US Rabbi and Imam Issue Joint Statement on Gaza Conflict

Muslim/Jewish Statement on Gaza and Israel BY RABBI MICHAEL G. HOLZMAN

Joint Statement on Israel/Gaza

July 22, 2014

Imam Mohamed Magid & Rabbi Michael G. Holzman

The current military operations in Israel and the Gaza strip should disturb all people of faith. The only moral path to a solution between Israelis and Palestinians (Israeli Jewish/Muslim/Christian and Palestinian Muslim/Christian) will be dialogue and negotiation. This is a long and arduous path, but the faith that grounds our traditions can sustain the slow evolution of history. The current conflict is an outgrowth of over a century of opposing narratives and ideological differences that no military operations can resolve.

Our traditions  While we acknowledge the need for self defense, when the can of violence opens, as it has now, worms of vengeance and blood-feud crawl out. Then people begin to abandon the principles of justice and mercy upon which civilizations are founded. Instead they turn to more tribal urges, seeking retribution for past wrongs.

We believe the current violence crosses that line. At some point people cease looking for solutions and instead succumb to base human urges for violence. They crave the blood of the enemy to compensate for the pain of loss. This is the way of our animal instincts, the ethos of ancient tribes and clans who exist only to protect all within, while opposing all others. The teachings of our ancestors rose above that thinking long ago to build great civilizations. We believe that when we look to our texts and traditions we can rise above the narrative of suffering and victimization to find roads to healing and wholeness.

The Torah this week teaches of the “Cities of Refuge” (Numbers 35: 6-28) places where a person can flee after an accidental death or manslaughter in order so that relatives of the deceased cannot exact revenge. The one who flees must face criminal justice, and the City of Refuge serves as both a haven and prison for the man slaughterer while restricting the blood thirst of the avenger. The people living in Israel and Gaza can look at the current situation and see only murder and intentional killing, or they can see how decades of hatred breed spontaneous violence. In these heated emotions, our traditions call for cooling off, seeking refuge, and then finding a path to justice. Only through such systems can order and peace be restored.

Several verses from the Quran also give us reminders to work for the protection of life and how to respond with good and forgiveness in times of major challenge and conflict.

“Good and wrong cannot be equal; repel wrong with something which is better and verily he between whom and thyself was enmity may then become as though he had always been a close, true friend.” (Quran 41:34)

The recompense for an injury is an injury equal thereto (in degree): but if a person forgives and makes reconciliation, his reward is due from God: for (God) loveth not those who do wrong(Quran 42:40)

Those who spend (freely), whether in prosperity, or in adversity; who restrain anger, and pardon (all) humans;- for God loves those who do good(Quran 3:134)

“Whoever kills a person, unless [as punishment through due process] for murder or mischief in the land, it is as though he has killed all mankind. And whoever saves a life, it is as though he had saved all mankind.” (Quran 5:32)

While we do not pretend to know the pain of the mourners, we also urge them to honor their loved ones not through the tribal urge for revenge, but rather to build up societies of justice and mercy.

These values are the cornerstones of civilization and the paving stones to peace. Seeking more blood for blood only perverts and discards the great traditions of Islam and Judaism. We abandoned an “eye for an eye” centuries ago. Now we urge our brothers and sisters in the Middle East to seek a solution that protects the self while fostering compassion for the other.

