Sunday, 18 March 2012


Is one's theory of the atonement influenced by one's psychological profile? That it tends to be was the claim Cranmer's Curate heard at a recent theological lecture here in Sheffield.

So if one is prone to low self-esteem and guilt feelings, then one leans towards the penal subsitutionary view, the idea that Christ's death on the Cross propitiated the wrath of God that would otherwise fall on guilty sinners.

If one is an activist with a sense of social duty, then one leans towards the exemplary view of the atonement, the idea that Christ exemplified self-sacrificial love by his death.

If one is an optimistic triumphalist type, then one leans towards the Christus Victor view as the dominant theory of atonement, the idea that Christ's death decisively defeated the forces of evil.

Given that Anglicanism holds Holy Scripture to be the supreme authority, then communicant Anglicans have a moral obligation to adjust their personality type to the truth that God has revealed rather than foisting their psychological profile on the atonement.

Which leaves communicants with a choice in relation to the Book of Common Prayer. Because the Prayer Book breathes the doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement, either one must see its perspective as a reflection of Thomas Cranmer's psychological profile or one must decide that it is faithfully biblical.

Whilst the BCP holds that Christ did set an example in his death (see its Collect for the Sunday Next Before Easter) and also holds that he did defeat the forces of evil (a victory the BCP attaches more to his resurrection - see for example the Collect for Easter Day), the perspective in its Holy Communion service is that atonement is centrally about the fact that Christ's propitiatory sacrifice on the Cross has satisfied the just judgement of God upon sin.

Blogging off until after Easter, Cranmer's Curate leaves the youth group with the BCP Collect for the Fourth Sunday of Lent, a prayer that presupposes penal substitution. It presents the reality of the divine wrath that the Lord Jesus averted from us by his propitiatory death:
Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God, that we, who for our evil deeds do worthily deserve to be punished, by the comfort of thy grace may mercifully be relieved; through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

This piece - Her Majesty must speak her Christian mind - appeared on VirtueOnline.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012


There are historical reasons why Oak Hill, the Reformed Anglican theological college in north London, struggles to get the backing of English conservative evangelicals. The roots of the current problem lie in the Oxbridge focus of late Victorian Anglican evangelical leaders such as J.C. Ryle.

Regularly select preacher at both Oxbridge universities in the 1870s, Ryle was instrumental in founding Wycliffe Hall, Oxford in 1877 and Ridley Hall, Cambridge in 1881. Oxbridge was chosen as the strategic location for these residential clerical training colleges, laudably established as evangelical strongholds against the growing influence of Anglo-Catholicism in the national Church.

In the 20th century, the trajectory of Ryle's Oxbridge strategy led to the establishment of the Iwerne Minster ministry in the 1930s. This work was based on evangelistic holiday camps for boys from the top 30 English public schools. Iwerne's professed strategy was to reach the few in order to reach the many.

In its focus on the feeder schools into Oxbridge, Iwerne was thus pursuing the logic of Ryle's strategy. The Iwerne work steered the young men it encouraged into ordained ministry towards the Oxbridge theological colleges and indeed relied heavily on them to follow up university students from the Iwerne schools. Oxbridge students were the main pool for the 'officers' (leaders) on the camps.

The enduring result of this late Victorian evangelical strategy is that Oak Hill has struggled and continues to struggle to get concerted Reformed Anglican support. Large church Anglican evangelical leaders following the Ryle/Iwerne strategy still see Oxbridge as the important playing field for gaining evangelical influence. That is why they continue to encourage their ordinands to go to the Oxbridge theological colleges for student work in the universities.

Making this observation is not to deny that Iwerne has been and remains a very fine trainer of gospel workers. To gainsay Iwerne's good work amounts to either inverted snobbery or Marxist resentment about private education.

But the deployment of conservative evangelical ordinands as university student workers has the effect of boosting the numbers in theological colleges that are less than clearly evangelical. With residential theological training currently under such pressure in the Church of England, every theologically conservative ordinand that goes to Oxbridge or Durham, the other destination for collegiate student ministry, is lost to Oak Hill.

