Saturday, 23 January 2010

"The stone which the builders rejected..."

Last week I had the privilege of being called by a Priest wrongfully dismissed from the Sydney Anglican diocese about fifteen years ago. I won’t tell his story here; not just because it’s not mine to tell, but because my prayer is that he’ll soon find the strength to publish it himself. Suffice it to say it occurred as a result of a number of blatantly unbelievable (and completely unsubstantiated) allegations of a non-criminal nature. Were he to have been working in a secular field it would have – even then – been illegal for an employer to fire him on the basis of such ludicrous accusations, and he would be entitled to significant compensation.

He’d spent more than a decade fighting for justice, and was finally told he could have the matter referred to the appropriate tribunal for review. “But”, Archbishop Jensen told him, “irrespective of the tribunal’s findings his license would not be renewed.” His many years of faithful service, both in Sydney and as a missionary abroad, counted for nothing: the arrogant vision of our diocese's present has no place for the wisdom of its past.

Through the struggle his marriage has remained intact, as has – even more surprisingly – his faith. Granted, there was an obvious cynicism in his voice when our conversation drifted to the machinations of power-brokers like the Anglican Church League, but even this was overshadowed by his hope for a future in which the bright young stars of the church’s firmament are encouraged to seek out lost sheep with the same fervor as they do clerical advancement and a seat on the more prestigious committees. “It’s the waste that God must find so appalling”, he said, “the waste of all this talent, learning, and understanding. While the Catholic process is to seek restoration between those dismissed and their church, we just discard them in a rush to find the next aspiring Philip Jensen.”

The vision we discussed was of a fellowship to support those who – for whatever reason – are on the journey through which he have passed. As we spoke we recalled those we once knew personally that have also since been flung upon Sydney Anglicanism’s dung-heap - not just the divorced, the gay, and the mentally ill, but all of us, including the internationally recognized theologian made to resign from Moore College for “heresy” (if he’s a heretic Luther was a Mormon) and the brilliant historian considered crazy for leaving academia to develop - among other ministries - a vibrant parish community among Sydney’s transvestite and transsexual sex workers – a ministry shut down as soon as he was forced to retire. The simple act of once more saying their names felt empowering: it doesn’t matter what a person accomplished before their fall from grace: once you’ve gone nobody can ever mention you again. Books and papers are dropped from reading lists, and life-long friendships never existed. Phone calls are never returned. Chance meetings in the street become awkward: don’t ever expect the hastily made promise to “catch up for a coffee” will be kept. Perhaps exclusion is part of the punishment, or – more likely – they’re worried whatever you’ve got is catching.

Which is why this idea of a support group is so exciting: the pathetic failure of the Connect 09 evangelism campaign to make any impact whatsoever upon society is proof enough that young men who think they know everything, but whom have survived nothing, cannot be the sole guardians of our church’s future. Certainly it’ll take a while for our vision to become reality, but I promise to post more about it here along the way. In the meantime anyone interested in finding out more is welcome to email me - I think you’ll find what emerges will be a pretty varied bunch of characters, both theologically and socially, as well as in terms of our experiences, but one thing I know will be constant: Christ didn’t give up on us, and we won’t give up on you.


Robert said...

I am in awe of you and others ability to maintain such grace and faith in the face of what you have been through! May God bless you and your friends1

Anonymous said...

Perhaps at the first meeting you will resolve to explain to all your readers why your own license was revoked.

Would make for an intereting story.

Alternately, you could carry on attempting to shift the attention to others. Time for some honesty, perhaps?

Alcibiades said...

Oh come off it "Anonymous" - like your identity (ever heard of a thing called an "IP address"?) that's hardly a secret. It was even in the Sunday papers, for goodness sake. What makes you think there's anything I could hide - even if I wanted to?

The really interesting story is the one that Christ wrote - the one which speaks of forgiveness, grace and restoration. The one which you clearly, despite all your rhetoric, ambition, and bitterness haven't begun to comprehend.

As for honesty, at least you've stopped trying to add weight to your argument by pretending to be an Anglo-Catholic woman - although the laughter that generated must have been loud enough for even you to hear - and it's more than obvious listening isn't one of your strong points. Now why don't you go a step further, and try thinking about why you're so afraid of the notion that the love of God is great enough to extend to those who by God's Grace - and in spite of their own obvious and manifest sins - have seen through your pharisaism?

