Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Open Evangelicalism, NEAC 2008 and the future of the Church of England

The Church of England Evangelical Council website is now advertising 'NEAC 2008' - a consultation in continuity with the previous 'National Evangelical Anglican Consultations'. Meanwhile, on the Fulcrum website, there are rumblings about whether this is going to be truly 'representative' of the current state of Anglican Evangelicalism in England.

Personally, I can't help wondering about 'karma' at this point - or at least, a possible episode of My Name is Earl!

Fulcrum was founded in reaction to the direction being taken during the organizing of the last residential NEAC, at Blackpool in 2003. An article on the Fulcrum website speaks of "the restrictive nature of the planning ... and the sharp reaction of some conservative evangelicals to the appointment of Rowan Williams as Archbishop of Canterbury".

Early in September 2003, the founders of Fulcrum met in St Mary's vicarage, Islington, and decided to launch at NEAC itself. Francis Bridger, the former Principal of Trinity Theological College, Bristol, was appointed as the chair and Elaine Storkey and Tim Dakin (of CMS) as vice chairs. Graham Kings, the Rector of St Mary's was appointed Theological Secretary, Rod Green, a member of St Mary's as Administrator and John Martin (formerly editor of the Church of England Newspaper) as Press Officer. Others involved in the planning included Christina Rees (of WATCH) and Andrew Goddard (of Wycliffe Hall Theological College).

Just three days before the start of NEAC 4, Graham Kings e-mailed the CEEC about the formation of the new organization and used the fact that he had booked the bar at the Conference venue for Fulcrum's informal launch. In addition to Kings himself, speakers over the subsequent evenings included Bishop Tom Wright, Christina Baxter (Principal of St John's Theological College, Nottingham) and Bishop Graham Cray.

Since then, Fulcrum has claimed the 'Evangelical Centre' and, simultaneously, has steadfastly opposed more Conservative groupings such as Reform, and initiatives such as GAFCON. In effect, therefore, it has formalized the divisions in Evangelicalism between its Conservative and Open strands.

Thus Evangelical unity in the Church of England is probably at an all-time low since the end of the Second World War. The old pattern of Evangelical clergy and laity gathering in Diocesan Fellowships - which provide one of the electoral bases for representation on the CEEC itself - has almost disappeared in many areas. There is deep mistrust, exacerbated by what is perceived amongst many Conservatives as a drift of Open Evangelicals into Liberalism. Christina Rees, for example, now seems thoroughly committed, via WATCH, to the 'Inclusive Church' network and agenda, and equally committed to the marginalization of Traditionalists, both Evangelical and Catholic, on the issue of women bishops.

However, one consequence of this disunity is, ironically, that whilst Conservative Evangelicals are doubtless in a minority, they are disproportionately represented within many established bodies and organizations simply because they have continued to be involved, attend meetings and generally do the donkey work. By contrast, the movement of self-confessed 'Fulcrumites' to the supposed 'centre' has been a movement away from identification with an overriding 'Evangelical' identity and therefore leaves them marginalized from the established Evangelical structures.

One thus reads complaints about NEAC and 'representativeness' by Fulcrum supporters with a sense of 'coming back to bite you'.

A possible solution, of course, would be for Open Evangelicals to commit themselves once again to involvement in Evangelical structures. But in the present context that would necessarily be to express a 'distinctiveness' from the rest of the Church of England, and this seems to be something which, by their very nature, Open Evangelicals are not willing to do.

Given the condition of the Church of England and the Anglican Communion, the logic of this would seem to lead, inexorably, to the absorption of Open Evangelicalism into a TEC-style denomination, whilst Conservatives are driven to the edge, and perhaps beyond.

That, however, is no doubt one of the reasons for holding NEAC 2008 - to prevent further drift in both the demonination and the constituency. My advice to Fulcrum and to Open Evangelicals would be, "Go back to the old paths. Put your commitment to Evangelicalism, and Evangelicals, above your commitment to the Church of England and you will benefit the Church of England more than by trying to do things the other way round."

But it may be too late for that.

John Richardson
12 August 2008

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  1. The Fulcrum blogs raise significant issues about the representative nature of the CEEC agenda and the 'consultative' nature of the event. I quote from the most succinct listing of the issues: "The list of 8 named contributors contains three bishops, none of whom were at Lambeth (for their various reasons) but two of whom were at GAFCON. I'd have said two of them could be called 'open' evangelicals, five are definitely on the conservative side and the last is Michael Nazir-Ali. Oh yes, and one woman to seven men. Over half of the time (not allowing for registration and lunch break) is set piece items, including a hour and a half of being 'addressed'. The opportunity to 'take counsel' comes in a 2 hour plenary session in the afternoon which names four speakers who will make 'contributions', so it's not at all clear to me to what degree this will involve any sense of 'taking soundings' from the rest of those who attend, or whether it will be more of a 'rallying the troops', or at least 'sounding the call'."

