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.