Suspended Anglican Bishop, Peter Broadbent, ‘had a pop’ at ‘Take Heed’ in 2009

The recent announcement of the engagement of Prince William to Kate Middleton brought great joy to most people in the United Kingdom and consequently they in turn are looking forward with eager anticipation to the Royal Wedding planned for Friday 29th April 2011 – a day that has been officially designated as a national holiday.

Although the announcement was overwhelmingly welcomed by the majority of citizens there were not unexpectedly a few dissenting and critical voices from the usual anti-monarchy sources.

However, one particular criticism was most unexpected and it really struck a sour note as was reported in The Church Times of 26 November 2010 on – part of that report stated – 

On Thursday of last week, the day after the royal engagement was announced, Bishop Broadbent wrote on Twitter, the social-networking site: “Need to work out what date in the spring or summer I should be looking for my republican day trip to France.” The Twitter message was automatically posted on to his page on Facebook. In another comment on Facebook, the Bishop wrote that he had “managed to avoid the last disaster in slow motion between Big Ears and the Porcelain Doll” (an apparent reference to the Prince and Princess of Wales). In other postings, he said: “I give the marriage seven years,” and: “But their marriage is their business. I don’t know them, and have no part in celebrating it. I just wish we weren’t paying for it.” Some of Bishop Broadbent’s comments were reported in newspapers such as the Daily Mail and The Daily Telegraph. In a Facebook response to this on Saturday, the Bishop wrote: “Pathetic gutter press now trying to make this [comment] thread into a story. But watch their hypocrisy when they go for the Royals later on.” Later that day, he also noted, with reference to the “gutter press”: “You can bet your boots they won’t quote anything I’ve said about their responsibility for persecuting the Royals.”

Needless to say these comments came as a great shock and offence to many, especially as they were coming from ‘a man of the cloth’. His own Anglican superiors were less than impressed also and the result was, as The Church Times reported –

THE Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Richard Chartres, this week asked the Bishop of Willesden, the Rt Revd Pete Broadbent, “to withdraw from public ministry until further notice”.

The same report then also stated –

On Monday, Bishop Broadbent issued a statement apologising “unreservedly”. He said that he had “conveyed to Prince Charles and to Prince William and Kate Middleton my sincere regrets for the distress caused by my remarks”. He wrote that he recognised “that the tone of my language and the content of what I said were deeply offensive. . . “It was unwise of me to engage in a debate with others on a semi-public internet forum and to express myself in such language. I accept that this was a major error of judgement on my part. I wish Prince William and Kate Middleton a happy and lifelong marriage, and will hold them in my prayers.

Mr Broadbent would appear to be a man of almost schizophrenic mood-swings based upon his initial comments and his then speedy reversal of thinking in his apology. Was this just a one-off aberration – well I’ll let you the reader judge that as I draw attention to something I wrote in an article back in 2009.

The article was entitled ‘Synagogues of Satan’ that is located on and in it I examined the questionable theological pedigree of various speakers taking part in ‘Christian’ festivals such as ‘Green Belt 2008’, Spring Harvest 2009’ and ‘Summer Madness 2009’.

The section relevant to Bishop Peter Broadbent related to my comments on ‘Spring Harvest’ 2009 and so what I plan to do now is to reproduce that section of my article – it read as follows–

Whilst 3 different ‘Christian’ festivals are listed in the title to this article, the article itself will for the most part concentrate on the upcoming Spring Harvest 2009 festival scheduled for 4th – 19th April 2009. I will be focussing on the ramifications of their willingness to include a certain individual amongst their invited speakers and this ‘invited speaker’ is actually the common thread linking in the other 2 ‘Christian’ festivals, Green Belt 2008 and Summer Madness 2009 to this article.

Before proceeding any further I want to give some insight into the main heading for this article – ‘Synagogues of Satan’? The Lord Himself used this expression when He wrote to the Church in Smyrna. He was referring to a group of people in that area who clearly claimed to be God’s people but He said of them that they were “the synagogue of Satan” [Revelation 2:9]. They were a group that rejected both the Divine Person and the Redeeming Work of Jesus Christ. 

