Thinking Anglicans

Fulcrum conference talks

Updated Tuesday afternoon

The talks given on Saturday by the Bishop of Durham and by Andrew Goddard are published in full:

Conflict and Covenant in the Bible by Tom Wright

Conflict and Covenant in the Communion by Andrew Goddard

Episcopal Café and Pluralist have drawn attention to one point made by Bishop Tom. See What is Bishop Wright talking about? and Repressive Letters Go Out.

Update Monday morning

The Advent Letter can be found in full here. The relevant passage appears to be:

I have underlined in my letter of invitation that acceptance of the invitation must be taken as implying willingness to work with those aspects of the Conference’s agenda that relate to implementing the recommendations of Windsor, including the development of a Covenant. The Conference needs of course to be a place where diversity of opinion can be expressed, and there is no intention to foreclose the discussion – for example – of what sort of Covenant document is needed. But I believe we need to be able to take for granted a certain level of willingness to follow through the question of how we avoid the present degree of damaging and draining tension arising again. I intend to be in direct contact with those who have expressed unease about this, so as to try and clarify how deep their difficulties go with accepting or adopting the Conference’s agenda.

And what Bishop Wright said was:

…After a summer and autumn of various tangled and unsatisfactory events, the Archbishop then wrote an Advent pastoral letter in which he reiterated the terms of his initial invitation and declared that he would be writing to those bishops who might be thought particularly unsympathetic to Windsor and the Covenant to ask them whether they were really prepared to build on this dual foundation. Those letters, I understand, are in the post as we speak…

Emphasis added in both quotes.

Tuesday afternoon update

Ruth Gledhill has been talking to Lambeth Palace and to Tom Wright and she reports all that here.

Update Wed And now also here.

Some other bloggers who have written about this are listed in the comments below.


  • Ian Montgomery says:

    I am interested that here as well as many other times writers fulminate at the boundary crossings thus giving them similar weight to the revisionism that led to the consecration of VGR. Windsor may have given some the idea of an equivalence of offense. That was clearly not so with the responses of the Primates at Dromatine and Dar Es Salaam in their interpretation of Windsor and its application. The boundary crossings and the mess that has ensued were a direct result of offshore provinces intervening to save the ministry of both congregations and clergy who were oppressed in their dioceses. They needed saving, many were friends of mine. I have stayed as I do not at this point believe that is necessary in my circumstances. My friends have had to depart to save their ministries and integrity.

    I am grateful that the “letters are in the mail” and only hope that this may make Lambeth meaningful. I fear it is too late as are all other hoped for remedies. The Communion is bust for the foreseeable future. Each is already going his or her own way and all we are left with is unseemly property fights and canonical slight of hand.

  • I balk at the words “unnecessary and damaging uniformity” since the application seems to be to gay rights. Places that say “we don’t need them here” are surely the very places that do!

  • Pat O'Neill says:

    “The boundary crossings and the mess that has ensued were a direct result of offshore provinces intervening to save the ministry of both congregations and clergy who were oppressed in their dioceses. They needed saving, many were friends of mine.”

    Please explain the manner in which these clergy and congregations were “oppressed.” Were they required to perform rites or services they did not believe in? Were they forced to make payments, other than the canonically required diocesan assessment? Were they forced to welcome preachers they did not share beliefs with–other than the canonically required visit from the diocesan bishop or his designate? Were they even forced to adhere to the 1979 Prayer Book or Hymnal?

    If the answers to all these questions are “no”…then please explain the oppression.

  • +Dunhelm said in his lecture: “Please note, I do not for one moment underestimate the awful situation that many of our American and Canadian friends have found themselves in, vilified, attacked and undermined by ecclesiastical authority figures who seem to have lost all grip on the gospel of Jesus Christ and to be eager only for lawsuits and property squabbles. I pray daily for many friends over there who are in intolerable situations and I don’t underestimate the pressures and strains.”

    What, pray, are we to make of this?

    Is Dr Rowan aware? Are the other Primates aware?? Would they agree with this “collaboration”???

  • Pluralist says:

    My mind is elsewhere at the moment, but as the person who highlighted this, it seems to me that these letters contradict an aim which is to have as many different positions around the table as possible. This is itself a divider of the Communion.

