Thursday, January 10, 2008

Dr. Elaine Storkey 2008 Lawsuit Over Religious Discrimination

Is England's Elaine Storkey "the wrong type of evangelical"? That's what a lawyer for her school who fired her maintains. I can only hope more such "wrong types" show up very soon, and in great numbers. But... what has me ranting? C'mon, you know: the usual "shut up and sit down" approach by conservative evangelical males when intelligent women (a.k.a., "feminist liberals"?) raise painful facts and questions to the fore.

Photo (below): Dr. Storkey, left, visits Tearfund project in Africa.

Dr. Elaine Storkey is one of the most reasonable and intelligent voices amongst British Christian intellectuals (already an impressive bunch). She's also quite well known there due to her "Thought for the Day" BBC 4 broadcasts and fine books (see end of this bit for a partial list). Nonetheless, Storkey recently was fired by her Wycliffe Hall (Oxford) bosses, the controversial Rev. Richard Turnbull (school principal) and Rt Rev James Jones, Anglican Bishop of Liverpool. Storkey immediately protested, noting she was fired after, in a private trustees meeting, raising concerns over a number of statements Turnbull had made since his tenure began. "There was a grievance procedure, which had been heard and which I felt had treated me unfairly," she told the employment tribunal. "I had appealed. I was waiting for the appeal to be heard but instead of it being heard, I was dismissed."

On January 8, Wycliffe Hall granted that she'd been unfairly treated and settled with 20,000 pounds (approx. $40,000) in consequence. Dr. Storkey will pursue a lawsuit, however, on the grounds of religious discrimination. Thus the school's comment that she's merely "the wrong type of evangelical." The lawsuit is expected to be heard in June.

Dr. Storkey is not only well known for her broadcasting but also as President of England's Tear Fund, a rough equivalent to World Vision in the United States. She is involved in the Anglican Evangelical Progressive group, Fulcrum, and a dialogue/information outreach to persons struggling with same-sex attraction, True Freedom Trust. All of these facets offer a portrait of biblically balanced faith, rooted in wisdom principle Scripture exegesis.

I personally have always appreciated Elaine Storkey's approach to gender issues, whether her moderate approach to homosexuality or her moderate (and equally biblical) approach to feminism. As someone deeply invested in a feminist hermeneutic regarding Scripture, I believe Storkey's contributions are -- in America -- under-utilized. She deserves wider recognition here, and I for one hope that this unfortunate series of events does in fact lead to her becoming more visible as a spokesperson for women, for the dispossessed and hungry, and for men and women dealing with same-sex attractions.

Some day soon (God willing), I'll try to snag Dr. Storkey for an interview... or three or four interviews as far as this blog is concerned.

Here are some links to various of Dr. Elaine Storkey's books, just so I can do my bit to popularize her writings here (in no order whatever):

Book Links:
What's Right with Feminism
Study Bible for Women (NT only; notes co-written)
Origins of Difference: The Gender Debate Revisited
Created or Constructed: The Great Gender Debate
Fathers and Sons: the Search for a New Masculinity (co-authored)
Mary's Story, Mary's Song
Praying with Saint Teresa (co-authored)
The Search for Intimacy (and 3 excerpts from that book I blogged a while back)
Losing A Child: Finding a Path Through the Pain (Link is a Brit site, so in pounds not dollars - sorry)
Conversations on Christian Feminism (co-authored)
Magnify the Lord
Biblical Feminism 20 Years Later (audio tape from Chr. for Biblical Equality)

Other links:
Wikipedia Elaine Storkey bio
Wycliffe Hall press release
Fulcrum press release (also mentions two others dismissed by Wycliffe Hall)

Other blog entries:
'Culture Shock' writes on "Elaine Storkey and Wycliffe"
'TIMESonline' reporter writes affectionately about a young Elaine Storkey dancing at Greenbelt, and what has happened to her in the Wycliffe mess.
'TitusONEnine' offers links; the interesting (if at times predictably fundie) stuff is in the comments section. Look particularly for the good and helpful for Americans looking for background comment from Dale Rye (#13, I believe).

Related stories on Blue Christian: Ruth Tucker and Calvin College

This story was edited five or six times today, in order to insert more links and also to correct an error re Euros vs. Pounds, along with inserting the lovely photo pirated from the Tearfund website.


tag: , , , , , , , , , , ,


@bdul muHib said...

I'm reminded of my dad having to leave National Community Foundation, despite being consistently their top or 2nd highest fundraiser there, because they got taken over by the Ass. of God, and my dad was too liberal. I'm reminded of my feeling like I had to make the decision to leave my biology teaching job, as the school started mandatory classes in Intelligent Design taught by the director of the school. Everywhere, shades of Lonnie Frisbee haunt us.

