The Derby Cathedral scandal and the alleged establishment bias of conservative evangelicals

Dec 4, 2018 by

by Julian Mann:

Derby Cathedral has given biblical orthodoxy a great boost by banning the Revd Melvin Tinker from preaching at a university Christian Union carol service. The ban has built a tremendous platform for Mr Tinker and his supporters to demonstrate how intolerant of biblical Christianity some sections of the Church of England establishment are now becoming ( ).

But it is important to reflect on something Mr Tinker said in the course of the controversy in an interview on Anglican Unscripted ( ). He suggested the reason conservative evangelicals are not taking the courageous practical stand that they should against false teaching in the CofE is because the constituency has an upper-class bias. This background inclines conservative evangelical leaders to an institutional mindset and therefore to be reluctant to defy the establishment through radical practical action.

Mr Tinker argued that his own working-class background – his father was a coal miner – has been a factor enabling him to go against the neo-Marxist flow of the establishment, cultural, political and now ecclesiastical.

Coupled with his high natural intelligence, Mr Tinker’s family background may well have helped him to develop a willingness to defy the establishment. But it is also true that intelligent and once biblically sound evangelicals from working class backgrounds have ended up joining the establishment and have moved away from their evangelical roots in pursuit of church promotion.

So, to link biblical faithfulness and class would not seem to be true to experience in every case.

Surely the well-spring of biblical faithfulness, whatever the social background of the individual minister, is the deep sense in his soul that, in the words of the Prayer of Humble Access, ‘we do not presume to come to this thy Table, O merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in thy manifold and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy Table. But thou art the same Lord, whose property is always to have mercy…’?

My father was a market researcher in the alcohol and tobacco industry. I have no idea whether that background inclines to me to establishment-mindedness or not. For my own biblical faithfulness in the teeth of the CofE’s institutional trajectory, I certainly shouldn’t bank on the fact that I grew up in a home with plenty of booze and fags around the place.

One further reflection on the Derby scandal: given that our Lord Jesus Christ’s Great Commission to his disciples in Matthew 28 was to make faithful disciples of all nations, it is disappointing that another conservative evangelical minister is taking Mr Tinker’s place as preacher at the Christian Union service in the Cathedral, as that implies uncritical acceptance of the Dean of Derby’s stance ( ).

There is no doubt that the new speaker is a faithful preacher of the true biblical Jesus Christ. But surely it would have been more helpful in making real disciples of those young people attending the service if the UCCF ( ), the umbrella organisation for evangelical Christian Unions, had advised the Derby University CU to move the event to another venue, explain why it was doing so and invite Mr Tinker to preach after all?

[For more articles on the controversy at Derby Cathedral, see here.]

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