‘Semper reformanda’ – The Church in Progress

At this time when the eyes of the Anglican world are on the Diocese of Sydney (and, maybe, the Anglican Church in Tasmania), to see whether they will carry out their threat to jump up and away from the parent Anglican Church in Australia if the A.C.A. authorises the Blessing of a Same-Sex Married Couple (in a marriage licensed by the Australian Government); there is one other important issue on which Sydney Anglicans are already at odds with the National Provincial Church: Women’s Ordination! The question now is, will S/S/Blessings prove to be the catalyst that bring Sydney to the sin of schismatic severance from the Anglican Communion Churches – in the belief that matters of gender and sexuality are a special ‘Salvation Issue’ which could lead the Church into damnation?

Like the issue of Same-Sex Blessings, Sydney has elevated their protest against the ordination of women into a fear that this principle of accounting women as equal in authority to male Church clergy would offend against as definitive statement in the New Testament that women should always defer to the leadership of men – in society and in the Church.

Defenders of such a misogynistic theology are keen to quote the example of Jesus, whom they insist as exemplifying this in the New Testament record, which mentions the call of 12 apostles, all of whom were male. What they seem to not understand is that, in the culture of his day, it would have been unthinkable for a religious leader to have called a woman into any sort of headship role over men. This would have been so stark a departure from the established Tradition, that Jesus would have been even further marginalised by the Jewish authorities than he was. Also, the men in the community simply would not have accepted the teaching or leadership of a woman over them.

However, women were among the most devout followers of Jesus and, after his resurrection, it was a woman, Mary of Magdala, who was commissioned by Jesus to tell the Good News of his resurrection to the male disciples – who did not take her seriously, until they themselves experienced the Risen Christ. This, of course, was consistent with the social and spiritual custom among the Jews of Jesus’ day. The word of a woman was not only unreliable in the Tradition, it was not to be trusted in law.

Since that time – even in the Universal Catholic Church – there have been women Saints who, like Hilda of Whitby, ruled a joint monastery of men and women in the English town of Whitby. She was also present at the Synod of Whitby, and helped in the decision of the local bishops to bring together the disparate strands of the Faith under the governance and rule of the Roman Pontiff.

Paradoxically, though it was the modern-day Pope John XXIII, who at the 2nd Vatican Council in the early 1960s called the Church towards an ethos of ‘Semper reformanda‘ (constant renewal by change); the Roman Catholic Church herself has still not been opened up to the prospect of women’s ordination – even though the current Pope Francis has appointed women to various high-ranking posts at the Vatican, with the intention of sharing the government of the Church with women – though not in the ranks of the clergy – an action which he sees as kowtowing to the maintenance of a culture of ‘clericalism’, which he sees as a denial of the authentic role of the laity as fellow workers in the Gospel to the world.

Sydney’s protest against women’s ordination, though is different from that of Rome; in that the old-time protestant conservative ethos of the Sydney Anglican Diocese places its argument on the basis of male ‘Headship’ – rather than any argument based on the aetiology (the ‘is-ness’) of priestly authority! Their arguments about any moral suppositions are based on mainly Old Testament shibboleths, that Jesus sought to de-throne by his compassion for ‘prostitutes and sinners’ and those marginalised by the man-made rules that he sought to simplify, in his ‘New Commandment” of Love, as opposed to the Rule of Law – a proposition that is still at odds with the behaviour of parts of the Christian Church today.

What has happened in the present stand-off in the Australian Church against the ‘New Commandment’ theology of Jesus, is that the Moral-Rearmament Brigade of the Conservative Evangelicals is doing its level best to prevent the process of human development and thriving that the Kingdom of God was meant to bring to the world by the power and insights of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. In glorifying the strictures of a past religious fundamentalism, which still embraces the old culture of misogyny and homophobia, the reactionaries against the call for justice in the Church refuse to move on.

‘The cry: “Semper reformanda” is even more relevant in the Christian Church today than when it was uttered by Good Pope John XXII in 1960. The reactionaries to that call in the Roman Catholic Church alone, have strongly resisted the message, preferring to go back to the shibboleths of the good old days, when the laity were kept firmly in their place – especially the women – so that the male elders could continue their paternalistic rule in the Christian community, without let or hindrance that might disturb the festering, unjust and at times unholy ‘status quo’.

The Prophet Micah issued a warning to the God-fearing community of his own era: that justice and mercy were signs of God’s Presence among God’s People. And then there is the Maundy Thursday Antiphon, echoing the example of Jesus who washes the feet of his disciples: “Where charity and love are; there is God”. Misogyny and Homophobia have no place in the Kingdom of God.

In the article below, an Australian Bishop offers his own understanding of the need to ordain women:

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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In his speech to the motion to celebrate of the 30th Anniversary of Women as Priests, Bishop Keith Joseph made these remarks:

Archbishop, members of Synod.

Most of you remember the time when the Priesthood was entirely male. I certainly remember the argumentation through the 1980s, and the insistence that the witness of tradition and scripture meant that women could not be in any position of leadership in the church. At that time, as a young layman in Sydney, these arguments were very strong and persuasive. Many of you here were involved in the battles at that time, including cases in the New South Wales Supreme Court.

This resistance to the Ordination of Women continues in the Australian Church. In 2006 the Reverend Michael Jensen wrote Sydney Anglicanism: An Apology. It is an erudite and impressive book, and I recommend it to you as an excellent resource. It helps explain the reluctance to ordain women and accept their leadership in the Anglican Church of Australia. In Chapter 9, entitled “A Line in the Sand”, Michael Jensen talks about the reasons why he – and most of his colleagues from Sydney – could not and do not accept the ordination of women as priests and bishops. In his understanding, the Bible was quite clear: women could not exercise leadership over men. Among other proof texts, 1 Corinthians 11.2-16 and 1 Timothy 3.1-12 were clear: headship is only for men. A line in the sand was drawn.

Like many of you, my views have changed dramatically over the last forty years. As I have seen the Holy Spirit move through the ministry of women priests and bishops, I cannot deny their call to ordained ministry and leadership. The fruit of the Spirit is there to be seen, and not denied. In my Diocese we would be lost without the leadership of women. One of my Archdeacons is a Māori woman who as a parish priest revitalized one of our aboriginal parishes, and who now as a volunteer, on top of her work as a parish priest, is leading the Aboriginal communities through Far North Queensland. Under the supervision of the Venerable Annette Woods there has been a dramatic growth in almost all of our aboriginal communities. The Spirit has been truly moving through her, and we benefit so much from her priestly leadership. And she is only one of a number of remarkable women leading vibrant and growing ministries in North Queensland. I am sure that most of you here can point to remarkable women exercising servant-leadership as priests and bishops.

