Monday, December 3, 2012

Sad if it is true

I guess we cannot be guaranteed that everything we read in the newspapers is true, so I am prepared to give Archbishop Peter Jensen and the synod of the Diocese of Synod some benefit of the doubt re the following:

"A few weeks ago in Sydney synod, Professor Bernard Stewart and Reverend Philip Bradford put this simple motion up: 

''Synod notes the 20th anniversary of the ordination of women to the priesthood in the Anglican Church of Australia and gives thanks for the ministry of women in all areas of the church's life.'' 
Incendiary! Dr Claire Smith instantly moved to amend it by deleting all words after ''synod'' and adding ''gives thanks to Almighty God for the ministry of women in the church's life.'' The amendment was upheld, and the synod members were reminded not to mention the horrible idea of women priests again. 
This is what passes for debate about women in Sydney today. Archbishop Peter Jensen has achieved a goal he reportedly spoke of privately at the beginning of his tenure: he would stamp out support for women preaching and leading in the diocese. Twenty years ago, not allowing women to preach in front of men was a minority position. Today, it is widespread. 
This is documented in a new book out on the Movement for the Ordination of Women (MOW), Preachers, Prophets and Heretics: Anglican Women's Ministry, edited by Elaine Lindsay and Janet Scarfe. In it, Stuart Piggin, director of the Centre for the Study of Christian Thought and Experience at Macquarie University, details a meeting between MOW and Archbishop Jensen on April 10, 2002. One woman pointed out to the archbishop that in the last vote on women priests, clergy solidly opposed it but the laity split down the middle. He answered: ''I agree but I am going to work very hard to change that." 
Since then, most ministers in favour of women's ordination have left, been sidelined or given up. The silencing of women in Sydney has been almost complete. Many have walked. The last serious debate in synod was in 1996; there are few left who are able to speak out."

Read the whole article by Julia Baird here.

Really, Sydney and ++Sydney: what is it about women and their ministry "under orders" which is so threatening that their silence is sought through suppression of debate? Is this the way to honour women that a synod cannot even "note" an anniversary as a fact in the life of the wider church? What is it with ++Peter - if this report be true - that he has been intent on changing the minds of his laity?

A final point from Julia Baird:

"You can only wonder how girls are meant to reconcile the fact that they are taught to speak their minds at school, and to be silent in church. 
Two thousand years ago, the Christian church was radical in a culture of patriarchy. Now, in Sydney, it is a reactionary in a culture of equality."

Indeed, Julia, I wonder.


Martin Davies said...

I'm afraid the account and comment on the situation is true, Peter. The latest Newsletter from the Sydney inclusive organisation Anglicans Together, also has an account of the Synod ammendment, in which Anglicans Together president the Rev'd Philip Bradford comments, "that to remove all reference to the ordination of women as Dr Smith's ammendment did was to put one's head in the sand and pretend it hadn't happened". Unfortunately this is not yet online.

However, the previous Anglicans Together Newsletter is online, and gives a staggering account of an episode which shows a fundamental attitude within the diocese of Sydney, of an unwillingness to enter into dialogue with any differing viewpoint. It is too distressing for me to give a full account here, so I'll leave you to read for yourself of the Anglican Church League refusal to enter dialogue with Anglicans Together. The mind boggles.

At the St James' Institute, we were honoured and delighted to host the NSW launch of 'Preachers, Prophets & Heretics', with excellent presentatations from some of the book's contributors. A number of women priests from other dioceses were present. It was great to have Waiapu Diocesan Ministry Educator Rev'd Oenone Woodhams present for the day and making a presentation of 'Our Place, Our Voice' on behalf of the Council for Anglican Women's Studies.

Anonymous said...

How can the Sydney Synod give thanks for something they believe to be against the teaching of Holy Scripture - namely the ordination of women to 'every area of the church's life'? The Synod has consistently voted against such ordination. Amending the motion makes perfect sense for a Synod which has already made its mind very clear on the matter.

Anonymous said...

Try this one, Peter, when you have recovered from the latest outrage of blind hate from across the Tasman:

''Synod notes the nth anniversary of the legalisation of same-sex marriage and gives thanks for all permanent, faithful relationships.''

Would that have your vote? If not, why not?


Peter Carrell said...

Hi Anonymous,
I ask that you at least supply a first name, please.

The motion asked for thanks for the ministry of women in all areas of the church's life, not thanks for the ordination of women to every area of the church's life.

All Sydney was asked to do was to note a fact of Australian church life. It is ungracious not to acknowledge that fact.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Martin,
I suggest you read up on the history of Leninism, Trotskyism and Stalinism. That will give you the appropriate perspective to deal with the political unwillingness of the ACL to engage in dialogue, and an understanding of why the most evangelical diocese of the Communion needs to become even more evangelical by political means. It is all about purity, the untrammelled pursuit of which requires a totalitarian zeal.

