Sewanee professor criticizes N.T. Wright’s honorary degree at School of Theology

Paul Holloway, Professor of New Testament at the University of the South’s School of Theology, published a letter in the Sewanee Purple complaining that the School of Theology should not have awarded N.T. Wright an honorary degree:

Some of the readers of this letter will know Wright as an outspoken opponent of LGBT rights and a vociferous critic of the Episcopal Church for its progressive stance. I find Wright’s position on these matters offensive and harmful. It is an affront to the School of Theology in general and to its LGBT community and its allies in particular.

But that is not my complaint here. My complaint is that Sewanee has recognized Wright as a scholar in my discipline, when in fact he is little more than a book-a-year apologist. Wright comes to the evidence not with honest questions but with ideologically generated answers that he seeks to defend. I know of no critical scholar in the field who trusts his work. He contradicts what I stand for professionally as well as the kind of hard-won intellectual integrity I hope to instill in my students. I feel like the professor of biology who has had to sit by and watch a Biblical creationist receive an honorary degree in science.

What do you think? Should Sewanee have recognized N.T. Wright with an honorary degree?

The Rev. Bryan Owen, blogging at Creedal Christian, disagrees with Holloway:

Setting aside the caustically contemptuous and intolerant tone of the letter, as well as its open hostility to Christian orthodoxy, here’s the gist of what Professor Holloway says: “N. T. Wright disagrees with my views on particular matters and he represents theological positions that contradict my own.  That offends and embarrasses me.  Therefore, Wright is not a real scholar and he doesn’t deserve an honorary degree.”

It doesn’t take a Ph.D. in logic to see how silly this “argument” is.

Nor does it take a genius to see that if Professor Holloway’s letter makes the rounds among moderate-to-conservative lay and clergy graduates of The School of Theology, they just might decide to send their money to other institutions.  I’m aware of persons who have made just that decision before this letter was even written.  This letter will simply underscore that they made the right decision.  And there are others for whom Professor Holloway’s letter may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back when it comes to financially supporting The School of Theology.  I doubt that’s the outcome the Sewanee administration had in mind when they issued the invitation for Bishop Wright to speak and receive an honorary degree!

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  1. Bro David

    Is an honorary degree part of the expected stipend for giving speeches now days?

  2. J. Samuel Knopf

    And who is Paul Holloway?

    • Nick Porter

      Someone who should have a seat. 🙂

    • Nick Porter

      My first comment aside, Bishop N.T.Wright is a very accomplished scholar as well as bishop in the church. I’ve seen TEC bishops get awarded honorary doctorates for much much less. Let’s be honest, his complaint is purely on the bases of Bishop Wright’s views on sexuality, and it’s pathetic to see a seminary professor stoop so low. This is someone who is teaching the next generation of our clergy. This should cause people to pause.

      • Geoff McLarney

        Leaving aside the fact that Holloway explicitly stipulates that sexual orientation is not the reason for his complaint, I am left wondering why it would be “stooping low” if it were. After all, having poor theology, especially a toxic theology that has caused so much damage to a particular class of people, is not exactly a petty or irrelevant consideration when considering a candidate for an honorary doctorate in, you know … theology?

      • David Streever

        From Nick’s various comments here, it appears that he doesn’t believe that discrimination against women or LGBT folk on the basis of being a woman or LGBT is really discrimination. I agree that he’s clearly and unequivocally wrong about that, but having read some variation on that answer from him a dozen times, I thought I’d share that with you.

      • Nick Porter

        Geoff, his letter could be explained just like this:

        “I don’t agree with Bishop Wright on this hot button issue so he shouldn’t be honored.”

        How different is that from “I don’t like cheese, so no one should have it.”

        There are still people in TEC and the Anglican Communion as a whole who agree with Bishop Wright, as well as the majority of church-going Christians in general who practice the faith in word and deed, much to the dismay of some here. While someone would deem his theology “toxic”, others would deem it nutritious.

      • Nick Porter

        David, we disagree on what constitutes as “discrimination”. That’s a fact,yes.

