Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Essentially extremely formal.

In responding to Do you live in the U.S. or Canada?, one commenter claimed the relationship between the Sydney Anglican Diocese and “independent” evangelical churches established in other diocese by (with only one exception) Sydney trained clergy is “essentially informal”. Perhaps that’s what those in the pews have been told, and it’s undoubtedly what Sydney would like the Bishops of those dioceses in which the plants have been made to believe.

But it’s not true.

In fact Sydney’s own documentation proves it’s very, very untrue.
A couple of years ago Sydney passed the Affilliated Associations Ordinance 2005 - “An Ordinance to provide for the affiliation of non-Anglican churches with the Anglican Church of Australia in the Diocese of Sydney". Whilst not exactly thrilling reading, it’s a fine example of how well the powerbrokers and their lawyers can draft a document when the circumstances require a little legalese.

Among the many privileges granted to affiliated churches are the right to attend synod (but not to vote), a general licence for Anglican clergy holding a position with one of these non-Anglican churches (and an open ticket back into the diocese when they’ve finished their time “planting”). As well as money: affiliated churches can participate in the Sydney Anglican Diocese Superannuation scheme, long-service leave is exchanged under a reciprocal agreement, and the churches and their staff are covered by Sydney’s insurance policies. Not to mention access to “administrative, secretarial and accountancy services provided by the Sydney Diocesan Secretariat”.

And the icing on the cake? These specifically non-Anglican churches are authorized under clause 9 of the attached schedule to “make reference to being affiliated with the Anglican Church of Australia in this Diocese”

A quick search of Standing Committee records shows 3 churches were affiliated under this ordinance on 11 December 2006 - The Point Community Church, Lakes Evangelical Church, and Albury Bible Fellowship. Doubtless there’s more to be found: nobody need look very far; on 28 January of this year in a curiously brief two-liner the Southern Cross website announced "The Lakes Evangelical Church and Maitland Evangelical Church are now affiliated with the Sydney Diocese, under the Affiliated Churches Ordinance 2005."

If these connections between Sydney and it’s satellites don’t qualify as a formal and close relationship, what does? Perhaps one written on parchment in blood?


Anonymous said...

Okay, Albi, I will bite.
Actually you leave out the most useful link the affiliated churches gain under that ordinance - access to the services of the professional standards unit. I can see that being of real benefit in the event of a minister going astray.
To my mind the other provisions don't promise much except a sense of family.
They are invited to buy superannuation with the AMP. Maybe there is a discount, I don't know.
They can be covered by the diocesan property insurance, except that these churches don't own buildings AFAIK (one i know of is buying land).
They can visit Sydney Synod, and have a seat closer to the front than the general public.
Clergy can have a general license, but my memory of the synod debate is that it does not guarantee a job back in Sydney.
Long service leave is transferable: yes that is a benefit - clergy of small independent churches often miss out.
Diocesan secretarial and accountancy services are charged out and the rates are not cheap - the Cathedral for example has found a cheaper alternative.
Compare this to the situation of other dissidents or church plants in the Anglican Communion who have linked up with an alternative bishop. They are regarded as full members by whatever church or province they have linked to. Eg AMiA are part of Rwanda. (Their bishops won't be going to Lambeth though and they are not recognised by the AC)
The Lakes church can say they are "Affilated" to the Sydney Diocese. They cannot say that they are an Anglican parish or church. The Bishop of Newcastle could bring a court case if they did.
I think the Sydney Anglican powers that be would like to offer a more substantial link to these church plants. But legally they can't. They have had to settle for a few odds and ends rather than offer them full formal membership.
One thing i find interesting is that only three of the church plants seem to have joined up - see the Federation of Independent Evangelical Churches website for a full list. There's a lot more than those three. And while you may have focussed on those with stronger attachments to Sydney my point holds: for most of these churches the link is informal. They are bonds of affection. Just like The anglican Communion.

Anonymous said...

Or re-reading your post maybe it is five. Still a minority of those independent churches. And the pace is leisurely too. they are not rushing to affiliate. Doesnt seem such a drawcard from theior point of view

Alcibiades said...

