Comments: Wycliffe Hall on BBC radio

Just look at these words from the BBC report:

Commentator Mike Ford of the BBC: _Canon Dr Chris Sugden is Executive Secretary of a group calling itself Anglican Mainstream. He says many of the staff at Wycliffe lack experience of leading parishes and Dr Turnbull wants to train a new generation of ministers to build churches.

Chris Sugden: Richard Turnbull comes from parish ministry and wanted to change the culture of what had been really a sort of free-spirited academic collective in common with all Oxford colleges. I think it is a culture-change situation in the institution led by the Council, which the Chief Executive is being asked to take through. The culture of Oxford academics is very conservative and it's a culture change in the college that is obviously providing some degree of discomfort. That is the struggle._

If this is so, Wycliffe could and perhaps should no longer be an Oxford Hall. Is this right - is it led by the Council?

Later on:

Commentator Mike Ford of the BBC: _But Chris Sugden of Anglican Mainstream suggests that there is already a much more serious fragmentation in the Church as a whole._

Sugden: _The Major division is between those who believe that the Gospel enables people to be transformed through the power of Christ, through his work and the presence of the Holy Spirit, and those who, in the end of the day, don't believe that happens and that what we have is a sort of religiosity of the English people and life that has to be managed and its worst excesses curbed. People have said there are two religions currently in the Church of England and that's not very far from the truth._

What is particularly new here? Only perhaps a put-down of other representations of Christianity within the same Church.

Hardly in the spirit of what Bishop Pete Broadbent said:

Pete Broadbent: _But we do that in generosity as a part of the Church of England and not a separate part away from it._

Posted by Pluralist at Sunday, 27 May 2007 at 3:40pm BST

Pluralist, the phrase "...train a new generation of ministers to build churches" scares me.

An autocratic organisational structure can decree that there is only one legitimate interpretation of the bible, that only that interpretation should be taught (lest the church lose souls to the evil one). If a diocese takes on that paradigm, the purpose of the colleges is to get marketeers into the field who build the organisation. That leads to rapid growth.

The downside of it is that the subtlety and depth of various theological interpretations can be lost. That tendency can become exacerbated when propoganda ministers are confronted with alternative interpretations. In a dark ages mentality, they can decree as evil any interpretation that does not fit within the comfort zone of what got them through theological college.

If a particular parish or group of individuals puts together a convincing alternative paradigm that looks like it is going to be popular, that could lead to discrediting the merits of the previously trained preachers. Therefore one must move to squash the alternative paradigms before the paucity of the educational programs become apparent.

We saw this happen in the instructions to the evangelical parishes in the US last year to not take up the issue of the environment. We saw it on the internet this year when souls denied that Jesus would have been taking on the issue of slavery as he went into Jerusalem leading up to that fateful passover. We saw it when leaders commented that some souls were taking up the Millenium Development Goals as a way of buying votes.

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Sunday, 27 May 2007 at 10:31pm BST

So sad to actually hear, word by word, Chris Sugden talking such rubbish in public about any believer who doesn't think like he does.

Two religions nonsense. Compare that with Canterbury who at least can acknowledge that protestants, catholics, and liberals have long been innate to the big tent Anglican mix.

Sugden's line in the theological sands of time? Transformation. Well, sir, most of us believers believe in the transforming path that following Jesus of Nazareth can hardly avoid being.

Tangibly, pointedly, we differently-minded believers disagree sometimes about the exact shapes of the transformations that will occur for a person who follows Jesus.

So far as the hot button Queer Stuff goes, it takes every bit as much inner and outer transformation for the better to Come Out - or get Partnered or Parent - as any other church life or social life alternative.

For the time being, various believers weigh, study, pray, discern - and then most often put their money right where their best conscience is.

Believers of conscience that happen to be different from you are hardly partisans of another religion. You only disrespect yourself and Jesus by repeating these claims which come perilously close to bearing false witness against people who believe differently from you.

Is following Jesus for conservatives nothing but another round of that familiar endless game, Let's you and him over there fight?

Alas. Lord have mercy.

Posted by drdanfee at Sunday, 27 May 2007 at 10:45pm BST

It is all directional, purposeful and narrow. I see that some Fulcrum comment is not too happy with Chris Sugden's view, calling it binary.

I've added the quotes above and summaries under my transcription, same page as before.

Posted by Pluralist at Sunday, 27 May 2007 at 10:57pm BST

This is rather a good Conservative Evangelical summary by one of its kind, the Ugley Vicar, and the responses are rather good too, especially by Pete Broadbent which gives a neat summary in ten sections. Despite myself being on the liberal edge of the Church of England, I rather like his approach.

