Wycliffe in 2010
Wycliffe Hall is an evangelical theological college with 100 full time students, located in the fine city of Oxford. Wycliffe is a Permanent Private Hall of the University of Oxford. Over half of the student body are Ordinands in the Church of England, the rest of our students come from various denominations, and from around the world, pursuing qualifications up to Doctoral level.
The 1877 Trust deed of Wycliffe Hall, signed by all members of the Hall Council, emphasises a Protestant interpretation of the Thirty-Nine Articles, atonement, justification, the sacraments, priesthood and the Bible. This is the rich heritage in which Wycliffe Hall stands.
Throughout its existence Wycliffe has identified itself as an Anglican Evangelical Theological College. In practice this means that we have represented in our community those who would describe themselves as conservative, those who would call themselves charismatic and those who would have a more reflective or contemplative spirituality. We believe that this gives us a genuine depth and richness which enhances our community and equips those preparing for ministry within the Church.
Our Chapel services include daily worship using the range of services in Common Worship (and Book of Common Prayer), Scripture readings, a combination of organ, keyboard, and guitar for sung worship. Students lead and preach, taking responsibility, along with their tutors; our weekly Holy Communion service often includes a guest preacher. Other services include a weekly student led Complin service and occasional prayer meetings and a Taize style service.
The three principal parts of ordinand life at Wycliffe are Academic learning, Ministry Training and Spiritual formation. All students study towards an Oxford University qualification (Diploma in Theological and Pastoral Training, C.Th. B.Th., B.A., M.Th. D. Phil). Wycliffe’s academic results have consistently been high, with the Hall in the top two positions in the Norrington table for at least the last 5 years. Amongst the Tutorial staff we have (8 Doctorates) and (91 years of parochial experience)! Our recent staff appointments have deliberately sought to hold together academic excellence and recent parochial experience.
Ministry training is undertaken by practitioners and we place particular emphasis on the ministry gifts of Leadership, Preaching, Church Growth and Christian Apologetics. Students will spend some of their time at Wycliffe in Pastoral placements which take place in churches of very different sizes and demography to enable them to experience worship in contexts which are different to their sending Church and range from rural parishes across Oxfordshire to larger City Churches with a more student emphasis. Many students elect to use their placements to experience a Churchmanship with which they are not familiar.
Spiritual formation lies at the heart of everything we do. Some formation happens within the formal curriculum, including writing a Pastoral Reflection on a long summer placement, or writing an essay on Worship, or on a style of Pastoral Counselling. All students meet with their personal tutor formally at least once per term, and informally on a regular basis along with the other 11 members of their fellowship group. They will undertake the Myers Briggs Type Indicator and spend an intense week considering the spiritual aspects of Church leadership. The communal experience of rubbing shoulders with men and women from different backgrounds over meals, worship, sport and informal conversation is often very significant for personal devotion and spiritual development. When put alongside the active mentoring of students by Tutors throughout their time here, the two or three years at Wycliffe Hall can be the most spiritually formative period of an ordinand’s life.
Men & Women in Ministry
Wycliffe holds together the “Two Integrities” which are currently evident in contemporary Anglican Church life. Two of our full time academic staff are ordained women who along with a substantial number of students and fellow tutors hold to a more egalitarian approach. Others, both on the staff and in the student body, hold to a more complementarian approach to men and women in ministry. What is important for us is that Wycliffe is a place where differences of viewpoint may be acknowledged, discussed and allowed an equal place alongside each other.
Focus Days and Integration Study Weeks spend considerable time discussing the ministry and personal implications of academic training. For example, an annual Focus Day on Men and Women in Leadership involves a debate between two tutors who have divergent views in this area and allows students to hear a passionate and clear presentation of both positions. Additionally, the Focus Day on Human Sexuality recognises the pertinence of a related current issue in the Anglican Communion, wrestles with the biblical text and concludes by seeking to encourage students to be aware of the conclusions of “Some Issues in Human Sexuality” (and other Church House publications) whilst exercising positive love, overcoming prejudice and showing compassion to the struggles of many in this area of human sexuality.
Wycliffe is a thriving community which continues to train some of the finest men and women for 21st Century Church of England Ministry. We consider that our best ambassadors are the students themselves. We hope that Bishops and DDO’s will take up our invitation to visit the Hall and experience student life here. Students will happily share of the positive and negative experiences of Residential training in the Hall and give a balanced impression of what it is like to be a student at Wycliffe.
