Friday, 26 December 2008

Merry Christmas!!

Hi everyone - just a quick post to let you all know the Duck Noodle Gang is still alive, and, more importantly, to wish you all the very best for this time of year.

We're in New Zealand, where I'd hoped to write the long overdue emails to everyone I've been determined to send off while enjoying a respite from the chaos which is the life of a house-dad... but would you believe I left my notepad at home on the morning of our departure, and have instead had to endure an enforced 3 week internet abstinence? Yes, I know how dumb that was...

So instead all I can say is there'll be plenty of photos posted here when I get back, along with an article from the Christchurch paper by Bishop Victoria (the new woman Bishop), which is one of the most impressive Christmas messages ever. I'll also be lifting the game here a little following the completion of a few other projects, which means I can in all honesty promise at least more than the one post a month this place has dwindled down to.

And what else? Only this - God bless each and everyone of you!

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Remembrance Day 2008: Lest We Forget.

The Pelicans and I were in a shopping centre at 11am this morning: I’d hoped to be somewhere a little more respectful by then, but getting anything done with two small children and two crazy dogs always takes three times as long as you expect. which is why we found ourselves walking through the foodcourt when a voice came over the public address system calling for one minute’s silence.

It was wonderful to see how everyone stopped what they were doing, and turned their thoughts to that day 90 years ago when the war to end wars itself ended. I’ve no doubt each one of the more than 60,000 Australians killed would have been more than a little touched to see a world that they couldn’t have imagined stop in their honour – but I’m also pretty certain they’d rather have lived to grow old; to take their own children and grandchildren shopping.

To put the carnage in perspective: about 1 in 80 Australians was killed. Another 270,000 were injured: that’s about one for every eighteen men, women and children living here in 1914. By the end of the war it was impossible to walk more than 100 metres along any street of any town in country and not pass a home struck by tragedy.

Miss Madam was intrigued by the silence, which was followed by the Last Post and the Ode. Toddlers have never been famous for their discretion, but she managed to not ask the inevitable questions too loudly. I explained about the daddies and uncles who never came home, and how their one comfort had been the hope that they were making the world a better place for children like her.

Later in the afternoon we went to a memorial on the edge of the bushland not far from our home. It’s a 1/8th size carving of the Sphinx made in the 1920’s by a patient of the returned servicemen’s convalescent hospital which was once nearby.

A relatively isolated place, there’s a strange spirituality that probably means it isn’t somewhere parents normally take children as young as ours – but I think the diggers would have enjoyed the sound of their laughter.

And together we said "thank you", and remembered what they fought to achieve for us all...

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Fr. John Hope

In the comments of a recent post Brian mentioned the late Fr. John Hope of Christ Church St. Laurence, one of my greatest heroes. Under his leadership from 1926 to 1964 his church - one of Sydney’s few Anglo-Catholic parishes, and probably the best known - grew spectacularly, despite blatant attempts by the diocesan hierarchy to close it and distribute the assets to congregations toeing the party line. At a time when indigenous Australians were not even entitled to citizenship, and most church leaders were actively participating in the genocidal Stolen Generation policies, he donated property for the foundation of Australia’s first self-managed Aboriginal educational facility. There’s a great little biography of him on the Christ Church web site here, but my favorite anecdote about him comes from L. C. Rodd’s John Hope of Christ Church St Laurence.

Determined to do something once and for all about the “Popish superstition” at Railway Square, the belligerent Archbishop Mowll decided during a meeting in the 1940’s to attack Fr. Hope directly by asking if he was aware that “certain types” of men comprised a significant part of his congregation. “Most certainly” growled Fr. Hope in reply while looking the Archbishop directly in the eyes, “And is it not a good thing that these people so dear to our Lord have somewhere they can go?”

Priests don’t come much tougher than that. God bless him.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Forward in Faith: Bringing the World Lay Presidency.

Perhaps the most shocked in the Australian church by the Sydney synod’s overwhelming support for lay/diaconal presidency should be the über-Catholic Diocese of Ballarat: the person bringing the motion was none other than their very own Canon Theologian Bishop Glenn Davies of North Sydney.

As part of the strange coalition formed to block people from following God’s to ministry in 2000 the former Bishop of Ballarat, +David Silk, made the unusual appointment of (then) Dr. Davies to this role: given Davies’ allegiance to hyper-Calvinists like the World Reformed Fellowship as well as his post-graduate qualification from Westminster, one might have thought +Silk could have found a more suitable candidate for the deeply Tractarian Ballarat. Still, bigotry makes for odd bedfellows, and the lecturer once known to a small group of ne’er-do-wells as “Dr. Bean” became Ballarat’s man. And anyone not understanding the nickname should take a close look at +Davies’ picture on the left before clicking here. Meanwhile anyone who does understand how the man who insisted his students believe turning one’s back to the congregation while presiding, or referring to the communion table as an altar are examples of “wicked superstitious popery” could proudly advertise his seat in a Cathedral so Catholic it makes the Vatican look moderate should only drop me an explanatory note if they can do so without using the word “hypocrite”.

Nor are Ballarat hard-liners trying to comfort themselves by claiming the appointment no longer stands; despite diocesan legislation specifying the appointment of Canon Theologian is for at most 3 years plus one further 3 year term, and thus should have by now expired, a call this morning to Ballarat diocesan offices resulted in the chirpy voice answering the phone informing me that +Davies does indeed still hold the post, as his own web site states. It’s worth noting, however, that the voice became considerably less chirpy when I explained my reason for calling… ;-)

Now I know this sounds like something from Father Christian Troll, but I can’t be the only one who finds it hilarious that lay presidency was introduced to the Anglican Communion by the Canon Theologian of one of the most loyal Forward in Faith dioceses in the world!

Monday, 27 October 2008

Disconnect '09

Just spotted this on the Sydney Anglican website and I couldn't help myself: it seems a Rector in Sydney's far west can't find clergy willing to help start a congregation in a new neighboring satellite suburb.

If he's interested I'll be more than happy to provide him with a list of people who'd jump at the chance, and who are all currently doing fantastic work in churches that exist under the official Matthian party-line radar - although since most of the names are people who happen to be gay/female/divorced/remarried/not bigots/moderate Catholics means I won't hold my breath waiting for his call...

Wonder if the fact that this particular area is a world away from the comfortable tertiary-educated "areas of strategic ministry" much loved by the Jensens has anything to do with the bright young evangelical things' reticence to stick their hands up? Surely not.

…. I’m Back. (Sorry!)

It’s been an awfully long time since I’ve posted anything here, and the first thing I have to do is thank everyone who’s left notes asking if everything is ok. When I started this thing I never imagined there was such a great community of people out there who really do care about each other – including some semi-sane mischief-maker on what is for most of you the other side of the world. I’ll try and email all of you who’ve written personally as time permits – till then please accept my thanks here as an indication of how much your thoughts have been appreciated.

The truth is life in the Duck Noodle Gang has been about as wonderful as I think things can get: hectic and chaotic (I’m typing this with my left hand while feeding apple, banana & berries mush to a tired &teething Mr. Eight-Month-Old with the right, while Miss Two-and-a-Half is teaching our dogs the Alphabet Song), but magic.

As part of a DNG family decision I’ve become a full-time housedad; juggling bottles, nappies, and toddler-tantrums with programming work during the kid’s nap-times (I’ve taught myself php over the past 4 weeks, and a major new project is just about completed!) – but I’m afraid Caliban’s Dream has become a temporary casualty of all this activity.

