Friday 6 November 2009

Who is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?

About 7 million people live in Sydney and the state of New South Wales, but there’s just one residential school for profoundly disabled children. A place called Kingsdene Special School.

Or rather, there was just one such school, because last Tuesday Archbishop Jensen, who chairs the Anglicare council which has operated Kingsdene school for the past 33 years, announced the school will close at the end of next year. After then there will be no facilities of this type available for children and their families. None.

That’s because the Sydney Diocese says it can no longer afford the $1.2 million a year needed to keep the school open, although the Sydney Morning Herald reported Anglicare Community Care director Ian Jackson as saying the closure was not a consequence of recent diocesan losses. Yeah right… forgive me if I don’t believe that either.

The reality is that in the great and glorious vision of global evangelical domination by which Sydney has been seduced there’s not much of a place for profoundly disabled children. Flying around the world and destabilizing British and American churches is a lot more exciting than caring for kids who dribble and aren’t ever going to join the Sydney University Evangelical Union where they respectfully admire the leaders’ brilliant Pauline exegesis. So when it comes to cutting corners…

Don’t get me wrong: I firmly believe that providing facilities for the weaker and needier members of our society is primarily the state’s responsibility, not the church’s, and I find it disgusting that a government who wastes $30 million on a V8 Supercar race refuses to provide appropriate care for those citizens least able to care for themselves. Yet in this case it’s not the government arguing against feotal abnormality testing, nor does the state teach that aborting a disabled feotus is a sin. If Sydney Anglican evangelicals want to set an example to a secular society they clearly consider their spiritual inferiors they must be prepared to lead the way when it comes to supporting those whom the world rejects. Setting a moral bar and then refusing to support those striving to meet it is the way of the Pharisees. And nothing more.

Nor is it enough to claim that since the government won’t put the money on the table then the Church doesn’t need to either. Ours is a calling to do more, not to meet apathy with apathy. If that means postponing the construction of yet another “multi-purpose ministry centre”, or a few less flights to meet and encourage liars claiming “this dispute is all about how we read the bible”, then so be it. Responsibility is not something Christ taught we can shrug off simply because the world doesn’t care either. Sure there’s no glamour (in this world, at any rate) in toilet-training incontinent teenagers, and the angels might rejoice when a 16 year old manages to learn the skills necessary to accompany their aging grandmother on a trip to the shops, but it’s not the kind of news that fills church-growth seminars. Yet since when has love been less important than having a “dynamic entrepreneurial missional focus”?

Forget whoever happens to be the latest gee-whiz evangelical guru: the parents of the children attending Kingsdene teach us all more about love, dedication, service, strength, and suffering than any Matthias Media paraphernalia can ever do. We reject them at our peril.
“See that you do not look down on one of these little ones.
For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.”
Matthew 18:10


Brian R said...

Many years ago, I think it was the election before last, I wrote to ++Jensen criticising him for his vocal support of the obscene amounts of money given by the government to wealthy Anglican as well as other church schools. I was able to describe the totally different situation in the libraries of State and Catholic parish schools where I worked compared to the situation of friends who were lucky to be working in the libraries of these schools (The Kings School in particular). Sadly, even after the change of government, the situation has not changed as the present government is too scared of the backlash from parents whose students attend these wealthy schools which would be encouraged by Jensen, Pell and the like. They can wring their hands about the lack of government funding but they would not countenance it being taken from the funding of playing fields, gymnasiums, swimming pools in their denominational schools.

Anonymous said...

Couldn't have said it better! Maybe Matthias Media could donate the profits from the 'Essential Jesus' bibles that have been ordered for Christmas gifts. The ones that the churches will purchase to give as free gifts to the secular world. More than likely Anglican AND Baptist Church gifts. (Did anyone check to see if the gift idea was running in the UK and USA?) Maybe some of the many authors of books (ie those leading members of the Sydney Diocese who are writing for Matthias Media) could donate some of the profits gained when the books are distributed by Matthias Media US, Matthias Media AUS and The Good Book Company UK.
And Moore College might be able to throw in some funds from the anti abortion campaign that they ran last year. They were very busy collating PUBLISHED RESOURCES to be handed out at churches, which were used to encourage donations from parishioners. I missed the Sydney Anglican pro-life ads on TV! I must have blinked!

Lapinbizarre said...

