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Angela Tilby: C of E needs conservative thinkers like Calvin Robinson

10 June 2022

YouTube/GB News

Calvin Robinson speaks on GB News, last month

Calvin Robinson speaks on GB News, last month

THE Bishop of London’s decision not to ordain the GB News presenter Calvin Robinson leaves troubling questions (News, Press, 27 May). Mr Robinson was due to serve his title as deacon at St Alban’s, Holborn. This arrangement was mysteriously cancelled before his college principal had signed the all-important letter stating that he had fulfilled the requirements of his training and recommending him for ordination.

College-based training has been difficult over the past two years because of Covid. It has not been so easy to get to know individuals, and to test them out in community and on placements. But training institutions are normally trusted by ordaining bishops. After all, even with Covid limitations, staff know candidates’ strengths and weaknesses in far more detail than their bishops can hope to.

It is disturbing enough that, in this case, the well-tried process has been subverted. But then it was reported that the Bishop of Edmonton, who knew Mr Robinson when he was on the staff of a local school, had communicated with Bishop Mullally, expressing doubts about him.

The issue appears to be Mr Robinson’s politics. He is conservative, both theologically and politically. He is also a regular television pundit, with a large following on social media. He does not accept that British society or the Church of England is institutionally racist. Reports have claimed that Bishop Mullally told him off personally for his views, insisting that the C of E was institutionally racist. All this suggests that she thought him, a black man, unordainable because he denied what she, a white woman, was telling him.

It is difficult to believe that this is exactly what happened, and yet — remembering Bishop Joanna Pemberthy’s notorious “Never, never, never trust a Tory” tweet (News, 25 June 2021) — it is obvious that some of our senior clergy live in a Guardian readers’ echo chamber, in which right-wing views are more heretical than disbelief in the Trinity. It is worth remembering that the only political party officially proscribed by the C of E is the BNP — and Mr Robinson has never been a member.

So, two bishops cancelled a talented, if controversial, candidate against the measured judgement of his college principal.

I do not share Mr Robinson’s theology. There are aspects of his politics which make me uneasy. But I believe that, had his curacy gone ahead, pastoral reality would have toned his views over time.

As it is, I regret the loss of his contribution to the C of E. We need conservative thinkers if we are indeed the national Church, not least to challenge the lazy, hand-wringing leftist orthodoxies that refuse to enter debate. The affair is a monumental own goal for the diocese of London, which will now have to cope with him on TV in his clerical collar as a minister of Christ Church (Free Church of England), Harlesden — politely, but accurately, bewailing our moral and theological spinelessness.

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