Thursday, August 8, 2013

I was wrong and that is good!

I am back from some more travelling (onshore not offshore) and am catching up with the news from Sydney where Glenn Davies has been elected the new Archbishop (see here and here and here). That means I was not just wrong but very wrong when some months ago I posted with the headline 'Glenn, I would withdraw now'. Why did I write that and what did I miss?

I wrote that because I was impressed with the numbers and the names being marshaled in support of Rick Smith. It looked like 'the establishment' if not 'the hierarchy' of the diocese was naming 'its' candidate. To an extent I think that was so (because an impressive number were from Standing Committee and from Moore College, and the Dean of Sydney, Philip Jensen was among the prominent names). But what I clearly misread was the possibility that the Diocese in its vote would be capable of signalling a change from the direction it had been heading in.

Since I am a flawed interpreter the following sentences may be worthless but I will write them anyway. I suggest that the election was not about either Glenn Davies or Rick Smith (on all accounts very fine men in their character and very equal in their theological convictions) but about the theological character of the Diocese as it moves forward into a new future. The appalling (and I use that word deliberately) attempts in the last few days before the election to cast shadows of doubt on the theological convictions of Bishop Glenn Davies* serves as a salutary reminder that a strong motivation behind support for Rick Smith was the maintenance of a theological purity of a particular 'Reformed Evangelicalism' kind. By electing Glenn Davies to be the next archbishop I suggest the Diocese of Sydney has said, "Enough. We are going to live with a degree of tolerance among ourselves as to what constitutes conservative evangelicalism."

No one should expect (say) the ordination of women as presbyters to come to Sydney any time soon. But should that come to pass in 100 years time, historians will look back on 2013 as the year in which the Diocese indicated it would be open to a wider variety of theological voices speaking into the life of the Diocese than has hitherto been the case.

*Non-evangelical readers may need to understand that within conservative evangelicalism the mere casting of shadows of doubt on a brother or sister's theological standing within the evangelical community can be the death-knell of hopes for appointment, retention of tenure, continued invitations to speak and preach ... It would now appear that these attempts were the desperate attempts of supporters realising that the tide was flowing against them.

7 comments:

Peter Carrell said...

A moderated comment from Ron Smith:

"" But what I clearly misread was the possibility that the Diocese in its vote would be capable of signalling a change from the direction it had been heading in." - Peter Carrell -

No doubt, Peter, as you have suggested, the fruits of the election have arisen from a profound reaction to Dean Phillip Jensen's [...] of Bishop Glen's capabilities to lead the Sydney archdiocese into a time of more eirenic and open attitudes to the 'semper reformanda' ethos of traditional Anglicanism.

Had the alternative candidate been successful, it could have signalled a 'more of the same' alliance with the GAFCON Provinces' distaste for openness to new initiatives of the Gospel imperative - towards the consideration of a modern, eirenic understanding of the intrinsic value of women and gays in the Church. At least, that is my view.

With the Provincial Archbishop, ++Phillip Aspinall, my hope is that the new ABS will be more ready to listen to Anglicans in the wider world, in order to enter into a more collegial relationship with the home Province.

Prayers for the new Archbishop!
"

Dear Ron,
I have omitted a word because it makes for a phrase which is an inaccurate description of what transpired a few days ago. The Dean did not question, deny or generally run down the capabilities of +Glenn to lead the Sydney diocese. Rather he questioned the theology of the man.

Janice said...

No one should expect (say) the ordination of women as presbyters to come to Sydney any time soon.

They don't even ordain men as presbyters unless there is a parish vacant and the man gets picked to take it over.

Alan Wood said...

Peter, I think your interpretation over-reads the significance of +Glenn's election. In support of this, I'd offer Harry Goodhew's time as Archbishop in the 90s - in the teeth of a strong vote for Phillip Jensen. ++Goodhew was preceded by ++Robinson, succeeded by ++Jensen. I don't think Sydney-dislikers would say that ++Goodhew's election was 'the year in which the Diocese indicated it would be open &c'.

I think that one of "Sydney"'s strengths is that it is evangelical rather than fundamentalist - it values scholarship, and in particular sustained engagement with the Bible text. But to think well (especially in theology), you do also need to listen - so that broadens the field of "allowable" opinions. Sydney's other obvious strength is its size: 270 parochial units, big College (and not just of ordinands), big city, big glebe. But breadth also comes with a larger group.

As a result of those two factors, but not because of deliberate or conscious disagreement and differentiation in theologies, I think there are a 'wider variety of theological voices speaking into the life of the Diocese' than it appears from outside. Sometimes, that allowable breadth is indicated in elections, and can be interpreted as a reaction against narrowness. So, it is an 'enough', but it's not an 'Enough!'

And, it still leaves "Sydney" unacceptably narrow to Julia Baird and others.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Alan,
I appreciate that insight - thank you. I take your point about the Goodhew 'moment' not being susceptible to the interpretation I bring!

My rejoinder (in a friendly spirit of enquiry rather than of argumentation) is to ask whether 13 years into a new century of rapid social and demographic change, this moment of choosing not to go down one path of (as I would argue) narrowness is a moment of great historical significance than the point when Harry Goodhew was elected.

One day the historians can give us an answer, should the Lord tarry!

PhillRead said...

Hi Peter,
as a member of the Synod the main feeling was that both were good candidates. The reason you would go for Rick was because he would continue to push mission. The reason you would vote for Glenn was experience.

That's what the debates centred on.
I know you're interacting with the Dean's papers, but I think that this is how many people on Synod approached the matter

Peter Carrell said...

It is always good, Phill, to hear that a synod is approaching such an important matter with maturity!

Kurt said...

“Non-evangelical readers may need to understand that within conservative evangelicalism the mere casting of shadows of doubt on a brother or sister's theological standing within the evangelical community can be the death-knell of hopes for appointment, retention of tenure, continued invitations to speak and preach ...” Fr. Carrell

This situation seems quite oppressive to me. Almost Stalinist, in fact. But given the denunciatory ethos of much of the American Evangelicalism that I have witnessed during my lifetime, it’s a logical outcome.

Kurt Hill
(Who is glad he is Anglo Catholic)
In Brooklyn, NY