Comments: Opinion - 27 February 2016

Are Evangelicals taking over the Church - it certainly looks that way. Evangelical Justin is relatively young at just turned 60. He could be in post for another decade but what about the succession? In recent decades Evangelicals and Catholics have taken turns at being Cantuar. Ramsey (Catholic), Coggan (Evangelical), Runcie (Catholic), Carey (Evangelical) Williams (Catholic) and Welby (Evangelical) but where is the Catholic who might be next to sit on Augustine's throne? Chichester (unlikely as some have him booked for a return to London) Chelmsford (a possibility) but I have a pound wager on him going to York - there again the road from Ebor to Cantuar has been well travelled in the recent past (Lang, Temple, Ramsey and Coggan) and we could do a lot worse and not much better than + Stephen Chelmsford.

Posted by Father David at Saturday, 27 February 2016 at 11:00am GMT

Does Ian Paul's article about the creeping evangelical provenance of the Church of England sound a wee bit like the 'Trumpet Call' from the GAFCON Primates? If so, we'd all better look out! It could be that the Church of England could become less relevant to the rank anbd file of the people of the U.K. than is already seemingly the case.

What is needed today is not the parsimonious piety of the Bible-bashers, but rather, an honest-to-God assessment of the Church's still evident culture of sexism and homophobia. More mercy and less judgementalism for a start, might help to fill the Church pews. The 'great love of God as revealed in the Son' has a power of attraction far greater than the anathemas hurled at the sinners in the world, whose understanding of God as Father of ALL, needs to be proclaimed, without racist, sexist or classist, elitist discrimination.

Time to get Dean Jeffrey John out of purdah into a significant ministry as a bishop in the Church.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Sunday, 28 February 2016 at 8:14am GMT

From Ian Paul's article about the rise of evangelicalism, 'The one area largely untouched is that of cathedral deans'. Perhaps this goes some way to explaining the phenomenal increase in the size of Cathedral congregations. In retirement I happily make a 50 mile round trip to enter into well ordered worship, using duly authorized resources that includes a good sermon and proper hymns. When chatting to others over the after service coffee one finds that they too have travelled from afar.

Posted by Tim N at Sunday, 28 February 2016 at 2:58pm GMT

I often wonder whether liberals anathematise people they see as sinners: "sexists, homophobes, racists, classists, and elitists.." rather more than evangelicals?!

Posted by Rev David at Sunday, 28 February 2016 at 3:39pm GMT

Fr Ron is spot on. I know SO many people who are turned off, turned away and virtually walk on the other side of the street when they pass a church - because of bible-bashing, flat-earth, OT fundamentalism and pushy evangelism. All of which simply pushes away the very people who have the most need of God's love - and, though you'd scarcely know it - the love Christians are commanded to show to one another.

Posted by Nathaniel Brown at Sunday, 28 February 2016 at 5:30pm GMT

Fr Ron and Fr David,

People often have told me the face is also the face of the soul. You have only to contrast the suited inhabitant of the see of Canterbury to Pope Francis. One shows his faith of the gospel of love and mercy, in the year of mercy. The other a dull executive officer. Let the Church of England find its Francis for the sake of the Anglican Communion, and the souls of the people of England.

Fr John

Posted by FR John Harris-White at Sunday, 28 February 2016 at 5:34pm GMT

What Ron calls bible bashers , do actually engender thriving congregations..even in his own diocese.

Posted by robert ian williams at Sunday, 28 February 2016 at 7:14pm GMT

Undoubtedly true, Nathaniel, but let's give credit where it's due: evangelical churches are, on average, runaway success stories.

For all the people evangelical worship alienates, plenty more walk through the door. Nor do they have a monopoly on exclusivity: since tastes are so diverse, all churches drive people away. Traditional churches alienate with inaccessible liturgy, liberal churches with an excessive focus on political issues, and so on.

Instead of trying to undermine evangelical success, why not instead focus on the more pressing issue of why other traditions are declining, and ask how they need to change to reverse it?

It's only by other traditions equaling evangelicals' numbers, organization and money that they'll ever get a hearing.

