Wednesday, 11 June 2008

GAFCON and Sydney

The Sydney Morning Herald carries a report by David Marr titled The archbishop says No. It starts out:

The Anglican Church faces a modern Great Schism, with gay-tolerant Christians on one side and radical “Bible-believers” on the other. And at the forefront of the hardliners is Australia’s outspoken evangelist Peter Jensen.

Pilgrims to the mount of olives late this month may be startled to see a couple of hundred Anglican divines kitted out in purple toiling up the slope. Most of the faces will be black. Back home these men are princes of the church; their followers run into tens of millions. But somewhere among the bishops, dressed incongruously in civvies, will be the humble, smiling face of Peter Jensen, the Archbishop of Sydney.

What’s afoot in Jerusalem is the destruction of the Anglican Communion, the worldwide church loosely aligned to the Archbishop of Canterbury. It spread with the empire and has so far survived, despite all its contradictions, for about 450 years, guided by the tart good sense of its founding monarch, Elizabeth I: “There is only one Jesus Christ and all the rest is a dispute over trifles…”

And it ends with this:

…The Sydney bishops had still not made up their minds to boycott Lambeth after four weeks of “agonising and struggle” - the words of Jensen’s media officer Russell Powell - when Akinola announced their decision for them in far-off Lagos, telling a press conference he was not going to Lambeth - and nor were the bishops of Uganda, Rwanda and Sydney.

Jensen scrambled. He rang the Archbishop of Canterbury’s office to say the Sydney bishops were not coming. At some point the letter was signed and sent. Then Jensen made the decision public. But senior sources in the church say two bishops remain deeply troubled: “They were told to like it or lump it.” My calls to those men were flick-passed to Jensen’s office. Powell informed me that everyone, including Jensen, was upset not to be going. “But the bishops are gladly united in the decision that has been taken.”

Jensen drove all these big decisions. Only when they were signed and sealed did he take them to the Standing Committee of his synod - the parliament of his diocese - where they were rubber-stamped by the clergy and laity. Was that the right way round? “Some would think it a failure of leadership to do it any other way,” answers Powell. The Standing Committee gave its support and “thanks to God for the unreserved commitment to biblical teaching of the Archbishop and his Bishops.”

Jensen speaks of the old Anglican Communion in the past tense. As far as he’s concerned, it’s finished. Lambeth can go on quarrelling about homosexuality, but the Archbishop of Sydney expects the subject will hardly be mentioned at GAFCON. That’s in the past. It is, after all, a bond between them. “To my mind we are just living in a new age. We’re in a different sort of organisation. Now it’s exploring the possibilities of this different organisation that is now before us.” All the way from Westminster Abbey comes the sound of Queen Elizabeth I spinning in her tomb.

The article is very long but well worth reading in full.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 11 June 2008 at 3:17pm BST | TrackBack
You can make a Permalink to this if you like
Categorised as: Anglican Communion

Good to see that the article put “'Bible-believers'” in quotation marks. But perhaps they could have put "humble", re Peter Jensen, in quotation marks as well?

Posted by: JCF on Wednesday, 11 June 2008 at 7:17pm BST

Reading this, 2 things come to mind; the old Soviet phrase "monolithic unity," and a quote from that wise old Jewish sage Mel Brooks, "It's good to be the king."

Posted by: Counterlight on Wednesday, 11 June 2008 at 7:38pm BST

"Jensen speaks of the old Anglican Communion in the past tense. As far as he's concerned, it's finished. Lambeth can go on quarelling about homosexuality, but the Archbishop of Sydney expects the subject will hardly be mentioned at GAFCON."

Hardly be mentioned? Jensen and Co. are holding this conference precisely BECAUSE of homosexuality, or, more precisely still, because of their firm opposition to it and their distress that the entire Anglican world does not share their obsession with gay sex. All the rest is an attempted diversion through which the rest of the world - both inside and outside the Anglican Communion - sees pretty clearly. If the GAFCON crowd - or at least its most vocal players - are not at the Lambeth Conference, as they claim they will not be, there will be precious little reason to dwell on homosexuality there either.

