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Dr. Bernard Randall and the moral bankruptcy of the CofE leadership

Dr. Bernard Randall and the moral bankruptcy of the CofE leadership

By Judi Sture
Special to Virtueonline
May 16, 2021

I've been chewing over the latest failure of leadership to strike HMS Church of England and trying to find the right words to describe what I am seeing. You know you have a problem when the words you are juggling with include all of the following:
• amoral
• immoral
• morally weak
• morally bankrupt
• unethical

The Rev Dr Bernard Randall was, until fairly recently, an employee of Trent College, Nottingham ("We believe in potential and we believe in excellence. At Trent College & The Elms, we'll help you go further"). This is a fee-paying high school. Dr Randall took up a place as Chaplain in 2015 and left in December 2020 through redundancy. His crime? To deliver a sermon in which he told pupils that they did not need to accept LGBT ideology if they felt it went against their beliefs or the beliefs of the Church.

In 2019, Trent College began working with a charity called Educate and Celebrate, which provides LGBT+ inclusion training for schools. This apparently aims to "embed gender, gender identity and sexual orientation into the fabric of your organisation". I've come out in a rash just hearing all that. Interestingly, while we're talking about inclusion, when Dr Randall raised some concerns about this project, he was excluded from discussions about its implementation in the school.

In June 2018, the School invited Dr Elly Barnes of Educate and Celebrate to lead some training for the staff. Dr. Randall, whose job description declared his role to 'be the particular voice and embodiment of...Christian values which are at the heart of Trent's ethos', was alarmed when, during the training, Ms Barnes instructed staff to chant 'smash heteronormativity.'

in June 2019, Dr Randall gave a sermon at the College, entitled Competing Ideologies. He told pupils:

"Since Trent exists 'to educate boys and girls according to the Protestant and Evangelical principles of the Church of England', anyone who tells you that you must accept contrary principles is jeopardising the school's charitable status, and therefore its very existence.

[It is] "perfectly legitimate to think that marriage should only properly be understood as being a lifelong exclusive union of a man and a woman, [and pupils are] entitled to think, if it makes more sense to you, that human beings are indeed male and female, that your sex can't be changed, that although the two sexes have most things in common, there are some real, biologically based, differences between them overall.

...the most important thing is to remember that loving your neighbour as yourself does not mean agreeing with everything he or she says; it means that when we have these discussions there is no excuse for personal attacks or abusive language. We should all respect that people on each side of the debate have deep and strongly held convictions."

To read the full sermon, click here.

Got that, so far? Nothing unreasonable there, is there? Well folks, I trust you are sitting down.

As a result of this sermon - preached in a Christian school, remember - Dr Randall was reported to the UK's Prevent anti-terrorism programme. By the school's safeguarding officer, no less.

Yes, you did read that correctly. If you are unfamiliar with the Prevent programme, it's aim is to stop people becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism. Presumably Dr Randall was deemed to be either a terrorist, a terrorist in the making, or a dangerous radicaliser of the pupils - i.e. someone who wanted to turn them into terrorists.

Dr Randall was suspended after giving his sermon. He was informed that his actions constituted gross misconduct and he was to be dismissed. He was called to a meeting and told the sermon was inflammatory, divisive and 'harmful to LGBT pupils'. The school governors overturned the dismissal decision but Dr Randall was given a list of conditions to meet for his future sermons.

These included prior sight by the school's leadership (i.e. censorship, one presumes) and the prohibition of covering "any topic or express[ing] any opinion (in Chapel or more generally around the School) that is likely to cause offence or distress to members of the school body." Apparently, the list also stated that "You will not publicly express personal beliefs in ways which exploit our pupils' vulnerability." On the basis of that last one, we would also be prevented from telling the little dears that Santa doesn't exist, but hey ho. It seems that schools can no longer teach anything to students in case it upsets them. Where that leaves biology, who knows?

Dr Randall was made redundant in December 2020. He is now suing the School for discrimination, harassment, victimisation and unfair dismissal and his case is due to be heard next month. The charity Christian Concern is supporting him.

Have you got all this so far? Good. Calm down. Get another coffee. Have another Valium if you must.

The only good thing to come of all this to date is that the Police, having reviewed the Prevent referral from the School, concluded - rightly, duh - that there was 'no counter terrorism risk, or risk of radicalisation' and that case 'did not meet the threshold for a Prevent referral'. I'd personally like to know what action or 'further training' has been enforced on the School's safeguarding officer - and those others who agreed with him/her to make this referral. To have considered that this situation warranted a referral to an anti-terrorism programme simply beggars belief.

So - back to the good old ship HMS Church of England. Here we have an Anglican clergyman, employed in a Christian school, teaching Christian values and so on to young people. That's the very demographic that the CofE is desperate to attract, remember. The ones they want to flood through the doors to keep the creaking old timbers afloat for the next few decades. Or do they?

