Church Society gives thanks for John Richardson

The Rev John RichardsonChurch Society’s Director Lee Gatiss has penned this note of thanksgiving for John Richardson.

He includes this detail: “At the National Evangelical Anglican Congress in Blackpool (2003) he famously donned a purple (ish) clerical shirt, and delighted in telling us how he was ushered into all kinds of places as a result!” – Read it here.

And here is a 70 second audio clip (280kb) where John speaks about going to Moore College (from a ‘weekend away’ talk on Marriage and Singleness for St. Peter’s Harold Wood).

Thank you, Lord, for John Richardson

The Rev John RichardsonAdrian Reynolds at the Proclamation Trust, adds his thanks to the Lord for John Richardson.

And Canon David Banting has a substantial tribute at Anglican Mainstream.

“I met John first through his writings, while I was a vicar in Oldham. Get into the Bible (1994) was a brilliant overview of the Bible, from first creation to new creation, and introduced many to Biblical theology at its best. It was 1998, when I moved to be an incumbent in Chelmsford diocese, that I first met the lanky John face-to-face. It was the beginning of a lasting friendship and partnership in the ‘proclamation and defence of the gospel’. I can think of few people I have come to respect more than John…

John’s earlier years were shaped in part by Anglo-Catholic traditions, and he never lost his love and passion for the Church’s health and calling. But his theological grounding was evangelical. It was first outlined at St John’s Theological College, Nottingham, and later, after the typically mixed Anglican experience of a confusing curacy and an unhappy foray into incumbency, crucially galvanized and cemented by a ‘first-class’ year at Moore College, Sydney.”

(The talks on marriage David mentions in the full article may be found here – search for ‘Richardson’.)

John Richardson reviews ‘Sydney Anglicans and the Threat to World Anglicanism’

John Richardson has posted on his blog an article he wrote for New Directions. It’s another review of Muriel Porter’s book ‘Sydney Anglicans and the Threat to World Anglicanism’.

Bible overview — from John Richardson

John RichardsonJohn Richardson of the Ugley Vicar is posting online audio files of his Bible overview talks. The first three are now online –

Part 1. (Genesis to Exodus)
Part 2. (Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy)
Part 3. (Joshua — 2 Kings)

Anglican Priests — Ontological? Functional? Or something else?

Joshua Bovis at St John’s Tamworth shares this article written for his parish newsletter –

Anglican Priests — Ontological? Functional? Or something else?

The 1st of May is the anniversary of my ordination to the Priesthood.

When I used to have a Facebook account I placed a picture of the occasion on my news feed (yes that is me, the man in white just right of the middle). One of the others in the photo also placed the same pic on his Facebook page. What I found interesting was that he received many comments and ‘likes’ whereas I received no comments and not many likes.

Of course it is Facebook, it does not really mean anything because the world of Facebook is not real, but what is real is that my friend who was priested with me held to an ontological view of ordination. Whereas my view of ordination is functional (though I suspect he agreed with some aspects of the functional view).

For those who are not sure what I am writing about, here is an explanation:

Ordination – The Ontological View

When a person is ordained, there is a change regarding their very nature. In essence you become a different kind of person, a different king of Christian, and this is not to do primarily with your role, (though it shapes and dictates your role) but with who and what you become. God effects an ontological change in the very nature of who you are. Deacons, Priests and Bishops who hold to this view see themselves as being in Holy Orders until they die, still recognised as one by retaining their title even at retirement and still wear their clerical garb. The Roman Catholic Church holds to this view. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) states that ordination “confers an indelible spiritual character” which “cannot be “repeated or conferred temporarily” (CCC#1583). “The vocation and mission received on the day of his ordination mark him permanently” (CCC#1583).

The late Rev John Richardson (aka The Ugley Vicar) describes this view like this:

“In ordination, the person being ordained is, as it were, ‘made into’ a priest — he (or she) is no longer quite what they were as a layperson, and is not simply ‘authorised’ by ordination, but is changed and ‘empowered’ by it.”