      • David Streever

        Yes. The consensus amongst academics and governments is that refusing to hire someone on the basis of their sex is an illegal act of discrimination. That’s the definition I use. It was very confusing for me to realize that you didn’t share that with me; it’s absolutely the norm in law, government, and academia.

        As such, I think it’d help your future conversations if you make that clear up front. You are taking a very narrow minority position in rejecting that definition, and I am certain you’ll confuse others you speak with in the future if you don’t make that clear.

  3. c seitz

    From those in the UK: ‘What is a Sewanee? A river?’

  4. JC Fisher

    “A prophet is not without honor, except in his own country”: which apparently includes Episcopal Cafe these days. 🙁

    Preach, Dr Holloway, PREEEEEACH! It’s about time someone said the Emperor Wright has no clothes…

    • Nick Porter

      He’s not a prophet, just a lone person who forgot that putting things online, especially that are provocative, tend to light on fire.

    • Philip Snyder

      Compare the CVs of the two men and you will see that The Rt. Rev. Dr. Wright is the much more accomplished academic, scholar, and churchman. The idea that his views on LBGT issues invalidate his academic standing is one that comes straight from Party Spirit (one of the “works of the flesh” in Gal 5).

      Dr. Holloway’s letter makes his name eponymous.

  5. Leann Wigner

    This really makes me sad. I like N. T. Wright, and while I know that there are people who don’t agree with him – people who are both more liberal and more conservative than him – he does appeal to a large audience who aligns with more moderate scholarship, like me. He is a well-respected scholar in moderate circles. Do I agree with everything he says? Absolutely not! Does that make him a bad scholar? No. I largely agree with, lets say, John Dominic Crossan, but do I consider him a bad scholar? By no mean! He is a great scholar, but I just happen not to agree with him on quiet a few of his conclusions.

  6. Barbara Snyder

    And yet again we’re expected to swallow the argument that the criteria for “Christian orthodoxy” is primarily dependent on a person’s stance on homosexuality.

    Absolutely astounding. I swear the church gets crazier every day…..

  7. c seitz

    As a former Chair of Theology at the University of St. Andrews, I can vouch for the typical Brit having no clue what Sewanee is, leaving aside who Dr Holloway is. (And that is so despite the fact that he even apparently did a short stint at Glasgow, a school whose theology department is sadly collapsed). The Bishopric at Durham is extremely well-known. And NT Wright’s career has been illustrious even for those who do not agree with his larger project. In a small faculty like Sewanee’s this will create lots on on-site commotion. But it’s February and so it goes.

    • Leann Wigner

      My husband has attended Durham University for the last 6 years, and I can attest to the fact that he is extremely well respected by the University professors.

  8. Robert Martin

    Mr. Holloway forgot to mention that he is “outraged!!!!”

  9. Cynthia Katsarelis

    Conservatives always seem happy with “scholars” who agree with them, even if the “scholarship” wouldn’t cut it with outside reviewers. The point Mr. Holloway is making is that Mr. Wright’s scholarship doesn’t cut it. Mr. Holloway might want to site a few examples, and maybe he does elsewhere.

    Never heard of Mr. Owen, either.

    I am surprised that Sewanee would make such an award to someone with horrifically intolerant and harmful views. Anti LGBT views are as harmful and repugnant as racism and misogyny. Somehow that doesn’t seem worthy to me.

    • c seitz

      Dear Cynthia

      “Mr. Wright’s scholarship doesn’t cut it…”.

      NT Wright’s peer-reviewed publication list is readily available. Every major NT journal of renown is included.

      I have published journal articles critical of NT Wright and his larger project.

      But no one would characterize his publications as not cutting it.

      That is what makes the comments being referred to here cringe-worthy.

      • Geoff McLarney

        I think someone just did!

  10. c seitz

    The list of peer-reviewed articles by NTW is readily available.

    That is what makes the comments published by the NT faculty member at Sewanee so cringe-worthy.

    • Bro David

      Could you provide links that are not Wikipedia, which we all know can be written and edited by not only the subjects of the articles, but also their friends and relatives.

      • c seitz

        Are you genuinely serious?

