Dear Friends and Alumni,
Some Prime Ministers were once being photographed together, and one of the press corps asked them, ‘What is the collective noun for Prime Ministers?’ There was a short awkward pause, and then Harold Macmillan suggested, ‘A lack of Principals?’ I shall endeavour to bring a tad more ethical substance to the role than that. I am very excited to be taking up the post of Principal at Wycliffe Hall in the summer. I began my theological teaching career at Wycliffe back in the late eighties, teaching a course that eventually morphed into Café Theology, my popular-level Systematic Theology.
Since then, I have taught at St Stephen’s House and St Mellitus’ College, thus experiencing two very different leadership (as well as ecclesiastical) styles. Having been a student at Cranmer Hall and having taught occasionally at other theological colleges, I know something of the nature of the beast. (Not in the Revelation sense, obviously.) When relaxing, I love walking, music, cricket (though I doubt I would be much in demand for the Wycliffe team, given the traditions of muscular Christianity for which Wycliffe has been famous), and theatre. I have a particular interest in puppetry – not reflected in my leadership style – and in the operas of Handel.
In Handel’s day, the Deist movement threatened to sweep orthodox Christianity from the arena. The reason it didn’t was two-fold. First, composers such as Bach and Handel shaped the culture of the day, and helped make orthodox Christian belief believable. And secondly, Christian intellectuals such as Bishop Butler simply outthought the Deists. Gerald Cragg writes that ‘Bishop Butler’s monumental work, The Analogy of Religion … virtually ended the debate. … Each of [the Deists’] arguments had been thoroughly considered and carefully assigned its proper weight. He never tried to score a point by evading a difficulty, never claimed for his views a greater cogency than he felt they carried. It is this judicious quality which gives to his reasoning its air of completeness and finality.’
The Church today needs Christian intellectuals who will outthink the New Atheists and other critics with the same un-shrill judiciousness. Wycliffe Hall, being a Permanent Private Hall of Oxford University, is in an outstanding position to be able to train such qualities in its students, and I look forward very much to working with the Staff, the Council, the University and the wider community to provide the theological education that will enable them similarly to re-shape what is believable in contemporary culture, and so to win it for Jesus Christ.
Yours in Christ,
Revd Dr. Michael Lloyd