Grafton Diocese

The Anglican Volcano in the Land of Oz

When I started this blog, my intention was (and still is) for it to be primarily a writing journal of sorts, with the secondary goal of encouraging and inform Anglican Christians and amazingly the majority of the readership are from the USA.  I tend to avoid being polemical and although polemics has its place, I tend to avoid such posts out of the awareness that posts of this nature can produce (as the saying goes) “more heat than light”. However, as an Anglican priest, I feel compelled to write about the denomination in which I love, in which I serve, the Anglican Church of Australia, as there are serious warning signs concerning its near future.

When my children have asked me something about the future, I often reply by saying “I am not a prophet, nor the son of a prophet”, which is based on a very loose rendering of Amos 7:14. But I don’t think one need be a prophet to see the condition of the Anglican Church of Australia and where it may be heading.

In recent years there has been a wrestling match within the Anglican Church between two different views on marriage and human sexuality. These views are like two tectonic plates that collide with one another and the heat and the friction between the two creates magma displacement and volcanoes. On the surface, it may seem that the friction pertains to the issue and definition of marriage, but under the surface, the real issue is bigger than the definition of marriage. These two tectonic plates represent two irreconcilable views, two incompatible world-views… two opposing Biblical hermeneutics… two antithetical gospels.

The Rev David Short from Canada who is certainly no stranger to this friction, wrote an article fifteen years ago entitled Crisis in koinonia in which he reveals the heart of the reason why there are two competing unities within Anglicanism, and it is worth quoting:

At the risk of oversimplifying, what lies beneath the rift within Anglicanism are two different religions: two different Gods, two different views of the fall, sin, salvation, humanity, the cross of Christ, the resurrection of Christ, the work of the Holy Spirit, the coming judgment and the mission of the church. Blessing same-sex unions is one manifestation of a deeper conflict in the divergent movement of two irreconcilable theological tectonic plates.”

I remember as a six-year- boy watching the news about the eruption of Mt St Helens in 1980. Though at first, everything seemed serene, the warning signs appeared, warning signs that showed that the eruption was imminent and when it erupted, fifty-seven lives were lost. The so-called serene exterior of Mt St Helens was just that… “so-called”. The Anglican Church of Australia consists of twenty-three autonomous dioceses that are sort of held together by a Constitution however, the serene ecclesiastical exterior is being shaken by the warning signs of seismic activity; caused by these two irreconcilable theological tectonic plates colliding. This collision has caused eruptions in the USA, Canada, Scotland, Brazil, and New Zealand. I may be off in regards to the timing, but I believe that an eruption of the Anglican Volcano in Oz is coming soon.

Seismic Activity Warning –  The Diocese of Wangaratta 

Last year the Synod of Wangaratta passed the following:

a) acknowledges the widespread national and local support for the recent changes to Australian marriage laws, to include same-sex couples

b) commends the pastoral value of the Bishop authorising a Form of Blessing for optional use in the Diocese of Wangaratta alongside, or in addition to, a wedding conducted by a civil celebrant, and

c) requests that the Bishop of Wangaratta ensure opportunity for the clergy and laity of the Diocese to engage in further discussion as part of the process leading to the potential Diocesan provision for blessing of civil marriages.

Point a) seems rather superfluous if it were the sum of the motion, but it serves as the precursor for b) and c).

One can see the logic, “Our culture is on board with same-sex marriage, our country is on board with same-sex marriage, therefore we need to get on board otherwise we will be left behind”. In other words -theological accommodation, or filtering Scripture through the lens of culture or church functioning as a mirror.

The issue is framed as if the issue is about church-order and marriage and nothing more.

However, the outgoing Bishop, +John Parkes at the end of August this year, will be requesting that his diocese’s upcoming synod endorse a liturgy for the blessing of same-sex marriages and will, himself, be prepared to preside over such a service. He has stated on the record:

“I do not believe, (and I think the science is in and closed), that people choose sinfully their sexual identity and that it is on a spectrum and I refuse to condemn people for being who they are and wanting to live as I believe God made them to be. And if that puts me out of sorts with some part of the Anglican Communion, so be it.”

Seismic Activity Warning – The Newcastle Diocese

As I understand it, the Bishop of Newcastle +Peter Stuart is aiming to promote “the Newcastle Way”. In a recent Ad Clerum which was made public, he writes:

In our Diocese of Newcastle, we have many perspectives. My desire is that we find a loving way to express our shared life.

On social media, he used the nomenclature, “Comprehensive Anglicanism”.