    Too much is being given to this communion. The letter of Paul to the Church at Corinth was to a Church, not a Communion, and all this about offence caused by one Anglican Church to another presupposes an existing communion structure – yet it has to be built up by centralisation.

    If each Church is regarded as autocephalous, then each one is bound to be offended as well as supportative of what others are doing. It follows, though, that a really offended Church may want to do some church planting in another territory. As far as I can see, so long as it isn’t taking from another Church, this is going to happen. Just as people are free to set up their own continuing Churches, there is nothing in principle to stop another Anglican Church setting up elsewhere.

    The alternative is a Communion that excludes, so there might be US, Canada, Wales, Scotland, New Zealand, South Africa, much of Australia outside the constructed Communion centre, and the centre then oversees territorial boundary crossings, and the excluded might agree on looser Covenant/s and offer thses to others. In effect, then, the result is the same, but via a process of exclusions on the basis of conflated biblical literalism.

  • Cheryl Va. says:

    Empathetic thoughts with Pluralist and his ilk.

    If it’s any consolation, when things look really bad, we are meant to go into exile: whether that be Babylon or the wilderness. In actual fact, things go worse for the souls who try and avoid exile.

    Zephaniah 1:9 “On that day I will punish all who avoid stepping on the threshold, who fill the temple of their gods with violence and deceit.”

    Amos 6:4-8 “You lie on beds inlaid with ivory and lounge on your couches. You dine on choice lambs and fattened calves. You strum away on your harps like David and improvise on musical instruments… but you do not grieve over the ruin of Joseph. Therefore you will be among the first to go into exile; your feasting and lounging will end. The Sovereign LORD has sworn by himself—the LORD God Almighty declares: “I abhor the pride of Jacob and detest his fortresses…”

    Jeremiah 30:16-17 ““ ‘But all who devour you will be devoured; all your enemies will go into exile. Those who plunder you will be plundered; all who make spoil of you I will despoil. But I will restore you to health and heal your wounds,’ declares the LORD, ‘because you are called an outcast, Zion for whom no one cares.’”

    Micah 4:10-13 “Writhe in agony, O Daughter of Zion, like a woman in labor, for now you must leave the city to camp in the open field. You will go to Babylon; there you will be rescued. There the LORD will redeem you out of the hand of your enemies. But now many nations are gathered against you. They say, “Let her be defiled, let our eyes gloat over Zion!” But they do not know the thoughts of the LORD; they do not understand his plan, he who gathers them like sheaves to the threshing floor. “Rise and thresh, O Daughter of Zion, for I will give you horns of iron; I will give you hoofs of bronze and you will break to pieces many nations.” You will devote their ill-gotten gains to the LORD, their wealth to the Lord of all the earth.”

  • Lapinbizarre says:

    If true, sadly obvious that Williams still hasn’t realized what the “Northern Cone” provinces and he himself are up against. Neither Dromantine nor Dar es Salaam, where the primates’ meeting was manipulated spectacularly by Akinola and back-up attendants Sugden & Minns, has anything approaching the standing of Lambeth, Ian, as you well know. The 1988 Lambeth conference explicitly rejected border-crossing in a resolution reaffirmed in 1998. This “my Lambeth resolution is bigger than your Lambeth resolution” business is school-yard stuff. Squid ink and smoke screens.

    “…unseemly property fights and canonical slight of hand.” Smoke screens and squid ink.

  • Andrew Innes says:

    From Bishop Wright’s talk:

    Please note, I do not for one moment underestimate the awful situation that many of our American and Canadian friends have found themselves in, vilified, attacked and undermined by ecclesiastical authority figures who seem to have lost all grip on the gospel of Jesus Christ and to be eager only for lawsuits and property squabbles.

    This really is a terrible mischaracterisation, for which the bishop ought to be ashamed.I hope someone from Canada, better informed than I am, will take issue with this.

  • BobinSwPA says:


    I sympathize with your friends. I’m in a diocese (Pittsburgh) were we’re in the same situation albeit a liberal or welcoming parish in a very conservative diocese. The only reason I stay is I believe that this will all be over with soon. Oppression works both ways and we learn nothing from our experiences.