POSTED JULY 23, 2014 – ‘Northern Virgina Hebrew Congregation’
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This posting on Wednesday 23 July, in the United States of America, of an article written by a Jewish Rabbi and a Muslim Imam, commenting on the ideological basis of conflict between Jews and Muslims in Israel and Palestine, should open the eyes of us who are Christians to the acute dilemma which has precipitated the action and reaction of hostilities currently being enacted in the Middle East – in this instance, between the Jewish State and the Palestinians in Gaza.
Both Rabbi Holman, of the N. Virginia Hebrew Congregation and Imam Magid, acknowledging that there are other religious groups involved in both territories, believe that there should be a multi-faith effort to bring about a consultation that would include all people of religious faith into the process of peace-making – as the only way to secure a lasting peace in the area.
What is being suggested by these two clerics on both sides of the arguments, is that both Jewish and Muslim traditions contain elements that “exist to uphold the moral foundations for civilizations and (as such) we urge an end to the current violence.”
Both the Rabbi and the Imam admit that the past history of both Jewish and Muslim communities has been such that the present crisis could have been foreseen: “The current conflict is an outgrowth of over a century of opposing narratives and ideological differences that no military operations can resolve.”
There are also Christians and other religious minorities whose lives are being adversely affected by the present stand-off between Israel and Palestine, and it behoves Christians, as well as Jews and Muslims to do what we can to bring pressure to bear on the international community to bring an end to this humanitarian crisis – which does nothing to ease fears of fundamentalist groups whose intention is to use weapons as a means to establish their spiritual hegemony in various trouble spots around the world.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand
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Further News on Women Bishops Legislation

ABC ++Welby: Provisions in women-bishops Measure express ‘love’ to opponents

by Gavin Drake and Tim Wyatt - ‘CHURCH TIMES’ - Posted: 25 Jul 2014 @ 00:11

Click to enlarge

Family business: the Revd Susie Thorp (right) recalls the 1992 General Synod vote with her mother, the Revd Helen Thorp, at a service celebrating 20 years of women’s priestly ministry, in Durham Cathedral, on Saturday

THE Archbishop of Canterbury has described the General Synod’s provisions for those who are theologically opposed to the consecration of women to the episcopate as an “expression of love”.

Archbishop Welby made his comments as he appeared alongside senior officials and members of the General Synod at Parliament’s Ecclesiastical Committee, which was considering the Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure which had received final approval from the General Synod on Monday of last week (News, 18 July).

The former President of the Methodist Conference, Lord Griffiths of Burry Port, said that the inclusion of provisions would lead to “wider incomprehension to the public at large”.

The Archbishop said in response: “This is a very short Measure with an expression of love and concern for those who struggle with it. We are a family, not a political party. We don’t chuck people out who disagree with us.”

He said that the Church was seeking to “love one another, wash each other’s feet, love your neighbour, love your enemy.” He quipped: “If we had done that in the 18th century, then you wouldn’t be a Methodist.”

The Prolocutor of the Lower House of the Convocation of Canterbury, the Ven. Christine Hardman, rejected a claim from the Labour peer Lord Judd that, because of the provisions, “looked at from another planet it might well seem . . . that women are not on the same footing as men.”

“Up until now we talk about, in our canons, women priests and women deacons”, she said. “In this canon . . . from now on, we will talk about bishops. We will talk about priests. We will talk about deacons. The gender of the bishop, priest, or deacon will no longer be like some separate species where you have got bishops and women bishops, or priests and women priests. We will have bishops, and priests, and deacons.”

Archbishop Welby told the committee that the procedures used to prepare the legislation, using facilitated discussions, had “substantially reduced” the “culture of suspicion” that had developed in the Synod.

After taking evidence for about 75 minutes, the committee deliberated in private before announcing its unanimous support for the Measure, declaring it to be “expedient”.

Parliament has now risen for the summer recess. Sir Tony Baldry, who represents the Church Commissioners in Parliament, said that he hopes to take the Measure to the Commons in September, and that the Lords will consider it in October. If approved by both Houses, it will go for Royal Assent before returning to the Synod to be promulged.

 

THE Archbishop of Canterbury has said that he remains committed to the appointment of a conservative Evangelical bishop, and has suggested that procedures for selecting bishops may need to change.

On the specific promise to appoint a conservative Evangelical bishop “within a matter of months”, he told MPs and peers: “We have undertaken to approach the Dioceses Commission to see if we can create a suffragan see,” before immediately back-tracking and saying: “not ‘create’, but if we can use a vacant suffragan see for the appointment of someone holding the conservative Evangelical view on headship.