The ninety-two ordained in 1992 have been a gift to the church from which we still benefit. I give thanks and glory to God for this. I also acknowledge and give thanks for the work and stubborn determination of the Movement for the Ordination of Women over many decades, and acknowledge their presence here today. Especially I acknowledge as members of this Synod two of the original ninety-two: the Most Reverend Kay Goldsworthy and the Right Reverend Kate Prowd. Thank you.

It should be said that I was ordained in a province – the Anglican Church of Melanesia – which does not accept the ordination of women, mainly on cultural grounds. I have seen the pain that the debate causes in Melanesia for both those in favour, and those against, the ordination of women. I also see that same pain here, where so many of you continue to oppose ordination of women because to you it appears to be in clear contradiction of scripture or tradition. I respect the sincerity of your opposition, even if I no longer share your hermeneutic or exegesis on this matter. Semper reformanda! I am however grateful that so many of you no longer see this as a matter of salvation, and therefore can be at the same table as those who differ with you on this matter. Perhaps some lines in the sand do fade with time and tide.

Accordingly, I would ask you to join with me in a time of celebration and joy, as we remember those pioneering women from 1992 and give thanks for their contribution to our church. May the Holy Spirit continue to bless their ministry as they share with us their love of God and of his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, in whom we all find redemption and salvation. Amen.

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Gay to Hetero Convert talks about S/S Marriage

One of the outcomes of the Australian Anglican General Synod is the appearance of the article (below) by a writer whose claim to represent an ‘ex-Gay’ (sic) view on S/S Marriage is founded on his personal experience of ‘Conversion’ from being actively Gay to becoming a sexually active partner in a heterosexual Marriage.

This is the sort of testimony that supporters of Gay Conversion Therapy are depending on for their continuance of a discredited theory; that an intrinsically Gay person can be ‘cured’ of homosexual tendencies by merely submitting to a process of clinical, chemical, or even spiritual conversion. It should not be too surprising that homophobes in the Church should rely upon such testimonies to support their principled objection to homosexuals and homosexuality – not to mention trans-gender and other gender/sexuality identification of individual human beings – whom they consider to be defective in both biological and (for some conservative Christians) moral and spiritual authenticity.

Any approach that seriously considers the ‘conversion’ of the gender/sexual authenticity of anyone – let alone a truly homosexual person who has no other given way of dealing with their innate attraction to someone of their own sex – if directed, say, in the other direction; converting from innately heterosexual to exclusively homosexual attraction – would seem, to the majority of people, ridiculous. So why would anyone think that a theory of conversion from Gay to Straight would actually be achievable – even if considered to be spiritually desirable?

So, you might ask: “Why does anyone claim to have achieved what most clinical psychologists in the field now consider to be, not only improbable, but also a potentially damaging exercise of power over an individual whose whole psyche could suffer permanent damage from being manipulated in this way? Well, one would to have consider the state of mind in which he actually entered the process of conversion. One has also to consider whether, or not, in his earlier life, there was any possibility of being sexually attracted to a person of the opposite sex. Only he could answer that. However, if he was capable, then the probability is that he is not intrinsically Gay but, rather, innately Bi-Sexual – that is, capable of being sexually attracted to both sexes. This is the most common feature of Christians claiming to have been ‘converted’ from ‘homosexuality’ to heterosexuality. Most are, in fact not Gay but Bi-Sexual. (One sometimes comes across Bi-Sexual spouses who still experience S/S Attraction).

The other possibility is that the subject has managed to suppress the Gay side of his nature; allowing the heterosexual side to predominate, in the contracting of a Male-Female sexual relationship in the act of procreation. However, anyone who can manage that must still be (ipso facto) Bi-Sexual (Not Gay)

The fact that the international community of psycho-therapists has now officially banned ‘Conversion Therapy’, on the grounds that homosexuality is now considered to be a normal variation of the human condition – without any grounds for moral or spiritual persecution or criminal punishment – should alert the Church to the dangers of advocating any coercive treatment advertising the conversion of one’s deeply instinctual sexual-orientation – at risk of causing mental and physical anguish leading to both social disfunction and possible suicide attempts – especially for a conscientious Christian who, in the event of failure, could think of themselves as a spiritual outcast from the Church community.

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Australian Anglicans at loggerheads over same-sex marriage

May 16, 2022

by James Parker

St Andrew’s Anglican Cathedral in Sydney / Wikimedia Commons

The Anglican Church in Australia recently voted on whether to affirm marriage as being only between a man and a woman. With votes now cast, the church appears to have turned an almighty corner. It has decided to reject a statement presented by the conservative Sydney diocese which adheres to Biblical teaching on marriage. What is surprising, however, is not what has been voted on, but rather how the results were distributed.

The statement presented by Sydney’s Anglicans could not be more direct and clearer. It stated that:

The faith, ritual, ceremonial and discipline of this Church reflect and uphold marriage as it was ordained from the beginning, being the exclusive union of one man and one woman arising from mutual promises of lifelong faithfulness, which is in accordance with the teaching of Christ that, “from the beginning the Creator made them male and female”, and in marriage, “a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh” (Matthew 19:4-5).

The church has therefore sought to nail its beliefs to the mast stating that:

Any rite or ceremony that purports to bless a same-sex marriage is not in accordance with the teaching of Christ and the faith, ritual, ceremonial and/or discipline of this Church.

Votes were cast at the church’s general synod, its national congress of ordained and lay Anglicans, which accepts three layers of voting grouped into laity, clergy, and bishops.

The house of laity voted 63 to 47 in favour of the statement. The house of clergy voted more strongly 70 to 39 in favour. The final decision, however, lay with the bishops themselves who rejected the statement by exercising their veto power. They voted against the statement by 12 to 10.

I have no doubt that the bishops were well-meaning, and that many hours were spent painfully considering how to respond to Sydney diocese’s statement. Respect, compassion, and sensitivity towards people with same-sex attraction appear to have won the day. Or so it seems. But have they?

Innumerable column inches have been written on whether two people of the same-sex can, and even should, marry. The challenge is not, “is this possible, and even beneficial in the long-term?” The ongoing challenge to society remains to uncomfortably consider the wide variations between the lived realities of other-sex and same-sex couples.

As a former gay activist who enjoyed a happy and deeply committed long-term gay relationship, I later entered into heterosexual marriage after significant therapy and spiritual renewal, and today I thrive on being a father, the fruit of heterosexual marriage.

I see the Anglican Church’s debate not merely as a battle of conscience or even inclusion. It merely fails to live up to my lived realities and those of many others I know who, like me, having made a commitment to Jesus Christ, were enlightened to pursue a similar pathway and to reject homosexuality in favour of the biblical design for marriage.