And thanks again for responding. I fully agree with you about access to the professional standards unit being an extremely valuable aspect of the relationship. You're being a tad disingenuous about the other benefits though: the insurance, for example, extends to include staff in the Sydney Diocesan Sickness and Accident Fund (Schedule clause 5). Clergy moving costs are also covered (clause 7). the bond may be "affectionate" - but it's also financial and formal. And it carries 2 votes on Synod: they're not only seated closer than the general public, they can also be heard.

Please don't get me wrong: I think it's good that the Diocese is prepared to look after the men and their families they send out on these ventures. Just let's not pretend these are anything other than satellites established and nurtured with the explicit intention of exporting Matthianism into other Anglican dioceses. And let's not buy into the lie that the relationship hasn't been drafted and framed in such a way as to take things as close as possible to the line without falling over into litigation.

Brian R said...

Thanks Alci for the information. I could only quote from Wikipedia and general gossip. It is good to have someone in the know. So nice of the Jensenites to take care they do not cross the final legal border which would allow other bishops to sue. Noone is fooled. I know many parishioners at St James who would be very happy to be affiliated Newcastle, Bathurst or Canberra-Goulburn but sadly we recognise proper Anglican procedures even if it means we must recognise an Archbishop we hold in utter contempt.

Anonymous said...

the clergy moving costs is a nice benefit I agree. Yet I have not heard that the diocesan insurance is an especially great deal. It might be, but my assumption would be that like the superannuation, the diocese is an agency for a large company. It's hard to run a small scheme cost effectively these days. (You seem to have a higher opinion about Church house tham me!)
The affilated churches representatives are NOT entitled to vote at Synod. That would have been a big deal if it had been included, but the laywers prevented the diocese from offerring anything that could be construed as membership of the diocese.
So the affilates were left mostly with some fee for service arrangements, and one or two freebies.
We could continue to quibble about the fine detail of the ordinance, but Brian brings up the larger point.
There are churches in Sydney that might like to bee under a different bishop. These church plants and perhaps some Anglican churches in other dioceses might like to be under the authority of the Sydney archbishop. I am sure Sydney would jump at a free trade deal, whereby churches in Sydney could opt into Newcastle or Brisbane or Canberra, and churches in other parts of Australia could attach themselves formally to Sydney.


Alcibiades said...

You're quite right John,they aren't allowed to vote. I was mistaken in my skim-reading of clause 7(3), and skipped the crucial not at the end of the line. I apologise for the mistake, and for any false impressions which may have arisen from this. I'll correct the original post accordingly.

My point was also not to quarrel over the Ordinance either, but simply to stress both its existence, and the way it formalises the relationship between Sydney and its satellites.

Your also quite correct about Brian's point being a good one, which gets raised here quite often - there's more than a few Sydney-siders who'd happily defer to a different diocese. However I somehow I doubt the current regime would be anywhere near as happy as you suggest to see the significant property holdings and consequent assesments of St. James King St depart. Nor those of some of the other "alternative" parishes which would also consider an offer to leave very seriously - don't forget that despite the official rhetoric these comprise some of Sydney's most actively growing congregations, and are proving themselves a lot closer to reaching +Jensen's 10% growth target than many of the more "orthodox" Matthian affilliates and clones. As the Rector of one of the smaller suburban success stories (his church has grown by about 25% in the past two years) said to me recently; "We might as well be on Mars for all the recognition we get for what's happening here. The only time they want to know about us is when our fees are due. From St.Andrew's House's perspective as long as we don't make too much noise we're nothing more than high return for minimal expense."

There's also a deeper point Brian made: many of us "recognise proper Anglican procedures". The frameworks which shaped and guided our church - evangelicals included in the days prior to Matthianism's rise - are not something which we wish to discard lightly. In that sense both sides are conservative, just in different ways. Fragmenting into ever smaller divisions might be a traditionally Protestant solution to this problem - but is it really an Anglican one? Is it really one indigenous to the church into which we have been called to belong? For some of us the answer is "No" - even if (like me) it's not really the answer we want.

Thanks again for spending so much of your time and thought here today John. It really is appreciated - even if I can tell by the silence that our North American and UK readers must all be rather bemused by this parochial down-under stuff. (Thanks for your patience guys!).

Once again sorry for my misleading information concerning synod voting rights, and thaks for setting me straight on that,