Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Australia and the Covenant

Updated again Friday evening

The General Synod of the Anglican Church of Australia is meeting in Melbourne. The Synod debated the proposed Anglican Covenant yesterday (Monday) and agreed to send it to the 23 Australian dioceses for comment. A decision on whether or not to adopt the covenant will then be taken at the next meeting of the Synod, which will be in 2013.

There is a report by Mark Brolly at Anglican Media Melbourne Covenant to be debated for three years - Australian Anglicans.

There is also an official press release, which is copied below the fold.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports this as Anglicans try to resolve issue of gays.


Barney Zwartz at The Age writes Debate on gays brings world debate home.

The Sydney Morning Herald carries an interview with Archbishop Peter Jensen, see Church needs new vision, says Jensen.

Andrew McGowan has written a reflection on the synod, see The Grammar of Fragility: After Australia’s General Synod 2010.

Anglican Church of Australia General Synod
Media Release
20 September 2010

Australian Anglicans back nationwide debate on Covenant

Australian Anglicans today agreed to an Australia-wide process for considering an international covenant designed to enhance the unity of the worldwide Anglican Communion.

The Anglican Church of Australia‟s General Synod agreed to ask all 23 dioceses to consider whether to back the Anglican Communion Covenant which aims to clarify how national members relate.

The Covenant – which is endorsed by the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams – arose out of differences within in the Church in different parts of the world over human sexuality.

The decision by the Anglican Church of Australia came after Bishop Andrew Curnow of Bendigo told the Church‟s supreme decision making body in Melbourne that the Church was “at a crossroad”.

Bishop Curnow asked: “Are we just going to be a series of local autonomous churches that share a common history, or are we going to be a Church that is prepared to struggle with difference but be committed to the mission that Christ has called us to?”

“We need an Anglican Covenant to understand who we are as Anglicans,” he said. “We need an Anglican Covenant to understand what we have in common and how in the future we can work together as a communion of churches.”

Adelaide Archbishop Jeffrey Driver, who proposed the national debate, emphasised that General Synod was not being asked to accept or reject the Covenant but to initiate “a process of debate and discernment” throughout the Church in Australia.

“We owe the Dioceses of our Church the opportunity to give the Covenant careful and prayerful consideration and for us to be in a position to take their counsel seriously,” he said.

Bishop Garry Weatherill of the South Australian Diocese of Willochra said he felt “incredibly ambivalent about the Covenant”.

“I believe the Covenant as we have it now is too little, too late, too tricky and too simplistic but not simple,” he said.

Sydney priest and academic, the Revd Dr Peter Bolt, urged the Synod to reject the motion calling for a national debate saying many people around the world had already rejected the Covenant.

All Australian Dioceses are expected to comment on the Covenant by December 2012 in time for the next meeting of the Anglican Church of Australia‟s national parliament in 2013.

Posted by Peter Owen on Tuesday, 21 September 2010 at 10:42am BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Anglican Church of Australia | Anglican Communion

Festina lente

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Tuesday, 21 September 2010 at 12:22pm BST

"The Synod adopted an amendment, proposed by Father John Davis of Melbourne, that it "receives" rather than "welcomes" the final text of the Covenant "as an expression of our aspirations for the life of the Anglican Communion".

- Mark Brolly - Anglican Media, Melbourne -

This final sentence of the communique bespeaks an attitude of the Australian General Synod that would not 'welcome' the Covenant document, but is content to take receipt of it as requested by the ACO.

Many of us in the Antipodean Anglican Communion Churches feel somewhat akin to Australia in its dislike of Section 4 of the Covenant Document, which seeks to sideline any member of the Communion whose pastoral concern for Gays and Women does not measure up to the expectations of the most conservative Provinces.

This restrictive and punitive meantality has directly surfaced as one of the objectives of certain Provinces: that TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada be declared 'persona non grata' because of their radical inclusivism of these two categories of the human race.