We realise that, regardless of pressure from any quarter, it is disingenuous, even pernicious, to convince people that variations are identical. Any priest could easily speak the words of the marriage ceremony over two people and pronounce them “married”, but would each variation – heterosexual and homosexual – permit God’s design to bear fruit and to reflect God’s character thereby constituting a Biblical understanding of marriage?,

Some of us who have rejected homosexual narratives and practices, and who subsequently married the opposite sex, recently constructed a list of differences we experienced between our earlier committed same-sex relationships (SSR) and heterosexual marriages (HM). Some of these differences are:

  • In SSR, new life always needs external assistance, whereas in HM our children are a natural by-product of affection expressed without complication through our biology.
  • In SSR, because of the nature of any sexual expression, there was always the high risk of being exposed to pathogens whereas this is rarely if ever the case in committed HM.
  • In SSR, the mystery of constantly discovering the other partner, who is vastly dissimilar and yet deeply complementary as happens in HM, cannot exist. Yes, over 6,000 chromosomal differences between men and women make a significant difference.
  • In HM, the female genitalia are designed with around forty layers of muscle to endure penetration and childbirth, whereas penetration in SSR can swiftly increase the risks of oral and rectal cancers, with the anal passage only having one thin membrane between blood vessels, the body’s life source, and toxic faecal matter.
  • In HM, we also experienced deep within a foretaste and reflection of the eternal, a concept so sublime that we each struggled to find words to accurately describe what was happening at a soul level, and yet it was this difference that caused most joy and excitement to rise up within our discussions. None of us had ever experienced anything similar to this even in the most committed SSRs, and where both same-sex partners faithfully practised Christianity.

As hard as it is to accept, particularly when there is genuine love between two people of the same sex, our conclusion was that the label of marriage cannot be applied to a homosexual couple in the same way as to a heterosexual couple.

However inclusive and embracing our society and religious bodies desire to be, the ingredients necessary to truly experience marriage as laid out in the Bible cannot be present in any same-sex relationship.

This is a tough truth to accept, and it demands that churches become increasingly committed to respectfully, compassionately, and sensitively journeying spiritually alongside people who experience same-sex attraction and are gender-questioning.

However, if the slogan #loveislove is true, then, as every good parent knows, we need to be consistent in our loving — which can often require being painfully honest even if it causes hurt and distress for a time to those we so dearly love.

The laity and clergy of Australia’s Anglican Church seem to have understood this well and voted accordingly. Their bishops, it would appear, are the ones who need deeper insight from the Almighty to help bring them back into line with man’s original design.

James Parker

James Parker was a gay rights’ activist. He now facilitates True Identity, an informal network that supports those struggling with sexuality & gender identity issues. More by James Parker

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A Catholic view of the need for discernment

In the recent palaver about whether, or not, the Church ought to become involved in the lives of LGBTQI people who are looking for acceptance of their situation in the new environment of understanding the complexity of gender/sexuality identity in the community; what may have been forgotten is the fact that Jesus said there would be a progression of understanding of creation through the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit – in the Church and in the World to which it is called to minister. (“When the Spirit comes s/he will lead you into all the truth”).

At the recent Australian Anglican General Synod, there was a movement by the ultra-conservative Diocese of Sydney to close down any movement towards the Blessing of Same-Sex Civil Marriage-partners – a project that had been mooted at a previous meeting of the Anglican Church in Australia. What the Sydney bishops were doing was an attempt to stifle a growing sense of unease that the past behaviour of the Church towards its homosexual minority could no longer be considered to be either Christian or just. Their reasoning was built on the historic mistaken belief that homosexuality was an objective disorder, a distortion of the intention of God in Creation to major on procreation – and, therefore, a sign of human weakness and sin, needing to be stamped out and condemned. (It might be noted, also, that the Sydney Diocese does not ordain women – in the belief that Scripture forbids it!)

The fact that Jesus, himself (though he did mention the problems of unfaithfulness in marriage) never actually addressed the ‘problem’ of homosexuality, a condition that was recognised as existing in the surrounding Greek community and addressed, later, by Saint Paul as part of his opposition to the exploitative commercial aspects of male prostitution; seems to have been forgotten by the purists. However, Jesus’ healing of the slave of a believing Centurion could be interpreted as his outreach to a same-sex couple – with no implied sense of their unworthiness. Jesus did actually talk about ‘eunuchs’ (the first category being possibly homosexuals – ‘from their mother’s womb’).

Society has always been open to new pathways of justice – sometimes before the Church has recognised the call for human emancipation from slavery, misogyny, homophobia, and self-serving elitism. With the enlightenment (the work of the Holy Spirit that Jesus promised would lead the Church ‘into ALL the Truth’) that has helped to bring the world into a more just and loving environment – in line with God’s plan and purpose at Creation’s beginning; has come a new, improved understanding of all that works towards the common good – the Kingdom of God on earth, that Jesus taught us to pray for. That every human being has been created in the Divine Image and Likness is a reality with which the Church has to come to grips – sometimes kicking and screaming and wanting to revert to ‘The Good Old Days’, which, however, when one looks back, were not as good as some people are wont to remember them.

One sign of this desperate need to control people from the viewpoint of past nostalgic empirical certainties, is the current ambition of the Leaders of the Russian State (and, sadly, even the Russian Orthodox Church) to claw back sovereignty over its lost dominions in nearby established democratic countries (Ukraine, Crimea, Belarus) in order to impose their own restrictive spiritual and sectarian government that has held back the progress of common human rights under the guises of a ‘Christian morality’ that has long proved defective as an example of Justice and Freedom promised in the Gospel for the Children of God in Christ.

Whether the Anglican Provinces of Sydney and Tasmania (whose Bishops are now subject to the rule of GAFCON’s new conservative moralistic imperialism around the Anglican world) will succeed in their effort to suborn and take over the soul of Australian Anglicanism – in their threat to secede from the worldwide Anglican Communion loyal to the archbishop of Canterbury and the Lambeth Conference – is yet to be played out.

Meanwhile, Pope Francis, titular Head of the largest Christian Church (Roman Catholic), continues his eirenic teaching that still manages, in a new age, to bring a bit of Apostolic wisdom into the arena of Christian nurture, with his own unique understanding of the need for human progress and mutual flourishing in a Church aware of its past, but also mindful of past injustice and the need for constant reformation towards the freedom of ALL God’s children into the fullness of the Kingdom of God.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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  1. CathNews NZ Pacific

Make the past the source of inspiration, not the destination

https://www.saintjerome.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/WS27.jpg

Monday, May 16th, 2022

We need to use the past as a source of inspiration while moving forward, instead of wanting to go back to the way things were in the past, says Pope Francis. It’s not Christian.