    None of these issues are actually addressed in your post. Instead, you use the raising of these issues as an excuse for an attack on Fulcrum essentially for forming an alternative Evangelical grouping to those others already in existence such as Reform and New Wine. If the formation of a group representing a specific constituency within Evangelicalism represents a split within Evangelicalism itself, as you seem to be arguing, then to be logical you should also argue that the formation of grouping like Reform and New Life themselves represented a split in Evangelicalism. Instead of resisting the formation of groups representing the different Evangelical constitutencies, you would be better advised to address the real issues raised in these blogs about the bias in those invited towards the conservative Evangelical agenda and the apparent lack of space and time for real consultation in an event that is explicitly billed as being a consultation.

  2. John,
    I think your have misapplied your criticisms of Fulcrum; you mention individuals, may of whom are known to me, some as close friends, who are the leadership of Fulcrum, whose theological stance and personal opinions are well documented in their own work, which I respect enormously. However, the purpose of Fulcrum is to renew the centre of evangelicalism, by facilitating dialogue with both CE's and liberals. So Fulcrum as a body of people is so much more than just the opinions of the leadership. As I'm sure you are aware, people of many different traditions post on the forum and contribute to the articles. If CE's get a rough time in the forum, it is usually from the liberal contributors rather than the OE's.
    I suspect the biggest beef with the 15 Nov do is that there is so little time for talking to each other, which is surely the best way of working together instead of against each other.
    Perceptions of what happened at the Fulcrum launch seem to vary according to who you ask, but one thing I do know for sure is that you can't generalise and say that all OE's will end up in one section of the communion. In my book, when it comes to that kind of decision, it's not just the clergy but the parishes themselves that will make the difference; and in cases like mine where a multi parish benefice covers a variety of traditions, it's hard to know how that could work at all - I can't imagine one parish out of four being looked after by one set of bishops and the other three by another communion.

  3. Jonathan,

    I'm not sure if the comment about the bishops on the Fulcrum website is a criticism or merely an observation. Of the three listed, two are on CEEC and one is its President. It thus surely makes sense for them to address a CEEC sponsored event.

    Pete Broadbent would, I think, class himself as 'Open Evangelical'.

    It might, indeed, have been good to have a Lambeth-attending Open Evangelical bishop - perhaps Paul Butler would have been a good choice, since I understand he also went to GAFCON.

    However, Michael Nazir-Ali is emerging as an important figure for the CofE at home and yet is not, specifically, Evangelical, so his is at least another perspective.

    Your point about other groupings, such as Reform and New Wine, has, of course, some weight. However, New Wine has certainly not set itself up 'over against' non-Charismatics, nor, I think, did Reform set itself up 'over against' Open Evangelicalism - though I may be misreading its origins in that respect.

    Fulcrum, by contrast, has an 'anti' edge to at - 'anti-Covenant for the Cof E', 'anti-Reform', 'anti-GAFCON'. Or at least, I seem to be reading a lot of that sort of material on its site. I have also been on the 'sharp end' of criticisms about Conservative actions in Chelmsford.

    Moreover, it is clearly the case that Evangelical unity has suffered immensely in the last thirty years. However, I am not saying to Open Evangelicals 'be gone', but rather 'return'.

    Yes, there are things to criticize, but let's be unified before we criticize - let's support a thing because it, and we are, Evangelical. Then we can sort out the shortcomings in unity.

  4. Tim,

    Thanks for posting, but see my comments to Jonathan for a partial reply.

    My question to Open Evangelicals more generally would be this: "Do you go to your Diocesan Evangelical fellowship? Do you support things because they are Evangelical, first, not because you agree with every detail of them? Indeed, do you see yourselves as essentially Evangelicals or as essentially 'Anglicans'?"

    Those who answer the latter are, I fear, already absorbed into a theological framework dominated by Liberalism (see The Unhappy Fate of Optional Orthodoxy, by Richard John Nehaus - apologies for the format!). Only an Evangelicalism which is critical of the Anglican establishment more than it is critical of other wings of Evangelicalism is sufficient for the day. I look in vain for such criticism, though, from Fulcrum, at least.

  5. There is a more readable version of Neuhaus's essay "The Unhappy Fate of Optional Orthodoxy" here, about halfway down the page.

  6. It does strike me that open evangelicals have been absolutely marginalised by the NEAC organisers - if none of the bishops speaking at the post-Lambeth meeting actually attended the Lambeth Conference, then those committed to the Keele process of working with the whole of the Church of England and taking the Anglican Communion seriously are going to feel very awkward about attending.

