Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.
Allow me to be your guide... and discover the history of Oxford with an Oxford historian.
I offer a wide range of guided walks around the city and university. These can be a general introduction to the history and architecture or looking at specific themes and subjects.
I am a Catholic and a historian based in Oxford, where I am a member of Oriel College. My research, for a long delayed D.Phil., is a study of Richard Fleming, Bishop of Lincoln in the second decade of the fifteenth century. I also work as a freelance tutor in History and as an independent tour guide.
I was received into the Church in 2005 and am a Brother of the External Oratory of St Philip Neri at the Oxford Oratory.
Today's newspapers have reports of a speech made here in Christ Church cathedral in Oxford last night by the Prime Minister in which he said that the Church of England should be proclaiming traditional Christian teaching with more vigour. This he based partly on the point that if the Archbishop of Canterbury feels able to comment on politics (and who is indeed prone to comment on any and everything at the drop of a mitre) then he as a layman in public life can comment on the ecclesiastical sphere. A fair point. Unlike some of his recent predecessors the Prime Minister clearly does "do God."A good point. He stresses that this is a Christian country and that churchmen should not be afraid to assert the teachings of the faith and not to lie down passively in the face of opposition or rivals. Another good point.
The Prime Minister, speaking at an occasion to commemorate the 1611 Bible translation, stressed Biblical teaching as a moral basis for social life. From what else I have read of his views in these matters I think Mr Cameron understands this in a very interior way - faith is a matter of personal conviction and behaviour above all, and less a matter of structure and organisation.
I have to point out that this is not the historic understanding of Christianity of either the established Church in this land over the centuries - Catholic or Anglican - nor of the Conservative Party. A few weeks ago the Prime Minister was telling his party conference he believed in same-sex marriages because he was a Conservative, not in spite of it. Now he may be able to believe both - you can be a Christian in public life and at the same time support something which is against the clear tradition of the faith. His attitude to abortion may well be the same. It is liberal, libertarian - but not truly Christian or Conservative.
I do not want to be grudging - a Prime Minister with a concern for belief and spiritual values which he is prepared to voice is infinitely better (well, let's face it, anyone or anything would be) better than the sanctimonious and hypocritical Mr Blair. If, however, Mr Cameron sees Conservatism as a form of Christian Democracy, it really has to be more than words and telling churchmen to do their job - much as that needs to be done in certain cases. The eminently Biblical Epistle of St James has something to say about faith and works.