    As for the letters, I certainly think that the ABC has sent the same letter to all, us in TEC, ACofC, Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda and a few others.
    I’d like to have the money spent in postage.
    I have to admire +Wright for not basking +++Rowan as some of the other CofE bishops do.

    My big question is what do you do with churches that see full inclusion as part of their ministry? Evidently this is not in compliance with the WR. What do we do with churches that are not committed to the listening process?
    Seems to me that we’re at an impasses.

    Just my humble opinion

  • Andrew Goddard wrote: “It seems that most of my speaking engagements in recent years have focussed on three topics. Each of these is a subset of that traditionally unmentionable trio – politics, sex and religion. A standard conversation at home is “What are you speaking about this time? War? Homosexuality? The Anglican Communion?”. Of course I’ve often found myself speaking about two of the three on the same occasion – I’m sure you can guess which two! Today I think is a first in that I’m going to speak about all three in the same presentation!
    My decision to include war is obviously triggered…“

    The fellow hasn’t been talking of War for the whole 5 years an unjust War of aggression against a friendly allied State has been going on???

    But he as indeed been talking of Homosexuality for the same 5 years since + Gene Robinson of New Hampshire was accepted by the majority of the General Convention…

    Must be Politics, mustn’t it?

    ; = )

  • It seems to me there is a big difference between “those who have expressed unease about this,” and “those bishops who might be thought particularly unsympathetic to Windsor and the Covenant.” Uganda expressed unease about the Lambeth Conference because it would not be legislative in form or intent. Nigeria and Rwanda expressed unease about the Lambeth Conference because they felt some of their bishops were excluded inappropriately. At the same time, they are enthusiastic about a process to complete an Anglican Covenant, as quickly as possible.

    On the other hand, some American and Canadian bishops have expressed unease about any process for developing an Anglican Covenant, while being very supportive of a Lambeth Conference that lives within its historical self-understanding. And many who are willing to consider the Windsor Process and development of an Anglican Covenant are uneasy about efforts at haste in that process to rush to a conclusion, and especially a result as close as possible to the St. Andrew’s Draft.

    In fact we will need to wait and see what the letter says and who receives it. But the different statements from the Advent letter and BIshop Wright’s paper are certainly not equivalent.

  • drdanfee says:

    Viewed from a more narrowly strategic frame, Bishop Wright’s remarks at Fulcrum might be seen as same-old, same-old conservative evangelical campaigning. Get to defining the frame categorically, presuppositionally – first – before anybody else gets there – and according to the conservative realignment play book you have already won the whole game.

    That Lambeth or much else among us in church life should be presumed to be a winner takes all game is itself indicative of conservative realignment campaigning.

    Suddenly shared Anglican spaces and places, both real and symbolic, belong only to the most conservative belivers with whom everybody else used to freely share them. If the deed cannot be exclusively granted to conservative believers, then no deed is indeed possible according to their theologies, and they can paint themselves as a sad but conscientious minority now attacked for being righteous enough to attack and insult any and all queer folks on the planet, everywhere.

    Whether this orchestrates violence of any sort directly, well that can be debated. But it does a clear sort of violence to those of the rest of us who as this or that sort of non-conservative believer were previously franchised and welcomed as Anglicans, and now are not, thanks to the ways the whole realignment covenant is being pitched.

    Rowan is slowly but surely helping to covenant a narrower space within which his own complicated habits of reflection, investigation, and provisional discernment will be unlikely, if not formally covenanted out of bounds. An odd way of leading to the new Anglicanism, then.

    Alas. A comment on the Pluralist blog says it all: Well these folks are going to make a right mess of it all, and then the rest of us will just have to come along and try to clean it up.


    This was a curious reading of the Archbishop’s Advent Letter, as Simon Sarmiento has pointed out. But now we have this from Jim Rosenthal of the Anglican Communion Office: “No additional letters have been sent to anyone at this point.”

