Comments: Richard Turnbull speaks to Reform

Indeed interesting. I watched approximately the first half and made these notes:

He's worried about "identity as evangelicals";
He's into "supreme authority of scripture for all matters of life and faith";
He's into "substitutionary atonement" and "need for a personal relationship with a personal God" and `a commitment to bringing the Gospel to those who do not know Jesus' as being "defining marks" of being an evangelical;
He thinks 95% the country are "facing hell unless the message of the Gospel is brought to bear".

More pertinently, he cautions strongly against a catholic understanding of the church, linking this in against evangelical identity.
He views his appointment at Wycliffe as "strategic".
He talks about "liberals" "capturing" theological colleges, and the "challenge that liberalism brings to the church at large", and he warns against the "nature of liberalism within our own midst".

My further thoughts on this are that concern over "identity" was recently included in a definition of fundamentalism in some telly show, which shows which way he's leaning; and that he, in a slightly confused/confusing manner, thinks of liberals as "other" in an implicitly derogatory FUD-spreading manner.

Can't say this narrow-mindedness and agenda strikes *me* as desirable in the head of any theological college.

Posted by Tim at Wednesday, 23 May 2007 at 4:28pm BST

He doesn't half fancy himself, doesn't he? ("2+4 evangelical colleges" and so on)

Posted by Justin Lewis-Anthony at Wednesday, 23 May 2007 at 4:34pm BST

It really does show very clearly how important it is that the church splits and that conservative evangelicals are shown the way to Nigeria.

Their ideas must always be challenged and it is simply not possible to be in communion with them.

Posted by Merseymike at Wednesday, 23 May 2007 at 5:58pm BST

guys. guys, it's another nasty liberal plot, concocted by Giles Fraser and Stephen Bates: Years ago, in a secret ceremony held in the staff canteen at the Guardian, Turnbull agreed to act as a 'sleeper' within the ConsEv movement, to be wheeled out as instant embarrassment as soon as the liberal ascendancy was threatened. By re-establishing the connection between 'evangelical' and 'nasty party' he denies the evangelical faith the rehabilitation it has so long been seeking in the public mind.

Posted by mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) at Wednesday, 23 May 2007 at 6:33pm BST

It would be interesting to hear more about a constructive ecclesiology - and how the Anglican embracing of 'the historic episcopate' affirmed in the Chicago-Lambeth quadrilateral takes its place within the strand of thinking represented in this piece.

(The Quadrilateral also includes the scriptures - which got a mention, and sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion, and the Nicene and Apostles Creeds - which did not).

Ecclesiology is very important just now, and given the comments on misreading history it would also be pertinent to hear about how Richard Turnbull reads the ecclesiology of the Elizabethan Settlement. Does this, in his view, need to be renegotiated? Significant here is also the implicit ecclesiology of events like the Savoy Conference - it was not every view which got comprehended in the outcome of that, and significant numbers left.

Posted by Mark Bennet at Wednesday, 23 May 2007 at 7:02pm BST

He made some salient points about the state of the C of E's finances. But then he's an accountant, so he knows his stuff.

I wondered how he'd calculated that 95% of the UK population are going to hell. Perhaps he's God's statistician too.

Posted by Hugh of Lincoln at Wednesday, 23 May 2007 at 7:06pm BST

LOL! David ...... I enjoyed that!

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Wednesday, 23 May 2007 at 7:15pm BST

I'm only a stupid Yank, but I listened carefully for the slightest shred of recognizable Anglicanism or of serious intellectual vigor, and I heard neither.

I realized the what I heard could quite easily be an address to a gathering of rather poorly-educated Southern Baptist ministers.

Is there any intellectual vigor at all in the Evangelical Movement in UK? Or any ecclesiology which could even in a stretch be identified as Anglican?

Posted by John-Julian, OJN at Wednesday, 23 May 2007 at 7:25pm BST

The language isinteresting because he starts with a motive, of being strategic, which he immediately shifts to "the liberals" - thus acknowledging the moral dubiousness of the motive by saying others do it when he has already stated he is doing it. Furthermore, he is keen to define evangelical against the Open Evangelicals.