Wonderfully stated and an appalling state of affairs. "...not a consequence of recent diocesan losses", indeed. These people lie like cheap rugs! Could be, of course, they are telling the truth and planned to close the school anyway and use their profits for more worthy causes. Millstones around necks.

Word verification "HotHo" [capitalization my own].

lindy said...

Wow! You nailed it on that. I hope the dear bishop gets a chance to read your thoughts.

Anonymous said...

Actually, If you do your homework, you'll see that the Anglican Diocese of Sydney and Sydney Anglicare have seperate and distinct financial structures. The Diocese ' funding of Anglicare amounts to only approx. $200,000 a year (for parish counselling and resaerch programs). But why let the facts get in the way of a good rant! This is a blog afterall, and boring old fact-checking is just for 'old media' journalists.

It's one thing to say it's the government's responsibility to look after Kingsdene's kids - and that is a fair point - but our community needs to do some soul searching too. Kingsdene is just the tip of the ice-berg. There are thousands of profoundly disabled children in Australia. They are hidden, forgotten about and their families suffer in silence.

It's one thing to use this issue to club one of your favourite targets - it's another to dedicate yourself to really challenging our society to have genuine concern for the 'least of these' - and not just when it happens to be a newsworthy topic.

Alcibiades said...

That's not who I think it is back here again? An Anglo-Catholic woman wanting to make sure I don't think I'm speaking on her behalf? Or have you a new gender and ecclesiastical inclination this time around?

You certainly display a familiar eye for detail - or lack thereof. Where did I ever suggest the two organisations share financial structures? Although I guess you're right about one thing - I should haven't read so much into the fact that the Archbishop of Sydney just happens to also be Chairman of Anglicare, and the Anglicare web site's statement that "ANGLICARE is the urban mission and community care arm of the Sydney Anglican Church" shouldn't be taken too seriously, should it now?

How do you know - how do even have the slightest idea - of what I do with my time, or to what I dedicate myself outside of the fraction I share here? Of what my concerns and passions are? Of what charities I support, and how? The words "presumptious" and "arrogant" don't even begin to do you justice at this point.

This blog is - in case it's also missed your all-perceptive eye - primarily an alternative view - my view - of matters Anglican, particularly as they pertain to the Sydney diocese. Consequently I try to look at whatever I choose to discuss from that perspective, and you're just going to have to get used to the fact that means I don't contact you - or people like you - for an imprimatur before hitting "publish". Deal with it.

The "news" is that the Archbishop of Sydney has announced the closure of the only facility of its type in the state. The reason given is that operating this facility is too expensive, and I say that - especially given the wealth the diocese still possesses - this is an appalling thing for any Christian to say.

Or are you next going to try and claim that what Jesus would have done is keep giving priority to buying Matthias Media tracts?

If you are who I think you are you can do better than this. And if you're not then how about learning to think for yourself instead of simply parroting whatever spin you hear coming out St. Andrew's House?

Anonymous said...

Dear Alcibiades,
As far as the parents and friends of Kingsdene are concerned there still is a place called Kingsdene Special School.

We have an ever-growing army of supporters and a little under a year to turn this around. What we need is to keep the public discussion going about the appalling disparity of funding for severely / profoundly disabled school students between the public and independent school sectors.

I didn’t choose Kingsdene for prestige or a silly blazer, tie and boater ensemble! I chose the school because there was nothing half as effective as Kingsdene, in the public sector, for teaching children as disabled as my son. So why we are we funded by the Commonwealth government as if they think Kingsdene will just use the funding to buy adjacent parcels of real estate to build a cricket oval or a velodrome?

Kingsdene can be saved through public support just as it was when the last Commonwealth government brought in the offending funding formula. And this time we will get legislation in place to insure that independent special school funding remains appropriate and recurrent going forward. My dream is that there will Kingsdene type schools all over Australia.

Vanessa Browne (Kingsdene parent and Carers Alliance member)

Alcibiades said...

May your dream be shared among many.

There's no question about the fact that we need a lot more schools like Kingsdene, and that the formula under which Kingsdene receives government funding fails to acknowledge the unique needs involved in educating children like your son - something which must change. My concern is that in the absence of this funding Anglicare - which is part of the wealthiest diocese in the wealthiest church in the country - chose to announce the school's closure, instead of ensuring it contines operating until such time as the government responds to lobbying for change.

All power to you and your fellow
Kingsdene parents. There is indeed an army of supporters alongside you. Please don't hesitate to let me know how we can help you further.