“This was promised long, long ago in various ways. One of the things that both the Archbishop of York and I feel about this – as did the House of Bishops – is that if we are going to create a climate of trust . . . we have got to keep our word on everything we promise. If you stop doing that, people will not believe you on anything.”

A Church House spokesman later said that “no proposal has yet been put to the Commission. A specific proposal with role specification will need to come from the diocesan bishop in whose diocese the see is.

“As was said at the Synod, conversations are going on, and options explored. The situation hasn’t changed since last week.”

Archbishop Welby also suggested that changes may be made to the procedures for appointing diocesan and suffragan bishops, saying: “There are some absolutely outstanding clergy in both the traditional Catholic and the complementarian Evangelical groups; and we are going to have to develop . . . processes and procedures to make sure that they are considered fairly and equally, to see if they are the most appropriate person for a given post.”

Archbishop Welby has also accepted that consecrating women to the episcopate will be a “further difficulty” on the road to unity with other Churches.

In a letter to the Church of England’s ecumenical partners on Thursday of last week, Archbishop Welby wrote that, while some denominations would welcome the vote at the General Synod, “our other ecumenical partners may find this a further difficulty on the journey towards full communion.”

The Roman Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales said in a statement after the Synod vote that the decision “sadly places a further obstacle on the path to this unity between us”.

In his letter, Archbishop Welby acknowledged that the decision had divided the C of E. “This is an occasion of deep rejoicing for many, especially for many of the women clergy in the Church of England. They feel that this decision affirms their place and ministry in the life of the Church. For others in the Church of England, the decision may be a source of disappointment and concern.”

Archbishop Welby’s letter also praised the “Christian charity” of the Synod debate, and said that there was a determination not to let sincere theological differences split the Church in two.

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“After taking evidence for about 75 minutes, the committee deliberated in private before announcing its unanimous support for the Measure, declaring it to be ‘expedient’. “

This sentence, in this report from the ‘Church Times’ in London, confirms the fact that the Parliamentary Ecclesiastical Committee, has received the Report of Archbishop Welby that the Church of England General Synod meeting wishes to go ahead with the Ordination of Women Bishops, and that the Committee will, in turn, present their recommendation to Parliament for permission for legislation to go ahead at the next meeting of General Synod in September. If Synod confirms its decision in September, then both Houses of Parliament will proceed with the necessary civil legal process that will allow the Ordination of Women as Bishops in the Church of England.

The Second part of this article in the Church Times bespeaks an intention to honour the result of a pledge made by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to make room for a special provisional arrangement for conservative evangelicals in the Church to avoid the ministry of a woman Bishop by an alternative means of episcopal election:  It seems this may be possible: “if we can use a vacant suffragan see for the appointment of someone holding the conservative Evangelical view on headship.”

This, obviously, would not meet the needs of the alternative Anglo-Catholic minority that needs provision for its own  objectors to Women Bishops – who, however, already have designated ‘Flying Bishops’ at their disposal, to meet their needs.

It seems that, in order to get the required consent of General Synod to the proposed Measure, these provisions needed to be included in the final Draft Proposal, which was finally accepted by the July Meeting of the General Synod.

If this allows the Church of England to pass the required legislation with a minimum of disruption to the Church, one might accept that the resulting accommodations – allowing for differing theological view-points on the efficacy of female leadership in the Church of England –  with the large majority accepting their ministry – is the best possible outcome for ensuring the continuance of a more inclusive ministerial oversight in that Church.

Arguments which say that this Measure will exacerbate relationships with other Churches – mainly the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches – fail to take into account that, for the Roman Catholic Church at least, they already do not officially recognise our male Anglican Orders as valid! This has not seemingly affected the current degree of fraternal relationship.

If Anglicans have now recognised the need to accept women as co-heirs in the ministry of the Church, this must be an encouragement to other Churches to a like acceptance of the dictum of Saint Paul, when he declared that: “In Christ, there is neither male nor female.”