Wycliffe is doing well under its outstanding evangelical Principal Dr Richard Turnbull and should also be supported by our constituency. But Oak Hill's governance by the Kingham Hill Trust, which is independent of the Church of England, and its location, out of the Oxbridge cocoon, are an advantage in enabling it to become by God's grace an effective evangelical training hub for Christ's ministry in established churches and church plants.

With the embracing of theological diversity now being increasingly stressed as a requirement for Church of England ministers, Oak Hill's evangelical clarity makes it particularly vulnerable as an accredited theological college.

Which means if we 21st century Anglican evangelicals do not back it, we could well lose it.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012


Pop star Will Young speaks for his generation in declaring that vicars should be prosecuted for denouncing same-sex marriage.

In his exchange on BBC Question Time with Daily Mail columnist Janice Atkinson, Mr Young, 33, vindicated UKIP's concern that same-sex marriage will lead to religious objectors being prosecuted for hate crime.

Mr Young, who rose to prominence through being a contestant on the Pop Idol TV programme in 2002, is representative in his outlook of those who reached adulthood under New Labour. Freedom of speech is not a cultural value they are particularly bothered about. In fact, they are more bothered that their individual moral choices should be protected from denunciation by the politically correct equivalent of a rigorously enforced blasphemy law.

Christian apologist Francis Schaeffer (1912-1984) predicted the current moral indifference to the preservation of liberty. In his 1976 book How should we then live?, he wrote:
I believe the majority of the silent majority, young and old, will sustain the loss of liberties without raising their voices as long as their own life-styles are not threatened. And since personal peace and affluence are so often the only values that count with the majority, politicians know that to be elected they must promise these things. Politics has largely become not a matter of ideals - increasingly men and women are not stirred by the values of liberty and truth - but of supplying a constituency with a frosting of personal peace and affluence. They know that voices will not be raised as long as people have these things, or at least an illusion of them.

Liberty as Western civilisation has been privileged to receive it is indescribably fragile without a firm societal commitment to the truth as God has revealed it in Jesus Christ.

A version of this has appeared over on Heresy Corner.

Sunday, 11 March 2012


Cranmer's Curate was on the BBC Radio Sheffield Sunday breakfast show hosted by Sarah Major this morning (around 6.50am), explaining his response if evidence came to light that services of same-sex blessing were being condoned in Sheffield Diocese.

Your curate would not take precipitate action and God willing his response would be properly considered and patient. But, as he explained, if such services were being conducted in our diocese and no action taken to stop them, then cc would very regrettably refuse to accept a Church Commissioners' stipend and would petition the Oughtibridge PCC to suspend parish share payments.

It does not seem ethical to suspend parish share to the diocese whilst continuing to accept the stipend.

This would clearly represent a pay-cut for the curate and would be administratively disruptive. But same-sex blessings are symptomatic of a serious distortion of Christianity, which is regressive and compromised. Such a distortion holds back the mission and ministry of the Church of England to our society.

For cc there are two principles at stake if licensed ministers at whatever level of seniority conduct services of same-sex blessing: 1). Authority: the Church is the Lord Jesus Christ's Body and he rules it by his Word of truth. Ministers of Word and Sacrament have no right to change the script and when they do so it undermines the integrity of the Church.

2). Accountability: ministers ought to be accountable for upholding the biblical doctrine of the Church of England. Same-sex blessings are liturgical violations of our doctrine. Failure to hold licensed ministers to account is a serious dereliction of duty and undermines the credibility of the Church.

Youth group prayers are appreciated in these difficult days for confessing Anglican ministers in the Church of England.

Thursday, 8 March 2012


The Bishop of London, Dr Richard Chartres, has a canonical responsibility to rule that the declared intention of the new Dean of St Paul's to conduct services of same-sex blessing runs contrary to the doctrine of the Church of England.

In a national press interview this week, Dr David Ison also declared that he conducted services of prayer and affirmation for couples in civil partnerships whilst he was Dean of Bradford.

The definitive liturgical expression of the doctrine of the Church of England, the Book of Common Prayer, is clear that sexual love is to be reserved exclusively for the God-created institution of heterosexual marriage, as blessed by the Lord Jesus Christ.

