Friday, 24 December 2010

Holding Fast & Still Fighting.

With all the garbage spouted in the name of Christianity by Sydney Anglican leaders and their sycophants it’s easy to forget that God is still very much present here. Contrary to the impression I worry my blog has often given, Christ hasn’t simply thrown in the towel and left. There are still parishes where those not prepared to baptise misogyny and bigotry are welcome, and where “biblical teaching” isn’t simply an oxymoronic euphemism for rehashing the same old theologically dubious misinterpretations of Romans.

Nor should anyone for a moment believe the official lie about these churches dying. They’re not. In fact the so-called “liberal” churches are flourishing. (To understand that term as it’s used in Sydney you need to remember that wearing a cassock and surplice is generally defined as “high church”, and women reading the Bible aloud in the presence of men is routinely derided as “liberal” by at least one member of standing committee.) Whilst Archbishop Jensen’s vision for 10% growth has proven a spectacular failure, many non-party line churches (i.e. those identifying with the broader Anglican Communion) have exceeded this target many times over.

It was at one such place that I spent a really wonderful morning a few Sundays back. The minister – someone I respect enormously – was celebrating his twentieth year of service in the parish. Between the regular congregation, prominent members of the local community, and a score of notorious diocesan troublemakers ;-D the church was packed with those whom against all odds were found by Christ and held fast in love: old-age pensioners, young professional couples and their children, more than a few ex-prisoners (including one fellow who looked suspiciously like he was out on day-release), former Moore-college lecturers and ne'er-do-wells, and teenagers just beginning upon the voyage that is faith. The sick, the healthy, the learned and the illiterate: together we sung God’s praise, declared our belief, shared in the Sacraments, and heard the Gospel proclaimed in the face of a machine which would deny many of us present have any right to call ourselves Christians.

After the sermon (which was one of the very few I’ve ever heard that can honestly be described as life-changing), the minister shared something of his own journey. I won’t repeat it here, but suffice it to say he’s someone whom can even speak graciously of the diocese which tried to sue his wife rather make a claim upon insurance policies (the case was quickly withdrawn when the local secular media found out). Nor was I the only one left feeling deeply empowered and encouraged by the time he’d finished.

As you’d expect the Anglican Church League power-brokers were conspicuous in their absence: no bishop bothered attending. The only diocesan representative was a single archdeacon, who left as soon as the service was over. As an old friend I was great to see again said afterwards, “Perhaps the venerable archdeacon just felt embarrassed by his ridiculous vestments” – in that part of the city on a Sunday morning the only people wearing a business suit are shonky real-estate agents. Even lawyers visiting clients whose Saturday night excesses have ended in the police lock up don’t bother dressing like that anymore – so much for the prevailing local “wisdom” that the best way for a priest to relate to the unchurched involves impersonating a business man.

In fact what looked awfully like an unofficial boycott on the part of the heirarchy meant there was actually a bigger representation from the local mosque, who’d come to show their respect for someone they recognise as a leading “Man of the Book” than there was from those leading the diocese in which this minister has spent his life serving. Which can’t help reminding me of something I once read somewhere about prophets not being welcome in their own country…

So please - don't stop praying for us, or for dioceses like Newcastle (Australia) or Christchurch (New Zealand) where Sydney's Matthians (the more accurate term for what are often called "the Jensenites") have most aggressively pursued their tactic of border crossing. Your prayers are heard, just as are ours of thanksgiving for the faithful commitment to love, justice and truth shown by American Episcopalians, Canadians, and those in the C of E who haven't been seduced by a gospel of poison and power.

And never forget it'll take more than misogyny, bigotry and hatred to silence the Holy Spirit!


Anonymous said...

Thank you!

Jan said...

First time commenter here, although I've read for quite a while.

I attend one of those churches. It's my parish church, under 10 minutes walk away for me. My first day was Christmas Day last year after a move to the area a few days before. I love it and am looking to buy a place for myself where I can still easily get to the place.

We pray regularly for the archbishop here and for the bishop in whose district we fall.

I love the preaching and the fact that the Eucharist is celebrated weekly, although I also attend the Wednesday service. There is a deep love of God and of others expressed in the teaching and a belief in the working of the Holy Spirit permeates what is said and done.

In my year there have been a lot of baptisms, adult and infants, all conducted with great joy. One child was the baby of a couple who first attended the Eucharist which is popular in the district on All Hallows. Conversions too, two of them in particular with an amazing story. Some of those baptised were confirmed a few weeks ago and one of them publicly spoke strongly of her new found faith.

The children have been delighting in lighting the candles on our Advent wreath and every week they run down the aisle after the offertory with their work from Sunday School which they put where we can all see it.

