What does the Oxford Ad Clerum mean?

Nov 7, 2018 by

by Ian Paul, Psephizo:

Last week, the four bishops in the Diocese of Oxford circulated an Ad Clerum (‘to the clergy’) to all licensed ministers in the diocese; the text can be found on Steven Croft’s diocesan blog. There is no doubt that the letter includes comments with which everyone in the Church could and should agree. As Will Pearson-Gee, Rector of Buckingham, says in the (expanded) online edition of the Church Times report:

I welcome everything in the letter that helps our churches be more genuinely welcoming places for all people. I also welcome the way in which the bishops are careful to make the point that neither sexual orientation nor gender identity should inhibit anyone from playing a full part in the life of the church.

But I think there are some ambiguities, omissions and even contradictions in the letter which will raise some questions, and I suspect for some (within the diocese and outside it) wonder if it giving an honest view of what is really intended.

The first term which was unclear was the offering of the reflections of the letter ‘with humility’. I am not sure what it means for bishops to write to their clergy and lay ministers  ‘with humility’ when those reading the letter hold the diocesan bishop’s license. Is this letter inviting discussion, debate or disagreement? To someone outside the diocese, I confess it didn’t read like a discussion document, not least because it sets out specific actions and principles which are to be acted on. And in what sense is humility expressed in echoing the Archbishops’ call for a ‘radical new Christian inclusion’? Was Jesus not ‘radically inclusive’ in his preaching of the kingdom of God? And Paul not ‘radically inclusive’ in seeing those ‘excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise’ now ‘reconciled’ with Jews ‘in one body by the cross’ (Eph 2.12, 16) so that there is now ‘neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus’ (Gal 3.28)? As David Baker helpfully commented last year:

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