The whole tone, then, is about grabbing and manipulating students. They are in there for exploitation, for a greater outcome. Nothing about developing minds or seeing new insights, but units for altering.

It is exactly equivalent to Militant Tendcency entryism, because it is about the clarity of identifying specific enemies near and further, and then having a strategy to take them on, the near fuirst, and a means to establish the future of your own specific party. Part of that strategy is to secure a base, and build bases, and the bases are consistently spoken of as Oak Hill and Wycliffe together. He is not the principal of Oak Hill, but it has his full approval.

It is in this strategic context then that the staff turnover at Wycliffe makes sense.

Mind, he is not so clever. The better strategist leaves in some Open Evangelicals in positions where they can give continued appearance of the other in a legitimating mixture, but they are weak and entirely manipulated, and are in position to take the blame and to discredit the other side some more. Ooh, I correct myself, he might have that set up as well.

(Yes, I learnt my Marxist strategy and my Machiavelli... I watched GBH on the telly)

Posted by Pluralist at Wednesday, 23 May 2007 at 9:02pm BST

John-Julian, you ask 'Is there any intellectual vigor at all in the Evangelical Movement in UK? Or any ecclesiology which could even in a stretch be identified as Anglican?'

It may be worth having a read of Oliver O'Donovan's seven 'web sermons' on Fulcrum:
and Tom Wright's address to General Synod about The Windsor Report:
The General Subject index page is:

Posted by Graham Kings at Wednesday, 23 May 2007 at 11:39pm BST

Stephen Bates writes of Turnbull "damning 95% of Britons to hell". But in the speech, it is clear that Turnbull's concern actually is to SAVE 95% of people. We may disagree with his theological assumptions, and the ecclesiastical politicking, but let's recognize at least that his motivation is to save, not to damn. The Guardian article does him something of an injustice.

Posted by Tim Jones at Thursday, 24 May 2007 at 3:12am BST

Excuse me, but does Tim Jones claim that this "saving" of the 95% is being done?

For if not, Mr Bates is right that this is a damnation.

Otherwise Mr Turnbull's stated "concern" in so many words would have been that they are NOT saving the 95%.

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Thursday, 24 May 2007 at 8:12am BST

shock, horror!

I bet nobody knew these views were held by people at the Reform conference (last year!) - great journalism, Mr Bates

Posted by NP at Thursday, 24 May 2007 at 9:26am BST

The flaw in Richard Turnbull's theology is whether he is concerned to "save" or "damn" but that he thinks that human beings are responsible for this outcome rather than the saving love of God. His base premis seems to be that the 5% are responsible for the fate of the 95% and that is profoundly unChristian and unbiblical. Our Christ-like motive for evangelism and faith sharing is that we have experience something special (the love of God, not that our failures might result in some-one else ending up in hell.

Posted by Tom Alllen at Thursday, 24 May 2007 at 10:08am BST

I would love to see this video - but it looks like it has been, as the Sun would put it, a 'soaraway success'. Bandwidth exceeded is all i see. Can it be put up again so that it can be enjoyed by us all.

Posted by jeremy pemberton at Thursday, 24 May 2007 at 10:41am BST

The point is that this is the conservative evangelical position.

I wonder what the 72% of people who ticked the Christian box on the census form would think?

The evangelical position and being a national church, as is the CofE, simply doesn't fit together.

Posted by Merseymike at Thursday, 24 May 2007 at 11:40am BST

Since 95% of the world is damned by God, that is why this world must be replaced with the new pure world, free of the unrepentant sinners.

That's why we don't have to work on the portion of global warming that humanity generates, nor fix problems of trade imbalance, nor worry about justice for the outcastes, nor worry about hypocrisy in our conducts for the unsaved.'

They are all going to hell and this world is being replaced.

Pity the Daughter of Zion thought when Jesus promised gentleness on the back of the donkey that there was actually going to be gentleness from his church.

Pity all the poor souls who read the bible and saw messages of hope, gentleness and unconditional love and went to Jesus' churches for protection. I suppose they deserved to be abused by those pedophilic priests and misogynist parishioners - after all if they were violated it merely proves they were one of the 95% who are going to be expunged when this world is replaced.