Which doesn’t mean I haven’t been following everyone else’s blogs, just that I’ve lacked the brain-power to comment in any meaningful way. What little energy I’ve had free to spare on the ‘net has been absorbed by “interacting” (let the reader understand ;-) with a wicked old “uncle” (ditto) of mine whose blog has been generating an unbelievable amount of traffic – and that’s the most I’ll say on that particular subject, but anyone feeling confused (and I know I would be ;-) is welcome to email…

Of a much more interesting (to us, at any rate) note is that we’ve moved house again. After living in the inner-city for eighteen years it seemed time for a shift to the ‘burbs in preparation for a much bigger move in the new year (of which I’ll say more when it gets nearer). Much to my own bemusement we’re now living on the leafy North Shore, on the edge of the Protestant bible belt and surrounded by bushland. The whole thing feels kind of weird, but fun. Instead of a tiny courtyard we’ve now got a large backyard in which the dogs have turned semi-feral, and kookaburras are laughing raucously in the trees as I write this. Somehow I think they’re making a better comment on the current Sydney Anglican debacle than I’ll ever mange to post…

So instead of diving straight into that particularly ugly evangelical pissing contest, I think it’s better to first play a bit of music to give an idea of life on Planet Caliban:

First up is 90’s Oz band Frente - “Accidentally Kelly Street”. Yeah – I know it’s hopelessly twee, but Missy Two and I love dancing to it (no: I won’t post a video of me doing that) and us house-daddies know better than to argue music with a toddler. Especially not when the song says more about life than I’d have dreamt possible.

The second is a classic piece of Brit-pop, but the feeling’s the same. And when we start jumping around to this one even Blackstar and Fiver want to join in. Which is no mean feat: it takes a lot to drag them away from the important work of digging up lizards and barking at the sulphur-crested cockatoos partying on the roof…

God bless the lot of ya!

Monday, 8 September 2008

They've started up again...

For the past few weeks things have been pretty quite on the Sydney Anglican diocese front: it's been as if they've been letting the world catch up to them in the pompous hypocrite stakes.

Unfortunately the calm has well and truly ended: Archbishop Jensen has issued a statement so breath-taking that I can't even bring myself to link to it. Off-Topic Allowed provide a link and a critique that helps fend off the inevitable depression which follows reading it. Personally I don't know which is more disturbing: that someone proclaiming themselves to be a Christian can come out with such idiocy - or that he obviously actually believes his own drivel.

Hot on his heels comes the Archbishop's little brother and Dean, Phillip who's been working hard to show the media he's just as crazy: today's Sydney Morning Herald features a front page article detailing his latest efforts at side-lining the Cathedral's internationally recognised choir and organist.

In an attempt to defend the Family Firm, an unnamed Cathedral spokesman is reported as telling the paper "The wide range of music being heard at the cathedral is in keeping with a wider range of people now coming through the cathedral doors." What forgets to mention is that while the range may be wider (something friends of mine who've been involved with the Cathedral congregation for a great many years strongly dispute) it's also smaller. and many of those now attending followed Jensen from his previous parish. Perhaps this isn't mentioned because somewhere in the Bible it says any drop in congregation size is only relevant if it occurs in "liberal" churches?

It's not all bad news, though. The spokesman (it's always a man with these clowns - the sky could fall down if they let a mere woman speak on their behalf) continued by citing as proof of the Jensen regime's relevance "the appointment of the cathedral's first 'jazz catechist'." So despite more than a quarter of Sydney's youth having no dedicated outreach workers, we've now got someone "working to reach out to Sydney's jazz community".

Of course this couldn't have anything to do with fact that most of the kids studying jazz at the conservatorium come from Sydney's white-bread Anglican heartland, could it? And please tell me it's just coincidence that a large part of this "outreach" involves presenting "Bible studies" to that same group of kids? Many of whom also come from some of the diocese's most doctrinaire parishes?

No of course it doesn't. Sure countless more kids are into hip-hop and dance, and we're doing everything in our power to ignore and/or alienate them - but hey: it's not as if they're white or anything. And isn't jazz the first thing that comes to everybody's mind when they think of Sydney?

Excuse me: I've got to go and change my son's nappy. At least what's in there isn't pretending to be something else.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Peter Jensen isn't sleeping with any of my friends.

At the start of August the Sydney Mornig Herald ran a story amusingly headlined ”It’s s PJs at PJ’s as clergy seek to bed down Anglicanism” about Archbishop Jensen inviting Sydney clergy for overnight retreats at Bishopscourt, the spectacular mansion in which Sydney Anglican Archbishops reside, in order to explain his Connect 09 mission strategies.

The article mentioned that “Detractors suggest the visits might be used by the archbishop to micromanage parishes and subtly test the orthodoxy of diocesan rectors.” and it should be no surprise to learn that I was indeed one of those detractors. Yet at the same time part of me really did hope this was a genuine attempt on the archbishop’s part to get to know how clergy on the ground are feeling; to hear their thoughts and ideas, and to gain an understanding of their hopes and needs. I’d intended to blog about it, but as I’m currently at home caring for two small and quite severely asthmatic children, while at the same time trying to complete a programming project on the side, life sort of got in the way. Then when Father David Heron gave the matter his usual brilliant attention there didn’t seem anything more I could add.

Then during the course of lunch last week with a dear friend whom against all odds is still ministering in a Sydney parish (which is growing like gangbusters, although with typical modesty he dismisses this as “just transfers from all the Matthian parishes driving people away with their soul-destroying Gnosticism”), his wife, and another mutual friend, a profoundly wise and much-loved Roman priest. Remembering the Bishopscourt sleepovers, I asked my friend if he’d been on his yet, and how it had gone.

“Me?” he exclaimed. “No, I haven’t had an invite, and nor have any of the people who talk to me. It’s only the party-line guys who are getting invited to that. The idea is that they get hyped up and come back to tell the rest of what to do. The Archbishop isn’t interested in hearing what people like me have to say.”

Our Catholic friend was shocked. He’s got his own problems with his local bishop – Cardinal Pell – but can still never get over the way dissenting Sydney Anglicans are treated as if we simply don’t exist. “What do you mean?” he said. “Neither of you are invited? He doesn’t even want to hear what you have to say?”

My friend’s wife laughed. “You’ll get an invitation before Jensen has the slightest interest in hearing what any of these two have to say.” At which we all laughed until the people at other tables were staring at us, and then ordered more wine.

Unless you’ve lived here it’s impossible to understand how hilarious what she said was; and sometimes if you don’t laugh at life in the world’s most conservative Anglican diocese you could just start crying. And then you'll probably never be able to stop.

Hey China: I told you we wouldn't forget.

The Olympics are over and hopefully Australia can regain some sense of perspective on what really matters in life, albeit for just another four years. Meanwhile the Chinese government will undoubtedly be delighted to be able to return to business as usual of imprisoning, torturing, and executing those who dare to have an opinion of their own free from any risk of international scrutiny.

So as a final comment here's a cartoon by Chris Henning published in The Sydney Morning Herald a fortnight back. I looked everywhere to find a copy already online, but it didn't seem to make the web edition. Perhaps it was deemed potentially offensive to Chinese advertisers. So here's a scanned and reposted version instead:

Ee-Aw Represent the ancient Chinese spirit of security. He ensures nothing goes wrong, and no troublemakers ruffle the imperturbable calm of the Central Kingdom as it celebrates the Olympic Games. Ee-Aw looks fierce but he is really very friendly. If you see him chasing Nyah-Nyah, don't worry! The two are old friends.

Fu-fu floats like a cloud above the Games, blessing all with her serene presence. On days when there is lots of Fu-fu, Olympic visitors are encouraged to gather together, look up at the sky and blow as hard as they can to blow Fu-fu away! But take your puffer, dear visitors, in case Fu-fu doesn't get the hint.

Nyah-Nyah loves running away, which is just as well, because she is often being chased! She is the rebellious spirit regrettably present in parts of the motherland. Nyah-Nyah is all right in small doses when Western cameras are present, but when everyone goes home, watch out, Nyah-Nyah! Ee-Aw is coming after you with his big stick.

Bang-bang is the spirit of public relations, so essential to a successful Olympics. Bang-bang is the colour of fireworks, and he is boisterous and noisy. He is also filthy rich after his deals with US TV networks, and he has a remarkably short temper, so it is best to avoid him. If you really want to talk to him, make sure you are very rich and powerful. After all these Games celebrate the People's Republic. They're not for any old riff-raff.

