Comments: New Bishop of Durham

His work in Coventry & Liverpool sounds impressive. He is a later vocation clergy-person with some experience of the real world (the oil industry). Has he learned more than the go-go evangelism of the 'Alpha' course at H.T., Brompton? If not, I would worry about his propensity for inclusiveness in the Church - more like the last one, really? However, he has been called to one of the primary dioceses in the Church of England. He needs our prayers.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Thursday, 2 June 2011 at 10:27am BST

There is a God!

Posted by Lister Tonge at Thursday, 2 June 2011 at 10:40am BST

Interesting choice. Probably a smoother operator and a "safer pair of hands" than N T Wright although without his academic distinction.

Educated Eton College and Trinity College, Cambridge. A strong interest in the ethics of the financial and business world, about which he has published a number of books. A former oil company executive.

Grandson of Rab Butler's daughter, son of Winston Churchill's private secretary (Welby's mother) and also son of an old flame of Vanessa Redgrave (his father), step-son of a Labour life peer.

Before he was ordained he was very active at Holy Trinity Brompton, a fierce evangelical church much favoured by the upper middle classes.

My impression is that he is something of a centrist.

Posted by badman at Thursday, 2 June 2011 at 10:41am BST

My initial response is to wince at the words "Holy Trinity, Brompton". But I see this fellow has written a rather sensible (if somewhat unimaginative) article about Islam and Christianity here:
So if he carries on in that vein he might do well for himself. Insha'Allah!

Posted by RJB at Thursday, 2 June 2011 at 12:59pm BST

I'm wondering how long it will take for people's suppositions, impressions and imaginings in posts here to be regarded as facts upon which judgements (adverse, of course: we have a liberal reputation to maintain) can then be soundly constructed.

I have never heard a bad word about this man from those who know him and I have heard him spoken of as one of the best priests in the C of E.

Posted by Lister Tonge at Thursday, 2 June 2011 at 2:00pm BST

So, my English siblings, we are indeed divided by a common language, and my curiosity is piqued. What does it mean that "he served his *title*?"

Posted by Marshall Scott at Thursday, 2 June 2011 at 5:25pm BST

You absolutely cannot be ordained a deacon in the CofE unless and until you have a specific job of work to do. That first job, usually as an assistant curate somewhere, is commonly referred to as a "title post" and holding it is referred to as "serving a title". Those who hold such posts will usually be ordained priest after about one year, but will continue to serve in the same job for three to four years in total. This initial post is considered an essential element of the training of clergy, and "training incumbents" who supervise such curates are meant to be carefully chosen.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Thursday, 2 June 2011 at 7:28pm BST

Reading this bloke's biography makes it obvious to me that the whole "fresh expression of church" thing is a fabrication and smokescreen. Another Oxbridge bishop and with a few lords and ladies in his family tree to boot. One thing is for certain, nobody can accuse us of being the church of the poor.

And all this just because Bishop Jenkins dared to stand up to Mrs Thatcher on behalf of the striking miners.

Posted by MadPriest at Thursday, 2 June 2011 at 11:04pm BST


And your point is?

Posted by Lister Tonge at Thursday, 2 June 2011 at 11:22pm BST

A friend dragged me along to HTB a few times in the late '80's. It was horrific. No surprise that one of their lay leaders was an old Etonian earning no doubt a very large salary working for an oil company. Please forgive my cynicism at any suggestion that this might be an appointment to celebrate. I hope my prejudices are unfounded.

Posted by Graham Ward at Thursday, 2 June 2011 at 11:58pm BST

Isn't the memory a strange device? This name has just jumped out at me having not had any cause to recall it for the past 20+ years. I was his ACCM Selection Secretary. He must therefore be a very good thing :-)

Posted by Jonathan Kirkpatrick at Friday, 3 June 2011 at 5:36am BST

'One thing is for certain, nobody can accuse us of being the church of the poor.'

That's a very good comment.

Posted by john at Friday, 3 June 2011 at 12:20pm BST

I wouldnt knock Alpha too much - there arent many outreaches that can hope to have 20 hours of discussion to consider the evidence of who Jesus is - i.e. the resurrected Son of God, and for someone to even consider trusting in Him and following Him as a disciple. It has brought more people into our church than any other outreach. However it is only the start of the discipleship and establishing a relationship with our brother the Lord Jesus and our heavenly Father. We have to work on the on-going Spiritual growth.

Posted by David Wilson at Friday, 3 June 2011 at 6:45pm BST

"20 hours of discussion to consider the evidence of who Jesus is - i.e. the resurrected Son of God, and for someone to even consider trusting in Him and following Him as a disciple"

Is THAT what "Alpha" is? [On the left side of The Pond, I only know the name, and that English Anglicans feel passionately about it, one way or the other]

All I can say in response to your description, DavidW, is *ugh*. That sounds like a recipe for coercing adherents to (the heretical) GeeZus, and completely missing Jesus of Nazareth, Prince of Peace and Lord of Love. ["20 hours of...evidence of...resurrected Son of God": Feh! Hello, Krazy Kult! >:-X]

Posted by JCF at Friday, 3 June 2011 at 7:54pm BST

'Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, "The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the law of Moses.' (Acts 15:5)

Consider Cornelius' household. As with Alpha, the Gentile conversion to Christ is all too easy, even if we're all sinners saved by grace. So, like the Pharisees, we need to add another hurdle to get to the 'real' Jesus. Put some intellectual bodyguards around Him and build a priestly caste system. Just to keep the second-class unlearned riff-raff out.