Trust in your own righteousness, and that of your ideology, associations, and networks if that's where your heart is, "Anonymous". As for me I'll trust in the Incarnate God of reconciliation and joy. And I'll never stop speaking out in the hope that you and those for whom you've sold your soul might also one day discover that God - the resurrected Christ.

Wormwood's Doxy said...

Ah, Mr. Ugly has shown up...

We all know why, Ugly Anonymous. It has to do with hard-hearted judgment (the kind Jesus told us to avoid) and an unwillingness to acknowledge that clergy are human, just like everyone else. Not to mention a distinctly un-Christ-like willingness to forgive human frailty (or just plain bad luck...)

I'm married to an Episcopal priest, and both of us have failed marriages in our past. We both have wrestled with depression too. And guess what? Our parishioners actually seem to appreciate our honesty about our failures and troubles. They don't want clergy who can't relate to their own brokenness and pain...

Alcibiades--I'll be praying for the success of your group. As you well know, God uses those who are willing to be used---like the cheating scoundrel, Jacob, or the murderous adulterer, David, or that other accessory to murder, Paul. I am grateful that God's heart and vision is wider and more loving that gutless Anonymous, who is so unsure of his righteousness that he can't even bring himself to sign his name to his slander.


Brian R said...

Sorry I was unable to find time to meet with you last week, Alci.
Anonymous, I have met and heard Alci's story and it was just another story to add to my increasing disgust with those running the Sydney Diocese.
I have just left the Sydney parish I loved, not because of any problem with it, far from it, but because I could not see myself travelling 2 hours each way in my old age to find an inclusive parish within the diocese and I could not afford to live closer to the city.
However the same old story even there. They are seeking a new parish priest. They have a perfectly good man acting in the role at the moment. Even Bp Forsyth has said he would make a good rector (perhaps that is not a good recommendation:-)) However he has one so-called flaw, he is married to a divorced woman. Mind boggling. Each week my sister, who is staying in the parish, says as we leave the service. I wish Fr John could be Rector and I am sure are many parishioners who think the same way.
In this diocese, you can make foolish mistakes with money and lose millions but be forgiven but if you make a mistake in marriage you must suffer forever.
I will pray for all who have to worship within the diocese of Sydney and thank God that, nearly 40 years ago, He guided me away from entering Moore College, upsetting at the time but how thankful I am today.
May God Bless you, Alci and this other man of whom you write and I am sure many others wrongly treated by those who mismanage the Sydney Diocese. I am excited that tomorrow I will begin worshipping regularly in the parish in Dunedin where the present Vicar is the soon to be consecrated bishop of Dunedin.

Revd Ivan Ackeroff said...

Doxy refers to David as a "murderous adulterer". I thought he was simply a sinless curate in Neutral Bay. His writings at the "Anglican" Church League and STAND FIRM cause endless laughter and derision. I wish your new group every success. And when you finally leave this mortal life, and enter into Glory, you will have the satisfaction of knowing where Our Lord has sent the self-righteous Sydney bigots who wrongly believe they preach in His Name.

Alcibiades said...

Robert, Doxy, Brian, & Fr. Ackeroff - thank you all for kind words of support. To be fair "Anonymous" has only given us a rather pale imitation of the viciousness of which those he whom he so desperately hopes to impress are capable - welcome to the power-hungry side of Sydney Anglicanism folks! Hopefully nobody's still wondering why their critics call them Donatists and Pharisess,

He's also helped me find the motivation to start posting here a bit more often: you don't get that prompt and crass a response from Sydney's latest up-and-coming wannabe if you're not pressing on at least one sore point. And - at the risk of mixing clich├ęd metaphors - if someone doesn't rattle the cage those trapped inside will never be set free.

Brian: no worries about last week. I thought you'd probably be too busy, but wanted you to know that our door is always open. I promise we'll catch up in Dunedin and take you to a nice restaurant before this years over - and in the meantime be assured of our prayers every day as you settle down in your new home. It was over 40° here today, so you timed your shift perfectly!

Paul said...