Revd Dr Simon Vibert
Vice Principal Wycliffe Hall
What should we expect of a theological college?
There has been considerable discussion recently surrounding the issue of “value for money” and “fitness for purpose” of full time theological education. I have my own views on the immense value of full time theological residential training (see http://www.simonvibert.com/writing/articles/CEN%20article_on_full_time_training.doc). But I think we would agree that the goal of all such training is to equip and train godly ministers for Gospel ministry.
Julian Mann has publically challenged me to defend Wycliffe Hall in the light of his article in the EN and the subsequent letter from one of our students Matthew Swires Hennessy (see http://cranmercurate.blogspot.com/2009/08/what-are-we-paying-for-in-thelogical.html). If I have understood him correctly, Julian’s main contention is that Oak Hill is best placed to train ordinands because it is not “as posh” as Oxbridge colleges and provides a more useful practical theology.
I have no intention of being drawn into a debate over the relative strengths and weaknesses of Wycliffe versus Oak Hill. Apart from anything else, I was a student at Oak Hill, for which I am most grateful, and am now Vice Principal at Wycliffe Hall and wish to see both institutions prosper!
There are several reasons why I was appreciative, and ultimately accepted, Richard Turnbull’s invitation to teach at Wycliffe Hall, which in no particular order, include the following:-
1. I am absolutely committed to evangelical parochial ministry in the Church of England. Since Ordination in 1989 I have served as a Curate in Carlisle, been the minister-in-charge of a church in the small market town of Buxton in Derbyshire, and been incumbent of a leafy suburban parish in Wimbledon. These varied environments have led me to conclude that England is unlikely to be revived unless Gospel new-life penetrates urban, suburban, rural, wealthy, poor and every other demography across the land. Parochial ministry, despite its limitations for Church planting etc., is still a great gift to the national church. It is a major goal of our training mindset that we seek to bolster the faithful ongoing witness of Gospel ministry in local communities through high calibre preparation of men and women for ministry.
2. The particular focus to Wycliffe’s training was another great attraction for me: We have sought to concentrate on 3-4 main ends or goals. For sure, we cover the core curriculum in biblical studies, doctrine, church history, ethics etc. But to what end? The answer is that we seek to train: leaders, preachers, evangelists, church planters and apologists. This requires practical and pastoral focus. Hence, alongside the rigorous academic demands of being a PPH of Oxford University, Pastor-teachers such as myself seek to bring grass-roots ministry experience to earth the teaching in real ministry goals.
3. Wycliffe Hall has a marvellous academic and ecclesiastic heritage. For sure, not everyone at Wycliffe will study on the demanding 2-year BA course or do post graduate study. Of course for some this also means many other opportunities to excel in sports, debate, church life, etc. But Wycliffe seeks to make the most of the excellent resources which a university town offers: rigorous academic scholarship and the marvellous heritage of a university which, after all has the Scriptural words “The Lord is my Light” as its foundational motto. I do not want to forget, either, that the vision of the founders of Wycliffe Hall, under the leadership of the great JC Ryle, was in part that Wycliffe Hall would be a witness to the University, reminding them that the learned mind is a humble mind which first bows its head before its maker before bowing over its books.
There is much more, but for now, I do hope Julian and others, that you will pray for Wycliffe and Oak Hill, as well as the other evangelical colleges. We are not in competition with each other. We need your support and encouragement and prayer in order that we may, under God, do our utmost to form godly ministers for Gospel work up and down our land.
Bishops’ Inspection 2008 Wycliffe Hall welcomes the Bishops’ Inspection report arising out of a thorough week of inspection in November 2008. We are encouraged that they found that ‘the Hall displays a rich mosaic of evangelical traditions,’ commend the clarity of our ‘common purpose that unites staff and students,’ and affirm our aims and purposes in ‘preaching, teaching, pastoral care and evangelism.’ We also agree with them that significant goodwill exists within the Faculty of Theology of the University of Oxford; that the academic, administrative and support staff work together well with a sense of corporate direction.
Commendation is made of the good academic results achieved by Wycliffe students and corporate and communal life in the Hall is observed to be healthy. The Inspectors point out that Wycliffe has gone through a period of major restructuring including significant staff change. Whilst they acknowledge that adjustments and rebuilding needs to continue to happen, we are pleased that they feel that the structures are in place for Wycliffe to go from strength to strength.