  • Pluralist says:

    A comment to my blog says that the Anglican Communion office denies that any letters have gone out. So it could be that Tom Wright’s titbit of information to the gathered faithful is wishful thinking. If he likes to give a hefty pat on the back to his friend the Archbishop (ie to encourage him to get on with it) it explains more about him than it does about the process, or at least the corrupting nature of this process.

  • Martin Reynolds says:

    When the Advent letter was eventually published after a couple of false starts I expressed the belief here on TA that Blessed Tom’s hectoring stamp was all over the document – particularly this quoted section – now it seems that he wants everyone to KNOW he wrote it AND the one now in the post and how influential he has become. Such are the ways of men!

    Young Tom would appear to have convinced Rowan that just keeping everyone at the table has proved to be a disaster and now its time to get a firm grip and knock heads together and show we mean business …… You will know the sort of thing I mean … Rowan (poor lad) has fallen for this bullish line.

    If I were a recipient of this new letter this is what I might reply: (SEE NEXT POST)

  • Martin Reynolds says:

    Dearest Rowan

    Thanks for the recent letter, it has been so long since we last spoke and the ground beneath your feet seems to have shifted seismically in recent years, it is hard to keep up with the stream of unfortunate mishaps that seem to have overtaken you since you came to office yet alone the radical departure from your previously held views.

    You are quite right to suspect that I think the Windsor Report and the proposed Covenant are just a little short of a total disaster. It would indeed be hard for me to turn up at Lambeth wanting to support them when I think they have done so much damage and have now become part of the problem rather than offering a solution to the problems some have.

    I did find paragraph 146 of the Windsor Report helpful for it reminds us that “One of the deepest realities that the Communion faces is continuing difference on the presenting issue of ministry by and to persons who openly engage in sexually active homosexual relationships” and that “it has to be recognised that debate on this issue cannot be closed whilst sincerely but radically different positions continue to be held across the Communion”. It is those who refuse to accept that these difference should continue or even that they are “sincere” that now challenge the continued life of the Communion.

    In that context I find your letter puzzling, I am willing to live with the present diversity, I believe that the Communion we have is something of God and am willing to work hard to find other ways through our present difficulties.

    I believe the Windsor Process (including the Covenant) has already failed, like resolution 1.10 from the 1998 Lambeth Conference it has helped to further divide us and we need to accept this and move on. I look forward to hearing from you if my presence is still requested at Lambeth 2008.

    Beryl and the kids send their love.

    As ever


  • poppy tupper says:


    sorry to be picky, but there is a typo in your post. you write:

    Young Tom would appear to have convinced Rowan that just keeping everyone at the table has proved to be a disaster and now its time to get a firm grip and knock heads together and show we mean business …… You will know the sort of thing I mean … Rowan (poor lad) has fallen for this bullish line.

    when you clearly mean:

    Young Tom would appear to have convinced Rowan that just keeping everyone at the table has proved to be a disaster and now its time to get a firm grip and knock heads together and show we mean business …… You will know the sort of thing I mean … Rowan (poor lad) has fallen for this bullshit line.

    love, poppy x

  • JCF says:

    “the awful situation that many of our American and Canadian friends have found themselves in, vilified, attacked and undermined by ecclesiastical authority figures who seem to have lost all grip on the gospel of Jesus Christ”

    Yes, for LGBT Anglicans and their allies in reasserter US/Canadian dioceses—nevermind LGBT Anglicans in much of the rest of the world—this is indeed the “awful situation” they find themselves in (and/or getting the cr*p beat out of them, too)

    Lord have mercy!

  • ruidh says:

    But now we have this from Jim Rosenthal of the Anglican Communion Office: “No additional letters have been sent to anyone at this point.”

    That’s potentially troublesome. I was hoping that Bp. Schofield would have received a missive by now.

  • Robert Ian Williams says:

    Just read that those unsympathetic to Windsor are to be asked not to attend Lambeth. This can’t be right , can it? Surely the Covenant should be debated freely and not imposed on a
    “packed” Conference?

    Is Bishop Wright the puppet master of Rowan Williams?

    Do they honestly think that this will pull the carpet from under the feet of the GAFCONITES?

    Do they honestly think that they can win the day by such tactics…surely the reporting must be wrong?

