Wright’s appointment to teaching position sparks giving protest

The appointment of anti-gay bishop N.T. Wright to a post on a divinity school faculty has drawn ire from alumni, the Scotsman reports.

[Wright’s] appointment to the Fife institution’s School of Divinity has prompted a senior Episcopal clergyman to urge wealthy graduates not to support the university’s fundraising appeals.

The Rt Rev Kelvin Holdsworth, Provost of St Mary’s Cathedral in Glasgow and a St Andrews graduate, has withdrawn financial support over Wright’s “anti-gay views” and is encouraging others to do the same.

“It is hard to think of a more divisive figure to appoint. I don’t think it is to the credit of a modern university to appoint staff with such ghastly anti-gay views.”

In response to future requests for assistance, Holdsworth writes,

“The answer from now on could not be clearer. No extra funding for a university that appoints anti-gay figures to prominent positions. I hope other alumni will keep their hands firmly in their pockets and when the call comes for money, just say no.”

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29 Comments
  1. Exactly why is this any more laudable than those on the other side who withhold funds because the church is embracing GLBT rights? That voting with one’s wallet cuts both ways.

  2. It’s called conscience, Tom.

  3. David Cornell

    “That voting with one’s wallet cuts both ways.”

    Indeed it does, and such a boycott is on its face neither more nor less “laudable” than “those on the other side who withhold funds because the church is embracing GLBT rights.” (One may, of course, disagree with the point of view being advanced even while acknowledging the right.)

    What progressive has argued that individual donors don’t have the right to decide whether to withhold their donations in protest? It’s not clear to whom the question is being posed, but the way it is framed implies that progressives don’t acknowledge the rights of individual donors.

  4. I guess my issue is that there is a certain “throwing the baby out with the bathwater” sense to the withholding of funds, whether from a congregation or from a seminary. While there is a high degree of personal satisfaction and “conscience” to doing so, it ends up doing little to directly affect the situation and more to wound the institution or community from which the funds are being witheld. Seems like there should be a more Christian way than saying, in effect, “If you don’t do it my way, I’m taking my marbles and going home.” Do we really want to be in a church where the wealthiest people have the most power?

  5. EH Culver

    Committed liberal though I am, I have learned more than I can remember from committed, conservative professors, who are also honest scholars. They have been honest about their opinions as well, and they have been willing to discuss and debate the issues with their students.

  6. In Holdsworth’s position, I’d be tempted to do the same. Several years ago, I finally quit contributing to my fine, still-beloved Roman Catholic alma mater, as they followed Pope John Paul II in his hard right turn. It wasn’t because of any one event or faculty member; it was because of a change in ethos. My only option was to cease support entirely. And that was discretionary “charitable giving” — not my tithes and offerings to God and God’s church.

    In this case, however, the objection is to one faculty member. Those who want to register their displeasure might continue to give, but direct their giving – to the library, for instance … or to the Episcopal campus ministry (if the university has such a thing).

    This does bring up tricky issues, including academic freedom. I have a decidedly progressive friend (in the ordination process) who went to Oxford each summer for several years to study with a prominent conservative/evangelical scholar … precisely so that he could understand better that man’s oh-so-different perspective. His experience was much like EHCulver’s; it was positive and valuable.

    It also raises the issue of diversity and inclusion. If we want to prove that there truly is space in the Anglican Community for diverse views, don’t we have to model that inclusion?

    Of course, one shouldn’t fund oppression. But does Wright actually have the power to oppress anyone anymore? I’m not sure. Though I don’t like his views on same-sex issues, he’s not Fred Phelps, nor is he the Archbishop of Uganda.

    Finally, there’s that problem of using money as a weapon rather than exercising stewardship as a sign of our gratitude to God. I’m as ticked as anyone by those TEC dioceses and parishes that withhold money because they disagree with the church’s stands and actions. I’m not sure I could defend that indignation if I did as the Rt Rev Holdsworth is doing, much as I sympathize with his motivation.

