Richard Holloway is a Bishop of the Scottish Episcopal Church. There seems to be on obvious problem — he doesn’t believe in God. In the Scottish Episcopal Church, that must not be a problem.
Bishop Holloway served for years as Bishop of Edinburgh and primate of the Scottish church. The Scottish Episcopal Church is part of the Anglican Communion — the Scottish sister church of the Church of England. During his years as Bishop of Edinburgh Holloway regularly offended the faithful, promoting one heresy or scandalous teaching after another.
In 2000 he took early retirement, but did not resign his ordination or consecration. He remains a bishop, even as he has become an agnostic.
As the Sydney Morning Herald [Australia] reports:
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.
That last word astonished even the secular press. The paper explained:
That he still presides at communion – indeed, as recently as three weeks ago – raises the thorny question of how an agnostic, unconvinced about the divinity of Jesus, can consecrate the bread and wine as the body and blood of Christ. Surely, it becomes a mere gesture? “It very much depends on the interpretation you put on it,” he explains.
The obvious question is this — How can any church retain a minister who denies belief in God? That astonishing question points to what so many Christians have not yet seen. There is no shortage of churches and ministers whose theology is heretical and, as evidenced by Bishop Holloway, even agnostic.
Nevertheless, there are churches and denominations that are all too willing to allow a minister to remain and to serve even if doctrine is reduced to what the paper calls “mere gesture.”
Bishop Holloway claims a right to interpret Christianity as he sees fit. This is a claim commonly offered in some churches. The truth of the Christian faith, the great doctrines of the Bible, the creeds and confessions of the church — all these are instantly relativized by a claimed right to private interpretation. The case of Bishop Holloway serves to demonstrate that this right of private interpretation is destructive of the very concept of truth and doctrine. Here we meet a bishop who has “interpreted” the faith all the way down to agnosticism. Many others have interpreted the faith down to something that is not recognizably Christian.
“I am not trying to persuade people in the church to adopt my angle,” Holloway argues. “I just want space enough to be honest about my own convictions. The congregation I belong to in Edinburgh knows my position and is hospitable enough to include me.”
How open-minded. His congregation in Edinburgh is hospitable to agnosticism and his church allows an unbeliever to preside at Christian worship.
Bishop Holloway represents the scandalous loss of doctrinal conviction that marks so many churches and denominations. He must enjoy the limelight as an agnostic bishop. His publicized status draws attention to the complete doctrinal laxity of his church.
This agnostic bishop is not the first, nor is he likely to be the last. He provides cover for slightly less scandalous heretics who seem tame by superficial comparison. He now travels the world as a speaker and writer and retired bishop.
Note this: When the truth of theological statements is exchanged for gesture, you can count on any number of folks waving goodbye to God.