Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Sydney's confidence rising from gospel foundations

Archbishop Peter Jensen is always worth listening to, or reading. He mixes subtlety and diplomacy with forthrightness and robustness in exposition of the gospel. As good an example of this mix as any is his recent presidential address to the Diocesan Synod. You can read a report here, or the full address here.

I like the manner in which ++Peter engages with many concerning features of Australian society without blaming Kiwi immigration for them and connecting the gospel and its transformative power  to that society.

Inter alia, it is interesting to also read of rising Diocesan confidence in restored financial health. But perhaps the most interesting aspect of the address from a Communion perspective is the strong argument ++Peter mounts for the federalist nature of the Australian Anglican Church and Sydney's role in that - glad to belong to larger structures (the Province of NSW, the whole Australian church) and even happier to be free to forge a largely local understanding of how its gospel mission is to be worked out. I have never gotten a clear picture of whether Sydney is 'for' or 'against' the Anglican Covenant, but it strikes me as I read this address that Sydney is likely ambivalent about the Covenant, asking the question of it, whether it is driving forward a Communion more or less like the Australian Anglican Church!


Mark Baddeley said...

I have no definitive word on this, but I think you're basically right about the basic grid through which "Sydney" (much of its current senior leadership in this case) sees the issue. They like the Australian system that protects Dioceses (and States) from micromanagement from outside, while not leaving Dioceses entirely free to act autonomously.

So I think your analysis is right about where Sydney started in its views on the covenant. But I think they've moved to be basically negative towards it. That's partly because of the actions of Rowan Williams and the development of the new standing committee and its actions. My basic impression is that, outside of England, very few people trust Rowan Williams any more, and the word I've heard claimed to be used by multiple Global South primates to describe the ACC and its standing committee is 'corrupt'. I think the leaders in Sydney would share those kinds of impressions to a greater or lesser degree at this point in time.

But, from what I can see, it's mostly because the 'Global South' Primates (those who went to China recently) have pretty well unanimously rejected the covenant as the way forward.

It's one of the things I think Muriel Porter and others have misunderstood due to their fear of Sydney, and due to what seems to be a lingering paternalism towards the Global South.

Sydney isn't driving the Global South's rejection of the leadership of Lambeth and the ACC. It's the junior partner - appreciated by the GS (particularly GAFCON) for some of its theological nouse (not on lay admin, obviously) - and gets its 'orders' from the Global South primates, especially the GAFCON ones. It certainly isn't in the driving seat. The Global South isn't interested in swapping a leader chosen by Tony Blair by one chosen by the Sydney synod.

From what I can see, Sydney was, on its own becoming negative towards the covenant, but it is the pretty well unanimous rejection of it by the Global South that has crystalized and set Sydney's stance towards it.

My bet is that Rowan Williams' replacement will find some face saving way to let the covenant die quietly. The kind of person David Cameron will likely pick will be fine with losing the GS Primates, but he won't want to lose TEC or Canada.

For my money, the most interesting thing recently (even bigger than South Carolina) was the trip to China by the Global South primates. That, I think, was a big sign of what the future is going to look like - these primates, as a group, initiating a new phase of ecumenical relationships with the official Chinese Church, and bypassing all the instruments to do so. These are serious leaders who aren't western in their thinking. They aren't going to leave the communion, but they aren't going to keep trying to play politics with the instruments. They're just going to move ahead and be the communion in practice.

Pageantmaster said...

I am enjoying the final showing markup posts Peter+.

Our cousins in Sydney are part of the rich tapestry which makes up Anglicanism and I don't mind whether they give any more thought to the Covenant than they do to pouring the wine.

I enjoy listening to +Peter too - he gave a great eulogy on John Stott.

Sorry we won't see you boys in the final, but then perhaps the time spent in your bars is some consolation to those we sent over.

Andrew Reid said...

Hi Peter,

Yes, wouldn't it be easier to just blame the ditch jumpers for our problems :)

On the covenant, Sydney has been against any kind of Covenant from the beginning. You can find a booklet from 2005, with their leading figures arguing against it here:
(Authors aren't all from Sydney, but many are)
They also have a motion on the business paper at the current Synod to reject it. The Secretariat site seems to be down, so I can't link to it, unfortunately.

The section in the Address about Sydney's relationship to the national church was refreshing, in that it explains Sydney's guiding principles and actions outside of the polemics of General Synod debates. Usually, all we hear is the "Sydney is blocking initiative X" vs "Sydney is upholding biblical faithfulness" arguments.

Father Ron Smith said...