Posted by: christopher+ on Wednesday, 11 June 2008 at 7:55pm BST

"He puts himself among the true "orthodox""

He can put himself where he likes, he's not orthodox.

"those who will come to terms with their culture at the expense of Biblical authority and those who won't." "

Deliberate misrepresentation.

"But if they do do that thing, then their freedom frees us as well.""

Point taken.

"The archbishop believes all mysteries can be explained in big, clear paragraphs."

A supposition by the interviewer, but one I agree with. Mysteries properly ought not to be explained.

""One of the gravest weaknesses of contemporary Christianity," he declared a few weeks later, "is the little attention paid to the wrath of God.""

And the gravest weakness of Evangelicalism is obsession with the wrath of God.

"he flatly denies there's a binding Anglican tradition that bishops stick to their own patch."

Thereby showing his heterodoxy, not to mention a rather interesting concept of truth.

"And fairly clearly, to most of the rest of us, God runs the church through the Bible.""

Again, heterodoxy, not to mention a not so covert denial of the faith of anyone who disagrees with him.

"..Akinola's abuse", but he has no theological quarrel" with +Akinola. But you see, some would say that abusive behaviour by a bishop IS theological.

" believe it is likely there is a natural feeling that there is something wrong here"

Dear God! Murderous bigotry is natural? Are we not called to rise above our "nature"?

" I am a very law-abiding person"

I have no doubt. The thing is, Christianity isn't a religion of Law.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Wednesday, 11 June 2008 at 8:44pm BST

'...his humble, smiling face in the olive bushes'

Hagiograpy or what ?

Posted by: L Roberts on Wednesday, 11 June 2008 at 8:55pm BST

christopher+, in all honesty, I agree with them when they say it is about more than that. These are people who have chafed through liturgical reform, women's ordination, and the reimaging of Christianity that started with Vatican 2 in Rome and then spread out. They are very concerned at the loss of the old power structures, the loss of the prestige they feel Christianity should have society's moral arbiter, and change in general. Yes, they have a deep seated homophobia and a strong resistance to seeing it in themselves or finding out why it is so obvious to others. But it is about loss of authority, fear of change, and fear in general. They feel they have lost too much of the Church already. Look at the conviction that others believe nothing. Change is unbelief for them, even if that change involves reconnecting with our spiritual past. The New Westminster schismatics have been heard to call labyrinths "Satanic", for example. I figure Jensen has convinced himself that the Book and Pulpit Protestantism that he so favours, with its denial of the mystical, is traditional Christianity- most Evangelicals believe this- so he is, in his eyes, championing a return to order, structure, and the rightful place of the Church as the lawgiver. I have huge issues with most of what they say, including the fear that drives them, but homosexuality is just the rock they have chosen to founder on.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Wednesday, 11 June 2008 at 9:32pm BST

This Aussie article is as clear and focused as much else that I have bumped into lately in the Aussie media about worldwide Anglicanism and conservative realignment.

I love the clarity about Jensen and Company having no connect with empirical data concerning queer folks, no matter what. This puts their flat earth readings of the scriptures in what appears to be a safe and enduringly-sealed bubble, completely free from and utterly unchallenged by the building and rather solid competency data. Nor can such realignment views be troubled by any data which would contradict their pat claims that celibacy automatically makes you a better person as a queer citizen than, say, does a committed, caring relationship (with or without parenting?).

Like an economic bubble in the global marketplace, this bubble too is growing bigger and harder in desperate search of that point beyond which it has over-reached in its love of God's wrath.

Me? I'm still with Elizabeth I. That is why I became an Anglican/Episcopalian in college in the first place. GAFCON seeks its own purer, more separate future - but truth is, queer folks will still be rubbing their ordinary, ethical, educated shoulders with the holier than thou Jensonists, each and every day after, all around the planet.