Prayers for a new fellowship to nurture hope and commitment to Good News. Grace upon grace attend you.

BooCat said...

Alcibiades, At the rate +Jensen discards good priests, you may soon outnumber the ones in good standing. God's blessings on you all. You are ever in my prayers.

Anonymous said...

Dear Alcibiades,
I wish you success with your new group. Perhaps you could start a Rememberance Wall to list the many who have been destroyed by the Sydney Anglican Church League. You might begin with women both present and deceased, who were victimised by those who went on to lead this Diocese. Victimised when seeking equality for women who were treated appallingly in a male dominated system. You'd be surprised how many non - Anglicans have also been hurt by this cult, both directly or indirectly, through events and or loved ones.
And Brian says that many are punished for mistakes in their marriage; well that's only if the 'mistakes' are uncensored and become public knowledge.
How can Phillip Jensen be replaced? Everyone knows he IS Jesus and divinity lies with POWER related to propaganda, manipulation of facts,ridicule, mates in high places, and let's not forget the lawyers and judges. This kind of divinity must oppress to sustain its existence.
I started to think that ALL Sydney Anglicans were either ruthless or complacent, so it's promising to know that there are some who display integrity.
Good luck with your cause

Sydney Sider

Anonymous said...

Is Anonymous (2nd from the top) the mouth piece for Phillip Jensen?
Is his job to monitor the internet to ensure that all debate and opinion is either censored, or discreited by attacking the reputation of the author?
That is how it appears but I could be wrong of course.

Alcibiades said...

"Is Anonymous (2nd from the top) the mouth piece for Phillip Jensen?"

LOL SS!! :-)

He'd undoubtedly like to be, but so would most of the earnest young men who have graduated from Moore College in the past ten years - those who wouldn't are filtered out very early in the process.

Notwithstanding the way "Anonymous" has been acting out here of late, he's actually too sincere a person to last in that role for very long, and there's no doubt he'll live to see the day when he's very embarrassed by his carrying on here and elsewhere. The pathetic attempt at anonymity suggests that time is probably closer than he'd care to admit.

My experience of Dean Jensen, along with that of a friend who once worked for him (who's also no longer ministering in Sydney) is that he could never have anyone as his mouthpiece - he's got to do all the talking himself, and everyone else had better shut up and listen. As has always been the case when it comes to overbearing leaders of sects.

Wormwood's Doxy said...

Alcibiades--you are a better human being than I am, for seeing some deeply buried good streak in "Anonymous."

I keep reading his sly little bombs and wondering: Does he REALLY believe that Jesus approves of his anonymous slanders? Does he think that Jesus would sidle up to people he didn't know in the town square or the temple and start trying to spread rumors about someone else? Particularly doing so under the guise that he was spreading God's good news?

Jesus was no coward. And while I'm sure he has compassion for those who are not able to face things bravely, I doubt he much cares for the kind of drive-by nastiness that "Anonymous" is conducting in his name.


Alcibiades said...

Oh Doxy - bless you! "Anonymous" isn't really so bad: they get a lot nastier than him in this diocese!
He's just a very ambitious and rather immature young man who's insecure with the idea that God really does forgive, restore, and value those who've turned their back on the sect with which he's himself growing increasingly disenchanted - if he wasn't he wouldn't be so desperate to silence every voice he fears may be challenging him.

Having once been an ambitious and rather immature fundamentalist myself once (ok - so it's quite a long time ago now, and back then I'd have been as offended by that description as "Anonymous" will be upon reading it now ;-) it's not so hard to have a degree of sympathy for him. God's mercy is such that even earnest young men can grow up, and even if that journey is a deeply traumatic one, He is capable of bringing them through to the other side.

Alcibiades said...

Just as an addendum to the above, however, please don't think I've got anywhere near as much patience for the old men who use insecure kids like "Anonymous" to cement their grasp on power. The stench from the blood on their hands is too foul for that...

Wormwood's Doxy said...

Oh I've certainly been judgmental about other people's failures--and been totally humbled when my own life came crashing down. ;-)

But I either kept my opinions to myself or I at least had to own them. If "Anonymous" wants to argue with you or make aspersions on your character, he should have the decency and the courage to sign his name.