Mark Baddesley's contribution to this article seems more fixed on his problems with Archbishop Rowan Williams than with the seeming willingness of Sydney to adhere to Australian Provincial rules - when it suits them.

On the subject of the ABC, at least he had the guts to front up to Mr Robert Mugabe in Harare, after presiding and preaching at a Mass in an outdoor stadium with 20,000 supporters from the Anglican Church in Zimbabwe. His mission to Central Africa is to show his support for Anglicans there.

This is very different from Abp. Peter Jensen, whose main objective for the last few years seems to have been in support of dissidents within the Communion who agree with his stance on women and gays. I do not think he has too many Anglican supporters in Australia outside of Sydney. (He has a few in N.Z., of course).

Mark Baddeley said...


The Australian Church Record isn't "Sydney". It's a vehicle for one group (an important one) to influence decision making. If it writes something in 2005, that will usually (not always) be an indication that that position is not settled among the senior decision makers.

Father Ron Smith:
I have two sentences describing what I think is how ++Rowan Williams is perceived and you see the thirty-three line comment as "more fixed on his problems with Archbishop Rowan Williams than with the seeming willingness of Sydney to adhere to Australian Provincial rules - when it suits them."

As I said nothing at all about Sydney's willingness to adhere to Australian Provincial rules, then, yes, my comment is 'more fixed' on my problems with ++Williams. It's also more fixed on that than on my problems with parking in the centre of Oxford, the plot of the latest Star Trek movie, and the price of eggs in China. Compare something, no matter how small, to nothing and it will be 'more fixed'.

As for your comparison to ++Williams and ++Jensen, you do realize that you can come across as a bit partisan in your analysis?

You pick up one thing ++Williams has done - the recent trip to Zimbabwe - as though that is all he has done. And you pick up one thing ++Jensen has done - join with the Global South Primates in supporting orthodoxy among Anglicans throughout the world (a way of describing what he's done that's just as valid as your attempt) - as though that's all he's done. How is that, in any sense, comparing oranges to oranges?

As to ++Jensen's supporters outside of Sydney - there's probably more than you think. Outside Anglican circles, ++Jensen is often quite respected. And in Anglican circles he tends to have the support within the kind of evangelical who is keeping his or head down and getting on with things, rather than writing books or editorials. (Not all of those are well disposed towards him, but certainly more than it might look from a distance.)

He even has respect among the other bishops. My impression is that when the then Primate of Australia accused the Diocese of Sydney (and by implication, ++Peter) in print of Arianism, one of the reasons why the charges didn't go anywhere was that the majority of the bishops said, "++Jensen says that's not what he believes, and we know he has integrity - he wouldn't dissemble about it". (And that was a paraphrase passed on to me from two different bishops who saw themselves as speaking for the opinion of others.)

There are tensions, anger, ill-will, frustration and the like in the Anglican Church in Australia between different groups and Dioceses. But there seems to be a basic collegiality that is (basically) handling the challenges faced over the last ten years or so.

Father Ron Smith said...

Apologies for my seeming exaggeration of the number attending Archbishop Rowan's Mass and Preachment in Harare last weekend. The number should be '10,000', not 20,000, as reported by me formerly. However, still a goodly number, when you compare the number gathered in opposition by Kunonga outside Harare Cathedral. Just 100!

Joshua Bovis said...

Peter et al,

For your information pertaining to Sydney diocese's response to the Covenant.

Andrew Reid said...

In response to a couple of comments here.
Fr Ron Smith, Abp Jensen has many supporters among evangelical Anglicans within Australia. Sydney is hardly an evangelical island in a sea of liberals and Anglo-Catholics. The dioceses of NW Australia and Armidale are majority evangelical, along with significant groups in Melbourne, Tasmania, Canberra/Goulburn (whose bishop is ex-Sydney) and some regional dioceses.
Mark Baddeley, I understand the ACR isn't an official Sydney publication, but this book is edited by three of the leading figures in the diocese - Mark Thompson, Robert Tong and Dr Peter Bolt, together with heavyweight authors like Abp Jensen himself, Tony Payne, Neil Cameron and Dr John Woodhouse. If these guys agree on something, that's a pretty significant Sydney grouping.

Mark Baddeley said...

Hi Andrew,

I agree with you that they are a group of senior leaders in different fields, but that book still wasn't "Sydney's" position.

I talked with the guys at the time (many of them were colleagues at the time, and are friends) and it was published as a deliberate strategy to speak to the deliberations going on throughout the communion in the wake of the Windsor Report. The book deliberately went to the 'right', not because the authors were committed to that position as a hill to die on, but because their experience of politics suggested that if the only positions argued were 'moderate' (e.g. ++Williams, ACI, and Fulcrum) and 'left' (various theological liberals), the final outcome would be somewhere in between the two voices - centre left. The classic Anglican fudge is always to compromise between the wheels squeaking at the time. Someone had to speak up for a position on the matter that time has shown is basically the view of most of the Global South.