Matthew Henry comments on this expression –

‘As Christ has a church in the world, the spiritual Israel of God, so the devil has his synagogue. Those assemblies which are set up in opposition to the truths of the gospel, and which promote and propagate damnable errors — those which are set up in opposition to the purity and spirituality of gospel worship, and which promote and propagate the vain inventions of men and rites and ceremonies which never entered into the thoughts of God — these are all synagogues of Satan: he presides over them, he works in them, his interests are served by them, and he receives a horrid homage and honour from them. For the synagogues of Satan to give themselves out to be the church or Israel of God is no less than blasphemy. God is greatly dishonoured when his name is made use of to promote and patronize the interests of Satan; and he has a high resentment of this blasphemy, and will take a just revenge on those who persist in it.’

The Westminster Confession of Faith also has occasion to use this expression. In Chapter XXV paragraph V that deals with ‘The Church’ we read this –

‘The purest churches under heaven are subject both to mixture and error; and some have so degenerated as to become no Churches of Christ but synagogues of Satan’.

The warning is that any group, that either openly opposes the Divine Person and the Redeeming Work of Jesus Christ, or supposedly pays lip service on the one hand to the Divine Person and the Redeeming Work of Jesus Christ but by doctrine and proclamation on the other hand then proceeds to deny or to welcome as believers those who deny some aspect of the Divine Person and the Redeeming Work of Jesus Christ, then these are to classed as ‘synagogues of Satan’.

Bearing that background to this expression in mind let me proceed now to how it can possibly apply firstly to Spring Harvest 2009. To do that I need to go back to the run-up to Easter in 2007 when a service was broadcast on Wednesday 4th April on BBC Radio 4 that was conducted by the [gay] Anglican minister Jeffrey John. During that service Mr John said the following –

‘St Paul explains, crucifixion was the method of execution which, according to the Law, was the special sign of God’s ultimate punishment, his absolute curse: “Cursed be he that hangs upon a tree”. On the cross, says Paul, Jesus took the place of all those who were supposed to be punished according to the Law. “God made him into sin who knew no sin”. “He became a curse for us”. But hang on – you may well say – what exactly does that mean – ‘Jesus took our place’ ? Does it mean, then, that we are back with a punishing God after all, and that the Cross is somehow to be understood as God’s ultimate punishment for sin? That’s certainly what I was told in my Calvinistic childhood. The explanation I was given went something like this. God was very angry with us for our sins, and because he is a just God, our sin had to be punished. But instead of punishing us he sent his Son, Jesus, as a substitute to suffer and die in our place. The blood of Jesus paid the price of our sins, and because of him God stopped being angry with us. In other words, Jesus took the rap, and we got forgiven, provided we said we believed in him. Well, I don’t know about you, but even at the age of ten I thought this explanation was pretty repulsive as well as nonsensical. What sort of God was this, getting so angry with the world and the people he created, and then, to calm himself down, demanding the blood of his own Son? And anyway, why should God forgive us through punishing somebody else? It was worse than illogical, it was insane. It made God sound like a psychopath. If any human being behaved like this we’d say they were a monster. Well, I haven’t changed my mind since. That explanation of the cross just doesn’t work, though sadly it’s one that’s still all too often preached. It just doesn’t make sense to talk about a nice Jesus down here, placating the wrath of a nasty, angry Father God in heaven. Christians believe Jesus is God incarnate. As he said, ‘Whoever sees me has seen the Father’. Jesus is what God is: he is the one who shows us God’s nature. And the most basic truth about God’s nature is that He is Love, not wrath and punishment… The cross, then, is not about Jesus reconciling an angry God to us’

In the wake of that broadcast a Press Release was published by Spring Harvest and part of that Press Release said the following –

