Wednesday, January 09, 2008


Whenever we hear of intellectual disputes at Oxford we have this idyllic picture of learned debate on deep philosophic matters, but it turns out instead to be more like a bar room brawl.
"The trials and tribulations of Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, have been many in recent times. The bad times, the arguments and the fire and brimstone all began when the college principal, the Rev Richard Turnbull, gave Britain a startling warning to the effect that 95 per cent of the population was bound for hell and damnation "unless the message of the Gospel is brought to them". Embarrassing newspaper headlines followed that address to religious conservatives, and soon there were blazing rows in cloisters which were more used to the tranquil silent study of theological texts. For months hard-line evangelicals, sticking to biblical chapter and verse, battled with liberals over issues such as hell and homosexuality. Then Elaine Storkey, 64, a female theologian at Wycliffe and contributor to BBC's religious slots, had an incendiary "thought for the day". Dr Storkey, who had been forced to leave the college after crossing swords in the religious wars with Mr Turnbull, decided to demand compensation and sue the Bishop of Liverpool, James Jones, the college president. ...And on it goes. Dr Storkey has accepted around £20,000 from the trustees of the college after it was acknowledged that she had been unfairly dismissed. But she clearly does not intend to leave it there. Instead she has accused Bishop Jones, in his formal capacity as college president, of religious discrimination. But the real target of her ire is the now notorious Mr Turnbull. (Independent, 9 January)
It speaks volumes for the intellectual capabilities of these learned scholars that in a society threatened with world hunger, threats of war and environmental disaster they should choose to debate "hell and homosexuality"! RD

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