Pete Broadbent, the Bishop of Willesden, and ‘constituency envy’ (Pete Broadbent)

By Jonathan Bartley
February 23, 2009

Pete Broadbent, the Bishop of Willesden, is keen to compare the size of his…er…’constituency’, with Ekklesia.

Now, I know we aren't the most endowed of thinktanks but the whole thing is a bit bizarre. Someone drew my attention to it last night.

It seems that Pete Broadbent, the Bishop of Willesden, has launched an attack on Ekklesia via his Facebook page, saying that no one should listen to what we have to say, because our constituency isn’t as big as his.

I addressed this ‘mine is bigger than yours’ thing in “Faith and Politics After Christendom” in 2006. It seems to come from the idea that authority should be derived only from how big you are (or claim to be!) rather than whether you have anything interesting to say, expertise in a particular area, or indeed whether what you say has some truth to it. The ‘Christendom’ mentality seeks to silence and control those who would dissent from the party line, challenge you or provide an alternative viewpoint.

I have been trying to rack my brains as to why he is so upset, and why he has suddenly come out with something now… It may be because:

1. We took part in the debate on ideas of atonement a few years ago, publishing a book (Consuming Passion: why the killing of Jesus really matters) which carried perspectives which were different to the ones he holds. He was qute involved in the whole debate and I don't think he liked what we said. We also pointed out that he had publicly condemned Jeffrey John's talk without reading it which I think he was a little embarrassed about. But that doesn’t explain his sudden outburst now.

2. He may be concerned with some comments I made in an interview in Christianity magazine about the future of Evangelicalism, which came out last week. He was also interviewed in the same article. I can’t see, though, how what I said would upset him in any way.

3. He may not have liked our comments on Thursday which challenged a number of churches about their attitudes to gay and lesbian Christians.

Whatever the reason, a common theme amongst those who are preoccupied with size is often a sense of inadequacy. It comes at a time when church attendance continues to fall, which is a real problem when you have historically based your self-esteem on how big you are.

Pete and I seem to have 28 mutual friends on Facebook, so I have asked him if he will be my friend too. This might be the best way to respond – better certainly than running the risk of bumping into him randomly in the toilet at a Church event sometime. That could be quite awkward.

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