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.