Don’t worry: this portrait wasn’t taken post mortem. It’s Dr. Laurie Scandrett, chief executive of the Sydney Anglican Schools Corporation.
Now before we go any further, let's make it clear that I was going to post something more cheerful today, since we've all had more than enough depressing homophobia this week. But then, after meditating over a delightful cleanskin Shiraz (on sale at my local for the princely sum of $4.00 a bottle), I reconsidered.
“Alcibiades Caliban,” I thought, “what would your old doctrine lecturer think of you – giving up while there was still a point to be rammed home?” And so, with my face set once more towards Jerusalem, I’m stepping back into the ring for another round.
For international readers Dr. Scandrett’s fine name won’t mean much, but in these parts he’s famous for having (with two others) in 1992 launched a Supreme Court action to prevent the Australian church from ordaining women as priests. History shows how God blessed this nasty exercise in wasting at least $100,000 of Sydney parishioners’ money on legal fees, but it takes more than a snub like that to keep this grand old Anglican Church League lay-warhorse out of the papers. And so now he’s decided to weigh into the argument about teenagers at a mega-buck church school in Brisbane not being allowed to take same-sex partners to their end of school formal.
Lest anyone mistakenly thinks issues in Brisbane schools fall under Dr. Scandrett’s oversight, let’s just remember that there’s about 930 km (578 miles) between the two cities – it’s kind of like the folks in Salt Lake City telling Las Vegas how to run their businesses, or a road-worker in Edinburgh commenting on repairs in Paris. Why he should feel obliged to say anything is anyone's guess, although that’s not the biggest problem with Scandrett’s unsolicited advice.
No, the biggest problem is the sheer unthinking idiocy of believing that simply by banning kids from expressing their developing sexuality that somehow they’re going to turn straight. Does anyone really think two teenage boys are going say “Uh-oh: our school and a interstate lay-leader say we’re not allowed to partner each other to the school dance. From now on we’d better find girls sexually attractive instead.” Yeah right: and if you honestly believe reorienting one’s sexuality is that simple, let me quietly tell you about a great Opera House here in Sydney that I may just be able to sell you. It’s going cheap, so you’d better not tell anyone, but if you move quickly, and send cash…
What’s more, if Dr. Scandrett had any experience of teenagers (and as the chief executive of the Sydney Anglican Schools Corporation one would hope he does) he must surely know that the best way to get kids to think anything is attractive and exciting is to ban it. Surely if, as Sydney Diocese clearly believes, being gay or otherwise is simply a matter of making a choice, they would have the sense to not want to make what they consider to be the ‘wrong’ choice so interesting?
Then again, if those of Dr. Scandrett's like had any sense to start with they might take Jesus’ example more seriously, and realise there are much bigger priorities in the Kingdom of God than obsessively hunting down those who happen to be attracted to others of the same gender, and whom in that context aspire to develop loving, supportive relationships which reflect the Grace of God in an often dark and all-too confusing world.
And is it really too much to ask that the church encourages and supports all young people, and provides positive role models for everyone; not just those whose sexuality happens to coincide with that of a few litigious men - at least one of whom looks like something out of Madame Tussaud's? But is actually a whole lot scarier.
UPDATE: A few hours after I first posted this Archbishop Jensen backed up his leading layman with a similar statement to the media, reported here in the national newspaper The Australian. "I would completely denounce any violence against gay persons - it is morally wrong and reprehensible" he is quoted as saying - and yet he finds it's perfectly acceptable to believe God will torture practising GLBTs for eternity. And honestly appears to have no comprehension of how his unabashed discrimination encourages this sort of behaviour in others.
Now repeat after me everyone: We shall not despair, We shall not despair, We shall not...