Tuesday, May 06, 2014


Below are a couple of Norwich Churches related documents that have recently found their way into my possession. I'm not sure what to make of them. The first is a letter written by Pastor Tom Chapman of Surrey Chapel who signs himself as "Chair of the University of East Anglia Christian Union Board". He writes on behalf of various Norwich Christian ministers. The Rev Chapman's letter is a protest about what he refers to as the University authorities limiting religious activity on the Campus. It is addressed to Professor Neil Ward, Pro-Vice-Chancellor of Academic Affairs (Click document to enlarge):

Well, the good Professor replied and his reply can be seen below (Click document to enlarge):

Basically Ward says that he doesn't know what Chapman is talking about; there are no new regulations limiting religious expression. In fact Ward says "I am not quite sure how these anxieties have been fuelled or whether they originate on or off the campus".  You might expect both Ward and Chapman to be in a position where they're in the know; so how come this "serious misunderstanding" as Ward calls it?

I have an interest in this matter because one of the signatories is the Rev Mark Tall who is presumably signing on behalf of the church I attend, Norwich Central Baptist Church.  I have no knowledge of this affair or what it is about, but that's no indicator as I'm not part of the social nexus or inner counsel circles where discussion of this matter would be current. Moreover, as I tend to live in a world of my own I can easily fail to pick up on such things even when they are announced.

However, I'm just a little concerned. Three of the signatories, Tom Chapman, Mark Tall and Alan Strange are known to me as moderate and intelligent evangelicals. But I have to say that I cannot vouch for some of the other signatories who, as far as I know. lean in a fundamentalist direction*. Given the clear link between fundamentalism and conspiracy-theory-thinking this gives me some cause for concern; religious paranoia polarises, and reads between the lines in a very imaginative and mythical way. And yet I respect the opinions of the three ministers whom I name. Set against that is the frank and open tone of Prof Ward's letter who is perceptive enough to use that very loaded word "anxieties". I'm not sure what to conclude!

Islam's tradition of propagating it's faith by military conquest along with Koranic injunctions to wage holy war has given Islam a pathological weakness for belligerence. Similarly, Christianity's history of persecution along with Biblical verses raising an expectation of persecution has given Christianity a pathological weakness for a collective paranoia. Sometimes this paranoia becomes intense enough to fuel full-blown conspiracy theories. I have confess that these kinds of thought surfaced in my mind when the above first came to my attention.

Relevant links:

* There is a distinction between moderate evangelicals and fundamentalists - a subject on which I am currently compiling a post. 

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