Thursday, June 27, 2013

Senior Baptist Pastor Nek Minute Anglican Dean

I have no idea why it has taken so long to publicly announce what has been a piece of "good news" clergy gossip for weeks now, that Digby Wilkinson will be the next Dean of St Paul's Cathedral, Wellington. But now, at last, the announcement has been made, via this article on Taonga.

As you will read there, this appointment is in keeping with the expectation that under Bishop Justin, life in the Wellington Diocese will take new, bold, and radical directions.

Digby is an Anglican priest who (as I understand things) has been performing licensed ministry in the Wellington Diocese, regularly presiding at 8 am communion in a Palmerston North parish church. So far nothing bold, radical or new about appointing him to be Dean.

But his current stipended ministry role has been as Senior Pastor of Palmerston North Central Baptist church. That more than hints something new, bold and radical about this appointment.

Is it a new = unprecedented thing for the whole history of the Anglican Communion for a Baptist pastor to become Dean of a cathedral in his next appointment?

Digby's appointment is bold because it means the Cathedral and Diocese has been willing to look outside the normal field of candidacy for such positions (i.e. currently stipended Anglican priests doing a sterling job in an Anglican context).

It is early days to predict that it will prove to be a radical appointment, but his background suggests that he will come into the role with eyes that will see clearly what the fundamental mission and ministry of a cathedral is, and work to reinvigorate that.

Watch this space!

Postscript: I have felt no need to comment on what could be diplomatically described as Digby's 'colourful past', but I now note that the media have risen to the bait. NZ Herald's headline is, "Convicted Burglar to Lead Church". Sometimes the media conform to stereotype!

Later: a more responsible headline is in the Dominion story: 'Grace and disgrace' led to new dean's rebirth.


Chris Darnell said...

A great appointment indeed.

It is unfortunate in this case that the Herald knowingly publishes this news ahead of the announcement being made at either the Cathedral or to the Central Baptist community.

However I continue to be disappointed with the nature of "clergy chatter" by which embargoed news gets talked about far too openly. News such as this is not made public immediately for important reasons.

Surely the ethical (and Godly?) response to a "have you heard...?" gossip conversation is to not engage and cut the conversation off?

Or am I dreaming?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Chris,
I make no comment on the reasons why the announcement was delayed because I do not know those reasons. But I would generally observe that our church has displayed for years now an annoying naivity about keeping major announcements confidential for weeks if not months on end. (See, for instance, our long process of confirmation of an episcopal nomination. At least twice in my experience the name of the person being confirmed has been in the media a week after the election but two weeks before the 'confidential' period of confirmation closed!)

News leaks. We should catch up to that fact and either make announcements promptly, or delay making decisions until we can make the announcement within (say) a week.

I don't think clergy conversations go in such a way that one can "cut off at the pass" news being shared "mid sentence."

Anyway, if the news has been leaked to the Herald then I assume one person is responsible for that. Perhaps that person should be ferreted out! It might even have been a lay person.

Anonymous said...

So I'm a youngish parishioner of St Paul's. I've been wondering more and more how low we could go. And now I know.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Anonymous,

You are most welcome to comment here but the general rule and request is that commenters use at least a first name.

What do you mean by "low"?

Low church?

Low or poor behaviour (e.g. someone leaking news to the media, or the fact that clergy gossip about appointments)?


Anonymous said...

Somehow, this appointment does not seem to square well with St. Paul's words to Titus, even though Paul is not specifically addressing the office of Dean of a Cathedral.

I would also be worried a bit about this man's theology. He seems to be spending most of his time ministering to Baptist over many years (wasn't he in a Baptist congregation at the time of his convictions for crime?). In most parts of the world, there is substantial difference between Baptist and Anglican theology, but perhaps that is not true in New Zealand.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Father D,
I do not know the depths or details of his theology, so I will trust the discernment of the Wellington nominators.

In general, there are interchanges of people moving between Baptist and Anglican churches here which might be different to other parts of the world.

Simon said...

Father D, from my experience, Baptist churches in NZ are different beasts to Baptist churches in the UK. There is generally less sectarianism and 'black and white' rigidity in NZ.
Further to comments above, in that mean-spirited Herald news story it is disappointing to read a serving Anglican Bishop offering his views in print on an appointment which he has presumably had no involvement in. Why is he opining publicly on a senior appointment outside his jurisdiction? I trust the media manager for the Province has been in touch with him.

Jethro Day said...

We are all part of the same One, Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church! I think it is just grand that denominational boundaries are being so easily crossed. I hope this does some good in healing some of the denominational xenophobia within our church.

carl jacobs said...


There is generally less sectarianism and 'black and white' rigidity in NZ.

