judges gay people who live a fully realised sexual life, and it denies them equal rights with heterosexual people. now, there’s a long journey between the two positions, but there’s a real philosophical link. we need to be very careful to learn the lessons… Read more »

poppy tupper
poppy tupper
13 years ago

my last post on this has not been accepted, but i’m not going to give up, robert. you take exception to likening the leadership of WH to nazi war criminals. they are not, of course. but they are on a continuum. there is a link in this site to an article by giles fraser, who says: No: the struggle for the full inclusion of lesbian and gay people in the life of the church is a frontline battle in the war against global religious fascism. Robert Mugabe has called homosexuals “worse than dogs and pigs”. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s government denies that… Read more »

Cheryl Va. Clough
13 years ago

Hi Robert This verse and voice came through from Sojourners the other day: “[Those] courageous in disposition and strong in will, live with the weak and share their lives in their desire to save them. And, to be sure, they are censured by people on the outside and mocked by those who see them spending their lives with people less disciplined. [Their behavior] is like the Lord’s for the Lord ate with tax collectors and sinners. Their attitude is characterized by brotherly love rather than self-love for they regard those who sin as houses on fire; giving no thought to… Read more »

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