Wanting to go back in time is different from drawing inspiration from one’s roots in order to move forward with Christ.

Finding inspiration in the past is good because “without roots we cannot progress,” he says.

“But to go in reverse is to go back in order to have a form of defence, a safety measure that saves us from the risk of going forward, the Christian risk of carrying the faith, the Christian risk of journeying with Jesus Christ.”

Wanting to turn back “does so much harm to the Church,” either out of fear or because of a lack of ingenuity or a lack of courage, he says.

Speaking to an international conference exploring Amoris Laetitia, his 2016 exhortation on the family, Francis told participants of his disappointment in backward-focused people.

There are “many” who are part of the church “who crop up like mushrooms, here, there, over there, and they present themselves as a proposal of Christian life,” he said.

To illustrate his point he offered the example of “casuistry” – the practice of setting general laws on the basis of a few exceptional cases or using a form of reasoning that is legalistic and stripped of God’s love and mercy.

Casuistry is “the foodstuff” of his and his generation’s studies in moral theology, Francis said.

It’s outdated, but can still be resurrected and disguised with proposals of what one can or cannot do.

“Amoris Laetitia,” on the other hand, is an example of the living doctrine of St Thomas Aquinas. The saint taught that there are factors, such as ignorance, that might diminish the culpability of an objectively sinful act.

Francis explained that this approach “helps us move forward taking risks, but in obedience. And this is not easy.”

The changes will see families having a significant tole in the Church’s future.

Francis said their role encompasses the “pastoral conversion of our communities and the missionary transformation of the church.

“For this to happen, it is necessary there be, including on an academic level, theological reflection that is truly attentive to the wounds of humanity.”

Priests and theologians need to recognise “the inseparable relationship, despite the ordeals and difficulties of life, between the human conscience and the good.

“Gospel morality is far from being moralism, which becomes a literal observance of norms” in order to secure being just before God, and it is not a kind of idealism “which, in the name of an ideal good, discourages and distances from the possible good.”

The good is “an appeal, a voice that liberates and stimulates the conscience,” in which resides a law written by God — to love good and avoid evil.

Source

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The GAFCON Shadow emerges from its Sydney Stronghold

Con/Evo clergyman from the Sydney Diocese, David Ould, continues his crusade against the official Australian Province of the Anglican Church as he regales his readers with a somewhat distracted revue of what the Church has achieved (or not) during its recent General Synod on Australia’s Gold coast. Perhaps his most outrageous comment on the proceedings can be summed up in the following sentence:

Why did some Anglicans not want to be Anglican?

What Mr Ould is presuming here is that the Sydney Diocesan brand of Anglicanism is the sole upholder of what GAFCON has had the chutzpah to call (backed by USA website ‘Virtue-on-Line which regularly parrots his and gafcon’s articles): ‘ORTHODOX ANGLICAN(ISM) ‘- a veritable oxymoron!

What GAFCON (which now considers the Sydney ‘Anglican’ Diocese as one if its most fruitful flag-bearers of Sola Scriptura, anti-gay rhetoric and misogyny) actually stands for, is not the sort of modern Anglicanism that is embraced by the world’s provincial Churches that are loyal to their Canterbury and Lambeth foundation, but rather a newly constructed pseudo-Anglicanism based on its own ‘Jerusalem Statement of Faith’, a Line in The Sand confected by (mostly) provinces of the Global South Anglicans who were suborned by the Sydney Diocese to link together to fight the emancipation of LGBTQI people and Women who had, formerly, been officially marginalised by the Church’s perpetuation of a (now discredited) social climate of Sexism and Homophobia. (e.g., Sydney Diocese still does consent to the Ordination of Women – and so, in this matter, does not agree with the Constitution of the A.C.A., which does).

While it is interesting that the majority of clergy and laity in the recent General Synod were keen to follow the lead of Sydney’s Archbishop to outlaw the Blessing of legally-married Same Sex Couples, it should be noted that the people charged with safe-guarding the Church’s official Doctrine – the Australian Bishops – made the decision not to go along with Sydney’s proposal; regarding it as not helpful to people in the Church who believe that God is not averse to blessing the union of any two people who want to declare their legal and lifelong commitment to one another in the context of a service of worship. (Homosexuality has been accepted as a normal variant of human sexual being).

When is it realised that Sydney is the largest Diocese in Australia, and that its conservative evangelical Moore Theological College has the inherited resource to train and equip its graduates for ministry – not only in the diocese of Sydney but also in other diocese of the Australian Church, it follows that Sydney has the largest contingent of any other diocese in General Synod – 28% of the Synod. However, where the responsibility for the Church’s doctrine lies – within the House of Bishops – there are other than Sydney’s conservative evangelical views held, which contributed to the House of Bishops defeating the Motion that would have restricted the Church’s pastoral outreach to Christian Same-Sex Couples.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

(Below is David Oulds’s article)

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General Synod Wrap-Up – The Anglicans Who Don’t Want to be Anglican?

Posted on May 14, 2022 
Filed under Anglican Church of AustraliaGeneral Synod

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Sydney Anglicans: ready for Schism?

Our fellow Anglicans in the USA have accurately assessed the situation in Australia, where, when the Sydney bishops did not get the support they were expecting for their anti-gay proposal, have reiterated threats of schismatic severance. If this happens, it will be they who have departed from the Body, not those who believe the Holy Spirit is still stirring up the Universal Church towards a radical Inclusive theology.

Father, Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Rift over same-sex marriage in Anglican Church of Australia deepens after synod vote, threatening schism

EPISCOPALNEWSSERVICE.ORG

Rift over same-sex marriage in Anglican Church of Australia deepens after synod vote, threatening schism

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A Bishop’s Thoughts on G.S.2022 in Australia

Dr. Peter Stuart. Bishop of the Diocese of Newcastle, N.S.W., Australia, has issued the following Pastoral Letter to his diocese, following on from an earlier one in which he re-affirmed the Newcastle diocese’s intention to continue listening to the concerns of LGBT+ people in the diocese. It was in imitation of this eirenic stance that the House of Bishops at the Australian General Sydney declined to support a Motion from the Sydney Diocese that would have outlawed the Blessing of a Same-Sex Married Couple. Here is an extract from Bishop Peter’s earlier Pastoral Letter to his diocese.

“In our present age LGBTIQA+ people and their allies have spoken fully and openly of their continued sense of rejection by cultural, family, and religious communities as a direct contributor to their sense of poor well-being leading to self-harm, suicide risk, and suicide. We are listening to this. We can take practical action in our communities to minister with genuine welcome, care, and partnership in the Gospel. We can commit ourselves to ensuring that none of our ministry and mission is a cause of further alienation and harm. We must also acknowledge that there are attitudes, behaviours, and practices in churches which, have led and lead to long-lasting harm because of the way spiritual and pastoral power is used or perceived to be used.”

