A member of the Open Evangelical group Fulcrum has challenged the assessment of Wycliffe Hall theological college presented by the Chair of the Church of England’s Ministry Division in a recent letter to the Church of England Newspaper.
Bishop Graham James had himself written to criticize the headline in the previous week’s CEN that Wycliffe had “failed” the inspection. This, Bishop James said, was “plainly wrong.” He continued,
On the contrary, the inspection team found Wycliffe Hall ‘fit for purpose’ displaying ‘a rich mosaic of evangelical traditions which come together in a community which shows respect for difference, and in which women are fully accepted and integrated’.
Now, however, Jody Stowell, one of the Fulcrum leadership team, has explicitly questioned that conclusion and the effectiveness of the inspection. Writing in a thread about the Bishop’s letter on the Fulcrum discussion forum, she stated,
i [sic] for one would be very interested to know the process by which it was determined that women are fully accepted and integrated.
which women were asked, if any? was this done in a way that the subtlety of power imbalance was avoided in order to get a true representation?
Challenged on this via another post, she responded that she,
... questioned the statement about the women because the way that it is articulated in the quotation [in the Bishop’s letter] removes it entirely from any context in which the women themselves define whether they feel accepted and fully integrated
Later she added,
i would like to know how the female ordinands feel, i would like to know the ‘atmosphere’ of the college, i would like to know that women called to be priests are still feeling able to attend wycliffe if they choose and that when they do they will not feel marginalised or neglected ... but accepted and fully integrated ...
Wycliffe Hall, and its Principal, Revd Dr Richard Turnbull, have come in for considerable criticism in Fulcrum discussion fora, particularly since the termination of the employment of two other members of the Fulcrum leadership, Drs Andrew Goddard and Elaine Storkey, as staff at Wycliffe Hall. Dr Storkey later went to an industrial tribunal, where Wycliffe Hall defended the dismissal, but acknowledged that it was unfair on the grounds that the statutory procedures had not been followed. Dr Storkey threatened a further claim for religious discrimination, but the case was eventually settled out of court.
Revd John Richardson
27 March 2009