        I have enormous problems with NT Wright. See my recent Colossians commentary. Or The Character of Christian Scripture.

        But no serious scholar questions the credibility of his peer-reviewed articles. That is what peer-reviewed means. JSNT, JBL, Novum Testamentum, etc. He has I believe 14 honorary degrees.

        Things don’t work this way.

      • Bro David

        Thanks Nick.

      • Nick Porter

        Bro David, Do you see the link I gave?

      • c seitz

        Dear David

        You mentioned the dubiousness of Wiki and yet no one was referring you there. You brought it up.

        Mr Porter has provided you the basic link that anyone can find.

        The nice thing about NTW is he proud of his published work and no one will struggle to find this…

        Grace and peace.

  11. Nick Porter

    I wonder what Paul Holloway would think about someone who published nothing about Anglican or Christian thought in general that received an honorary degree that didn’t have a percentage of the impact on the world that Bishop Wright does. The Rt.Rev.Mary Glasspool happens to be one of those people.

    • David Streever

      That’s precisely what honorary degrees really are for, though, aren’t they? Giving an honorary degree to someone who is already celebrated is like asserting that you “really like” the Beatles. Sure, everybody does; way to ride those coattails.

      Ostensibly, honorary degrees are awarded to reward people who otherwise get scant reward, for deeds, thoughts, and actions which don’t typically get rewarded or noticed.

      NT Wright is certainly deserving of whatever academic rewards he is bestowed with. However, it seems a bit cowardly to give someone already so bedecked with adornment yet another meaningless award, and I think it’s certainly more courageous and interesting to award it the Rt Rev Mary Glasspool or other Christians who aren’t acknowledged by the mainstream. Ultimately, that’s one of the functions of honorary degrees; either you’re awarding them to someone passed over, or you’re decorating someone wealthy in hopes that they donate to you.

      • Nick Porter

        David, typically people who’ve gotten honorary degrees have made significant contributions to their respective field and/or to the world, and it isn’t just restricted to academia. Celebrities such as Oprah,Meryl Streep,David Bowie, and many others have received honorary doctorates. Those people made a mark on our society in a huge way and were already celebrated. Mary Glasspool was only a bishop for a year when she received her doctorate. Besides her being the second female suffragan bishop (Bruce was elected first and Glasspool barely won the second spot btw) and her being attracted to females, what has she done to receive such an honor? My point is this, Holloway’s rant is uncalled for , especially when you look at Bishop Wright’s entire career and yes, the many other honors he more than earned. Bishop Wright was just invited to the Vatican to speak on marriage, something I doubt that just a mere “book-a-year apologist” would have the honor of doing.

  12. Paul Holloway

    Who is Paul Holloway? I am.

    If the question really is “Who is Paul Holloway?” then why all the fuss? We are talking about a three-paragraph letter to the editor of a student newspaper in a small liberal arts university on a mountain in central Tennessee. Hmmm.

    I did not say that Wright is not smart, or that he is not well credentialed, or for that matter that I disagree with everything he has written. What I said is “he comes to the evidence not with honest questions but with ideologically generated answers that he seeks to defend.” It is telling that this criticism has been conveniently overlooked by Wright’s shrill defenders, most of whom are personally or professionally invested in his defense.

    I came to this conclusion honestly after teaching one of Wright’s big books. But Wright can speak for himself: “in terms of method, sola Scriptura is what I’ve always tried to do, basically. You could put it negatively… If you find yourself thinking down a track where you think, Oh, well, if I go there, that’ll mean ditching this bit of the Bible or that bit, then all sorts of warning lights flash and say, ‘You probably shouldn’t be going there!’” (

    Scholarship is a collaborative effort that rests on trust—trust that the specialist you are reading and who has presumably spent hours pouring over the primary evidence has played honest with that evidence, which among other things means that he or she did not stop when the evidence led in a direction he or she had determined in advance not to go. Erudition in the service of ideology is not scholarship, and those who follow such a path do not deserve to be recognized as such.

    If others have not seen this (perhaps because they share Wright’s “sola scriptura” assumptions?), then I disagree with them.

