The former Bishop of Rochester, Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, has given the first Toon Lecture, which was established in honour of the late Dr Peter Toon, who died in 2009.
Peter Toon was a Yorkshireman, Anglican minister, theologian and church historian. He served at various times as librarian at Latimer House in Oxford, curate of St Ebbe’s, Oxford, and tutor at Oak Hill Theological College. After a brief spell in County Durham, he then served US churches until nearly the end of his life.
He was president of the Prayer Book Society in the USA, but eventually returned to serve as priest-in-charge of a Staffordshire village church.
He wrote around 40 books and numerous essays and articles on a wide variety of topics, from Puritanism and popular doctrinal works, to spirituality and liturgy. He leaves behind his beloved wife of more than 48 years, Vita, and their daughter, Deborah.
It has been with their help that this new annual lectureship has been established, in the hope that it will contribute to the strengthening of God’s church.
The inaugural lecture, on 16 April, was preceded by evening prayer in the chapel at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford. It was led by Canon David Wheaton, former principal of Oak Hill, with involvement from several others, including Rev. Lee Gatiss, who is Director of Church Society and who organised the occasion.
Justification by faith
Before the lecture itself, as a special honour to Vita Toon, who had travelled all the way from California for the event, Alistair Macdonald-Radcliff made a special presentation to her on behalf of the Prayer Book Society.
Dr Nazir-Ali, who gave the lecture, is of course no stranger to Oxford and to controversy. His latest book Triple jeopardy for the West examines the very hot topics of aggressive secularism, radical Islam, and multiculturalism.
He is currently the President of the Oxford Centre for Training, Research, Advocacy, and Dialogue, and his subject for the lecture was what the 39 Articles call the ‘most wholesome doctrine’ of justification by faith.
In a tour-de-force, Bishop Michael tackled the subject exegetically, historically, theologically and pastorally. It was stretching, though intelligible for the ordinary lay Christian, and demonstrated good evidence of keeping up with contemporary scholarship on this subject.
The packed lecture room at Wycliffe Hall — standing room only — enjoyed his presentation, which ranged from Genesis 15 and Galatians 3 to Augustine, the Reformers, the Council of Trent, Tom Wright, John Piper and Benedict XVI.
Attendees included a significant number of younger people and those who had never met Dr Toon personally, as well as friends, family and former colleagues.
The audio of the lecture is available to listen to on the Church Society web site. CDs are also available for purchase.