New Head of Anglican Centre in Rome is denier of Jesus’ Resurrection

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In a move that can only further raise concerns with the Archbishop of Canterbury’s leadership, the Anglican Centre in Rome (essentially, the “embassy” of the Anglican Communion to the Roman Catholic Church) have announced their new Interim Director:

John Shepherd was previously Dean at Perth Cathedral for many years where he gained a reputation for regularly challenging Christian orthodoxy. Most famously, in his 2008 Easter message he denied the bodily resurrection of Jesus, stating,

The Resurrection of Jesus ought not to be seen in physical terms, but as a new spiritual reality. It is important for Christians to be set free from the idea that the Resurrection was an extraordinary physical event which restored to life Jesus’ original earthly body.

Jesus’ early followers felt His presence after His death as strongly as if it were a physical presence and incorporated this sense of a resurrection experience into their gospel accounts. But they’re not historical records as we understand them. They are symbolic images of the breaking through of the resurrection spirit into human lives.

Jesus lived … as a transformed spiritual reality.

The original Stand Firm report on Shepherd’s sermon can be found on have also managed to resurrect a copy of the original message recording which we think allows Shepherd to speak for himself…

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  1. Daryl

    Is it just me or does this ‘noted theological commentator’ not actually even have a theological qualification? I doubt his Master of Sacred Music dealt much with the exegetical process for example and we aren’t told what his BA is in, but given all of his post grad study is in music, can we assume it was too?

  2. Bruce Lyon

    Hmmm … unsurprising I guess.

    Hell awaits? (without repentance)

    Has he changed his views now?

  3. Moses Costigan

    Honestly I really don’t think anyone expects any less from Justin Welby and his comrades, sadly.

    Just more proof that GAFCON is the best path for orthodox Anglicanism into the future.

  4. Ron Johnson

    How could anyone suggest that John Shepherd would be a fit representative of the Anglican Church anywhere.

    1. James Warren

      Ron, it’s worse: John Shepherd apparently is all fit a representative of the Anglican Chruch.

      What I can’t work out is: Why, if he so rejects Christianity, is it that he’d even want to be associated with Christianity?

  5. Verina Rallings

    Actually they are historical accounts.. spiritual presences do not eat nor can they be touched. I think he is ascribing 21st century spiritualist thinking to a 1st century document. And his statement just undoes all that he stands for as the bible is clear.If Christ is not raised form the dead, we are still in our sins, these is no resurrection for us, God is a liar and an impotent rather than an omnipotent God.

  6. Peter Carnley

    David Ould is surely entitled to his view that Jesus body was simply resuscitated in the tomb, as against John Shepherd’s view that Jesus’ body was transformed by the Spirit into a Spiritual Body appropriate to a heavenly and exalted life. Ould’s view is in fact as old as Ernest Renan, the French liberal theologian, who also argued that Jesus was resuscitated (by the coolness of the tomb, in the manner of smelling salts) and was restored to life in this world. Orthodox Christians, however, may prefer Shepherd’s more “other worldly” view. After all, St Paul clearly said that the Raised Christ had become a life-giving Spirit.

    1. David Ould

      thanks for commenting here, Archbishop Peter. Unfortunately I fear you have caricatured the orthodox position which is not that “Jesus body was simply resuscitated” but that it was resurrected.
      As you note, Paul states in 1Cor. 15 that the raised Christ has become a life-giving Spirit but he also uses the language of “body” (“soma”) which is widely acknowledged to refer to a physical entity.
      Plus there are the Resurrection accounts of Jesus which clearly speak to a physical presence and then there is the promise of a New Creation (for us and the entire Creation), also tied very clearly to Jesus’ resurrection body.

      On top of that is the clear statement of the Articles:

      CHRIST did truly rise again from death, and took again his body, with flesh, bones, and all things appertaining to the perfection of Man’s nature; wherewith he ascended into Heaven, and there sitteth, until he return to judge all Men at the last day.

      That’s the official doctrinal position of the Anglican Church of Australia according to our constitution which you and I (along with John) promised to uphold, propagate and defend in our ordination vows.

      1. James Warren

        For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures … But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. (1Corinthians 15:3-4, 12-14)

        God’s Word is so brilliantly clear on our brilliant new life & real hope in Christ’s death and resurrection.

      2. David Fischler

        I have to love how Archbishop Carnley tries to turn YOU into the heretic (Renan indeed!). That’s ridiculous enough. But apparently the only way he can defend Shepherd’s view is by simply stating it falsely. That Jesus’ body was transformed into a spiritual body is nothing but Paul’s own words; Paul, however, also makes clear that Jesus’ body didn’t become incorporeal, but rather still retained physical elements (can the Holy Spirit eat fish?). This is most decidely NOT the view that Shepherd has held to, and his is the one that merits the term “liberal,” as well as “heretical.”

  7. Bruce Lyon


  8. Bruce Lyon

    Totally agree. Well said Verina.

  9. CumbriaDaydreamer

    If Jesus was merely raised as a ‘life-giving’ spirit, what is the place of the Holy Spirit in the Trinity? Similarly why should we consider God the Father unable to raise Jesus entire body?

  10. Moses

    It’s more than a bit sad when an Archbishop (and former Primate) needs to reminded and corrected as to the content of the 39 Articles and an orthodox understanding of the Resurrection.

  11. Gary

    Most scholars doubt the eyewitness/associate of eyewitness authorship of the Gospels. Isn’t that a problem for your position?

    1. David Ould

      no, just most of the scholars that you read. Robust academics like Baukham have shown us that the eyewitness testimony of the gospels is entirely reliable.

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