  • JCF says:

    +Tom Wright blathering? Say it ain’t so! 😉

  • And there is another comment about this at the Modern Churchpeople’s Union blog, by Paul Bagshaw

  • Pluralist says:

    As aspect of the Tom Wright lecture is an internal confusion (or at least it seems so to me). Early on his reference to super-apostles seems to be about The Episcopal Church leadership, but in later making a reference to a super-gathering (GAFCON) there has been a shift in terminology. It is not clear at all but many evangelicals are assuming that by super-apostles he refers to the GAFCON leaders, which then means they are not cross and resurrection, and therefore Gnostic in the sense that Michael Poon accused GAFCON. Wright says that Paul had his living out of that crucifixion resurrection experience (how do we achieve that then, and fail to achieve that then?), and obviously he and Fulcrum and the Archbishop are allied with Paul, whereas to the left and right of them they are all in error. That’s politics for you.

  • Charlotte says:

    While everyone is focused on the invitation list, I’d like, if I may, to call attention to several other worrying features of Bishop Wright’s speech:

    1) the offhand use of a historically very loaded word, “usury,” with reference to home mortgages: “normal Western usury, a phenomenon heavy with multiple ironies granted our own scriptures.”
    2) the disparaging reference to “the supposed Olympic ideal of global peace and fraternity, itself of course a kind of pseudo- or semi-religious post-Enlightenment construct.”
    3) the claim that, if a local government official opposes something Bishop Wright wants to do, it is because he is in league with Satan: “[when] as happened last month in my patch, a local councillor wanting to make a reputation launches a planning objection to a major evangelistic initiative, we can be sure that God is indeed wanting to take something new forwards, and that the problems are there both as a sign that the [principalities and] powers know they are being challenged.”
    4) the casual acceptance of several of the Scriptures’ more troubling episodes of genocide: “Before you get to cross the Jordan you have to do battle not only with Amalek but with Og the king of Basan and Sihon king of the Amorites.”
    5) And, finally, the suggestion in the following sentence that genocide may not be enough. It is not enough to wipe out one’s (human) enemies; one must also, apparently, wipe out their ideas. +Wright calls for Christians – his kind of Christians — to put on their heavy boots, their Doc Martens, their gob-stompers, to deal with their opponents in the Church.

    I understand that Fulcrum is regarded as the more moderate evangelical organization in Great Britain. That is truly frightening. What is even more frightening is that this sort of rhetoric — which is, historically, and without exaggeration, Fascistic — passes without comment, even on this site.

  • Pluralist says:

    More on this super-apostles confusion (explanation too long for here) and also the absence of letters going out:

  • Cheryl Va. says:

    Thanks for the chuckles Martin and Poppy.

    Charlotte, I share your concerns about the rhetoric.

    One of things that bemused me was the recognition of the wonderful opportunities that have opened up, but then the desire to attempt to reign and channel where and how that grace will be meted out. They fought against this open unconditional inclusive theology (as long term TA subscribers can verify, quite nastily on many occasions). Now they want to be seen as in control of a fire that not only they didn’t start but they did everything in their powers to quench?

    Recriminations and accusations, e.g. against GLBTs or women, are burdens. See Jeremiah 17:27: those who do not keep the Sabbath holy and continue to place burdens upon others on the Sabbath kindle the unquenchable fire, that burns up the chaff (Mathew 3:12 or Luke 3:17).

    Isaiah 37:22-34 ““The Virgin Daughter of Zion despises and mocks you. The Daughter of Jerusalem tosses her head as you flee. Who is it you have insulted and blasphemed? Against whom have you raised your voice and lifted your eyes in pride? Against the Holy One of Israel! By your messengers you have heaped insults on the Lord… Have you not heard? Long ago I ordained it. In days of old I planned it; now I have brought it to pass, that you have turned fortified cities into piles of stone. Their people, drained of power, are dismayed and put to shame. They are like plants in the field, like tender green shoots, like grass sprouting on the roof, scorched before it grows up. But I know where you stay and when you come and go and how you rage against me. Because you rage against me and because your insolence has reached my ears, I will put my hook in your nose and my bit in your mouth, and I will make you return by the way you came… Once more a remnant of the house of Judah will take root below and bear fruit above. For out of Jerusalem will come a remnant, and out of Mount Zion a band of survivors. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.”

