on Saturday, 2 January 2021 at 11.00 am by Peter Owen
categorised as Opinion
Stephen Parsons Surviving Church Current Affairs – Power Games and Conflicts of Interest at Christ Church Oxford part 1
Editorial in The Guardian The Guardian view on liberal Christians: is this their moment?
“The election of practising Catholic Joe Biden is just one reason for religious progressives to be hopeful”
Survivng Church Current Affairs – Power Games and Conflicts of Interest at Christ Church Oxford part 2 – Stephen Parsons Comment by Rowland Wateridge: “Greater minds than mine have also been taxed by the conundrum that the Crown is the Visitor of both the College and the Cathedral, and not the Bishop of Oxford of the latter. So far as I am aware, the Crown has not intervened or been asked to” As a lesser mind, I think the intervention of Her Majesty The Queen as Supreme Governor of the Church of England might well be the only way to put an… Read more »
Richard: I am only able to comment, I hope impartially, from the sidelines. I have no connection with Christ Church – or Oxford. I have only known two alumni of Christ Church – both musicians and very distinguished ones.
This extraordinary saga has detracted from the fact that academically Christ Church has an outstanding reputation and history.
Indeed RW, Christ Church Oxford has an “outstanding reputation and history” – for example, in 1910, a young George Bell was appointed Student Minister and Lecturer at the College – and there is a memorial to him in the Cathedral.
All those concerned – including myself as ‘an outsider’ – would do well to read, and act upon, the inscription on the memorial:
“No nation, no church, no individual is guiltless without repentance – and without forgiveness there can be no regeneration”
This could be one reason why the Very Revd Professor Martyn Percy has ‘ruffled angel feathers’ within the highest echelons of power within the Church of England – and beyond:
To call Mr Biden a ‘progressive’ is to stretch the concept of progressivism to a possibly problematic degree. He is a *Delaware* Democrat: in other words, he is of the centre-right, and his entire training and work in the Senate was devoted to advancing the cause of the du Pont family and the plethora of corporate interests who infest that state (having Biden in the White House is not altogether unlike having Juncker – the tribune of another tax haven – in Berlaymont). Biden also worked his way up the hierarchy of the Democratic Senate caucus during the 1970s by… Read more »
The Guardian suggests there is hope for progressive Christians with Mr Biden’s election. It does not describe the President-elect as “progressive”. Cardinal Pell’s claim that Trump is “our barbarian” shows the contrast between conservative and liberal Catholics, of which Mr Biden is one. Clearly, religion is used by politicians of whatever political hue, and can be used to justify any extremist – or liberal – policy. The sight of a bible-wielding President surrounded by teargas outside an Episcopal Church may have angered liberal members of TEC. But many Christians saw a god-fearing patron of evangelical values prepared to use violence… Read more »
Many thanks, and fair enough: I agree with you. I noted the by-line, but also the use of the word ‘liberal’ as a synonym for ‘progressive’, as has invariably been the case in the US for a number of years, and as suggested here: “This relationship [between Biden and the papacy] could constitute an important new axis of liberal influence in the west.” The Vatican’s goals are the advancement of policies respecting abortion which would be construed by many in the US as reactionary, and are ‘liberal’ with respect to economic redistribution or migration in a manner which would be… Read more »
Much as I value Froghole’s contributions, the delving into arcane US history at this point doesn’t help. Biden won the votes of many Americans exactly because he was not Trump. The old adage that ‘oppositions don’t win elections : governments lose them rings true here. US Christian friends I know voted for Biden as the lesser worst choice. Just as in the UK, the progressive (Left) has to make common cause with moderate centrists to win any election. This was the failure of Jeremy Corbyn (an objective view, not a party political statement). The problem with the progressive left in… Read more »
Many thanks as ever, and apologies for the arcana. However, it seems to me that – to invert a famous aphorism of E. A. Freeman – in the US past politics is often present history. I agree that Trump lost rather than Biden won. Yet I also feel that in a year in which the numbers of unemployed and underemployed people went within days from a significant low to one of the highest rates ever, a more progressive response was sorely needed. There is now a large school of thought which holds that FDR did not relieve the Great Depression… Read more »
Let the record show that I am entirely in agreement with FrDavidH on this one. And by the way, I think that on US election night, the most relieved politician in North America was probably Canada’s Liberal PM.
