The Bishop of Durham has died, at the age of 91.
As bishop, he was famous for denying on television the virgin birth and the resurrection of Christ. In fact, not only denying the resurrection but actively ridiculing it.
Three days after being consecrated in 1984 in York Minister, the building was struck by lightning and devastated by the subsequent fire. Not unreasonably, for those who believe in a Sovereign God, this was interpreted by some people as a sign of God’s divine displeasure. Predictably, this was ignored by the Church of England for whom God’s wrath is now merely a remote theory, probably reserved for people who do really evil things like owning shares in a petrochemical corporation.
In 2005, he was one of the first clerics in England to participate in the blessing of a civil partnership between two homosexual males. In 2006, he was banned from preaching in a number of his local churches for using language deemed irreverent – terms like “bloody” and “damn”.
Well we may mourn such a man’s passing. To deny the resurrection is a sure sign of being outside of the orbit and boundary of salvation, of never having met the risen and glorified Christ at any point on our personal Damascene Road. Furthermore, to promote conduct explicitly repudiated in God’s word does indeed bring the wrath of God – in this life or the next. “Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:19). This text rules out any hope that a person who wilfully, persistently, and stubbornly preaches error will enter the kingdom of heaven.
The bishop’s long life – evidently blessed with child, and an equally long-lived wife – is a testament to the long-suffering and kindness of God who lavishes grace and generosity even upon his enemies. May we bless God for his goodness toward men, and watch unto our own souls, examining ourselves “to see whether we be of the faith” (2 Corinthians 13:5).