Well, if they hate this world so much, and God agrees with them, I just wish they'd get it over and done with. I'm sick of waiting and would prefer to perish in an instant rather than witnessing a cruel starving suffocating end to humanity's sinful existence on this unworthy planet.

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Thursday, 24 May 2007 at 12:05pm BST

NP is being particularly obtuse today. The point is that Dr Turnbull publicly denies being a member of Reform or the Church Society - perhaps NP knows differently? - and insists (in tomorrow's CEN) that Wycliffe Hall is open and inclusive, a veritable forum for debate. Yet his speech at the Reform conference last year - which on the video he also promises to attend this year - shows quite the reverse. As do his reactions in relation to Elaine Storkey.
And, Tim Jones, it is quite clear from his remarks that he believes only his version of conservative evangelicalism can save 95 per cent of the country from going to hell, which is a bit severe on those of you who don't share his view of evangelicalism, let alone those of us who are not Anglicans. And it's may be a trifle offputting for those non-conservatives considering applying to study at Wycliffe Hall in future. Don't you think?

Posted by stephen bates at Thursday, 24 May 2007 at 12:15pm BST

Reading views like this makes me glad that atheism is rising rapidly!

Posted by John at Thursday, 24 May 2007 at 12:34pm BST

It would be interesting to see if Turnbull himself trained at one of the 2 or one of the 4.

Posted by Frozenchristian at Thursday, 24 May 2007 at 12:48pm BST

Have the Reformistas censored the vid?

Posted by Hugh of Lincoln at Thursday, 24 May 2007 at 1:30pm BST


those having trouble with the Reform website might find the video here:

hope that helps.

x Jody

Posted by jody at Thursday, 24 May 2007 at 1:31pm BST

Has anyone else noticed that what people think about hell is affected by the prevailing social climate?
What could be more irrelevant to the question than the prevailing social climate?

Posted by Christopher Shell at Thursday, 24 May 2007 at 1:51pm BST

The Stephen Bates article highlights another entryist strategy, which is to appear more open to the wider public than in the strategy being worked out with fellow ideologues. The Stephen Bates article shows this, given what is coming in the Church of England Newspaper.

I'll give a tip to Reform. When you are plotting, don't put a video clip on your website. It tends to undermine the publicity.

Posted by Pluralist at Thursday, 24 May 2007 at 2:01pm BST

Go to Google to hear the plotting:

Posted by Pluralist at Thursday, 24 May 2007 at 2:09pm BST

Thank you Jody, and may I also apologise for not giving you a hat tip in my original post.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Thursday, 24 May 2007 at 2:48pm BST

>>It would be interesting to see if Turnbull himself trained at one of the 2 or one of the 4.

According to Crockford, he trained at Cranmer in Durham. One of the 4.

As someone studying at one of the "4" as he disparingly describes us, I for one I am quite glad to be there and not studying under his leadership.

Posted by David at Thursday, 24 May 2007 at 3:10pm BST

You guys make me laugh.

So far Turnbull has ticked Article VI (on Scripture); Article II (on Christ); Article XIX (on the Church); and Article XVIII (Of obtaining eternal salvation only by the Name of Christ).

He has affirmed a completely normal four-point view of what it means to be an evangelical Christian: Scripture, the Cross, personal relationship with God, evangelism.

And he has a sense of the strategic importance of his position as principal of a theological college.

Shock horror!

Posted by Peter Head at Thursday, 24 May 2007 at 4:32pm BST

You can now read it: I think itis important enough to transcribe it and I have been as accurate as possible:

Posted by Pluralist at Thursday, 24 May 2007 at 5:12pm BST

of course Simon :-), apology accepted.

Posted by jody at Thursday, 24 May 2007 at 5:12pm BST

"You guys make me laugh."

We always do, don't we ;=)

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Thursday, 24 May 2007 at 9:20pm BST

The Reform video link has been back up and working smoothly for much of the day.

Posted by Lapinbizarre at Thursday, 24 May 2007 at 9:39pm BST

Pluralist's tip to reformists applies to all violent theologies.

