Comments: Wycliffe Hall: the Lucas report

Hmmmm - not as damning as some will have been hoping!

Glad to see Dr T is getting the college better organised

Posted by NP at Thursday, 27 September 2007 at 2:17pm BST

You have a very peculiar understanding of better organised NP, unless it involves a purge of most of the academic staff as part of a 'strategic' plan to 'capture the theological colleges'.

Parts of this, if one is accustomed to managerial jargon, are pretty damning:

i. Note the careful wording. 'the panel feels that Wycliffe Hall does need to make a determined effort to clarify these matters to the rest of the University if it is to achieve manifest harmony with the University’s principles of education.' This means that the Hall is on probation: Wycliffe management will now need to persuade the University that they have not retreated into a theological cul-de-sac, and their appointments will be monitered closely.

ii. 'it does not believe that this resembles an Oxford experience in its essentials or that it is a suitable educational environment for the full intellectual development of young undergraduates.' Extremely damning. Wycliffe does not offer 'an Oxford experience'.

iii. 'the formal structures and procedures now in place are coherent and well designed' - note they do not say working well or effective, and are explicit in saying that they have not yet translated well in practice. The continued dismissals will have left this again as a issue to be monitored further.

iii. 'This caused the panel to reopen its consideration of issues concerning the Hall and to seek further explanation. In particular, following its terms of reference, the panel reconsidered the governance arrangements at the Hall and the procedures for appointing academic staff... The panel feels that all this points to the special importance in the Permanent Private Halls of transparent and adequate formal mechanisms of representation and conflict resolution.' Meaning that the latter do not yet exist at Wycliffe. The events of the last week will only have reinforced this view.

Remember that the University is interested principally in the effective running of the Hall as an educational instution, not with the politics of the C of E. But there are now clear worries that the latter are now affecting the former.

Posted by Matthew B at Thursday, 27 September 2007 at 5:43pm BST

Is this Oxfordian code for:
"If you come to this college you will not be seen by real humans for three years"
"Wycliffe is a Taliban ghetto" ?

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Thursday, 27 September 2007 at 8:40pm BST

I do think the classification of St Stephen's House as 'protestant' at least deserves to be noticed. Also note that the review does not encompass Cuddesdon - I'm unsure what different status this has.

The recommendation for review if Halls offer courses accredited other than by the University of Oxford is a potential wider concern to the church - though it is review and not rejection.

Posted by Mark Bennet at Thursday, 27 September 2007 at 9:57pm BST

Actually, given the timidity of academic language, thats an appalling report.

Posted by Merseymike at Thursday, 27 September 2007 at 10:32pm BST

Further to Matthew B's highlights:

The Annexure expresses an "... anxiety about the delivery of the degrees … as well as other diplomas and certificates… it has concerns over the robustness of the monitoring of standards and syllabi (especially in the certificates). This situation is common to other Halls and the panel’s anxiety is directed also at the University procedures in this area." and "the panel... does not believe that this resembles an Oxford experience in its essentials or that it is a suitable educational environment for the full intellectual development of young undergraduates."

Hallelujah. While theological colleges might be designed to pump out McDonald priests equipped with the network marketing scripts, spiels and strategies, that is not the same as a robust University qualification and experience.

Industry likes implementers. In the global economy, there are times when a new factory is built in one country and then the earlier one closed in another country as "obsolete", thus reducing souls to commodities who can be left to the mercy of "market forces”.

Moses' and later Jesus' paradigms encourage us to think beyond nomadic or conquistador strategies: to recognise the need to ensure the land and environment can provide on an ongoing basis. We need to be reminded to again look at these underlying principles that take humans beyond being commodities that can be cast aside if they are non-productive, or attacked if they are inconvenient.

Further "The panel also concluded that the situation illustrated the general truth that small institutions are vulnerable to strong differences of opinion and depend considerably for their stability… this points to the special importance in the Permanent Private Halls of transparent and adequate formal mechanisms of representation and conflict resolution."

