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.