Pan-Pan is a Panda, right? Wrong! He's dressed up like one and he'd like you to think he's one, but really he's from the secret police. Those leaves are his camo hat, so you won't see him up the tree across the road. Don't laugh, dear Olympic guests, or you will end up in the slammer. Also, they contain remote sensing devices so Pan-pan can stand outside your hotel and read your email.

Friday, 8 August 2008

No, Beijing. We have not forgotten.

"Greater love has no one than this:
that a person lay down their life for their friends."
(John 15:13)

Sunday, 3 August 2008

World Youth Day Redux

World Youth Day has come and gone, and Sydney is continues as pretty much the same place it's always been. Yet an image that's stayed with me is of a group led by the gentleman on the right, who were feverishly distributing pamphlets calling for the pilgrims to abandon their faith and convert to Islam.

I can't have looked like good potential Muslim material, because while he and his followers were eagerly thrusting their six page tract at anyone passing by, I actually had to go up and ask for one, which was handed over surprisingly grudgingly. This amazed me, because if I do say so myself I was considerably politer than many people passing by: it doesn't take much imagination to guess the response he received from a large group of young Catholic pilgrims who sounded as if they were from Texas. And to be fair, what sort of reaction did he expect he'd receive by proselytising by the entrance to Hyde Park, at the very heart of WYD festivities?

But despite the spirit in which it was given, I actually read the entire thing; no mean feat given the rather tortured language and tiny print. And it was remarkably like similar leaflets I've received in the past from Christians armed with nothing more than a soapbox, megaphone and and unshakable faith in the certainty of their own dogma. Ok, so the quotes all came from the Koran instead of the Bible, but that was about it. Neither side had taken the time to fairly represent what the other believes, nor, I suspect, would they be capable of doing so - since that would involve making an effort to actually understand them.

Nor did the tract's central argument - that Islam is the only true faith because it's primary text says so - strike me as any more convincing than it's Christian counterpart, that the Bible is an infallible witness because the Bible says it is. If - and it's a big if - you're asking someone to make substantial changes to their life on the basis of how you interpret a particular document I think it's only fair to provide a better argument than that.

Which is not to say I'm entirely without empathy for any street-corner preacher: back in the day I've even done a bit of unsolicited teaching shouting myself, and I must confess that when I was this young man's age I also on occasion handed out some pretty mindless "evangelistic material" - something my friends and wife today view with a mixture of utter disbelief and unbridled mirth. Yet when you're young, and desperate to make sense of a confused and confusing world, it's exciting to think you've found all the answers, and sadly there's never any shortage of old men prepared to send you out and recruit for their empire. The real challenge is maintaining a sense of wonder when those answers turn out to be as cheap and thin as the paper they were printed on. It's then that most people find it much easier to simply stop asking if there might just possibly be something more, and instead fall for the trap of thinking the most profound questions life has to offer involve their mortgage, or the state of the stock exchange or their favourite sporting team.

What I found most fascinating was that a barely disguised undercurrent of sexuality permeated the young Muslim evangelists' efforts in just the same was as it did amongst the Catholic pilgrims. The girls might have been obliged to keep their heads covered (what kind of a deity is so petty as to think anyone is made more virtuous by wrapping stuff around their head?), but nothing could conceal the admiring glances the'd give the boys coming back to base for another handful of tracts.

The girls on the left were in deep conversation with a Catholic leader whose group of kids left him to race ahead and enjoy a little time "off the leash". Somehow I don't think anyone changed faiths as a result of this dialogue, but I did see several of his young charges furtively holding hands while they shared an ice-cream away from his gaze. So nobody can say God didn't use the exchange to bless someone.

By the way, I know the Islamic gear is supposed to be an indication of the wearer's modesty, but I know I can't be the only guy to find the way those long diaphanous dresses accentuate the wearer's thighs and legs as they fall to the ground really sexy. Nor can the the way those tight shirts accentuate the young men's muscular physiques have escaped others' attention. Which in this infidel's theology is part of the way God intended the world to be, and something for which we can all laugh and together offer our praise.

Hello to everyone visting from D-P!

As I'd threatened would happen, my guest post is now up at The World of Doorman-Priest, and so I want to give a special welcome to anyone who's dropped by from there.

Thanks for coming round!

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

... in which the wicked Caliban thanks and is thanked.

I entered the blogosphere after lurking with longing at MadPriest’s incomparable Of Course I Could Be Wrong. Here were people from around the world, it seemed to me, who’d also been chewed up and spat out of the Church to which they’d come seeking solace – and yet who were not only still laughing, but still seeking to engage with the God who refused to discard them.

From there I first drifted - no; actually I clicked with an excitement I hadn’t felt towards matters theological for a decade - to two places: Doorman-Priest’s Doorman’s Journal, which reminded me of a world I’d also once known so long ago - one which was integral to my Vocation; and Wormwood’s Doxy whose irrepressible passion gave me the courage to start speaking out in a way I’d long not dared to contemplate – something I’ve never told her, and for which I really should have thanked her before now.

What’s happened in the past year since then still leaves me stunned: like the children discovering a doorway into Narnia, I’ve discovered a world where people really are - albeit in our own crazy ways – fighting for a world in which Churches are more Christlike, where ridiculing sacred cows and the pompous clerics who ride them is considered an art, and fear of those who’ve made an idol out of what a former lecturer at Moore College once described as “Mono-Method-Mania” (he left before he was sacked;-) is non-existent.

I’ve also been asked to guest-blog at one of those sites – look for me at The World of Doorman-Priest after August 2, and recieved the Arte y pico award from Doxy: two honours which mean more than I can possibly describe without sounding really soppy – and Aussie blokes who’ve spent as much time in the ocean as me don’t like admitting we can get soppy ;-)

The rules of the Arte y pico award are:
1) Pick five blogs that you consider deserve this award for their creativity, design, interesting material, and also for contributing to the blogging community, no matter what language.
2) Each award has to have the name of the author and also a link to his or her blog to be visited by everyone.
3) Each award winner has to show the award and put the name and link to the blog that has given her or him the award itself.
4) Award-winner and the one who has given the prize have to show the link of Arte Y Pico blog, so everyone will know the origin of this award which is here: Arte Y Pico.
Except as I’ve said here before, I don’t always do rules so well, and once again I’m going to break them as soon as they're posted. Or sort of break them: rather than list all five blogs in one post, I’ll break them up over a few posts to keep each blog distinct.

The first one I should have linked to months ago, and have really felt guilty about not having done so, since Christopher Orczy's … ascending and descending… is a place that’s become an integral part of my spiritual nourishment. Written by another rebel here in Sydney, blogs like this not only help remind me God’s Spirit still flourishes here regardless of whatever nonsense comes out of those who think they hold power, but also (and much more importantly) that following Christ in the face of our current storm runs a lot deeper than just raging back at the winds – it’s important to take time out to listen to the One whose concerns are far, far greater than our bickering.

Even more amazingly, Christopher is the only other person I’ve ever encountered who counts Bo Hansson as one of their influences. Which shows he’s not just someone with a theological insight well worth listening to, but also a man of impeccable musical taste and depth.

Thanks and God Bless the lot of you!

Monday, 28 July 2008

Blogger is Casualty of World Youth Day

Ok, so after spending the day wandering around the WYD crowds with two small children, a large pram, and a camera I came home and made my first post of the day's findings. Then I cooked dinner, and Mrs. Caliban and I put the littlies to bed...

...shortly after which I began turning as blue as this WYD "installation", and imitating a stranded fish gasping for breath. Whereupon a panic visit to people who specialise in such things pronounced "asthma" as a result of this wretched @$#%&$#! ongoing flu.

Which leaves me in the present (sort of), having consumed more steroids than a Tour de France team, and thanking assorted pharmaceuticals companies with every breath.