Peter Carrell said...

I am not aware, Martin, of an outrage of blind hate from across the Tasman unless some rugby fan is still not satisfied with Robbie Deans' performance as Aussie rugby coach.

I do not see why that motion would not have my vote. It notes a fact and it gives thanks for something we should give thanks for. The world is a better place for permanent, faithful relationships, especially if they are an alternative to casual, promiscuous, impermanent, fly by night relationships.

I would not want to be ungracious towards fellow human beings. I assume you would not wish to be either as one who has received undeserved grace from our Saviour.

Anonymous said...

Peter, the 'most evangelical dioceses of the Communion' - after Nelson - are found in Rwanda and Uganda, not Australia. You need to get out a bit more! Read Michael Jensen's fascinating article about Sydney - he mentions Anglo-Catholic congregations there.. Amusing to see Sydney Anglicans compared to the mass murderers Lenin and Stalin - is this a new version of Godwin's Law? (Godlesswin's Law?) Tec have been the real ecclesiastical Bolshevists, IMHO. Where are the Tec Mensheviks? In South Carolina?

(The point of my question is that you have mistaken utilitarian pragmatism for the true will of God. A common mistake today, as it was in the 19th century.)


Peter Carrell said...

The point of invoking Leninism Trotskyism and Stalinism is not to compare anyone with Lenin, Stalin or Trotsky, least of all in the mass murdering capacity. (And I mentioned them as "isms" not as people). In my getting out and about, Martin, I have been fascinated by the continuing ability of the three "isms" to drive forward various manifestations of the spirit of Marx, competing with each other (as they once did in Russia itself) to claim to be the purest version of Marxism.

In the process, Stalinism has a particular claim to fame: the ability to pretend that certain people who used to work for the cause never existed, even to the point of doctoring photos of (say) a politburo gathering to remove people who had disappeared into Lubyanka's dungeons. There is an element of the Sydney motion which is about pretending that certain people, namely ordained women, a number of whom began their Christian journey in Sydney but left because no room was made for them, have never existed.

You have not given me your answer to the question and it would be good to have it. (No rubbish about pragmatic utilitarianism and the will of God, please. Let us know about your gracious answer to a question which involves real human beings seeking to live in ways which contribute to wholistic human society).

(PS I do not presume that people in faithful permanent relationships are necessarily involved in any kind of sinning. Do you?)

Anonymous said...

Well its good to know Archbishop Jenson and the Pope share something in common.

Perry Canterbury

Pageantmaster said...

I personally don't have a problem with women's ordination, and have no idea if there are any women priests in the Diocese of Sydney, but if there are not, then it seems to me that the correct motion to have submitted to Synod was one to approve the ordination or licensing of women in the diocese, rather than a backhanded and perhaps underhand one giving thanks for something in the province of Australia.

People should address head on what it is that they want to do, and let the decision be made by the competant Synod, if that is what they seek to achieve. I am not keen as you can imagine on some of the 'parliamentary' tactics Anglican politicians seem to enjoy so much.

Pageantmaster said...

"I am not aware, Martin, of an outrage of blind hate from across the Tasman unless some rugby fan is still not satisfied with Robbie Deans' performance as Aussie rugby coach."

Ah rugby, what a topical subject that is. 38-21 was it?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Pageantmaster,
There are no women priests in Sydney but there are women deacons.

As for 38-21, I rejoice in a serving of humble pie. Better now to learn that England can beat us than to find out with 10 minutes of the 2015 World Cup final to go!

Anonymous said...

Peter writes: "You have not given me your answer to the question and it would be good to have it."

I'm not sure what the question is. Was it: 'Are faithful, permanent relationships a cause to give thanks to God'? The answer is obviously no, if the relationship itself is not willed by God. Polygamy can be faithful and permanent, so can cohabitation. Even incest, to judge from recent German cases. We can't approve of what God doesn't approve of.

"No rubbish about pragmatic utilitarianism and the will of God, please."

I have never thought the will of God and the dominical call to perfection 'as your heavenly Father is perfect' could ever be called 'rubbish'. I've always thought it was the Church's duty to proclaim it as part of the Gospel call to obedience. 'pragmatic utilitarianism' describes the default setting of secular society (or in Augustinian terms, the City of Man).
"Let us know about your gracious answer to a question which involves real human beings seeking to live in ways which contribute to wholistic human society."
The Grace of God in Christ is the interest of the Church. Human society can be organised in all kinds of ways.

"PS I do not presume that people in faithful permanent relationships are necessarily involved in any kind of sinning. Do you?" God knows other peoples' hearts and conduct, I don't.


Peter Carrell said...