    Evangelicalism has changed in recent years, and Fulcrum was formed as a response to the changes, and is not itself a cause.

  7. Liam Beadle is from Durham, UK incidentally.

  8. Hmm, but should we be defining ourselves by who or what we criticise? I prefer to self define in terms of love (1John 4 7-12).

    Fair do's, I don't go to Chelmsford DEF, but that's partly because of time (or lack of it) and partly because I am plugged in to the New Wine Network which is more enjoyable because it is less political. For example the CDEF relaunch with Pete Broadbent was an attractive idea but it clashed with parish stuff that I couldn't avoid.

    Essentially I am a Christian. that Christianity is expressed as Anglicanism first and foremost because that is the church the Lord has called me in to. My personal tradition is Charismatic Evangelical, but my job mean that I must be sensitive to other traditions and indeed I have grown in faith by openness to catholic spirituality.

    My question to you John, (or to CE's I guess) is why are you still Anglicans, if you seek to be critical?

  9. John, sorry mate on this one I've got to disagree with you. My experience in recent years of some conservative evangelicals has led me to conclude that they are the ones seeking to exclude and marginalise. I give three examples.

    I was at the launch of Reform Chelmsford and distictly remember the approach stated as being quite critical of many other evangelicals and seeking to purify and refine what we understand evangelicalism to be. I left the meeting at Harold Wood with a mixture of great sorrow, frustration and anger.

    I also sat alongside you on the CDEA committee for a while a few years ago and eventually resigned because I was fed up attending committee meetings where most of the time was spent criticising and complaining about others. The final straw for me was the sending of a letter calling for the resignation of one of the area bishops which I refused to sign. At that point I gave up because of the constant negativity.

    I attended a meeting of evangelical clergy organised by an area bishop after which I was sent an email from a member of Reform telling me not to worry, I hadn't been regarded as an evangelical for a long time. This summed up for me the arrogance of some colleagues who wear their evangelicalism as a badge of honour while seeking every opportunity to criticise and oppose others including the bishops.

    Again and again my experience has been that it is not open evangelicals who have sought to push others out but frustration with conservative colleagues claiming to be the true voice of evangelicalism has led to the forming of other groupings including Fulcrum.

  10. (jody stowell, maidenhead, fulcrum leadership team)


    I think you must acknowledge that your views of the inception of Fulcrum are from a particularly CE perspective and not representative of how we would see it.

    also, I don't see myself as firstly evangelical or anglican.

    follower of Jesus wins the day - every time.


  11. John

    I think your account errs in two important respects.

    In the first place, I find myself (as many others do) as an open evangelical in a similar position to many who 30 years ago simply called themselves 'evangelicals.' I am afraid many of the claims to continuity with evangelical belief that come from Reform and Church Society are simply unconvincing. The foundation of Reform clearly signaled a 'hardening' on particular issues. On the issue of women's ministry, solidly evangelical scholars like Dick France and Howard Marshall appear to agree with the 'open' position. And it has been astonishing to hear (as I have heard) some declare that even John Stott is now seen to be suspiciously liberal.

    Secondly, Reform was quite clearly established as an 'anti' party--anti women's ordination. This was clearly seen as the line in the sand, *the* marker of whether or not the Church (and individuals) are biblically orthodox. Only a couple of years ago someone came to tell the New Wine leaders' conference that this was the thin end of the wedge, and would inevitably lead to compromise on the issue of homosexuality since the issues were of a piece.

    If Fulcrum is against anything, is it against this artificial narrowness--hence the frequent use of the term 'open' in its statement of where it is at. Being open is dangerous, because it is sometimes unclear where the boundaries are. But being unnecessarily 'closed' to things is not the answer.

  12. Thanks to all contributors so far.

    Two things it seems to me this illustrates:

    1. There is a massive, and may I say bitter, division in Evangelicalism. Repentance and reconciliation can be the only way to unity, if that is possible, and that needs to start at the top, both by action and example.

    Perhaps something like a 'Keele for Evangelicals' is needed, to decide whether it is one movement that essentially can work together, or several which will work separately.

    I have to say personally I doubt such reconciliation is possible because of increasing divisions not only on peripherals but essentials. That, I think, is why one contributor to the Fulcrum posts keeps asking for a 'big debate' (which keeps getting knocked on the head, as far as I can see).

    2. Perception is fundamental. Phil, you wrote about Chelmsford Diocesan Evangelical Association meetings where there was constant criticism and where an Area Bishop was asked to resign. I remember you coming in and criticizing everything (which made me cross), not attending very often and then not attending at all. And, incidentally, the Area Bishop was not asked to resign from his post but as a Patron of Changing Attitude, which he eventually did. I still have the correspondence on that one. This was one reason why we were so gob-smacked when Bishop John Gladwin took on the same role and why it is still so problematic that he refused to heed a similar plea to stand down from it. I am very sorry that you received an unpleasant and unnecessary e-mail, but that is the action of an individual, not a movement.