It's funny, because aside from a period when I found myself devoid of marbles, I've always been a fairly healthy out-doors kind of person, so these last few weeks have been a bewildering experience. For me breathing has always been something taken for granted, but there’s nothing like a short spurt of oxygen deprivation to change one’s perspective ;-)

I’m also feeling very grateful for modern medicine (somehow I don’t think ancient therapies involving cobwebs and powdered bits of criminals would have worked nearly as well), and the Australian health insurance system, which isn’t perfect, but sure is a whole lot better than you-know-where. Just a tip for the coming election folks – vote as if your next breath might be your last.

And damn but it feels good to be getting back on top of things!

Thursday, 17 July 2008

The Pilgrims are Coming! (WYD Update #3)

By midday today the streets of the Sydney's central business district were filled with groups like this: in the morning the Pope had made a quick drive-by across the Harbour Bridge and to Government House (which is not where parliament meets, but the official home Queen's state representative), there was a lull while he prepared for his boat trip. Most of the "pilgrims" appeared to fill this time by wandering around waving flags, singing their national anthem, and generally acting like very straight kids who for for the first time in their lives feel kind of important.

Which is probably what most of them are. The kids above were from New Mexico and having the time of their lives: the only really obnoxious group I encountered were a group of Canadians acting more like football hooligans than pilgrims. The picture of them below was taken on the escalators at Martin Place station: the two dark figures at the right are Railway cops coming up to speak to them about the almost-empty coke cans they'd been throwing around on the subway platform.

The most inspiring thing was that despite whole thing being, let's face it, just a giant advertisement for Archbishop Pell's life-denying vision of Christianity, human nature and those wild old hormones that only a wonderfully humorous God could have made in such abundance, kept bobbing up at every turn.

The kids in the back of this picture are from Indonesia, while those in the front (the really cute girls) and the guys on the far right came from (I think) Northern Italy. And I'm not going to risk anyone getting busted by saying which girl I later saw flirting outrageously with the super-cool Indonesian guy in the black t-shirt - but let me tell ya: if I was 17 and had seen them I'd have converted on the spot. If that's Catholicism it's the religion for me, no matter what a bunch of grumpy old guys might claim ;)

Incidentally, check out the kid's shirt up close:

There's no way hard-liners of any demonination would approve of that, and him wearing it struck me as one of the most wonderful things I saw. No matter how hard you might try to keep the human spirit down, it always bounces back up in the end. For this boy it was no doubt just a shirt; something that looks cool he'd bought in an upmarket shop: he looked far too young to think through the theology of wht he was wearing. But for me it was a reminder of why God really does love our crazy species so much. Irrespective of what those who profess to speak in God's name might say.

Forward in Faith's new best friend.

Today is the first day the Pope is actually in town (since last Sunday he's been staying at an Opus Dei property on Sydney's far north-western outskirts) the Pope-on-a-Boat parade takes place, and the media's calling it "Super Thursday". While I won't have any pictures of the flotilla (have you any idea how crowded it is at any of the viewing points? ;-), and I know I've been awfully tardy when it comes to providing other reports (though in my defence not much worth blogging about has happened that other people haven't covered far better, and a return of the dreaded 'flu has left me stuck inside again, drowning in a puddle of bleccchhhhh!) I did drag the two little Duck-Noodles into the World Youth Day central today, and will show what we found...

... but first, in keeping with the spirit of the day, may I present this hilarious opinion-piece from today's Sydney Morning Herald.

You got it: with flawlessly tacky timing Phillip Jensen, Anglican Dean of Sydney and younger brother of the Archbishop (not, of course, that that had anything to do with his appointment) has delivered a sectarian rant pinched directly from one of those "Nuns eat Babies" tracts that were so popular in the early part of last century. "If Martin Luther came into Sydney and saw Roman Catholicism and its Stations of the Cross" says our aspiring acolyte of Ian Paisley, "he'd say, 'Ah, they've cleaned up their act'." But fortunately we have Dean Jensen to see with a clarity Luther lacked, because, he insists, "Things are actually worse than in Luther's day".

You couldn't make this stuff up. Have the Episcopalian Anglo-Catholics who've embraced the Jensens any idea of whom they've entrusted with their future? Are they really that naive?

As for any Roman Catholics reading this: please understand that not every Sydney Anglican is this obnoxious. We mightn't be that crazy about your heirarchy's views on gender, sexuality and contraception, but we're not under any delusions about ours being any better. And we're really proud to consider ourselves part of the same family as you, irrespective of what a few of our idiot relatives might say.

Sindce posting this I've learned Jensen's rant was taken and transcribed by the Herald (without permission) from a presentation on, which helps explain why it's sounds so disjointed and (let's be honest here) badly written. It was published without the Dean's permission, and its timing was beyond his control: it was, in short, printed to stir up a bit of controversy in the newspaper's coverage.

To be fair, the Herald could have used some far worse quotes. Sit through the whole 28 minutes and you won't feel much sympathy for Jensen, who comes across as firmly stuck in the battles of the 16th century, and absolutely convinced that Luther was a card-carrying sydney Anglican.

Friday, 11 July 2008

World Youth Day Update #2

This morning while exploring a ruined 19th century swimming baths, which were built as part of a now closed psychiatric institution (another project of mine involving a truly enlightened Victorian doctor (who was almost certainly gay) which will (hopefully) one day have a web site of its own) with my littlest Duck-Noodle and the Hounds of the Atonement (ok, so one's a terrier-cross, but let's not be picky) we heard the strangest sound coming on the wind across the upper reaches of Sydney Harbor.

It sounded like - I swear I'm not making this up - a group of women singing "whoo-hoo" to the X-Files theme. Given our surroundings it was spooky enough to start the dogs howling, and you've got to remember these are creatures that don't bat an eyelid when I play Rammstein.

Now I've got to confess I always found Scully kind of cute in a purely physical way, but Mulder was the much more interesting of the pair, although I suspect his life would have been a lot simpler if he'd tried a little anti-obsessive medication. For a few moments it wouldn’t have surprised me if either of them jumped out from behind a tree, and I turned on our trusty camera in anticipation.

Looking towards the source of this strange chanting, it seemed to be coming from a group standing in front of the Sydney Boys High School Rowing Club. Zooming in revealed the singers to be a group of nuns: it was then I remembered that next week the Pope-on-a-Boat parade will be passing this way en route to the Sydney Olympic stadium, where he’ll be doing whatever it is Popes do in Olympic stadiums with a couple of hundred thousand young people. Clearly the X-Files is part of this aquatic liturgy, and the Sisters were just rehearsing. Which sure makes a big change from strumming guitars and singing Kum-By-Yah.

When we bought this camera Mrs. Caliban expressed concern that I'd get up to mischief with the high-powered digital zoom. Somehow though I don’t think taking telephoto pictures of Nuns was what she had in mind ;-)

Thursday, 10 July 2008

World Youth Day Update #1

It's taken a surprisingly long time to gather momentum, but Pope Fever is finally hitting Sydney. As a blogger living pretty much in the middle of Ground Zero (the poor young fellow who died of polio in 1925 has been staying about 10 minutes walk from La Casa del Caliban until his room at St. Mary's Cathedral is ready) I consider it my sacred duty to bring everyone the stories that L'Osservatore Romano miss.

Starting out is a sign that perhaps there haven't been as many pilgrims as someone has expected: my office is in a very down-market part of town, and while nicking out to the bank I noticed the shop below - a fly-by-night affair selling crappy fake-label clothing (yeah right, I'm sure those $20 bags are genuine Prada) - has a special on "Official" World Youth Day clothing.

I've zoomed in on two of the signs to make it clearer:

In the interests of investigative journalism I went inside and examined the clothing. It had surprisingly official-looking labels, which just goes to show these are quality counterfeits; right after I'd looked at the them the storekeeper ran over and began checking them to see I hadn't stolen or defaced one - it's that sort of neighbourhood. And since he was so obviously rude about it I took his picture, which had the alarming effect of making him instantly run out the back of his store and hide: why do I suspect the gentleman wasn't too keen to be identified with his wares?