Posted by James Byron at Sunday, 28 February 2016 at 8:49pm GMT

The Church of England needs, also, to take note of what is happening to the Anglican Church in Australia. The Sydney archdioces is currently flexing its muscles to threaten the other dioceses in Australia; that if they do not follow Sydney's campaign against the LGBTQI community in the Church, they will either, not attend future bishops' conferences or, opt out of the provincial Church into a GAFCON-like 'Fellowship of Confessional Anglicans". The Revd. David Ould and the former Archbishop Peter Jensen are advocates of these possible futures for these alternatives.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Sunday, 28 February 2016 at 9:21pm GMT

Bosco Peters is spot on. It is the Eucharist that unites us. Very good sacramental theology. Perhaps the primates couldn't practice good sacramental theology because it leads to uncomfortable places. TEC's inclusion is a result of this theology, "all the sacraments for all the baptized."

I've recently learned that for some in CoE, sacramental theology is more akin to our Protestant cousins. That is a much bigger issue than marriage, in my view. Regardless of who is "right," it means that TEC and CoE, along with others, are not speaking the same language. It might sound like English, but we are not understanding one another.

Posted by Cynthia at Sunday, 28 February 2016 at 10:45pm GMT

Tom Ferguson's article (Crusty Old Dean) draws our attention to the fact that the meeting of the Primates was just a 'meeting for conversation' (part of the official description of meetings of the Primates). Was the January meeting, in fact, a properly constituted meeting of one of the official 'Instrument of Unity" - having authority to discipline any one of the official members of the world-wide anglican Communion?

One of Tom's linked correspondents, Father Andrew McGowan, also has some pertinent and pithy comments to make on this subject.

Another matter to consider is: What will the ACC have to say about the propriety of the Primates' decision to discipline TEC - The Episcopal Church?

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Sunday, 28 February 2016 at 11:38pm GMT

The most telling statistic in Ian's article, to me, is the one that says that in recent years evangelical ordination candidates in England have shot up from 30% to 70% of the total. With numbers like that, it's not surprising that the church's leadership is beginning to take on a different hue. Alas, the situation here in Canada is very different.

If liberal and catholic folk see that as a problem, the solution is in their hands: find a way to inspire more people from their traditions to embrace a call to ordination. At the moment English evangelicals seem to be doing that quite well, despite our 'bible-bashing, flat-earth, OT fundamentalism and pushy evangelism' (by the way, it's many years since I've met an evangelical who bashed a Bible or taught that the earth was flat).

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Sunday, 28 February 2016 at 11:44pm GMT

James Byron - "...evangelical churches are, on average, runaway success stories..."

I am not sure that is true, James, in any of the countries we are talking about (Britain, North America, Australasia). It is certainly true that many evangelical churches are runaway success stories, and it is possibly true that in most dioceses, the largest churches are evangelical ones. But I am aware of a good number of evangelical churches that are not succeeding, and a good number of non-evangelical churches (e.g.cathedrals) that are doing very well too.

My explanation for these phenomena are that evangelical theology and forms of leadership are attractive to a significant (but finite) minority of people. It's very difficult to measure because of the range of definitions and inconsistency of statistics, but my private estimate is between 25 and 35%. Among that minority they do very well, because people from that portion of the population attend church in higher numbers than the majority portion, and they are attracted to the style of worship and theology typical at evangelical churches.

But there are at least two costs to the success of these churches.

First, given that they are drawing from a finite population, every "runaway success story" will be drawing in part from other evangelical churches, frequently the one that seemed to be a runaway success story five years ago. Second, many of the remaining portion of the population (65-75%) are not only not attracted by evangelical theology and worship, but are positively repelled by it.

Indeed, churches from other traditions need to emulate some of the things that successful evangelical churches have done (much better music, focus on families and youth) but taking on evangelical theology would be a very ineffective strategy.

Posted by Dr Edward Prebble at Monday, 29 February 2016 at 4:38am GMT

"Instead of trying to undermine evangelical success, why not instead focus on the more pressing issue of why other traditions are declining,"

That's hardly difficult. There is a small, but by no means insignificant, portion of the population for whom the past fifty years of progress are all a hideous mistake. These people aren't all elderly: these are also people who think that their parents had it better. It's an imagined golden age in which women knew their place (the kitchen, or the primary school classroom until they were married), foreigners knew their place (abroad, subjects for mission) and gays knew their place (in a locked and preferably barred closet).