However, many Anglicans are concerned that the Communion should be alert to the need for an enlightened policy of examination of the radical inclusivity of the Gospel. Modern Science, together with an up-to-date hermeneutic, need to be brought into the dialogue of those member Churches which presently resist any attempt to bring theology to bear on human development - as it pertains to present-day social and scientific discoveries.

To continue to insist on a blanket theological conformity on these moral & sociological issues, when divorce and contraception have been dealt with in a far more enlightened and pastoral way - in conformity with the Gospel tradition of faith as the lynch-pin of our basic relationship to God in Christ - is a barrier to evangelisation in a world needy of love and forgiveness.

"There, but for the grace of God...."

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Tuesday, 21 September 2010 at 1:21pm BST

Well I see that the spin doctors are still very much with us all, insofar as anybody is still telling us that the new fangled covenant will enhance unity by ruling change off the table until such time as everybody can agree unanimously (what change, when, and how) after presumably having read the same exactly peer reviewed science journals. As if...

This is a flat earth pseudo-solution to the overall dilemma of change in believer life and in church life, globally. The fake (and I would argue, innately idolatrous?) Anglican solution aspires to reign provided we all agree to (A) stop studying and learning anything that challenges us to change; or (B) at least agree to officially stop talking about science-data and change in public church life. All the new things we will inevitably be involved in - at school, on lab work teams, and in citizenship generally as change keeps flooding out these days - will be absolutely prohibited for mention at church?

Is this is a solution, as Gertrud Stein might have paraphrased, pray tell me, What exactly is the problem solved?

Alas, this is not the Anglicanism which first drew me in during undergrad years at college, nor has sustained me since. A covenant to diligently remain ignorant in these highly prized flat earth ways is self-defeating ... and that is putting it mildly. Even formal reception of this nonsense is either unnecessary or risky, so far as everybody having to pretend to debate a flat earth all over again, just because ...?

Lord have mercy.

Posted by: drdanfee on Tuesday, 21 September 2010 at 7:07pm BST

drdanfee, if anyone succeeds in doing away with the Anglicanism which I was born to rejoice in living into, the Anglicanism to which you were drawn, then God would have to "invent" it again, because without the open door, big tent kind of church Anglicanism is, at least to date, an essential part of the whole that is Christianity's witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ would be missing.

Posted by: Lois Keen on Tuesday, 21 September 2010 at 9:56pm BST

"The Venerable Martin Trotman of Armidale said refusing the document would be taken as arrogant by the African churches, ''with racial overtones''

Those 'African Churches' who might think that rejection of the Covenant by the Australian Church show and 'arrogance with racial overtones' are the same crew that have shown their own arrogance by refusing to sup at The Lord's Table with advocates of the liberality of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This, surely, is a greater sin than refusing to accept a punitive Covenant relationship! And anyway, I hear that the 'Global South' constituency are not in favour of any Covenant that does not see things the same way as they do. Also, the racist epithet cuts both ways.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Wednesday, 22 September 2010 at 12:26am BST

Barney Zwartz at The Age seems to say that Gafcon's Jerusalem Declaration is part of the official Covenant deliberation process in Australia, and/or an alternative Covenant possibly to be adopted by the Australian church. Is this really the case? What have I misunderstood?

Posted by: Charlotte on Wednesday, 22 September 2010 at 1:07am BST

Charlotte, you question can only be answered by someone from the australian Anglican Church who was actually present at the General Synod Meeting.

However, I would be very surprised if anything from the Jerusalem 'Statement' by the GAFCON Primates has actually become part of the official Covenant Document issued by the ACO.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Wednesday, 22 September 2010 at 11:24am BST

"The Venerable Martin Trotman of Armidale said refusing the document would be taken as arrogant by the African churches, ''with racial overtones''

Isn't the more direct answer to this statement that it proves too much?

On Trotman's reasoning, we should all simply do what the African provinces tell us to do.