One thing that's certain though: if World Youth Day souvenirs have already slid this far down the totem-pole you can be sure demand in the more pious ends of town is not as high as was anticipated. Or else the Opus Dei heavies are breaking the legs of anyone caught cashing in on their turf.

If anyone wants one of these to impress their friends/local priest/that really cute Catholic guy/girl you've had your eyes on for months let me know I'll happily get you one. At OZ$10 a jumper it'll set you back about US$9.60 + postage.

Although I'm not too sure the guy'll let me back into his shop ;-)

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

The Naked Liturgist

Recently added to the blogroll is Christchurch New Zealand legend Fr. Bosco Peters - check out this clip for an idea of why I'm a fan:

His site Liturgy is the kind of place that helps remind folks like me why Anglicanism is worth fighting for, and that there's a whole lot more to the journey than just the current quarrels.

See for yourself!

Monday, 7 July 2008

It's an anniversary...

Today is the 7th of july, which is the anniversary of the day I met a black-haired flamenco dancer.

These days she's better known in these parts as 'Mrs. Caliban', but to me she'll always be the most beautiful woman in the universe.

And she alone will know why I've posted this clip, but I know she'll be smiling when she sees it.

"Believe in me
Help me believe in anything
I want to be someone who believes."

Sunday, 6 July 2008

The tide turns...

Sorry about the absence folks; for the last 10 days I’ve been marinating in my own mucus with a cold and flu of such virulence I’m convinced it was developed in a laboratory somewhere by a team of ‘reasserters’ with the specific intention of making life miserable for people like me. Ok, so maybe that’s an exaggeration, but it’s no less whacky than some of the stuff that’s been recently flying around the world. “Churches within the Church”, and the Sydney leadership urging North Americans to leave their national church and form a new diocese – even though those pushing them into this idiotic move are on record as saying they won’t do it themselves because they don’t want to lose their impressive property portfolio.

The more I think about all this, the more I wonder if Anglicanism has plunged into some modernist production of King Lear - the kings have become fools, and our only hope of finding leadership and wisdom remains with the fools and jesters. Perhaps the metaphor isn’t so strange; after all, the incarnation - that outrageous point in time and history when God became human – occurred in the face of a human claiming to be God: and by the standards of even our time the Roman Emperor made a pretty convincing job of his charade. But we all know how it ended for him.

Which is why, despite a hacking cough and radioactive yellow slime oozing from my respiratory system (hey: why should my wife, kids & dogs be the only ones having to put up with my moaning ;-), I’ve never been more optimistic about the sad old diocese of Sydney and her future. Sure, our Archbishop’s acolytes see him poised on the brink of giving them a global influence of a magnitude they’ve only previously dared fantasise in their puritanical wet-dreams, but at the end of the day all that’s happening is that a fish from a very small and provincial pond is trying his luck at swimming in the ocean…

… and little fish - even if quite big in their own rockpool - invariably get eaten when their transition to the sea is guided more by hubris than wisdom. Especially if the God of Justice and Love is turning the tide in the opposite direction. I’ve never been much good at predicting the future, but this time the stagnant water that’s been choking so many of us has never looked so close to being flushed away.

I can hear the ‘important’ and ‘powerful’ of the diocese laughing already, but this ne-‘er-do-well has never forgotten Jesus’ crazy notions about seeing God through a child’s eyes. So what’s the bet that this time the powerless might fly further than anyone had dared imagine?

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

GAFCON Leaders Showing their Cracks.

Ok, so this great article in the Guardian has a slightly different heading, but I think mine is funnier.

It shows that what people have been predicting about the coming fall-out between GAFCON buddies has already started coming true, and sure enough, Sydney is playing to grab power in the rift that develops.

Speaking of +Jensen, the last paragraph contains this gem:

"He also expressed doubts about the long-term prospects for Gafcon. 'This is a coalition of people who would not necessarily work together. Will it work? We don't know'."
"We don't know"???? He certainly seemed pretty convinced a week ago - but I guess that's a long time in the company of the Archbishop's fellow 'pilgrims'.

Also of special interest is the suggestion that:
"It is agreed among the clutch of westerners at the conference that the real power will lie with the Australian delegates, not those from Africa."
Depending who the writer's been speaking to this may indeed be the case, but it's a safe bet that it won't last past next Sunday's closing Eucharist. Forward in Faith and their fellow Anglo-Roman hardliners aren't ever going to hand over control to a bunch of Gnostic Puritans who think making the sign of the Cross is blasphemous. And while Sydney's undeniably wealthy, not even +Akinola's foolish enough to believe they'll be as generous as his American friends. Is he?

Lay Presidency (& more lies Sydney style).

Thanks to a tip-off from a certain bizarre rabbit I was cheered to see Sydney’s Anglican Archbishop hasn’t quite managed to make the world forget about his dreams of lay presidency. Writing in The Times, Ruth Gledhill asked +Jensen if he hoped that “one day the entire Anglican Communion would adopt lay presidency, or ‘lay administration’ as he prefers to call it.” The response showed just how desperate Sydney is to keep this off the GAFCON radar:
”'It [lay administration] is a subject we have been talking about in our diocese for 30 years,' he said. But he was aware there was 'considerable disagreement' about it around the Communion, and to date his diocese had held back from engaging with it formally.”
Held back from engaging with it formally??!!!? Excuse me while I choke with laughter. Sydney synod voted to approve lay presidency in November 1999,after which the move was vetoed by (then) Archbishop Goodhew. Once +Jensen had seized the reins it reappeared on the table, and a committee appointed to explore ways getting around the national church’s Appellate Tribunal finding that Lay Presidency could only proceed if first approved by General Syod. To further this end the Act of uniformity was formally repealed by Sydney Synod in 2003: we’re now in a situation where the practice is by no means unusual here, just not mentioned in public lest our new-found best friends remember just who it is they’ve jumped into bed with.

So I guess by “engage with it formally” the Archbishop means “let others know that as far as Sydney’s concerned the issues been decided. Our way.”

To be honest though, sometimes I wonder why anything the Archbishop says should surprise me. An interview printed in yesterday’s Sydney Morning Herald said:
”Dr Jensen said gay men and women had no reason to feel discriminated against by the stance he had taken on human sexuality”
Right. So they can’t be ordained, can’t work for the church in any other capacity, can’t study at the diocese’s theological college, can’t get married, nor express their sexuality in a relationship with someone they love. His Priests can publically refuse the Sacraments to GLBTs without any fear of reproach, he insists same-sex couples are intrinsically incapable of raising happy and emotionally well-balanced children, and is proud of his role in driving the church into schism over one man’s consecration as Bishop.

But gay men and women have got no reason to feel discriminated against. Got that everyone?

At least Father Christian knows when he’s telling lies. The scary thing about the Sydney hierarchy is that they really believe their own bullshit.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

The web is a weird place.

He's Like the Pope to Us! is a real "only on the internet" place. Run by The Jensen Fanclub (who politely gave Caliban's Dream credit after using a picture from here), it's made me laugh out loud. And nothing puts those who must be overcome in their place like laughing at them.

See for yourself.

Monday, 16 June 2008

How I Spent a Winter Weekend.

Mrs. Caliban and the two smallest Duck Noodles were in NZ visiting family last weekend, so the four-legged members of the Gang and I went camping near Hill End, an old gold-mining town about 4 hours driver west of Sydney.

The Australian gold rush began in the 1850s, on the heels of the great 19th century Californian rush, and was no less fervent: in the 20 years from 1850 to 1870 Australia’s population increased by more than 400%. At its peak in 1870 the Hill End area had a population of over 30,000: 51 hotels, 8 churches, 5 schools and 3 newspapers. Today fewer than 100 people live in Hill End and the entire town is classified as a protected historical site.