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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ABC’s Speech on Women Bishops to Parliamentary Committee

Women bishops: Abp Welby’s speech to Ecclesiastical Committee

Posted on: July 23, 2014 4:29 PM

Related Categories: Abp WelbyEnglandwomen bishops

From Lambeth Palace

Archbishop Justin Welby outlined how General Synod came to approve legislation allowing women to become bishops in the Church of England.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, addressed the Parliamentary Ecclesiastical Committee yesterday about new legislation allowing women to become bishops in the Church of England, which was approved by the General Synod last week.

A transcript of the Archbishop’s speech follows: 

I’d like to place on record my gratitude, and the gratitude of all of us, for your willingness to arrange today’s session so close to the final approval vote in York. And to affirm that, as we said to you, we knew that if we didn’t get started until the autumn we risked losing momentum, and might not make it for the November Synod session so that we could enact the Canon when we meet on 17 November. But that is, of course, entirely dependent on the judgement this committee has to make, and the decisions that would then be for the House of Commons and House of Lords.

It’s worth noting, you commented on the eight annexes; we have tried to make them complete. I know they are a huge amount of reading and it’s very good of you to have read them so quickly. My predecessor, Rowan Williams, said that he could not understand why a yes or no question – should the Church of England have women bishops – had generated arguments of length and complexity as to make the Schleswig-Holstein question look relatively simple.

The annexes you have are absolutely central to the package the Synod agreed last week. The debate was of a particular form which meant there could be no closure until everyone had spoken. You weren’t allowed to move to next business or do anything else other than limit the time for which each person spoke. I think we had 74 people speaking, something of that order, from a Synod of over 400 people – and this was not the first time we’d had this discussion. On this particular measure it’s the third time, and on the previous measures and discussions of this subject – going back over 30 years – we’ve had this discussion at some length.

However, we did go through the whole process properly last Monday with great care, chaired by Archbishop Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, the other President of the Synod. The result of that was that we achieved majorities in all three houses of the Synod: 95 per cent in the House of Bishops, 87 per cent in the House of Clergy and 77 per cent in the House of Laity. The pass mark being two-thirds, we were comfortably through on all of them.

It is worth emphasising that the debate last week was not as to whether women should or should not be bishops – that was decided some time ago; it was as to whether this particular form of the process was one that was the best and most appropriate way of dealing with it.

It is also worth saying – and this was said in the debate, and in reporting on it I need to affirm that very clearly – is that inevitably in something of such long drawn out discussion, and following the failure of the measure in November 2012 by six votes in the House of Laity, it is fair to say we’ve not ended up where any of the main groups in the Church, left to themselves, would have chosen. The traditionalists would have preferred structural solutions with additional dioceses or provinces or transfers of jurisdiction between bishops.

Other groups – for example, WATCH – always argued that there should be as little as possible written down and that we should simply change the law and rely on individual bishops to make pastoral provision locally as a matter of grace and courtesy. That would obviously in many ways be an ideal way forward; but we need to bear in mind that there has developed a culture of, I think suspicion would not be putting it too strongly, which – despite the remarkable work of the 18 months or so since the failure of the November 2012 measure – has not been completely removed; it has been substantially reduced. Even now, I am sure that you will have heard from those who regretted that such and such an element did not feature in the overall package, and we have to bear in mind that when people feel that for theological reasons they are correct in a particular approach, they tend to have strong views about it. I think my experience in office would have convinced me of that even if I didn’t know it before.

The Bishop of Rochester, on my right, chaired the steering committee with enormous skill, and it was their report last October that constituted the breakthrough. Thirteen of the 15 members were prepared to commend it. It was very unusual to have 15 members on the steering committee: we put in everyone right across the spectrum so that the steering committee was a sort of microcosm of the Synod – and that was a deliberate process so that all the arguments were in the steering committee.

