Andrew West on Richard Holloway: Believe it or not, the bishop’s an agnostic

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Richard Holloway says the worldwide Anglican Church has made room for "happy clapping" evangelicals, bells-and-smells Catholics, women priests and, in the United States, openly gay clergy and even practitioners of other faiths. So surely, he argues, it can find room for people like him - Christians who don't believe in God.

Holloway, contrary to popular belief, has not left the Episcopal Church, as Scottish Anglicanism is known. He may have taken early retirement as Bishop of Edinburgh but the writer remains an ordained priest and consecrated bishop, who still preaches from the pulpit, performs baptisms and weddings and even presides at communion.

"I had a crisis in 1998 and I was in a kind of internal exile for a bit," he told the Herald yesterday, while en route to Sydney, where he is a speaker at the Sydney Writers' Festival.

"I am in a slightly mellower place with the church right now. I've still got my pilot's licence, so to speak. They didn't take it away from me."

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesScottish Episcopal Church

13 Comments
Posted May 20, 2009 at 8:20 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. Henry Greville wrote:

And, of course, having had such a man as the head inspiring the Scottish Episcopal Church explains why their numbers have grown so admirably…not!

May 20, 8:57 am | [comment link]
2. William P. Sulik wrote:

Buddhists, Muslims, why not agnostics?

May 20, 8:58 am | [comment link]
3. AnglicanFirst wrote:

Holloway said,
“...Christians who don’t believe in God.’
===============================================================

This statement should be used as a ‘foundational’ example of an “oxymoron.”

May 20, 9:02 am | [comment link]
4. dwstroudmd+ wrote:

Integrity, ...it’s not what it used to be!  Whatever he’s confecting at the services he does is not what the Church has done for millenia.  But hey, he’s “modern”.  Could he be the next PB here?  Fits the the bill.

May 20, 9:15 am | [comment link]
5. FenelonSpoke wrote:

I keep reading about clergy who have had spiritual crises. it happens. Often as a result of isolation and fatigue and burn out. In the case of Rev. Kevin Thew Forrester he decided to migrate to Buddhist practices and indeed took vows as a Buddhist layperson. Richard Hollaway says that he was in “internal exile” but doesn’t indicate what help he sought to return from exile.. It is saddening to me that clergypeople who advise people in their spiritual lives don’t seem to have sought Spiritual Directors or pasoral Counsellers in their own tradition who can offer them some guidance. Neither do they seem to seek Christian support/prayer and accountalbility groups among other clergy. There is a website to go to- “International Associatiion of Spiritual Directors” who give the names of people around the world who do this. Of course, one needs to interview the Directors and see where they are coming from to see if you mesh.

In addition, I have a real problem with a clergyperson who enjoys the “art form” of the Lord’s Supper but has no relationship with Jesus Christ.  Such people should show some integrity and submit their orders.

May 20, 9:41 am | [comment link]
6. The_Archer_of_the_Forest wrote:

This strikes me as very bizarre. I mean, I do not doubt the man has had a serious crisis of faith, and that’s okay. I would agree with him so far as to say, yes, even if you are in some form of an agnostic dark night of the soul, I hope the Church would still be there to help you and welcome you home where you awake.

But to be a leader in the Church? That’s where I have to draw the line. That’s a whole separate issue. How can a leader of a group with any academic and professional integrity (and a straight face) abhor the whole central belief structure of such a group? To me, that is like having a physicist who does not believe in physics or a historian who does not believe that nothing ever occurred prior to this moment in history.

Call me crazy, but you have to profess something before you can be called a professor, and you have to believe in the theo before you can be a theologian, and in Christ before you can be a Christian.

Anything else is a intellectual farce.

May 20, 9:44 am | [comment link]
7. rugbyplayingpriest wrote:

The Anglican Church: where those with passionate, living faith rooted in the Gospels are admonished and pushed to the margins (over orthodox views on a range of subjects) but where agnostics and bhuddists are consecrated to high office and where those who ‘bless abortion’ are elevated to teaching positions…

.,..you really couldn’t make it up.

May 20, 9:53 am | [comment link]
8. phil swain wrote:

Does Bishop Holloway have the requisite intention to perform valid sacraments?  If not, isn’t it of paramount importance for his bishop to remove him(temporally?) from priestly sacramental ministry?

May 20, 10:20 am | [comment link]
9. phil swain wrote:

oops, I meant “temporarily”.

May 20, 10:23 am | [comment link]
10. austin wrote:

Bishop Holloway (whose name has become sadly emblematic of his life) has a tragic story.  He was once a dynamic and persuasive Anglo-Catholic, then a revisionist reformer (he was quite nasty to many people in this phase), then a militant non-believer, now apparently an agnostic.  One should pray for his restoration to the faith he held as a younger man.

May 20, 1:16 pm | [comment link]
11. NewTrollObserver wrote:

The Gospel of Christian Atheism

May 20, 6:13 pm | [comment link]
12. Lutheran-MS wrote:

But your liturgy is beautiful and your bishop robes make the person and you don’t have to believe in God, you may even believe in other gods.

May 20, 10:20 pm | [comment link]
13. pastorchuckie wrote:

This is really sad for me.  I remember when Bishop Holloway was “a dynamic and persuasive Anglo-Catholic.”  (#10 above)  I considered him my rector then, and even now I think I matured as a Christian under his teaching.  Since then, it seems, there has been no heresy or lunatic notion too bizarre for him to embrace.

Chuck Bradshaw
Hulls Cove, Maine

May 22, 1:50 pm | [comment link]
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