In this survey of Church Leadership in the Church of England, which questions the basic integrity of an evangelical fervour which can overlook the inclusive message of the gospel in favour of a triumphalist tendency to separate the sheep from the goats, Anglican Vicar
Just two paragraphs of the above article are sufficient to alert Anglicans in other places to the issues that face the ordinary parish priest in the exercise of ordinary pastoral care of the people in the community:
“As an ordinary parish priest in an ordinary parish, I am privileged to witness the amazing amount of good that ordinary people of good will do each and every day. But, the problem is that every time another scandal is reported, another cover up exposed, another example of the ‘purple circle’ looking first and foremost to the institution’s interests is revealed, the power of the extraordinary ordinary is diminished. And, it isn’t good enough. We have to do better – if we are serious about the gospel and being agents of Him who is genuinely good news.
“Our ‘leadership’ seems to be obsessed with growth, but what it isn’t doing (at least not in a way that is obvious to me) is tending to the foundations and doing the really hard work of real ethical leadership. It seems that the Church of England has fallen prey to group think, a bland uniformity where ‘strategic growth’ is all that really matters.”
In Aotearoa/ New Zealand, we are in danger of emulating the conservatism of the Church of England – in places where, for instance, some militantly evangelical clergy are actively recruiting their parishioners in a sectarian opposition to a process of Same-Sex Blessings that has been recently agreed to by General Synod of ACANZP. This has now led to the prospect of some parishes in my own Christchurch diocese actually serving notice of their severance from the national Church – in order to join up with a separatist organisation of mostly conservative African Churches seeking to dominate the ethos of Anglicanism around the world.
The organisation – GAFCON/FOCA – seeks to form a new brand of Anglicanism based on a Sola-Scriptura model that outlaws any acceptance – or understanding of – the need to now accommodate gender and sexual differences that are not based on the ‘binary’ model of the traditional understanding of such matters – focussed on procreation as the sole purpose of sexuality in human beings, rather than what the Prayer Book calls “the mutual comfort” of a couple in legal marriage.
It is in this sort of setting – in a diocese that has been suffering for years now from the devastating after-effects of earthquakes and the continuing public arguments about the restoration of the Cathedral – that our diocesan synod has just elected a new Diocesan Bishop. This Church Leader will need all the grace available to cope with how the Church will recover from the controversies that have arisen during the episcopal reign of our hard working Bishop Victoria Matthews, who could be excused if she heaved a sigh of blessed relief at returning to her homeland in Canada.
Prayers are ongoing for her, and for her duly-elected replacement.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand