Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Glenn, I would withdraw now

Well, that didn't take long. A couple of moments ago I was reporting on the 'race' for the next Archbishop of Sydney, at that stage with a definite candidate, Bishop Glenn Davies and a likely candidate Rick Smith. But now it is all over. (But see Update below).

Thanks to my Oz correspondent I have been alerted to a website now set up to promote the confirmed candidacy of Rick Smith.

There is a video promoting Rick there. A bit slick for my taste! Still someone in Sydney knows how to video edit. (NB Rick is a great guy, he supports Rugby Union).

Anyway of great interest, partly through the video and mostly through this PDF letter of support from 'some members of Standing Committee' (22/47 able-to-express-an-opinion-of-56-in-total), we learn the following key facts about the 'establishment' of the Sydney Diocese and its commitment to Rick being the next ABS:

- a substantial bloc of the Standing Committee is publicly supporting Rick's candidacy in writing

- noting that some members of the Sydney Diocese are more important than others when it comes to influencing opinion, it is very important to recognise that the Very Rev. Philip Jensen (Dean, brother of current ABS, former candidate to be ABS) and the Rev. Dr. Mark Thompson (Principal-elect, Moore College) are among the list.

- (following up a note from a comment below) - also notable is the name of the Rev Gavin Poole, President of the Anglican Church League, which is a powerful lobbying force within the Sydney synod.

Is it conceivable that Sydney would elect an archbishop whom Philip Jensen and Mark Thompson and the ACL did not approve of?

The names signing the letter are given as follows:

Mr. Robert Bradfield..................Georges River
Rev. Canon Phillip Colgan....Georges River
Miss. Jenny Flower......................Northern
Rev. Nigel Fortescue..................Wollongong
Ven. Kara Gilbert.........................Western
Rev. Canon Sandy Grant.........Wollongong
Mr. Stephen Hodgkinson......Southern
Very Rev. Phillip Jensen.........Southern
Mr. Geoff Kyngdon......................Wollongong
Rev. Peter Lin..................................Georges River
Rev. Chris Moroney....................Southern
Mr. John Pascoe.............................Southern
Rev. Gavin Poole...........................Western
Rev. Craig Roberts......................Northern
Dr. Laurie Scandrett..................Southern
Rev. Stephen Semenchuk......Wollongong
Mr. Phillip Shirriff......................Northern
Dr. Claire Smith............................Northern
Rev. Dominic Steele...................Southern
Rev. Dr Mark Thompson.........Southern
Miss. Jane Tooher.........................Southern
Mr. Tony Willis...............................Wollongong

I would say the election is over, bar the formal speeches and the actual voting.

My advice to Bishop Glenn Davies is to withdraw now.









Away from the Jensen approach.

Fascinatingly, the ACL is going to be praying about the election ...

UPDATE: I had not quite realised how strong a web presence +Glenn Davies campaign has.

The home page is here.

A set of videos is here.

A list of supporters is here, including Dr Michael Jensen, John Dickson, and Andrew Katay (whose blog I have just begun linking to).

The impression forming in my mind is that the 'hard conservatives' of the Diocese are lining up behind Rick Smith and the 'soft conservatives' are lining up behind +Glenn Davies.


Anonymous said...

"Rick is the right men for the succession" Philip Jensen....the "succession" mmm............
On a frivolous note.I remember chatting with my training incumbent many many years ago about voting for the General Synod House of Clergy "Anyone who abbreviates their name goes straight to the bottom of the poll" was his advice.....

Perry Butler Canterbury UK.

Peter Carrell said...

On your last point, Perry, I think might side with my Australian cousins and say that Down Under I don't think name abbreviation is a point against!

Andrew Reid said...

Hi Peter,

I have to say I am pretty shocked at the style of campaigning in Sydney. I had heard of caucusing and campaigning before, but nothing so blatant as this. In any other diocese in Australia, this style of campaigning would wreck your chances.

I'm not as familiar with Sydney's processes, but most other dioceses have a nominations committee whose job is to develop selection criteria, canvass and interview potential candidates, and present a final list of candidates for the election synod. All their deliberations are confidential to protect potential candidates from the ruthless public examination that happens in political contests. I understand Sydney prefers to have public nominations with no vetting or nominations group.