It was said of the Church of England that it was the Tory party at prayer. Evangelical churches are UKIP at prayer: a bogus nostalgia for a an imagined past, in which a white man could be the head of his family and not have to put up with women and queers and foreigners telling him what was right.

Posted by Interested Observer at Monday, 29 February 2016 at 8:08am GMT

Dr. Prebble, turns out, we agree!

I absolutely want churches from other traditions to adopt the things that make evangelicalism accessible (contemporary music, support networks, etc) without adopting evangelical theology. Style, not substance. That'd appeal both to evangelicalism's limited demographic (also agree with what you say about a ceiling) and, crucially, outside it.

Other traditions should either be similar to evangelicalism in style (contemporary, relaxed, welcoming) or, like cathedrals, do what they do to the highest standard. There needs to be constant and ruthless focus on accessibility: "Is X aspect of our church driving people away? If yes, is it theologically essential? If no, change it yesterday!"

If affirming churches were, on average, as popular as evangelical churches, Canterbury would never dream of treating LGBT people the way it is. That's why it's crucial that progressive churches up their game. I don't begrudge evangelicals their dominance: they've earned it by getting results, and have every right to the fruits of success; instead, I want to emulate it.

Posted by James Byron at Monday, 29 February 2016 at 9:40am GMT

I-P's piece paints an interesting picture of the present and future (?) makeup of the CofE. But for me it leaves a few questions unanswered, and unasked.

Firstly, is it desirable for any grouping within the CofE to "take over"? Now, that wording was probably just chosen to make for a good title, rather than any implication that a takeover was indeed taking place. This question needs to be asked though. If it was liberal catholics who were "taking over" I, as a liberal catholic, would be horrified, not least because I would wonder about who would be left to minister most effectively to all the congregations who are not liberal catholic. The same applies, I think, in the case of an evangelical "takeover". If that is the case, who will be left to minister most effectively to all those parishes who do not identify as evangelical.

A further question is asked in the comments below the post on I-P's blog. If church attendance in the CofE continues to slide whilst evangelical leaders are in the ascendancy, then what?

Posted by Alastair Newman at Monday, 29 February 2016 at 11:26am GMT

"Is X aspect of our church driving people away?"

That's a very interesting comment.
How would a church know?
How many churches do you know who follow up when people leave?
How many carry out research in their region when old ones die and new ones don't join?

You mention popular music as if it was a given that this would attract people. Do we know? Anecdotally, I know just as many who don't like the evangelical pseudo-pop.

I'm also very wary about this narrative that evangelical churches are doing particularly well. Edward Prebble has explained why that is not necessarily the case.

Alan Wilson has repeatedly said that despite what some evangelicals in Oxford claim, there are growing churches in all traditions in Buckinghamshire, and shrinking churches in all traditions.

Without proper research (where's Linda Woodhead when you need her!) all of this is just throwing our favourite prejudice around.

Posted by Erika Baker at Monday, 29 February 2016 at 1:39pm GMT

There's a difference, surely, between "driving people away", "putting people off", "not attracting people in the first place" etc etc.

Churches need to consider all of these things. But I think to say that if there is something which is "driving people away" (all people? is it also attracting some people?), then it should be "changed yesterday", risks forming church polity (and ultimately theology) on the basis of popularity rather than theological principles.

I think where non-evangelical churches still have a lot to learn from evangelical churches is in organisation and use of technology. The evangelical churches I know of which are doing well are well organised, well run, they have people with clearly assigned roles, information readily available, people available to talk to after services. So do most cathedrals I know. They also have websites up-to-date with service times, those times are correct, there's loads of information online, they have a presence on facebook and twitter and keep their followers informed of what's going on there. So do most cathedrals I know.

Perhaps it's nothing theological. Perhaps it's that successful evangelical churches (and not all of them are successful) and cathedrals are organised, are confident of their place in the spectrum of Anglican traditions, live out that place fully, and insist on being up-to-date with the communications technology that most of the population use as part of their daily lives.

