Archbishop says Christian message is in danger of being lost - news from ekklesia

By staff writers
December 5, 2004

Archbishop says Christian message is in danger of being lost

-5/12/04

The Archbishop of York, Dr David Hope, has said that the Church of England's "fundamental Christian message" is in danger of being lost.

In an interview with The Sunday Telegraph on the eve of his retirement as the second most important clergyman in the Church of England, Dr Hope, 64, warned that the Anglican church is on the brink of "implosion" over the divisive issues of the ordination of homosexual clergy and women bishops.

"What I do worry about is whether or not by so concentrating all our hopes and energies on these two particular issues, we are imploding on ourselves," he said.

"If you take people back to the Christological controversies of the first five centuries of the church, there were huge fallings out. Have we not learned the lessons from that? At the end of the day, what is the business of the church? It's about bringing people to Jesus Christ and about living the life of Jesus Christ. Whatever the divisions, those are the key issues.

"The infighting puts off both young and old people. If it [the Church of England] doesn't see this in a much larger context of the whole Christian doctrine of creation, redemption and sanctification, it will allow itself to implode on these two issues. We need to turn ourselves outwards.

"If you go to a hospice where they're working with the dying, they're not asking you whether you're in favour of women bishops or whether you're gay or any of this, that or the other. The important thing is that the work of the persons there actually engages."

A month ago, David Hope, told the Guardian of his "despair" at the rancour in the Anglican communion over homosexuality which is dragging the church apart. The archbishop was himself once the target of a campaign by the gay rights activist Peter Tatchell.

When asked about his own sexuality by the Sunday Telegraph, Dr Hope reiterated the explanation that he gave as Bishop of London in 1995 to the gay rights activist, that it was "a grey area". "I made the point very clearly then," he said. "I continue to live by that. I'm not going to say anything further."

Although he insisted that an active homosexual relationship was unacceptable within the Christian tradition, he said that he and many other clergy found it a daily struggle to live in accordance with the gospels.

"We all struggle to live in our various ways, according to the terms of the gospel," he said. "I count it a considerable challenge. There are quite hard sayings [in the gospels] about renouncing yourselves, taking up your cross to follow Jesus. So the call to discipleship is not an easy call to life.

The Archbishop spoke about "the total mess" in Iraq, even though he originally supported the war. "Like a lot of people, I feel seriously misled," he said. "The grounds have shifted. It's been very slippery territory: now we're being told there weren't any WMD, that the 45-minute claim wasn't realistic but that the reason for going to war was actually just that the man was very evil.

"It needed a much clearer resolution from the United Nations. Had sufficient thought been given to the various scenarios as to what the outcome might be? I suspect not."

In a surprising show of support, Dr Hope praised the campaign group, Fathers 4 Justice.

Last July, about 20 protesters, dressed in monastic garb, heckled Dr Hope during a sermon at York Minster at what they felt was the Church's failure to help fathers denied access to their children by their former wives. Dr Hope recalled that he had struck up conversation on the train from York to London about four weeks before the protest with a single father who had been denied access to his child.

"I felt very strongly for that man," he said. "His treatment seemed to me to be wholly unjust.

"I think that their [Fathers 4 Justice] point about mediation, involving the whole family and including the father in questions regarding the future of the child is actually very important.

"But although there is a rightness about the cause, it is sometimes prosecuted in a way that is somewhat extreme."

Looking back over his 10 years as Archbishop of York, Dr Hope said that it had been "a huge privilege to have been called to serve". His biggest challenge, he said, had been "seeking to try to assist the Church in living together with difference, in the highest possible degree of communion.

"I suppose some of the lowest points have been some of the vicious letters I received, particularly when the ordination of women debate was getting itself into top gear.

"I really felt that there was probably more Christianity on a market stall than in the Church," he said of that time. "But I've got Yorkshire grit. I haven't ever lost a night's sleep. I'm not a person who gets down or depressed about things. Frankly, I just get irritated by it. I'm an optimist at heart."