This is Graham Kings in response.

And there is Graham Kings own use of an analogy of watercourses defining evangelicals:

and wonder how it, like with using Pete Broadbent's approach, differs from liberals if such tried a similar pattern (though, from what I see, liberals can be, as would be expected, very varied and it might not work)

Posted by Pluralist at Monday, 28 May 2007 at 1:44am BST

Those concerned with Wycliffe and current trends would be wise to note the history of Trinity Episcopal Seminary in Ambridge, PA here in the states. A similar shift toward the training of a particular kind of minster for a particular kind of Anglicanism has helped assure the current Network and the ascendency of +Duncan in the Diocese of Pittsburgh. It is intentional, it is planned, and it sadly divides the church.

Posted by FrShawn+ at Monday, 28 May 2007 at 4:00am BST


"It is intentional, it is planned..."

Absolutely. Only the naive think otherwise. Actually, they probably don't think, which is part of the problem...

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Monday, 28 May 2007 at 10:58am BST

After Peter Broadbent's ten points towards defining Open Evangelical, I have produced Ten Explanatory Areas for Liberal Stances in the Church of England at

I slightly altered the order and I didn't merge any. It will be interesting to see any comments of disagreement and agreement here and of course anyone can offer rewrites in part or whole. Have I missed anything (or lots of things) important? Obviously it stretches to other Anglican Churches. I have posted a link on Fulcrum too where Pete Broadbent also put his ten points (scroll down).

Posted by Pluralist at Monday, 28 May 2007 at 8:24pm BST

thank you very much for those links, I shall bookmark them! I found myself nodding vigorously at every one of your 10 points.
But could you please explain the difference between a liberal Anglican Christian and an Anglican liberal Christian?

Posted by Erika Baker at Tuesday, 29 May 2007 at 9:50am BST

Pluralist, thanks for those comments. (Aside: can you imagine what it's like standing in a pulpit in front of this guy?:-) )

Posted by Mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) at Tuesday, 29 May 2007 at 1:02pm BST

I shall try to become unnoticed in the pew by staring at the ceiling...

Yes, the liberal Anglican Christian is not so denominationalist as the Anglican liberal Christian. I assume all are Christian first (OK, it is possible there might be a liberal Christian Anglican or a Christian liberal Anglican or even a Anglican Christian liberal or a Christian Anglican liberal...). Assuming Christianity (and Reform - and friends - does not, as we know) then the first is primarily Anglican in formation across the board about which they are generally liberally minded, whereas they Anglican Liberal is a denominational version of something that is primarily found around the denominations.

It is a difference more obvious among evangelicals.

I'm just about to make a slight addition to add those who are more "simple" liberals with these characteristics:

* Love for God and neighbour outlines belief in God
* Jesus is the man who lived for others in service and self-sacrifice and is a model of life
* Christ in hearts or an attitude of loving kindness
* Christianity is about quality of relationship
* Christianity is a way of life or a philosophy of life
* Importance of religious practice in personal development and communal growth
* The church is a place of religious nurture

These relate to someone who perhaps started out as more evangelical and is more modernist in outlook. The postmodernist (like me) perhaps possesses more content and even clutter.

Posted by Pluralist at Tuesday, 29 May 2007 at 3:01pm BST

I must be particularly dense today:
Liberal Anglican Christians and Anglican Liberal Christians are all:

An Anglican liberal would be different from a, say RC liberal, because he would be liberal in an Anglican context.
A liberal Anglican is a liberal within the umbrella of the Anglican church.

Is there any real theological difference between the two?

As for your "simple liberals", yes, you put that very well. But I would not say that post modern liberals have more "content" or "clutter", they simply intellectualise the same basic liberalism more.

Posted by Erika Baker at Tuesday, 29 May 2007 at 9:44pm BST

Turning people I know into sociology of religion bundles, I can see characters who are really thoroughly Anglican even though they are liberal. Their formation is Anglican, the reference points are Anglican, they are steeped in Anglican patterns of worship, conversation, people, structures. They are walking, talking, Anglican ducks. So they are liberal Anglican Christians. However, there are some people, like me perhaps, who are formed in different religious places of which Anglican is one, or they may be formed via the Anglican but recognise their ideologically compatible brothers and sisters elsewhere.

I mean, when I paid my visit to The Queen's College or later had my time at Luther King House, there were people either a bit or more liberal from Anglicans, Methodists, URC, Baptist, Unitarians. There was a fairly agreeable approach to faith and Christianity amongst us.