  • Lois Keen says:

    Good work, Charlotte. It’s just bone idleness on my part – I skim a lot of stuff, there’s so much of it. Yes, Tom Wright scares me, especially the at least appearance of the necessity of genocide, both physical and spiritual (wiping out ideas). This is not Anglican Christianity as I was taught it.

  • JCF says:

    Outstanding analysis, Charlotte: thank you!

  • Pluralist says:

    That aggression is there in Andrew Goddard’s piece too, the comparisons of an honest gay bishop with Nazis and Apartheid. I admit I glossed over the aggression rather because I refer to him “chucking his weight about” which is a shorthand for the stance of him always ‘taking them on’.

    Well BabyBlueOnline is happy to state that the operative word is *yet*

    _When Ruth pressed her further, he reiterated the point in a second e-mail_

    Implying that there are letters to go whereas I state that Ed Greenhall (her? I don’t know him/ her) emailed again and changed his position:

    _As for when and whether they will be, we are not in a position to say.’_

    To me the operative words are when and whether.

  • Ben W says:


    Is it that hard to read in context? The very idea that Wright suggested genocide! I do not consider this worhty of a full response. Or that he literally identifies his opponents with Satan (he does think in terms of structures of power – principalites and authorities as in Rom 13 – that represent distortions of human order and life).

    I am surprised that on this list this passes for “analysis” (I think this is the kind of instance in which there is serious misrepresentation and and we need to hear from the list sponsor on it). He does encourage Christians to find their voice and speak up in accord with their convictions.

    Once more we have stuff thrown up that confuses and builds walls of misunderstanding. Anyone who has seriously read Wright knows that he has been clear and articulate in opposition to the Iraq war and calls for Christians to follow Jesus’ way of peace in dealing with enemies. He calls for suffering in the face of violence rather than inflicting it on others! I invite anyone who has read him at all closely to say otherwise on the basis of real evidence. So what is really behind this stirring up of venom against the bishop?

    Ben W

  • John Omani says:

    Excellent analysis Charlotte.

    I would add that another disturbing feature is Wright’s crusade to reunite the Church and politics, and it this respect he is pursuing an agenda very similar to Rowan Williams’ own in trying to increase the influence of faith groups on political decision making. In practice, it is the conservative religious voices that shout the loudest, and whose influence Wright would increase.

    Unfortunately, Wright’s arguments are built on shaky foundations. In his writings, Wright fundamentally misunderstands Enlightenment thought, shockingly so as a scholar who is supposed to be sensitive to history and historical processes. In spite of his stated contempt for Dawkins, he associates Enlightenment with militant atheism in the same manner as the Professor, when the thrust of most thinking of the period was anti-clerical rather than anti-religious (perhaps it is this that Wright finds so irritating!). Wright is plain wrong to make the separation of God and the world central to Enlightenment thought: this may be have been true of epicureans, but most thinkers, including many radicals such as Spinoza, were profoundly interested in natural theology, and the way in which God interacted (or was conterminous) with nature.

    Ben W – I wonder whether it is you who is not taking Wright’s scriptural comments seriously. Wright’s ‘suggestive analogy’, as he calls it, with one of the most genocidal episodes in the Bible is straightforward – after all, he describes these struggles as ‘where we are right now’. Obviously this analogy functions in the context of ‘tumultous troubles’ of a spiritual kind, but it well demonstrates this bishop’s deeply reactionary attitude towards his opponents. And Wright’s reference to the temptations of Balaam is equally clear as a complaint about sexual immorality in the church – as Wright knows full well this was the sin that the Book of Revelation tells us was laid before the Israelites by Balak.
    (N.B. Wright’s claims only make sense if he is referring to Balak, son of Zippur, not Barak the Israelite general as Wright mistakenly has written).

  • Ben W says:

    John O,

    I have just reread Wright’s piece. I think the best answer is for you to read it again as well as others reading this stuff that goes under “analysis” to read the piece itself!