The views on this ‘empowerment’ may vary, but the essential characteristic is that priest and laity are in some way separated in what they are, not just in what they do. We will call this simply the ‘priestly’ model, since for most people, the word ‘priest’ conjures up exactly this ‘set apart specialness’ of someone different from the layperson.

Ordination – The Functional View

When a person is ordained, nothing happens to them in regards to their nature. The change is only in regards to what they can do publicly. Actually what presbyter/priests do in church, anyone Christian can do in their own homes.

And as for the prayer in the Anglican ordinal asking God to send down The Holy Spirit, is so that the Newly ordained priest may do what the ordinal and the Scriptures set out for them and require them to do, Scripture is very clear what the role of the ordained is to be. The Pastoral Epistles (1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus) are very clear on what the role is of a Presbyter/Priest, and the Anglican Ordinal very clearly states what the roles, requirements and expectations are of a Deacon, Priest or Bishop and the roles are functional.

So while I do not hold to the ontological view of the Priesthood (due it its origins lying in Roman Catholic Theology rather than the Scriptures, nor is it supported by the Anglican Ordinal), I do wonder if the understanding of the Functional view of ordination is deficient in some way for it seems to me that there are two weaknesses with the current understanding of the Functional view:

First weakness – The role of the ordained is professionalised – Where they are likened to that of a CEO, service leader, preacher, Bible study teacher, manager of other clergy (who are called paid staff). In other words the role seems to be reduced to that of someone who is a paid professional, rather than a role that is vocational and one of calling.  So one’s suitability as a priest and effectiveness as a priest is discerned by ‘success’ (however ‘success’ is defined in modern 21st ministry culture) and in practice one’s godliness, holiness, piety, love for others is minimalised or reduced.

Second weakness – The role of the ordained is compartmentalised – It allows for the vows ordinands make at their ordination to be compartmentalised from every day life and their roles to be compartmentalised from everyday life when the reality is that neither is possible.

Whether a deacon, priest of bishop likes it or not, (although there is no ontological change within them at the ordination), the way they are perceived by people will change. Whether those views held are right or wrong; based on weird theology or something they have imbibed from childhood or previous experience; whether they are Christians in their own church, or unbelievers without their church; it cannot be avoided, even when they are not in church, even when it is their day off, and even if they are out and about not wearing a clerical collar attempting to be anonymous. Once a person is ordained, it does not go away, and there is no off switch. Of course they can take a day off from ministry, (and they should) but they cannot take a day off from the vows that they made at their ordinations, nor decide to reject the very doctrines that they affirmed at their ordinations; just as they cannot take a day off from being a Christian and they cannot take the day off from how people will see them.

Personal Example when I was serving as an Assistant Minister in my previous parish, I was at the shopping centre buying a DVD, I was not wearing a clergy collar and the girl served me remembered me from her Mother’s funeral I conducted. In her eyes, I was the priest. At the moment I was not leading a service, nor reading the Bible, nor preaching, nor was I managing church staff, so according to the functional view I was not acting as a priest. But in her eyes I was, simply by being.

This was supported by something I read which stated:

“There are appropriate whole-of-life expectations for ministers such that they cannot ever switch off from their role in the same way that a pilot can when they’re not flying. And even once they’ve retired from a position, a failure to live up to their ordination vows can have significant impact on those that the clergy have previously ministered to in a way that a pilot’s post-flight behaviour doesn’t affect their previous passengers”.

I viewed an online piece some years ago pertaining to the UK series entitled Rev and the author noted the confusion between being a priest and leading the church; the ontological view of being a priest and the functional view of being a priest. The author looks at it from the problem of the ontological view (i.e. Just because someone is called to be a priest, doesn’t mean they’re called to lead a church). We see this with the Rev’s main protagonist Rev Adam Smallbone. In short Smallbone is absolutely not suited to being a Priest. But because his role is defined by the Ontological view, therein lies the problem. The author points this out in his piece and I think is absolutely correct when he says:

The result is people like Adam Smallbone in Rev. He’s a nice guy; he’s clearly got some kind of call on his life. But according to that list, he isn’t called to lead a church, and the tension in the series comes from fact that no-one quite grasps that he may well be called to be a priest by the C of E’s understanding (Ontological), but he isn’t called to lead a church by the Bible’s understanding (Functional).

