Common Roots: Ancient Evangelical Future Conference

Hull Minster: City of Cultured Despisers Courtesy of the two Archbishops

Melvin TInker writes about this week’s Gay Pride event at Hull Minster

After nearly a quarter of a century living in the City of Hull, my love for the people and the place grows each year and the word ‘pride’ is one I would unreservedly use to describe my affection for the town. But of course this cherished word, ‘like ‘gay’, is in danger of being hijacked as it becomes increasingly associated with those who would seek to normalise LGBTQ  activity as part of mainstream life.

Many of us were delighted when Hull was chosen as UK’s City of Culture and, as a result, so many wonderful events are taking place which uplifts the human spirit (for instance this weekend my wife will be attending a BBC proms in the city). But where there is light there tends to be a shadow and so coinciding with this is a Gay Pride rally. This in itself is not surprising. What is surprising is that a church which was once the flagship of Evangelicalism in the City is hosting a ’Service of Welcome’ with members of the LGBT Christian fellowship. Canon Rachel Mann a transsexual lesbian is the main speaker. Canon Mann is the Resident Poet at Manchester Cathedral and a well-known gay activist.

The Rector of the Minister, Canon Dr Neal Barnes, who identifies himself as an evangelical, has defended his decision to host this event by appealing to the statements made by Archbishops Welby and Sentamu after the failed House of Bishops Report earlier this year. This service is being hailed as an example of the kind of ‘radical inclusion’ urged by the two Archbishops. In fact, the service itself has been put together under the guidance of Archbishop Sentamu, so it has the imprimatur of his Grace. Dr Barnes writes in the promotional material, “All are welcome to worship at Hull Minster and this service reflects that. It will be very informal, inclusive and full of joy. We hope many people will come and experience it in this wonderful setting.’

Dr Barnes has assured critics ‘that there is no departure from the Church England’s position on the matter and that the emphasis of welcome coheres with the recent calls from the Archbishop of Canterbury and the General Synod.’ To be sure, there is no departure in that no one has formally denied the Church’s teaching, but there is more than one way to bring about a denial of, and a change to, the Church’s teaching. This is one very effective way.

Over 50 years ago Marshall McLuhan argued that ‘the medium is the message’, which in part includes the idea that the medium through which a message is delivered is as significant, (perhaps more so) than the ‘cold’ content of the message itself. So whatever words might be spoken at the Hull Minster Gay event through poems, testimony and song (and you can bet your last Euro they will be gay affirming), the actual place in which the event is taking place, and the ‘inclusive’, ‘informal’ and ‘joyful’ nature of the event themselves convey a message. The message which will invariably be communicated is that ‘God’ (as symbolised by the building, liturgy, clergy) approves of homosexual, lesbian and trans relationships as much as heterosexual ones. After all, traditionally this is the place where the sanctity of the God given man-woman relationships is blessed in marriage. The old Arab proverb, “If the camel once gets his nose in the tent, his body will soon follow” is apposite- and of course, that is the intention of the LGBT activists.

In the 18th century Hull was known as the ‘garden of the Lord’ because of the predominance of Evangelicals. One of the great leaders of the day was Hull Grammar School Headmaster, Joseph Milner (elder brother of Isaac Milner who was instrumental in the conversion of William Wilberforce.) Milner used to preach at what was then Hull Trinity Church (now ‘upgraded’ to Hull Minster) to packed congregations each Sunday afternoon.  In one of his sermons he lamented that he detected ‘a proud and worldly spirit and the excessive love of gain eating out the love of Christ’ and ‘the awful progress of gross wickedness and vice, of lewdness and impiety’.  What was once lamented in that church is now sadly being celebrated. But of course, Milner was not very ‘inclusive’, his hard Biblical preaching would have no doubt put many people off.  Some people, no doubt, but then we read of this occurring: ‘drunkards, debauchees were reformed [is this an 18th century case of ‘conversion therapy’?], the care of the soul became the topic of common conversation, the sick sent for him to their chambers, and when he returned he found his house crowded with visitors who had come for spiritual advice: great numbers of the poor and of the middle classes became truly religious.’

We can hardly expect the same today while some clergy cannot distinguish vice from virtue and replaces the Christ who came preaching ‘repentance for the Kingdom of God is near’ with a fake Christ who affirms everything and demands nothing.

I am sure Canon Barnes is not wittingly being complicit in the attempt by some to subvert genuine Christianity which, in theory at least, the Church of England still stands for. But perhaps the famous saying of Edmund Burk that ‘The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing’ has morphed into ‘The only thing necessary for the triumph of the progressives is for good men to be naive.’ ?

Melvin Tinker

St John Newland, Hull



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