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Sydney Anglicans: "Cancer in the Body of Christ?"

Sun 11 Jun 2006 In: Comment

...Or so said a long-time Anglican friend who asked not to be named when I told her I was researching an article on the horror that is Sydney Anglicanism. For those outside Anglicanism, my friend's reaction may be mystifying. However, non-fundamentalist Anglicans themselves understand it all too well. For if the Anglican Communion disintegrates, the fundamentalist Sydney "Anglican" Diocese may be one of the chief culprits. It would be too harsh to lay the blame for outside perceptions of the backwardness of Australian Anglicanism primarily on the shoulders of Sydney Anglicans, even if they're a large, rich diocese that seems to enjoy inflicting its unwanted opinions elsewhere. For example, Sydney Archbishop Peter Jensen recently said that 'sexuality' was the chief issue that faced Christianity at present when he visited New Zealand. Why is it so awful? In the early twentieth century, New South Wales fundamentalist Anglicans became concerned at the rise of rival "Anglo-Catholic" elements within the Australian Anglican Church, and set up the "Anglican Church League" to oppose it. Gradually, the ACL seized control of the diocesan institutions and began to choke it of theological diversity. Its Moore Theological College is responsible for the dissemination of fundamentalist Anglicanism, and the current Archbishop of Sydney, Peter Jensen, is intent on proselytising for his brand of fundamentalist intolerance. Sydney Anglicans still refuse to ordain women as Anglican ministers due to ridiculous claptrap about 'male headship,' while the other long-suffering Australian Anglican dioceses often don't recognise the credentials of Moore Theological College graduates. While the liberal (Methodist/Presbyterian) Uniting Church of New South Wales left the fundamentalist New South Wales Council of Churches out of distaste for its fundamentalist parody of proper ecumenical cooperation, Sydney Anglicanism stayed put. During the apartheid era, it backed a breakaway pro-apartheid schismatic Church of England South Africa due to its fundamentalist theology, and opposed the decriminalisation of homosexuality in New South Wales during the eighties. According to D.Broughton Knox, a former Moore College Principal, mainstream Anglican social justice concerns were a diversion from the 'core' work of fundamentalist Protestants, namely proselytising others. It should not be assumed that Jensen and Sydney Anglicanism are representative of the entire Anglican Church of Australia. In 2003, former Anglican Primate of Australia and Archbishop of Perth Peter Carnley criticised his Sydney counterparts for refusal to seek any alternative opinion outside fundamentalist Anglican gurus from Britain and the United States, with predictable results for issues like the Iraq War, stem cell research and legal recognition of same-sex relationships. Within Australia, interdiocesan relationships are distinctly frosty, given Sydney Anglicanism's annoying habit of seeding them with fundamentalist parishes. Unfortunately, Sydney Anglicanism is still securely institutionally lodged, and sizeable. However, its sectarian nature is placing intolerable strains on the unity of Australian Anglicanism, as well as the Anglican Communion as a whole. Along with "Reform", Britain's fundamentalist Anglican pressure group, they seem intent on sundering denominational unity because mainstream Anglicans want to engage in critical adaptation to the modern world, ordain lesbians and gay men, and recognise our relationships. It is to be hoped that New Zealand Anglicanism will not be guided by misplaced concerns for denominational unity, given the behaviour of its Sydney counterparts. But is it already too late for the unity of global Anglicanism? Recommended: Peter Carnley: Reflections Under Glass: Melbourne: HarperCollins: 2003. Muriel Porter: The New Puritans: The Rise of Fundamentalism in the Sydney Anglican Church: Melbourne: Melbourne University Press: 2007. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sydney_Anglicans Sydney Anglicans http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Jensen Peter Jensen Diana Bagnall: "Peter Carnley" Bulletin 24 August 2005: http://bulletin.ninemsn.com.au Craig Young - 11th June 2006    

Credit: Craig Young

First published: Sunday, 11th June 2006 - 12:00pm

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