Now some might understand why I referred to NSW Australia's ICAC (Independent Commission Against Corruption). It's called probity. If there are mechanisms and consequences to identify, heal and affirm; then aggressive characters have to become "street angels". God willing, we will then have churches who actually understand nurturing and we can help the families where those souls go home to become "house devils".

As we eliminate aggression as a legitimate cultural manifestation, less violence reducing prison and welfare loads, less post-trauma stress reducing sedation and escapism. Souls will be more content to live within their means and to build nurturing communities.

Who knows, we might even recognise God's promised everlasting covenant of peace being fulfilled!

Posted by Cheryl Va. Clough at Thursday, 27 September 2007 at 10:41pm BST

From an Oxford perspective, where four of the seven PPHs are Roman Catholic halls, St Stephen's is labelled 'Protestant', i.e. non-RC. Oxford does have a rather different, institutional perspective on things! As for Cuddesdon, it's not a PPH. It does, though, enrol students on theology courses at the University of Oxford and Oxford Brookes University, as well as undertake in-house teaching. One of the academic issues at the University of Oxford is with the 'applied theology' courses of the CTh/BTh/MTh degrees, in which in-house teaching is a major component.

Posted by Gareth Hughes at Friday, 28 September 2007 at 12:46am BST

Hi Martin-

Yes. The last time I chanced to pass by Wycliffe, one could scarcely move for guns. Rumours are that the real Mr Big is hiding underground and being fed daily on the delectable Wycliffe repast.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Friday, 28 September 2007 at 1:43pm BST

There's an excellent letter in the Church of England Newspaper this week, which blows the gaffe on what's been going on. Eeva John, Geoff Maughan and David Wenham have signed it. Can't yet dig up a link (CEN is subscription only). But it confirms what was already known about management style "heavy handed and abrasive"), the ignoring of staff requests, and the lack of due process in personnel procedures.

I imagine that the Council and the Principal will attempt to tough all this out, and won't admit to any shortcomings, in the hope that it will all blow over.

Posted by Pete Broadbent at Friday, 28 September 2007 at 2:40pm BST

Chris, I'm glad you can confirm my worst (and most deeply prejudicial) fears about this most recently captured asset of the Sydney empire.

Please be careful for yourself in future!

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Friday, 28 September 2007 at 5:24pm BST

Thank you Pete for alerting us to the letter. Much of this confirms the impression that the great purge is continuing:

'Finally, the recent dismissals without grounds of Elaine Storkey and Andrew and Lis Goddard, none of whom had plans or desires to leave their posts at the Hall this year, has taken the toll of staff departures in one academic year to a total of 13.... they had simply outstayed their welcome as far as the Principal and the Council were concerned.'

'Furthermore, the severance of the contracts of three staff members without any justification other than the elimination of dissent is unjust.'

The 'elimination of dissent', presumably, is all part of Turnbull's master plan outlined earlier in the year, in which penal substitution and sola scriptura are non-negotiable, and disagreement is to be crushed as part of the strategic offensive to capture the theological Colleges.

Posted by Matthew B at Friday, 28 September 2007 at 6:42pm BST

"See how these Christians love one another" ...

"I say to you, love one another as I have loved you".

Posted by Ian C at Friday, 28 September 2007 at 11:03pm BST

Ian C - the Lord also said "if you love me, you will obey my commands" and "I have not come to abolish the law"....... you cannot just say "love" and expect us to ditch biblical morality!

Posted by NP at Monday, 1 October 2007 at 10:30am BST

We do, NP, we do!

Because even if you call Alexandrian morals Biblical, it isn't, never was, never will be.

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Monday, 1 October 2007 at 4:11pm BST

Saying that love is the only command is quite true. It also requires unpacking, to make sure we understand what Jesus means by love. Thus, for example, love does not mean indulgence; but it does mean forgiving seventy times seven. What Jesus means by love can be partly ascertained in the context of all his other sayings.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Tuesday, 2 October 2007 at 1:12pm BST
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