Wednesday, 28 October 2009

...and the angels rejoice!

Great news! The Sydney branch of the truly evil Mercy Ministries has announced it is closing due to "extreme financial challenges and a steady drop in our support base".

Meanwhile their former supporter, Oedipus Houston and his equally vile church business Hillsong have shifted into damage control, doing everything possible to distance themselves from the program they once wholeheartedly supported.

Can't imagine this backflip could have anything to do with the very real case women defrauded and abused by Mercy Ministries have for compensation - could it?

Tuesday, 27 October 2009


The pair of them were watching Upsy Daisy and the gang from In the Night Garden singing and dancing in a pile of crunchy fallen leaves. I was trying to write php code in the next room.

Suddenly there was also a strange new sound - one not coming from the TV - and uncontrolled giggling. Racing to see what new mischief they were up to, I grabbed the camera on my way in ...

Mr. Not-yet-Two had sneaked into the kitchen and swiped a full pack of his favourite cheese crackers. Which his three-and-a-half year old ballet-obsessed big sister tipped onto the sofa in order to choreograph a crunchy little pas de deux of her own.

Pictured here is the prima ballerina attempting to leave the stage, probably with the intention of calling the dogs so as to (a) blame the whole thing on them and (b) encourage them to consume the evidence. Meanwhile her noble danseur and set builder is standing his ground, clutching to the one remaining (and thus in the complex economy of a toddler infinitely valuable) intact cracker (the small nibble he's made on the corner doesn't count), and is about to start accusing me (in a language known only to himself) of interrupting one of the truly great performances of modern interpretive dance.

And now you'll have to excuse me while I go and vacuum...

Monday, 26 October 2009

From Sydney's leading newspaper...

Just before hitting Publish I saw Noble Wolf had already brought this to everyone's attention, but just in case you've missed it here's another link to The St Jensen's Parish Newsletter - a very funny (at least to those of us less than impressed by the Sydney Diocesan leadership) satire published in last Saturday's Sydney Morning Herald by one of Australia's best known journalists. Father Troll must be feeling green with envy ;-)

I can't help but wonder what St. Paul would have made of the diocese's financial hubris and subsequent refusal to act in such a way as to earn public respect - as opposed to public ridicule? Given his concern that churches do nothing which might cause the Gospel to be brought into disgrace it seems highly unlikely he'd have been impressed with recent events. Dare I say Paul would also have advocated repentance on the part of the one in whom has been entrusted ultimate responsibility? And maybe even an apology?

In the absence of which is it any wonder people are laughing at the "servants" who don't even have the humility to say sorry?

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Why would anyone think them arrogant & patronising?

Courtesy of David Ould:

“One interesting factor will be to see how much noise the small number of Liberal Catholic attendees will make. They are normally vocal in all forms of opposition. Personally, I think that would be a bad move, much like the boy who cried wolf too many times. However, if they were to simply sit silently and let the evangelicals make the noise I suspect they would be able to mount a more substantial argument that unhappiness in the Diocese is spread amongst a larger constituency that (sic) the usual perception of a small group of malcontents.”
Right. So those of us opposed to incompetence, dishonesty, and a complete disregard for the Jesus of Scripture should just shut up and let the bullies speak on our behalf. Without ever presuming to question those who know better.

Just like women should behave in church, hey David?

Incidentally, many of those “Liberal Catholic” (most of whom are in reality neither – but Sydney apologists aren’t renowned for letting facts get in the way when calling people names) attendees come from some of the most successful parishes in the diocese. Churches which have easily achieved the targets for growth set by the Archbishop a few years back; targets rarely mentioned now that the majority of Jensen-sanctioned congregations have spectacularly failed to meet them. Nor are these growing parishes facing the loss of clergy and programs as a result of diocesan irresponsibility, since they were never deemed worthy of receiving handouts in the first place.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Archbishop Peter Jensen's Synod Address.

Any lingering doubt about fundamentalism being nothing more than a type of narcissism (hence its particular appeal to late-adolescent males: “I’m right, you’re wrong, and only those who think like me can ever truly know God”) was dispelled once and for all by Archbishop Jensen’s opening address to synod last night.