There were two main reasons for the trip: I wanted to see the Golden Gully – an alluvial goldfield primarily worked by Chinese (whose mines can be identified from the Caucasians' sites by their rounded shape) at the start of the rush, and to (I know how much of a redneck this makes me sound) try out our new SUV (it’s only a small one, so I’m not that much of an enviro-vandal – honest!) on some real 4WD tracks.

The Golden Gully, which was in a now non-existent neighbouring township called Tambaroora is amazing. The temperature was hovering around freezing (hence Fiver’s jacket) as we climbed through the long-abandoned diggings: seeking the gold which had filtered down to the bedrock several thousand miners dug down over fifty feet along about a mile of the river’s course. In the 1850s there’d been gold-panners from every country on earth; now it was silent – we clambered around for several hours and saw nobody.

We did, however, find a mob of large kangaroos – or rather the dogs did. There’s no pictures because I was too busy giving chase: while the ‘roos could easily outrun two inner-city canine warriors the senior male saw no reason to abandon his ground, and was getting ready give a certain Dachshund-Labrador the kick of a lifetime when I managed to catch up. Seeing me the boomer fled, leaving two small heroes convinced they’d defeated a foe the likes of which they’d never imagined existed.

Soon afterwards they found a wombat burrow (with grumbling resident inside) and I unsportingly decided it was time for leads to go back on.

And then the drive home along the old road; a 4WD-only track that needed low-ratio for most of the way: lots of mud, hills and a spectacular drop-off with no guard-rail.

Sorry, but I was too busy watching the road (white-knuckle stuff by my standards;-) to take any pictures during the really scenic stretches: I grabbed these during one of the river crossings.

Finally a late lunch and photograph at the track’s end: I suspect if Mrs. Caliban had seen all the warnings there’s no way she’d have let us go…

… but I know a funny-looking black dog and his little mate (who was too excited to stand still and pose) enjoyed themselves so much that they're not telling anyone.

Woe to you, you Pharisees...

An article posted at by the Diocesan spin-doctor on June 13 the diocese claims GAFCON is “about gospel not gays”. Yet in a piece by the same person posted today (“A buzz about the future”) I counted no few than 9 references to Christians in same-sex relationships or the Church’s response to them – no mean figure given it's only 24 paragraphs long. So tell us all again why we should believe homosexuality has no bearing upon Sydney’s decision to participate in GAFCON?

Is it any wonder the masses aren’t queuing up to buy what the Sydney Diocese’s mission has to offer? The last thing a confused and despairing world wants is more political double-speak. If church leaders really want to waste parishioner’s money on attending a homophobic hate-fest they could at least have the integrity to be honest about what they’re doing. Would you buy a used car - let alone an entire way of living and believing – from anyone this duplicitous?

I’d initially planned to start this post by claiming that as a heterosexual man of reasonably mainstream theological inclinations I have no vested interest in the issue. I’m not part of any ‘gay lobby’ (whatever that is); my opposition to homophobia in the Anglican Communion arises purely out of my faith in Christ. But realising this is no truer than Sydney’s denial of the unquestionable fact that homophobia has been the GAFCON’s primary motive I soon dismissed it.

That’s because as a Christian I do have a vested interest; as followers of Christ we all do. If – as is happening today – the name of the One in whom we trust is being hijacked to justify persecution, oppression and exclusion every believer suffers. That which we hold as dearest and most precious is devalued by the tainting voices of bigotry. In dismissing as ‘unclean’ those who have been called and cleansed by God; those who are now our very brothers and sisters in faith, the angry men of GAFCON miss the entire point of the account of Peter’s vision in Acts 10. Having done so they want to continue by dragging the church back into a pointless imitation of the Council of Jerusalem – which itself seems to have been something of a non-event the first time around.

In the process they are guilty of doing the very thing against which we were constantly warned at Moore College – “bringing the Gospel into disrepute”. Think I’m exaggerating? Then ask the next unbeliever you meet what they think of the church spending money on forcing homosexuals out of the church. Ask them what they think about rules preventing women from being ordained or becoming bishops. Then ask them if they think the church stands for justice, equality and God’s love of for all humanity. I’ll guarantee in the spray that follows they’ll offer a clear explanation of why they won’t come along to the marvellous outreach meeting you’ve got planned for next Sunday in conjunction with the Dept. of Evangelism’s finest spruiker.

Perhaps the last word should go to the Rev. Rick Smith of Cammeray/Naremburn (diocesan policies have been so successful in this area – which was once part of the heartland – that two formerly successful parishes are now individually unviable), who is quoted:
"You don’t have to be that clever to realise that the worldwide Anglican communion is in a bit of a mess. It seems we have reached the point, in many places, where practices historically and biblically rejected as harmful sin, are now paraded as good. And doctrines historically and biblically rejected as error are embraced as truth."

Nor evidently do you need to be clever enough to have any awareness of broad range of historical and biblical attitudes to something as ancient as humanity itself before pretending to speak with authority on the subject. If it wasn't so tragic it would be amusing to see Rev. Smith lacks the courage to actually name the “practices” and “doctrines” to which he refers, which are presumably in some way related to people sexually attracted to persons of the same gender as themselves. The bigotry that dare not speak its name?

Perhaps I shouldn’t be so surprised. We have close friends who live less than five minutes walk from one of Rev. Smith’s churches. They pass it every day; but when I just spoke to one of them (he called as I was writing this) he had no idea what goes on there – “I thought that place was closed: nothing ever happens there”.

Solutions to the “mess” which the Anglican Communion allegedly faces might have more to do with how we relate to those living on the next block than it does with those attending a (hopefully) one-off event on the other side of the world. But that sounds like hard work, doesn’t it? Who’s going to buy the Rev. Rick Smiths of this world an airline ticket to visit people living just around the corner? And where’s all the fine-sounding rhetoric going to be when word gets around that God loves them just as much as us?

Saturday, 14 June 2008

New Blogger Joins the List!

From Alaska the Gang is joined by Robert at Musings of an Episcopal Padre - a Priest of the very finest kind.

Given that it's currently 11° Centigrade (52°F) here on a chilly winter morning (& I'm freezing!) I can't imagine what it's like to survive an Alaskan winter, although I suspect their houses are insulated and don't have cracked floorboards through which a steady draft blows, nor do they leave the back door wide-open so the dogs can freely come and go (I also suppose Alaskan houses normally have some kind of heating, whereas our single radiator is in a room down the other hend of the house and I can't be bothered fetching it since I'm about to go out ;-) But that's what you've got to love about the internet: the way people whose worlds are so very far apart and so incredibly different can discover they have far more in common than they could have first imagined. Check out Robert's blog and you'll see what I mean.

Friday, 13 June 2008

More (inspired by David Marr, Mad Priest and Lapinbizarre).

In response to Behind the Sydney Veil a few days ago Lapinbizarre made the pertinent comment:
"I don't see, in David Marr's portrait of the man who was wrong-footed by Akinola's unilateral announcement that Sydney's bishops will not attend Lambeth, the person who Mad Priest insists will 'make a play for running the whole caboodle'.".

I’ve got to admit that I found Marr’s account (see the first paragraph here) of the real reason Jensen finally committed to the Lambeth boycott fascinating – but completely believable. The Sydney powerbrokers are puritan and sectarian, but they are also deeply conservative. Snubbing their nose at authority does not come naturally. Sitting on the fence, hinting at one’s displeasure with the occasional polite passive-aggressive note of dissatisfaction is far more their style. The Archbishop’s brother Dean Jensen might break into a Cromwellian tirade – but that’s why it was Peter, and not Phillip, who ultimately received the Anglican Church League’s imprimatur for the top job.

Perhaps +Akinola recognised this and decided to seize the initiative, although it’s more probable that he’s simply someone used to giving orders, and to making decisions on other’s behalf – whether or not they’ve asked him to do so. He’s a big man in a society which recognises and respects big men, and the niceties of Sydney’s evangelical heartland would count for little in the rough and tumble world of the lads from Lagos.