    Liam, you say Open Evangelicals will feel "very awkward" about attending the next NEAC if they feel marginalized, but not attending is precisely the route by which they have been marginalized from the political structures of Evangelicalism.

    And to Tim, what is the Church of England if not 'political' in its functioning? All the key decisions - funding, training, deployment, employment - involve 'politics' in the sense of policies based on presuppositions. The reason we need to be critical, though, is because like all institutions (especially, perhaps, religious ones), the CofE is always in danger of drifting from its moorings and always has to be called back. It is fine to be a 'mere Anglican' if that is the Anglicanism of Bible above all, with the understanding of biblical faith expressed in the Articles and Prayer Book, but we know it isn't.

    Jody, my views of the inception of Fulcrum have to be based entirely on the article on the Fulcrum website. And of course being 'Christian' is 'top priority', but I remember George Carey in his pre-Canterbury days saying he was a "Christian first, an Anglican second and an Evangelical third." I would have to say he got two and three round the wrong way.

    To Ian, yes, Reform did have a particular stance on a 'single issue', yet it has curiously refused to function as if that issue were as important as you think they think it is! I have raised frequently the question why Reform parishes aren't all Resolution C. I have never had a satisfactory answer.

    But you have to agree, if you expect me to, that this is an area where Evangelicals differ. You therefore have to allow that for some of us it is an issue of biblical faithfulness which has to be expressed in Church polity. This does not make hostility inevitable, though. I disagree with Baptists on baptism, but I don't tar everything Baptist with the same brush as a result. So it should be possible, unless having (or not having) women as bishops is a requirement of the gospel, to respect and allow for the difference - which, as Pete Broadbent has taken pains to understand and state, is why what General Synod has currently proposed is wrong.

    As to the link with the 'gay' issue, there clearly is one - not that women clergy must lead to gay inclusion (though you might ask Christina Rees about that one), but that 'corner cutting theology' in one area leads to corner cutting in others.

    To close, my reason for my initial post is that I see (and remember, perception is fundamental) a knee-jerk tendency to criticize and complain about anything 'Conservative' on the part of some Open Evangelicals, and an equal tendency to take their ball home if the game isn't to their liking. Put together, the two create a volatile mixture.

    I hear what people are saying about Conservative Evangelicals. You only have to check out this blog to see I've said a few critical things myself. All I will add is that it goes both ways.

    Finally, I worry that reconciliation is now impossible, not only because of the divisions politically but theologically. The positioning of Tom Wright's theology amongst Open Evangelicals is particularly problematic. But that must await another post.

    Can we live together? I'm not sure. Should we live together? Absolutely, if we are about the business of one Lord and Saviour.

  13. PS, Tim, talking about perceptions, I thought your comment about me on the Fulcrum forum, "he doesn't need much encouraging to lay into Fulcrum", was typical of the problem.

    Actually, I vary between hope and exasperation with Fulcrum - exasperation at the constant sniping at Conservatives (and when are they ever going to have a go at TEC or the Canadian primates, for example) and hope that we might be able to stop shooting at one another and start some sort of rapprochement.

    Knowing that Fulcrumites read my blog, I post here in the hope it might influence thinking there. However, I gave up posting on the Fulcrum forum a year or more back as it was just too much like hard work!

  14. And PPS to all, if Open Evangelicals want CEEC and NEAC to be representative of the 'whole spectrum' of Evangelical opinion, they have to turn up - and not just to the 'big events' but to local, boring, meetings of the DEF. It's a bit like Sunday church, really. You don't do it because it's fun. You do it because you're part of it.

  15. John, thanks for the response and three further comments.

    You didn't answer my point about the tone at the launch of Chelmsford Reform. This was very different to the tone of the launch of Fulcrum which I also attended and which was not set up in opposition to other evangelical groups but in order to give voice to the concerns of many evangelicals who felt their voice was not being heard and didn't feel represented by Reform.

    Regarding the CDEA committee meetings; the point I was making was that I had sought to engage with the diocesan evangelical group (with great reluctance given past encounters with some of the committee members). I certainly was critical in the meetings I attended because I just couldn't agree with the approach being adopted which was one of oppostionalism and constant criticism of the bishops, diocesan structures and other colleagues. I remember one meeting that went on for nearly three hours and which was just one moan after another about the diocese, bishops and others. So yes I was critical because I was astonished at the negativity, at times pettiness (e.g. over what bit of cloth we wore round our necks at ordination) and what I felt was a continual pursuit of confrontation.
    Is it a surprise that I wasn't that enthusiastic about attending the meetings and in the end I just gave up. Sorry if I made you cross but I was just as cross with some of the attitudes and opinions expressed in those meetings.