It is now known that the Diocese of Sydney (which has 28% representation in the General Synod (as opposed to the 4% of the Newcastle Diocese) – after the rejection of the Motion by the House of Bishops – was active in promoting a conservative’s petition containing a note of censure on the House of Bishops for not going along with Sydney’s intended Declaration of Marriage as solely the union between a male and a female, and the only context for human sexual expression.

Nothing to date is known of the effect of that petition. In any event, as Bishop Peter has pointed out; no diocese of the Australian Anglican Church has, de facto, to automatically implement any decision of General Synod – without the consent of the local Synod. This means, in effect, that the Newcastle (and any other Australian) Diocese may go ahead with the Blessing of a Civilly married couple if the local Diocesan Synod so chooses in its own Constitution.

If the Sydney-sponsored ‘Declaration’ had been affirmed by the House of Bishops at General Synod, this would have further exacerbated the ethos of sexism and homophobia in the Church that most of the Australian dioceses wish to extinguish for the pastoral wellbeing of ALL God’s children.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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13 May 2022
Dear friends in Christ,
General Synod 2022
I am writing to you as the 18th General Synod draws to a close. I have enjoyed the opportunity of being with each of the 4 clergy and 4 lay representatives from our Diocese as we have sat,deliberated, ate, and prayed together. Archdeacon Arthur Copeman, Dean Katherine Bowyer, and I have all been elected to the General Synod Standing Committee. Arthur, Katherine, and Ms Sue Williams have been active in the administration of the Synod. Several of us spoke in debates and joined in out-of-session conversations.

The rhythm of each day has been shaped by the Eucharist, Morning Prayer, Bible Study and Evening Prayer. Brother Christopher John SSF from Stroud and the Reverend Mandy Wheatley TSSF, formerly from the Diocese, were part of the Synod Chaplaincy Team. Dr Di Rayson, a first-time representative of our Diocese, wonderfully led, the Wednesday bible study.

With a common mind, the General Synod has continued to ensure the safety of all people in churches and addressed Climate Change, Family Violence, Aged and Disability Care, Gambling, Veteran Suicide, Euthanasia, Palliative Care, and the viability of regional dioceses. It offered an apology where it has treated LGBTI people with disrespect, abuse or bullying and expressed again its commitmentthat all churches and ministries are welcoming, safe, and respectful. It reflected on and prayed about the war in the Ukraine.

The General Synod is run with a parliamentary model. We have questions, petitions, bills, and motions. There are two dominant factions roughly represented by a 66:34 breakdown. There are around 250 members. The Diocese of Sydney comprises 28% of the Synod. The Diocese of Newcastle under 4%.

The Anglican Church of Australia is different to the Church of England, or the Church in New Zealand, where the decisions of the General Synod are binding on a Diocese. In Australia, no decision affecting the order and government of a Diocese comes into effect unless decided by that Diocese. When our Synod meets in September, there will be several Canons from General Synod to consider. Last night, 40% of the Synod voted to affirm same-sex marriage as part of Christian life and witness, 60% voted against it. Our Diocesan Synod has never considered this question. It has only considered
blessing a civil same-sex marriage.

Formally, the views of the House of Bishops have only been evident on three matters before the Synod – a statement on unchastity, a statement on marriage, and changes to the Canon concerning Services 1992. With both other houses, the House of Bishops affirmed the statement on unchastity and declined to change the Canon concerning Services. The House of Bishops did not support the statement on marriage. It was evident in the Synod that the statement did not find wide agreement.
This weighed heavily on many Bishops.

We heard of same sex attracted Christians who live chaste and celibate lives who do not feel respected by a debate that presumes that all same sex attracted people wish to marry or engage in sexual activity. We heard of same sex attracted Christians who want to marry in Church. We heard contested reflections of the scriptures. We heard that 1/3 of worshipping Anglicans are single and we heard a call to affirm singleness as an honourable and blessed state. We heard that very few blessings of same sex civil marriages had occurred since any possible obstacle was removed in November 2019. We heard a plea to continue slowly, pastorally, and faithfully.

The fact of disagreement or continued questioning does not close but rather invites further deliberation. Significant theological, pastoral, and missional dialogue will continue. The first Christians and the early Church wrestled with many weighty matters as the Church has done through the ages. In every age, we seek the wisdom and guidance of God. We can be encouraged and edified by the ongoing conversations in our Diocese and those that will occur at our Diocesan Synod in September.

Our Diocese has a profound responsibility and opportunity to witness to the grace and love of God, from the Hawkesbury River to Lake Cathie, from the coast and beyond the Burning Mountain. We can contribute well to human flourishing through our work. We can change lives by witnessing to Jesus Christ, who continues to inspire us. Through our parishes, agencies and schools, we are making a significant difference in people’s lives, expressing the mission of Christ, and playing our part in enabling God’s will to be done on earth as in heaven.

May we continue to be renewed in our Godly communion with one another. Please be assured of my prayers for all that you are and in all that you do.

Yours sincerely in Christ,
Dr Peter Stuart
Bishop of Newcastle

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Gay and Celibate? – an Honoured Place in the Church

What is often not recognised by everyone in the Christian Church is the fact that celibacy has always had a hallowed place in our tradition – from the ‘Desert Fathers and Mothers’ of the Early Church, to the celibate clergy, Friars, Monks, Nuns and Consecrated Virgins (of whatever gender) who still flourish as an honoured part of the Church.

In the conventional ‘purists’ concentration on binary marriage as a Christian virtue, where they consider that the lives of unmarried people may not be seen to fulfil their true ‘Christian potential’; evangelical Christians who follow the conservative view of what marriage is ‘all about’ – often insist on evidence of the production of children as necessary proof of their ‘proper’ marital state (no contraception!) – and will look askance at dedicated celibacy – perhaps seeing it as an impossible vocation for any ‘normal’ red-blooded human being.

Contrary to that point of view, Jesus himself, during a discourse of marriage and divorce in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 19, verses 3 to 12; had something very important to say about a special category of people he referred to as ‘eunuchs’ – those either incapable of, or who choose to avoid, the exercise of procreation:

“Not all men can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given: For there are eunuchs who been so since birth (being intrinsically gay?), and there are those eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men (by castration; e.g. castrati? Nubians), and there are those eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven (dedicated celibates)“. (R.S.V.)

Jesus then goes on to say “He who is able to receive this, let him receive it”, meaning, surely, that there will be those for whom this particular instruction is not applicable!