Ruth Tucker said...

I feel bad for Elaine. There is no way to make this right--even if she were to win a law suit. I know a little bit about what she is going through, having endured terrible treatment at Calvin Seminary. I just hope that she can one day feel as good as I do, now that I'm away from such a toxic environment.

Jon Trott said...

A bit more background on Wycliffe Hall can be found here on Christianity Today's website. Apparently the exodus of faculty and others from Wycliffe Hall since Turnbull's takeover was of, uh, biblical proportions.

Jon Trott said...

I'm with you, @bdul... except the Lonnie Frisbee stuff. For me, that whole movie and the mythology behind (w/o Lonnie, the Jesus movement wouldn't have happened... and the violins play) is too much to swallow. Love the guy who made it -- an old friend of ours. But the movie... well, someday maybe I'll blog it. Mmmm... but probably not. Please throw only small objects!

@bdul muHib said...

I agree. The Jesus Movement was one of the few movements in Christian history not tied to any one man. Lonnie comes closer than anyone I think, but he's still a long ways from it.

But I don't think that was the point of the movie at all. In fact, I didn't get anything like that from the many times I've watched the movie. What I did get was a powerful story of how those of us in the Church can at times reject people because they don't measure up to whatever standards we have at the time- forgetting Jesus' call to the Outcast.

Anonymous said...

You know Dr Storkey ain't no "liberal" in the Anglican sense, right?

She is not "moderate" on moral issues but firmly biblical....she is an evangelical.

Fulcrum is not "Progressive" but "open evangelical", pro Covenant, pro Windsor Report, anti TEC innovations........

I think she is great...but I think you think she is something she is not...i.e. "progressive" in the TEC sense.

Jon Trott said...


The word "liberal" is an abused word, and also one that various people use who do not agree on many things.

When I use it, I am not referencing theology, and that would be especially true regarding the Episcopal Church's theology (from my perspective, more an unfortunate lack of theology). I would agree with Dr. Storkey, for instance, on same-sex issues (and appreciate her involvement in ministry to those dealing with homosexuality, as I reference in the article).

A bit more re politics: I may be a heavy leaner toward the Democratic Party these days (though am an Independent voter rather than party regular). But that political focus needn't impact my understanding of biblical teachings. Rather, I vote the way I vote because of the Scripture rather than in spite of it. That of course goes with the understanding that I speak of the Scriptures while acknowledging that I, as a person, interpret them as I read them. Which all of us do, of course.

Dr. Storkey's English framework, and her English Anglicans, seem far more sensible and able of real intramural dialogue than do Americans. Thus, she can be a feminist, a humanist (using the full meaning of that word), and a biblical Christian without being assaulted for her intellectual / practical roundedness. That is why it is so upsetting to see a rather American-looking Christian Rightish movement attacking her.

I hope this helps. If not, fire away.

Jon Trott said...

Ah, and when I mentioned the word "liberal" that also goes for the word "progressive." I consider myself progressive politically and (in some ways) progressive biblically. But being progressive biblically is merely to say that I try to find every way possible in which to remove my own cultural bias, unexamined assumptions (by examining them), and so on. Tip of the hat to British author John Peck and American Charles Strohmer for their helpful in this regard book, "Uncommon Sense" -- though Lord knows they needed editors!

I do think if you'd read more carefully, you might have caught my comprehension of Dr. Storkey's nuanced views.

In His Enduring Grace,

Anonymous said...

Please stop posting half-truths. Why not read the College's statements, and the legal submissions? I find it rather depressing as - what you'd probably label a 'CE' that discussion pages on Fulcrum and blogs of OEs or Progressives (apologies if those are not the right terms) will believe absolutely anything that is alleged about CEs. I keep being told how much more liberal and open and gracious OEs / liberals are, but then find it rather depressing that so much of what I read on their sites is ill-informed vitriol. Dr Storkey's dismissal might have something to do with her campaign to undermine and oust Dr Turnbull. It never seems to occur to some that the problem may have her unwillingness to accept his theology.

Jon Trott said...

Uh.... that was quite an outburst. Half-truths? Which ones, exactly? I'm still trying to figure out what your post was about. I thing the term "CE" (as in "conservative evangelical") is a big label to lay on anyone, and fairly nebulous from my American view. In America we talk about the Christian Right, and there is some definite political content to that term. We talk about "egalitarian" evangelicals vs. "hierarchical" evangelicals, two camps which have very different views on women and gender equality. But OE is the term that over here sounds more radical than it really is, I gather, in England.