Pity the conscientious long-serving elder brother, protesting against his Father's injustice on the brother's return: 'What has that squanderer ever done to deserve your love? It's all fake, premature and misplaced zeal! What's real? All of these years slaving for you, doing the real work around here and you give barely enough respite to rejoice with my friends!'

Posted by David Shepherd at Saturday, 4 June 2011 at 10:19am BST

Actually, although I personally find Alpha theology too constricting and evangelical, it is far more than a program to coerce adherents to GeeZus.
In fact, GeeZus is an American invention, he doesn't really have many followers on the other side of the pond at all.

Alpha is well thought through and, yes, it is aimed at converting people, but you can't necessary argue with that!
Alpha has grown hugely since it was first developed, and although all courses use the same materials and follow the same program, depending on the course leader they can be hugely searching, empowering and opening up a safe way for people to engage with their questions without indoctrinating them.

Although Alpha itself is following traditional lines on homosexuality and women in positions of authority, it's really up to the course leader how to present the material, and many use that section to talk about inclusion!

The Alpha course leaders I know are not politically right wing preachers of an exclusion gospel but thoughtful and genuinely committed people.

I don't have to agree with every word they say to recognise that.

Posted by Erika Baker at Saturday, 4 June 2011 at 10:41am BST

It does tend to sound like classic brainwashing techniques used by cults, JCF.

Posted by MarkBrunson at Saturday, 4 June 2011 at 10:48am BST

An old Etonian appoints another old Etonian the name of our Queen.

Posted by Robert ian williams at Sunday, 5 June 2011 at 8:52am BST

The Alpha course is a tightly run course...which culminates in a Holy Spirit weekend, borrowed fom the charismatic fringe. Visit Holy Trinity HQ and see the people rolling about on the floor, " slain in the spirit" ( so called Toronto blessing)..thats how unbalanced it is..and several Catholics have been taken in by it hook, line and sinker.

Posted by Robert ian Williams at Monday, 6 June 2011 at 12:28am BST


And your point is?

Posted by Lister Tonge at Monday, 6 June 2011 at 1:45am BST

"Alpha is well thought through and, yes, it is aimed at converting people, but you can't necessary argue with that!"

Actually, I can and I *do* argue w/ that, Erika.

I'll share the Good News w/ anyone who wants to talk w/ me about it...

...but the only one I'm interested in *converting* is MYSELF. To "aim at converting" anyone else, is Playing God, as far as I'm concerned. I won't do it, and I won't be a part of a church that plans to it either. We've got too much Gospel work to do, to undermine that by trying to convert others!

Posted by JCF at Monday, 6 June 2011 at 6:25am BST

that may well be all you are interested in, but can you deduct from that that anyone whose outlook is different is to be dismissed as belonging to a "Krazy Kult"?

A sense of proportion would be helpful.

Posted by Erika Baker at Monday, 6 June 2011 at 11:02am BST

"by their fruits you shall know them"

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Monday, 6 June 2011 at 11:25am BST

It is a travesty of the authentic gospel and Holy Spirit.

Posted by Robert ian Williams at Monday, 6 June 2011 at 3:14pm BST

'Some, however, made fun of them and said, "They have had too much wine.' (Acts 2:13).

Why would the first recipients of the Holy Spirit be thought drunk? I wonder.

Alpha is the latest in a long line of 'travesties' that make the gospel accessible. It really needs the threatened, boring 'middle-managers' of the church to sanitise, rationalise and Europeanise it to death.

RIW, it must be particularly galling that one of your own and one of four moderators of Vatican 2, the late Cardinal Suenens, endorsed the Catholic Charismatic Movement as a genuine expression of the Holy Spirit's work in the modern world. I guess you won't be asking for him to be beatifed, eh?

The 'rushing mighty wind' and the 'still small voice': one and the same Holy Spirit.

Posted by David Shepherd at Monday, 6 June 2011 at 7:31pm BST

If we must have old Etonians in the church (and why not? better than having them in the Government) it's as well that we have a few like Justin Welby. Who sends his daughters to the local comp and addresses anti-government demonstrations in his cathedral.

Posted by David Emmott at Monday, 6 June 2011 at 9:39pm BST

Thanks, RIW: I have some sympathy with your point.

What worries me, though, is the poisonous notion that because Justin Welby belonged at HTB TWENTY YEARS AGO he is in some way a Bad Thing.

Come on, Liberals: grow up! Take note of those who know this man, instead of spinning speculation and innuendo into character assassination. Try supporting someone and praying for him instead of suggesting what 'might' not suit your own prejudices.

Gossip (aka 'blog') of this kind has always been bad and because it is 'Liberal' doesn't make it better.

