Nicky Gumbel is Vicar of Holy Trinity Brompton, the largest Anglican church in Britain with a regular attendance of around 4, people - most aged between 18 and He is the pioneer of the Alpha course, a session introduction to the Christian faith now running all over the world. Cantab and practised as a barrister from In , he went to Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, to read theology M.
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Share via Email Most Alpha courses focus on a residential weekend, where you are whisked off to a nice country retreat, and over two days are encouraged to experience the Holy Spirit. For some people, this involves glossalalia , or talking in tongues. As penance, I sought out someone far more central to the Alpha phenomenon than the Holy Spirit. Alpha is arguably the most successful tool of evangelical Christianity in recent years, and Gumbel is the man who has designed and driven it.
It now has a presence in countries, in languages and they claim 13 million participants worldwide. He is a prolific writer, and appears in the myriad DVDs that accompany the course. For many people, Nicky Gumbel is Alpha, and that makes him one of the most influential men in modern Christianity. When I met him at his home, the Holy Trinity Brompton vicarage, he answered the door with a big dollop of jam on his trousers, which his very charming wife helped him with.
We spoke for 90 minutes and covered a lot of ground. When I ask him how the Anglican communion perceives Alpha, his response was unequivocally positive. I hear it differently. My opinion is that many senior members of the General Synod tolerate Alpha because in an age of dwindling church attendance, Alpha bucks that trend and appeals to and galvanises an important demographic that will soon vanish.
He seems unaware of scientific research on the subject, and asserts that it is supernatural in origin. Naturally, I disagree. He claims ignorance when I suggest that sometimes it looks just like parishioners being whipped into rapturous Pentecostal frenzy. Alpha is evangelical, charismatic and conservative.
These are all reasons why some Christians find it problematic. But Gumbel takes issue with the labels. Our course leader, Toby, also does this: when I describe him as a liberal, he shudders in mock horror. And no bigger wedge is driving that schism than the "gay issue". I have come across many people accusing Alpha and evangelical Christianity in general of being homophobic.
Whether it is or not is difficult to ascertain, but I believe that if people feel and believe that they are born gay, then it is not acceptable to automatically assume that they are sinful for being so. Alpha does just that, no matter how gently they couch it. We welcome everybody regardless of age, sex, race or sexual orientation. AR: But because marriage is the exclusive preserve of hetero couples, homosexual sex is therefore a sin.
Can homosexuality be healed? NG: Everybody needs healing. My understanding of human beings is that we were created in the image of God, but we are all fallen, and Jesus died for us so that we can be redeemed.
And in every area of our life we need to be healed and restored and to become more Christ-like. Our position on homosexuality is exactly the same as the rest of the church. Our views are exactly the same as the views that I am, in a sense, under authority to have.
These are the views of the Anglican church. Certainly, the proclaimed welcome of gay people into Alpha, coupled with their insistence that gay sex is a sin, leads me to think that celibacy is what Alpha wants. Gumbel left the interview to play squash with a gay friend. I see Alpha as a political movement, one whose aim is to subtly spread evangelical conservative Christianity across denominations and cultures, just like 19th century missionaries.
If the attendance figures are even half true, it is enormously powerful. Its boss told me that he was not at all committed to Alpha, just to Christ. That humility is typical for Nicky Gumbel. It seems unlikely that a man who was not an adept player could rise to such an important position. But then again, would Machiavelli have jam on his trousers?
Nicky Gumbel Quotes About Jesus