Another nteresting name on the list of Rick Smith's endorsers is Rev. Gavin Poole, President of the Anglican Church League. They don't support any candidate officially, but if a majority of the ACL support him, it's a foregone conclusion. Makes you wonder what their June prayer meetings will be like. A fair bit of "Lord, give us a man of your choosing - that's Rick Smith, by the way, Lord."
On Glenn Davies list, most of the endorsements are from outside Sydney! Only Karen Sowada is known to me from his Sydney people.

As I commented on David's blog, this style of campaigning seems to maximise personal popularity and minimise the guidance of God. Perhaps we ought to emulate our Coptic brothers and sisters, who select their Pope by having multiple rounds of voting to arrive at a final list of 3 candidates and then draw the name out of a container!

Anonymous said...

Coming from outside Sydney, may I say that I find the publicising of candidates' merits refreshing and godly?

It invites the whole of the church and synod to have a say in the process, even if there is no formal vote.

Are any of your readers seriously suggesting that the smoke-filled-roomb approach generally resulting in the least offensive candidate being elected, which is adopted elsewhere in the Anglican world is preferable?

Alan from Perth

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Alan
I agree that any electoral process in the church should be as transparent and as accessible as possible (while acknowledging constraints re local specifics of culture, custom and canons). (For what it is worth, it is quite arguable that here in NZ we have a process that is not as transparent and accessible as it could be; but nor does it involved many rooms being filled with smoke!)

However questions arise about where Sydney is going in this way:
- is it an equal process (e.g. every candidate is encouraged to produce a website, slick video, etc)?
- is it a fair process (e.g. once a candidate is announced with public endorsement from 'very important people' will that (say) deter other candidates from being announced?

Anonymous said...

Peter, this comment:
Thanks Andrew.
It is a power play, a desperate effort to make sure the unthinkable does not happen, namely "the wrong man" gets in.

imputes motive (desperate), ascribes emotions (unthinkable) and implies opinions (the wrong man) that you don't seem to have access to. As such, it's unhelpful.

Andrew, is politics (the ordering of affairs of the polis, here probably best read as 'large group of people with shared interests') entirely evil, or a set of processes, human interactions, which Christians may use in a godly manner, for godly ends? Either Sydney can have campaigning, i.e. honest attempts to convince electors of the merits of a good candidate, or no Christian should vote, nor pray for Christian parliamentarians, nor for Parliament at all (nor, probably, for our sovereign lady) nor honour Martin Luther King Jr or William Wilberforce, nor...
well, you get the picture.

I think politics can be done by Christians who are responsible to God and their neighbour for the way they conduct themselves in these (very particular) human relationships. That's not being "blatant", it is being unashamed, because there is nothing in the process itself to be ashamed of. Honesty - "we're going to have an election, let's do it well" - can free people to be more open, genuine, honest, self-critical and accountable.
A nominations commitee is just as open to abuse - in fact, only secular anti-smoking laws save it from being a smoke-filled room. Confidential deliberations can be for candidates' benefit - but they work very nicely for the back-room operators, too.

"Makes you wonder what their June prayer meetings will be like", "this style of campaigning seems to minimise the guidance of God"
In the context of this post, you read as if you're going for either/or, not both/and. Either godly, or responsible and active. Either you pray, or you act. Either you try to pick the best chimpanzee in the zoo on a set of HR criteria, or you trust in God by pulling a rabbit, sorry, Baba, out of a hat.
If you want to make an issue out of the campaign style (personal endorsements vs addressing selection criteria), then go ahead. That's fair comment. But this is just sniping at "those Sydney people" from outside.

If either of you are trying to be helpful to Sydney or to observers (especially evangelicals) outside Sydney, you need to avoid personal slurs (particular or general). You're both older and wiser than me. Grow up.

Alan Wood
Port Macquarie

Peter Carrell said...

Excellent, Alan!

I am very happy to be proved wrong about 'power play', 'desperate' and avoiding the 'wrong man' being elected.

