Things fall apart

It would seem that the tensions found in the Anglican Communion as a whole are also found locally in England – not least in the colleges where ordinands are prepared for ordained ministry.

The events at Wycliffe Hall in Oxford make puzzling reading, and if true seem to suggest in some areas Church of England ordinands are stepping back in time and into old disputes. It certainly appears that the conservative evangelical movement is divided.

  • Whenever recently, apart from at Wycliffe, has there been a move to stop women teaching in colleges?

The confusing arguement over the nature of the atonement seems to have confirmed what many had begun to think – Oak Hill College is an extremists’ college.

  • What steps do Bishops take to prevent colleges becoming too polarised?

And at the other end of things – it appears some gay male ordinands at Westcott House in Cambridge are falling out with one another over their boyfriends – a recent falling out even resulted in fisticuffs! It is said in Cambridge that at Westcott House the gay male ordinands deliberately choose to go on a placement in the north, in Manchester, to enjoy the delights of the gay community there.

  • Are there guidelines or rules about the appropriate behaviour of those training for the church’s ministry?

The Church of England is a very varied place indeed! However, reflecting on these incidents one cannot help but wonder whether in the world of the Church of England colleges, at least, to quote Yeats:

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

I tend to the view that extreme liberals and extreme conservatives are not prepared to listen to different views, and have created their own little safety zones from which they “shout the odds.” The church is much bigger than the sum of these little safety zones.

To quote Yeats again, and from the same, wonderful poem:

The best lack all convictions, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.



4 Responses to “Things fall apart”

  1. John Smuts Says:

    Interesting observations.

    The thing about extremists is that they are always other people!

  2. Daniel Says:

    Just a point of information:

    Although I have no formal link with Westcott, I do know that the choice of Manchester for placements is decided by the college because of the established link with a particular parish, not necessarily because of the predilections of the ordinands!

  3. Tiffer Says:

    Following on from Daniel’s point I think if a student at Westcott is not tyed down to Cambridge then they do the Manchester placement by default unless they ask to do otherwise. However I think that may be changing.

  4. Adrian Says:

    I knew two priests who were trained at Oak Hill before the War and they were both men of broad and tolerant sympathies, although one was rather more evangelical in the party sense than the other. From what I know of the college if offered a good, broadly based course in those days. If what’s been said recently is remotely true I can only im,agine that it’s changed a lot during the past 60 years.

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