Well, wouldn't that be grand, if true. Just what a church beset by obliquity, ambiguity, and equivocation needs. More gray. Heaven forfend that it might actually defend something. You know, with rigidity. As if some things were black and white.


Father Ron Smith said...

My question would be: what tepsis the new Dean's attitude towards the Anglican practice of Infant Baptism? Also; does he believe that Christ is truly present in the Eucharist. These are important issues for many Anglicans.

Anonymous said...

In Australia there are plenty of Anglicans who might as well be Baptists for all their connection with classical Anglicanism so perhaps this evens things up a little. Anglicans by choice, such as Digby, should provide plenty of insights into matters which cradle Anglicans may take for granted.

Like Ron I wonder about the new Dean's view on infant baptism, as that theological stance is somewhat ingrained. That said, it's worth realising that some NZ Anglicans, somewhat incongruously, are not particularly keen on the practice.

For a cathedral appointment, surely the biggest concern is can Digby fulfil his role as Officiant at Choral Evensong: "O Lord, open thou our lips". And can he chant the Sursum Corda and Preface at the Choral Eucharist?

If Digby can ace liturgical chant and doesn't replace Holy Scripture lessons at Evensong with excerpts from the Koran (like the former American Dean Sparks once did), cathedral parishioners will surely welcome him warmly - it's been a long interregnum.


Anonymous said...

Being an Anglican minister or dean does not require a belief in "real presence" or consubstantiation, as this is neither a tradittional nor mainstream Anglican.


Probably a pointless question, but was the former dean excommunicated?

Seriously, if some "minister" started reading from the Quran during a church service i would walk out after loudly protesting.

Question: who keeps ordaining these people, and do they not fear hell?

Anonymous said...


Dean Sparks was from the TEC (used to be known as the Protestant Episcopalian Church of the USA). Bishop Tom Brown appointed him after they'd met on one of Tom's state-side visits. The Koran readings were planned for a 'festal' Evensong during a special 'arts festival' weekend. For a number of reasons, the Dean and his family returned to the US earlier than planned.

I understand that commitment to the Thirty-nine Articles, the Ordinal and the doctrine enshrined in the Book of Common Prayer 1662 has been rather weakly maintained among US Episcopalians.

As a parishioner at the time, I wrote to the Dean and drew attention to the Koran's rejection of the Holy Trinity, rejection of the Incarnation of the Son of God and rejection that Jesus Christ died on the cross (ie its invalidation of the core Christian beliefs). I noted that writings from a non-Christian religion cannot supplant the canonical Scriptures if that worship is to be considered Christian.

I received a polite reply. And mention was made of how in a post-9/11 world we need to be open and accepting of other faith perspectives.


Anonymous said...

So in response to serious theological questions and concerns you got mindless, unBiblical, politically correct nonsense from one of our Bishops.

Sadly, not surprised.

Peter Carrell said...

HI Martin
I am editing a question out of your comment. It is a question unrelated to the general theme of this post, cathedral ministry. You may ask your question elsewhere, e.g. by starting your own blog, or by writing to the current Bishop of Wellington. I am not prepared to publish your question because I do not have the time or inclination to defend publishing it should it turn out to involve an assertion which was challenged; nor am I inclined to yield the time and energy which potentially your question would lead to if discussion here followed.

""So in response to serious theological questions and concerns you got mindless, unBiblical, politically correct nonsense from one of our Bishops."

My question is: why is he still a bishop? [Editorial note: the bishop being referred to is retired] [...]?


Peter Carrell said...

Hi Martin,
Your next comment raises the question about my being coy about a matter already public on the internet about the former Bishop of Wellington, and asks about whether godly discipline has been exercised, further to the voluntary handing in of the man's licence.

1. Those questions do not relate to the topic of this post. When and if I post on the matter or on a related question which you raise, re whether godly discipline is ever exercised in ACANZP then I might entertain the resulting discussion about specific instances. Thus:
2. I am being COY about the possibility of hosting a discussion here which is about a topic I did not introduce. One reason for not discussing the matter further is that we are not only talking about one errant individual here but also about their familiar relationships - relationships with people who have not asked to be involved in public discussion about their lives.
3. The answers to your questions about a specific individual lie with the Bishop of Wellington. Why not write to him? (At best I have a hunch what the answer is, but I do not have sufficient knowledge to make a statement in print).
4. In general terms I think ACANZP is tolerant when it comes to discipline (generously so or dangerously so, depending on one's understanding of 'godly discipline.')

I will not respond to any further comments from you or anyone else on this thread who raises specific/individual matters re possible discipline.

As always, if commenters want to discuss matters not addressed here, START YOUR OWN BLOG.