Short of policing, imprisonment or even more draconian Wahabbi Islami-type punishments - the quasi-sacramental signs of God's wrath that Akinola and Jensen and others involved in this nasty realignment campaign so breathlessly seek or at least preach? - Jensen will still find himself forced to deal fairly with just those queer citizens he finds so reprehensible in all their mammalian glory.

How long can he studiously ignore what all the rest of us know - queer folks just want to follow quality and care in both love and work, just about like anybody else with a decent head on his or her shoulders. The familiar scary painting of the dirtied and closeted hedonist who has no roots and nothing to give in work or in relationships is a construct of exactly that past, religious and secular, which Jenson and company still pledge.

Hint: Ah, Dear Dr. Jenson, we queer folks do not live there any more. Nor do our life partners. Nor do our children. You can still preach that we live there, but truth is, those closets are empty. Alas, you tell scary ghost stories in artfully darkened conservative venues.

Posted by: drdanfee on Wednesday, 11 June 2008 at 9:54pm BST

Sydney has in its baggage stored in the GAFCON hold a nasty time bomb called lay presidency. If Iker or Schofield were genuine Anglo-catholics they would not get on board. They do so at their own peril.

The GAFCONIANS look so strong and purposeful, but underneath there are serious flaws, which will come to light as the ship slips away.

Posted by: Robert Ian Williams on Wednesday, 11 June 2008 at 10:43pm BST

The puppet-master speaks!

It does need to be pointed out that whilst he crows about the success of the church in Sydney, the vast majority of Sydneysiders do not attend church at all, and Sydney is one of the world's gayest cities.

So, what impact is he really having?

Posted by: Merseymike on Thursday, 12 June 2008 at 12:07am BST

Oh Joy!

Bishop Jensen LOVES the Anglican Church of Australia and wouldn't want to harm it even though, as he mentioned, it would be virtually impossible, constitutionally speaking that is, for him to do so...what a noble guy, so now he's off to Gafcon to attempt to dismember the Church and The Anglican Communion instead.

With beloved ones who think/reason like +Jensen, it's hard to imagine being subjected to any more of Gods WRATH than the Archbiship of Sydney ladles out.

Posted by: Leonardo Ricardo on Thursday, 12 June 2008 at 1:19am BST

I agree with Robert. I understand that Jenson believes/proposed that you don't need an ordained priest to celebrate holy communion. Most Anglo-Catholics would fine this most inproper.

My question is why are these people so afraid of gays? You know you don't catch it by being in the same room or by touching. It's not a disease!

Something I saw on PEP's site. We don't worship the bible but the Triune God. I'm afraid of folks who see the only revelation of God in a book.
What we're seeing is a realignment in Christianity with Progressives on one side and reactionaries on the other. Be glad when these people go their own way.

Posted by: Bob In PA on Thursday, 12 June 2008 at 4:09am BST

Ford if your not under the Law ( and I would agree you are not uder the Jewish ceremonial law) are you not still under the law of the Ten Commandments?

Posted by: Robert Ian Williams on Thursday, 12 June 2008 at 6:12am BST

What did I tell you about Mr. Jensen? It is well known in the Souther Hemisphere that he is out to quit the Anglican Communion. One would hardly be suprised to see him doing a 'Northender' in his collar and tie - no respect for the majesty of the Liturgy. None, either, for the dignity of women and celibate men in the sanctuary.

His non-conformity has long been a hallmark of the hegemony rampant in his rule of the Diocese of Sydney, and a reproach to those who disagree with his fundamentalist approach to the Gospel content of the Scriptures. We in New Zealand have to be wary lest he seek jurisdiction over the few parishes here which court his favour - shades of Akinola in respect to that prelate's isolated fiefdoms in North America?

