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.


Lapinbizarre said...

I'm flattered to find myself in such distinguished company. As we've said before, the seeds of this problem lie - matters of ego excluded - more in the 1559 Act of Uniformity than in Tract XC. This is not just Sydney. A few months back +Bob Pitts also declared the death of the Elizabethan Settlement - an end to 450 years of compromise. I started posting at Thinking Anglicans 18 months or so back, gradually working my way outwards from there, because I imagined that discussing things in a "sensible" manner might help calm things. It doesn't, of course, as I gradually learned. The Christ of the Gospels is largely a stranger to these people.

Have you looked - here I swing wildly off course - into Eamon Duffy's "Voices of Morebath", a study, through parish records and accounts, of a small Devon parish and its conservative priest, Christopher Trychay, vicar from 1520 to 1574? Trychay's career encompassed the entire 16th c English Reformation. His and his parish's accommodations from one Tudor regime to the next, and his acceptance of the Elizabethan Compromise, are fascinating to read.

Lapinbizarre said...

Interested to see, at the close of a new Sydney archdiocese piece on GAFCON, mention and photograph of a Lady Clergperson, Tara Thornley, who, it says, will attend GAFCON and will, in 2009 (talk about planning ahead) be appointed Dean of Women at Moore Theological College. Is the Rev'd Ms Thornley there as window dressing? Some of your earlier reports suggest that so far as ministry is concerned, she's likely to have a seriously circumscribed career.

Alcibiades said...

Thanks for the heads up on this one - I have to limit the time I spend on the SydAng site or else I start getting depressed ;-)

Rev Thornley is ordained as a Deacon, which is a far as she can go in Sydney. She can not preside at the Eucharist or be the Rector of a parish. In many churches she is not allowed to preach or read the Bible aloud if men are present, while others would permit her to speak at mid-week services but not on Sundays, and to deliver the Old Testament reading, but not the Epistle (generally the one on which the sermon is based) or Gospel.

Women like her of remind me of hostages suffering Stockholm Syndrome: they’ve been oppressed for so long that they’ve come to identify with their persecutors.

Lexxi said...

Hello, lovely educated people. Are there any more thoughts on this topic?
Have you met Tara, do you know what she's doing at Moore?
I think that's a bit mean to say that there is only so much she can do now.