    I haven't got the correspondance with me regarding the letter sent to the bishop, if you could email it to me I'd be grateful (I'll email you off post about this).

    The email I referred to was just one example of several I could have given. Having said that I would not want to imply that all Reform members behave in this way, some I have great respect for and have highly valued their ministry.

    Anyway, I would hope that dialogue and discussion is still possible between evangelicals as long as we can move away from the continual questioning of each others credentials.

  16. Phil

    I honestly don't remember the launch of Chelmsford Reform, so can't comment on that.

    As regards the correspondence with the Bishop of Bradwell, initially he refused a meeting with the CDEA committee to discuss his patronage of Changing Attitude, advancing the view that it was an 'educational' group aiming at promoting dialogue.

    On reflection, it seems he agreed it was more in the nature of a campaign group and resigned his patronage accordingly.

    The correspondence was by snail-mail and I would have to scan the documents if you really want to see them. That may involve some delay.

    I would simply add that the CDEA, whilst taking on a campaigning role in the 1990s, did so to campaign for Evangelicalism, not Conservative Evangelicalism. Moreover, efforts were made then, and have been made since, to involve all shades of Evangelical opinion, in response to criticisms of a lack of breadth.

    The relaunch of the CDEA this year aimed to reflect this, and the management of the CDEA has been put deliberately in the hands of a non-Conservative group. The test, therefore, will be whether Open Evangelicals come back, beginning with the meeting on the 29th November, where the speaker will be Christina Baxter.

    It is difficult to imagine what more than this can be done in Chelmsford. I would like to see more willingness by Opens to attend Conservative-biased meetings and vice-versa. Certainly I will aim to get to the CDEA myself, but it's the old proverb about leading a horse (or horses) to water.

  17. John

    Thanks for your comments. On the issues:

    1. No, I don't think you can have it both ways. You cannot say 'I think this is a defining issue' but also say 'let's live together.' This is precisely what liberals say we can do about the gay issue, and I am sure you agree it will not work. As long as someone is saying to me 'you are the wrong side on the defining issue' then they are telling me I am not a 'real' evangelical--and it shows in their subsequent action.

    2. Having been a member of CEEC, as a chair of Salisbury DEF, I can report first hand that CEEC runs on a mixture of the conservative group strengthening its own control, eg through the appointment of more conservatives as co-options through what frankly looks like an abuse of process, combined with denial that there is a problem. The root of the representational problem is that DEFs have not for some time represented evangelicals in the way they did in eg the 1970s, partly because of an aversion to meetings, partly because of the growth of other networks such as Willow Creek and New Wine.

    3. I do actually believe that there can be conversation. I agree that some open evangelicals are not very open to conservatives. But I have found a consistent unwillingness to engage in debate from the other side. Whilst on Synod I tried to engage with David Banting on the key issues. At a CEEC meeting, when Wallace Benn made a plea to open evangelicals to 'stand with us' and show support, I asked David Phillips whether, from his position, he might be able to offer reciprocal support to open evangelicals. His one-word answer? 'No'. Unqualified, undiscussed.

    Nevertheless, I think the dialogue important and to that end I am working on an initiative this autumn which I hope will re-open the discussion about biblical interpretation which was closed down in 1995.

    4. I think I need to see from your side some acknowledgement that the two issues of women and homosexuality are quite distinct hermeneutically, without being told I am just 'cutting corners.' I am quite persuaded of the biblical case for the possibility of women in leadership, and happy to debate it, but also clear that scripture prohibits homosexual sexual union. Dick France has written a good Grove booklet on this subject, and there is plenty of other material around. Would you be willing to recognise the coherence of my position?

  18. Fulcrum attitudes to Reform (in particular) are odd. I've found unity with non-Anglican Charismatics/Pentecostals, Baptists and all other shade of Evangelical fine. Yet there is a problem here.

    It is odd that on these postings people say John is strange for identifying ourselves by who we disagree with. It might seem a negative way of doing things, but we all PROTESTant aren't we?

    But that's where the Irony lay. Fulcrum, even by it's name (we're balanced you're not - but you're the arrogant ones) sets itself up by what it isn't - Reform (& the like). BUT it is strangely tolerant of ANYTHING that isn't Reform and very defensive if Reform types criticise it. Even if it means (in case of GAFCON) having a go at others with virtually the same views - just because Reform was broadly supportive.

    Criticism can be picky and petty (like Fulcrum boards picking on Reforms sense of humour - Oh come on!) but can be constructive, even if painful. For instance, John has talked about DEFs tackling the fact they've appealed to a narrower group.

