Friday, July 22, 2011

In hindsight, our church was pretty crazy way back then

Just outside my door at Theology House is a display of new books for our library. One of those is the recently published Living Legacy: A History of the Anglican Diocese of Auckland, edited by Allan K. Davidson. It's a substantial volume, and I know it is the culmination of a considerable effort on the part of its organisers and writers. Browsing in it the other day I came across the following story. Its setting is the charismatic renewal of our church in the 1970s which arguably reached a high point around the year when this synodical moment occurred. The Diocese of Auckland has ever been diverse, and just as some of the most inspiring stories of charismatic renewal are about parishes in that diocese, some of the most vibrant example of liberal activism also stem from there. Here is the story:

"In 1980 Tony Georgietti and Murray Spackman move in Synod 'that this synod asks Archbishop Paul [Reeves, Diocesan] and Bishop Godfrey [Wilson, Assistant] to lead our diocese in revival'. George Armstrong and Andrew Beyer sought to append to the motion the words: 'in the Holy Spirit in terms both of the transformation of our capitalist materialist, white-racist, male-dominated society and church and also our own inner personal selves'. This was lost when Don Battley, Vicar of Pakuranga, ever the peacemaker, offered a gently amendment, 'in the Holy Spirit both in the transformation of our society and Church and also of our own personal selves'. This was carried unanimously." [p. 261]

I cannot imagine such an Armstrong-Beyer amendment being proposed in today's church. On the one hand we have moved from understanding problems in society and church in such absolutist terms which blame distinctive groups (capitalists, whites, males) and let others off the hook. We are both more nuanced, noting that racism is not the preserve of whites only, and we have changed, with males less dominant ... and still we have many problems in our society. On the other hand I think we are smarter: we do not now think the best way to attack male dominance is to have two males move a motion! But I can imagine that motion being moved in 1980. That was a crazy era. Various Isms were beginning to drive through agenda in synods and at St John's College. Students came out of St John's College (where George Armstrong was a lecturer) radicalized and ready for action, by which was not meant pastoral visiting and cups of tea with best bone china.

Still, the whiff of nostalgia from any era is a comforting smell, and Living Legacy in this passage offers a particularly stimulating reminiscence of heady days of a bygone period in our life.


Glynn Cardy said...

What I miss is the passion of those times, of trying to name and confront the issues, and then talking/arguing about them as a whole church in Synod. While I have some criticisms too of those times, our Synods today are frankly boring in comparision.

By the way I was a youth rep at that Synod.

Father Ron Smith said...

As a member of the Auckland Synod at that time, and having been taught by George Armstrong - among others like Watson Roseveare - I would miss their Gospel appeal in the atmosphere of today's pacifism A little bit more concern for the weak and downtrodden wouldn't go amiss in today's Bible College institutions.

Bishop Paul Reeves was, and still is, a goodly influence in the Church and the World in which we actively 'live and move and have our being'. The Word-made-flesh had a relevance which flowed from, and was not completely confined to, the Words of the Scriptures. In other words: The Spirit of God was alive and active in the College Community.

Bryden Black said...

"Crazy"?! I think the form of craziness that infected those times is best dealt-to by the antidote of more JS Bach whose French Suites I am currently listening to.

As for "boring": what is especially so is the reinvention of 19th C liberal ideas which are presented as the latest 'solution' to the 20th (or shld that be 21st C?) religious psyche.

Please guys; just spend a few hours reading Irenaeus (for example) and you might realise that much of what passes for 'significant concerns' is just so passee.

Which is a plea for far more historical perspective than that so far shown.

Anonymous said...

The Holy Spirit of Truth, spreads the Love of God in our hearts, and creates The Abundant and Holy Life in hearts one at a time, in marriages, families and churches.
The Holy Spirit brings us into The Holy righteousness, peace and joy that the world cannot take away, whatever our lot...male, female, slave, all free, yet freely slaves to Christ.
Transformation is always the work of the Holy Spirit, by the Blood, Cross and Name of Jesus Christ, and by living and loving the Word of God.
Transformation is always God at work.
Transformation can't be made to happen by a Synod vote and a royal decree or political vote can't stop it.

Anonymous said...

This is Peter Carrell testing something via making this comment.

Bryden Black said...

Anon: bull's eye!

Rolling Stones - something abt a Banquet - it has to be then!