PS Martin,
If you follow up the link Martin Davies supplies above, you will be taken to a report about an obfuscatory dialogue which is straight out of the Leninist-Trotskyite school of political subtlety. The central committee is all powerful. It works to control everything through placing sound people in positions of influence. Despite the revolution having taken place it's anxious concern is that the revolution has not been completed. That anxiety seems like an anxiety lest the hidden bourgeois class come out of hiding and revert to the pre-revolution state. As for the resolve to change the democratic state of the will of the people, is one to conclude that some kind of propaganda blitz is intended to change people's minds, or was that a signal for the ACL to continue its political work so the right kind of party members are in place in the Synod.

If my analysis does not apply, how come so many people in Synod are afraid to say what they really think about the ordination of women? Is there a climate of fear in the Diocese about freely speaking in opposition to the party line? Why, once, when I was at Moore College, did a notable Sydney leader need to lower his voice to assure me that contrary to impressions I may have formed, there was more diversity of opinion among the staff than one would think?

Peter Carrell said...

A fair answer, Martin. Thank you.

MichaelA said...


Even though I am only a lay member of the Diocese of Sydney and not a Synod representative, I can assure you that a motion on the following lines would be passed overwhelmingly:

'Synod gives thanks for the ministry of women in all areas of the church's life'.

The measure that was put is viewed as disingenuous, an attempt to get Synod to pass a measure which appeared to approve of women's ordination, and which also implied that the ordination of women 20 years ago was somehow a positive step in women's ministry (most here would view it as a retrograde step for women's ministry). It is also common belief here that the people who put forward the motion knew exactly what they were doing.

The fact is that, like most of the Anglican world, we do not believe that the scriptures permit the ordination of women as priests.

If you want Sydney Synod to approve the ministry of women, put that motion. It will be passed.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Michael,
As I understand it, the motion you suggest was, more or less, the motion, as amended which passed. Of course!

I think it is disingenuous to think that a Synod 'noting' something is approving it.

MichaelA said...

Peter, then why are you so insistent that Sydney Synod has to 'note' the anniversary of ordination of women in the motion? From Sydney's point of view, the ordination of women 20 years ago did nothing for women's ministry - I accept that you believe differently, but it is not your synod. Why therefore are we required by you to 'note' an irrelevant fact in connection with celebrating the ministry of women?

And how are we 'disingenuous'? Surely our position is fully consistent with our theology and our beliefs?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Michael,
If you want to describe the ordination of women in the Australian Anglican church these last twenty years as an "irrelevant fact" then I am never going to persuade you that it might have been gracious to have noted the fact.

Mark said...

Hi Peter,

Then it would probably also be gracious for you to put forward a motion in your synod to note the fact that the majority of Anglicans in the world have continued to reject the innovation of women priests and to give thanks for the ministry of men in all areas of the church's life.

That seems reasonably equivalent to this 'gracious gesture' you think that Sydney should have offered.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Mark,
You have the wrong analogy to the situation.

The motion having been put up, the lack of grace was in the way it was shot down.

If a motion along the lines you suggest was put up in our Synod, the question of grace would be whether I was part of shooting it down or not.

If it was an innocuous as the one put up in Sydney I would not shoot it down. The wording you are implying would be equivalent is not innocuous in the same way (e.g. the Sydney one referred to a specific 'anniversary' fact about life in the Australian Anglican church).

So, no, I don't think you are proposing a 'reasonable equivalence.'

Mark said...

Hi Peter,

Fine, then suggest your own 'reasonable equivalence' motion then, rather than just shoot down one offered - that's an easy way out.

The motion I suggested could be modified to include the specific anniversary fact about life in the Anglican Communion:

Synod notes that it is a twenty year anniversary (or whatever it is in NZ) since women were ordained and that the majority of Anglicans throughout the world have rejected this innovation. Synod gives thanks for the ministry of men in all areas of the church's life.

The fact is, the motion as written was intended as a sly way of having the Synod indicate some approval for women's ordination - thanking God for the ministry of women in *all* areas of the church's life comes in the context of having noted the anniversary of women's ordination.

Sydney Synod believes that that practice is diobedience to the word of God, is wrong. So why would they support a motion intending to suggest they give thanks for something wrong?

The original motion is very 'Anglican' - a form of words that can be understood one way by one group and another by another group. Instead Synod did the more 'evangelical' thing (when one defines 'evangelical' not just internal to western Anglicanism but also Global South Anglicanism and non-anglican evangelicalism) - it gave support to a motion that *clearly* stated its convictions on the matter. Clear support for women's ministry and no suggestion of any approval at all for women's ordination, no matter how you parse the words.

I suppose the stronger analogy to the motion would be you supporting a motion along the lines of:

Noting that it is the anniversary of deacons officiating at Communion and giving thanks for the ministry of deacons in all areas of the church's life.

You personally might well support that motion, but lots of Anglicans throughout the world would not, I think, for the way it implies some support of the practice being noted. Sydney Synod's practice of not supporting motions that could be read as giving thanks for a practice they think is wrong is hardly unique here.