    IF as Fulcrum has claimed Evangelicalism has been broad, all the more reason to stick to NEAC and DEF. Fine set up a special intrest group. But to say there has been a narrowing process, just doesn't match history. Church Soc has doctrinally stood still since 1830s (when formed) and was involved in setting up CPAS, Pathfinders and DEFs. Those groups probably are now 'broader' that Church Soc. So quite the reverse is happening.

    Darren Moore

  19. OK, John, I was out of order in my comment about you on the Fulcrum post - sorry (it's usually the more liberal posters I upset!)

    I started my own light-hearted blog because like you often I find regular posting on Fulcrum quite hard work.

    The thing is of course that God doesn't stamp us with a label when he calls us; people change as they grow (not always away from a conservative perspective).

    I accept that the C of E is political but let us not imagine that her politics are not carried out in an environment of genuine, sincere (if not evangelical) prayer and worship. If I didn't believe that God is alive and well and working through the systems of the C of E I wouldn't be part of it.

    Presumably (I presume because you haven't answered my question) you are still an Anglican because you believe (like Bishop John Spong) that you cannot change or reform the church unless you are part of it.
    I still don't quite get the thing about criticism of the church being a raison d'etre for individuals or groups.

    I will try my hardest to make it to NEAC 08, so see you there.

  20. Ian,

    I think what you're saying is that for you, as for me, women's ministry is a 'conscience' (faithfulness) issue, but not a 'defining' (gospel) issue. Thus whilst cooperation may sometimes be difficult, it is not impossible, even in evangelistic mission.

    I didn't mean that you personally cut corners, any more than I think Baptists do in regard to their beliefs about baptism. Nevertheless, I do believe there are plenty of 'corner cutters' on the issue and on homosexuality. The danger for Open Evangelicals is that they get drawn in by a hermeneutic of equality and 'givenness' ("I am born gay/a woman, I cannot be denied full inclusion" - which seems to be the approach of WATCH, Accepting Evangelicals, etc).

    There is thus a serious task ahead of Open Evangelicals, not so much about dialogue with Conservatives as in teaching their own people, committed their charge, the exact reason for the distinction. This will not, I suggest, be easy without a carefully displayed hermeneutic.

    As to Conservative 'tactics' in strengthening their own position, I am in two minds. On the one hand, I think it is entirely right that any group within the Church do exactly that. Robert Runcie was often accused of 'nepotism' towards old friends. Personally, if I were a bishop I would be as 'nepotistic' as possible if it meant strengthening the theological position I believed to be true.

    I thus don't think I can complain about Liberals when they do the same. The one thing that annoys me is when people say they are being 'liberal' but in reality are not. So the fact that the Church of England officially says that one's views on women's ordination make no difference to appointments or preferment, but in fact have not appointed a Traditionalist diocesan bishop for over a decade is understandable, but hypocritical.

    The question that has to be asked is whether all Evangelicals ought, in principle, to ensure representation of all Evangelicals. If that is so, I would expect Open Evangelical bodies, and bishops, to ensure the appointment, promotion and preferment of Conservatives.

    The difficulty might be that Conservatives don't always believe this, as you have observed. So the favour will not always be reciprocated. But since Open Evangelicals do believe in such representation, they ought to ensure that it occurs, even when others do not.

    I will be interested to see your initiative. What happened in 1995?

  21. (sorry I can't do italics - yet so just do BOLD - I'm not shouting)


    can I slightly naunce your comments to Ian? Women's ordination SHOULDN'T be a defining issue. BUT it can become one IF the rules change so that if one disagrees you can't be selected, get a job etc. Then we define "orthodoxy" by this one issue, it is then defining. What you and I have always advocated is the current (official) status quo of 2 integrities. Both views valid, both sides thinking the other is mistaken, but (theoretically) open to persuation.

    I think it is defining issue for the person who THINKS 1 thing is asked to do another, i.e. someone with a trad view to take act against it, that's what Romans 14 is all about, not making the weaker brother stumble (notice what Jesus has to say about making a 'little one' stumble). Now some say, "well it's a conscience issue that women are Priest's/Bishops". Fine, I understand, but nobody is (yet) saying that it's wrong for a man to do it. So 2 integrities works. If it works badly for anybody, as John has shown, it's for us, as appointments to the Bishops bench shows.

    As for the hermenutics about ordination of women, pulling out Evangelical big-guns doesn't convince anybody. Again, on this blog John has said that there is a strong (but in his view mistaken) case for it. Many/most CEs are with him on that.

    I would say that the consequences of ordination of women and homosexuality and level of seriousness are different. So I don't get so hot under the collar about it. BUT I would say there is a link.