From the Scriptures, we can discern that Jesus, par excellence, was the prototype of a ‘eunuch for the sake of the kingdom of God’. Following on in that tradition, the Church has always honoured such people, both men and women, who offer their virginity to God ‘for the sake of the kingdom’ – in the realisation that the institution of human marriage will not be translated into our heavenly existence! It could, then, reasonably be argued that it is not necessary to marry or to engage in procreation to be saved!

The first category mentioned by Jesus in this discourse: there are ‘eunuchs who have been so since birth’. This could very well be understood as a category of human being who, while in the womb, was still being equipped with the requisite human gender/sexuality characteristics that, later, after birth, may be identified as different from the binary norm (e.g. homosexual).

Considering the article below, I am suggesting the probability (via the above dialogue of Jesus) that its author, Episcopal priest Wesley Hill – like many clergy and religious – might be an example of both the first and third category of eunuch described by Jesus, that is, both intrinsically gay and also choosing to dedicate their virginity ‘for the sake of the kingdom. Those who take this solemn dedication upon themselves (by the grace of God) need to be honoured and cherished by the Church – but ‘should not to think of themselves MORE highly than they ought’, in the belief that all Christian Gays ought to be celibate like them. Celibacy if a special gift to be honoured. But it is accessible only to those who accept the vocation. It, clearly, is not given to every Christian to be celibate – whether Gay or Straight – the same gift of personal dedication and grace is needed!

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Q&A: Episcopal priest Wesley Hill shares what it’s like as a celibate gay Christian in a fully LGBTQ+-affirming church BY EGAN MILLARD

[Episcopal News Service] To some, the Rev. Wesley Hill might embody contradiction: an openly gay man who is opposed to same-sex marriage and advocates celibacy for gay Christians, serving in a church that is fully inclusive of LGBTQ+ people. But Hill is part of an emerging network of LGBTQ+ Christians who share his beliefs – a loosely defined community nicknamed “Side B” that he helped foster.

Hill, 40, is an associate professor of New Testament studies at Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Michigan, and a priest serving at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In 2010, his book “Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality,” articulated an uncommon, nuanced approach to Christian sexuality that diverged from the much louder voices on the right and left. In that and other writings, he has argued that the evangelical “ex-gay” movement – which views homosexuality as a disorder that can and should be cured with conversion therapy – is harmful and immoral. However, he also professes a traditional view on marriage and sex, believing it is reserved by God for procreation and that gay people are called to celibacy.

The view that he helped popularize – accepting homosexual orientations as neither inherently sinful nor appropriate for sex and marriage – spawned a mostly online movement among LGBTQ+ Christians that came to be called Side B. It offers an alternative to “Side A” Christianity – the more liberal view espoused by The Episcopal Church and other denominations that perform same-sex marriages and do not view homosexual sex as sinful. Side B Christians are openly LGBTQ+ people who choose lives of celibacy, and who may instead pursue deep spiritual friendships or committed partnerships that do not involve sex.

The Side B community is most associated with people who were raised in Roman Catholic and evangelical churches that explicitly label homosexual sex as disordered and sinful. In contrast, The Episcopal Church does not have a codified doctrine on sex and marriage; canonical courts have ruled that issues of sexuality are not part of the “core doctrine” expressed in the creeds. Since 1979, General Convention has passed multiple resolutions expressing opinions on homosexual relationships, ranging from denouncing them as immoral to blessing them as sacred.

In the decades-long battles over sexuality in The Episcopal Church, the factions were at opposite ends of the spectrum of LGBTQ+ inclusion, with the Side A view largely winning out over explicitly anti-gay voices. The Side B community that considers Hill a pioneer of the movement is almost entirely outside The Episcopal Church, making him something of an outlier within his own denomination.

So what is it like to live a Side B life in a Side A church? Episcopal News Service spoke to Hill about his experiences and beliefs. This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

ENS: What’s your spiritual background?

Hill: I grew up in Arkansas in a pretty vibrant Southern Baptist church and then we switched to a conservative non-denominational evangelical church. I did my undergraduate degree at Wheaton College, which is very much evangelical. In the early 2000s, there were a lot of students who were discovering Anglicanism – this was in the days leading up to the split between the [Episcopal] church and the Anglican Church in North America.

My friends invited me to come along – I think my first service that I went to was a Maundy Thursday service, and I was both kind of weirded out by the liturgy, which felt very unfamiliar, as well as attracted to it and sort of magnetically drawn to it. But it wasn’t until several years later, when I moved to the U.K. for grad school, that I got confirmed in the Church of England.

When I first moved back to the U.S. in 2012, to be totally honest, I didn’t know a whole lot about The Episcopal Church. I knew that I thought of myself as more conservative on sexuality. And so I, without too much forethought, started worshipping at Church of the Ascension in Pittsburgh [which seceded from The Episcopal Church to join the ACNA in 2008]. I was there for two or three years and was really wrestling with a sense of calling to ordination and feeling that although I love many people in the ACNA, and I think big ministry is happening, I could not in good conscience join the group that wanted to split over sexuality.

I taught at Trinity School for Ministry, which at that time was still an officially recognized seminary of The Episcopal Church, and there was an Episcopal priest who was on staff and so that was kind of how I found my way into The Episcopal Church. I was ordained to the diaconate in October 2019 and then to the priesthood in September 2020.

ENS: What influences did you have in developing your understanding of a celibate gay Christian life? How did that arise in your life?

Hill: I realized I was gay when I was in my early adolescent years. In my context, there was no possibility of [a church] being affirming. I didn’t even know that that category existed. And so later when I was really wrestling both personally as well as theologically, I got into some of the conversation about what is an appropriate Christian way to be gay, to live out one’s sexuality. A couple of writers were really important for me – one was Henri Nouwen, and he wasn’t out during his lifetime, but subsequently, biographers unearthed the fact that he had lived a, by all accounts, celibate gay life, and I deeply resonated with a lot of his writing on spirituality and psychology and loneliness in particular. The other writer who was really influential on me was a woman named Eve Tushnet. She was blogging a lot about friendship and about this neglected form of love, and I very much resonated with that.

ENS: In the time you’ve been in The Episcopal Church, what has it been like to watch the church adopt increasingly liberal positions on homosexuality?

Hill: I still have my traditional convictions about marriage and sexuality. But at the same time, I have ecclesial convictions about the importance of staying with other people that we don’t see eye to eye with, and looking for ways to preserve relationships in light of the baptism that we share, in light of the mission that we share.

If you look at the official prayer book of The Episcopal Church, the marriage liturgy is something that I completely agree with. It’s still quite traditional. My own view is that same-sex marriage is not in line with the will of God as revealed in Scripture. And yet, I also want to say I could be wrong about that conviction. And I think that the church operates in terms of centuries, not years or decades. I feel a happy obligation to keep listening to people who disagree with me and keep engaging in dialogue. And I really hope that my progressive brothers and sisters would feel the same way toward me.