Of course, I would be remiss not to acknowledge that if this is what comprehensive Anglicanism is, then this is brilliant.  If this is the Bishop’s goal in the Newcastle Diocese, to seek a loving way amongst Anglicans who have diverse perspectives regarding the forms of Anglicanism; that is a very healthy attribute and one to engender and encourage in any diocese. The Holy Scriptures I believe support this, and this is also echoed in the Anglican Formularies, in particular, article XXXIV of the Thirty-Nine Articles which in the first paragraph states:

Article XXXIV

Of the Traditions of the Church

It is not necessary that Traditions and Ceremonies be in all places one, and utterly like; for at all times they have been divers, and may be changed according to the diversities of countries, times, and men’s manners, so that nothing be ordained against God’s Word.

Over the years I have come to see that within the Anglican Church there are a number of preferences when it comes to the forms as there are people,(i.e traditional, contemporary; robes, civilian clothes, Holy Communion weekly, Holy Communion twice a month; different styles of music) though it can be difficult to please everyone. This is one of the reasons why I  love our Anglican Liturgy –  it frees us from approaching church with a consumer mentality, it encourages God’s people to be active participants in corporate worship instead of being critical spectators or consumers, it inculcates the Biblical truths rediscovered at the Reformation, and it also guards us against the constantly changing trends of the modern contemporary church which at times seeks to entertain which can transform Anglican corporate worship into bland, dull generic Anglo-lite worship. Article XXXIV acknowledges that there is freedom within the Anglican tradition for diversity so far is the expression of that freedom does not go against the Holy Scriptures.

However, this is not what +Stuart is referring to. For he then continues

In our Diocese of Newcastle, we have many perspectives. My desire is that we find a loving way to express our shared life. It is of the Gospel that we continue to welcome and affirm LGBTIQ+ people as fellow members of the Body of Christ and welcome their use of their gifts for the service of God, his people and his cosmos. It is of the Gospel that we continue to welcome and affirm LGBTIQ+ people as fellow members of the Body of Christ and welcome their use of their gifts for the service of God, his people and his cosmos.

It appears that the Bishop of Newcastle is aiming to seek a loving way amongst Anglicans who have diverse perspectives, not pertaining to the forms of Anglicanism but to the substance of Anglicanism, the very nature of the Gospel itself,  as +Stuart believes that the welcoming of LGBTIQ+ people as fellow members of the Body of Christ is “of the gospel”. Yet his first two sentences treat the issue as if it were a second-order issue (as if it were about forms, rather than the substance) evidenced by his expressed hope that “we find a loving way to express our shared life”. (What ever the term “shared life” means).

Seismic Activity Warning The Grafton Diocese

  • The Anglican Diocese of Grafton at the recent Synod passed a motion asking the General Synod to introduce same-sex marriage and blessing liturgies.
  • Faithful Anglican clergy put forward the motion that was spectacularly normal in its orthodoxy:

27. Standard of Worship and Doctrine

That this Synod affirms the authorised standard of worship and doctrine of the Anglican Church of Australia as set out in the Fundamental Declarations and Ruling Principles of the Constitution.

The motion was soundly defeated in a vote by houses with approximately 2/3 of the delegates voting against it.

This is a shocking move on Grafton’s part. They are sending a message to the national church, saying “We are the arbiters of what we deem to be the truth, not the Scriptures”. However, Grafton diocese unwittingly showed its true colours. It has dispensed with obfuscation, smoke and mirrors, and the revisionist buzzwords such as “conversation”; “listening”; and/or “faith journey”. By showing their hand, the Grafton Diocese has removed the serene ecclesiastical exterior revealing the giant caldera of rolling, bubbling and spluttering lava, evidence of the theological tectonic plate that it truly is. Therefore other provinces and/or dioceses who are of the same theological tectonic plate who use phrases such as “different understanding”  or “dual integrities” simply will not wash with those who uphold the authority of Scripture and the Anglican Formularies. This sort of rhetoric will be seen by the Biblical discerning as nothing more than theological sleight of hand in an attempt to stop the friction between the two colliding theological plates.

I am not a prophet, nor am I the son of a prophet, but one need not be either to see that the eruption of the Anglican Volcano in the Land of Oz will come. The eruptions took place in the USA, Canada, Scotland, Brazil, New Zealand. It will erupt here, will not be because of different definitions of marriage and/or human sexuality but because of the friction of two different belief system,  two different religions, with two opposing gospels both lay claim to the name Anglican.

The eruption is coming.