Posted by: Jeremy on Wednesday, 22 September 2010 at 11:57am BST

"The Venerable Martin Trotman of Armidale said refusing the document would be taken as arrogant by the African churches, ''with racial overtones''

I despise bullies - of any color - although if put in charge they tend to take out their clubs and...........

Posted by: ettu on Wednesday, 22 September 2010 at 12:05pm BST

What's extraordinary about the Australian General Synod is how little business it's actually conducting, and how irrelevant it is to the lives of most Anglicans and Australians. The fact that it noted the covenant and referred it out for discussion is a harmless way of saying that most Anglicans think the covenant will come to nought. The Jerusalem Declaration was noted because the Sydney plus friends crew brought a motion on the subject forward. The church is really quite sick and in survival mode on all fronts, while Gen X and Gen Y are mostly walking away.

Posted by: MrsBarlow on Wednesday, 22 September 2010 at 1:05pm BST

Hi Lois K thanks for your encouragement - mystically I cling to the openness which the Lord has made - apparently in many more things than we typically credit; while lamenting aloud the very sad ways in which our global big tents are falling prey to the organized campaign to collapse them, going all the way back to USAs IRD and related extreme conservative Christian scheming. That such educated/keen minds as Rowan Williams and even B16 should fall for this artificial teflon-coated faith stuff is deeply perplexing, and actually, for me, one face of evil in our modern life and world.

Yes, progressive following of Jesus of Nazareth will survive, barring the sort of policing, newspeak, and witch hunting that we can imagine in a worst case global scenario. It is all enough to make somebody reconsider whether Rene Girard and his scapegoating theories are really applicable in some depth?

Thanks lots, again. (personally, am having serious health problems so would appreciate your prayers)

Posted by: drdanfee on Wednesday, 22 September 2010 at 5:26pm BST

Interesting info today I heard (which I bet everyone else knows already) that the polity of the Church of Ireland doesn't have room for the covenant (it has relations with CofE but not 'the Anglican Communion) and problems of polity also beset the Episcopal Church in Scotland.

Posted by: Mynsterpreost (=david rowett) on Wednesday, 22 September 2010 at 10:59pm BST

Sorry to hear of your health mis-fortune drdanfee, will keep you in my prayers...

Posted by: evensongjunkie on Thursday, 23 September 2010 at 4:08am BST

Bishop Curnow: "Are we just going to be a series of local autonomous churches that share a common history..."

Good Lord, that's a dissing of the AC, *pre*(and/or non)-Covenant!

"or are we going to be a Church that is prepared to struggle with difference but be committed to the mission that Christ has called us to?”"

Correct me if I'm wrong, Aussies: does "struggle with difference but be committed..." ultimately translate "if you're a LGBT-affirming (episcopal/Primatial) minority, get w/ the NON-affirming majority, or GET OUT!"??? Honestly curious.

Posted by: JCF on Thursday, 23 September 2010 at 6:58am BST

Doctor Dan. Will remember you im our prayers at tomorrow's 10am Mass in Christchurch, N.Z.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Thursday, 23 September 2010 at 12:16pm BST

You have my prayers, drdanfee. Good of you to share.

Posted by: Lois Keen on Thursday, 23 September 2010 at 6:00pm BST

Thinking of you drdanfee and sending good Vibes

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Thursday, 23 September 2010 at 10:11pm BST

There were two separate debates on two separate days that resolved to send the Covenant to the dioceses for study and comment, and later to send the JD to the dioceses for study. There was no confusion between the two. Neither statement or covenant was endorsed by the Synod. The reports in the Age reflect each day's debates.
Local reports on the General Synod suggest there was a good deal of effort to restrain the polarisation of the Anglican Church in Australia. A good example of this was a helpful amendment of the motion to circulate the Jerusalem Declaration motion by one of our most liberal bishops that helped the motion through. This generosity was reciprocated later in the synod by the withdrawal of a pro-Gafcon motion.
Some experienced delegates have reported that it was the friendliest General Synod they have attended.