    Money … It’s darn complicated. No wonder Jesus harped on it so much. (In fact, rumor has it that he talked about money and power a lot more than he talked about sexuality. Go figure … 😉

  7. Lapin, I don’t find a hyperlink in your post, though the text looks like there should be one. Give it another go? or is it just me?

  8. John B. Chilton

    Regarding directed giving to the church I believe the trap we have fallen into not so much to criticize it, but to accept the money even as we criticize it. If you are given a donation that comes with a stipulation that it is directed because of “conscience”, don’t accept it. And certainly don’t leave the impression that it is part of the tithe, or that it satisfies a parish’s duty to support the diocese. If the parish can’t support the diocese it goes back to mission status.

  9. John, if you’re responding to my comment, remember that I suggested directed giving to secular institutions — such as the university in question — not to the church. In TEC, giving to ERD or the local food pantry doesn’t satisfy the requirement for parishes and dioceses to support the work of the whole church. I believe we agree.

  10. I wouldn’t withhold funds because Wright is theologically conservative. I wouldn’t be comfortable with that. I’d withhold them because he actively works to deny people rights to which I think they are entitled. Additionally, in the recent Anglican controversies, he has consistently distorted what is happening within the Episcopal Church. He’s a demagogue. So in refusing to support him, I’m not making a political statement, I am just refusing to reward his woeful behavior.

  11. But, Jim, if we cease funding demagogues, the U.S. political system will come crashing down. {LOL!}

    Yep, Wright is a demagogue at best, and a liar at worst. But how will ceasing donations to St. Andrews hurt Wright? I doubt he will be in such straitened circumstances that he will be forced to curtail his globe-trotting.

    Or, if enough people did so that it actually began to hurt the university and they fired Wright, what would be the implications for academic freedom? Are we willing to accept those consequences, which cut both ways?

    Mind you, I’m not at all sure of the answers. I’m not even sure I’m asking the right questions. And, as the great prophet of our time says: “Of course, I could be wrong …”

  12. John B. Chilton

    Yes, Lisa, I believe we agree, or at least are saying different things. You brought directed giving into the conversation, but focusing on secular institutions. I took the topic of directed giving over to the church.

    We absolutely agree that giving with strings attached “doesn’t satisfy the requirement for parishes and dioceses to support the work of the whole church.” It’s not a hypothetical. It has been allowed to satisfy the requirement. That’s a mistake in several ways.

  13. John B. Chilton

    Regarding hitting N.T. Wright in the pocketbook the obvious action to advocate is call for people to stop buying is popular books, books that appeal not just to a small reactionary slice of the Anglican communion (and beyond) but to a broad spectrum. He has a reputation for good writing and quality scholarship. Are his views about gays and distortions about The Episcopal Church not widely known? And if they were would that turn off many readers? People seem to be able to compartmentalize these two parts of the man.

  14. tgflux

    Using your logic, Tom S, did MLKJr and the black people of Montgomery AL not have the moral right to boycott the segregated bus system in the 1950s? What about divesting from apartheid South Africa in the 1980s?

    Boycotts are, IMO, a perfectly acceptable tactic in a struggle for social change.

    But is it a change for Good, or for Evil? THAT is the relevant question, Tom.

    Inclusion and anti-inclusion are NOT moral equivalents (neither are anti-bigotry and bigotry!)

    JC Fisher

  15. Clint Davis

    Keep the checks coming, but keep the eyes open. If it looks like Dr. Wright is grading his openly gay students, or pro-inclusion students, in a harsher manner than others, then say something, raise a fuss, let’s have a kerfuffle. Pay his salary, for by paying his salary you keep him accountable to equality and inclusion as a reality in his classroom, regardless of his personal points of view.

    He can run people out and discipline people all he wants in his diocese, but here in academia he’s got to change his tune. In his diocese, he can surround himself with his bigot friends, but in academia he’s got to work with Church Queens and Scottish Lesbyterians and everyone else he would keep locked out of his office and his Office, and now, Whatcha gonna do, Tom? I’m curious as to how long he’ll last. All ya’ll Scottish Episcopalians should give him as much hell as he’s given gay people all these years, since he’s in YOUR house now, and hold his feet to the fire and his other parts also, and see what he does. What a wonderful opportunity, I’d say.