Archbishop says Christian message is in danger of being lost

-5/12/04

The Archbishop of York, Dr David Hope, has said that the Church of England's "fundamental Christian message" is in danger of being lost.

In an interview with The Sunday Telegraph on the eve of his retirement as the second most important clergyman in the Church of England, Dr Hope, 64, warned that the Anglican church is on the brink of "implosion" over the divisive issues of the ordination of homosexual clergy and women bishops.

"What I do worry about is whether or not by so concentrating all our hopes and energies on these two particular issues, we are imploding on ourselves," he said.

"If you take people back to the Christological controversies of the first five centuries of the church, there were huge fallings out. Have we not learned the lessons from that? At the end of the day, what is the business of the church? It's about bringing people to Jesus Christ and about living the life of Jesus Christ. Whatever the divisions, those are the key issues.

"The infighting puts off both young and old people. If it [the Church of England] doesn't see this in a much larger context of the whole Christian doctrine of creation, redemption and sanctification, it will allow itself to implode on these two issues. We need to turn ourselves outwards.

"If you go to a hospice where they're working with the dying, they're not asking you whether you're in favour of women bishops or whether you're gay or any of this, that or the other. The important thing is that the work of the persons there actually engages."

A month ago, David Hope, told the Guardian of his "despair" at the rancour in the Anglican communion over homosexuality which is dragging the church apart. The archbishop was himself once the target of a campaign by the gay rights activist Peter Tatchell.

When asked about his own sexuality by the Sunday Telegraph, Dr Hope reiterated the explanation that he gave as Bishop of London in 1995 to the gay rights activist, that it was "a grey area". "I made the point very clearly then," he said. "I continue to live by that. I'm not going to say anything further."

Although he insisted that an active homosexual relationship was unacceptable within the Christian tradition, he said that he and many other clergy found it a daily struggle to live in accordance with the gospels.

"We all struggle to live in our various ways, according to the terms of the gospel," he said. "I count it a considerable challenge. There are quite hard sayings [in the gospels] about renouncing yourselves, taking up your cross to follow Jesus. So the call to discipleship is not an easy call to life.

The Archbishop spoke about "the total mess" in Iraq, even though he originally supported the war. "Like a lot of people, I feel seriously misled," he said. "The grounds have shifted. It's been very slippery territory: now we're being told there weren't any WMD, that the 45-minute claim wasn't realistic but that the reason for going to war was actually just that the man was very evil.

"It needed a much clearer resolution from the United Nations. Had sufficient thought been given to the various scenarios as to what the outcome might be? I suspect not."

In a surprising show of support, Dr Hope praised the campaign group, Fathers 4 Justice.

Last July, about 20 protesters, dressed in monastic garb, heckled Dr Hope during a sermon at York Minster at what they felt was the Church's failure to help fathers denied access to their children by their former wives. Dr Hope recalled that he had struck up conversation on the train from York to London about four weeks before the protest with a single father who had been denied access to his child.

"I felt very strongly for that man," he said. "His treatment seemed to me to be wholly unjust.

"I think that their [Fathers 4 Justice] point about mediation, involving the whole family and including the father in questions regarding the future of the child is actually very important.

"But although there is a rightness about the cause, it is sometimes prosecuted in a way that is somewhat extreme."

Looking back over his 10 years as Archbishop of York, Dr Hope said that it had been "a huge privilege to have been called to serve". His biggest challenge, he said, had been "seeking to try to assist the Church in living together with difference, in the highest possible degree of communion.

"I suppose some of the lowest points have been some of the vicious letters I received, particularly when the ordination of women debate was getting itself into top gear.

"I really felt that there was probably more Christianity on a market stall than in the Church," he said of that time. "But I've got Yorkshire grit. I haven't ever lost a night's sleep. I'm not a person who gets down or depressed about things. Frankly, I just get irritated by it. I'm an optimist at heart."

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.