Skip to comments.Anglicanism's new holy warriors
Posted on 04/21/2004 10:32:07 AM PDT by ahadams2
[the London Times no longer allows free internet access outside of the UK, so this was forwarded to me by a friend *in* the UK]
Anglicanism's new holy warriors
Mary Ann Sieghart
The fundamentalist Diocese of Sydney - and its outposts abroad - can now be seen as the Church of England's militant tendency
THINK OF SYDNEY and what springs to mind? A beautiful, cosmopolitan, liberal and laid-back city with a flourishing gay community? You would be only half-right. This wonderful Australian city now also plays host to the most narrow-minded, puritanical and zealous brand of Anglicanism, a new puritanism that is trying to establish itself over here.
Worried? You should be. These hardline fundamentalists are using all the tools of entryism familiar to students of the Labour Party in the 1980s. The diocese of Sydney - and its outposts abroad - can now be seen as the Church of England's Militant Tendency.
Myths abound among liberals about the horrors of Sydney puritanism. There are tales of stained-glass windows being boarded up because they are seen as idolatrous, of women not being allowed to take Sunday school if there are boys in the class. It is certainly true that altars and crosses have been banished from most churches, which are now devoid of the most basic ornamentation. Even the cathedral has removed its high altar: a small wooden table on wheels is pushed on if needed. When a recent restoration of the cathedral moved organ pipes and revealed a stained-glass window of the Crucifixion, the priests were horrified. But heritage laws meant that they could do nothing about it.
Like the old puritans, the Sydney priests are discouraged from wearing robes of any sort. Chasubles are out. Plain collar, tie and surplice or academic hood are in. A rule has recently been passed allowing the choir to sing only works in English. As Professor Michael Horsburgh, a lay preacher at one of the few dissenting Sydney churches, puts it: "They see this as completing the work that the Restoration of Charles II stopped."
Women, meanwhile, are not allowed to be ordained priests. The highest post they can hold in Sydney is deacon. They can minister only to other women, not to men, and are not permitted to hold authority over men. At home, they are expected to be subservient to their husbands.
As for gays, forget it. Homosexuality in the Sydney diocese is treated as an abomination. According to the Archbishop of Sydney, Peter Jensen, gays are "at deadly spiritual risk" and the practice of homosexuality is a "gross public sin". It is impossible for divorced or gay, or even single, clergy to be appointed to posts in the diocese.
In fact, it has become almost impossible for anyone to be appointed there who has not first been trained at Moore College, the theological wing of Sydney Militant. This college, which used to be run by Archbishop Jensen, and then by his brother, Phillip, trains its ordinands in a literal, scriptural theology that brooks no dissent.
The current Primate of Australia, Dr Peter Carnley, has criticised the Sydney theology as "uncompromisingly cruel" and "medieval". Yet Archbishop Jensen has nothing but praise for Moore. "Far beyond anything else it has made this diocese what it is. It has been and promises to be even more so a mighty instrument in the hand of God for the defence and confirmation of the faith."
And then, more sinisterly: "Speaking strategically, we have never been at a more important moment to see the influence of the College through its faculty and its graduates do great things for Christ in Sydney, and beyond. The experiences I have had overseas this year have reinforced at every point the duty we owe to play a part in the defence of the gospel far beyond our own shores."
And that, I'm afraid, means England. Moore College has exported its New Testament lecturer, David Peterson, to become principal of Oak Hill Theological College in London, which is now producing fundamentalist clergy clones for conservative evangelical churches here. For English conservative evangelicals, Jensen has talismanic status. It would not be too much of an exaggeration to say that it was Jensen's people who managed eventually to block the appointment of Jeffrey John as Bishop of Reading. If the Anglican Church were to split over homosexuality, the hardliners would follow him as leader of the conservative wing.
Sydney's militant Anglicanism is as exclusive as its political counterpart. Jensenism sees no role for the Church in society; it is there only for its members. And any straying from scriptural orthodoxy is swiftly stamped upon. When Professor Horsburgh dared to defend homosexuality in a synod committee, his views were described as "heresy", "apostasy" and "defection to the enemy". When he stood up to speak on another subject in the synod itself, he was hissed. The Sydney synod is no longer, as it should be, a forum for debate but, as Professor Horsburgh puts it, "a rally for the Diocesan Mission".
Like Militant, the Sydney diocese is incredibly tightknit. Not only does Moore College have a stranglehold over appointments. Having Jensen as a surname also seems to help. The Archbishop's brother is now Dean of the Cathedral, his son is chaplain of the Cathedral School and his mother leads the Diocesan Team for Women's Ministry.
And as with Militant, procedures are manipulated to suit the politics of the leadership. The standing committee of the Sydney diocese recently voted to extend Jensen's term of office for five years beyond retirement age. He can now hold the job until 2013.
Humphrey Southern, a rector from Salisbury, recently visited Sydney during a sabbatical and wrote an article about his findings in the journal Theology. His conclusion? "These are radical reformers in the tradition of the most authoritarian of the 16th and 17th-century puritans." Of the clearing-out of altars and decoration, he writes: "These are the 21st-century equivalents of smashing the glass and stabling horses in the sanctuaries, which is how the most extreme of the Reformation radicals expressed themselves. This is the puritanism I saw in Sydney. Root and branch, destructive of tradition and deaf to anything that might disagree."
It is a scary thought that Jensen might soon become the next Primate of Australia. It is even scarier to think that he is planting his people in England, too. We all worry about extreme, fundamentalist Islam. But we fail to notice that extreme, fundamentalist Christianity is taking root right under our feet.
1. Traditional Protestant Anglicanism doesn't make use of high altars (thus the change to the traditional Holy Table used for the Eucharist).
2. There have been no documented instances of people being 'horrified' by stained glass windows.
3. The author's use of the term 'militant' is actually marxist jargon, an explanation of which can be found at
How much of this is actually verifiable?
('course I can't support banishing of the High Altars . . . but of course that's just me. :-D )
I'd say, since they publish stuff such as this, they're doing the world a favour.
Naturally I'm more comfortable with the guys in the cassocks . . . but to each his own, it's not a theological or moral dispute! We were always able to live and let live until all this moral/theological stuff started . . . :-(
I'm Catholic now too, but I'm still gonna cheer for the orthodox Episcopalians whenever I get the chance. It was hopeless in this diocese, but other places actually have a chance.
Maybe sooner? The rumblings I'm hearing are that there's some pretty significant stuff in the works. I don't know any details, just reading between the lines of what various people are saying.
2. Attempting to reverse the medieval adornments and return to basics is called medieval. What am I missing ?
3. When the liberal ECUSA demands adherence to the majority its called unity. When a conservative diocese demands adherence to its majority its cause for immediate condemnation and garve concern.
Can we clone them? We need more.
After reading her hysterical screed here which could be subtitled as "It's Salem, Massachusetts Part 2, I'm telling you!", I would tend to believe she's been doing a little too much of her favorite cause.
My parish is doing fine for now. We're growing, and this week we're hosting an Anglican Communion Institute conference. At the Evensong service last night George Carey gave a great sermon (from the first chapter of Ephesians).
OTOH, a group of us met with the new Bishop of Colorado last Sunday -- I get the feeling that this is a liberal who's in way over his head. That's dangerous, as it may well cause him to strike out in destructive ways....
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