Wednesday, 21 November 2007

This is what we live with.

Something I love about the blogosphere is that it helps remind me that Anglicanism is more than just the Sydney Evangelical monoculture, and that in many parts of the world congregations embracing a more inclusive theology are not forced to live below the radar lest they draw too much attention to themselves. Dissent in these places doesn't invariably result in the appointment of a "bible-believing” clergyman to crush the “troublemakers” and steer everyone back onto the approved “biblical” track.

Yet the blogosphere’s downside is that it also forces me to remember just how insane the situation here has become, and that can be depressing. There is no way, for example, Akinola could ever have been appointed bishop in Sydney: his love of lurid (and often downright funny) vestments would brand him as “popish”, “liberal” and “unscriptural”. My international friends consider him an arch conservative, but here it’s unlikely he’d even be granted a license, since his clerical get-up flags him as "unreformed", and thus possibly liberal and sub-Christian. The business suit is our Archbishop's preferred vestment, and prior to my own ordination all candidates were required to sign a statement promising to “never wear a chasuble while in the diocese of Sydney”. Akinola's crazy mitres alone would cause meltdown.

It’s because of this sort of nonsense that I’m not sure a move to “flying bishops” is a necessarily bad thing. If congregations could be established under the oversight of, for example, interstate or New Zealand bishops (or better still, +Robinson) there could finally be an Anglican ministry to the tens of thousands of who’ve been spat on for so long by the Pharisees.

I realize how angry and bitter this will seem to people who’ve never experienced things here, so I’m going to break my own rule against linking to any of the hard-core Sydney sites in order to give an idea of what we’re up against. But first a little background:

Every January the Christian Missionary Society runs a 6 day conference in Katoomba, a mountain resort about 2 ½ hours drive west of Sydney. Known as “Summer School” (but generally abbreviated as “SS”: the imagery this invokes always appears to escape the faithful), it’s a popular gathering for the Sydney diocese’s elite, as well as those who’d like to be.

However this year some are calling for a boycott because one of the advertised speakers is a woman. Yes, a woman with 37 years’ missionary experience and the author of several books, but a woman regardless. Which means the hardliners claiming to represent the Sydney Evangelical orthodoxy believe God has forbidden her to teach if men are present. No, these people aren’t part of the Taliban, but through a quirk of history they control of one of the world’s largest and wealthiest Anglican dioceses. And they believe themselves to be the future of the broader communion.

Three last points before I give the link to this nasty-but-typical gem. Firstly you’ll notice most comments questioning the official misogyny are made anonymously. Even those who disagree with only minor details of the writer’s odious exegesis are not prepared to give their name - that’s because the threat of retribution here is real. Speaking out costs ministries, or those of people you hold dear. Dissidents are actively excluded from parish life.

Secondly, notice how towards the end of the comments the true believers begin complimenting each other on how lovingly they’ve handled the topic and those who disagree with them. Having dismissed people’s relationship with God, their call from God, their ability to read and comprehend Scripture - even their very identity, they then want to believe they’ve done all this “in love”.

Thirdly: if you can bring yourself to read far enough into the comments you’ll see that at the blog’s owner recommending a critic read a tract by one of the Jensens in order to obtain an understanding of Christianity. Not the Bible, but a tract! These people might talk about the Bible ad nauseum, but when it comes to defining the faith they retreat to simplistic and formulaic propositions, not the rich and complex narrative they profess to trust. Jesus first hand is too prickly, too complex. Better to keep him at a distance, filtered through an approved “teacher”.

That’s more than enough from me read this link and reach your own conclusions. If you find it upsetting (and I certainly do) don’t say you haven’t been warned…

… and if you could afterwards please spare a moment to think about those of us trying to change things here, and maybe even to pray in whatever manner feels comfortable for you, we would be really appreciative.



Brian R said...

I have 4 reasons for planning to move to NZ. Hopefully number 1, the govt will go tomorrow. Finance and climate are beyond control and so apparently is the diocese. Sometimes I wish they would leave the Anglican church and let those of us that really love the ideals of Anglicanism carry on, even if we would be much smaller and poorer.

Alcibiades said...

Yes, I feel pretty much the same way. The Matthians won't leave because they know that the resources and facilities would have to remain with the Anglican church. Despite claims to the contrary, their love of the real estate and investment dividends certainly appears to exceed their theological principles. So instead they demand the rest of us change to become like them. Real generous of you, guys...

Still, I'm a lot more optimistic about the Matthian's "1000 year reich" eventually crumbling than I used to be. When I see idiocy like that on this link it seems just a matter of time before the regime implodes: no cult can sustain this degree of hair-splitting without eventually eating itself.

At the same time many of the "alternative" parishes are consistently growing - despite the official line that only the hardliners are doing anything. The reality is that most Matthian congregations are largely comprised of transfers from elswhere - particularly those in search of a mega-church experience. When these people are burnt out (and they invariably are) I very much doubt the Matthian leaders will be very interested in picking up the pieces. Which, God willing, is likely to result is some very significant changes if the rest of us are prepared to follow Christ's command to care for those who have been trampled and crushed by the religious machines ...