We rejoice in the fact that the Inspectors have stated their full confidence in Wycliffe’s ‘ministerial and spiritual formation’. We are grateful for the affirmation of our revised programme of Integrated Study Weeks and Focus Days as ‘excellent expressions of best practice and as effective means of integrating theology and practice.’ For many years Wycliffe has sought to give significant attention to the formational aspects of training alongside academic development and practical ministry skills. In the area of ‘practical and pastoral theology’, we look forward to working on the recommendations for greater theological and pastoral reflection deploying the ‘collective expertise’ recognised by the Inspectors as already present in the staff team. As new staff become established and continue with the development of this department we anticipate much progress in this area. Wycliffe is also grateful for the many additional and positive recommendations which we shall be working hard to ensure are implemented over the short and mid term.
Revd Dr Richard Turnbull (Principal)
Revd Dr Simon Vibert (Vice Principal)
Revd Dr Peter Walker (Associate Vice Principal)
Revd Will Donaldson (Director of Christian Leadership)
Helen Mitchell (Director of Administration)
Graham Robinson (Finance Bursar)
Dr Benno van den Toren (Dean of Faculty)
The Senior Management Team Wycliffe Hall
17th March 2009
Can you teach preaching? I am often asked that question. After all, is not preaching spiritual gifting from God; a spiritual exercise dependent on the Holy Spirit’s enabling? Older preachers used to speak of divine ‘unction’ to refer to the anointing which God gives when preaching is razor sharp and penetrating the soul.
So, can you teach it? Well, I am banking on some teaching being required, or otherwise I am out of a job as ‘Director of the School of Preaching” at Wycliffe Hall!
As I often remind my students, no illustration is perfect and the parameters of the illustration need to be understood. However, it seems to me that there is some parallel between learning a sport or musical instrument and learning to preach. After all, we all recognise that Alfred Brendel (who recently gave his last ever piano recital in England) or Tiger Woods are exceptionally gifted. At the same time, we recognise that their giftedness has only flourished as a result of hard practice and rigorous labour.
The Apostle Paul encourages Timothy to: Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. (2 Tim 2:15)
When I moved to London about 10 years ago I missed my walking in the beautiful Derbyshire Peak District. So, I decided that the next best thing was to take up a game that I realise is often called “a good walk spoiled”! How do you go about learning to play golf? I wonder, leaving aside the necessary prayerful pleading that comes alongside preaching preparation (although I did try that too with my golf!), whether there are not some parallels in how one learns to preach.
Books – before starting out on the course I read quite a number of books. These were useful for learning what a “Birdie” “Fore” “9 Iron” etc. are. But there is still quite a big disconnect between what one reads and what one experiences when wielding a club. Indeed it is possible to play golf without ever reading what others have said about how the game should be played. And of course the same is true for preaching.
Driving Range – Ah, now we are getting somewhere. Having bought my first second hand pair of golf clubs I was ready to have a crack at hitting a ball. Despite the slices and mis-fires it felt good to be taking out one’s pent up energy on that little white ball. And, to my surprise, with a bit of practice, shots went a bit straighter and a bit further. As a 17 year old, a relatively new Christian, I was grateful for the trust which my Vicar put in me to let me loose on his unsuspecting congregation and to preach my first sermon. And I certainly know that I, for one, was reasonably edified by the experience!
On the Course – the first 9 hole game at a public course. Well, there were flashes of genius! But most of the time was spent looking for the miscued ball in the shrub land and the heather.
But at least I was playing and I got through my first complete game. There is no substitute for preaching in front of a real audience. Of course, they are not there as your practice ground. Preaching has to be a real, spiritual experience for it to be preaching at all. It is more important that preachers are godly and prayerful than they fill their heads reading books. But of course, it is not either/or. We learn as we go, and particularly for preachers, the maxim “lifelong learner” should be true.
Back to the Driving Range – with an Instructor! – Now I had got serious. I had the bug. I found moments of exhilaration in the game, but I was very conscious of my inadequacies. Hitting the balls down the driving range with an Instructor present was a combination of learning and unlearning. As well as working on stance and swing, he worked on the range of skills I needed in order to play the whole game. It is no use rocketing 50 balls 200yard down the driving range and yet be unable to chip it 10 yards or putt it home. This is where mentoring and modelling comes into the preaching experience. Peer critique, preaching classes and ongoing feedback from carefully selected critiques really helps this process.
A Walking Lesson – best of all have been the couple of lessons I have had in a real game with a golf instructor walking me through it, coaching me as I go. . Preaching is caught and taught. I think I learned more from sitting under Dick Lucas’ preaching and listening to Dr Martyn Lloyd Jones’ tapes than anything else. Hearing gifted people do it inspires me and enthuses me to learn from them and do it better.
