Monday, November 4, 2019

Bleak or blessed?

A bit short of time this week.

This is "Anglican Down Under" so once again we take a look across the Ditch.

David Ould has written a diagnosis and prognosis of current controversies in the Anglican Church of Australia in the Anglican Church Record.

I suggest a critical observation within the article is this:

"The constitution and polity of the Anglican Church of Australia is more conservative than other Provinces. It declares the 39 Articles and Book of Common Prayer to be our standard of doctrine and worship, not just historical documents to be acknowledged. Bishops promise to uphold the constitution in their consecration vows and can be held to account on that basis. Further, the federal-type nature of our national church means that doctrinal and liturgical changes can only be made with the approval of General Synod and the individual dioceses. This prevents more extreme decisions being taken and has, in the past, encouraged a more collaborative approach to making big decisions."

I infer that the paramount question before our sister church, in the light of recent events and synodical statements, is this:

Will ACA determine to work collaboratively on a solution to the sharp differences between bishops/dioceses?

I don't know about you (especially if you are an Australian reader) but between unilateral actions in or by some Dioceses and statements re revisionist leaders should leave, I am failing from across the Ditch to see public signs of collaborative intention.

Is the future of our sister church bleak or blessed?


Father Ron said...

Dear Bishop Peter,

Having lived for periods as an Anglican in 2 Diocese of the Anglican Church in Australia (ACA); the first period (2 years as a layman in Darwin and the second for 3 years as an Anglican Franciscan; I can say that, in both places, Sydney was considered to be - as a conservative Evangelical diocese - very different from the rest of the Anglican Church in Australia. The Society of Saint Francis, for instance - considered an Anglo-Catholic Religious Order - was never welcomed to set up house in Sydney. This was, I believe, a measure of Sydney's resistance to any 'catholic' influence - on a par with the ACANZP Diocese of Nelson, whose former bishops were involved (together with current and previous Archbishops of Sydney) in the recent ordination of the first ACCNZ bishop here in Christchurch.

The Diocese of Sydney has never allowed for the ordination of women to the priesthood in their diocese, while other Australian Anglican dioceses have fallen in line with ACANZP and other Provinces of the worldwide Anglican Communion to amend their constitutions - or at least add to their constitution this provision for Church ministry.

Syndey Diocese has also considered the prospect of allowing for Lay Presidency at The Eucharist - a prospect which I do not believe has been considered by other established Anglican Churches/dioceses.

These two basic ministerial provisions alone set the Sydney Diocese well apart from other dioceses/provinces of the Anglican Communion.

David Ould, as you know, Peter, is an unofficial spokesperson for the Sydney conservative Evangelical model of being 'Anglican', which may perhaps not qualify him as a reliable spokesperson for the whole Anglican Church in Australia. His voice would need to be balanced by opinions from clergy of other dioceses of ACA - like, for instance, Brisbane and Perth, both of which have their own local Archbishops, the latter of whom is a woman.

Father Ron said...

If I may, Peter, offer another thought about the Constitution of the Anglican Church in Australia. With Sydney as the institutional 'first diocese' in the Australian Anglican Church, it arrived with an endowment that presumably allowed the diocese to set up its own theological college - Moore College - the college which has sent its graduating clergy into, not only its own diocese but also into other parts of the world, including Aotearoa/New Zealand.

Sydney, because of its original endowment, has attained power amongst its fellow diocese - may I say out of all proportion to its Australian geographical jurisdictional oversight - that has helped to spread the conservative brand of Evangelical conservatism, which has resulted in Sydney (and its Moore College influence) to wield a larger degree of influence in the election of conservatives to the membership of the Australian General Synod. This, I know from my friends among the clergy of other Australian dioceses, causes some consternation about the future of a more balanced representation - together with more moderate influences - in the Australian Anglican Church. A little bit like American secular politics - money talks in Australian Church politics, too.

If the future of the Australian Anglican Church lies in the monetary and religious-sectarian influence of the Sydney Archdiocese - which is a real possibility at this present time (tied as it appears to the conservatism of the GAFCON/ACNA/FOCA/ACCNZ agglomerate) I fear for the future of Anglicanism in both Australia and Aotearoa/NZ. But God will not be hi-jacked by Sydeny's hubris.

Anonymous said...


Actual collaboration cannot happen without a centrist leader who is influential enough to inhibit those near both extremes from following the happy warriors driven by unilateral dreams and nightmares. Such a leader, if he exists, must get a deliberative process going at the same time that happy warriors are trying to preempt that process to consolidate their own power. It is very late in the day.

