Sunday, November 1, 2015

Purity in the Anglican church

The manner in which a body of people constitute and structure bodies corporate is extremely important in terms of outcomes.  As an example, the recent 2015 Argentine elections resulted in a complete change of government.   The ruling President was completing the second of two terms – the constitutional maximum number of terms – such that the President could not stand for election.  So dramatic was the change that the President’s own party self-imploded during the campaigning process to the point of failing to secure any vote of substance.  The constitution served its role.  It limited ruling power and derived an outcome for the people.

Churches also have constitutional controls.  Habitually, constitutions drive management structures and decision-making processes.  Constitutional controls invariably differ from one Diocese to the next.

Which brings me to a seemingly large pool of difference between the Anglican Diocese of Sydney and the Anglican Diocese of Newcastle which share a common geographic boundary.  Sydney is a conservative urban centre and the home of the esteemed Moore Theological College.  Newcastle is to the North, with some sizeable urban centres and large rural stretches.

The prime difference is in respect the definition of marriage. 

Sydney at its annual Synod affirmed marriage as a union between a man and a woman.  In addition, Sydney identified a way for individual ministers to act should a change of legislation compel those with marriage licenses to marry same sex couples.  That’s a belts and braces approach – ministers have a sound indication of what to do should legislation change.

Newcastle Diocese is the home of the picturesque city of Gosford, proximate to the Diocesean southern boundary.  In Gosford there is an Anglican churchWithin the same month of Sydney’s robust vote to support marriage as God intends it, a member of clergy from Gosford was speaking at a public debate that considered the definition of marriage.  Now, it is healthy for a minister to engage with the community.  A well-structured debate with considered venue and audience is a good forum for a local minister to attend. 

Naturally, you’d expect the minister to be supporting traditional views of marriage during the debate.  One would expect some liberal, weed-smoking, whale-loving, guitar-strumming modern hippy to be drooling out some inane message in support of peculiar marriage combinations, while the minister-of-religion would respond with coherent arguments that have stood the test of time.  One would expect the minister to yawn at ideology that the modern day hippy thinks is new and with-it.  Debate ends; minister-of-religion one, modern hippy zero.  Yet your expectation in this case would be wrong.  You’ll find via this link to an invitation to the debate that perhaps those who attended found it hard to determine who was playing the role of the modern hippy, and who was playing the role of the minister-of-religion.  I've not researched the two speakers that spoke in favour of traditional marriage yet I hope, for their own edification, that they have worthy Christian shepherds.

So, there is Sydney where ministers will be abandoning marriage licenses (should it be necessary), and Newcastle where at least one minister of religion is keen to support the other side.  To leave you with no doubt on this point one person who commented on the Anglican Parish of Gosford's Facebook page identified the minister as "a beacon of humanism".

That's a huge difference!

Which brings me to some questions; how is it that two body corporates of the Anglican church are constituted so differently as to create such disparity.  Is Sydney comfortable having a divergent element on the boundary?  Is Newcastle embarrassed by its Gosford contemporary?  Is the stuff broadcast out of Gosford contagious onto Sydney?

And then there is purity of the church as a whole.  Isn’t Sydney undermined when someone can point to divergence on the northern fenceline?

It seems timely that the Australian Anglican church consider its constitutional framework to ensure for sound and consistent outcomes.  One bad apple can ruin a barrel of apples.  Perhaps we need heed Revelation’s message that only two will be left.


Note 1: all links operative as at 29 October 2015

Note 2: The clergy who spoke in favour of marriage equality claimed at the event to speak as a citizen.  He was billed on advertising as "Anglican Archdeacon of the Central Coast".  Was it disappointing for some to arrive, with the expectation of hearing a member of clergy speak, only to find a citizen talking? Would that be like going to a Fleetwood Mac concert to learn that Mick Fleetwood had abandoned the drums to do vocals all night? 
Note 3: On 12 August 2017, in the week that a plebiscite failed in the senate and a postal vote was launched, the parish placed on its Facebook page a message commencing: "I write to confirm that I will be voting YES for Marriage Equality."

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