Posted by Lister Tonge at Monday, 6 June 2011 at 10:58pm BST

David Shepherd, having experience, both of the early charismatic movement (1960's) and the later Alpha phenomenon; I can honestly say that I preferred the former. It was, I think, helped by Good Pope John XXIII, who prayed that the Holy Spirit might come upon the Church "as on the Day of Pentecost"

I was very much influenced for the good by the charismatic movement - but not until it had been accepted by the Roman Catholics (Cardinal Suenens)
as, being of an Anglo-Catholic persuasion, I had questioned the excesses of the preliminary advocates of the 'Tongues Movement' - who seemed to insist that this was the only authentic sign of personal renewal in the Holy Spirit.

Alpha's attraction to affluent business-people seemed at first to enshrine a sort of 'masonic spirituality', with a tongues-speaking equivalence to the 'left-hand-shake". However, it has perhaps matured in theology since those first days - but still resolutely anti-gay - therefore, to my mind, limited in scope for full conversion to the idea of The Kingdom of God for All Believers.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Monday, 6 June 2011 at 11:57pm BST

The *methods* sound like a cult, Erika. Short-term but intense, w/ a definite outcome (accepting Jesus Christ as your Personal Saviour, I'm guessing?) in mind. You can't really meet *Jesus* in 20 hours {*}, but you CAN be indoctrinated into Geezus. Turn or burn!

{*} But you can meet (eat!) Jesus in 20 *seconds*. If they're the 20 seconds of *God's* choosing, not some Evangelical's.

Posted by JCF at Tuesday, 7 June 2011 at 1:43am BST

Maybe you should read up on Alpha before you talk about it.

It's usually advertised round here outside village churches. People meet once a week in someone's house for a shared meal and the course content. The evening takes about 3-4 hours.

People are free not to come back. Although Alpha organisers hope that people will find God (not GeeZus, you really really will have to let go of that American evengelical mindset. It doesn't exist here, however much you'd like to believe it). But if it doesn't happen, it doesn't happen.

If it does happen for some people, and if it happens in a spectacular way - so what? Can we not just be pleased for them? How can you be so sneeringly sure that God cannot work through an Alpha course? That this is not his choosing?

Please, do let go of the American prejudice. It doesn't apply and it only makes you sound like you really don't know what you're talking about.

Ron has more of a point here. Alpha is more associated with rich people, although I believe that's outdated now that it has filtered through from Holy Trinity Brompton, a church that just happens to find itself in a rich area, so why wouldn't it try to attract rich people?

Yes, it's evangelical. Yes, it would like people to "find Jesus" (a term I would never use for myself). Yes, it has conservative moral theology at its core.

But there's actually nothing wrong with being evangelical, however you connect with God is valid, he'll meet you where you are! And not every course presenter accepts the anti-gay stance anti-women teaching stance courses are run in churches with women priests), and certainly few of the participants end up doing so.

Our own parish, a middle of the road liberal parish, has looked into Alpha as an option for outreach. We decided against it in the end because it really is too evangelical for where we are and we prefered a more open ended approach. But the truth is that Alpha was a serious contender, that it deserved to be looked at, that it has a lot of merits as well as limitations.

I'm quite appalled that people seem to think that something has to be rubbished and discarded just because it doesn't follow the way they found faith.

Posted by Erika Baker at Tuesday, 7 June 2011 at 8:45am BST

I agree with Lister...the C of E is full of people who began firmly in the evangelical camp and have moved over the years.I would hope nobody is just as they were when they left theological college throughout their lives.

Posted by Perry Butler at Tuesday, 7 June 2011 at 9:07am BST

Some Anglican churches are even merging Alpha courses with the catechism from the Book of Common Prayer.

Since the root meaning of catechism ('sounding down (into the ears)') is indoctrination with its systematic memorization of faith responses, we might well investigate the suspicion that many confirmation candidates who learn it are being brain-washed.

Given the danger, are most churches now wary of the Book of Common Prayer catechism? Do churches avoid the subtle psychological programming of group confirmation classes?

Or is it really just the case that any teaching content can be abused and therefore needs to be applied ethically?

Posted by David Shepherd at Tuesday, 7 June 2011 at 8:12pm BST

Sadly I doubt whether the BCP catechism is much used is a bit archaic. The Revised Catechism of the early 1960's has rather sunk too tho it is still in print. An attempt to revise the catechism in the mid 80's ( I was on the ctte) proved abortive. I know some bishops are sympathetic to the idea of a revision but generally feel there is little will to achieve this. Yet it seems odd to me Common Worship lacks a catechism/outline of the faith...other provinces are ahead of us in this respect.There is, to my mind, too much "private enterprise" in catechetical material in the C of E...hence, in part, our acute doctrinal divisions. I suspect the laity would welcome a new catechism...

Posted by Perry Butler at Wednesday, 8 June 2011 at 10:26am BST

I wish Justin all the best in Durham, after working with him in Liverpool I know he will truly care for the community and people. He is a lovely person and very down to earth.

Posted by Louise Buckley at Monday, 28 November 2011 at 2:07am GMT
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