None of which means MadPriest was incorrect. One doesn’t have to read much of Sydney’s internal propaganda to gain the (incorrect) impression that we’re already GAFCON’s engine room. You don't have to spend long at the Sydney Anglican online forums to see few of the true believers realise none of their new-found allies in the battle would ever be licensed to celebrate in Sydney. Most have no comprehension whatsoever that the poor hard-done-by former Bishop of San Joaquin is not only an Anglo-Catholic, but would actually have never in his wildest dreams considered permitting their Spartan pseudo-congregationalism to flourish unchecked.

No; the popular understanding here is that the current schism is an “us and them” affair, in which the “us” refers to evangelicals of a Sydney disposition. Certainly, not everyone’s this ignorant of the real issues; but in my experience there’s little understanding of the complexities of American Episcopalianism, and the majority think it’s only natural that Sydney will emerge the leaders. After all, we’re rich, aren’t we? We’ve got Moore College. Isn’t the Anglican Church dying everywhere except here? (Never mind that almost a quarter of our city is being effectively abandoned by the diocese in a race to bolster the ‘strategic’ (i.e. wealthy and white) parishes.)

So cemented is this mindset, which stems from the famous arrogance of which Anglicans in other Australian dioceses have accused Sydney for more than half a century, that for most it just seems natural – a kind of divine right – that Sydney will emerge on top. It’s as unquestioned here as it is illogical and ridiculous to observers elsewhere. It's ridiculous to think men like +Iker and +Duncan (let alone +Akinola) will ever make themselves subservient to a group who consider vestments a “popish folly”, who advocate lay (male-only) presidency, and who claim that “the real seeds of the problem we now face lie in the nineteenth century. John Henry Newman’s infamous Tract 90”.

Yet in the insular world of a diocese on the other side of the globe, where few clergy have trained or ministered further afield, and even fewer active laity have any experience of being part of a congregation not immersed in the Sydney tradition, the nonsensical seems plausible. Whether or not +Jensen believes it remains to be seen: my feeling is that he quite possibly does, but irrespective of this he will find himself swept along by the faith of his followers, who see no means of salvation other than their own. In their eyes they are Christianity – there is no option of an alternative if the Church is to remain Christian. Consequently +Jensen must make a play for the top job. He has no choice; the question has been decided by destiny.

But he won’t succeed, and in a group which has never before tasted failure the fallout will be substantial. Current tensions are nothing compared to what will happen when the two strange bedfellows of ante-diluvian Anglo-Catholics and neo-Puritan Anglo-Baptists start tearing each other apart. Speaking personally, I can’t think of a more deserving bunch.

Meanwhile those parishes in Sydney which aren’t misogynist, homophobic and paranoid of our faith’s history, traditions and liturgy will continue to be among the fastest growing and most successful communities in the diocese. Only in the new day just around the corner they mightn’t continue to be steadfastly ignored by St. Andrew’s House at every point except the collection of their annual assessments.

Thursday, 12 June 2008

... and now for something completely different.

Of all the places & things I've ever seen Japan is unquestionably the weirdest.

... which is not in any way to be considered a criticism.

Sandii is now a famous Japanese hula teacher (I kid you not), running schools in Yokohama and Tokyo, while the really cool dude with the glasses playing rythym guitar and keyboards is Makoto Kubota, who is now a successful Japanese music producer specialising in world music.

I promise we'll return to regular programing shortly...

... in the meantime you've got admit both Sandii and Makoto are a whole lot more attractive than the Jensens (or anyone else involved in destroying the Anglican Comumion).

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Behind the Sydney Veil

Last weekend’s Sydney Morning Herald featured an article which should be required reading for anyone interested in Archbishop Jensen’s dreams of a key role in the murky world of schismatic Anglicanism. Written by author/lawyer/journalist/human-rights spokesperson David Marr (I can’t be the only straight man in the world who finds him sexy ;-), it offers a fascinating insight into the strange brew of Puritanism, gnosticism, Calvinism and Billy Graham arminianism which constitutes Sydney Anglicanism – or rather the sect known locally as “Matthianism” (named after Dean Jensen’s former parish) - currently controlling the diocese.

Any who missed the article can download a copy here - the whole piece is a whopping ten pages, but it’s well worth taking the time to read, since it offers those outside Australia an opportunity to get to know the man who’ll be at the centre of the fighting when schismatic Anglo-Catholics discover they’ve unwittingly opened the door to lay presidency in their own dioceses. It’s also a window into the way Sydney diocese really operates – maybe we’re not as different to Nigeria as I’d hoped.

Of special interest to those of us on the ground is the article’s news that not just one, but two of Jensen’s suffragan bishops privately opposed the move to boycott Lambeth: see the first paragraph on page 9 and the second paragraph on page 10

Rumours abound about that the identity of one of them is “Bishop Falstaff” – who is unquestionably disappointed to miss sipping Beaujolais Nouveau with the who’s-who of Anglicanism, and is well aware that with retirement looming he’s not going to get another chance to hobnob with Her Majesty at the Lambeth garden party. However the second man’s identity remains a mystery. My guess is “Bishop Taskless”, who’s said to be developing a liking for the pointy end of a plane, and clearly seems to prefer being anywhere other than in a region the big end of town considers too hard and “unstrategic” to worry about – but I’m open to alternative candidates.

What’s really disappointing is that these two – whoever they are – lacked the courage of their convictions to speak out. They’re clearly not going to advance any further in their careers, but instead of seizing this chance to display some degree of integrity by leading the call for dialogue and common sense, they’ve instead pulled their heads down low and acquiesced to the party line. But then again: if they took the Gospel that seriously the Anglican Church League wouldn’t have given them their jobs in the first place, would it?

Friday, 6 June 2008

Bad Moon Rising.

As usual MadPriest has beaten me to the story in today's Sydney Morning Herald. It features +Jensen giving the standard line "this isn't really about homosexuality, it's about the authority of the Scriptures". Yeah, right. That's why women not keeping their heads covered in church features equally prominently on the agenda.

With bullshit like this from those at the top is it any wonder +Jensen's mission to get 10% of Sydney's population attending "Bible-believing churches" is a failure? You may be able to fool some of the people some of the time, but with spin this transparent fooling 10% of them one day a week is simply not going to happen.

As MadPriest correctly predicted two years ago, the Matthians are hoping to come out of the shake-up with significant territorial gains. Then again, so did Germany at the start of the First World War, and look how successful that proved. Yet none of this is new - over 15 years ago the same sort of rhetorical dreams were flying around at Moore College: the only thing different now is that the Jensens' disciples no longer whisper their dreams to each other quietly, these days they're feeling confident enough to stand shouting on the rooftops.

Yet even though the volume's changed, the naivety is still the same - if not worse. Just as few people outside of Sydney have any comprehension of just how Puritan these wingnuts from the far side of the world really are, neither do most Sydney Anglicans realise that our new best friends are by local standards very, very high church. Reading the local Matthian blogs one can be easily forgiven for thinking Schofield is "one of us" - a Calvinist-Baptist clad in a medium-priced business suit and being persecuted for his commitment to reformed liturgy. Yesterday I had a lengthy discussion with a relative moderate who accused me of "slandering" Fr Kennedy of "Limp Willies" notoriety by claiming his wife is also an ordained minister, who preaches regularly. To say he was shocked when shown evidence proving I wasn't making anything up, and that Hostillium is indeed guilty of the afore mentioned, is an understatement. He really had no idea that his heroes of the international war on liberalism (my apologies if I've stolen that expression from GAFCON) sit on a very different side of the church to Sydney's.