When you are plotting, don't put hard evidence before a people who can defend themselves. It tends to undermine the publicity. Plus they still have the means to mobilise to defend themselves.

Better to wait until you have suppressive legislation in place and use red herrings and accusations of paranoia or delusion to discredit those who would send up early warning bells.

Once you have control over the institutions and educational facilities, then you can be more open about your agenda. Because all the figures in authority will support you, because all alternatives have been eliminated.

Then you can make your grand speeches with impunity because there is no one to challenge you.

Now you know why God creates prophets such as John the Baptist and Isaiah. God needs prophets who are outside of the current paradigms who can expose the flaws in the current paradigms.

Humanity's collective consciousness impacts on what is current social thinking. Previous social thinking said that impoverishment of the African continent, slanders against women, death squads and covert interventions, slavery and human rights violations were acceptable. Theologians of varying faiths decreed that it was legitimate as long as it was done to certain groups. Anyone who did it to their own was obviously evil, and anyone who said that they hypocritically condoned it being done to others was also evil.

Well if trying to save this planet from extinction is evil, then I am happy to go down in history as the most evil soul that ever existed.

If the majority of humans also decide they would prefer life and to honor that which God has given them and consider that to be enough, then this planet will continue. Since we all woke up again today, we must presume that it is God's will that this world continues.

So, would all the pure souls who deserve a better world please depart now. We could do without your sabotaging, hypocrisy. complacency and/or tyranny. If you lack the balls to move on, then get with the program.

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Thursday, 24 May 2007 at 10:57pm BST

Who says trying to save this planet from extinction is evil? It goes without saying that anyone who believes the gospel of life will be broadly pacifist, anti-abortion, and ecologically aware and active.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Friday, 25 May 2007 at 2:06pm BST

It's clear, as Mark Bennet suggests, that ecclesiology is a central issue here. Turnbull's rejection of an 'Anglo-Catholic' ecclesiology is closely linked to his very alarming comments about diverting the parish share, decentralizing the Church's finances and securing ideological and economic autonomy for the 'conservative 2'.
What kind of ecclesiology supports this kind of unaccountability and indiscipline, and this privileging of the future of flourishing conservative parishes (which are overwhelmingly middle-class and urban) over that of congregations in harder areas? Not an historic Anglican one, that's for sure.

Posted by Sarah at Friday, 25 May 2007 at 3:11pm BST

The point Turnbull makes about decentralizing the church's monolithic financial structure is also made in Michael Hampson's moving book 'Last Rites: The End of the Church of England'(2006), told from the perspective of an openly gay priest who experienced institutionalised homophobia at first hand.

Unlikely bedfellows you might say, but Hampson is in favour of a type of congregationalism along the lines of the Resolution C parishes, giving each parish autonomy over whom it chooses as priest. He would abolish the quota and deployment systems and allow parishes to pay their priests directly, just like Roman Catholics do.

Give the power back to the laity, I say. And ensure the cathedrals are awarded generous government grants to preserve their architectural and musical heritage in return for proper commitments to diversity.

Posted by Hugh of Lincoln at Saturday, 26 May 2007 at 6:10pm BST

>>>Hampson is in favour of a type of congregationalism along the lines of the Resolution C parishes, giving each parish autonomy over whom it chooses as priest. He would abolish the quota and deployment systems and allow parishes to pay their priests directly, just like Roman Catholics do.

This is more or less what we do in TEC. I wouldn't call it congregationalism, exactly, though it's certainly not as centralized as the way things are done in some provinces.

I was wondering...does Turnbull favor extending these privileges to mainstream Anglicans stuck with fundamentalist bishops? Or do his fellow fundamentalists get to call all the shots, since they are among the 5% Elect?

Posted by JPM at Saturday, 26 May 2007 at 6:54pm BST

"Give the power back to the laity, I say."
Isn't one of the problems we have already a deep lack of comprehensive theological training?

Posted by Erika Baker at Saturday, 26 May 2007 at 7:29pm BST

Turnbull resists "pontificating" about the C of E's finances. I wish he hadn't.