    Pro captu lectoris libelli (et epistolia!) habent fata sua. (Terrentianus Maurus, modified)

    • Jerald Liko

      I was interested in reserving judgment and understanding your position until the Latin. After that, I figured whoever Paul Holloway might be, meh.

      • Paul Holloway

        Jerald, the Latin means, “The fate of small books (and small letters) is determined by the dispositions of their readers.” I thought it an apt commentary. Google will translate it for you.

    • Nick Porter


    • T. Merrick

      As though naturalism is not a pre-commitment! Wright has over a hundred pages dedicated to methodology in his New Testament and the People of God. I’m not suggesting it is right, but to suggest he isn’t critical (methodologically self-aware), is fantasy. I’m sure you are aware of the numerous discussions of epistemology that have chastened the simplistic notion of scholarly objectivity you seem to hold. If philosophy isn’t your thing, read one of your fellow NT scholars, Dale Martin and his Sex and the Single Savior for some misgivings about the purity of historical scholarship.

      It is indeed bizarre that you offer yourself as a defender of objectivity against the dangers of ideology. You seem to be much more ideologically driven, by which I mean, unable to acknowledge the HUMANITY of those with whom you disagree. You could stand to be honest yourself. You maligned numerous people and institutions. By my list, you undermined your own institution, disparaged St. Andrew’s, and by implication questioned all the institutions, journals, and professional societies that have recognized Wright’s work. You also called into question all those scholars, many of your peers, in fact (your statement that you know of no one who takes it seriously is either ignorant or dishonest), who do seriously consider it, all the people who have found it beneficial, and, quite unnecessarily, all the “full-fee paying American males” who attend “under-funded” UK universities. C’mon man. Either apologize or dig your heels in and hate, hate, hate. But don’t in the name of defending honesty be dishonest about what you really think and feel. In the words of Sweet Brown, “ain’t nobody got time for that!”

      • Leann Wigner

        Couldn’t agree more!

      • Nick Porter

        I’m in total agreement!

      • T. Merrick

        I wasn’t as clear as I could have been.

        It smacks of ideology not objectivity to point to a popular blog interview rather than the scholarly arguments Wright made in his NTPG. One of the marks of objectivity is taking the best arguments, not the worst.

        It smacks of ideology not objectivity to paint so many institutions and people with such a massively broad and brusque brush. To suggest that all who attend St. Andrew’s are without merit or that the institution itself is illegitimate because of its students and a single professor or that no one takes Wright’s scholarship seriously are all hasty generalizations and easily falsifiable.Indeed, it is ideological to suggest that because Wright gets one thing wrong – LGBT equality (and I think he gets this wrong, to be clear) – that therefore anyone who reads, studies with, or hires him is wrong in total. Ain’t nobody got time for it, I say. Ain’t nobody got time for it!

    • JC Fisher

      “Scholarship is a collaborative effort that rests on trust”

      What’s so abundantly lacking on this thread (and elsewhere at the Cafe these days!), I’m afraid.

      “Erudition in the service of ideology is not scholarship”

      So very true. Kyrie eleison.

      • Nick Porter

        The Episcopal Cafe is great, it’s nice to see a variety of opinions and to see where everyone stands, pretty much like TEC in general because the truth is, we’re not on the same page and will likely never be on the same page about a variety of issues. It’s something to celebrate,not morn.

  13. Some subjective observations:
    1. I know a lot of LGBT people who appreciate N T Wright, including a gay man who considers himself his biggest fan.
    2. I know a lot of straight supporters of gay rights and full inclusion in the church and society (myself included) who appreciate NT Wright, especially his writing on the Kingdom of God. In fact, I use what I’ve learned from reading what he says about the KoG to support social justice for all people including those who are LGBT.
    3. The people I’ve encountered who disparage him for “his views on homosexuality” usually haven’t read anything except for some sound bites.
    4. A lot of conservatives get mad at him too, and some conservatives are moving towards the middle on key issues because of him.
    5. Finally, as graduate of the School of Theology, I flabbergasted that a member of the SOT faculty would chose to vent like that in the *undergraduate student newspaper.” That shows a real lack of decorum and judgement. Well, and it’s just plain tacky.

