A CONSERVATIVE media commentator, Calvin Robinson, has said that his ordination in the Church of England was blocked, owing to his political views.
Mr Robinson was due to be ordained deacon in the autumn. Without a title post, ordination cannot take place, and, in an article for the Mail on Sunday, he alleges that the offer of a part-time post as assistant curate of St Alban the Martyr, Holborn, in London, was withdrawn, after several bishops had expressed concerns about his outspoken views.
On Tuesday, the Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Sarah Mullally, suggested that Mr Robinson’s views were immaterial: “I believe we are stronger for the diversity of opinion we see in London, and we should remain kind and respectful of one another’s views. While Calvin’s anger at the experience saddens me, I wish him well in his future ministry.”
Mr Robinson has announced that, having left the C of E, he would instead be ordained under the auspices of the conservative GAFCON network.
In a separate article in the Mail on Sunday, Mr Robinson criticises the Bishop of Fulham, the Rt Revd Jonathan Baker, who, as the bishop appointed to offer episcopal ministry to traditionalists in London, had responsibility for finding him a title post. He is alleged to have told Mr Robinson that the post at St Alban’s would be “likely to prove problematic”.
A spokesperson for London diocese said: “We have a limited number of curacies available,” which were “considered on a case-by-case basis. . . In this instance, it is felt that there is no suitable option available that London can currently offer.”
On Tuesday, Mr Robinson confirmed that, because of his opposition to the ordination of women, he had been seeking positions only in traditionalist parishes that were members of GAFCON.
Mr Robinson presents a show on the TV and radio channel GB News, and is a regular contributor to the Daily Mail and The Daily Telegraph. He is also a user of Twitter, which, he says, caused concern among church leaders.
One email, obtained by Mr Robinson “via data-protection rules”, shows an exchange between the Area Bishop of Edmonton, the Rt Revd Rob Wickham, and the Bishop to the Archbishops, Dr Emma Ineson.
Bishop Wickham tells Dr Ineson that Archbishop Welby “asked for some examples of Calvin Robinson’s tweets”.
Among his recent Twitter posts, Mr Robinson describes “wokeness” as a “spiritual virus”. Another, from 10 October last year, gives details of a webinar on climate justice aimed at ordinands, including a session on “What are the theological implications of climate change?” and writes: “The Church of Woke . . . this is [sic] piffle is being directed at the next generation of vicars.”
In another email obtained by Mr Robinson, Bishop Wickham writes: “Calvin’s comments concern me about denying institutional racism in this country.”
In February 2020, the Archbishop of Canterbury told the General Synod that the Church was still “deeply institutionally racist” (News, 11 February 2020). Last April, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York welcomed the report of the Anti-Racism Taskforce, and pledged immediate action on five of its recommendations (News, 23 April 2021).
Mr Robinson, who is black, wrote on Sunday that he “fundamentally disagreed with this approach”, and described it as “divisive and offensive”.
“I do not think the claim that either the Church, or wider society, is institutionally racist has ever been supported by robust evidence,” he wrote.
Mr Robinson says that, in a meeting with Bishop Mullally, she said to him: “Calvin, as a white woman, I can tell you that the Church is institutionally racist.”
On Tuesday, Bishop Mullally said: “Much has been written about my private conversations with Calvin during the discernment process, some of which I do not recognise.
“While I believe it right to maintain the personal and confidential nature of the process, I can be clear that, as with all applications for ministry in this diocese, Calvin’s was considered irrespective of church tradition or views on politics or race — as is the case for every candidate.”
Speaking on Tuesday, Mr Robinson reflected that, in some ways, not being in the C of E would be a “blessing”.
“Every day would have been a battle fighting against wokeness,” he said.
The Committee for Minority Ethnic Anglican Concerns (CMEAC) said in a statement to Church Times: that CMEAC “encourages all who desire to test their vocation to serve God through the Church of England. However, we do not comment on individual diocesan formation processes. We are aware that testing one’s vocation is often difficult and challenging and our prayers are with all candidates seeking ordination in the Church of England or in another Church.’’
Read more on the story in Andrew Brown’s press column.