Posted by: john sandeman on Thursday, 23 September 2010 at 11:41pm BST

Dr Dan says it: "Is this is a solution, as Gertrud Stein might have paraphrased, pray tell me, What exactly is the problem solved?"

And prayers ascending for you personnaly and for the Anglican Communion, late lamented.

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Friday, 24 September 2010 at 6:37am BST

Prayers Dr Dan.

Posted by: Rosemary Hannah on Friday, 24 September 2010 at 9:37am BST

Thanks very much to MrsBarlow and John Sandeman for their helpful clarifications of the actions taken by the Australian General Synod.

Prayers ascending for drdanfee.

Posted by: Charlotte on Friday, 24 September 2010 at 12:51pm BST

O God of heavenly powers, by the might of your command you drive away from our bodies all sickness and all infirmity: Be present in your goodness with your servant Dr Dan, that his weakness may be banished and his strength restored; and that, his health being renewed, he may bless your holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Our prayers are with you, Dan.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Posted by: Kurt Hill on Friday, 24 September 2010 at 2:25pm BST

"Some experienced delegates have reported that it was the friendliest General Synod they have attended." - John Sandeman -

Could that have been, John, because the majority decided not to go any further with the oddly-named 'Jerusalem Declaration' by GAFCON? If so, it must have been a grave disappointment for the Sydney 'Jensenites'. Sanity returns to Australia.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Saturday, 25 September 2010 at 9:32pm BST

The Sydneysiders seemed pleased that the Jerusalem Declaration was to be sent to the dioceses for study. I doubt very much whether they expected to get the Synod to endorse it. Experienced delegates of Liberal Catholic disposition and Evangelical persuasions alike have written on their blogs that the GS was relatively friendly. There seems to have been a real attempt not to have winners and losers at this synod.

Posted by: John Sandeman on Sunday, 26 September 2010 at 1:23pm BST

"Archbishop Peter Jensen of Sydney spoke rarely, but at one point made a strong affirmation of his Diocese’s commitment to the national Church. Clearly that commitment was and is to a weak national Church by most standards, and to primacy for strong local actions and initiatives, at least by conservatives."

- Canon Andrew McGowan, Melbourne University -

In his thoughtful assessment of the goings-on at the Australian General Synod recently held in Melbourne, Andrew McGowan carefully delineates the mood of this meeting of Australian Anglicans which has, by now, become used to the more noisy aspects of the Sydney Diocese; so that the relative silence of Abp. Jensen on this occasion must have seemed like a 'fragile' truce.

Clearly, Abp. Jensen would have liked the Synod to have taken on board the GAFCON 'Jerusalem Statement' of Evangelism, but in the event of it being referred 'down the road, to Diocesan Synods, this may just have suited his agenda for the time being, and it is a mark of the Synod's charity that it decided to discuss GAFCON at all.

However, as Canon McGowan has pointed out, the liasson between dioceses in the Australian Church is of fairly recent origin, and Sydney already has attained to itself a certain independence of thought and action which may not sit easy with the majority of Australian Anglicans.

In the light of this, it certainly was surprising that Abp. Jensen should have protested his diocese's commitment to the Australian Church - especially in the light of the recent statement of that body, that it would not consider Doctor Jensen's ideal of 'Lay Presidency' at the Eucharist being enacted at any time in the near future.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Monday, 27 September 2010 at 10:11am BST

Any Australian commentator able to comment on what seems to be the self-marginalisation of the Diocese of Sydney? Do many think they are gently working towards leaving the Australian Church and if so, what would a future Anglican Australian scenario look like? Any up date on Sydney's financial problems post "crash" or who might the heir apparent be given that Archbishop Jenson is mortal like the rest of us.

Posted by: Perry Butler on Tuesday, 28 September 2010 at 2:15pm BST

Given the present leaning towards nepotism in the Sydney Diocese, Perry, you need to realise that there is a younger Jensen (Jensenite) who may just be 'waiting in the wings'. Shades of North Korea?

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Wednesday, 29 September 2010 at 12:26am BST
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