The difference between a modernist liberal and postmodernist is more than intellectualising. It is about whether the faith as practised in the whole construction is a form of symbolism, with therefore significance for worship, because to reduce it is like peeling an onion to nothing, and losing too much on the way, or whether instead there is a kernel of simple truth within all the Christian construction. The postmodernist keeps as much as can with all its symbolic impact, like art, whereas the modernist would really like to get rid of what is regarded as the clutter, like science.

Bizarrely perhaps a postmodernist can even keep the Book of Common Prayer active, whereas a modernist not only wants to modernise the language but would modernise the meaning.

I would call myself an Anglican liberal postmodernist, which is a little odd as, I suppose, the easiest postmodern position is one held by the liberal Anglican. But I have seen the other side.

Posted by Pluralist at Wednesday, 30 May 2007 at 1:45am BST

Wonderful explanation, thank you Pluralist.
I can understand your distinction between liberal modernist post modernist, at least intellectually. But one question remains - if there isn't even a "kernel" of truth in all the Christian construction, why would a post modernist be attached to Christianity at all? The post modern symbolism still has to be FOR something.

Posted by Erika Baker at Wednesday, 30 May 2007 at 8:41am BST

Pluralist - what you list is ok as far as it goes but you massively reduce Jesus Christ, his words, his work and even his identity

- liberals like Ford Elms (sadly no longer posting here) would have a much richer (and truer) statement to put in place of what you have written.....and it does matter to Christians that you do not "underplay" Jesus Christ - but I realise that you are a Pluralist so you will tend to do exactly that

Posted by NP at Wednesday, 30 May 2007 at 9:09am BST

To answer Erika Baker first. It is for something. Whilst there is always a threat of nihilism, that is partly because of living with objectivity and then not having it. It is that the something is drawn out of the connections that the symbolism generates one part to other parts in a criss-crossing. But it is not locatable except in the use, in the doing.

It is a reversal of the talking about something, as if there is the something and then you talk about it. Rather the talking is the generating of the something. It is the God is in the communication, rather than in some mysterious place.

As for NP, well the modernist liberal would say it is about uncovering the historical Jesus, that Jesus Christ is a construction, and having a measured view of human opinions that developed in the traditions afterwards. However, in that Jesus taught, and that Jesus had ethics, what he taught and the ethics he demonstrated involved may be the important thing, than focussing on him as a person. My own view is that the lived life is important - it is not enough just to teach, for example, the oneness and closeness of God.

For the postmodernist it is the construction that is important, and therefore is Jesus Christ. This Jesus Christ is made up of all the signs and signifiers that the tradition has developed. The historicity of this is a red herring, as is the cultural shift backwards that we cannot make, so that it is essentially story and an enriched story that fill one's being, motivates and causes change.

Posted by Pluralist at Wednesday, 30 May 2007 at 2:57pm BST

"liberals like Ford Elms (sadly no longer posting here)"

SADLY no longer posting here?
NP, you are surely the most thick skinned fellow I know. I’d like to refer you back to thread and within that comments:
Posted by: Ford Elms on Friday, 4 May 2007 at 1:33pm BST
Posted by: Ford Elms on Saturday, 5 May 2007 at 3:18pm BST
Posted by: Erika Baker on Saturday, 5 May 2007 at 6:18pm BST
Posted by: Ford Elms on Sunday, 6 May 2007 at 12:17pm BST
Posted by: Ford Elms on Tuesday, 8 May 2007 at 11:49am BST
Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Tuesday, 8 May 2007 at 8:33pm BST
Posted by: Erika Baker on Tuesday, 8 May 2007 at 10:03pm BST
Posted by: Ford Elms on Wednesday, 9 May 2007 at 11:31am BST
Posted by: Erika Baker on Wednesday, 9 May 2007 at 10:18pm BST
Posted by: Ford Elms on Thursday, 10 May 2007 at 12:14pm BST

And the conclusion of this on
Posted by: Ford Elms on Thursday, 17 May 2007 at 6:07pm BST

Posted by Erika Baker at Wednesday, 30 May 2007 at 3:13pm BST

how do spiritual experiences of God fit into this scheme?

Posted by Erika Baker at Wednesday, 30 May 2007 at 4:57pm BST

Honestly Erika - I think it is a shame Ford is not around....he was very different in his approach compared to someone like Merseymike and holds much deeper Anglican beliefs than some others posting.

I have a lot of respect for Ford - even though we disagreed sometimes on TA

Posted by NP at Wednesday, 30 May 2007 at 5:24pm BST

Well, NP, it seems I posted too soon and I am as happy as you that Ford is now back.
Still... did you read any of the references I posted?
I have often felt very personally hurt by your judgmental and sarcastic mails that ignored every real argument I or anyone else made, and so has Ford. This goes well beyond "we disagreed sometimes on TA".