All of which is my way of saying whatever happens next in the rapidly developing farce which is the Anglican schism, one thing is certain; Sydney may be one of the wealthiest dioceses in the world (so will somebody please explain why we can't afford youth workers and clergy throughout about a quarter of the city - while some parishes have more than 20 staff?) but all that money is never going to buy the power to force men like +Duncan & +Iker to stop worshipping in a manner that is (as I've heard both Jensens describe Anglo-Catholicism)"sub-Christian".

What's more here's going to be some angry young Matthians when they eventually realise that the reason they're stuck in under-funded parishes failing to "win the world for the Gospel" is because those resources have been spent getting up close and personal with the same "sub-Christians" they grew up being told were Evangelicalism's greatest enemies.

For some reason I just can't get the this song's title out of my head...

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

What sort of porn are you into?

Now there’s a question guaranteed to get you strange looks if asked over coffee after the Sunday morning service ;-) Nor do I recommend raising it around the office water-cooler unless you want to gain a really unsavoury reputation.

Yet it’s interesting that when speaking about compulsive or “addictive” viewing of pornography, as well as of pornography in general, people rarely make any distinction between the stuff’s plethora of genres and subcultures. The reality is that far from being an amorphous whole, the porn industry’s dubious produce is targeted at an almost immeasurable variety of niches and ‘tastes’ (to be fair: using the word ‘taste’ in this context always strikes me as kind of odd).

So in asking this question I’m not just being prurient. Casting off any obsessive behaviour becomes easier when a person gains an insight into why that behaviour has developed a hold over them. Often there might be a number of factors at work; for example a serotonin deficiency in the brain combined with a learned anxiety developed very early in childhood; or a series of traumatic events actually unrelated, but seemingly connected by a common event (ie. a number of terrible incidents all occurred on days when the sufferer forgot to put out the garbage) resulting in an obsessive concern about that unrelated common event (“Am I sure I put the garbage out today?”). There’s all sorts of combinations possible – and when one adds the heady brew of hormones circulating in a person’s developing sexuality the potential for things to go haywire is very, very real.

That’s why understanding what’s gone on to make someone obsessed with doing something of which they are ashamed, and which they feel compelled to repeat even though they find this behaviour appalling, and understand the damage it is doing to themselves and potentially those around them, is important. If simply saying “no” worked, it would have. If it hasn’t the next question is “why?”. Hence the title’s question.

Some guys I’ve met are into silicone-enhanced Playboy “soft-porn. Others are into pictures of body-builders having oral sex. Some people are excited by viewing images of violence and suffering being inflicted, and a truly frightening character I once knew (who is now in gaol, thank God – but not after causing immeasurable pain and grief to a great many people) was obsessed with images of suffering naked children. Whatever the fantasy or fetish somebody’s probably into it – no matter how weird it may seem to the rest of us - and human creativity being what it is somebody else is probably trying to discover a new niche to exploit right now.

Often when thinking about all this I’m reminded of a great line from a Sting song: “Men grow crazy in congregations, they only get better one by one”. This doesn’t mean community has no part in finding oneself underneath whatever compulsive behaviour has taken hold, but rather that I don’t believe there’s such a thing as any ‘one-size fits all’ answer. People fall into a mess like compulsive porn usage for a unique set of reasons, and only by addressing those reasons within the context of the individual do I believe they’ve much hope of getting out.

Which goes back to original question – “what sort of porn?” – which is another way of exploring “what sort of mess are you in, and how did you get there?” Having found out how you got somewhere, and why, can often making finding your way back a whole lot easier.


I’m not a psychiatrist, nor a psychologist, and I refuse to pretend that I’m able to provide any of the professional help most people experiencing any form of compulsive behaviour need. I’m a Priest, which means I’ve spent a lot of time studying and thinking about belief, ways of believing, and ways of expressing that belief; and that I’ve made a vow (which I take very seriously) to never betray any confidences. If anyone wants to discuss their own journey and struggles with me privately I’ll be honoured (send me an email here) but otherwise please let’s not get too graphic in the comments below. The question we began with can only really be answered to oneself, or at least within the context of a professional therapeutic environment. The question for public discussion - as in one which can be answered in the context of community – is “Then where to next?”

Thursday, 29 May 2008

... and the Wichita lineman...

The guy from Wichita was late this week, but I'm glad to see he finally made it. I was getting worried something had scared him away.

In honor of his reappearance on the morning's stats I thought this clip appropriate. As a general word of advice: if anyone ever gets the chance to see Jimmy Webb (the guy performing here, who also wrote this song - along with a whole bunch of other classics) take it. Absolutely unforgettable.

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Nigeria is a long way from here.

In the wake of Sydney’s growing friendship with +Akinola and his similar minded friends from surrounding parts of Africa I’ve lately I’ve become fascinated by the Nigerian media. Thanks to the internet it’s possible to read the latest news from Abuja, as well as papers from regional centres such as Lagos or Kano and the Muslim north.

Some, such as the national Guardian clearly work hard to present credible and professional journalism, and the courage of those producing these papers cannot be understated. Others, such as the tabloid National Mirror seem more interested in generating Adsense revenue than they are in reporting the news. But my favourite is the Daily Sun

Newspapers like the Daily Sun exist in every country, and if you’re after serious analysis it’s unfair to compare them to papers like The Guardian. Yet they can offer a marvellous window into the hopes, dreams and concerns of the average person. They show a community’s popular culture in a way that more scholarly journals never can. They can even help explain why that nation’s leaders behave in ways which seem to make no sense by one’s own standards.

In Nigeria’s case the Daily Sun suggests that the background of the Bishops who Sydney (and more importantly, significant sections of the US) are embracing is very, very different to that of our own societies. +Akinola certainly comes from a deeply religious community (the Sun’s length list of regular features includes both "MAN IN THE PULPIT" and "ME & MY GOD",where local religious worthies discuss whatever it is that gets them excited. Let’s be honest here: none of them approach anything in a way to which your average western evangelical can relate.

This is in no way to be taken as implying the people of Nigeria (or anywhere else) are in any way inferior to those of the west, so please don’t bother accusing me of racism. The point I’m trying to make is that Nigeria is a very different culture to upper-middle-class Sydney (or North America), and that assuming either side fully understands where the other is coming from is naïve – if not positively dangerous.

As an example: not many high-circulation Australian newspapers would feature an article titled "God can still deliver cultists who made money through rituals if..." This fascinating piece revolves around an interview with the Rev. Dr. Francis Chukwuma Uwah (JP), who is the General Overseer of the Hundredfold World Outreach Church International Incorporated, and advises that ”God is so kind and merciful that He can afford to deliver any occult man who made his riches through ritual sacrifices”.

Or somehow I think not even the US National Enquirer could run Dr (Mrs.) Stella Kalu Ozonanze Queen (Eze nwanyi)’s (pictured right) wonderful account “I’m in mermaid cult, but I also believe in Jesus (Ok, I take that back. The Enquirer would love her, but I can’t think of anyone else who'd give her a run.)

Overlooked in all the breathless conservative reports of +Akinola’s brave stand on the global stage is the fact that his is clearly a See in the developing world, and that far from being a stalwart leader of his nation he is actually just one of a countless voices fighting to be heard in the rich Nigerian religious tapestry.

In a milieu which includes High Priest Daniel Oguejiofor (pictured left), the general overseer of Yaweh the King Holy Sabbath ("How my prayer paralysed a native doctor"; the Church of God Mission Inc (CGM) ("Pastoral work ruined my company"); and The Lord’s Brethren Charismatic Reconciliation Revival Ministries ("Satan using women to destroy the Church") featuring in a national secular daily it’s a safe bet to assume there will be some pretty big cultural gaps for both sides to cross before either of us is in a position to assume administrative oversight of the other’s congregations.

In the mean time is it really so liberal to suggest that we all concentrate on fixing the planks in our own eyes until both of us can understand the other whole lot better? And in the meantime how about a few prayers or kind thoughts or whatever it is you're into for the team at the Guardian? Anyone exposing Nigerian corporate and government corruption has a job more dangerous than yours or mine will ever be, and deserves all the help they can get.