Report on Out of Africa Lecture

A report on the Instead of Lambeth Lecture entitled ‘Out of Africa’
given by Jeremy Vine in the Lecture Theatre of the British Academy,
London, on Tuesday 27 February 2001.

On Tuesday evening, 27 February 2001, the Chairman of the Society, Professor David Daniell welcomed a goodly number of Tyndale enthusiasts to the British Academy lecture theatre at Carlton House Terrace. He told the audience, not all of whom were members, a little about the Tyndale Society, which was formed in 1995 at an occasion in the British Library. There are now over 340 members across the world.

Professor Daniell went on to tell us about the Ploughboy Group which helps to arrange various events throughout the year: amongst forthcoming events are a weekend at Wells from 26-27 May 2001; the 7th Annual Lambeth Lecture by the Bishop of Rochester, The Rt. Rev. Dr. Michael Nazir-Ali and a Conference to be held from 26-28 October in Geneva, Switzerland. In 2002 there will be a Tyndale Conference from 28 August - 4 September in Leuven, a city associated with the trial and execution of Tyndale.

The Chairman went on talk about the publications of the Society, the Journal of the Society, which is published three times a year; and its more scholarly Journal Reformation, which is published once a year and is full of learned articles. He added that Deborah Pollard sent greetings to the group from Canada, where she is finalising her Tyndale Concordance and managing the Tyndale Society’s website.

Professor Daniell then explained that this evening’s event is instead of the Lambeth Lecture 2000, which was unable to be held at Lambeth Palace, its traditional venue, owing to the proliferation of millennium celebrations being held there last year.

The Chairman then introduced our speaker, Jeremy Vine, who has had a most distinguished career with the BBC as news correspondent in a number of African countries and was now a presenter of News Night. He has many awards for this TV work and it is a great privilege that he had agreed to speak to the Society.

Jeremy Vine thanked the Chairman for his introduction and recalled their long acquaintance whilst working at the BBC. He then asked us if anyone had ever said anything to you of such force that the instant you heard it you knew you would remember it forever.

The speaker supposed that there are people who make a living doing this, the wordsmiths, the phrasemakers of the day, or in the case of his favourite poet W.H. Auden, phrasemaker of the century - it was said, ‘Old men will die with the first lines of Auden’s poems on their lips’ - so famous were his openings:

Look stranger, on this island now, the leaping light for your delight discovers …

Control of the passes was he saw, the key to this new district - but who would get it?

Lay your sleeping head, my love, human on my faithless arm.

He went on to say that he was not really talking about public phrasemaking, but about times when someone has said something personal to you and it rattles into your mind and you know it has landed in a place from which it will never be dislodged. Tyndale was good at telling us the truth with simplicity and in this complicated world there is precious little of that about. In fact, Tyndale reaches so powerfully into the present day that his phrase ‘the fat of the land’ was used as the title of the 1997 album by a rock band called The Prodigy.

During his time in Africa he travelled all over South Africa, as well as visiting Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mali, Congo, Sudan, Eritrea, Angola, Sierra Leone, Djibouti, Nigeria, Algeria, Kenya, Namibia, Guinea, Mauritius and Uganda. That time spend moving around and looking has made what Tyndale did exciting and relevant all over again, and more up to date than even the latest DVD or bubble jet. Children, and adults, in Africa may not have electricity or computer equipment, but they do have a hunger to learn and to read. There in the people of Africa, thirsty for knowledge, we have the modern definition of Tyndale’s ploughboy - a living argument for fresh recognition of why Tyndale did what he did - and who he did it for.

Reading the Tyndale story you realise that his fight, to bring God’s word to those who are without it, is still there to be fought today.

At the end of the lecture the group applauded the speaker enthusiastically. We then adjourned to enjoy a glass of wine and individuals were able to meet Jeremy Vine and chat to him about his talk. Supper was served later and the whole evening was thoroughly enjoyed by all participants.

Joan Wilson

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