Posted by Alastair Newman at Monday, 29 February 2016 at 4:00pm GMT

Brother Byron: "evangelical churches are, on average, runaway success stories." Noted - or, so it appears. In fact, the evidence is that those churches that are bringing in large number of folks are also losing them out the back door. Here in the middle of America, mega-churches have about as many people leave as come in. Most are looking for a smaller, more personal church in which they can feel more invested and less "spectator." Some, of course, end up in no church at all (but I don't know that the percentage is higher than for any other churches).

The most successful mega-church in this part of the world is the one most successful both at being big, organized, and programmed, and also at being clearly middle-of-the-road United Methodist. No more biblicist church in this area is anywhere near as big nor as stable. Granted, the middle of the Methodist road around here is somewhat to the right of the middle way of the Episcopal church around here; but nowhere near the "bible-thumping" style of evangelicalism.

Posted by Marshall Scott at Monday, 29 February 2016 at 4:02pm GMT

My church is in an area where the majority of churches would probably call themselves evangelical, and which has one very large conservative evangelical church. The congregation is 50 or so on a typical Sunday morning, but drawn from a pool of about three times that size, since many don't come every week, and consistently attracting new people, at least at the rate at which others are dying or moving away. It consists largely of people who have made the very definite decision that evangelical churches are not for them. There are a lot of "refugees" who have left those churches because they found they weren't so welcome when something went wrong in their lives - divorce and remarriage, for instance - or because they could no longer stomach the theology they were hearing from the pulpit. There are some gay people, because we are affiliated to Inclusive Church and advertise that that is the case. We also have quite a large number of Catholics in the congregation, who don't like the local Catholic church because it has too large a congregation for most people to feel known and needed. Others come because they like a reasonably traditional and liturgical service, and positively hate the whole "worship band" style of service. Interestingly they are quite happy with our music group, which sits off to one side and plays a few songs in All Age Worship - it is the "worship leader" on a stage they can't stand. They tell me they felt emotionally manipulated by that style of worship. The age range of people in my church is perfectly healthy - there are quite a few older people, but there are also young families and a surprising number of teenagers. The also like coming to us because we don't routinely split the church by age and send the children off to their own groups, but tend to take an All Age approach in all our worship, involving the children and young people as they want to be involved (i.e. letting them choose what they want to do, just as we would the adults.)
Many of the congregation are either on the way in - feeling their way tentatively towards faith, but put off going elsewhere because they feel hustled into being certain and committed when they aren't - or were on the way out, having been bruised and battered in other churches, but seem to find in us a place where they can hang on and heal.
We've also got quite a few who are just locals - it is a village church - and for whom this is and will always be "their" church.
In other words, as a liberal, inclusive, small scale, village church we are the church to which liberal, inclusive people who enjoy worship which is reasonably traditional want to go. If we suddenly adopted the theology, worship style, and organisational characteristics of the large evangelical church up the road, they would leave. We might, it is true, attract some of those who like that sort of thing, but we would lose the people we had.
It always strikes me as folly to assume that if everyone did what the numerically "sucessful" churches did we would suddenly be able to attract millions of people we are currently not reaching. People are different from each other in their needs and preferences, and the same people may have different needs and preferences at different times of their lives. We all need to try to be as good as we can be at doing the things we do, but this is really not a situation where one size fits all. It may be that smaller numbers of people are attracted to trad, liberal, inclusive village churches than to big, modern evangelical suburban ones, but for those that choose this it isn't a second best, but the church they really want and need to be part of.

Posted by Anne at Monday, 29 February 2016 at 4:57pm GMT

“…if they [Jensenites] do not follow Sydney's campaign against the LGBTQI community in the Church, they will either, not attend future bishops' conferences or, opt out of the provincial Church into a GAFCON-like 'Fellowship of Confessional Anglicans…” Fr. Ron Smith

One would think that for most moderate and liberal Anglican dioceses in Australia, such an “opt out” by the Sydney Puritans would be a heaven-sent blessing! With these Calvinists out of the way, the Australian Church could mold Anglicanism in a much more open and welcoming direction, by consecrating women bishops, for example. The approximately 10 percent of Sydney parishes that loathe Sydney Puritanism would, I’m sure, happily join with the moderates and liberals in rejecting this Calvinism.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Posted by Kurt Hill at Monday, 29 February 2016 at 7:33pm GMT

Lots of stereotypes about evangelicals here - that we all attend megachurches, that we all like and use contemporary music, that we all love Facebook and Twitter and the social media, that we're all racists (UKIP at prayer), that we're all 'Bible thumpers' and 'fundamentalists'.