Whatever our views, I do think we have a responsibility to treat our discussion partners with care, and it does strike me that you're not even aware of the effect you have on people.

Posted by Erika Baker at Wednesday, 30 May 2007 at 6:25pm BST

Talk about heaping coals on the head of someone who does you wrong! I am, sincerely, touched. Given the other posts I have made on this one day return, I will now go away suitably chastened! Do consider what the difference you perceive actually means, though. Might it be that there are more categories in the world than Pure Evangelical and Faithless Liberal? I'm neither, you see, though you would put me solidly in the Liberal camp. Might it be that my frustration, spoken of in other posts today, is actually just a poor reaction to people having a "good arg" as we would say, with no real attempt at agreement? That isn't a scornful assessment. I mean, I do very much enjoy arguing for the sake of it, as do others, like you, I suspect. Perhaps I need to get over myself.

Posted by Ford Elms at Wednesday, 30 May 2007 at 6:28pm BST

Briefly, Erika, I don't know! I suspect they are treated directly, and that God is understood economically by those prefering modernist language and as * generated * by postmodernists. Postmodernists of many kinds are dubious about "experience" because experience often comes pre-packaged by our language and expression.

In my PhD I wrote how many of the realist heterodox that divided up the Trinity (theists, exemplarists, spiritists) stressed the spiritual and were often faiths orientated and stressed an overall unity to everything. Christian Evolution - Burton and Dolley I think - is an example of this dynamic approach. This might be related. Those days I regarded all postmodernists as non-realists which is so but it is too easily equated with non-theist and that is not so clear - because postmodernism is a rejection of the objective-subjective divide not a shift to subjectivity.

Posted by Pluralist at Thursday, 31 May 2007 at 4:29am BST

Hey Ford - good to hear from you.

Yes, I confess, I like arguing too - and that is not always constructive so I am sorry for that.

And, yes, I know there are more than just 2 categories. The reason I respect you is that it is obvious that you are not one of those "liberals" who simply want to ditch everything which does not fit with your own thoughts. It is obvious that you are not in the AC with a political agenda but seeking to live out your faith. This is what I respect even if we disagree on certain issues.

Posted by NP at Thursday, 31 May 2007 at 9:08am BST

Doing a lot of thinking, NP, and, to be honest, arguing with no expectation of ever agreeing is not actually a bad thing, as long as both sides konw that's the score, and most importantly have the same sense of humour. But, my point remains. You think of me as "not one of those "liberals" who simply want to ditch everything which does not fit with your own thoughts", yet you do not take the next step, whcih is to question whether this monolithic group of "liberals" that you see as doing exactly that actually exists at all, or is it a convenient construct for those who wish to play on the fears of some people to push their own agendas? You still see two opposing groups, it's just that I'm not one of them in your eyes. Look at my discussion with Alex on another thread. Leave aside for the moment my unfortunate choice of posting style and that I should have been more cautious about not making it a personal attack. I do try to fight against tarring all you Evos with the one brush, it is just extremely difficult because all my experience is of the kind of things I have described, and, frankly, you don't help change that. I am trying to make you see that your ideas about "liberals" are exactly the same, though they might have different causes.

Posted by Ford Elms at Thursday, 31 May 2007 at 1:45pm BST

Now we have a reply from Richard Turnbull,,2092905,00.html

This isn't important. What is important is the entryism of "capture" "strategic" and "generations" as spoken to Reform, and later Chris Sugden making a distinction between creating ministers and planting churches set against a free-spirit Oxford academia. So it is kind of diversionary.

Posted by Pluralist at Friday, 1 June 2007 at 1:46pm BST

Oh, NP, I trust my approach is totally different than yours, given that we have entirely different worldviews. I do not think that conservative evangelicalism has a single thing to commend it - it is simply poisonous, polluting everything it touches. A bit like the faith equivalent of pond slime.

Posted by Merseymike at Saturday, 2 June 2007 at 10:08am BST

Your reply sounds, well....learned.
I'm sorry to be going on about this.
My problem is that, intellectually, I see myself more of a postmodernist. But in your exposition, postmodernists are determined by not being particularly certain of anything. This is why I asked of an experience of God.

I do believe I have had direct encounters with something I can only describe as "external to everything else I know and fitting my expectation of what God might be like".
Since then, I have still had an open mind - intellectually, but with a definite focus, because I just "know" that "something" that fits the Christian definitions is there.

And I wonder whether the faith of some of the extremely "learned" people here isn't occasionally a touch intellectual without being touched by some kind of positive affirmation?

Posted by Erika Baker at Sunday, 3 June 2007 at 11:06pm BST
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