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Britain's leading evangelical college is facing increasing criticism, and not just from outside detractors.

Since a new principal took over last year at Wycliffe Hall, one of seven private Christian schools at the University of Oxford, more than half of its faculty have resigned. Critics charge new head Richard Turnbull with an abrasive management style and a narrowing of the college's theological vision.

A letter authorized by Alister McGrath and two other former principals said Turnbull's continuing leadership would turn away prospective faculty and students and saddle the school with a "limited focus on one strand of evangelicalism."

Adding to the school's troubles is a university panel review, released in September, which concluded that Wycliffe and Oxford's other Christian halls were not providing a liberal education in line with Oxford's values. The report recommended that Oxford regulate the curriculum of its permanent private halls. Teaching that squelches "the spirit of free and critical enquiry and debate" could cause a hall to lose its license.

Wycliffe Hall achieved permanent status with Oxford in 1996, thanks to the work of former principal McGrath, who significantly raised Wycliffe's profile. Throughout its 130-year history, the school has produced a number of notable alumni, including Regent College professor and CT senior editor J.I. Packer, Bishop N. T. Wright, and former member of Parliament Jonathan Aitken.

But the evangelical Anglican seminary, which annually matriculates about 140 students, has undergone a seismic shift since McGrath's resignation two years ago. One council member and 8 of 13 faculty members have resigned, including two of Wycliffe's leading voices, vice principal David Wenham and professor ...

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In the Magazine

December 2007

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