“Since Trump self-immolated…”. I believe Trump turned out 5M more voters in 2020 than 2016. The change was Obama voters who stayed home in 2016, but turned out in 2020. That made the difference for Joe Biden. Your evaluation of Biden assumes that his track record is his present self. But Biden loves to morph, depending on the need. Does he have core values that you identify and that generate your negative appraisal? I find that a difficult question to answer given his age and his general health. It will take some time, I believe, to know better who is… Read more »
Trump didn’t send troops to fight in any war, is a strong friend of Israel for all that country’s faults and naively or other wise engaged with North Korea. I am not pro Trump but also despair that the alternative is 78 years old. That isn’t meant to be ageist. It will be interesting to see how Biden deals with Russia, China, Iran. At least he can still attend Mass in person on a Sunday and receive the sacrament.
I despair that Pope Francis, who heads Mr Biden’s Church is 84 years old. Like Michael, I’m not being ageist in accusing these men of being ancient.
We are in for a very odd four years, that is for sure. 78 is old and Biden was never a sharp mental study. He is clearly declining physically and mentally. His best allies would concede that. He tends to default to anger when he gets confused. The danger is that the last man/woman out of the meeting is the one who gets what he/she wants. The EU is not what it was when he was VP. China is a major factor. Iran is an ever-present danger. The stock market grew about 13% last year, despite a pandemic. I believe… Read more »
“Trump didn’t send troops to fight in any war,”
He didn’t need to. He railed against lockdowns, masks, vaccination and medical treatment. Covid has in less than a year killed approximately six times as many Americans as Vietnam did in twenty, with no end in sight.
If your views about the Democratic Party were correct it would not explain why Hillary Clinton had 3 million more votes than Donald Trump in 2016.
And Froghole, if the Guardian is a ‘geyser of tosh’ what on earth does that make Fox News, or The (London) Times?
I agree; if the Guardian is a geyser of tosh, the Murdoch press is a Niagara of tosh. It is thanks to William Rees-Mogg, Denis Hamilton and Edward Pickering’s falling for Murdoch’s blandishments once Ken Thomson threw in the towel in 1981 that the UK now has no newspaper of record (though some would say that it started its slide when the Astors sold it to Roy Thomson in 1966). The dirty digger ruins everything he acquires with his anti-Midas touch. No single man has done more to degrade the quality of public life in the UK. And what is… Read more »
Froghole I think your assessment of the current Times is a bit harsh. I have been a subscriber for 20 years. I know the Times is not perfect but I think it is quite broad. I have always read anything by Patrick Kidd first, long before I knew that he is a practising Anglican and currently churchwarden of All Saints Blackheath. Some journalists I never read as their views are not good for the blood pressure. Others write such well argued pieces, such as Max Hastings and Ben McIntyre. Barrington-Ward (died 1948) was the father of Simon, late bishop of… Read more »
Point taken, Michael. I am indeed somewhat prejudiced based upon the weeks, if not months, of my life spent (or wasted) in the Times Room in the London Library or on the Times Digital Archive, NewsVault or Infotrac Newspapers. It seemed to me that the big qualitative lunge occurred gradually under Peter Stodhart and then decisively under Robert Thomson: at that time the paper would routinely congratulate itself about the quality of its output in order to mollify increasingly disconcerted and discontented subscribers. I suppose that there has been some stabilisation under James Harding and John Witherow. Of course, this… Read more »
Agreed. Sadly, one Churchwarden, Patrick Kidd, has been pushed off the political sketch in favour of another, Quentin Letts. A mass goer sacrificed to 1950s Matins, and an example of how the Thunderer bends with the (in this case, Brexit) wind.
Correction to my previous post. Trump national vote in 2016: 63M. In 2020: 74M. Largest tally ever (by a long way) for a losing candidate.
You must surely agree that the huge number of Americans who voted for Trump is a cause for national shame and international embarrassment.
You apparently didn’t read my comment. Vast hoards of people just refuse (in a two-party system unlike the UK and Canada) to support a democratic party with a 78 year old lifelong politician with a checkered history, an unstable ‘progressive’ and ‘rust-belt’ alliance that is already fracturing, and a manifestly corrupt political class. Feinstein and Pelosi are both in their eighties. Their addiction to lobbyists is award-winning. Hunter Biden has complained publicly that it was his family role to pay bills and help further the lifestyle of the democratic rich and famous. “You must surely agree” that providing checks for… Read more »
Voting was one of the few events not cancelled in 2020 so perhaps not surprising that a lot of people voted who don’t normally vote
Kate voting was not cancelled in 2020 in the USA but it was cancelled in the UK. I dread, but expect, all elections in May 2021 in England to be cancelled. The UK is quick to call out other countries where there is a deficiency in democracy, even to invade them (Iraq, Libya). The lack of parliamentary scrutiny in the UK parliament is very worrying but that is what happens when there is such a large majority for one side. I am sure there will be elections in Scotland in May as Nicola Sturgeon has the momentum and is well… Read more »
Wasn’t cancelled and for the first time for the bulk of the states, conducted via myriads of different means.