Sex outside of heterosexual marriage constitutes 'fornication', according to the BCP's Form of Solemnization of Matrimony. To provide a remedy against 'fornication' is one of the reasons for which God has ordained man-woman marriage, according to the BCP.

So the Dean of St Paul's has been blessing what the Prayer Book describes as fornication and intends to do so in the future.

The Revd Peter Ould has helpfully shed light on the false canonical justifications for ungodly services of same-sex blessing.

But the clear canonical rule is that any unusual service or act of prayer conducted in the Church of England, whether under Canon B4 or Canon B5, should be in accordance with its biblical doctrine.

Services of same-sex blessing are not. So the Bishop of London, also ecclesiastical patron of the Prayer Book Society, should say so and should act to prevent them from taking place in St Paul's Cathedral.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012


To Mr Nigel Farage, MEP, leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party:

Dear Mr Farage, The Coalition for Marriage, supported by former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey, has now attracted more than 100,000 signatures for its petition against the redefinition of marriage in the United Kingdom. But due to the fact that politically correct ideology has now captured the UK Parliament, a bill introducing same-sex marriage will very likely become law by the next General Election.

The Fixed Term Parliament Act means that even if the UK Coalition Government dissolves before the General Election, such a measure would still have the necessary majority. A parliamentary alliance between politically correct Conservatives, Labour supporters of same-sex marriage and Liberal Democrats would ensure its success by 2015.

The British electorate ought to be offered a real choice at the next General Election on this central social issue and indeed in elections prior to 2015. If UKIP were to make a clear commitment to preserve and if necessary restore the current legal definition of marriage, then the British people would be offered that choice.

No credible potential governing party can afford to take a libertarian view on marriage. It is a public institution, with crucial bearing on the nurture of children and therefore on the future of a sovereign nation state.

The fact that within the European Union it is the newer member states from Eastern Europe which tend to be against homosexual rights does not mean that British political parties should not uphold traditional marriage for the good of society.

British people can uphold marriage in a British way, adhering to our traditional virtues of toleration and respect for freedom under the rule of law.

British children have the God-given right to know that marriage is between a man and a woman.

British children have the God-given right, unavoidable circumstances in a fallen world excepting, to be brought up by a married father and a mother.

It is noteworthy that the last UK Prime Minister with a robust Judaeo-Christian worldview, Lady Thatcher, upheld the institution of heterosexual marriage as a fundamental bedrock of democratic civilisation.

The teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ, who blessed the God-created institution of man-woman marriage, is intrinsic to the values that allowed parliamentary democracy to flourish in Britain. Political correctness has been corroding those values.

The bid to change the legal definition of marriage in the UK is an assault on the Christian values undergirding the precious combination of freedom and order that we British people have been privileged to inherit.

In presenting itself as a party for the independence of our greatly Christian-influenced nation, UKIP has a moral responsibility to take a stand for Britain’s stable democratic future by taking a stand for traditional marriage.

Yours sincerely,

Julian Mann

Update Wednesday March 7th: Mrs Jill Mans of Anglican Mainstream has kindly alerted cc to today's UKIP press release declaring the National Executive's opposition to the move to legislate for same-sex marriage.

Sunday, 4 March 2012


Here is your curate’s own checklist of spiritual pitfalls and suggested antidotes for orthodox Christians campaigning for biblical standards in church and society:

• Pride – a sense of moral superiority over others who have fallen for the error or who are not contending for the truth as vigorously as they should. Biblical antidote: Jesus’ parable of the Pharisee and the publican (Luke 18v9-14).

• Speculation and gossip - imputing motives to opponents or those in authority, without clear evidence that they are being motivated by a particular evil. Biblical antidote: the Ninth Commandment.

• Impatience – firing off e-mails without careful consideration and not giving potential allies time to grasp the issue. Biblical antidote: the Apostle Paul’s teaching about the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5v22-23. Gentleness and patience are listed as well as faithfulness.

• Angry outbursts – blasting at opponents and resorting to vitriol. Biblical antidote: James 1v19-20 – ‘Know this, my beloved brethren. Let every man be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger, for the anger of man does not work the righteousness of God’ (RSV).

Cranmer’s Curate may have missed some pitfalls. Perhaps the youth group could kindly remedy the omissions and supply biblical antidotes.