fWycliffe Hall is one of the Church of England’s most prestigious theological colleges, being one of Oxford University’s many colleges. Long respected as an evangelical institution, it has had a number of difficulties since the principalship of Alister McGrath and the current principal, Michael Lloyd, is seen by many as a safe pair of hands.
But he’s now facing a growing crisis over an inadvertent but controversial invitation to the dean of Christ Church, Martyn Percy, to preach at college chapel on 8 March 2016 at a service of Holy Communion. The text for that day is Col. 4:2-18.
Martyn Percy is well known as a liberal theologian and has a record of public statements that challenge orthodoxy, particularly in the field of sexual ethics. He is an outspoken advocate for full LGBTI inclusion in the life and ministry of the Church of England, and the revision of the Church of England’s traditional understanding of marriage.
What lesbian, gay and bisexual Christians are asking for is bread, not stones (LK. 11:11). And many of us now long to see this bread freely given; not at a price, or with conditions attached. So, what I hope and pray for from the Primates’ gathering next week is an unequivocal ‘yes’ to lesbian, gay and bisexual Christians’ full and equal membership of the church, holding up a mirror to the full love and cherishing that God has already poured upon them, and also awaits them in heaven.
Most recently he published a much-criticised attack on the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, prior to the 2016 Primates gathering.
We understand that the invitation was made by a tutor who was not themselves aware of Percy’s writing. There is some incredulity amongst Wycliffe members that I’ve spoken to over that.
A representative of the Student Common Room has met twice with the Principal to raise concerns, both in a personal capacity and then with other members of the student body (which totals approx. 100 students made out of Anglican ordinands, independent students and also overseas post-graduates, including members of ACNA) and the matter has also been discussed by senior tutors. The Principal has invited the student body to a Q&A on Monday 8 February to address their various concerns and I am told by sources at the college that much will hang upon how that meeting goes.
The invitation is being portrayed by some as simply an exercise in free expression but others have argued that the invitation cannot go ahead since it would be in clear contradiction to the College’s own stated values:
We believe in the vital reality of the Holy Spirit working in the lives of Christians and in the Bible as the inspired and authoritative word of God, illumined by that same Spirit.
Not only that but there is concern that the invitation would be regarded as a snub to not only the Archbishop of Canterbury but also to Wycliffe former faculty member Martin Davie who wrote a lengthy refutation of Percy’s most recent criticism of Welby,
Unfortunately, as we have seen, Martyn Percy has given us an approach to thinking about the future of Anglicanism that does not start from Scripture and which does not hang together as an argument.
Monday’s Q&A meeting is therefore critical and much depends upon it. It could be that a large segment of the student body may feel the need to take further public action if their very real concerns are not properly addressed. One source in the college said to me “The principal, Michael Lloyd, is well-respected as a conciliator. But if he does not now take strong leadership then this problem may well turn into a crisis”.