I have, as it happens, some personal experience and insight into life in the Sydney Diocese. It worries me that an intimidatory ethos has been generated re the prevailing orthodoxy of the Diocese (by otherwise wonderful and godly people, I hasten to add). In that ethos the room to seek an alternative ethos is limited, and, conversely, the need at the time of a change of archbishop to ensure the prevailing ethos prevails is very strong.

Incidentally, have you popped over to David Ould's website and followed comments there about the election? A masterful display of maturity in debate is there for all to see. I can indeed 'grow up' by learning from it!

Peter Carrell said...

Dear All
In the light of Alan's comment above I wish to revise a comment I made earlier (now deleted).

Originally I wrote:

"Thanks Andrew.
It is a power play, a desperate effort to make sure the unthinkable does not happen, namely "the wrong man" gets in."

I am happy to revise that comment to read more in keeping with the tone I should be aspiring to. So,

Thanks Andrew.
It makes me wonder whether what is going on is a power play, and to what extent it represents a desperate effort to make sure the unthinkable does not happen, namely "the wrong man" gets in.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Peter.

BTW, yes, I have been over to David's site. I wish he would grasp john Dickson's point, and resile from one of his less helpful statements, but David's tenacity is part of what makes hiim God's gift to us, and it can mean he stops listening after a while. And in the context of that discussion, me horning in would be entirely unhelpful.

Alan Wood
Port Macquarie

Andrew Reid said...

Dear Alan,
Thank you for your comments and insight into how the Sydney process works. My comments were not complaining about church politics at all - indeed many of the rest of us in Australia could learn a lot from Sydney in this regard. I was just honestly surprised at the campaign style of the archbishop nominees. At the time, I didn't realise that Sydney doesn't use a nominations committee, so I am now more understanding of the need to publicise information about the candidates and get them known. (By the way, are there official selection criteria published somewhere? I haven't seen any.)

I am guilty of sniping at the ACL - it just seemed odd to me that they organised prayer meetings for guidance and professed they would not recommend a candidate, and then their president is one of the key supporters of Rick Smith. I'm sure he is doing this in a personal capacity only, but given the ACL's influence in Sydney, would synod members be unfairly swayed by his recommendation?

I will ask you 3 questions about this process that trouble me, and these are not hypotheticals, I would genuinely appreciate an answer from you or anyone else reading this.

1) Do you think this process genuinely leads to a prayerful, Spirit-led search for the candidate of God's choice? (I agree with you that some of the back room committee systems do not)
2) Do you think this process leads to less back room deals than a nominations committee? Given Moore College, ACL and Phillip Jensen seem to be lining up behind Rick Smith, is is possible that such deals happen here also?
3) Do you think the campaign style approach leads to Godly reflection on someone's character and abilities, or is it more likely to lead to a popularity contest?

Peter Carrell said...

I heartily support your questions, Andrew; and for two reasons.

(1) They are great questions

(2) Sometimes in Kiwiland Anglicans ask whether we could not improve our system. Which only raises the question, what is the proven better system.

I underline a point you make: one may not want a smoke-filled nominations committee room. But surely to get 22 names of a Standing Committee, along with luminous ACL names together, along with (say) David Ould seeming to know precisely what was going on and when the website was up, the e-conversation equivalent of a smoke-filled room has taken place!

Father Ron Smith said...

Having read through this post - together with the succeeding comments; it seems to me that the race for the Sydney Primacy might be best described as 'political' rather than 'spiritual'. I may well be wrong!

Anonymous said...

Gentlemen, thank you for your gracious response to this interloper. Andrew, you may be interested to look at the ACL website, and see two posts there: one links to both campaigns, in an even-handed way, I think; it links to the other, publicising prayer meetings.