‘Speaking at this year’s Spring Harvest Word Alive, Bishops Pete Broadbent and Wallace Benn were united in their dismay over the recent statement by Jeffrey John that… that the cross is not about anger or wrath or sin or atonement, but only about God’s unconditional love. There is, he says, nothing to understand in the cross which is anything to do with sacrifice or Jesus dying for our sins – and we say No. You’ve got it wrong.’ The Very Reverend Jeffrey John, Dean of St Albans, was speaking on a Radio 4 Lent Talk broadcast this week on Wednesday, in which he attacked the Church’s teaching that Christ died to make atonement for the sins of the world and said that being forgiven because of belief in this is ‘repulsive as well as nonsensical.’ The Rt Revd Pete Broadbent, Bishop of Willesden and Team Leader of the Spring Harvest Leadership Team, stated in response; ‘You cannot read the Old Testament and New Testament .. and blank out an entirety of language and concept and understanding that means that we are guilty sinners, we need our sins to be paid for and we need Jesus Christ to die for us. That is what the Creeds say, it is what the Bible says and you cannot rewrite them. You cannot understand Jesus Christ without understanding Old Testament atonement material.’ The Rt Revd Wallace Benn added that ‘the truth that Jesus died as our sin-bearing substitute carrying the punishment for our sins on the cross is the glorious heart of the Gospel. It displays the love of God: Father, Son and Spirit, for us. To deny or vilify that is a tragic denial of the power and heart of the Gospel. I hope Jeffrey John will speedily reconsider and repent of his attack on apostolic Christianity.’

That was certainly a very robust defence of ‘Penal Substitution’ or ‘Substitutionary Atonement’ – the names by which this biblical truth is known. However in another Press Release published by Spring Harvest just a few days later on 8th April 2007 they reported as follows –

‘Two and a half thousand people gathered on Minehead beach at 7am Easter Sunday morning for a Sonrise/Sunrise service to celebrate the Resurrection. Led by the Reverend Steve Chalke, MBE, the crowd sang, prayed and listened as the sun rose. Steve Chalke founded the Oasis Trust, which works across the globe in education, healthcare and housing; Parentalk (an organisations that equips and inspires parents), and the Faithworks movement which is dedicated to helping individual Christians and local churches get involved in their local communities. He has presented his own television series for both ITV and BBC, has written over thirty books, and received the MBE in the 2004 New Year’s Honours list for his services to social inclusion’.

Well, anyone who is familiar with Steve Chalke’s views of ‘Penal Substitution’ or ‘Substitutionary Atonement’’ [He refers to such a belief as being the equivalent of ‘cosmic child abuse’ – you can read my challenge to these views in articles located on these links –

News From The Front – December 2004

News From The Front – March 2005

News From The Front – June 2006

will perhaps understand why in my opinion Spring Harvest were sending out confusing signals on this issue of ‘Penal Substitution’ or ‘Substitutionary Atonement’.

In the first Press Release they were arguing very much against the views of Jeffrey John, saying at one point – ‘the truth that Jesus died as our sin-bearing substitute carrying the punishment for our sins on the cross is the glorious heart of the Gospel’ but then in the second Press Release they are enthusing over the Easter Sunday service conducted by Steve Chalke who holds basically the same ‘Penal Substitution’ or ‘Substitutionary Atonement’ denying views as Jeffrey John. In the light of these Press Releases I sent the following email to Spring Harvest on 1st March 2009 [the date on which I came across them] –

Dear Spring Harvest,

I was looking on your website at 2 press releases dated 4 April 2007 and 8 April 2007. In the first one there is a defence of ‘Substitutionary Atonement’ by 2 Bishops and this defence was to counter the views to the contrary of Jeffrey John and it was made, according to the press release, at ‘this year’s Spring Harvest Word Alive’.

In the second press release there are details of a sunrise service conducted by Steve Chalke – Steve Chalke would hold views similar to Jeffrey John namely he also rejects ‘Substitutionary Atonement’.

In the light of these rather confusing press releases could you please let me know the official Spring Harvest position on ‘Substitutionary Atonement’ – do you accept it [as the 2 Bishops do] or do you reject it [as Steve Chalke does].