We see the problems shining through in the series. Adam isn’t a good preacher; as a result his congregation don’t have transforming encounters with God’s word and so don’t change. We see that painfully clearly when it comes to welcoming a repentant paedophile into the church. Adam understands grace, but he hasn’t communicated that understanding to the rest of the church, so they reject him. Adam’s wife isn’t properly on board with him being a vicar – she clearly resents it and it causes all kinds of problems for her faith, and for his leadership. I know both from personal experience and from that of friends that if a vicar’s spouse isn’t keen on them following the calling to lead a church, it won’t work. The tragedy is that Adam has been badly let down by the C of E in its confusion between the calling to be a priest and the calling to lead a church. As a result, everyone loses – Adam, the local church, and the wider church”.

This is the weakness of the ontological view, but the weakness of the current understanding of the functional view is just a serious. A priest who is professionalised and is compartmentalised and sees their role as a priest as a job rather than a calling and a vocation is just as unhelpful as the Rev Adam Smallbone.

So back to my FB pic. I suspect that the reason why my post did not receive so many comments from many of my ‘friends’ is because they hold to the functional view of ordination, they don’t view being priested as being that much of a big deal. Another author expresses this point using the analogy of acquiring a pilot’s licence:

“Being ordained is a bit like getting your pilot’s licence. You need one to fly but it’s no more than a mark of recognition that you’ve proven yourself able to fly, that you choose to be an active pilot and that the authorities are happy to accept you. There’s no way in the world that just issuing a licence gives you your flying skills and there’s no reason to hold a licence once your active flying career is over”.

If this is the understanding of the functional view of ordination then I think it goes too far, however the answer I believe is not for Anglicans (ordained or non-ordained) to embrace the ontological view of ordination, but to re-examine the functional view of ordination in light of God’s Word and to a lesser extent (though not insignificant) the Ordinal. Scripture is clear that all Christians are members of a new Royal Priesthood, however those whom God has called to be ordained, like every Christian, are to be living examples of those who worship God in Spirit and in truth who offer their bodies to God as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1). This means that the oaths clergy made at their ordinations, the doctrines that they affirmed and the promises that they made are to be lived out transparently (and by God’s grace, contagiously) every day, and it does not matter if they are not rostered down to lead or preach that Sunday or whether they have parish council coming up that week.

Not ontological, but more than merely functional.

– Joshua Bovis is the Vicar of St John The Evangelist in Tamworth.

Australian and English evangelicals show different approaches to Anglican institutional revisionism

“On the same day (19th July) that Gafcon Australia publicly unveiled their plans to establish an alternative Anglican jurisdiction in response to the trajectory of revisionism in the Church of Australia, the Church of England Evangelical Council issued a statement about the Bishop of Liverpool’s address to the MOSAIC campaign group, in which he called for same sex marriage in the Church of England. The difference in the two statements is symptomatic of more general differences between the way that orthodox Anglicans are engaging with the national church in both countries.

The CEEC statement begins with an appreciation of Bishop Bayes’ subsequent apology for his attack on those who believe the historic teaching of the church on sex and marriage …”

– At Anglican Mainstream, Andrew Symes makes some very interesting comparisons. He has a strong challenge to his UK readership.

Andrew’s sentiments would probably have been shared by the late John Richardson. Twenty-eight years ago, the ACL’s newsletter published his article “UK Evangelicalism: Optimistic?”. It was later posted on our (old) website. (for ease of reading, here is a PDF version). John consistently argued that evangelicals in the Church of England need to fight for the faith once for all delivered to the saints, rather than act like gentlemen playing cricket.