  16. don

    Using your logic, Tom S, did MLKJr and the black people of Montgomery AL not have the moral right to boycott the segregated bus system in the 1950s? What about divesting from apartheid South Africa in the 1980s?

    I don’t think N T Wright advocates the persecution, seclusion, attack and bias against homosexuals in society. I doubt he is arguing homosexuals are second hand citizens. I doubt he would refuse to shake a gay man/woman’s hand etc… I imagine the only place his belief against homosexuality would emerge would be in a church setting/position where they want to be ordained or take communion. But then I imagine that N T Wright would have the same reaction against people who practice premarital sex [or all the other rules laid out against communion.* That is to say I don’t think N T Wright [if I judge him by my more conservative friends] would not treat homosexuals [or those who have premarital sex]* any different from anyone else they encounter in life. They dont want them stopped in their careers, spat upon, jeered at, put down, refused jobs etc… Yes they have a problem with them communing in church, and I am not saying that is an okay thing, but please this is not 1950’s America.

    It is ludicrous to try to link N T Wright to that type of movement.

    I have realized some people who claim to be liberals really aren’t. They have a position that liberals agree with them on, but underneath they can be just as bigoted, intolerant, nasty, and the mirror image of that which they so passionately hate. They aren’t liberals, tolerant, against the consensus view trying to force the minority view into their view of face censure.

    As I said before:

    ‘So, if you have different views from the prevailing section of society you could be put into a police cell, mocked, stereotyped, hated and possibly lose your job if your colleagues find out. Now I don’t know where to stand on this issue exactly, but believe me [this] is just as bigoted as before- its just happening the other way round.’

    For a interesting, but not entirely related though please read this. Its by one of my favourite columnists [who is also a liberal, homosexual]

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/matthew_parris/article6888054.ece

    Don MacGill

    *I am not linking homosexuality with premarital sex.

  17. John B. Chilton

    Does it matter whether Wright knows he is a bigot? Does it matter whether his intent is to do good and he is misguided as to what that is?

    People are generally not lying when they say it’s a matter of conscience (no women bishops, no gays, no blacks). Does it come down to this: one person’s matter of conscience another’s matter of prejudice?

  18. Murdoch Matthew

    William Temple observed (in 1914, if I remember correctly) that it’s impossible to distinguish between deep religion conviction and sheer prejudice — both aren’t based on evidence.

  19. John, good point. That’s why I prefer to judge him by his behavior, rather than his beliefs. The same goes for the Anglican Communion Institute types, and certain of the Communion Partner bishops and rectors who were schemeing to take a parish from the diocese of Colorado and put in under the authority of the bishop of South Carolina.

  20. I too am an alumna of St. Mary’s Divinity College of the University of St. Andrews, and I’m not giving another dime to the university after this announcement.

    Dr. Wright interviewed for a position in New Testament at St. Mary’s/St. Andrews when I was a postgrad student there. He was the only candidate for the position who made much of his credentials as a true Christian as opposed (in his rhetoric frequently) to his credentials as a professor. And on the basis of the credentials he put forward as best, I recommended that he not be hired.

    He treated professors at the college with respect. He answered their questions, laughed at their jokes, and made conversation with them happily.

    He treated postgrad students as an annoyance, albeit one that could not be entirely ignored. He waved off their questions with a dismissive, albeit sometimes pithy, remark, and he did not engage any of us in conversation — not even those of us on the interview committee, and not even when we tried.

    He treated students training for ministry (which, at St. Mary’s, were in the B.D. program) as completely invisible.

    He treated university staff as if they had been rolling in manure for a week and were only there to inconvenience him.

    He treated wait staff in restaurants, porters, and other working class people not affiliated with the university as radioactive — both invisible and toxic.

    I had read his work with deep and genuine appreciation for years before that, and I continue to do so to the extent that he remains true to his original scholarly foci. But I took his example as a negative cautionary tale.

    I hope my own life and work are better for it. I’ve tried all that much harder to make my best work accessible, to work hardest on the things that the most people might read, and to treat with the most honor those who don’t have the power to make me powerful but who do use their gifts to serve whoever’s around.