Jesus told us to let our lights shine--so if he's so certain he's the Light Bearer (snerk), or he wants to impress his Uncle Screwtape, why is he hiding who he is?

Anonymous said...

Right wing evangelicals have given Christians a bad name by constantly judging others. It is a shame that you have to suffer the anger from others, that arises from being hurt by the hypocrisy of fundamentalism. Many people in the secular world label all Christians as bigots because that is the only voice they hear publicly.

Sydney sider

Doorman-Priest said...

The church continues to be such a wonderful institution.

Anonymous said...

Dear Alcibaides
You should have left the porn message that some evangelical right wing conservative posted on your site. It was probably a piece of porn that Anglican Mainstream, Stand Firm or The Anglican Church League couldn't use! They probably thought they'd lose their Chinese and Japanese converts, if they showed stuff like that!
It gives a whole new meaning to the term 'cheap white trash'
One could almost say 'cheap evangelical trash'!
I'm sure they wont do it again.

Alcibiades said...

LOL Anon!

"Cheap evangelical trash" is probably a bit harsh though - in my experience the price most evangelicals end up paying for their involvement in the sect is very high indeed.

As far as the ACL having Chinese & Japanese converts, however, I'm afraid their leadership's ethnicity is pretty much the same as it was in the 1950s. Certainly Sydney's witnessed a flourish of evangelical Asian ministries, many of whom are loosely associated with Sydney Anglicanism, but the power to make decisions has for the most part remained firmly grasped by in the same old white hands.

Anonymous said...

Dear Alcibiades
I actually though 'cheap evangelical trash' was not severe enough! When you consider that the INTENT behind the trawling for and the posting of porn, in conjunction with discussion of same - sex attraction (on the evangelical websites) is to manipulate thinking and create an adverse emotional response in the viewers. A bit like Pavlov's dogs. Ring a bell and the dogs salivate. The adverse response is transferred to same-sex attracted people and its a way of ensuring that evangelicals remain judgemental and same - sex attracted people are treated as perverted immoral individuals; their relationships deemed comparable to those who earn money out of the sex industry. The fact is that many heterosexual married men are users of porn and heterosexual relationships are also included in porn scenes!
Anyone who uses damaging behaviour modification procedures in God's name, to isolate and destroy an already marginalised group is 'cheap and trashy'!
But I do understand that brainwashing and ignorance may be an excuse but a poor one!

Lapinbizarre said...

Very late to this thread, having been a bit side-tracked in recent weeks, but have much enjoyed it and the comments. Incidentally, he whom i and some others presume to be "Anonymous" has posted an upbeat video of the recent bumper crop of Sydney ordinations - 50 men & 6 women. Imagine if they ordained other than ConEvos!

Bit un-nerving to see Jensen in a Gothic cathedral, togged up as a bishop. No girlie wrist ruffles, I'm happy to see.

Melinda Menzies said...

I haven't been around much but still keep an eye on this blog and a few others from time to time. Sorry for the long comment but here goes.

Could we expand the fellowship of which you speak into an army of Christ-bearers in Sydney?

Seriously, I'm tired of feeling hurt and angry and powerless. I want to proclaim Christ to the Jensenistas and to Sydney as a whole. I am thinking we need to go boldly-why can't we make the few inclusive (be that of women, gays, divorced people or whoever happens to incur the dominant group's wrath) churches strong and a force to be reckoned with in the diocese.

Why can't "our" voices be heard at Synod and more so at the gatherings and conferences that happen all over the diocese-if all the MOW members in Sydney attended "Equip" then it might be a more interesting conference and some people may even see Jesus.

It's possibly a blessing that so many talented men and women have been booted out of paid employment of the church-hey there's nothing to lose by speaking out. Maybe that's what GOd is calling us to do?

Anonymous said...

I agree with Melinda. What is a church without integrity? And at the rate the Sydney management is going, there will be nothing left of the Sydney Anglican Diocese. It is already a subsidiary of Matthias Media.
I suppose some little upstart Sydney Calvinist will post some vicious comment about you again.
But before they do, I suggest that they do so, knowing fully well that those to whom they feel indebted, may have marriages which are not all they seem to be, as reflected in past actions.
As we all know...NOBODY is perfect (especially me!).