Controversy evolves

Earlier this week, Ruth Gledhill, an article entitled “Don’t Shoot the Heretics” reported on the ongoing disputes between faculty and administration at Wycliffe Hall, one of England’s premier evangelical seminaries. At the moment the controversy is focused on the dismissal of faculty members who are in theological disagreement with the new administration.

Craig Uffman, writes that the situation at Wycliffe Hall signifies a significant development in the developing controversy within the Anglican Communion. Rather than being focused on the issue of whether or not certain Anglican provinces are in error in moving toward the full inclusion of gay and lesbian Christians, the conflict at Wycliffe Hall is between two different branches of the Evangelical Party in the Church of England.

From Uffman’s article:

It’s not unusual for Anglicans to be divided these days. But what’s tragic is that the division that is the context of both of these controversies is mostly between conservative and ‘open’ evangelicals, two groups who share a lot of common ground. In what follows, I hope to gesture towards what I believe is a major cause of the division. If I am correct, then the current controversies may portend a widening conflict in which human sexuality is no longer the presenting issue. For at the heart of these controversies is a dispute over the nature and implications of the Gospel itself for Christian ethical conduct and the ordering of the Church.

It seems that many conservatives confuse the concept of an “open” evangelical, as the term is used in England, with the way “open” is sometimes used in North America to refer to a pro-Gay stance. “Open evangelicalism” does not mean one is open on issues of human sexuality or any other matters of Christian ethics. I write to propose a way of understanding this concept that I believe is pertinent to the situation at Wycliffe Hall but also helps us to understand tensions between self-described ‘orthodox’ Christians who, were their disagreements not so passionate on this particular issue, would likely be fast friends.

The point that Uffman is making is that the stresses in the Communion are beginning to expose fault lines that have been long present yet to this point dormant. The response to these stresses, to stay in conversation with people with whom we disagree or to separate ourselves from them goes to the heart of both the acceptance or rejection Windsor process or the willingness of the administration at Wycliffe Hall to employ or dismiss people who believe that conversation should continue.

Thinking Anglicans continues to compile stories on the Wycliffe controversy here and here. And here.

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