We also had a day, a year ago, in the Synod of facilitated discussion around the subject, in small groups, which had never been done before, organised by David Porter with a very significant number of facilitators from around the country – and that, I think it would be fair to say, I’m not exaggerating, has completely changed the atmosphere among the vast majority of the Synod: not only on those matters, but generally in the way we deal with each other. For a number of people it was the first time they’d met those with whom they disagreed.

It was on the back of that that we managed to secure an acceleration of the process through the Synod, the agreement of all 43 dioceses who voted on the package – one diocese, after we’d got through the previous round in February, normally we would have had to wait until November. Standing orders were waived, if I remember rightly, that required a three-quarters majority, which we got. We actually got 90.3 per cent on that occasion, and as a result we were able to shorten the consultation period and take the revision stage over the last series of Synod meetings a week ago.

In the intervening few months a majority of dioceses had to vote in favour or against in their diocesan synods. Forty-three of the 44 met – the one who didn’t was Europe, which extends from Vladivostok to Casablanca, and therefore meetings are a touch difficult to arrange. All 43 voted in favour; on the November 2012, 42 had voted in favour. There is much more that I could say, but I hope that gives you a reasonable scope for consideration.

Watch the full hearing on the Parliament TV website

Further news and comment on women bishops:

Update Wednesday morning
Frank Field MP tweeted at 6.02 pm on Tuesday that “Ecclesiastical Committee, of which I am a Member, has just unanimously approved the women bishops measure. Hurrah!”

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The Report of the Archbishop of Canterbury ++Justin Welby, contained the following phrase that said much about the preparation that has gone on in the Church of England, that led towards the decision to ordain women to the rank of Bishops in that Church:

” On this particular measure it’s the third time, and on the previous measures and discussions of this subject – going back over 30 years – we’ve had this discussion at some length.”

The archbishop’s broad outline of the procedures leading up to the eventual acceptance by the General Synod would have satisfied the Ecclesiastical Committee of the British Parliament – that the vast majority of the Church of England membership was behind the G.S. Measure which now allows – with parliamentary approval – the legislation to go forward.

There is a minority of bishops clergy and laity of the Church who are still resistant to the theological basis on which women have been ordained deacons and priests in the Church of England; so that ‘special arrangements’ to accommodate their acceptance of only male clergy and bishops to minister to their particular congregations, is now built into the ‘code of practice’ that has now become part of the legislative package approved by the General Synod.

From his assurances given for these provisions for dissenters, it is hoped that Parliament will recognise that all possible has been done to ensure a smooth transition of the necessary Bill empowering the Ordination of Women Bishops in the Church of England to go ahead.

If all goes well, the actions of Parliament will proceed smoothly, so that the next session of the General Synod in November of this year.will be able to finally approve the legislation. This has been a very long journey for many in the Church of England who have longed for the time when women would be given equal responsibility with men for the leaderships and ministry of the ‘Mother Church of the world-wide Anglican Communion. Their patience has been rewarded!

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Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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S.E.C. Response to Mosul – A Babylonian Lament

Why we sang a lament today

Posted: 20 Jul 2014 07:20 AM PDT

It has been a pretty depressing week on the news front. The downing of the plane in the Ukraine, the continued terrorism of Boko Haram in Nigeria, the invasion of Gaza and the oppression of the Christians (and other religious groups) in Iraq by ISIS have been a huge amount of negative events that feel terrible.

As I was preparing to take the worship this morning, I saw a picture of an 1800 year old church burning in Mosul in Iraq.

Now, burning churches are just buildings but this seemed to represent the organised oppression of a whole communion. They Christians of Mosul have been told to convert to Islam, pay an infidel’s tax or be slaughtered. They are one of the oldest Christian communities in the world and thousands of them have now fled for their life, their homes being marked by ISIS with a symbol indicating that Christians live there allowing particular buildings to be targeted.

I decided this morning that our worship needed to include something that had not previously been planned for. I decided to include a lament. Given that the city of Mosul sits astride one of the rivers of Iraq (ie Babylon) it seemed appropriate to sing from Psalm 137 – by the waters of Babylon we sat down and wept.