    I am very sad that St. Andrews, having rejected Dr. Wright for appointment based on his credentials before, is taking him on now — after he’s published the same three books in dozens of different forms, after he took a diocesan appointment and spent the best of his time and effort outside the diocese he vowed to serve, and after he appeared in Columbus to work against our polity while supporting at least tacitly efforts to undermine mutual recognition of orders supported by the Chicago-Lambeth quadrilateral.

    Bishop Tom, I wish we could talk again. Since I’m still a lay person but now am not on a hiring committee, I doubt even more that you’d listen, despite the Windsor Report’s admonition to do so. I’d still listen to you, though, if you wanted to explain how your treatment of “townies” coheres with your Christianity.

  21. tgflux

    this is not 1950’s America. It is ludicrous to try to link N T Wright to that type of movement.

    …or would be, if Tom Wright were, say, well-known for vigorously and publicly denouncing the sort of bigotry and discrimination against LGBTs all around the world which kills them just as dead as blacks in 1950s America!

    …but he doesn’t, so I do.

    I have realized some people who claim to be liberals really aren’t. They have a position that liberals agree with them on, but underneath they can be just as bigoted, intolerant, nasty, and the mirror image of that which they so passionately hate.

    Fine—and I have realized that there are those who suppose themselves to be above-the-fray, looking DOWN on those who dare take a stand and call out EVIL for what it is. It’s called sin-of-omission (not to mention passive-aggression and judgmentalism!), and it’s the worst sin of all.

    JC Fisher (who only claims to be a follower of Jesus—or tries to be)

  22. don

    Fine—and I have realized that there are those who suppose themselves to be above-the-fray, looking DOWN on those who dare take a stand and call out EVIL for what it is. It’s called sin-of-omission (not to mention passive-aggression and judgmentalism!), and it’s the worst sin of all.

    JC,

    I understand why you want to raise concern and oppose his views. I understand why you have a point to be made, and why you should make it are forcefully as you can. But, as Matthew Paris’ article I linked to above argued, there is a difference between passionately disagreeing with someone, and arguing they must be banned, lose their jobs, and relegated and shunned to the side lines of society. I am sorry, but we should be better than this.

    Anyone [especially the Bishop of Durham] who has a different opinion to you is not automatically a homophobe or a hate speaking bigot.

    As one commentator said in the article: “Homophobic,” is an essentially meaningless word, which is now a label used to shut down debate.

    What does it even mean?

    Once upon a time, it meant an irrational fear or hatred of homosexuals, but now it means not approving of, and celebrating homosexuality.

    I don’t know what Dr Tom Wright has ever said or done to justify him being labelled, by this very paper in the headline, as, “anti-gay.”

    …So IF Dr Wright simply stands up for Christian teaching on homosexuality, then he cannot be, “homophobic,” in the sense that he hates or fears gay people.

    The so-called, “gay rights,” lobby, which seeks to force everyone to approve of and celebrate homosexuality, are indeed fascist in their intolerance of free speech.

    They are a modern-day, secular inquisistion.

    I am sorry but I find this reaction to N T Wright repugnant. The gay community, and those who support it, have a chance to show now that they are in the ascendency [at least in the West] to not behave like the callous, intolerant, sheer vindictiveness of those who disagreed with them. You will win the argument because you are right, there is no need to turn into what you hate to achieve it.

    Don MacGill

  23. Clint Davis

    Don, what do you mean, “opinion”? We’re talking lives and fortunes here, not hairstyles or music choice! And what do you mean by “approval”? Might as well approve of the blueness of the sky, or the blackness of an African’s skin, because homosexuality is not something to be approved or disapproved of, it just is.