I look forward to hearing from you

  • Cecil Andrews
  • Northern Ireland

Eventually on 26th March I received the following response –

Dear Mr Andrews,

Thank you for your email. I have visited your website, and I have no wish to enter into correspondence with you, I am afraid. The sole purpose of your site appears to be to attempt to vilify large numbers of your fellow Christians, from Tony Campolo to Billy Graham, and Steve Chalke to Rick Warren. I have no intention of providing any further fuel for your rantings. The theological position of Spring Harvest is available for you to read here:

All our speakers speak from within that context. Thank you for your interest. In the words of Oliver Cromwell, “I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken.”

My PA, Nikki Court has a separate email address:

Well, as a well-known saying goes – ‘you could have knocked me down with a feather’. However after gathering my thoughts I sent the following response to Mr Broadbent who of course was one of the 2 Bishops that put up the robust defence back in April 2007 of ‘Penal Substitution’ or ‘Substitutionary Atonement’ that was quoted by Spring Harvest in their Press Release of 4th April 2007 –

Dear Mr Broadbent,

I would confirm safe receipt of your most helpful email. I have read the statement of ‘Our Beliefs’ that you directed me to and was particularly interested there to read that ‘We believe in …The atoning sacrifice of Christ on the cross: dying in our place [substitution] paying the price of sin [enduring the Father’s penalty for sin by offering Himself and His sufferings as a “ransom” to redeem His people] and defeating evil so reconciling us with God’. Unless I am mistaken a fairly clear affirmation of ‘Penal Substitution’.

Quite how you can then go on to affirm ‘All our speakers speak from within that context’ is baffling and beyond the grasp of my understanding in view of the publicly stated positions on this issue by the likes of Steve Chalke and Brian McLaren who would certainly not be speaking ‘from within that context’.

It is all the more baffling in the light of the comments attributed to I presume yourself in the Spring Harvest Press Release of 4th April 2007 that states –

The Rt Revd Pete Broadbent, Bishop of Willesden and Team Leader of the Spring Harvest Leadership Team, stated in response; ‘You cannot read the Old Testament and New Testament .. and blank out an entirety of language and concept and understanding that means that we are guilty sinners, we need our sins to be paid for and we need Jesus Christ to die for us. That is what the Creeds say, it is what the Bible says and you cannot rewrite them. You cannot understand Jesus Christ without understanding Old Testament atonement material.’

Turning now to your personal comments about me you have accused me of ‘vilifying’ (speaking ill of) certain people. To take public statements and actions made and performed by these people and to analyze them in the light of what God’s Word teaches is not according to Acts 17:11 a ‘process of vilification’ but rather a ‘noble process commended by God’.

‘Rantings’ according to the dictionary are ‘ravings in violent language’ – I can only surmise that you view Paul’s inspired words to the Galatians in chapter 1:6-9 similarly as ‘rantings’ and not as a warning designed for the eternal well being of those who would take serious note of what he was saying about false teachers and their false gospels.

I had been in 2 minds about whether or not to pen an article about Spring Harvest and another ‘Christian’ festival where Brian McLaren is scheduled to speak but thanks to your email I am now fully persuaded on the course of action to be followed.

Yours for Christ’s glory and true gospel

  • Cecil Andrews
  • Northern Ireland

In the section that I have just reproduced from my original article I have chosen to highlight in red where Mr Broadbent ‘had a pop’ at ‘Take Heed’ when he referred to what he described as my ‘rantings’ and then I have also highlighted my subsequent definition of that word as being ‘ravings in violent language’. 

Am I wrong in thinking that Mr Broadbent’s unkind comments in the wake of the engagement of Prince William to Kate Middleton bear all the genuine hallmarks of ‘rantings’ – I think not. 

The Anglican church has seriously departed from the teachings of the Word of God on many issues and the behaviour and language of Peter Broadbent in relation to the Royal Engagement, coupled with his reaction to my legitimate concerns about his double-mindedness on the question of ‘Penal Substitution,’ [on the one hand his defending of it and then on the other his defending of Steve Chalke, a denier of it] suggest to me that Mr Broadbent is clearly in the wrong job and perhaps his current suspension should be made permanent. 

Cecil Andrews – ‘Take Heed’ Ministries – 15th December 2010