For Jensen to refer to the Anglican Communion in the past tense - this is not news to those of us in the rest of Australiasia and the Pacific, who treasure our Anglican connections with the Global North and with Canterbury. One can only hope that GAFCON will sort out the Pharisees from the Rest of Us in the Communion. We can then get on with the task of 'the poor, showing other poor people where to find Bread' - in other words, the work of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Thursday, 12 June 2008 at 6:38am BST

The realignment of the Anglican Communion under two (at least) separate leaderships will obviously be making a couple of large schismatic leaps this summer.

The power play for the Gafconites is to convince those Global South churches that are signed up to the anti-gay agenda but are not happy with the power politics of Sydney Uganda and Nigeria that they need to jump ship.

As many as 11 national churches may be persuadable.

Some see the hand of Rome doing some pushing in certain places, that would not surprise me in the least.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Thursday, 12 June 2008 at 8:40am BST

Irony,or what? L. Roberts. David Marr is not an inexperienced journalist.

Posted by: Lapinbizarre on Thursday, 12 June 2008 at 10:29am BST

What is wrong with the Anglican Communion?

On the one hand we have the liberals (like most of the commenters here) who have convinced themselves that any evangelical is by definition a bigoted fundamentalist. On the other hand we have the evangelicals who have convinced themselves that the liberals don't even believe in God any more.

But one thing I will say: any bishop who is even considering going to GAFCON, I plead with you that you don't - you will not help anything.

Posted by: BIGDAN on Thursday, 12 June 2008 at 10:44am BST

"are you not still under the law of the Ten Commandments?"

"Under" in what sense? "Ceremonial", "moral", what difference? Of course freedom from Law is not freedom to sin, but it is freedom to consider behaviour pleasing to God as something one does because one is on God's side, as opposed to continued fretting about the great risk of God's wrath at some infraction. Which one did I break this time?

Posted by: Ford Elms on Thursday, 12 June 2008 at 11:45am BST

"Some see the hand of Rome doing some pushing in certain places, that would not surprise me in the least."

That comes our of left field! Is there anything specific? if true, it would be the supreme irony to have people like Jensen actually being led or pushed in some sense by Rome!

Posted by: Ford Elms on Thursday, 12 June 2008 at 12:30pm BST

"On the one hand we have the liberals (like most of the commenters here) who have convinced themselves that any evangelical is by definition a bigoted fundamentalist."

Guilty. It is more complex than that, but a complexity of scornful ideas are still just scornful ideas. Now, fixing this is another matter. It certainly needs fixing, all the same.

Posted by: Ford elms on Thursday, 12 June 2008 at 2:02pm BST

If there is a behind the scenes Roman interest in all these shenanigans - a big if? - surely three obvious gains or hopes for gain come to mind.

First, diminishing the big tent global reach of existing Anglicanisms across its fellowship of provincial churches would unsettle that witness of Reformation, alternative to both Calvin and Luther. Not a bad touch from certain conservative angles of view, upset with the strange big tent oddities of English Reformation.

Second, on the off-hand that realignment could sweep the field as it so loudly claims - not least by stealing property and money from the left wings of the communion as conservatives preach them into oblivion on presuppositional Sola Scriptura grounds, the shift might set the stage for rapprochement with Rome if not also to some degree with Byzantium. The enemy of my queer enemy is my friend?

Third, if the conservatives leave - especially with appropriated property and money - then they and their loot could eventually be most welcome in conservative religious causes which Rome espouses. So sorry to hear that you dear folks cannot police and punish queer folks for not being straight, using all the armaments of the state plus your own traditionally weaponized religious doctrines: welcome aboard, matey?

Yet behind this facade of antigay hostility-unity are many little difficulties - womens ordination, the exact nature and applications of Sola Scriptura in a range of varied closings, lay presidency, and hostilities to anglocatholic-leaning apprehensions of sacraments and liturgies and indeed of the markers of faith and discipleship.