I've always been an evangelical. I've spent my entire ministry in small rural parishes - some of them two or three point (at one time, in the Canadian Arctic, I was the third most northerly Anglican minister in the world) - until my current parish which is a small suburban one. In our church the music is mainly traditional, and so is our worship style. And personally, I've never voted to the right of liberal in my life.

Reality can be more nuanced that we'd like to think. Cliches and stereotypes can do a lot of damage. I've heard gay and lesbian friends make that complaint. It works both ways.

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Monday, 29 February 2016 at 10:34pm GMT

Kurt, Australia has at least four bishops (who happen to be women), two of whom are diocesans. Yes, Sydney is a bit difficult around this, but the rest of the Australian church has done what it has faced problems there and found ways to compromise with some degree of integrity. We can evolve without being held hostage by the Church League.

Posted by Victoriana at Tuesday, 1 March 2016 at 5:02am GMT

Of course, Tim Chesterton, because choosing to be an evangelical is *exactly* like being LGBTI.

Posted by MarkBrunson at Tuesday, 1 March 2016 at 5:02am GMT

How *long* have evangelical churches been "a runaway success?" In what way? Mere numbers (and keep in mind that money is still mere numbers)? Do they actually create Christians, or just evangelicals? What are their main concerns in the society around them? What is the core of their worship and belief (not what they state, but what they do)?

Why worry about numbers? Do you really think that Christ will win with numbers? Where is your faith?

Posted by MarkBrunson at Tuesday, 1 March 2016 at 5:10am GMT

"it's many years since I've met an evangelical who bashed a Bible"

Tim, I don't know exactly what Nathaniel meant by the phrase "bible-bashing", but I doubt it means "physically striking a bible". Rather, my guess is either 1) Bashing (banning from your institution) scholarly Biblical criticism (as in "Moses didn't write the Five Books of Moses!"), or 2) using the Bible as a rhetorical cudgel against those whose sins differ from one's own (failing to be a Christ-like in one's same-sex marriage, as opposed to failing to be Christ-like in one's opposite-sex marriage). Or both 1 & 2.

Posted by JCF at Tuesday, 1 March 2016 at 6:58am GMT

Can someone explain how a man ordained for 6 years and working at a seminary with about twenty students is a 'Crusty Old Dean'? Or is this just a joke? Bexley Hall is now in its fourth peregrination in an effort to survive, merged with Seabury Western.

Posted by cseitz at Tuesday, 1 March 2016 at 7:35am GMT

'Of course, Tim Chesterton, because choosing to be an evangelical is *exactly* like being LGBTI.'

I don't believe I said that. One area of commonality, however - an area in which we both have experience - is being the target of cliches and stereotypes.

I'm also not at all clear what 'choosing' to be evangelical, or anglo-catholic, or liberal, or any other theological tradition, actually means. I doubt if it's as clear cut as that. I'm not sure that's how it feels to most of us. Could you 'choose' to be evangelical, Mark? Probably not - evangelical beliefs probably seem to you to be nonsensical, or offensive, or extremely unlikely, or a combination of all three.

There probably is an element of choice, but I don't think that's the whole story by far; reality is a lot more complicated than that.

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Tuesday, 1 March 2016 at 8:46am GMT

Thank you, Anne and Tim.

Posted by Erika Baker at Tuesday, 1 March 2016 at 9:13am GMT

Dr Seitz

Your question about Crusty Old Dean may be answered by this page

Further biographical information on him is here

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Tuesday, 1 March 2016 at 10:49am GMT

I think one of the reasons evangelicals are increasingly having an image problem is that our lgbt debate is dominated by a group of evangelicals with a particularly rigid definition of what people must believe on a handful of topics, and who are very quick to disown other people who call themselves evangelical, if they don't fit the mould.

