Students dub next Principal of Wycliffe ‘Dr Evil’

19 April 2013

HIS students refer to him as "Dr Evil"; his culinary skills may be an inheritance from his ancestor, Alfred the Great; and he believes that one of the qualifications for his new position as Principal of Wycliffe Hall, in Oxford, is an experience of depression.

Dr Mike Lloyd (above), whose appointment was announced on Monday, spoke on Tuesday of his desire to make the college "a place where people of different traditions can . . . be enriched by each other".

Born in 1957, he was brought up in a "liberal Anglo-Catholic church" in Hampshire that was "hugely formative". He was "hugely enriched" by Evangelicalism at university - he studied English at Cambridge University, and theology at St John's College, Durham - and returned to the Anglo-Catholic "dimension" when he taught at St Stephen's House, Oxford, from 2003 to 2006.

Dr Lloyd did his doctorate, on the problem of evil, at Worcester College, Oxford (hence the nickname). Ordained in 1984, he has been College Chaplain at Christ's and Fitzwilliam Colleges in Cambridge, and, since 2010, has been Chaplain of Queen's College, Oxford. He is a tutor at St Mellitus College, in London.

On Monday, Dr Lloyd said: "At a time when Christianity is under more intellectual attack than it has been since the 18th century, we need Christian leaders of impressive intellectual ability, rigour and creativity . . . I am passionate about Wycliffe training students who will speak to the wider society and not just to insiders, and who will be fluent in the language of the culture, and not just the dialect, of the Church."

On Tuesday, Dr Lloyd said that his position on the ordination women had changed over the past 20 years. "I used to be opposed to it, but I have come to believe that the biblical evidence is not what I thought it was. I now support the ordination of women as deacons, priests and bishops." He was also "very keen to preserve the Church of England as a place where those who do not find themselves able to support [this] have a secure and cherished place".

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In June, the Principal of Wycliffe Hall, the Revd Dr Richard Turnbull, and the chairman of Wycliffe Hall council, the Bishop of Chester, Dr Peter Forster, stepped down (News, 22 June). On Tuesday, Dr Lloyd said that the "quite public" recent troubles presented a "challenge". "But when I met the staff and students at interview . . . I just liked both sets of people very much . . . I think they will need some time, and listening to, and basic love, really." He had been impressed by their "enormous gifts and skills and abilities".

In 2010, Dr Lloyd and his wife, Abigail, a barrister, spoke at a conference organised by St Paul's Theological Centre and the mental-health charity Mind and Soul, about Christianity and mental health.

He spoke of how he had fallen into a "profound and prolongued depression" a year before his ordination, triggered by his belief that "God was so important that I would have to spend all my time doing religious activities, and wouldn't be able to justify doing the ordinary things of life I so enjoyed". He was "liberated" by a new understanding of a God who was not "in competition with every other joy".

On Tuesday, he said that suffering "enables us to be more real, and more helpful to those going through it as well. . . I have been through depression, and it is, I think, part of my qualification for the job."

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