THE new interim director of the Anglican Centre in Rome, the Very Revd Dr John Shepherd, has sought to clarify his views on the resurrection, after a video surfaced in which he said that it “ought not to be seen in physical terms, but as a new spiritual reality”.
Dr Shepherd, a former Dean of St George’s Cathedral, Perth, in Western Australia, was appointed last week (News, 11 January). The previous director, Archbishop Bernard Ntahoturi, resigned last month after he was suspended after an allegation of sexual misconduct was made (4 January).
On Thursday of last week, the Senior Associate Minister of St John’s Anglican Cathedral, Parramatta, in Sydney, the Revd David Ould, posted on his blog a video of Dr Shepherd reading out a message for Easter in 2008, when he was Dean of Perth.
In the video, Dr Shepherd said: “The resurrection of Jesus ought not to be seen in physical terms, but as a new spiritual reality. It’s important for Christians to be set free from the idea that the resurrection was an extraordinary physical event, which restored to life Jesus’s original earthly body.”
He made reference to St Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians that “our earthly bodies will be transformed so that they’ll be like Christ’s glorious body”. This, Dr Shepherd said, meant that “the empty tomb is not the assurance that our bodies will be miraculously reassembled, thank goodness. Nor is it the hope of an extension of life for a few believers. . . It’s the image of a complete transformation of life available to all.”
On Tuesday, the Anglican Centre in Rome issued a statement, in which Dr Shepherd said: “It is my faith that Jesus rose from the dead, and I have never denied the reality of the empty tomb. The risen Christ was not a ghost — he ate and could be touched — but at the same time he appeared in a locked room (John 20.26), and vanished from sight (Luke 24.31), and he was often not immediately recognised.
“As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states (para 646), ‘In his risen body he passes from the state of death to another life beyond time and space.’ In my Easter sermon in 2010, I said ‘We believe in the resurrection of Jesus after three days, and in this faith we come to know God who raises us from despair to life, day after day.’ This remains my faith — that Christ is risen indeed.”