Play, play, play – when all is said and done, playing the game, again and again, is what makes the golfer good. Yes everything previously mentioned matters. But golfers improve by doing it again and again. I notice this in my preaching. If I am preaching regularly I preach better. Perhaps it is because I am forced to spend more time with God as I prepare. Perhaps it is because there are skills which I hone and use more frequently. Perhaps it is because I get to know my audience and my material more thoroughly. But I do know that preachers need to preach in order to preach better.
Actually, learning to play golf was not a linear process. All of these things happened (and continue to happen) at the same time, and all are necessary. The same is true for the godly skills of preaching.
So, can you teach preaching?
Well, yes. But teaching preaching (or rather, learning to preach) is a combination of books, lessons, seminars, preaching classes, peer critique, good modelling, practice, and a humble dependence on God for a life time’s ministry.
No teacher of preaching thinks that he can do all that is needed to teach preachers!
You can’t learn it in the classroom; you can’t learn it from books …. But they are necessary starting points.
For the above reasons training preachers at a place like Wycliffe Hall is the most integrative of the disciplines: bringing together all biblical and theological knowledge; systematising it and clarifying the material; putting it together in a structured and logical way; allowing the message to form, challenge and sanctify the preacher; learning together in community; putting it into practice in live settings; being enthused to spend a lifetime developing and honing these skills; and under God, prayerfully allowing him to shape and mould the messenger as much as the message in order that congregations hear God’s voice through them.
WYCLIFFE HALL – STAFF UPDATE EASTER 2008
I wanted to write to you personally to inform you of some exciting new staff appointments here at Wycliffe Hall. Firstly, we have an excellent new Tutor in New Testament Studies, Dr Justin Hardin, joining us in September 2008. In addition, over the past academic year, a number of improvements have been made to our staff structure, to ensure that we, as a leading theological college, continue to uphold the highest level of academic standards, whilst equipping men and women for modern Christian Ministry. I am therefore taking this opportunity to introduce you to some of the new and existing members of the Wycliffe team. If, however, you have further questions, require additional information, or indeed would like to visit us here at the Hall, then please do not hesitate to contact us.
Tutor in New Testament: Dr Justin Hardin
Wycliffe Hall is delighted to announce the appointment, from 1st September 2008, of Dr Justin Hardin to be a Tutor in New Testament Studies. Justin’s doctoral research (2002-2006) was conducted under Professor Graham Stanton at the University of Cambridge and his research monograph, Galatians and the Imperial Cult, has just been published in the prestigious WUNT series (Tubingen). As with several of our biblical tutors over the years, such as Philip Johnston, David Wenham and Peter Walker, Justin pursued his research at Tyndale House, Cambridge. Dr Bruce Winter, Tyndale’s Warden at the time has described Justin as the “most gifted PhD student in New Testament studies to be seen in the last 20 years”. So we look forward to Justin’s continuing our longstanding commitment to vigorous academic study of the New Testament within a committed evangelical perspective.
Internal management improvements
In addition to Dr Hardin’s arrival, Wycliffe has strengthened its internal management and administrative structures to take account of the Hall’s considerable expansion in recent years. This growth has seen the number of full-time students rise from around 100 in 2000/01 to 140 in 2007/08, with part-time students rising from 33 to 138 over the same period. To reflect this, recent internal appointments have included Revd Jenni Williams (who joined Wycliffe in 2005) who takes on a new role as Dean for Women, while Revd Dr Peter Walker (joined 1996) becomes Director of External Relations and Development and Revd Dr Benno van den Toren (Joined 2005) has been appointed Dean of Faculty. From September this year, Dr Philip Johnston (Old Testament tutor at Wycliffe since 1995) will take over as Senior Tutor Designate from the Revd Peter Southwell, who retires this summer after 38 years of continuous and much valued service to the Hall. By way of a reminder, other appointments during this academic year have included:
- Revd Dr Simon Vibert as Vice-Principal and Director of the School of Preaching – an exciting new initiative to restore confidence in the preaching of God’s Word;
- Revd Will Donaldson as Director of Christian Leadership with overall responsibilities for training and nurturing the leaders of tomorrow’s church;
- Revd Dr Elizabeth Hoare as Tutor in Prayer, Spirituality and Mission, responsible for one-to-one spiritual formation.
- Revd Dr Andrew Atherstone, tutor in History and Doctrine and Latimer Research Fellow.