Biden won 81,293,098 votes – the first US presidential candidate ever to win more than 80 million. It was an exceptionally high turnout, despite efforts to disenfranchise many Native and black voters who were expected to vote for Biden and Harris. There were efforts also to interfere with the postal voting system.
Janet: there are fifty states. Each has a different set of rules for voting procedures. All were facing a new reality: Covid. Democrats had long warned of the dangers of voting by mail. Now the tables were turned. In some states ballots were mailed out without anyone requesting them. In others, the system for cross checking early in-person voting with mail-in was not well administered (I voted in SC in person, but also received a requested mail in ballot, given confusion over the polling places and the virulence of covid county-by-county). In others, required legislative approval was simply dispensed with… Read more »
Very many thanks, ACI. You are probably right about Biden’s pliability, and he would not have been alone amongst southern politicians in adjusting his electoral strategies as time passed (I use the word ‘southern’ because, as you know, Delaware was an erstwhile slave state). I believe that Trump ‘self-immolated’ because in February and March he was thought to be on course for victory. He might have remained as such but for behaviour in response to the virus which was eccentric and disturbing, even by his unique standards. I also agree with other comments that many middle class whites (often erstwhile… Read more »
You may see the groups you mention as ‘abused’ but that would imply they were ignorant in voting for the incumbent. These ‘minorities’ had the lowest unemployment figures ever. I’d prefer to think they knew exactly what they were doing. The incoming republican House reps are the most diverse ever. Many Blacks decided the democrats were just using them and presupposing their support, with a knowing smile. Urban America is a mess, awash with gun crime and unemployment, all under democratic leadership. Here your painful historical lesson re: Biden is correct.
The rehashing of the U.S. election campaign on this thread reminds me of that great Monty Python sketch, ‘The Batley Townswomen Guild presents the Battle of Pearl Harbour’.
Knowing as I do some women of the urban West Riding of Yorkshire (I have nowt to do with new fangled “counties” of the 1970s) I confidently assert that there would be no better group to present the Battle of Pearl Harbour than the Batley Townswomen’s Guild.
For once we agree! I lived, worked, paid taxes (and draw a paltry state pension) in the UK, ten years. Ditto Canada, now 14 years. The differences and particularities come into sharp relief, compared with the US. UK has a fifth of the population, and could fit times 3 in Texas alone. Our system of government was unique for its time, and remains largely so, given our 50 states, each with state flag, song, license plate, bird, taxes, voting system, and sports league. I would be loathe to comment on the politics of the UK or Canada, Germany or France… Read more »
Please allow me the momentary pleasure to imagine myself to be Bob Woodward or Ben Affleck
Editorial comment: We linked to the Guardian article as an interesting piece on “religious progressives”. Although we ourselves are well able to join in a discussion of US politics, and have no wish to stifle reasonable and legitimate debate, this is not really the place for it, and in general we won’t approve further comments on this post that are solely about US politics. Comment on other aspects of the Guardian article is welcome. (And yes, I get that Christianity is a political religion, but you all know what I mean, I’m sure.)
Thank you, Mr Kershaw. I must apologise to you, ACI and others for having pushed the thread in a completely wrong direction.
I always benefit from your comments and take them as well-informed and intentioned. There is a healthy back and forth. May your tribe increase.
I’m with ACI. Don’t apologise Froghole. It’s been most informative and a pleasant change from inward looking other stuff. Enlargissez Dieu wrote Diderot, indeed Enlargissez tout.
No need to apologise, Froghole. It’s a tempting direction to debate! But we have a specific role at TA, whereas there are plenty of places to discuss US politics. Maybe another time!