Maybe realignment campaigners attempt that difficult feat - to dismantle and trash talk the Anglican big tent now, while reserving their future rights to have their own sort of special big tent among themselves later. The problem is that they may damage the very notion of big tents period, since their narratives so often trash talk equality and variety and citizenship in favor of fear and God's wrath. Fear and God's wrath are hardly helpful in reinflating a big enough tent to include people with differing hot button conservative views. Tricky.

If/when the great antigay realignment ship breaks up from the shifting cargo hold baggage of its own sharp internal differences, Rome could still float brightly lighted nearby as a calm rescue ship, no?

Posted by: drdanfee on Thursday, 12 June 2008 at 4:15pm BST

A Roman conspiracy, Martyn? Thinking like that you may be closer to Archbishop Jensen than you think!

Posted by: Robert Ian Williams on Thursday, 12 June 2008 at 5:56pm BST

On what canonical or scriptural basis does the Archbishop of Sydney refuse to license unmarried clergy?

Gays or women, I can at least follow the reasoning whether I agree or not.

But why the discrimination against single men?

Or does he believe that all bachelor priests are either poofters or papists?

Posted by: Malcolm+ on Thursday, 12 June 2008 at 6:53pm BST

Ah, the final irony - the work of the crypto-Jesuits being done by the Jensenists.

Posted by: cryptogram on Thursday, 12 June 2008 at 7:19pm BST

The tragedy of GAFCON is that it transgresses the Commandment, " You shall not bear false witness."

In the holy City of Jerusalem ( from whence camme the true Gospel)these men and women will be pretending that they are " orthodox Biblical" Chritisians.

They do not agree on the very meaning of the Gospel and Peter jensen believes that conversion is not water baptism or that the Eucharist is the sacred body of the Lord.

They will claim to defend marriage and yet they cannot agree what marriage is...whether it is a sacrament, or an indissoluable union or not.

Yet they will all claim the perspicuity of the Bible!

THIS IS SELF DECEOPTION ( the ultimate lie) and the tragedy is that the GAFCOn leadership know this.

What a travesty of the Gospel and an appalling witnes to the World.

Posted by: Robert Ian Williams on Friday, 13 June 2008 at 6:14am BST

"Or does he believe that all bachelor priests are either poofters or papists?"

And members of neither group are Christians.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Friday, 13 June 2008 at 1:01pm BST

I can't believe Sydney does not ordain bachelors or widowers. The thirty nine articles, state that one should folow ones call in life , to marry or not to marry.

John Stott and a host of other evangelicals would not be welcome. This has to be a mistake?

Posted by: Robert Ian Williams on Friday, 13 June 2008 at 5:36pm BST

Re: Jensen and unmarried clergy, does anyone else ever get the sense that "orthodox" theology is based more on such 1950s sitcoms as "Father Knows Best" and "Leave It to Beaver" than on scripture or church tradition?

Posted by: JPM on Saturday, 14 June 2008 at 12:02am BST

"My question is why are these people so afraid of gays? You know you don't catch it by being in the same room or by touching. It's not a disease!"

People like me who oppose the ordination of homosexuals don't fear them- but rather fear God. To allow openly practicing homosexuals to hold leadership positions in any church is against the clear teaching of God's word to us in the Bible.

Bob, some of my closest friends are homosexuals. Likewise, Jesus befriended sinners- but did he put them in leadership positions in his Church if they didn't repent? Of course not!!!

Robert Ian Williams:
"Peter jensen believes that conversion is not water baptism or that the Eucharist is the sacred body of the Lord."

And this is the truth.

Come on, not everything Jesus said was literal. Look at the parables. At the last supper the key is "in rememberance of me". Its clearly symbolic.

As for water baptism, what about the thief on the cross? Did he get baptised in water? No. In John Jesus says "he who believes in Me will live, even though he dies." This clearly shows that the baptism is something that happens when you believe in Jesus- not water.