The goal of a happy warrior is to discredit the centre in advance so that instead of doing the hard work of collaborating as free equals, people settle for just choosing sides and thereafter taking orders. Each happy warrior knows that many will choose against the hard line that he takes, of course, but what he wants is the unconditional obedience of those who cannot choose the other side.

So his first task is to create a climate in which the multiplicity of options is reduced to just two. His second task is to discredit the alternative to himself; his third task is to force the decision. His final task is to enforce submission. As we saw in New Zealand, none of this requires the machinery of the recognised polity-- which may even make blunders that speed the process along-- and all of it undermines the collaboration of free equals within that polity.

Authoritarians can only be stopped in time by a higher authority. That is the inherent vulnerability of synodicalism. Perhaps the judicial process there will supply that. Perhaps the ABC will try.


John Sandeman said...

Can I offer some fact checking?
1) No diocese in Australia has "changed its constitution" to have Women priests. The General Synod voted to have women priests in 1992.
2) Sydney diocese is about a third of the Anglican Church in Australia, by weekly attendance figures. It's influence in the Australian General Synod is based on the number of clergy, again roughly a third, maybe just a bit more of that body. Sydney's influence or otherwise in the Australian Anglican Church is a reflection of the relatively high attendance. Melbourne, based in a city of similar population has an Anglican attendance of less than half Sydney's.
3) For there to be more (or less) evangelical representation in the General synod, the route is simple, plant more churches and or employ more clergy. If the numbers are shifting more conservative in the Anglican Church of Australia, (and there are definite signs this is so), it is because Australian anglicans - or at least those who go to church - are trending that way. the"balance" reflects the balance of who is there.

John Sandeman said...

And maybe 4) because theological students have received Australian government funding for say the last couple of decades, the numbers of students in a particular college does not reflect the original endowment of a college (if it ever did), but whether students choose to go there. When I reported on college numbers for a recent issue of Eternity I discovered colleges of various church cultures all appear to have undergone something of a similar decline in full timers. Generally there seems to be something of a swing to evangelical/pentecostal colleges in Australia.

Father Ron said...

John Sanderman, what you claim as 'balance' is based on your own assessment of numbers. What I was writing about was a theological balance - which is quite a different thing. but then, you are using the same argument as Sydney and its GAFCON associates. They, too, are placing too much of their conservative faith argument on their access to numbers. Granted, the numbers of Anglican in the GAFCON Churches may be more than those in the global 'North', but is their theology 'balanced'? Not, I think, when you think of their collusion in the persecution of, for instance, gay people. This is not the tenor of the gospel of Jesus Christ. (the word 'tenor' here indicating the theological balance).

On my blog - kiwianglo - you will notice an article from the USA about the willful misrepresentation of one word of scripture that has been mistranslated as a direct result of conservative biblical 'scholarship' - a 'mistake' that has caused untold suffering for people whose sexual orientation has been unjustly criticised by the GAFCON/Sydney Alliance, leading to an 'unbalance' in its theological teaching and influence that has led to schism in the Church.

On your first point of 'correction' here, you speak of a 'vote' being made to allow women to be ordained in the Australian Anglican Church. My point really is, Sydney has not yet moved on this matter. Does that mean that the majority of Anglicans in Australia do not want women priests? The obvious answer is NO.

By your own figures, you are saying that the Sydney diocese has more clergy than its share in the Australian Anglican Church. Is this based on the money available to train its conservative clergy at Moore College, I wonder. And is this why the Australian Church ios flooded with conservative Anglican clergy? Simply because of the inequitable finance available to the Sydney Diocese?

Regarding the composition of Synods; this again must be influenced by the number of clergy being trained by Moore College. If Moore is the only college able to afford to train clergy in today's Church, then it must have a direct effect on the composition of the Synods of both local and national organisations. For instance, if parishes are unable to pay their ministry quota, is Moore/Sydney filling parish vacancies with their own clergy? This is an important question to be taken into account. Money is power and Sydney has plenty of it - enough to finance a million-dollar campaign against secular SSM in Australia - money that might better have been used in combatting poverty or supporting families. Is this what Australia needs in a religious organisation?

Peter Carrell said...

Dear Ron, John, Bowman,

Ron/John: numbers matter. Power and influence in any synodical church has more to do with the numbers than with the money.

John: are you aware that numbers at our GS work differently to yours? Our three larger (Pakeha) dioceses have slightly more reps than our four smaller dioceses (3 clergy/4 lay v 2 clergy/3 lay). A “single largest” diocese could not dominate via numbers.

