Rev. Dr. Bernard Randall, 48, an ordained minister in the Church of England, former chaplain of Christ’s College, Cambridge, is out of a job and is suing his former employer, Trent College, for discrimination, harassment, victimization and unfair dismissal. After a sermon he preached in the school chapel, Trent College reported Rev. Randall to the UK government’s terrorist watchdog, Prevent, as a potentially violent religious extremist and then dismissed him. The sermon was entitled ‘Competing Ideologies’ and it encouraged respect and debate on ‘identity ideologies.’ He had been approached by students at Trent to discuss the LGBT issue. One student indelicately asked: “How come we are told we have to accept all of this LGBT stuff in a Christian school?” So he wrote and delivered a sermon to help his young pupils sort things out.
You may read the sermon in full here and judge for yourself whether the School’s actions were appropriate.
After delivering that sermon he was summoned to a meeting with the Deputy Head (vice-principal) and the school’s Designated Safeguarding Lead (DSL). The meeting did not go well. He was told his talk had hurt some people’s feelings and undermined the School’s LGBT agenda. After the meeting, and without his knowledge, he was reported to Prevent, the government’s counter-terrorism watchdog! In addition to that, the DSL reported him to the Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO) as a danger to children!
If you read the sermon that brought about his dismissal, and I hope you did, ask yourself the following: Is this how we want to order our lives together? Our Christian lives (for those who are Christian)?
Randall’s main point in the sermon, was that people who hold to profoundly different ideologies must treat each other with respect:
“Now when ideologies compete, we should not descend into abuse, we should respect the beliefs of others, even where we disagree. Above all, we need to treat each other with respect, not personal attacks — that’s what loving your neighbor as yourself means. By all means discuss, have a reasoned debate about beliefs, but while it’s OK to try and persuade each other, no one should be told they must accept an ideology. Love the person, even where you profoundly dislike the ideas. Don’t denigrate a person simply for having opinions and beliefs which you don’t share.”
This is a point I’ll make repeatedly going forward. Some readers will not share my basic assumptions about life, assumptions which flow from my understanding of God and the world created by that God, conscience forming beliefs that cannot be easily undone. We will differ. Which brings me to my next point: No one should be compelled to go against their most deeply held beliefs. That’s why Religious Freedom is a high priority for me. Moving forward I’ll be devoting some of the content of this blog to defending that basic Constitutional principle.
Religious Freedom was placed in the FIRST Amendment of our Constitution for good reason. Unfortunately, Rev Randall lives in the U.K. and must rely on the British courts and British Common Law for legal relief, if any. But first he must encounter the British Administrative State. An employment tribunal hearing is expected to be heard on June 14, 2021. If you sympathize with his plight, you might want to include him in your prayers.
Sometimes our beliefs are wrong. Therefore humility calls out to humility as deep calls out to deep. We dialogue, we discuss, we mutually respect, in hopes of bridging the gap between us. But not necessarily. That is one characteristic about deeply held convictions, the chasm width may ultimately prove uncrossable. The distance is too great, like trying to build a bridge to the moon. (Needless to say, coercion on either side is wildly inappropriate and dehumanizing.) A New Testament scholar I know once spoke about how at Harvard Divinity School the staff and students were so anxious not to offend that everyone gravitated to a “lowest common denominator.” They would say, “oh well we can’t agree on that one so let’s lay that denominational distinctive aside.” But after going down the distinctives list, so as to throw any offending thing out, they ended up with defacto Unitarianism, “well maybe we can agree that there is a God,” although none of them were actually Unitarian. Sometimes setting aside crucial beliefs for the sake of agreement leaves you with very little to discuss.
You could bring up race as an example of how deeply held beliefs were used to justify the enslavement of blacks in America, but the analogy doesn’t work because the reality of immutable characteristics, like race, sex and ethnicity, are precisely what most Transgender Activists deny. This is not your parents or grandparents civil rights movement.
In 2018 Rev Randall attended a staff seminar at Trent College, entitled “Educate and Celebrate.” He raised an objection when the leader, Elly Barnes, instructed the staff to chant ‘smash heteronormativity.’ For his anti-celebratory concerns he became a marked man at the college.
The obvious most humane response anyone could offer to Ms Barnes, or anyone like her, is to say, without heteronormativity, without the “gender binary,” humans and many other creatures would not exist. In the normal course of life, if heterosexual males and females don’t “get together” human life on this planet would end. Transgender activist Nicholas Teich says, “There is no getting around the fact that the gender binary of men and women—as we always knew it—is not the reality.” Again, it must be emphasized, in the real world, it was gender binary fruitfulness that gave Mr. Teich his life.
This could lead us into discussing the Trans-humanism movement or the push for widespread surrogate mothering via in-vitro fertilization, or the rapidly arriving Brave New World of human cloning, to name but two technological developments, but following that rabbit trail will have to wait…
Our bodies are a gift from our Creator, says Randall. So do I. So did Jesus,
“Have you not read that the one who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’” [Matt. 19:4].
If we find someone’s thoughts morally or mentally (not to mention ontologically) indefensible we must not be compelled to say or act otherwise. It would be dehumanizing to ask that of anyone, or compel anyone to affirm what they believe is deep psychological disturbance in the case of gender dysphoria.
But today people are being asked, compelled even, to do just that. Or they will lose their job. And have their reputation besmirched. A former chaplain at Cambridge University is. No backwoods Bible-thumper he. Rev. Randall was being investigated as a potential terrorist, and released from his job at an ostensibly Christian Academy for denying the view that people can be born in the wrong bodies.
If you read the details I linked above, you will see that the Reverend’s defense rests squarely on the official teachings of the Church of England, not exactly a non-progressive bunch. The Right Reverend rightly asks, “is the COE an extremist organization?”
“Yet I ended up being told that I had to support everybody else’s beliefs, no matter what, while my Christian beliefs, the Church of England’s beliefs, were blatantly censored.
“During the disciplinary hearing, I was never asked what I thought, they just assumed that I had extreme religious views. I don’t think the Church of England is an extremist organisation.”
And I ask you, is this the world we want to live in? We need to come up with some answers quick. Things are moving swiftly.
Coming up will be a series of posts about how this issue is affecting “Our Girls.” And some posts about the growing riff between the LGB and the TQ+ parts of the movement. My Gay and Lesbian readers/friends will perhaps be very interested in this development if they are not already aware of the “trouble in the camp.”