So it wasn't articulating a policy of the Diocese, it was taking a strong voice in a conversation that was going on outside the Diocese (flagged to some degree by the fact that Part II of the booklet is entitled "Conversation").

And it wasn't focused overly on the covenant at that stage. It was indicating an opposition to two basic things that were regularly being linked with the covenant (not the covenant per se).

One, the attempt to centralize the communion around a body that would have authority over Provinces and to speak on behalf of the Communion. The authors were of the view that many of the Provinces would not be able, by virtue of their constitutions, to sign onto such a covenant. (And I'd tend to agree with that one - I'm unclear as to how the CoE can sign up without being disestablished first.)

Second, that the wrong problem had been identified and so the solution was wrong. And you can see my reflections on Avis' essay on the covenant (assuming Peter publishes them all :) ) in the next post to see at what points I agree with that.

If those two features are, and always have been, essential to the covenant - to centralize authority into a body, and to see the essential problem as one of a lack of forbearance and mutual responsibility (Avis' language) and not a problem of substantial theological and moral error - then yes, Sydney was always opposed.

But as someone who supported the covenant up until last year, I don't think it was as clear as that (otherwise I wouldn't have supported it on the second reason, although I might have on the first) for much of the last six years. The details of the covenant was yet another thing that was done privately and then the ACC got to vote on the finished product (and even that got messed up when it came to the important Section 4).

Sydney is opposed to the covenant now, definitely. Sydney was always opposed to the two principles I've outlined and so was quite critical of the Windsor Report. But I don't think that means that Sydney was absolutely opposed to the Covenant from the start.

Father Ron Smith said...

I'm interested, Mark Baddesley, that you would categorise the A.C.I. and Fulcrum as 'moderate'. The first is definitely with ACNA in America, and the second, conservative protestant. One only has to access their respective web-sites to see that.

Mark Baddeley said...

I'm not sure that A.C.I. is 'with' ACNA. I think it has been a strong proponent of the idea of trying to stay within TEC and has been less than wholeheartedly supportive of the idea of setting up a new province in the U.S. Overall, the strategy it has tended to promote has tended to be one that has looked to Canterbury and its initiatives for the solution, and it has only been in the last year or two that it's begun to be more openly critical. It tends to also present the issue a bit like Avis' article that Peter recently linked - the issue is how people with different views can live together in the same institution.

In my thinking that's a kind of 'moderate' - they're conservative moderates (not liberal moderates), conservative because they hold to fairly traditional views on doctrine and ethics. Moderate because they think the solution can be found working with Canterbury and within the current structures - no wide-ranging reform is needed. I tend to see conservatives and liberals as seeing truth and right outweigh structural unity. Moderates, whether liberal or conservative, tend to see structural unity as the greater good.

As for Fulcrum being conservative protestant, well that depends on your point of view. If you are liberal, then, yes, Fulcrum is not liberal. And if the only two options are 'liberal' and 'conservative' then they are conservative.

But they spend a lot of energy criticizing protestants who are more conservative than they are. And, as I've listened to evangelicals in the CoE, they tend to place Fulcrum down the liberal end of the spectrum within evangelicalism as the opposing book-end to Reform (over on the far right). After one of N.T. Wright's reactions to the pro-homosexual lobby (I think it was), I remember Ruth Gledhill writing of her shock saying that he's the kind of moderate that you think will prove to be a liberal when push comes to shove (intended to be a compliment - she was saying that she thought he had the same enlightened views as the Times deep down).

If you're the liberal end of a conservative group then you arguably come out as 'moderate' overall. Just as if there was a group of liberals who were a lot more conservative than Thinking Anglicans (++Williams might fit that; he's liberal but a very, very conservative liberal) then they'd also be 'moderates'.

It's not meant to be a polemical descriptor. Merely to add in some extra categories other than just 'liberal/conservative'.

Father Ron Smith said...

Mark, just as a point of interest, and following upon your dissertation about labels; what would consider your own position to be, say, on the LGBT issue in the Church?

Mark Baddeley said...

Hi Father Ron Smith,

I probably wouldn't collapse the LGBT issue together, to start with. I'd probably separate out the 'T' from the 'LGB' as those two groups seem to run opposing arguments. 'LGB' tends to argue that their orientation is inherent and fixed(at the last couple of decades, before the rise of AIDS the argument was that people should be free to love whom they love) - something given to them by nature, and as something 'natural' therefore right.

