In seeking to renew Christian wisdom for the contemporary church, the Davenant Institute is committed to defending and propagating historic Christian doctrinal and moral orthodoxy.
Last Wednesday, we announced on social media our intention to publish a volume reflecting on the significance of the upcoming coronation of King Charles III. Titled Coronation: Sovereignty, Ceremony, Theology, it was to feature edited interviews with three prominent British theologians and scholars: John Milbank, Alison Milbank, and Robin Ward. Shortly after making this announcement, we received messages of concern from longtime Davenant friends and associates about whether this publication was consistent with our core commitments, given John Milbank’s statements supporting same-sex unions and advocating church blessings of them.
Our editorial team were unaware of those views and would not have greenlighted the collaboration had they known, and after prayerful consultation and deliberation, we advised the volume editors, Alastair and Susannah Roberts, that we felt we should not move forward with the project, and it would be a better fit for another publisher. They assented, and after notifying the interviewees we issued a brief statement apologizing for our mistake last Thursday. Any such decision should not be taken lightly, and given the confusion it might sow among our readers and supporters, a fuller explanation is in order.
As an academic institution, Davenant seeks to foster an open and honest exchange of ideas that engages the very best scholarship in the fields of theology, philosophy, church history, and more. As an institution that seeks to serve churches anchored in the magisterial Protestant confessions, we strive to offer a consistently faithful and orthodox perspective to our readers and students. These two poles of our mission can sometimes be in tension, and we do our utmost to navigate wisely between them, calibrating based on context and audience.
In all of our work, we ask that those who work for us subscribe to the essentials of confessional Protestantism, including the issues of moral orthodoxy that have recently become such a flashpoint in the modern West. Indeed, Davenant was founded in large part to provide a richer historical and intellectual toolkit for equipping Christians today to think clearly and faithfully about such issues. And we will not publish viewpoints contradicting those core confessional commitments, except perhaps in specific point-counterpoint exchanges.
However, we are still committed to engaging with those who hold divergent views on certain key issues, and learning from them as appropriate in areas where they have expertise. Thus we have invited a wide range of interviewees onto our podcasts and occasionally into our Ad Fontes journal, either to spar with them where we disagree or to share their insights on topics where we agree. And we remain committed to doing so—all the more so, indeed, in an age where so many prefer to retreat into echo-chambers.
However, when it comes to book projects, we are necessarily more selective. A book is weightier and more permanent, and as Davenant publishes only 6-8 books a year, we restrict ourselves to book projects and author collaborations that are a clear mission fit and that together present a coherent set of offerings and perspectives. This includes seeking to offer a clear and orthodox voice on issues of human sexuality. Given the extent to which moral revisionism on this issue has divided the very church that Charles III will take vows to defend at the coronation, we judged that it would be inappropriate to move forward with this book project as conceived.
Obviously, this is something we should have realized sooner, and we will be taking steps to improve our editorial processes and internal communications going forward.
Whatever our disagreements, Dr. Milbank is an eminent scholar whose work we respect, with valuable insights to offer on the topic at hand, and did not deserve to be the victim of such editorial whiplash. We look forward to reading and engaging with the book when it appears from another publisher. However, the project was still in pre-publication, and if it was not the right book for us to publish, better to make that decision late than to persist stubbornly in the wrong course. We did not act to placate a Twitter mob against our better judgments; we acted because, in light of new information we received about a headlined contributor, our better judgment superseded our earlier judgment.
We are sorry for the dismay this caused to our supporters, and we apologize particularly to those who invested their time and resources in the project, especially the interviewees, who had so generously given us their time and expertise, asking no payment. We ask their forgiveness.
No fault in this case rested with the book’s editors, Alastair and Susannah Roberts, who acted in good faith in approaching the interviewees with the understanding that the project had Davenant’s backing. They have been consistent and outspoken in their defense of Protestant orthodoxy and continue to serve the Davenant Institute and its mission of renewing Christian wisdom for the contemporary church.
Going forward we will seek to further clarify our approach to collaborations of this sort in a way that is consistent with our mission and the needs of the church in our time. As our organization expands rapidly, we seek to speak with candor, clarity, and principle into several very different realms of discourse, which can readily generate confusion.
These are common growing pains and require serious and prayerful discussion to navigate with wisdom. We are having such internal discussions now as an organization, to reaffirm our core commitments while seeking to extend our witness into new contexts. Davenant is at a very exciting time in its development and we appreciate our supporters’ prayers, commitment, and sharpening questions as we seek to serve in our many different contexts. We wish to be faithful and effective in the ministry of Christ and to that end, we need to hear the thoughtful and charitable criticisms of our friends.