Derby Cathedral banned vicar for not paying diocese “protection money”

Jules Gomes reflects on simony and the Derby Cathedral farce

A prominent evangelical vicar banned by Derby Cathedral from preaching at the Derby University Christian Union carol service says that cathedral authorities prohibited him their pulpit because his church stopped paying contributions to the Diocese of York in 2017.

“It’s a question of power and at the end of the day and money means power,” the Reverend Melvin Tinker, vicar of St John’s Newland in Hull, said in an Anglican Unscripted interview.

Tinker said that Derby Cathedral had refused to let him preach not so much because of his theology but because his church had stopped its freewill offerings to the Diocese of York after the Church of England’s General Synod in 2017.

“On the one hand, the official position is something to do with my teaching. But the underlying reason is because of our stance in relation to the diocese, and particularly, I think, to the Church of England,” Tinker said, explaining the ban on his preaching at Derby Cathedral.

“You cannot come and preach because of your relations with York Diocese, negative presumably,” cathedral authorities told the CU representative with regards to Mr Tinker’s pulpit invitation. “She said, ‘Can anyone, can someone from St John’s staff team come and preach?’ And they said ‘no’ categorically,” Tinker explained. The CU representative was “quite gutted” about it, he added.

The parish of St John’s Newland decided to withhold its contribution to York diocese when they witnessed the abusive behaviour of liberals on Synod towards their conservative colleagues, Tinker pointed out.

“The way in which people conducted themselves was appalling, including, we have to say, the Archbishop of York,” he said. “So when Andrea Williams of Christian Concern was speaking, and it was in relation to the question of conversion therapy and so on, she was being booed and hissed from the floor. And then her motion was squashed by the Archbishop himself in a very distasteful way,” he elaborated, describing it as the “flashpoint” for his church.

Tinker told Anglican Unscripted his parish had written to Archbishop John Sentamu “asking him to do his duty and as an expression of our concern we said we would withhold our funding to the diocese. And we’re still there.” One of the duties of a bishop or archbishop is to refute heresy, but the Archbishop of York had actually welcomed error, he maintained, adding that Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury had “accelerated” the downgrade of the Church of England.

Archbishop Welby needs evangelicals because “we produce the money as well as the numbers. It looks good each year in the statistics of a denomination that is in decline. What he does not want is evangelicals who will ‘rock the boat’ take action based on their principles,” Tinker noted.

Tinker also compared his church’s withholding of funds to Martin Luther’s attack on indulgences during the Reformation. It was only when the implication of Luther’s teaching on justification by faith affected the sale of indulgences that “all hell broke loose,” Tinker said.

When interviewer Kevin Kallensen observed that the Archbishop of York and the leadership at Derby Cathedral were “acting almost like Mafia: you’re not paying your protection money,” Tinker laughed and said: “Well, it’s not quite Al Pacino.”

“What lies behind the banning of me … what lies behind it is the relationship with York so what is going on now is basically if you are awkward, you do not play the game then we will find ways of restricting you and if you like ‘punishing’ you,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s Godfather, but it’s not far off,” he added.

A number of conservative churches have reportedly withheld funds from liberal dioceses. When St Ebbe’s Church in the Diocese of Oxford withheld its parish share and one of the churchwardens wrote to theChurch Times to defend their practice, on the grounds that the diocese was biblically unsound. “Parishes such as St Ebbe’s, which have the money but won’t pay, are effectively giving two fingers to the Church of England,” cleric and columnist Giles Fraser wrote in response.

Under former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, the St Helen’s Church, Bishopsgate and 60 other clergy were believed to have retained a portion of their diocesan contributions in protest at, theGuardian reported. Rebel Priest spoke to a number of vicars believed to be currently withholding parish share or diverting contributions to alternative trusts created by the church, but they admitted they were afraid of revealing this publicly, fearing retribution from their bishops.

Meanwhile, a number of publications followed on the story first published by Rebel Priest media website this week. “There is nothing more the likes of Hance (and Justin Welby) loathe than evangelical Christians. An imam reading from the Koran in the cathedral — no problem, that’s inclusivity. So, of course, are LGBTQI services (although probably not when the imam’s around),” wrote Rod Liddle in The Spectator

The issue was one of “rank hypocrisy,” noted Stephen Kneale, pastor and blogger. “Here is a church prepared to screen sexually explicit films without considering them too controversial but who will not permit a preacher who is faithful to the gospel.” 

From Scotland, David Robertson, associate director of the Solas Centre for Public Christianity, in his podcast talked about it as an “issue of censorship.” Calling out the Dean’s statement denying any “ban” Robertson said: “At best this is dishonest and deceitful newspeak not worthy of a Christian church … They have banned him. He was invited. Derby CU wanted to have him there and the Dean said ‘no’. In most people’s view of how words are used, this is banning.” 

Dr Gavin Ashenden in his column slammed Dean of Derby Stephen Hance for “hiding behind the fig leaf of administrative process” and denying that he had “banned” Tinker, labelling the Dean’s statement a “rather weasily form of words.” Bishop Ashenden predicted that “orthodox Christians within the C of E will realise that the political battles they have been fitfully fighting are lost, and like the honourable Melvin Tinker will either refuse to fund the project any further, or leave; or both.”

In his statement, Dean Stephen Hance said that he had invited the Reverend Neil Barber, vicar of St Giles Normanton, Derby, and a conservative evangelical to preach in place of Mr Tinker. 

Image: The Simoniac Pope by William Blake, Tate Gallery

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