The rich tradition of what it used to mean to be evangelical is getting lost in this.

Maybe it's up to other evangelicals to fight back?
After all, if nuanced, tolerant people don't explain their brand of being evangelical, they can't really complain if they lose the definition.

Posted by Erika Baker at Tuesday, 1 March 2016 at 10:52am GMT

What else would you call being an evangelical? You were just born that way?

And, yes, I could choose to be an evangelical, but much of their belief is based on mere emotionalism, and that, while appealing, is not true worship.

Posted by MarkBrunson at Tuesday, 1 March 2016 at 11:09am GMT

One of the things that would attract all these young folks and families you want in the liberal catholic churches would be actually showing some moral courage as well as real community involvement. Nobody cares what you send overseas, they only see what you are doing here.

Posted by MarkBrunson at Tuesday, 1 March 2016 at 11:16am GMT

I apologize that I wasn’t clear, Victoriana. I meant no slight to the moderate and liberal Australian Anglicans who are supportive of both women and gay people. Nor to imply that Australian Anglicans have not successfully consecrated women bishops outside of Sydney.

If I were an Australian Anglican, however, I would be overjoyed that the Sydney Puritans might finally alienate enough moderates and liberals to say “Enough Is Enough!” and to begin to at least provide Alternative Episcopal Oversight for the ten percent of Sydney parishes who would likely embrace it. Free of those Calvinist throwbacks and their “oversight,” clergy at churches such as St. James King Street would finally feel free to wear a chasuble at celebrations of the Holy Eucharist if they wanted to. And more moderate and liberal Evangelical parishes, too, would be able to breathe a sigh of relief. Dioceses and other institutions outside of Sydney would be free to aid moderate and liberal Anglicans in Sydney in numerous ways, just as the Sydney Puritans aid their numerous “church plants” scattered all over the map. So, if the Sydney Puritans don’t want to “share the wealth” with the non-Calvinists, then at least Australian Anglicans can share together the Holy Poverty of our Lord and Savior without the interference of backward elements in their midst.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Posted by Kurt Hill at Tuesday, 1 March 2016 at 3:39pm GMT

I think it is worth recalling that "Evangelical" has rather different meaning in the US, where it is typically associated with fundamentalist conservative denominations that make up the "Christian Right".

Posted by I_T at Tuesday, 1 March 2016 at 4:20pm GMT

"I think one of the reasons evangelicals are increasingly having an image problem is that our lgbt debate is dominated by a group of evangelicals with a particularly rigid definition of what people must believe"

That is, to judge from the debate as seen from this side of the Atlantic, what is killing evangelical churches in the American bible belt. Hatred of gay people (and to a lesser extent creationism) has been made a fundamental, salvation issue, and young people are presented with the stark choice: "hate your gay friends and abjure science, or leave the church". "Uh, OK, I guess I'll leave then". "No, no, that's not what we meant". "But you said..."

About two thirds of Americans raised in evangelical churches leave aged 18-25, and they don't come back. So those churches may look healthy now - as in Europe, the massive cohort born 1955-65 provide a comfortable cushion of numbers to conceal a failure to recruit younger replacements for the numerically much smaller cohort born around the war years as they die. But it's a doomed process: you will not recruit younger participants at anything like replacement rate by just screaming that you want your own bigotry held more widely, and people don't grow into hatred.

One of the main things that comes out of reading the transcript of Kitzmiller v Dover Area School District, which I have, every word, is not the beliefs and theology of the defendants, wrong-headed though they may be. It's the fatuous stupidity and casual dishonesty of people quite happy to lie transparently in order to get their way. If that's mirrored in churches of a similar evangelical hue, then it's no wonder that younger people want nothing of it.

Posted by Interested Observer at Tuesday, 1 March 2016 at 9:37pm GMT

'And, yes, I could choose to be an evangelical, but much of their belief is based on mere emotionalism, and that, while appealing, is not true worship.'

I've heard John Calvin, John R.W. Stott, J.I. Packer, Charles Simeon, et al accused of many things, but emotionalism is not one of them.

