Title: Anglican Civil War - A Minor Skirmish? Credit: Craig Young Comment Sunday 3rd June 2007 - 4:45pm1180845900 Article: 4532 Rights
Bishop Richard Randerson In this month's Metro, Simon Wilson interviews Bishop Richard Randerson, a leading New Zealand Anglican. He's quite gloomy about the prospects for the global Anglican communion, although makes an excellent defence of liberal Christianity in New Zealand society. Randerson is a good bloke. He has a past in church social justice work, and was a critic of National's New Right benefit cuts in the nineties. He sees most of the problems in the global Anglican communion as being attributable to the ongoing furore between fundamentalist Nigerian and Sydney "Anglicans" on the one hand, and their collaborators in the misnamed fundamentalist "Anglican Mainstream" in Britain and New Zealand; and the more moderate liberal rationalist broad church in Canada, New Zealand, the United States, and South Africa, with outposts in Melbourne Anglicanism and the one-time 'mother church' in England itself. Lesbian and gay ordination is just one front in this ongoing struggle. Sydney Anglicanism is so backward that it still doesn't ordain female Anglican ministers, while the rest of the Australian Anglican church doesn't recognise credentials from Moore Theological College. In New Zealand and Britain alike, the hardline Reform fundamentalist group has prompted the formation of a moderate evangelical group called Fulcrum, while the similar aggressiveness of Anglican Mainstream has led the more moderate evangelical Latimer Fellowship to distance itself from their New Zealand counterparts. Fulcrum and Latimer tend to view themselves as being both evangelical and Anglican, as opposed to a generic fundamentalist lowest common denominator Christianity that affirms dogma and tries to suppress dissent and theological diversity within the denomination. That isn't to say that their positions aren't problematic. For instance, one prominent New Zealand Latimer clergy member argued that while the church should ordain lesbians and gay men, it should refuse to bless civil unions. Still, if worst came to worst, the church might concievably fare better in New Zealand than elsewhere. It might be the case that the fundamentalist Nelson Anglican Diocese might fly the coop, along with individual fundamentalist Anglican Mainstream congregations and ministers, but Latimer Fellowship argues that these would be in the minority, and acknowledges that evangelicals would lose their ability to shape church policy on other issues. However, clearly, evangelical Anglicans are not unified around issues of lesbian and gay ordination. What about others? Recently, the Anglican Bishops strongly asserted their support for the Bradford Bill, although one Anglican social worker I know was infuriated to see a copy of the Baldock pro-belting petition for a citizens referendum in one Palmerston North Anglican church, despite the fact the local Association of Christian Social Services supported Section 59 Repeal. And then there's creationism. Randerson himself is an agnostic. There might very well not be a god akin to the traditional Christian version out there, although he doesn't discount the possibility of a consensus interfaith spirituality, which predictably has the likes of "Bishop" of Bling Brian Tamaki and his ilk frothing with anger. He also views New Atheists like Richard Dawkins as being unneccessarily polarising, due to their hardline rejection of any strategic alliance with liberal Christians over matters of shared interest. Actually, I suspect Randerson might find that some maverick atheists, like Paul Litterick of the celebrated Fundy Post blog here, might tend to agree with him. It's not liberal inclusive Christians that we're worried about- it's the Christian Right. If there are Christians out there who support reproductive choice, LGBT rights, Darwinian evolutionary theory and other liberal social perspectives, then they are free to participate in broad-based coalitions against the hard right. For that matter, some libertarians might well end up joining such coalitions too, opposing what they see as authoritarian conservative statism. Liberal Christians might not be as prominent as they were twenty years or so ago, but they have an important role to play in social change. If they want to engage in co-belligerency, they should be embraced and respected for who they are. Recommended: Simon Wilson: "Is There Anybody Out There?" Metro (June 2007) Craig Young - 3rd June 2007    
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