Mike Ovey, Lee Gatiss & Stephen Sizer

In early 2015, the late Rev Dr Mike Ovey, who was a member of Church Society’s council wrote two papers in 2015 exploring the conservative evangelical Anglican view of bishops, and he circulated these papers among his fellow leaders. One of those papers, titled simply, “We want our own bishops”, is available here.

(Note: the paper was originally marked “Confidential”. It was nonetheless widely circulated – it is the “widely circulated paper” referred to here.)

On page 8 of that paper, Dr Ovey used the phrase “monarchical presbyter” to describe a particular model of church governance. This appears to have been a novel phrase coined by Dr Ovey himself:

Rev Dr Lee Gatiss, Church Society Director, subsequently used the same phrase in precisely the same way – for example, in this blog post of February 2020:

Lee Gatiss also used the phrase, in precisely the same way, in his own article, ‘The Anglican Doctrine of the Visible Church’, which was published in The Evangelical Quarterly in January 2020: 

Why is this significant? 

This is significant because it strongly suggests that Dr Gatiss was familiar with Dr Ovey’s paper. (It would in any case be very, very strange if Dr Ovey’s “widely circulated” paper did not cross the desk or inbox of Dr Gatiss, who clearly had a close relationship with Dr Ovey and who wrote a moving eulogy following the latter’s untimely death.)

This, in turn, is significant, because Dr Ovey’s paper opened with the following very obvious allusion to Stephen Sizer: 

And this, in turn, is significant, because it lends the lie to Lee Gatiss’s claim that, prior to July 2020, he had been unaware of Stephen Sizer’s antisemitic activity:

“I personally find many of the things now pointed out in his social media and other engagements to be offensive and sometimes ridiculous. I don’t follow him on social media so had not seen these before, or had them pointed out to me as far as I can recall.”

This claim would require us to believe either that a scholar as careful and thorough as Dr Gatiss was unfamiliar with Dr Ovey’s words; or that he was familiar with them, but thought it unimportant to find out any more details about the “senior evangelical church leader… accused of anti-semitism”. Either such explanation is preposterous. 

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