Have we heard anything from any bishops, or archbishops, in support of Bernard Randall? Anyone seen any pigs flying overhead? Has hell frozen over? The short answer is, NO, we have not.

In fact, it's actually worse than 'no'. The comments they have made simply show them up for what they are: moral cowards. Andrea Williams of Christian Concern has challenged the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, along with the (local) Bishop of Derby, Libby Lane, to support Dr Randall: "Will you use your platform to defend Dr Randall and freedom of belief and religion in our schools?" They have failed to do so.

Andrea Williams says: "It is incredibly disappointing, but sadly not surprising, that the leadership of the Church of England have failed to speak up in support of Dr Randall. Where is Welby on this issue?".

Well, Andrea, that's a good question. When asked whether Welby, who is on a three-month sabbatical, believed the school was right to report Dr Randall to Prevent, a spokesman at Lambeth Palace said: 'We don't have any comment.'

In her reply to Ms Williams, the Bishop of Derby, Libby Lane said: 'Public statements in support of one side in a dispute, prior to the evidence emerging in legal proceedings, is neither in the interests of good legal process nor, indeed, likely to serve Dr Randall's personal interests well.'

The Most Rev Cottrell's office said that it supported the Right Rev. Lane's comments.

The Archbishop of Canterbury seems to have plenty to say about Black Lives Matter, reparations and apologies for slavery, apologies for the existence of the British Empire, climate change, housing, social care, the EU, politics, inter-faith ventures and 'reconciliation' amongst other worthy causes. Just recently he spoke in support of a teacher at Batley Grammar School (a high school) in Yorkshire, who was suspended for showing a picture of Mohammed to a class. Welby stated in La Repubblica, the Italian newspaper, that:

"We have to hold on to freedom of speech". ...In other words, exercise your freedom of speech, but don't prevent other people exercising their freedom of speech...I think we have to be open to hearing things we really dislike."

So why no engagement with Dr Randall - a clergyman in the Church that the Archbishop leads? What could possibly be preventing him, or Archbishop Cottrell, or Bishop Lane, from making statements in support of Dr Randall and his right to free speech? Can a priest not rely on his superiors to support him when he is castigated for doing his job?

Could it possibly be because this case involves LGBT 'issues'? Is there some conflict of interest that we are not being told of? Does Educate and Celebrate have some link with the Church that we don't know of? Has the leadership of the Church been pressured by anyone to stop them from supporting Dr Randall? As usual - answers on a postcard please!

Whatever the reasons for the total lack of support for Dr Randall from the so-called leadership of the sinking ship, how can their behaviour be excused? Just what does it take for them to speak out in defence of a clergyman who was, after all, defending traditional Christian values in his sermon?

Well folks, I have an answer. It is simply this: the current leadership of the Church of England does not believe in traditional Christian values. It does not believe that marriage is for one man and one woman. It does not believe in free speech if such speech defends 'heteronormativity'. It does not support its clergy - or its members - who choose not to believe in LGBT ideology. It is intent on approving same-sex marriage in church. It is clearly more concerned with 'social justice' issues that Christian truths. Heck, let's just say it like it is: it does not accept that there are any Christian truths unless they can be couched in such a way as to be vague and all-encompassing, such as in 'reconciliation', 'dialogue' or 'inclusivity'.

George Orwell would have had a field day with all this stuff. Shall we get Andrea Williams to just ask them all to confirm whether or not they accept that the Bible is the Word of God? A simple yes or no will suffice. Dream on, folks.

So now I have to pick my words from the list at the top of this article. Which to choose? Decisions, decisions.

Ok. I've decided. I'm going to use all of 'em.

Archbishop Welby - you said in your interview with La Republicca, above, "I think we have to be open to hearing things we really dislike." Well, here's something to be going on with. Please share it with Messrs Cottrell and Lane while we're at it:

In failing to defend or speak out in any support of Dr Randall, you are all:

Amoral - lacking a moral sense; unconcerned with the rightness or wrongness of something;

immoral - failing to conform to accepted standards of morality;

morally weak - recognising a moral standard but failing to act on it even when you can;

morally bankrupt - trading away or violating your original core moral values and commitments so that you act as if you have no morals;

unethical - lacking in moral principles and unwilling to adhere to proper, normative rules of conduct.

Have I left anything out?

Dr. Judi Sture is a biological anthropologist, biosecurity consultant and research ethics specialist. She is the author of the blog 'View From The Crows Nest' at https://viewfromthecrowsnest.net and of the book 'Living In The Lighthouse: How To Survive Daily Life As A Christian' (available from Amazon). She is a frequent contributor to VOL.

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