I'm not saying that water baptism isn't a very helpful symbolic thiing, but it isn't the key to salvation. There are people whose skin cannot touch water- a very small number, true. But surely these people can still be saved?

I agree with the complaint some of you have raised about refusing to ordain single men, however. This is clearly against the teaching of the Bible.

But overall I'm in full support of Jensen.

Posted by: Tim on Saturday, 14 June 2008 at 6:53am BST

Maybe they can't accept bachelor priests, because they are possibly closet celibate gays?

Perhaps then we should make it only married men with proven paternity to their children. Otherwise we might have gays marrying women and pretending to be their husbands whilst not actually servicing them.

That will solve the problem of gays. But what about bisexuals, or infertile couples (e.g. where the wife is an unknown testosterone female)?

Posted by: Cheryl Va. on Saturday, 14 June 2008 at 8:46am BST


What was the unanimous exegesis of the Biblical texts for the first fifteen hundred years? was that baptism was regenerative ( the way to be born again) and that the Eucharist was the body , blood , soul and divinity of our Saviour.

That is why in the Nicene Creed, baptism is acknowledged as the means of the remission of sins. The thief on the cross was coverd by baptism of desire.

Unless a man is born of WATER and the spirit he cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

Sydney Christianity is not authentic and is as novel as the 21st century TEC revision.

Sydney teaches the real absence, condemned by Irenaeus in the second century, as a mark of heresy.

Sydney endorses divorce and re-marriage.

Sydney believes in lay presidency, unknown in the early Church.

Sydney accepts contraception...only allowed since 1930.

Posted by: Robert Ian Williams on Saturday, 14 June 2008 at 10:30pm BST

Robert, this will not be productive. Whatever else modern Western Evangelical Protestantism is, it cannot claim to be orthodox. You can even give them the out that they may be right, but that still doesn't make them orthodox, much less traditional, except so far as 500 years is traditional. The Reformation represented a far more radical innovation in the Church than anything TEC or the evil "liberal" pagans are doing now. It changed the traditional understanding of authority, the role of Scripture, the sacraments and their role in the life of the Church and the individual, the nature of redemption, indeed, practically every aspect of the faith. Further, those of us who, however falteringly, try to adhere to the old beliefs, are to be scorned, reviled, and considered at best "subChristians" if we can be called Christians at all. When I consider the countercultural nature of Christianity, it is that culture that I consider myself countering. I know I am often mocking of "them" and draw far too solid a distinction between "us" and "them", but while it is no excuse, I am merely throwing back the mockery I have received all my life. Sydney Anglicans bear far more resemblance to Fundamentalist Protestants than to anything I could ever call Anglican. What's more, I know some who don't even want to be called Anglicans. They refer to themselves as "Sydney Evangelicals". It's nice at times to remind them that their beliefs are relatively new and far more radical than those they oppose, but trust me, you won't get any recognition for that fact. You see, God's truth must be absolute. Unless one believes that truth, one is tortured eternally. The Truth was given once for all to the saints. They thus cannot acknowledge that what they believe is NOT what was once given to the saints, since that would mean they are damned. The huge mental hoops they must jump through to maintain this fiction are quite funny. There are some Evangelicals out there who seriously claim that, after the death of the Apostles, the Gospel was lost to the world for 1500 years till it began to surface again at the Reformation!

Posted by: Ford Elms on Tuesday, 17 June 2008 at 7:17pm BST
Post a comment

Remember personal info?

Please note that comments are limited to 400 words. Comments that are longer than 400 words will not be approved.

Cookies are used to remember your personal information between visits to the site. This information is stored on your computer and used to refill the text boxes on your next visit. Any cookie is deleted if you select 'No'. By ticking 'Yes' you agree to this use of a cookie by this site. No third-party cookies are used, and cookies are not used for analytical, advertising, or other purposes.