    One does not have to read him without context, he has written at great length on various subjects including a front-rank commentary on Romans (Interpreters Bible Commentary). There is no excuse in light of his work out in the public domain for these wild charges against him! (They amount to either unthinking falsification or outright slander).

    On the Enlightenment, he would at least in part agree with you (read his first main volume, The People of God). It was virulent anti-clericalism at some points, but the turn to and then simple confidence in human reason, which then for many became the exclusion of faith, and speaking in general became deistic and then also militantly atheistic (e.g. the French Revolution – that you choose blithely to ignore). He is speaking to the point here and not providing a precise history.

    On Wright’s scriptural comments, he is thinking about the difficult terrain that the AC still has to negotiate to get to and through Lambeth to a place where differences can be constructively dealt with. There is opposition to deal with and a call to faithful perseverance. It is certainly not about some enemies that need to be destroyed. Read the whole thing!

    Ben W

  • John Omani says:

    Ben W,

    No, this will not do. I am sure Charlotte is as competent a reader as I am – Wright’s lecture speaks for itself. The claim that one has to digest the corpus of Wright’s works in order to understand his speech is preposterous, and almost certainly not one that he would accept. Similar diversionary and arrogant tactics were used by Rowan Williams’ acolytes after his Sharia lecture shambles: in that case his intelligent critics called out such smokescreens for what they were.

    The ‘wild’ charges are nothing of the sort, as I have already explained, but analogies and arguments used by Wright in the speech to make his point. I assume that you are not denying that Wright is using examples of slaughter, in his words to ‘draw a generalised, though I hope suggestive, analogy’. Wright is a canny enough scholar of the Bible to choose his references with considerable care. Neither is it hard to discern who Wright thinks are the ‘enslaving principalities and powers’ in the present context, or what he means when he wishes to create a church ‘with no room for unholiness’. There clearly are enemies to be faced down in Wright’s perspective, not through the sword perhaps, but with other means.

    I am glad to learn that elsewhere Wright has a more considered perspective on enlightenment thought, even if the trajectory you claim he is presenting is grossly simplistic and inaccurate. The appeal to human reason was more often than not used by clerics and theists (particularly in England) to argue forcefully in favour of divine providence and God’s sovereignty over the world. Epicurean sceptics, on the other hand (Hume and Diderot, for example), generally the most forcefully agnostic, were actually extremely critical of such confidence in the powers of reason.

    Finally, I am glad you raised the French Revolution, an issue I may have bypassed but not blithely, any more than I did the American Revolution. You fall for the trap, propagated by many clerics, of seeing its worst excesses as the culmination of ‘enlightenment’ which you (mis)characterise as misguided faith in human reason. I would draw your attention to the way in which its initial progressive stage was supported and guided by many enlightened clerics, and the way in which many of the Jacobins who later directed the terror were properly counter-enlightenment in their thinking (hence their enthusiasm for Rousseau, who would have agreed with you that rational progress undermines morality).

  • Ben W says:

    John O,

    Talk about “smokescreens!” There is lot of huff and guff here but very little light.

    If you begin by reading closely what I wrote it is clear at the outset, the point is not that you have to read all of Wright to understand this piece – rather, there is no excuse for wild charges when there is a large context for what he is saying. (I suppose this kind of thing is what we must expect – after all even Jesus’ work was interpreted as “of the devil”).

    Ben W

  • Ben W wrote: “He is speaking to the point here and not providing a precise history.”

    How, pray, does one “speak to the point” without being “precise” in ones description of History and Herstory?

    Mustn’t one get the facts right first??

    How can you even construct such a thing???

    But in the World of Ideas spin and lies do not count; = )

  • Ben W says:


    There you go again, you can only see “spin and lies.” Could it have something to do with the glasses you are wearing?

    My statement was simply to say that he was speaking to the point in the present situation, not trying to give us a stage by stage account of how the Enlightenment developed (with its various aspects). Clear enough and straightforward to me and I think to most people who seek to understand.

    Ben W

  • Ben W wrote: “Could it have something to do with the glasses you are wearing?”

    Without my spectacles I would be quite helpless.

    (you didn’t guess that, did you?

  • Ben and Goran
    Please desist from further trading of personal remarks here. Thanks.

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