And, for good measure, here’s a brief clip of John speaking about the significance of his 1993 year at Moore College.

Image of Andrew Symes: Christian Concern.

Need Ministers be Theologians?

John RichardsonAt Church Society’s blog, Kirsty Birkett (who now teaches Pastoral Counselling and Youth and Children’s Ministry at Oak Hill College) reminds readers of a 1994 Churchman article by the much-missed John Richardson.

In his article, John draws some important conclusions for evangelicals in the Church of England, reflecting on his year of study at Moore College.

(Readers can also rightly give thanks to Almighty God for the growth of Oak Hill College in London in the years since John wrote that article.)

Confident and Equipped: Facing Today’s Challenges in the Church of England

John Richardson at a St Peter's Harold Wood weekend away 2013One of the passions of John Richardson, who departed this mortal life at the end of March, was to see the Church of England reclaimed for Christ.

A Thanksgiving Service was held for John at St. Peter’s, Harold Wood on June 11th (Order of Service, PDF file).

It’s fitting that the new book, Confident and Equipped: Facing Today’s Challenges in the Church of England, was available just in time for the service. It’s a volume of papers from the Junior Anglican Evangelical Conference 2013 (which John started).

Lee Gatiss has an outline of the contents – and the book is available in the UK from Church Society (£40.00 for 10, £22.00 for 5, £5.00 for one – contact them for international orders).

Photo: St. Peter’s Harold Wood.

The Ugley Vicar — with the Lord

John RichardsonLee Gatiss in the UK shares some very painful news:

“I’m sorry to be the bearer of sad news, but our good friend and faithful minister of the gospel, John Richardson, died this morning after recent illness.”

John was a good friend of many and a very able defender of the gospel. There will be many tears.

From a poem John wrote last year, entitled “The Lifeguard”:

When Jordan’s verge I someday tread,
These words I’ll hear inside my head,
“If you would see the Promised Land,
To call the lifeguard, raise your hand.”

So if you see my hand go up,
Don’t hand to me the water cup,
Or fetch the bedpan, next of kin —
These cannot save me from my sin.

And do not think that I am calm,
That’s not why I lift up my arm!
It’s just this thing (you’ll understand),
“To call the lifeguard, raise your hand.”

For he’ll be looking for that wave,
That says, “Saviour, come now to save,”
My anxious fears he’ll bid subside,
He’ll land me safe on Canaan’s side.

Read it all and you will understand why John’s friends can rejoice, amidst the tears.

An Alternative Baptismal Liturgy

John RichardsonJohn Richardson in the UK proposes an alternative Baptismal liturgy for the Church of England. It has a bit more substance.

Key UK conference planned for November

british-islesReform and the Anglican Mission in England are organising a conference for Anglican evangelical leaders in November.

“ReNew will be a two day conference with the aim of advancing Anglican Evangelical ministries for the salvation of England.”

Speakers include Hugh Palmer, William Taylor, Richard Coekin, Mike Ovey and John Richardson. Details here.

‘Irreconcilable’ understandings of the nature of God

John RichardsonJohn Richardson in the UK writes,

“There aren’t many things that qualify in my view as ‘must read’ articles, but this from Colin Coward, Director of Changing Attitude, is one of them. Here is a taster:

“The Church of England knows it has a crisis on its hands. It thinks the crisis might be solved by gently persuading enough conservatives to overcome their convictions and vote yes for women bishops. I am convinced the problem is far deeper than that. I think we hold dramatically different understandings about the nature of God and they are irreconcilable.”

For a rather different perspective from that of Changing Attitude: Rosaria Champagne Butterfield on DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act) and the Rock.

The Lifeguard

John Richardson“The day had seemed to start quite well,
The ‘sea of life’ a gentle swell.
When all at once I felt a change,
The world around was growing strange. …”

– Take the time to read “The Lifeguard”, by John Richardson.

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