Now the context from when it was first sung to our present age is different but the sense of lament is the same. Lament is what happens when anger and sadness meet and start to sing in harmony, creating a song that suggests that the singer is not happy to let the world rest in its current state.

And so we sang the simple round, “By the waters, the waters of Babylon” during our worship at St Mary’s this morning.

[You can hear others having a go at singing it over on Youtube]

It wasn’t the most dramatic or glorious music we’ve had in St Mary’s recently. However, it was some of the most heartfelt.

When we meet on Sunday’s our songs are generally songs of praise and rightly so. However, we have other songs in our repertoire. Today was a day for lament. And in lamenting to claim that a better world is possible.

The post Why we sang a lament today appeared first on What is in Kelvin’s Head?.

 

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Yet another article from the Scottish Episcopal Cathedral in Glasgow – St. Mary’s – where the Provost, Father Kelvin Holdsworth, now draws attention to the plight of Christians in Mosul – at the hands of the revolutionary Sunni Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

All Christians need to pray for the Christians of Iraq and Syria, whose religious and simple human rights are being taken away by a fundamentalist brand of the Islamic Faith that does not even recognise the authenticity of its own Muslim religious Shia branch of Islam – which used to co-exist peaceably with the Sunni Muslims during the time of the dictator Saddam Hussein in Iraq – has now joined up with other Islamic fundamentalists from Al Qaeda to declare war on both Shiai Muslims and Christians, with the aim of demanding their conversion to Sunni Islam, or living with the threat of their summary expulsion from Iraq and Syria.

The current offensive tactics against Christian in Mosul is all the more regrettable, because of the the fact that the Chaldean Church has its origins in Iraq (the former Babylonian territory).

The expulsion of a Christian monastic community from Mosul could spell the end of the Christian presence in that place, and is an ongoing threat to all Christians in both Iraq and Syria. This state of affairs could well indicate a time of great persecution of Christians in the entire Middle-East.  Jesus, mercy; Mary, pray!

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Commonwealth Challenged on Human Rights Record

Peter Tatchell Human Rights Lecture

tatchell

Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell visited St Mary’s on 19 and 20 July 2014. He give a lecture on Human Rights and the Commonwealth in the week before the Commonwealth Games begin in Glasgow.
The lecture can be seen below

The Forum Conversation with Peter from 20 July 2014 can be seen below:

Photo credit – Matt Buck (c) Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic

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Dean Lynda Patterson – Loss of a Taonga in ACANZP

Christchurch mourns the loss of Dean Lynda Patterson

Christchurch is grieving over the loss of Dean Lynda Patterson, who died at home after a brief illness. 
• Peter Beck:’The city has lost a taonga’ 

The Diocese of Christchurch is grieving over the death of the Dean of Christchurch, the Very Rev Lynda Patterson.

Lynda died at home of natural causes after a recent illness. She was aged 40.

The Bishop of Christchurch, the Rt Rev Victoria Matthews, says Lynda spoke of the God she loved, in all she did and said.

“Lynda was highly respected across the Diocese and Province and we all benefitted from her extraordinary preaching and teaching.

“She was also a great pastor who brought both compassion and appropriate humour to every situation.” 

Bishop Victoria has asked for prayer for Lynda’s father and extended family in Northern Ireland. 

The Archbishops of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia have asked for prayer for the Cathedral family to remember Lynda, a priest who called others to prayer for the glory of God.

Taught at Oxford University

Lynda Patterson first visited Christchurch in 2002 while on sabbatical from teaching theology at Oxford University.

She had studied theology at Oxford and lectured there for 12 years. 

Her first year in New Zealand involved becoming “acclimatised to New Zealand culture”, learning Maori and studying for church ministry.

She was appointed Director of Theology House in Merivale in 2006, as well as assistant to Dean Peter Beck at the Cathedral.