Your four questions are good ones, and it seems only polite to give you my answers.
1) My point is that it can lead to a more Godly process (and BTW an opportunity to exercise godliness for all of Synod), not necessarily that it will. That's what I will be praying for.
2b) The smoke-filled room (thanks Peter) has occurred at the very early stage, of weighing likely support for a candidate.
2a) As someone who'll need to think soon myself about whom to nominate for our next appointment process, if I don't think someone could get support, I wouldn't nominate them - it would be a waste of time, and potentially hurtful. In Sydney, that thought process seems to have been done in groups, as iron sharpens iron. If you can't get support on standing commitee, it's unlikely you'll be able to win over the Synod, so it's a reasonable gauge. I think this is the best end of the time-scale to have any back-room manoeuvring. If the whole of synod doesn't like the wheeling and dealing, they can still vote the candidate down.
3) Reflection on character and abilities, yes. Popularity contest, yes, too - but back in the day, the reason Philip Jensen was a popular candidate among the clergy (I'm told) was that he was a great preacher, teacher, church builder and planter. So popularity can be a good guide, if it's the right kind of popularity. My real fear (and here's something worth praying against) is that negatives will help decide: "He's not sound on X", etc. "Who do I dislike least" is very UNlikely to lead anywhere nice.

Alan Wood

Peter Carrell said...

Thanks Alan.

It worries me that in the nature of this kind of campaigning that the quality of technology might sway some (albeit unwittingly): X has the best presentation so X is the best candidate, the one most in touch with communication technology today, etc.

But then, I guess any form of promotion of a candidate is susceptible to that. With smoke-filled rooms the best candidate might be perceived to be the one whose friends are non-smokers. Etc!

David Ould said...

Peter and others,

Thanks for your interest in our election. It is, as you note, an important one with implications far beyond the diocese itself.

I wonder if I can take issue with a few things noted:

Makes you wonder what [the ACL's] June prayer meetings will be like. A fair bit of "Lord, give us a man of your choosing - that's Rick Smith, by the way, Lord.
I think that's a little unfair, Andrew. Yes, as you note, the President has already taken a position but there are other council members supporting Glenn. I don't disagree with you that Gavin's opinion will influence many but I still think you've not been fair enough to the intent of those on the council. I sit with them almost monthly and I can vouch that there is a widespread desire that this election but conducted well and that we get God's choice - hence the decision to hold prayer meetings.

Is it a fair process (e.g. once a candidate is announced with public endorsement from 'very important people' will that (say) deter other candidates from being announced?

I doubt it - not because people will be deterred but because the two names before us have been an open secret in the diocese for months. If there were another viable candidate then that name too, more than likely, would have been discussed.

David's tenacity is part of what makes hiim God's gift to us, and it can mean he stops listening after a while. And in the context of that discussion, me horning in would be entirely unhelpful.
I rather want to protest that it was my conversation partner who was tenacious! But happy for anyone to hone in, I always welcome it.

But surely to get 22 names of a Standing Committee, along with luminous ACL names together, along with (say) David Ould seeming to know precisely what was going on and when the website was up, the e-conversation equivalent of a smoke-filled room has taken place!
I think you're over-egging the pudding! Both parties spent quite a while working on getting an initial list of nominators and endorsers so that when they launched their websites/"campaigns" (ugly word, would love a better suggestion) they were able to make the maximum impact they could.
I knew "precisely what was going on" because, again, both parties sought to communicate the presence of their website to as many people as possible. The GD team mailed as many synod members as they could, the RS team went for a slightly softer landing but with the same intent. Rather than "knowing exactly what was going on" I got a heads up a few hours before the release.
Again, don't want to pretend I wasn't already leaning one way on this but it was far less smoke and mirrors, or even cloak and dagger, as I fear you may have suggested to people.

As Alan states, the "smoke-filled room" is not the best descriptor for the discussions that would happen in any diocese over who to nominate - it's just that in Sydney we appear to be striving to get it out in the open as soon as we can once some solid names have come through those initial discussions so that all the "non-smokers" (as you put it) can see clearly. That is, surely, a good thing?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi David
Your comments are very helpful.
I quite agree that if two groupings evolve incrementally before putting out their respective websites then there is much less if not no element of 'smoke filled rooms'.

It also sounds as though, by common agreement, the two obvious/likely/head and shoulders above the rest candidates (at least within the Diocese itself) have been presented for the whole Synod to pray about.

PS Am about to embark towards our annual clergy conference and will only be able to post any further comments on an 'as able over the next few days' basis!

David Ould said...

Thanks Peter,

have a good time at conference

Anonymous said...

Its a good thing that Glenn did not follow the advice in the lead article here...