ENS: How can Side A and Side B come together? In one essay, you wrote about developing a vision that’s “compatible” among people who hold different convictions. What might that look like?

Hill: I’ve been thinking recently about what would it look like to actually think of one another’s differing positions in the best possible light, the most charitable light? So rather than saying, “My progressive friends are simply ignoring the clear teaching of Scripture and revising things in light of the cultural moment,” I could say instead, “There’s something about the Gospel that is driving them. It’s a compassion for people who have been alienated by the church. It’s a desire for LGBTQ people to be fully integrated into the life of the church and not made to live in shame.” I can view the position in the light of Christian charity, even if I don’t end up agreeing with it, and vice versa. I hope that my progressive friends in The Episcopal Church could say, “Wes, this is not inherently self-hating. This is not tantamount to racist bigotry or something. But there’s a sincere effort to try to stay faithful to what the church has historically taught, even if we think that that teaching should change or maybe has been misunderstood.”

ENS: What kind of reactions do you get from within The Episcopal Church? How is Side B situated in The Episcopal Church?

Hill: I sent a message to another Episcopal priest and I said, “Can you think of any other Side B clergy?” And he said no. It seems to be more in the evangelical world and the Catholic world. There are a handful of [Episcopal] lay people that I know of, but I can’t think of any clergy.

Several decades ago there were major voices in The Episcopal Church promoting things like conversion therapy, you know, this wasn’t just the evangelicals or the charismatics. Some of those folks are still around and view my position as being like a drift toward progressivism. There’s a kind of energetic resurgent conservative movement, you know, the Communion Partners movement, and there’s a lot of younger clergy and laity who are associated with that and I think they view me as someone whose viewpoint and whose life they want to support. So I felt a lot of encouragement from them. But I would say even from progressive folks who disagree with me, I mean, certainly not all of them, but a lot of the younger ones recognize the complexity of this and many of them are gay themselves. And I know how difficult it is to try to figure out what it looks like to live one’s life in a flourishing way. So I have felt a lot of hostility from them toward viewpoints that I hold, but not hostility toward me as a person. It’s been kind of lovely to connect with some people who I know see things differently, but they want to support me as an individual, even if they think the viewpoints that I stand for are ultimately harmful.

ENS: Is it frustrating being caught between two sides that see themselves as mutually exclusive?

Hill: Yes, it is. One of the surprises for me is that I’ve gotten a lot more pushback from conservatives than I have from progressives. I thought it would be progressives who would object to it more. We have a number of gay and queer people who come to the parish where I serve, and I hope that they feel very warmly welcomed and encouraged by me.

ENS: Are there any changes you’d like to see in The Episcopal Church’s culture or liturgy to be more inclusive of a Side B-type life?

Hill: I mean, I don’t want anyone in The Episcopal Church to feel threatened by me as if I’m trying to roll back the clock and make gay people go back in the closet or whatever. I would like there to be at least a recognition we actually do have a lot of clergy who may not be gay themselves, but they’re still committed to the traditional view. And we have a number of bishops who are still committed to the traditional view and there are people like me that are trying to live it out as best we can. So I hope there’s at least a space where we can say, “Can we at least have the freedom to follow God the way we think we should?”

– Egan Millard is an assistant editor and reporter for Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at emillard@episcopalchurch.org.

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Tasmanian Bishop Joins Sydney Bishops in ‘shock’ at failure of movement to block S/S Marriage Blessings

Standing with the Sydney Anglican Bishops in their relentless crusade against any Services of Blessing for Same-Sex Marriage Blessings in the Australian Anglican Church, Tasmania’s Evangelical Anglican bishop, Richard Condie, expresses his own anger by calling the result of a failed motion ‘Fundamentally Awry’.

The very word ‘Fundamentalist’ applies to his (and the Sydney bishops’) reluctance to admit the FACT that civilised society has moved on from the culture of rampant institutional homophobia and misogyny; towards the more eirenic and just, social recognition of the common human rights of LGBTQI people, whose fundamental right to exist has, hitherto, been threatened in a patriarchal and sexist environment occupied by crusaders of the Conservative/Evangelical wing of the Church which is most evident at Moore College and the Sydney Diocese.

To accuse the Australian General Synod’s bishops (who rejected the Archbishop of Sydney’s proposal to veto any possible move towards the Blessing of Same-Sex Marriages conducted by the State) of leading the Church into a ‘perilous position’, is a code for the fact that most of the Australian Anglican Church’s bishops in the Australian General Synod did not fall for Sydney’s blatant call for a continuing ethos of homophobia and sexism, such as is still upheld in the Sydney Diocese.

It may not be generally known that Bishop Condie came to New Zealand recently with another bishop, from the Sydney Diocese, hoping specifically to convince our own New Zealand Anglican bishops that it would be theologically dangerous to enact a proposed opening up to the Blessing of Same-Sex Civil Marriage Couples in our churches.

Our New Zealand bishops, however, aware of the pastoral need for such a measure – and aware of the fact that most N.Z. Anglicans no longer harbour the culture of homophobia – went ahead with consenting to a measure that would allow our clergy (with their local bishop’s express permission) to go ahead with a Service of Blessing that would meet the pastoral needs of a Christian couple already legally married by the State authority. (n.b. unless the couple were Christians, why would they bother to even seek the Blessing of God in the church?)

Shortly after ACANZP made the decision to allow for the Blessing of Same Sex Married Couples, these same bishops from Australia were present in Christchurch, New Zealand, for the ordination of an ex-Anglican minister to become the bishop of a breakaway Anglican Church here by the Chair of the Gafcon, Foley Beech, who also happens to be the Primate of the schismatic ACNA in the U.S.A.

Whether the Sydney diocese will now break away from the parent provincial Anglican Church in Australia over this issue of S/S Blessings is yet to be seen. If it does happen, then the Sydney Diocese (and maybe the Anglican Church in Tasmania) will become just one more province of the conservative evangelical fellowship of the Gafcon – which (despite claims to be ‘orthodox Anglican’) no longer claims Eucharistic Fellowship within the official Anglican Church centred around the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Lambeth Conference.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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‘Fundamentally awry’: bishops block move to reject same-sex marriage – though stopping short of

Posted on May 11, 2022 
Filed under Anglican Church of AustraliaAustralian diocesesGeneral Synod

“A statement from the evangelical Bishop of Tasmania, Richard Condie, said ‘many people were visibly shocked. There were tears and confusion in the room … a number of orthodox bishops are concerned about the implications for our common life and work in the days ahead.’