She became Theologian-in-Residence in 2008, and took over the role of Dean last October

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Dean Lynda was to have presided and preached at a special Choral Evensong – with choristers from the Christchurch Cathedral – at Saint Michael and All Angels next Sunday evening, 27 July.

I, for one, will miss her sweet presence with us at that service. Lynda was a great friend of us at Saint Michael’s, being, herself, a radiant Anglo-Catholic and a supporter of our inclusive ethic in the Church – that embraces ALL God’s children within the Body of Christ.

Her sermon would have been worth hearing. As former Dean Peter Beck has said; Lynda was a formidable preacher, with an accompanying turn of wit that was attractively encouraging to all who were privileged to hear her homilies and sermons in our transitional Cathedral. A scholar of biblical and theological expertise (she taught theology at Oxford University before becoming a theological resource in our diocese – where she received her Holy Orders), Dean Lynda was also a bearer of the love of Christ in her deep and thoughtful treatment of individuals.

A great support to our Bishop Victoria, Lynda was one of the small team who travelled around the world seeking inspiration for the new Cathedral she hoped would be built in the Square. Many will miss her delightful Irish brogue, and the sense of fun she brought with it into her extensive ministry around the cathedral and the diocese. If she had survived, Lynda might well have joined the ranks of women ordained bishop in our Church.

After a short but active life in the service of Christ in the Gospel, Lynda has now gone to her well-earned reward. “Rest eternal grant to Lynda, Lord. May light perpetual shine upon her. May she now rest in peace, and rise one day with Christ in glory. Amen.”

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Sydney Influence in Australian General Synod

Conservative Anglicans have women priests in their sights

Date
July 16, 2014 - Muriel Porter

The decision, by massive majorities in its General Synod, needs the approval of the British Parliament before it returns to General Synod in November for final endorsement. Observers do not foresee any problems, so it is now highly likely that one or more women will be consecrated bishops in England early next year. There are more than 1700 English women priests to choose from.

About time. The mother church of the worldwide Anglican Communion has been very slow off the mark in this regard. It is 25 years since the first woman bishop was appointed in the United States, and another 39 have followed, from New Zealand to Canada to Cuba and Swaziland.

And Australia, where there are now five women bishops. Dr Sarah Macneil, the first woman to be in charge of a diocese in this country, took up her role in Grafton NSW earlier this year.

Australian Anglicans need not be complacent, however. The stark reality is that if votes even for women priests were now required in the Anglican Church here, let alone for women bishops, it is highly likely they would not succeed.

That was the take home message from our own General Synod held earlier this month in Adelaide. Mercifully, votes for women were not on the agenda at that meeting.

Over the 22 years since women priests were approved in Australia, the dominance of the conservative Diocese of Sydney has grown exponentially. And it has become even more conservative.

Ironically, when the women priests’ legislation passed the Australian General Synod in 1992, it was widely expected that although Sydney Diocese had opposed the change vociferously, effectively delaying the move for many years, it would change its mind within a decade or so.

Not so. Its opposition has become so entrenched that it is now virtually an article of faith for its leaders.

Their opposition is based on a claim that the Bible requires women to submit to their husbands in marriage and to male leaders in the church. Therefore, they cannot be leaders in mixed congregations of men and women.

Needless to say, this interpretation of the Bible is strongly rejected by those who believe to the contrary – that the full equality of women is actually mandated by Scripture.

Over the last two decades, Sydney Diocese – particularly under its former archbishop, Peter Jensen, who retired last year – has extended its reach into other parts of Australia.

This became obvious in Adelaide a couple of weeks ago. Although it was on the surface a civilised, good-humoured meeting, the changing dynamics of the national church were clear when votes were tallied for the General Synod’s standing committee.

In marked contrast to recent years, not a single woman priest was elected to that body. Eight of the nine male clergy elected were either from Sydney or have had Sydney connections. All of them could be described as theologically conservative.