We also have two new ‘associate’ members of staff who are:
- Dr Cathy Ross, lecturer in mission (in conjunction with CMS and Regents Park College)
- Revd Andrew Baughen teaching on church growth and helping our ‘pioneer’ ordinands, who joins others such as the Revd Simon Walker whose renowned ‘Spiritual Formation for Leadership’ course has become an integral part of all our teaching on spirituality since last September.
Poised for the future
Wycliffe thus stands unashamedly committed to the task of evangelical theology, and to developing this in every aspect of college life – in our biblical teaching, in our ministerial training and in our spiritual transformation. Within that, our calling is to reflect and honour a wide variety of approaches – whether ‘conservative’, ‘charismatic’ or more ‘contemplative’ in style – and to be a place marked by both clarity of conviction and charity of heart.
I am delighted with our committed team of tutors – with their proven academic competence and extensive publications, and our support staff – with their professional and administrative skill. Along with their significant experience of local church leadership and with their passion for the Gospel of Jesus Christ and I am confident that Wycliffe is in a strong place to build on the past for the future. It is, we trust, a good, faithful, yet challenging place for a wide variety of students to come and learn with us to, ‘love the Lord, treasure his Word and serve his people’. Yours sincerely,
Richard Turnbull (Principal) together with the Senior Management Team
(Simon Vibert, Peter Walker, Benno van den Toren, Will Donaldson, Helen Mitchell and Graham Robinson)
Ruth Gledhill has reported that Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali and family have received death threats following his article about Muslim “no go areas” in parts of England (see blog below). Speaking about the empathy and support for his article which has resonated with evangelical concerns about the increasing threat which comes from Islamic teaching and the desire to introduce Shia law in English cities, he says:“The irony is that I had similar threats when I was a bishop in Pakistan, but I never thought I would have them here. My point in saying what I did was that Britain had lost its Christian vision, which would have provided the resources to offer hospitality to others.” Here in Oxford, the Vicar of the large student church St Aldate’s, Charlie Cleverly has joined opposition to the Muslim call to prayer: “When such an area is subject to such a call to prayer, it may force people to move out and encourage Muslim families to move in,” he said. You do risk a kind of ghetto-isation of the city a few years down the line. I don’t think the people of Oxford want to hear a call to prayer to Allah in the same way people don’t want someone loud in their face asking them to buy coffee. Bells are just a signal and have been around for 1,500 years. They are a terribly English part of our culture. I do not believe in the imposition of another culture on our country.” (“Religions Collide Under the Dreaming Spires”, Daily Telegraph, 1st Feb 2008)These two incidents highlight the growing challenge for Evangelical Churches in our inner cities. For decades, Christianity has been seen as a private and personal matter. Christians have acquiesced in the view that it is not their job to change culture and society. However, when we have been confronted with a proselytising Islamic faith on our doorsteps that sees societal transformation as integral to their message, Christians have struggled to apply their faith to the culture. However as the Bishop of Rochester pointed out, we sell the Gospel of Jesus Christ short if we don’t assume that personal faith has societal and cultural implications. But whenever we assume that will be the case we can expect to be at odds with our multicultural modern Britain.
- Preparing for suffering with the help of Job
- Existential Threats
- Some biblical wisdom on dealing with Stress and Worry
- The Hunger Games – Christian Review
- Wouldn’t you like to be a castaway?
- Lessons from the Long Distance Cycle Ride
- An Easter Word for Exhausted Preachers
- the agnostic, the atheist and the Christian
- Tim & Kathy Keller “The Meaning of Marriage”
- resources for training preachers in Osijek, Croatia
- with great thankfulness to John Stott
- a tall story
- back from the dead
- Bible by the Beach
- Big Ben
- Big Issue
- Bishop of Rochester
- Charlie Cleverly
- Christ Church Cathedral Oxford
- Christian Focus
- Christian Leaders
- Don Carson
- Egyptian Plagues
- Episcopal Church
- fellowship of word and spirit
- Fundraising Bike Ride
- General Synod
- John Piper
- John Stott
- John the Baptist
- John's Gospel
- Millennium Wheel
- New Testament
- Nigel Biggar
- no-go areas
- Oxford Church
- Professor Wotton
- reformed theological serminary
- Richard Turnbull
- Rowan Williams
- shi'i law
- Simon Vibert
- Son of God
- Song of God
- St Aldates Church
- St Paul's cathedral
- third millennium ministries
- wycliffe hall
- wycliffe hall students