You can read the text for yourself here: the Archbishop told synod how he felt about the loss of an unimaginably large sum of his parishioner’s endowment; he spoke of his disbelief , and (in passing) his sense of responsibility that this occurred “on my watch”. But he didn’t apologise.

Instead he lied, claiming “we have been so careful and professional in our handling of the Endowment” (yeah - which is why they ignored all responsible practices and placed almost everything on one high-risk investment that depended upon the market continuing to rise indefinitely), he spoke of the pain and distress he had witnessed, and he speculated as to whether “the Lord is chastising us for our sins”, or “simply seeking to test us”. He even asked the question “Did we do the wrong thing?” Then changed the subject without attempting to offer an answer.

As I’ve already said, +Peter Jensen made no apology to those whom he and his staff have devastated through their incompetence and recklessness. There was no mea culpa, no repentance, no “I am so sorry”. Instead he quickly moved on to describing the wonderful experiences he enjoyed while distributing religious literature during the past twelve months. He spoke of the changes about to take place as a as if they were driven by something other than a simple lack of funds, and in so doing said nothing of the dozens of young men who will soon find themselves unemployed. We learned of the evangelistic challenges ahead of us, but nothing of the challenge many clergy, ordinands, lay-workers and their families are going to face in simply putting food on the table. We were told that one of the board members directly responsible for this mess is now in charge of the restructuring processes: perhaps we were supposed to give thanks that he won’t be among those who lose their jobs.

There’s no theological mystery about what went wrong, no matter how much the Archbishop may attempt to confuse the issue by claiming “we live in an apocalyptic era”. All that happened was that a group of men driven by greed pursued an irresponsibly risky investment strategy. Which ultimately went the way history shows these things always go. They ignored conventional wisdoms because they thought they were smarter than everyone else, or because God was on their side, or both. As could have been predicted by anyone with even a passing acquaintance with the Jesus of the Gospels, they weren’t, and/or God wasn’t.

The least Archbishop Jensen could have done was to say sorry and ask for his people’s forgiveness. Instead he talked about himself. I may be a cynic, but even I had expected more from the man. Then again, it has been more than a decade since I spent much time around fundamentalists...

Friday, 16 October 2009

So it's finally October...

A few months back, when news of the Sydney Diocese’s spectacular financial losses finally became public, the oft-repeated line from apologists was “Wait until October, when it’ll all be made public in synod”. Those of us with some experience of the carefully choreographed performance that passes as a Sydney synod were more than a little cynical – but nevertheless we have waited.

Now that synod is starting next Monday it seems that more facts are leaking out: today’s Sydney Morning Herald reports the loss as actually $160 million - $60 million more than originally stated. Yes - you read that right, $160 million. Which at today's exchange rate is about $US145 million - a truly enormous sum of money.

Another article in the same paper reveals that diocese’s investment body, the Glebe Administration Board, had borrowed more than $150 million, which was combined with more than three-quarters of the diocese’s $388 million worth of “growth assets”' and - in blatantant contravention of responsible investment practice – 80% of this sum was invested with just one fund manager: Barclays Global Investors. Thus while other fund managers spread their exposure to risk by adopted a more diversified profile, the brightest evangelicals in the Communion had nearly all their eggs in just one basket: a move the Board’s CEO Steve McKerihan (who to be fair, was only appointed after this strategy was adopted - but before things turned predictably pear-shaped) amusingly described as “unusual”. What about “irresponsible” Steve? Or maybe “bloody stupid”?

Please let’s please not have any more dishonest spin about “everyone lost money in the global financial crisis”. Yes, of course they did – but very few responsible organisations were hit this hard as a result of speculative gearing. And to the best of my knowledge no other churches were: the Sydney Anglican Diocese was unique among religious groups when it comes to getting whacked as a result of borrowing money in order to gamble that stock prices would continue rising. Instead of steadfastly using what they already had to bring Christ to all the people here (not just the minority living in affluent and predominately Anglo-Saxon suburbs) they got greedy. The end was going to justify the means…

… meanwhile can someone please tell me how many cross-cultural outreach workers could have been placed in Sydney’s economically bleak south-west for just half of the $160 million of parishioners money our leaders have wasted?