I don't know what his views are on the broader issues JPM, but if he favours financial decentralization, then he should also accept liberal democratic structures more in keeping with TEC's polity. Dioceses would then elect their bishops, rather than have them imposed by Downing Street so I doubt if the fundies would get a look in.

Posted by Hugh of Lincoln at Saturday, 26 May 2007 at 11:44pm BST

Hugh says Turnbull ".. should also accept liberal democratic structures more in keeping with TEC's polity. Dioceses would then elect their bishops, rather than have them imposed by Downing Street so I doubt if the fundies would get a look in."

I agree Downing St should not be involved....but do you realise that all over England, the strong, growing CofE churches are evangelical (of whatever shade) your hope that dioceses having more say in who becomes bishop gives more liberals prominence looks like wishful thinking.

Especially at the local level, people who have largely failed in leading churches are pretty unlikely to be given oversight, don't you think? No, liberals have benfited from the non-performance related structure in which politicians have appointed peope that agree with their politics!

Posted by NP at Tuesday, 29 May 2007 at 11:07am BST

Ah but NP, all over England there are as many women ordinands as men and the church has agreed to women bishops.

Before long, there will be women in the episcopate so decision-making will be different from the hitherto all-male gatherings. We'll have a more inclusive church.

Posted by Hugh of Lincoln at Thursday, 31 May 2007 at 12:06am BST

Hugh - when you say "we", who knows what that a year' time, you may well be part of TEC Global and you will certainly be very "inclusive" indeed as a rapidly declining organisation

Posted by NP at Friday, 1 June 2007 at 3:25pm BST

Well NP, I'm very excited by the prospect of the C of E becoming part of TEC!

Perhaps the broad church will win the day after all. Certainly there is a spectrum of moderation from Liberal Catholics to Open Evangelicals, appalled by the current political shift in the Communion.

Posted by Hugh of Lincoln at Friday, 1 June 2007 at 11:19pm BST

Well, this is the first time I have heard him speak, and I made similar notes to Tim at the top of the page, but with different reactions. It sounds pretty sensible to me.

His comments on centralised corporatism and manipulation of funding are very striking. Why on earth should the college's fees have been reduced when they attracted more students?

In the end, if you believe there is truth and error, you will disagree with people who have a different idea of what that truth is - there's no need for people to come here and act so shocked by it. If you think it's important, you will have a strategy, and you'll be wary of the strategies of other groups and people. I still don't see the problem.

If, as others have said, you are plotting, then you don't spread it on the internet. It's a plain statement of what he believes, thoroughly orthodox, and of what he means to do about it. Very heartening indeed.

Posted by Dom W at Monday, 4 June 2007 at 9:23pm BST

As someone who used to teach Biblical Hebrew to clergy training for the ministry, inter alia, I am dismayed and appalled by the politicking that goes on nowadays.

Elaine Storkey is no metziah, as we say in Yiddish, and neither is Giles Fraser. Both have used their roles on 'Thought for the Day' to rubbish the Hebrew Bible, instead of nurturing the ties of Judaism and Christianity.

At least I now live in Israel where most of the clergy I meet have a good working knowledge of Hebrew, know or are learning Biblical Hebrew (some of them with me) and are willing to engage on really important issues to do with the Middle East and the fostering of good religious and ethnic relations between all groups living here.

I say, a plague on both your houses - if the Jesus you all pretend to admire could only see you now, he would have sat down and wept.

Posted by Dr. Irene Lancaster FRSA at Saturday, 16 June 2007 at 7:07pm BST

is there a decent glossary of Anglican related acronyms anywhere?

Posted by Tony B at Friday, 22 June 2007 at 3:20pm BST

Don't we believe, Dr. Lancaster, that "the Jesus [we] all pretend to admire" CAN see us now?

Posted by Doug Taylor-Weiss at Monday, 25 June 2007 at 10:39pm BST

I'm blogging at on the Reform Agenda. Would appreciate you all keeping me up to date. I'm living in a Parish where two churches preach in sympathy with Turnbull - "I'm a charismatic, open, evangelical - get me outa here!!!!"

Posted by hrht at Wednesday, 11 June 2008 at 11:17pm BST
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