  14. Rev Andrew Gentry

    IF you can tolerate a grandstander like Spong who is neither a scholar or a reliable commentator on matters theological but a good marketeer serving his ego and his bank account why in the world would it bother you to give a bishop who actually believes in his vocation and his ordination vows not to mention the reasons for them an honorary doctorate! I am a proud gay man who appreciates N T Wright scholarship even though I disagree vehemently with his position on human sexuality!

  15. Kenneth Knapp

    Holloway’s criticism of Wright, if I understand it correctly, is that “he comes to the evidence not with honest questions but with ideologically generated answers that he seeks to defend.”
    That would be a good summation of my criticism of Holloway.

  16. I am a graduate of the School of Theology at Sewanee, and I am neither encouraged nor disturbed at Dr. Holloway’s comments. I’m neither encouraged nor disturbed by Dr. Seitz comments. If Bishop Dr. Wright had commented, I expect I would be neither encouraged nor disturbed. It seems to me that we’ve heard scholars criticizing one another many times before. It’s part of the academic ethos, if academic folks are really paying attention to one another. We’re overreacting from both poles, less about a critique by one academic of another’s method, than by our opinions about one of the academics in question.

    What, after all, makes one a “scholar?” The degrees? The publications? The number of hours spent in study and contemplation? The institution within which one functions? Any of us should be able to point to some person we know or know of who has one or two of those, and not apparently the others. That said, and pace Dr. Holloway and Dr. Seitz, I simply don’t believe in academic objectivity. Any of us comes with some expectations, some hopes, that shape what we choose to study and how. What I do appreciate is a scholar who puts those expectations out front, and acknowledges after whether or not – especially not – they were met. Therefore, I have to hold my own in check, and to avoid the opinion that someone is a “scholar” simply because I agree, or is not one because I do not.

    • Ann Fontaine

      Times when I wish for a “like” feature — exactly Marshall. Thanks.

  17. c seitz

    Don’t put me in that category.

    I was simply countering comments that claimed NT Wright lacked credentials/was a hack.

    No one teaching and writing today believes one can put on a white lab coat as in the days of a full-throated JEDP or the final solution to the synoptic problem.

    Indeed, that is one of many criticisms of NTW. See the recent review of John Barclay.

  18. Susan Forsburg

    “Academic politics is the most vicious and bitter form of politics, because the stakes are so low.” (Sayre’s law)

    Honestly, academics frequently fight bitterly over their opinions. It’s part of the culture. (You should see the recent review of one of my papers! Ouch!) I don’t know why anyone else is paying attention.

    Honorary degrees are intended to recognize accomplishment in one’s field (not necessarily academic). And I regret the current trend that the only people who deserve honorary degrees are those with whom everyone agrees. The rescinding of invitations to people with unpopular views goes against the ideals of the academy.

  19. Cynthia Katsarelis

    I’m not a scholar, I’m just married to one. I object to NT Wright and others who use “complementarity” to insult me as not created equally in the Image of God, to insult my relationship, a gift from God with 23 years of Grace supporting the gift, and insult God’s very Creation.

    Talk about taking a personal bigotry and conveniently constructing a theology and academic argument around it.

    The arrogance of saying that God made a mistake in creating me and my brothers and sisters is beyond words. The harm it causes is also well documented, suicide, depression, bullying, hate crimes, casting out LGBT teens from “religious families,” discrimination, the agonies go on and on.

    England is 40 years behind the US in inclusion for women and LGBT people. England does not have an MLK who taught the people that injustice against one is an injustice against all. They don’t have the formation of the Letter from the Birmingham (Alabama) Jail that chastises moderates for wanting the vulnerable to continue to bear the burden of injustice for the comfort of the already comfortable.

    Mr. Wright’s views are being strongly upheld by the Ku Klux Klan in Alabama. Perhaps he could meet with them while in the American South, they have something in common.

    Whatever the merits of Mr. Wright’s other work, I would call the anti-gay bit a travesty of justice. Thanks, Sewanee, for lifting that up.