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Wednesday, 2 March 2016 at 5:17am GMT

Thank you Simon. They show a man with 6 years in the priesthood at a school without many students, trying to stay afloat. When I think of a 'Crusty Old Dean' I think of a man war-weary from years of service at a seriously demanding post, known to generations of former students. I have known such men/women.

But maybe he is being arch.

Posted by cseitz at Wednesday, 2 March 2016 at 7:29am GMT

Thanks for your reply, Kurt.

The liberal side of the Australian church seems to believe in the integrity of diocesan/provincial borders in a way that must look remarkably naive and hopeful in the face of Sydney's church plants. That said, the parishes you mention manage to find episcopal ministry both from within Sydney as well as beyond. Sydney's evangelicalism is monolithic, but I can dial up a good number of Moore College alumni who have seen the light and smelt the incense.

The problem with bishops not turning up to meetings in Australia is that the Jensen crew will keep coming while they think there's an argument to be won. At some levels that's a sound strategy, when you consider this own-goal.

Posted by Victoriana at Wednesday, 2 March 2016 at 11:12am GMT

I'm not sure if Tom Ferguson is being arch but his tongue is firmly in cheek. As his blog notes, the title is taken from a quotation from "The Simpsons," a biting and satirical U.S. TV cartoon show, and he notes, "OK, this title is only partly true. I am a dean but am not particularly crusty and not old (at least demographically for the Episcopal Church if not our culture)."

His blog can be, perhaps, a bit pointed and biting. But he often shares a point of view that's worth considering whether one ultimately agrees with it or not.

Posted by dr.primrose at Wednesday, 2 March 2016 at 4:27pm GMT

Thank you Dr Primrose.

The title would suggest to me someone of great seniority and long history in a post, overseeing generations of students.

My grandfather taught at Bexley Hall for over 40 years and trained generations of clergy. He was crusty and he was old. And I have known Deans in this category as well, as in the US a dean can be an administrative role one does not exchange with other faculty.

Posted by cseitz at Thursday, 3 March 2016 at 6:46am GMT

Dear Tim, I think you may have missed the point - of the one who challenged the idea of 'choosing' to be LGBTQI as the equivalent of 'choosing' to be an evangelical! I think he meant that the idea of actually choosing - in either situation - is not necessarily true.

One's belief system - in both cases - is informed by one's situation. In the case of an Evangelical Christian; this presupposes one's evangelical upbringing in the Faith - not unlike that of an Anglo-Catholic; their belief is influenced by their A.C. upbringing.

Similarly, ones sexuality is determined by one's intrinsic nature. As any intrinsic homosexual person will themselves attest - they have no natural inclination to indulge in a heterosexual relationship: they do not choose this preference, it is natural to them.

In the case of the majority heterosexual person; ask them whether they actually have to make a conscious choice to be heterosexual.

Of course, one can, later, choose a new spiritual affinity to suit one's spiritual or intellectuasl growth in Faith. However, that is not, normally, possible for either an intrinsically Gay or Straight person - to change their sexual identity - despite efforts sometimes made to the contrary.

And then there are bi-sexual, trans-sexual and a-sexual identities, that need to be recognised, respected and welcomed into the Church, as part of God's wonderful, varied, creation.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Friday, 4 March 2016 at 12:05am GMT

Ron, I believe you may be a little behind in the discussion. Go back and read my reply of March 1st at 8.46 a.m. and you'll discover that I agree with you.

And I would like to repeat (once again) that I think a few people on this thread have responded to a comparison that I did not actually make.

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Monday, 7 March 2016 at 5:30pm GMT

Thanks, Tim. Perhaps I needed to emphasise what I think to be the importance of any misunderstanding on the matter of homosexuality (or heterosexuality for that matter) being - or not being - simply a choice for the person concerned. That is why the whole business of 'conversion therapy' is absurd.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Tuesday, 8 March 2016 at 10:04am GMT

Ron, my original point was that gay people and evangelicals have in common the experience that they have both been unfairly stereotyped and caricatured. That, and that only, was the point that I was making, as my original post makes clear. At no point did I assert that people choose to be gay.

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Tuesday, 8 March 2016 at 3:13pm GMT

Understand perfectly, Tim. Over and out.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Wednesday, 9 March 2016 at 10:06am GMT
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