The church website and bulletins proclaim that all are welcomed and as far as I can see , all are welcomed indeed.

Finally in this long comment, the standard of pastoral care far surpasses anything I have seen or experienced in almost any other church I have ever been in. Many parishes have next to nothing in this area at all, to the point that one minister was asked if anything was taught on this in college.

When i was involved in a nasty divorce action, I asked for prayer. I got it, all things mentioned which I had said nothing of. I was anointed and given a blessing. since then, the care and concern is still there.

You may well have guessed which parish I speak of. Not quite inner city, but perhaps more very inner west.

(interestingly, your verification word is "dritics" which amused me being almost "critics."}

Brian R said...

Always wonderful to hear of churches in the Sydney Diocese where the true faith of Christian Love is proclaimed and practised. Although I fled, I will continue to pray for those who remain and those dioceses where the Matthians try to spread their malice. They are even found in Dunedin but thankfully, as a minority, they do not have much influence. Christmas Blessings to you and your family.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like you are speaking of this minister. The one who ministers to the people of Dulwich Hill.

Alcibiades said...

@Jan: Thanks for leaving your comment - blessings to you and your church. Prayers also for you in the aftermath of divorce: God really can bring us through that time of grief and tragedy into life, love and laughter again.

@Brian: Christmas blessings to you too: since we're currently in NZ we're still on opposite sides of the Tasman - I think we're going back to Oz at about the same time you're coming back here.

@Anon 4:15: No names from me my friend ;-) Probably the worst thing I can do for anyone in Sydney is sing their praises!

Anonymous said...

Prayers and good wishes from England. Happy Christmas!

Mary X said...

The church of which I am almost certain Jan speaks is not Dulwich Hill but another very nearby.

If anyone doubts the mysogyny of the Jensenite view of women, please do take a wander over to the recent string of blogs about egalitarianism on the sola panel (sponsored by Matthias Media). The comments are where their "light" truly shines. Their intellectual poverty shines through everywhere.

The usual double speak and weasly qualifications to their outrageous statements are made but this response by Mark Baddely to a commenter who has been subjected to domestic violence is scary

"Violence – some marriages are characterised by violence as part of the operating norms of the relationship – sometimes verbal, sometimes physical, sometimes a mixture. If the violence is genuinely give and take with both partners that’s not abuse. It’s not healthy, and a Christian response is to help the couple develop new patterns and break with these ones, but ‘mutual violence’ is not abuse – even if one partner is using words, and the other fists. "

Then just to really bully the woman when he's losing the argument on theological grounds, he threatens legal action because he says she's slandered him on the forum.

Jan said...

Mary, you're right in your suggestion of another church nearby. Love it there.

Sybil said...

I struggle to maintain my belief in God when I see the harm and the infighting of those who claim to know the "truth".

The story about the child witches breaks my heart.

I am sad.

Sybil in Nova Scotia

Lapinbizarre said...

Thanks for this post. Mary X's quote of the appalling statement by Mark Baddely led me to the Sola Panel website - a whole new world to me, as is the entire "complementarianism" scene. What a mountain of misogynist crap! Baddely, with whom I was previously unfamiliar, is a real piece of work - a spectacular combination of arrogance and insecurity. Check the modest, revealing hymn to his own intellect in this post.

Sydneysider said...

Lapinbizarre, this stuff that you are reading on the Sola Panel is exactly what is being pushed in Sydney and if anyone challenges the ideology, the misogynists and bigots who run the diocese ensure opponents are ridiculed or discredited. This stuff you read is packaged and promoted worldwide through Matthias Media. Sydney and its US evangelical mates (mostly Baptists), with the help of a few UK conservatives Anglicans, are trying to rebrand Anglicanism as a narrow literal approach to Christianity. An approach which complements right wing politics

Simon said...

Neither should it be forgotten that Matthias Media is not a ministry of the diocese, but a registered business name belonging to St. Matthias Press, a privately owned company whose profits are not disclosed to the congregations forced to purchase their wares as part of the ongoing Connect 09 'evangelism' farce.

And the shareholders of this company? Well at least one of them has the surname "Jensen"...

Mary X said...

It's the determination to "keep women in their place' that frightens me. I mean it's not just opposition to women's ordination it's all about subordinating ALL women. I really think that gratuitous rubbish about mutual violence was frightening in terms of the impact it could have on violent men and vulnerable women.

Jesus wept.

Anonymous said...

Does that mean that Matthias Media takes orders and charges Sydney Anglican parish churches for Connect 09 resources, such as The Essential Jesus... and then pays St Matthias Press to produce these resources? Why doesn't the church own the print and distribution companies if they are non profit organisations? The way it is set up seems to be a bit like exploiting Sydney Anglican parishoners monetarily and removing freedom of thought.

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