    Look, I had a friend who was initiated into Freemasonry a few years back, and around here in Oklahoma, some of the lodges can be tainted with racism. We both decided to withdraw from that lodge (though we both still believe in the principles of Masonry) due to hearing the “N word” a few too many times. Now my friend admits he’s racist too, but said to me one of the wisest things I ever heard anyone say. He said that, yes he’s racist, but he knows that’s HIS problem, and not the problem of those he’s uncomfortable with, and his personal distaste isn’t a good enough reason to treat anyone any differently, esp. not a brother Mason, because there’s lots of Masons who are black. He owns his problem, and was disappointed that Masonry hadn’t improved other lodge brethren to the point of giving up the N word, when he’s working so hard “smoothing his rough ashlar” so that he would be a better person.

    You need to learn that lesson, Don, in regards to gay people. You, and all others who “believe” that the language of approval or disapproval is appropriate when discussing gay people, you all are those with the problem, not gay people. Personal or even collective distaste is not reason enough to treat someone differently, especially when said distastes lead to attitudes and actions that harm and hinder those you or y’all find distasteful.

  24. tgflux

    I don’t hate you, Don (God only knows, I have PLENTY of other sins, though—Lord have mercy!)

    I DO hate your homophobia {*} , however (a homophobia I dare say anyone who is NOT Don MacGill can so readily see, that I need not catalog it). And I won’t stop condemning that SIN (not you, personally), just because it so evidently makes you uncomfortable that I do so.

    What say we BOTH meet at the foot of the cross, pleading for mercy for our respective sins, and quit the log/splinter stuff already? You are my brother—and my fellow sinner (you simply wear your sin a little more obviously than I do—at the moment! ;-/)

    JC Fisher

    {*} Homophobia: a perfectly understandable word meaning “bigotry against homosexual people/homosexual (spousal) relations”.

  25. Dä'ved Äyan | David Allen

    A slight correction in the Scotsman’s article. Kelvin is not a Scotish Episcopal bishop, but the provost of St Mary’s, a dean in most TEC dioceses. His correct honorific would be the Very Revd., not the Rt Revd.

  26. don

    I don’t hate you, Don (God only knows, I have PLENTY of other sins, though—Lord have mercy!)

    I DO hate your homophobia {*} , however (a homophobia I dare say anyone who is NOT Don MacGill can so readily see, that I need not catalog it). And I won’t stop condemning that SIN (not you, personally), just because it so evidently makes you uncomfortable that I do so.

    What say we BOTH meet at the foot of the cross, pleading for mercy for our respective sins, and quit the log/splinter stuff already? You are my brother—and my fellow sinner (you simply wear your sin a little more obviously than I do—at the moment! ;-/)

    J C Fischer,

    Sorry could you (or the moderator) please remove your statement, especially as you have continually used my name throughout as a foil to make your accusations. I have not expressed any of my beliefs for or against homosexuality. I merely pointed out a worrying tread of intolerance from certain section of society that I find objectionable and bizarre.That doesn’t mean that I am against homosexuals in any way- any more than Matthew Paris is a racist or homophobe for arguing for free speech for the BNP. I care out our society’s values, and that includes the right to dissent peacefully. I find your congenial tone refreshing but I find it odd that you think anyone who makes such arguments must be because they are a homophobe. I even said ‘you will win the argument because you are right’!

    Don MacGill

  27. tgflux

    Sorry could you (or the moderator) please remove your statement, especially as you have continually used my name

    I’m not responsible for Episcopal Cafe’s “ethic of transparency by requiring all contributors and commentators to make submissions under their real names”, Don.

    But seriously: believe it or not, it’s even EASIER to remove your homophobia. All you have to do, is stop thinking in “other-ing” concepts like “so-called, ‘gay rights,’ lobby” and REMEMBER: we’re just like you.

    We’re just like you: same joys, same sorrows, same sins, same virtues.

    Same fears. Same hopes. Same doubts . . .

    . . . and same anger, we when we (fairly, reasonably “objectively”) experience ourselves being walked-on, or scape-goated.

    All the SAME as you . . . with the same need for salvation through Christ.

    Not FROM our sexual relationships, but IN them: for us to be more Christ-like wives to our wives, or husbands to our husbands.

    Can’t you really TRY to imagine yourself as one of us, Don, and not some other who wants to protect himself via censorship?

    Like I said above, Don: you’re my brother in Christ.

    We’re really not any different.

    JC Fisher

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