    • Nick Porter

      So, because he happens to be a traditionalist on the issue of human sexuality, a position that most practicing (key word practicing) church going Christians hold, he should automatically be written off,despite being a world renowned theologian and bishop in the Anglican Communion which even those across denominations consider him one of the top minds in Christian thought? How sad. I’m glad those at the headship of Sewanee doesn’t have such a narrow-minded view.

      • Cynthia Katsarelis

        Nick, it used to be narrowed minded to oppose slavery, anti semitism, and the burning of witches.

        What exactly is your end game for me and my partner? Really? Are we supposed to just go commit Hari-kari so that you don’t have do “deal” with us? Or simply get the f*** out of YOUR church? Or come and beat ourselves on the chest for the sin of being Created in God’s Image, but different from the oh so moral majority that is doing such a fine job of creating a just and moral society? Are we to ignore God’s call to service to fulfill our Baptismal Covenant? Exactly what?

        We are so dreadful and abhorrent that we are to be shunned? Then please, take down all the art, stop the music, ban the books, hide away all the work of Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Lully, Tchaikovsky, Schubert, Copland, Bernstein, for Christ’s sake ban Walt Whitman and Gertrude Stein immediately! Fire your church musicians!

        Honestly, what do you think God’s Creation looks like with exclusive leadership by white, straight, male supremacy? Is that the Kingdom? The New Jerusalem? The Promised Land?

        Please don’t pretend to speak for the majority of Christendom. I was raised in the Greek Orthodox Church, the Greeks don’t take it too seriously anymore. Many of the Protestant churches are more progressive than TEC. So when you speak of “orthodox” or majority or practicing Christians, you are speaking of a couple of strains of religion that have hierarchical leadership, mostly regressive.

        Sola Scriptura? Look at Ruth and Naomi, David and Jonathan, and what is that bit about “the disciple whom Jesus loved?” While not conclusive, it should certainly give pause to the forces of hate in the name of God!

      • Nick Porter

        Cynthia, only God the Father has the “end-game” for us, and as I don’t have private access to the Book of Life, I have no idea. Like it or not, that really is the official view of the majority of Christendom. There might be fewer people that believe it, but that is still the view and I will hold fast to it regardless of what church canons, peer pressure, and yes, the world says. Because Christians are called to be in the world, not “of” the world.

  20. I have to say I find myself in agreement with Dr. Seitz here, to the extent that the challenge to Wright’s scholarly output as lacking seriousness and rigor is, I think, unfair and untrue. Bishop Wright is someone I often disagree with, especially in his views on GLBT-related issues. I understand the pain and harm those views have caused, and can respect calls to deny an honorary degree on those grounds.

    But–remember when the late Marcus Borg and Wright co-authored a book, “The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions”? No name-calling, no denigration–two very different Christians disagreeing respectfully, affectionately, on important matters. It’s easy for me to say it–my marriage isn’t under discussion–by I think we need to find a way to disagree without denigration. To see our opponents in the round.

  21. Oh, sniff, sniff, he shouldn’t be given an honorary doctorate, because I don’t agree with him. Because I ought to be getting an honorary degree myself — and more attention — and because I think everyone deserving of an honorary degree should agree with me.
    Unbelievable….Were that the way that institutions conveyed honors, Jesus himself couldn’t be awarded an honorary degree.
    I’m sorry…this article smacks of petty jealousy, an appalling lack of perspective, an absence of the magnanimous behavior that characterizes those who are genuinely secure in the work that they have done, and — come to that — a simple lack of class.
    Have I participated in commencements where I would have suggested someone else for an honorary degree? Of course. Are there people whose work goes unrecognized by honorary degrees who should receive one? Yes.
    But — agree with him or not — Tom Wright has earned the recognition by any objective standard and, unlike other recipients, he isn’t getting an honorary degree because he gave Sewanee a big donation. Good for the University of the South…embarrassed for their Professor of New Testament studies.

    • David Streever

      Frederick: Perhaps you could post your comment with a modicum of respect and human tolerance towards Dr. Holloway, who has also commented here?