'T' tends to argue that nature has made a mistake and they have ended up in a body with the wrong gender. Nature needs to be corrected by the application of modern science (in this case, medicine).

While both groups have joined together, I see it more as an alliance of convenience against a dominant heterosexualism than a true unity of conviction.

I think the Church is called to oppose the idea that same-gender sex, or trying to change one's gender, is morally okay. Under normal circumstances that's almost a footnote to Christian ethics and doctrine, it affects so few people. In the current situation where it's a bit of a celebrated cause, it's requiring a lot more attention. That happens - certain doctrines and moral issues take a prominence in certain eras that they don't normally.

But I think that will change over the next fifteen to twenty years. This issue will peak, just like the ones before it, and people will find a new cause to focus on.

If you're a label for me, then 'conservative' will work fine. Given your polemical style, even 'homophobic' could work - as long as you make it clear that you adopt the modern meaning of 'homophobia': any opposition to same-gender sex, and not the older meaning of 'homophobia' - an opposition to same-gender sex grounded in fear .

I think the new definition is a classic attempt to stigmatize by labelling (we could also add 'Republicanophobia' for people who don't like the Republican party, and 'Democatophobia' for people who never vote Democrat). But that's the current style of arguing, and we play the ball where it lies.

Actually, I think I'm going to introduce a new term, 'heterophobia' - defined as "any opposition to the fundamental heterosexual nature of humanity and human sexuality." I think it's as non-partisan as the current use of 'homophobia'.

Father Ron Smith said...

Mark, how perceptive of you - to notice that there are different aspects dividing the claims of the respective elements of LGB & T.

Tran-gender people are those who, even before the arrival of puberty, experience conflict between what they perceive as their innate sexual identity (e.g., male or female) is contrary to the common perception of what ought to be, considering the make-up of their intimate body parts. If you've never met a T.G., or found one in the local congregation (or read about the phenomenon), it may be difficult for you to know what is being discussed here.

There was a well-known trans-gender person who visited New Zealand recently, to attend the funeral of one NZ's cultural icons, Sir Edmund Hilary. When Ed first met this journalist, after the epic climb of Mt. Everest in the year 1953, his name was James Morris. James later became Jan Morris, and remained a great friend of Sir Edmond and Lady Hilary. Ed understood the change that had happened to his friend and like many other people, accepted it as perfectly 'normal'.

The connection between them and the GLBs is that Trans people happen to have to do battle with a similar phobic opposition to their sexual identity (by hetero-sexual people) to those who happen to be innately attracted sexually to their own gender Complex? Yes! Impossible? No!

It does take a little empathy and understanding, as well as Christian tolerance, to begin to appreciate such people, but the Church is beginning to open up to the real possibility of that, thank God.

Mark Baddeley said...

Hi Father Ron Smith,

If you've never met a T.G., or found one in the local congregation (or read about the phenomenon), it may be difficult for you to know what is being discussed here.

Really? Well thank ya pardnah for bein' so 'ospitable-like and spelling it out for me. Much appreciated.

Let's see if my staggering powers of perceptivity have got this right. You agree with me that that the LGB grouping makes the opposite claims to the T grouping:

Mark, how perceptive of you - to notice that there are different aspects dividing the claims of the respective elements of LGB & T.

I also said that in light of how profoundly different the claims are between the two groupings, their alliance was one of convenience against a dominant heterosexualism. In response you've said:

The connection between them and the GLBs is that Trans people happen to have to do battle with a similar phobic opposition to their sexual identity (by hetero-sexual people) to those who happen to be innately attracted sexually to their own gender Complex? Yes! Impossible? No!

For you the one thing that connects the four letters is their need to do battle with a similar opposition to their sexual identity by hetero-sexual people.

In other words we agree here too. I used fancy words like 'convenience' and 'dominant heterosexualism' and you nicely tried to suggest that all heterosexual opposition to LGB and to T is based in fear (nice return to the older definition of homophobia by the way), but apart from those ephemerals (which you might find hard to grasp if you've never met an ephemeral or done any reading about it) we agree on the substance of my point:

1. LG and B run a substantially different (I'd argue, opposed) argument to T.

2. What unites them is their doing battle against the opposition to their self-identity from some hetero-sexuals.

Father Ron Smith said...

Mark, there's one part of your last argument we can agree on here; it is contained in your last sentence: -

"What unites them (L,G.B & Ts) is their doing battle against the opposition to their self-identity from some hetero-sexuals"

(N.B. for Peter: Not all of the Aussie Rugby World Dup Team)