Capable women clergy candidates from Melbourne, Perth and Brisbane lost out.

When the results were read out, there was consternation among liberals on the synod floor. How had this happened, particularly when lay synod voters had returned a reasonable complement of liberal laywomen from around the country to the same body?

The jury is still out, but the most likely scenario is that around Australia now, the number of conservative clergy either directly from Sydney Diocese or with Sydney sympathies has grown apace in a number of dioceses. Sydney has been very effective at spreading its tentacles.

In turn, these missionaries have been elected as General Synod representatives in place of the more liberal and often Anglo-Catholic clergy who were once there.

Add to them the fact that Sydney Diocese now has more than double the number of General Synod representatives of the next largest diocese, Melbourne – 66 to 32 – and the writing is on the wall.

One bishop commented privately that, within a decade, theologically liberal Anglicans will be, as he put it, “gone” from the national leadership.

But it is now clear that legislation for women priests would not have been passed even in Adelaide this month. It is as well it was passed back in 1992, when it was difficult enough. It barely reached the requisite two-thirds majorities then in the face of the conservative opposition.

So could we see the unthinkable happen in this country, the legislation for women priests repealed? It happened in the Presbyterian Church. Could it happen here, even though there are now close to 500 women priests in Australia? It is believed some conservatives have a repeal in their sights.

The only comfort is that, even if General Synod repealed it, repeal would also be necessary in any of the 19 dioceses with women priests if they wanted to stop ordaining them. Surely the laity, who have received women clergy so well, would not allow this to happen.

Is it likely that any diocese would go down this path? Please God, no, but in the current climate, the possibility cannot be dismissed.

Dr Muriel Porter is a Melbourne General Synod representative and a member of its Standing Committee.

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This article, by Muriel Porter in the Brisbane Times newspaper, warns Australian Anglicans that the emerging influence of Sydney conservative evangelicalism is now being felt in the composition of the membership of the Australian Provincial General Synod, as quoted here:

“Over the last two decades, Sydney Diocese – particularly under its former archbishop, Peter Jensen, who retired last year – has extended its reach into other parts of Australia.

This became obvious in Adelaide a couple of weeks ago. Although it was on the surface a civilised, good-humoured meeting, the changing dynamics of the national church were clear when votes were tallied for the General Synod’s standing committee.

In marked contrast to recent years, not a single woman priest was elected to that body. Eight of the nine male clergy elected were either from Sydney or have had Sydney connections. All of them could be described as theologically conservative.

Capable women clergy candidates from Melbourne, Perth and Brisbane lost out.”

The influence of the Sydney metropolitan Anglican community – which is largely fundamentalist in its stance on issues of gender and sexuality – is obviously being experienced in the important area of Australia-wide representation at the governance level in the Provincial Anglican Church.

Ms. Porter’s comment on the latest coup for those in the Church who would extend patriarchal domination in the ministry of the Church, shows the trend that has affected the latest General Synod elections from the floor of the Synod:

“The jury is still out, but the most likely scenario is that around Australia now, the number of conservative clergy either directly from Sydney Diocese or with Sydney sympathies has grown apace in a number of dioceses. Sydney has been very effective at spreading its tentacles.

In turn, these missionaries have been elected as General Synod representatives in place of the more liberal and often Anglo-Catholic clergy who were once there. Add to them the fact that Sydney Diocese now has more than double the number of General Synod representatives of the next largest diocese, Melbourne – 66 to 32 – and the writing is on the wall.”

Reflecting on the last sentence of this section of the report; one may wonder why the Sydney Diocese has twice as many representatives on General Synod than Melbourne – the next largest diocese in the Australian Anglican Church.?

Does this progression really mean that, within the next decade, the whole of the Australian Anglican Church will be misogynistic and homophobic in character? Such a state of things would certainly line up our next door neighbours with the provenance of the GAFCON Churches that seek to become separate from the world-wide Anglican Communion with a ‘sola-scriptura’ agenda that is not particularly Anglican..

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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