      I would expect a mature, articulate, intelligent comment from a professor, and I’m uncertain why you opted instead to infantilize and castigate your peer in a mean-spirited personal attack. Perhaps this type of incendiary fire-bombing is best left to your private Facebook page, and not a public forum in the Episcopal community.

    • Cynthia Katsarelis

      “Oh, sniff, sniff, he shouldn’t be given an honorary doctorate, because I don’t agree with him.”

      It isn’t a matter of agreement, as if it’s about smaller or larger government. His believe does not accept me, my spouse, and my LGBT sisters and brothers as created equally in the Image of God, deserving of all the dignity of God’s Creation, and all our human and legal rights.

      He doesn’t agree that I am a child of God and if his “view” prevails, I and my brothers and sisters suffer.

      To call this about “agreement” is to absolutely lose one’s moral compass.

  22. susan moritz

    The Comments section of this website forbids personal attacks and calls for respectful dialogue. Dr. Holloway’s letter of protest, as I understand it, was about academic standards. From the outset, critics here have distorted what he said and attacked him personally, even when they claimed not to know who he is.

    It would be enough for a defender of NT Wright to cite his reputation and do that once. He’s very well known. Instead critics here insult Dr. Holloway and question his academic credentials and motives. He’s accused of “being unable to acknowledge the HUMANITY” of people he disagrees with. A feeble joke is made about his name. Someone else doesn’t like it that he makes an apt play on a Latin aphorism. Along the way Bishop Spong is personally attacked, and we’re told that Oprah and David Bowie have a greater claim to an honorary degree than the suffragan bishop of Los Angeles. (“What has she done to receive such an honor?” What indeed except perhaps minister to people who need her help and try to follow Christ.)

    Dr. Holloway has answered his critics with a great deal more patience and respect than they’ve shown him. The questions he raises are important, unless theology really isn’t an academic discipline. Dr. Holloway and David Streever and some others here have tried to have a serious discussion. Contrary to Mr. Seitz, I feel that it’s the comments of Dr. Holloway’s critics here which are “cringe-worthy.”

    • Nick Porter

      No one distorted anything Holloway said. His words speak for themselves. I stand by my words. Yes, considering what those people (including Bishop Wright) have done in their lives and careers and the impact they made on the world, the suffragan bishop of Los Angeles falls woefully short in comparison. If anything, I would think that by EDS awarding her that the honorary degree program has been diminished. By the way, you forgot this vile comment by someone who is defending Holloway, saying that Bishop Wright should meet with a terrorist hate group (KKK). I mean, that does qualify as a “disrespectful remark” by your standards right?

      • Bro David

        Nick, +Mary is a graduate of EDS, she received her MDiv from EDS. I wasn’t aware that she had received an honorary degree from EDS, she doesn’t appear to wear it on her sleeve as some do. However, I think that if you look deeper, you will find that most Episcopal seminaries award their own alumni/ae honorary doctorates in ministry sometime after they are consecrated bishops. +Mary has served in a number of capacities in the church with distinction and isn’t worthy of the denigration she has been dragged into in this thread.

      • Nick Porter

        I disagree.

      • Susan Moritz

        Mr. Porter: You say at the very opening of this thread, “Let’s be honest, his complaint is purely on the bases of Bishop Wright’s views on sexuality”
        To be honest, that isn’t what his complaint is based on. He denies it. The actual words of his initial letter deny it.
        Later you repeat this distortion when you paraphrase Holloway as saying: “I don’t agree with Bishop Wright on this hot button issue so he shouldn’t be honored.”
        Mr. Seitz says: “I was simply countering comments that claimed NT Wright lacked credentials/was a hack.” Dr. Holloway did not claim that NTW lacked credentials, and he said NTW was an “apologist.” An apologist is not a hack.
        David Streever has characterized uncivil and bullying posting very well. I’d add that excessive posting does not encourage a free flow of opinion but is itself a form of bullying.

    • David Streever

      Thank you, Susan. I’ve tried to engage all of our readers on a respectful (or at least sincere) level; I think there are a lot of disingenuous comments on the internet already, and I fear that we get perhaps more than our fair share.