    The link is creational, God made male and female in his image, not just a human-thing. And the difference should be observed in certain settings (marriage & Church). In fact the fall is a reversal of that order.

    Now I have heard a number of arguments knocking that down from evangelicals. But they do SOUND like liberal arguments for homosexual practice: Paul was arguing against a different thing, etc. Afterall, have you met someone pro-gay agenda who isn't pro-ordination of women?

    I think for all of us there is much invested in this, beyond theological conviction. Someone in a loving homosexual relationship is going to need more that a theological discourse to change their mind! Changeing our mind can often be costly. I wish I could change mind for the opposite reason.

    Having said all that, I have managed to work in Churches and together with Churches with different views to me on this.

    Sorry, long winded
    Darren Moore

  22. George Day wanted this posted but for some reason the posting process didn't work for him:

    I write as an Open Evangelical and a member of Fulcrum, and as somebody who is in my Diocesan Evangelical Fellowship, (Rochester - and indeed on the committee); and also as somebody very concerned about the future of evangelicalism, particularly if the body that theoretically represents evangelicals, namely CEEC, proves to only represent some.

    In your original comment you speak of Fulcrumites being "marginalized from the established Evangelical structures". I agree many have no connection with DEFs, (but if Rochester is anything to go by, this is not restricted to Fulcrum people!), but your point begs the question as to what counts as "established Evangelical structures". Granted Fulcrum has not been in existence for very long, but why should it not count as an eEs? And why should it not be represented on CEEC? After all, Reform is, together with quite a number of other evangelical societies.

    Somebody posting on the Fulcrum site's NEAC thread (Simon Morden) comments "I'm guessing that the majority of CofE evangelicals won't have heard of either NEAC or CEEC" and "I am still unsure as to their [CEEC's] authority as a council." That comment suggests that CEEC needs to do a whole lot of work on publicity, and (in view of the evident confusion over its recent election - see one of my posts on the Fulcrum NEAC thread) needs urgently to deal with accountability.

    But most important of all, CEEC needs to work pro-actively to ensure it represents the full spread of evangelicals.

    And that brings us to the question of the NEAC speakers. 3 bishops are to speak, all individually sensible choices in that (as you point out) they are linked with CEEC, but as a threesome it is a disaster in a conference supposed to chart the way forward post Lambeth and Gafcon, in that none of them were at Lambeth.

    I have to say I find this nothing short of mind-boggling. (I would be equally mind-boggled if there were to be 3 bishops who had been to Lambeth and none who had been to Gafcon). This just is not a sensible way to handle things. I would like to be able to support CEEC and to feel confidence in it, but with an approach like this I feel it is either being totally stupid (unlikely) or is deliberately aiming for only part of the evangelical spectrum. (There is also the point that a number of people are starting to make, that this NEAC looks mostly to be a set-piece listen-to-speakers job, with little chance of input). Maybe, John, you can convince me otherwise, but I am afraid from where I stand the whole thing breathes stitch-up. (I know that’s not diplomatic language, but that’s how it feels).

    And that leaves me (and I guess other OEs) wondering whether or not to go to NEAC. How much better it would have been if it had included at the very least one evangelical bishop who had been to Lambeth and commented positively on it.


  23. George,

    You say that 'mini-NEAC' "breathes stitch-up". May I ask to what end you think this is happening?

    I'm on the CEEC, but not party to the organization of the NEAC. Nevertheless, I was there when the idea was tentatively floated, and was not aware of any 'agendas' running about something which needed to be pushed through that could best be achieved by a 'stitched up NEAC'. On the contrary, what I heard was a genuine suggestion to gather the constituency in the light of what were known to be 'seminal' events (now past) in the middle of this year.

    A NEAC is no more empowered than a Lambeth Conference to make people do anything - but clearly if it being 'stitched up' it designed to achieve something - and presumably, from what is being said here and elsewhere, something 'not to the liking' of the Open Evangelical constituency.

    So can you, or anyone else come to that, enlighten me as to what it might be?

    PS I should point out I probably won't be there, as a good friend of mine is getting married and has asked me to speak at his wedding!

  24. Thanks, John, for posting my email on your blog. Let's see if this one gets up direct!

    Obviously, not having been a fly on the wall when CEEC discussed NEAC and the choice of speakers, I don't know if this was a conscious stitch-up, in which case your question of intent would be very relevant, or whether it was just part of a mindset that acts in such a way as to sideline the sort of people, basically open Evangelicals, who are saddened (or worse) by bishops not attending Lambeth. I suspect it was the latter, which in my language (probably influenced by 19 years in my former parish of St Paul's Cray!)is still a stitch-up, even if it is not entirely a conscious one.

