Anglican Centre in Rome

We must challenge belief in Jesus' physical resurrection, Anglican leader claims - video

Sun 13 Jan 2019
By Alex Williams

The Archbishop of Canterbury's new ambassador to the Vatican has become the focus of a backlash after he said Christians should be "set free" from the view Jesus' resurrection was "a physical event".

Dr John Shepherd's appointment last week as interim director of the Anglican Centre in Rome.

But his suitability for the role has been questioned after video footage emerged of him appearing to question the traditional Christian understanding of Christ being raised from the death.


During a sermon delivered in Easter 2008, he said: "The resurrection of Jesus ought not to be seen in physical terms, but as a new spiritual reality.

"It is important for Christians to be set free from the idea that the resurrection was an extraordinary physical event which restored to life Jesus' original earthly body."

The comments - made when the Dr John was dean of St George's Cathedral in Perth, Western Australia - attracted criticism from the Anglican evangelical group Church Society.


Director, Dr Lee Gatiss wrote on Twitter: " We need clergy who actually believe that Jesus rose again from death - so basic!"

Dr John Shepherd continued: "...Jesus' early followers felt His presence after His death as strongly as if it were a physical presence and incorporated this sense of a resurrection experience into their gospel accounts.

"But they're not historical records as we would expect history to be written today; they are symbolic images of the breaking through of the resurrection spirit into human lives.


Member of the Church of England's governing body, Dr Ian Paul told the Sunday Telegraph: "Is this a good moment to appoint as the Archbishop's envoy to Rome someone who doesn't believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus?"

Dr Stephen Platten, head of governors at the Anglican Centre in Rome told the newspaper Dr John Shepherd "emphatically believes in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

He added: "It's a matter of how one understands that."

A Lambeth Palace spokesperson told the Sunday Telegraph interim appointments were made by the Centre directly but "due diligence" was used when appointing him.

Wikimedia Commons


The Centre told Premier: "Dr Shepherd will not be available for comment until he takes up his post at the end of this month.

"In the meantime, the Governors are assured of the fitness and suitability of Dr Shepherd for the role he is temporarily undertaking."

Former director of the Anglican Centre in Rome, Archbishop Bernard Ntahoturi, resigned shortly before Christmas last year over alleged sexual misconduct.

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