Bowman: I find your analysis very helpful and “bleak” is the logical conclusion. However (and working on an offline comment to me this week) there is some hope that the chances of the collaborative centre coming to the fore might be slightly better than I have thought through the last few weeks.

Peter Carrell said...

(Partly prompted by discussion above, partly by some (non Anglican induced) angst here about the conservative views of a recently announced high profile candidate for parliament), here in NZ we Anglicans need to reckon with the mostly conservative character of churchgoing Christians here and of church going Anglicans (albeit numbers vary from Diocese to Diocese).

While moderate conservatives may look in askance at (it is hard to get the terms right, so bear with me, please) extreme/hardline/non-compromising conservatives (and vice versa), moderate conservative Anglicans do not suddenly become progressive/liberal Anglicans because the non-compromising conservatives have disaffiliated ...

Our journey in NZ over the next decade or so, particularly as we look on at Australian Anglicans, will be interesting. Where will we end up?

We might actually end in a place which is closer to each other than seems the case in late 2019!

John Sandeman said...

Peter, let me be clear, my "fact checking" was about comments about the Australian church.

1) I think it is probably true that the majority of Australian Anglicans support women clergy.
2) Australian Anglicans have a number of colleges at which they can train as clergy, with a variety of approaches across a liberal-evangelical spectrum. The Anglican denominational colleges running around the country clockwise from Queensland are:
St Francis in Brisbane,
Moore College in Sydney.
Mary Andrew College, Sydney *
Youthworks college, Sydney *
St Marks, Canberra
Ridley Melbourne
Trinity Melbourne
St Barnabas Adelaide,
Wollaston Perth
Nungalinya Darwin * (an Indigenous Anglican/ Uniting /Catholic college.)

* =non- degree courses

At all of these colleges, all but overseas students are eligible for government assistance. There is no financial incentive pushing people to one college or another. Diocesan assistance is very limited.

The number of clergy in Australian churches is generally dependent on the offerings of the people. A few parishes have property income.

3) Sydney's assistance to other dioceses is directed to rural dioceses like Armidale, North West Australia and more recently Bathurst. More Liberal metropolitan diocese also assist other dioceses.

4) If by saying Australia is "flooded" with Moore graduates, Ron is referring to the increase in evangelical influence, here are a couple of other factors. In Melbourne diocese church planting, especially the "City on a Hill" church has been significant, and this has meant more evangelical clergy, but they have not been financed from Sydney. Evangelicals seem more prepared to start something new.
In Tasmania the swing to being a evangelical diocese was in part influenced by scandal within a Liberal-catholic culture, and the laity opted for a conservative Bishop.

AS commentators here are well aware Church history is full of movements growing and fading, of balances altering, so I would not try to extrapolate from these current trends in Australia. But just as the rise of Catholic Anglicanism in the 19th century was driven by the growth of new churches and young ministers driving change forward, at present in Australia the push for growth is coming from an evangelical direction it seems to me.
However Peter's point about unpredictabity is well made.

Peter, regarding the question of diocesan representation, and whether the GS formula should give equal weight to dioceses, the difference in church attendance in Australian dioceses varies by a factor of at least 20 to 1. (or more)

Father Ron said...

A question for you, John:

Has the Sydney Archdiocese ever threatened to withhold financial support from any of its constituent dioceses if they do not follow Sydney's trajectory on the issue of the Blessing of SSMs?

John Sandeman said...

Ron, there's a very clear answer to that question, which I am happy to give... But I get the feeling, that each time I respond to an allegation you have made, you don't want to respond to what I have said but want to rush on to another issue... so please can we dialogue on the issues we have raised already, and then we can move on..

Anonymous said...

Peter's distinction above between conciliar and authoritarian conservatives is verifiable, interesting, and important. We have paid lots and lots and lots of attention to the conflict between happy warriors on revisionist frontiers and their authoritarian foes, but I have long thought that the subtle dominance of authoritarian over conciliar conservatives hither and yon has been no less consequential. If revisionists in a given province drive the authoritarians out, the conciliars who remain will be free and may be energised to take initiatives of their own that would have been impossible while the polarisation lasted. Hence my complaints that we pay too little attention to the composition, interests, and growth strategy of those more conciliar traditionalists who have decided to stay.


Father Ron said...

Thankyou, John, for your response to my direct question - which, though not 'clear, is indicative.

John Sandeman said...