    The fact is that CEEC has become narrow in outlook. It is largely composed of people who to a greater or lesser degree push a line that effectively regards open evangelicals as not entirely sound, and at least one or two who would, I think, want to exclude us. Here it is arranging a conference about the future of anglican evangelicalism, and it selects main speakers who are all non-Lambeth bishops, (in spite of Lambeth being in the title of the conference!!) or people who are well-known as representing one wing of evangelicalism.

    I accept the plenary session has far wider representation; so I accept it is not a total stitch-up, but it is hardly an open-minded approach to this vital question of talking together about the future direction of anglican evangelicalism; it is not a constructive way "to gather the constituency", to use your phrase.

  25. George,

    Glad to see that one worked!

    On the 'stitch up' front, I wonder how many different speakers there would have had to be to avoid the accusation. Wallace Benn and Pete Broadbent are, I would presume, unexceptionable simply by virtue of their CEEC roles, and represent different ends of the 'spectrum'. Christina Baxter is surely 'Open'. Paul Perkin is Conservative Evangelical but also 'New Wine'. Mike Ovey 'balances off' Christina Baxter as a College principal. That leaves Chris Sugden - 'controversial', but who better to talk about GAFCON? And then there's Michael Nazir Ali. Episcopally, he is the most obvious candidate to drop - but that would be a shame considering he is arguably the most significant diocesan clearly speaking up for the causes all Evangelicals hold dear.

    Would an anti-GAFCON, Lambeth-attending evangelical bishop be available? And who might it be?

    You could argue that Richard Turnbull ought to be seen as the 'balance' to Christina Baxter.

    I'm just trying to juggle the programme in my head and think who else could be there.

    One other thing I will say. Considering the 'flack' administered by Open Evangelicals to some on the CEEC, it is a wonder they don't always want to feed the hand that bites them (if I may corrupt a metaphor), however wise it might be to do so.

  26. PS to all, is it really the case that between them Christina Baxter and Pete Broadbent are going to let Open Evangelical concerns be marginalized in favour of a 'stitch up' at the mini-NEAC?

    I don't know much about Christina Baxter, but ...


  27. Could it be as soon as there is anyone with a CE view, let alone a majority there is widespread panic?

    It's not often really is it, that you hear CEs speaking at anything other than at CE organisations is it. So why the panic when at a broad Evangelical meeting they outnumber a bit? CEs are used to it at every level. Often of their own making, granted.

    Darren Moore

  28. John

    "Would an anti-GAFCON, Lambeth-attending evangelical bishop be available?" you ask. Why on earth the suggestion of anti-Gafcon? My contention re the bishops speaking at NEAC is that none of them attended Lambeth, nothing whatsoever about being anti-Gafcon. Surely pure logic says that is a nonsense in a conference that is about where we are post Lambeth as well as post Gafcon not to have anybody who attended Lambeth.

    It is of course possible other evangelical bishops were approached and either could not or would not speak, but I would be very surprised if nobody was available and willing, and I for one would have been far happier and far more convinced this really was an attempt to gather the constituency if somebody like Nick Baines, (who blogged so helpfully from Lambeth) was speaking.

    Of course you are right to point out in your second short reply that Pete Broadbent and Christina Baxter are going to represent the OE side, but again this does not address the point that there is nobody who attended Lambeth.


    If your post was in response to my comments, can I just say that of course it is right that there should be CE speakers. My objection is the absence of Lambeth attenders in a conference that is, in part, about post Lambeth.

    George Day

  29. John,
    Bishop Mike Hill of Bristol was at Lambeth.
    He is orthodox Biblically, is in the New Wine network, is an authority on Leadership and has been on the council of Wycliffe Hall.
    To me he ticks the boxes of an Evangelical who was at Lambeth but not GAFCON.
    Bring himn on on 15 Nov I suggest!

  30. The Bishops of Birkenhead and Southampton were at both. But maybe they were asked and were busy. Maybe people are reading in too much.

    George - not a comment directed at you personally, just at the general feel some people have. I guess as a CE I'm used to going to events such as DEF (not been for a while either) and Diocesan things and thinking, "Not my choice but it could be worse". I guess we all have to do that sometimes.

    Darren Moore

  31. As I have mentioned before, Evangelicals are like the Pharisee's. Wrapped up in their own agenda's and wasting time and effort by arguing about a topic that prevents them from doing the actual thing they are arguing about. There are some bigger issues here at play like gay clergy etc etc and these issues have a dramatic effect on Evangelicals. The Gospel is simple and the life of faith once repentance has taken place is a journey but why oh why does the church seem to be able to make it so complicated and so unattractive. Any outsider looking in at all this would surely be put off?

    Steve Hearn
    Langdon Hills