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 sydneyanglicans.net 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?”