      The commenting experience is something we’re paying attention to and working on. I think, on this story, we probably should have held back more of these comments; many of them are quite mean-spirited, and treat Dr. Holloway as if he were an anonymous, nebulous entity. Those attacks, despite the fact that he’s come in here to clarify and engage, strikes me as incredibly uncivil and inappropriate.

      • Nick Porter

        David, I believe that’s just part of being a public figure and posting your thoughts on a public platform for all to see. I’m happy to see that he attempted to clarify his thoughts, but just because he decided to engage doesn’t mean that people were going to change their minds how they view his original letter. In order to have dialaug,

      • David Streever

        Regardless of your personal views with regard civility, we have a rule here that comments should be civil and aimed at productive discussion. Mocking and infantilizing someone with whom you disagree does not conform to our rules, and in general, those comments will be deleted.

        Letting bullies mock others and use infantilizing language is not a real dialogue, and banning bullying isn’t preventing people from having a conversation. Adults, particularly in the work place, have ‘real dialogue’ every day without employing outright mockery and insults.

      • Nick Porter

        In order to have real dialog,perspectives from all sides have to be allowed to share their thoughts, or else it’s just another case of “preaching to the choir”. Surrounding oneself with like-minded thinkers doesn’t eliminate the fact that there are other opinions out there that may be contrary to yours.

      • Nick Porter

        I’ve seen quite a few immature comments from people on the other side of certain issues. Please be fair and tell this to them as well. I mean, I would think that telling someone to “Talk to the KKK” would qualify as an insult right?

      • David Streever

        No, comparing discrimination on the basis of sex to discrimination on the basis of race is not an insult; as I said at the time, I’m sorry that it offended you! It is precisely how I see sex-based discrimination; unfair, irrational, and something which will seem incredibly primitive to future generations.

        That’s not meant to be an insult, nor do I understand how it is. I view discrimination based on sex as similar to discrimination based on race.

        There aren’t ‘two sides’ on the issue of comment civility; one of the comments here compared Dr. Holloway to a crying infant. That’s just outright mockery, and it doesn’t matter what the person who wrote it thinks. We also delete comments from liberals who disagree with you when they are uncivil.

      • Nick Porter

        David, just to be clear,I was never insulted by what you said to me. You distort my position, as I believe you can’t hold the same “discrimination” standards to things dealing with the church as with the state. There’s a difference and my views on both those are different.

      • David Streever

        You told me my comment was “an insult”. I knew that you weren’t really insulted, but I was apologizing to be polite. The clarification isn’t needed, but thank you. Going forward, I’d appreciate it if you’d simply avoid being disingenuous. That way, we don’t need multiple clarifications and re-framing of your comments.

        As I indicated previously, many of your recent comments have been moderated by several of us; please try to adhere to the comments policy completely. Our goal is to foster productive dialog; making snarky or snide comments does not encourage productive dialog.

        Thank you!

  23. Rod Gillis

    @ Paul Holloway, ” Scholarship is … trust that the specialist you are reading and who has presumably spent hours pouring over the primary evidence has played honest with that evidence, which among other things means that he or she did not stop when the evidence led in a direction he or she had determined in advance not to go. Erudition in the service of ideology is not scholarship, and those who follow such a path do not deserve to be recognized as such. ”

    I took my I theological education in the 70s. The prominent theologians of that era were obviously formative. Examples: Bernard Lonergan wrote about the end of the normative classicist paradigm, functional specialties and the unrestricted desire to know. Yet Lonergan operated within a neo-Thomistic framework which could certainly qualify as confessional. Raymond Brown poured over texts with both a critical and passionate eye. He was faulted by voices on both the left and the right for failing to follow his critical exegesis to its logical conclusion. Yet, he advocated that his exegesis satisfied Catholic theology properly understood.

    The question you raise about erudition in the service of ideology ( Isn’t that all confessional faith?) is an important but difficult one. What criterion do we use to distinguish between faith with integrity seeking to understand a set of texts and mere apologetic? Is a distinction possible?

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