Ron, I am not sure why you do not want to dialogue on the topics you raise. I won't speculate. Maybe my answers were conclusive! But here is an answer to your last question.
There was a vigorous debate at the last session of the Sydney Synod which was held last month, on a motion headed "Deferral of General Synod amendments. It was moved by a couple of well-known Synod heavyweights who this observer thought might have had the ability to sway the Synod.
The key clause of the motion, after a description of the activities promoting same sex blessings in other dioceses that the synod "request Standing committee at its December meeting to decide whether to defer payment of any general synod statutory assessment levies not yet paid in 2019 and any levied in 2020 until the matter is revisited [at the next ordinary session of the Sydney Synod]."
During the course of the debate it was pointed out that
1) Sydney's annual assessment is $566,000 - which is 30 per cent of the total in line with Sydneys representation on the General synod. (Which you should update my earlier comment with please)
2) Sydney pays its instalments in advance, which would affect the intent of the motion.
An amendment was moved by Dr Karin Sowarda and Bishop Michael Stead to the effect that the Standing committee should seek "appropriate legal and other advice regarding deferring payment of any General synod statutory assessment levies for 2019, 2020 and future years, and bring to the Synod in 2020 a report on the matter with recommendations". Arguments put included that any disruption to national church finances should involve adequate notice, and that legal advice on the original motion had not been obtained - it had not gone through the normal process of being examined by standing committee. This would also give time for a meeting of the Australian Bishops meeting and a session of General synod to respond to the Wangaratta (and foreshadowed) Newcastle motions.
Progressive synod members requested a secret ballot, and the result was that the amended motion passed 353 for, 87 against, 2 informal.
The effect of this motion was to let the General Synod know that the question of the Sydney assessments had been debated by the Sydney synod and that the matter would be raised again next year.
That's probably quite enough detail from across the ditch. I thank readers for their patience.

Peter Carrell said...

Dear John
Thank you for the wealth of illuminating information coming to this thread!

Peter Carrell said...

Dear Bowman
Re authoritarian/conciliar conservatives etc - yes!

Anonymous said...

Not for the first time, and hopefully not for the last-- Thank you, John Sandeman.

Waiting for more AAC news from a trusted source is all that requires our patience.


Anonymous said...

Corollary-- + Peter's 6:19 implies a criterion for assessing the final result of the decisions taken by ACANZPs General Synod: have they given conciliar conservatives a way to be both conciliar (fully participating in their dioceses, province, and communion) and conservative (living and teaching in broad continuity with the received tradition)? The authoritarian premise is that this is impossible because, to their mind, the only real continuity is routinely enforced submission to an unchanging authority. Will ACANZP prove them wrong?


Anonymous said...

Dilemma-- Nevertheless, even if ACANZP does prove that continuity can be secured without an unchanging standard, might a fixed interpretation of the 39A slanted toward the English Reformed confessions be useful to a church of Anglican tradition with a mission to conservative evangelicals of English descent (eg independents, Baptists, Presbyterians, etc)? Readers not attracted to this branch of the family tree might nevertheless be able to respect this mission as a necessary implication of the ecumenism to which they are attracted.

The Communion has inherited a dilemma. On one hand, ecumenism among Protestants and others is in the bones of the Church of England (ie Cranmer in Germany) and all her daughter churches, and dialogue has been fruitful with several traditions that are not, or not originally, English. On the other hand, an organic continuity through bishops and creeds as well as the scriptures is no less in the bones of the Church of England (ie Richard Hooker, Matthew Parker) and this is a perennial repellent to those of alienated Bible-only "free church" traditions that actually are English. Plainly-- an ABC can more easily meet with the PoC than with many a Baptist minister.

Anglicans cannot disavow either unity with the whole Body, independents and Baptists included, or the balanced continuity of the apostolic koinonia shared with Uppsala and Constantinople. What is to be done?

The sex war was simply the discovery that when couples are urban, prosperous, and long-lived they want fewer babies, and so think differently about coupling than those that are rural, living off the land, and short-lived. Some churches can put off pondering this fact and others cannot, but it seems that no church actually knows more than any other else about this. And although some have a different decorum respecting sex, none are pastorally off the hook. The primates have already drawn the only line on this that the scriptures will support and that will hold the broad centre. Those who like fighting about sex will continue to do so-- demobilization is hard for some soldiers-- but nobody is really listening anymore.

The dilemma is the real divisor. Because the dilemma is real, there is no need for even petty people on either side to be hysterical, bullying, or nasty about those on the other. "The anger of men worketh not the righteousness of God."

The Communion has always existed to discern on the basis of the organic continuity. Now it needs to discern what relations it can maintain with those who choose to sacrifice that part of its identity to the not dishonourable desire for hospitality to those of free church backgrounds.