Very many thanks indeed for that, Mr Kershaw (and also many thanks to Professors ACI and Monkhouse for their characteristically kind remarks; I very much appreciate the excellent diversity of opinion they bring to this site). What I ought to have written – in a far less wordy manner – is that it seems likely that any affiliation between the new administration and Christian progressives seems fated to be transient, because the interests of the two sides scarcely align. However, I hope I am proven wrong. I do not doubt Mr Biden’s piety and, up to a point, his personal… Read more »
For this observer from an overseas province of the A.C., (ACANZP), the obviously obscene amount of money being spent on this relentless pursuit of the character- asassination of Dean Percy seems excessive in the extreme.The following pericope from Stephen Parsons’ excellent report should alert all members of the Church of England to the manifest injustice being carried out within (and by) the institution: “The setting up of a weaponised Core Group against the Dean earlier this year (the second persecution) can be interpreted as an act of harassment and aggression against Dean Percy. But, whoever in the firm was advising the… Read more »
Father Ron: There are no grounds for criticism of the reputation of the University of Oxford, and it’s a matter for regret that people, also in this country, are wrongly making such a connection. (I am not here making any comment about the Church, or about lawyers employed by the Church or Christ Church.) Buried in the many comments under Stephen Parsons’ Part 2 account about Christ Church are detailed explanations of the unique status of both college and Cathedral. Suffice to say that whilst it is understandable for people to associate these matters with the University, the reality is… Read more »
Given that one of Stephen Parsons’ consistent themes is uncovering networks of power and influence that operate outside formal structures, let’s not be naive in that direction when we consider the relationship between Christ Church and the University. Legally, Christ Church is autonomous. In practice, there are numerous ways the University could bring pressure on the College if it cared to. Given the brazen disregard by the anti-Percy faction of how their behaviour looks and the consequences it has, it is, of course, quite possible that they would brazen out University pressure too; but I’m not aware that the University… Read more »
I’m not sure how to respond to a suggestion of naïvety (I’m sure no offence was intended), but the final part of your very final sentence seems to bear out my point.
If Oxford University has not sought to apply pressure on Christ Church to moderate its terrible treatment of Martyn, that does bear strongly on Oxford’s reputation. And not for the better. Other college heads could speak out, as Prof. Linda Woodhead as suggested. Levers can be pulled. A university that could tolerate such behaviour by one of its colleges is diminished..
How do ‘we’ know that hasn’t happened already, and, as John S speculated, been ignored? Assumptions abound in these comments. My purpose in writing was to explain the factual legal independence of Christ Church for the benefit of people who were not aware of it.
If the university has been applying pressure behind the scenes, I think there’s a fair chance we’d have heard about it, given how many people are digging around. But I agree we can’t be certain of that. So it’s possible that the university have been applying discreet pressure which the anti-Percy faction have ignored. In that case, I consider the university have failed their responsibilities by not escalating their pressure to more public measures. I speculate it is more likely the university have decided “we can’t take sides”. In a case of savage and sustained bullying like this, that position… Read more »
Please see my reply to Sam Jones below. I fully accept that the University has suffered from adverse publicity in this matter, but not of its own making.
Agreed, the University Vice-Chancellor and the Bishop of Oxford should be banging heads together to ensure Christ Church agrees a settlement with Martyn Percy.
With respect, you really should read all of the background before making a comment like this. Martyn Percy currently faces a CDM authorised by the Bishop of Oxford. There is also an outstanding claim in the Employment Tribunal between Martyn Percy and the college. The Vice-Chancellor would be unlikely to intervene without having powers, even if he was minded to, when there are legal processes pending and given the fact that the Crown is the Visitor of both the college and the Cathedral.
“She” actually not “he” – but that makes no difference to the validity or otherwise of your argument. I debated whether it was even helpful to point this out, but given that I am currently being critical of the university, it seems only fair to acknowledge that they have made some moves in the direction of modernisation, inclusion, and so forth. Perhaps it’s because they have tried quite hard to become a more modern organisation that I am so disappointed that they apparently feel unable to do anything about a case of bullying and abuse of power. While we’re talking… Read more »
RW, at what point does an effective intervention come to this on-going injustice – when ‘enough is enough’? After the CDM ruling? After the Employment Tribunal? After the Queen’s ‘visit’? ‘Waiting for Godot’ comes to mind.
Richard and John S: I don’t know why I am being subjected to this barrage. I merely explained to Father Ron that Christ Church ‘enjoys’ self-governing independence and that it was wrong for the University to be getting all the flak from people (including some of the British press) who clearly don’t know that fact. John S: I’m out of date, thinking Chris Patten was still Vice-Chancellor. But my contention holds good: “she” has no authority and matters are sub judice. As far as I can tell, the next step is what the Bishop of Birmingham decides in the CDM,… Read more »
Professor Louise Richardson is vice-chancellor of the university. Chris Patten (Lord Patten of Barnes, CH) is (still) the Chancellor.
The ongoing persecution of Martyn Percy ought to concern us all. As I understand it, he has been placed under a set of restrictions which might be considered excessive if he had already been found guilty. For instance, he has been forbidden to meet his own 27-year-old (non-vulnerable) son without supervision, on pain of being found in breach of his terms of employment. But he has not been found guilty. The police investigated and found no reason to proceed with the case; the Oxford DSA was asked for advice and did not consider Martyn a safeguarding risk; no expert with… Read more »
There is a dangerous, corrupting wilful pride and a pathological moral inability to admit wrong-doing by a powerful cabal within the Church of England – and beyond it:
All concerned would do well to read a memorial altar inscription in Christ Church Cathedral