Straight after the vote, a shocked [Archbishop Kanishka] Raffel said the failure to support the statement left the church in ‘a perilous position, and no-one should be mistaken about that’…”

– The Sydney Morning Herald’s report by Jordan Baker includes these reactions to the failure of the House of Bishops to uphold clear Biblical standards.

Photo: Richard Condie, Bishop of Tasmania.

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Australian Synod affirms Diversity in the Church

Despite the determined efforts of the recently-appointed Anglican Archbishop of Sydney to re-enforce an affirmation of exclusively binary marriage doctrine in the Australian Church – calculated to defeat the aim of the majority of its bishops to introduce the Blessing of Same-Sex Marriages that have been legalised by the State – the Motion failed to meet its target, with 12 of the bishops voting against it and 10 voting for the Motion. This probably reflects the true feelings of the majority in the Church, who no not want to continue the conservative ethos of homophobia and misogyny that has flourished under the influence of successive leaders of the Anglican Diocese of Sydney.

This defeat for institutional prejudice against the LGBTQI community in the Church in Australia – and elsewhere – fostered by the Gafcon conglomerate (with which the Sydney Diocese is closely aligned, and which has fostered schism in Churches of the world-wide Anglican Communion on the issues of sexuality and gender) is a signal for a more eirenic and just treatment of a class of people that Jesus himself might well have championed in the face of prejudice and injustice.

The situation in the Anglican Diocese of Sydney is not unlike that of the Roman Catholic Church in North America which, of late, has resisted the Pope’s openness to the marginalised and outcast of the world by his pronouncement that “The Holy Eucharist is a food for sinners, rather than a reward for the holy and righteous” – a Gospel statement about the Love of God for ALL people. In one of the Gospel passages Jesus says this: “I did not come into this world to condemn the world but to redeem it!” Jesus’ own loving relationship to the outcast was clearly seen in the Scriptures of the New Testament – a reality which stands out against the hypocrisy and spiritual elitism of his own day.

Todays ‘Message from Pope Francis’ – on line – shows his longing for the Church to embrace the diversity of the common human condition; a reality which the Church in the modern era must learn to live with. Resistance to change is the very opposite of what the Catholic Church (under Pope John 23rd at Vatican II) brought into being – the need for radical reform that would actually meet the needs of the people of God in every age. ‘Semper Reformanda’ (constant reform) was the motto of Vatican II which, sadly, seems to have been forgotten by the American Catholic Bishops in their ‘defence’ of the Eucharist against its therapeutic ministry to ALL.

This ethos has prompted Pope Francis to embrace EVERYONE created in the Image and Likeness of God, without prejudice, so that the pure grace of God might bring about any changes needed to conform to the Kingdom of Christ in His world: _________________________________________

WEDNESDAY, MAY 11, 2022

“As Christians, we do not only receive a vocation individually; we are also called together. We are like the tiles of a mosaic. Each is lovely in itself, but only when they are put together do they form a picture. Each of us shines like a star in the heart of God and in the firmament of the universe. At the same time, though, we are called to form constellations that can guide and light up the path of humanity, beginning with the places in which we live. This is the mystery of the Church: a celebration of differences, a sign and instrument of all that humanity is called to be. For this reason, the Church must become increasingly synodal: capable of walking together, united in harmonious diversity, where everyone can actively participate and where everyone has something to contribute.”

Pope Francis

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This well-describes the theology of the leader of the majority of Christians in the world at this time – a sign of the love, forgiveness and generosity of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who came into this world to save sinners – and that means ALL of us! Deo Gratias!

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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39: ARTICLES – or ARTIFACTS?

Former Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, Glenn Davies, in his defence of the Diocese of Sydney’s epic stand in Australian General Synod’s consideration of the Blessing of Same-Sex Marriage in A.C.A (The Anglican Church of Australia), is wont to defend his outdated understanding of issues of gender and sexuality by quoting the place of the historic ’39 Articles of Religion’ – together with the ethic of ‘Sola Scriptura’ as the eternally irrevocable basis of Faith for all Anglicans at all times and in every place.

Apart from the Sydney Diocese itself, which was founded – together with the conservative evangelical Moore Theological College (which trains many Sydney diocesan clergy and which maintains a strict theological conservatism in its faculty and training) – by the earliest Church of England Evangelical missionaries in Australia; most other dioceses of the Australian Anglican Church have a different – more catholic – understanding of the Lambeth Quadrilateral which, in an effort to strengthen the relationship between Anglican Churches around the world in the 20th century, took care to spell out the fundamental essentials of the Faith – based more upon the doctrine of the historic Church Creeds, while yet being open to the ongoing revelation of the Holy Spirit deemed still to be at work in the Church.

By relating back to the ’39 Articles’ as the irrevocable basis of faith for Sydney Anglicans – a factor that would have also informed the material presented by the current Archbishop of Sydney in his presentation of protest against S/S Marriage Blessings – both prelates are articulating a basis of Faith which, over the last 5 centuries of the Anglican Church, has rendered the ‘39 Articles‘ into what has become known in recent years as the ‘39 Artifacts‘ – Statements of Faith which better describe an articulation of belief that more properly belonged to a newly-Protestant English Church, whose protests were mainly against the rule of the Roman Pontiff – as some of the Articles themselves bear testimony – an ethos of spiritual sectarianism that more properly befitted the Church in England at that time of the European Reformation.

However, in an era of a more ecumenical Anglican attitudes towards fellow Christians – especially, in England, with the rise of the more catholic-minded ‘Oxford Movement (which looked forward to an eventual reconciliation with the Church of Rome) – most Anglicans have recognised the need for Christian Unity, not only with the Roman Catholics but also with the Orthodox Churches centred around the historic Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul.

It might be thought that ‘Sydney Anglicanism’ – which has lately aligned itself with the newly-formed Con/Evo Gafcon conglomerate that shares many of Sydney’s continuing fear of the burgeoning LGBTQI voice within the Christian community – would have more in common with conservatives within the Roman Catholic and Orthodox communities. However, with recent statements being made by Pope Francis affirming the existence of, and the pastoral needs of LGBTQI people in the Catholic Church; the prospect of forming any alliance on the basis of reinforcing a common ethos of misogyny and homophobia would seem most unlikely.

At the current session of the Austrian General Synod, the chairmanship of the Primate, Archbishop Geoff Smith, over the last 2 days (Monday and Tuesday) seems to have been greeted by both sides of the S/S Blessings argument as being reasonable and fair for all. However, with the arguments to be further visited at today’s session, it will be interesting to see how things turn out. If Same-Sex Blessings are approved, will Sydney carry out its threat of schismatic severance from the national Church – thus strengthening its bonds with Gafcon? Or will the Primate’s influence bring about a more eirenic understanding of the ‘Great Love of God as Revealed in The Son’ – for all people – not just the ‘pure and holy’?

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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