Archbishops’ ‘no’ to gay marriage in Australia: The Church of England Newspaper, June 24, 2012 p 5. June 27, 2012Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Anglican Church of Australia, Politics, Marriage.
Tags: gay marriage, Peter Jensen, Diocese of Sydney, George Pell, Stylianos Harkianakis
The Anglican, Roman Catholic and Orthodox archbishops of Sydney have urged Christians to reject gay marriage. The “revolutionary re-definition” of marriage was not “inevitable”, Dr. Peter Jensen said in his 17 June 2012 letter, but those “who wish to stand for marriage, as instituted by God, would thoughtfully and courteously let their views be known to their Federal parliamentary representatives.”
In separate letters read to congregations last Sunday, Dr. Jensen, Cardinal George Pell, and Archbishop Stylianos Harkianakis called for the rejection of two private members bills that will amend the Marriage Act introducing same-sex marriage. A social policy and legal affairs committee inquiry report was presented to Parliament on 18 June, but declined to endorse or reject the bills introduced by Australian Greens MP Adam Bandt and Labor MP Stephen Jones.
Archbishop Stylianos urged Orthodox Christians to lobby their representatives in government to vote against the bill. The proposed legislation was ”diametrically against” the teachings of the Christian faith and Greek Orthodox tradition and must be stopped, he said.
Cardinal Pell told Catholics that said same-sex relationships were “contrary to God’s plan for sexuality.” The proposed amendments to the Marriage Act would harm Australia. “Instead of removing discrimination and injustice, [it] will cause them.”
A spokesman for Australian Marriage Equality Alex Greenwich responded the churches’ views were behind the times. ”With polls showing a majority of Australian Christians support marriage equality and with prominent Christians … and a growing number of clergy endorsing the reform, I don’t expect many people will be influenced by their priest this Sunday,” he told the Sydney Morning Herald.
In his letter, Dr Jensen urged Anglicans to “oppose this move as out of keeping both with the word of God and also of the best interests of our community.”
The Anglican archbishop opened his letter by saying it was important that the debate must be civil. “God’s love for all teaches us that we must not be glib or unfeeling as we discuss, pray and act according to our convictions.”
But civility should not be construed as weakness. “Christians are led by the word of God itself to bear witness to our strong commitment to marriage understood as the public joining of two persons of the opposite sex from different birth families through promises of enduring, sustaining and exclusive love, consummated in sexual union.”
Marriage “is one of God’s blessings upon us as a race” the archbishop said, for “through it God allows for the pure expression of our sexual natures, for the faithful companionship of one we love and the opportunity for the nurture of children.”
It was a “tragedy” he said that “marriage is so little understood or honoured and that so many people are denying themselves or others the experience of a public commitment and life-long union.”
“The education of children must not be distorted by the state-imposed idea that a family can be founded on the sexual union of two men or two women as a valid alternative to that of a man and a woman,” Dr. Jensen said, as the call for changing the law “only adds to the confusion by taking a God-given social institution for the creation and nurture of families and extending it to those who by God’s design and by nature cannot be married to each other.”
“This is not a matter of ‘marriage equality’ nor of human rights, since the right to be married extends equally, but only to those who are qualified,” he said.
Debate on the bills is not expected until year’s end, however, as its supporters concede they do not have sufficient support to pass the amendments to the Marriage Act at this time.
First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.
Tags: Diocese of Sydney, Eucharist, Lay Presidency, Reuters
Reuters has a dispatch from Athens on the difficulties the Greek financial collapse is causing the Orthodox Church. The article entitled “Crisis proves a curse for Greece’s Orthodox Church” will appear in various forms in newspapers and websites this weekend and I encourage you to read it, as it provides a strong account of the hardships facing the Church.
However, a GetReligion reader, Dominic Foo, was struck by one section of the article. He wrote:
I find it incredibly hard to believe that an Eastern Orthodox Church would permit lay celebration of the Eucharist, unless of course, this is merely sloppy journalistic reporting and what is permitted is not “mass” but a prayer service.
He was questioning this section of the story:
To cover the shortage of priests, some bishops are permitting laymen to take services. These volunteers receive no state wages and don’t wear the characteristic vestments.
For instance, a retired army officer recently started holding mass at Avantas, a village close to the eastern border with Turkey, said Father Irinaios. “Priests in small villages retire or pass away and there is nobody to replace them,” he said. “We are going to have a huge problem.”
If Reuters is correct in its reporting, this is highly significant development. In the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic traditions it is inconceivable that a lay person would be permitted by a bishop to celebrate the Eucharist as the administration and celebration of the sacraments is the essence of the priesthood. For Roman Catholics this teaching is set down in a number of formal statements and encyclicals: Lumen Gentium 28; De ordinatione episcopi, presbyterorum et diaconorum 2; 6; 12.
For the Orthodox lay presidency is a non-starter. The doctrinal confessions most accepted in the Orthodox world, The Confession written by Dosietheus, Patriarch of Jerusalem (1672) and The Orthodox Confession written by Peter Mogilas, Metropolitan of Kiev (1643) state the Eucharist may be celebrated only by a “lawful” priest.
In my corner of the church world, the issue of lay celebration of the Eucharist has the potential to supplant the fights over homosexuality. The Diocese of Sydney — the most influential evangelical diocese in the Anglican Communion — supports allowing lay people licensed by the bishop to celebrate the Lord’s Supper. The diocese has debated this issue for almost a generation and prepared a number of theological papers in support of its views.
One clue to the debate is the use of the phrase “Lord’s Supper” rather than Mass by Sydney Anglicans. Their understanding of what takes place in Holy Communion is very different than that of High Church Anglicans, not to mention the Catholic and Orthodox Churches. However, the Archbishop of Sydney Dr. Peter Jensen, has so far declined to implement the diocesan synod’s request as the wider Australian church — and Anglican Communion does not agree with this innovation.
If the Greek Orthodox Church is allowing lay celebration of the Eucharist this would be a break with tradition. For a religion reporter this would be great news — I have visions of a pan-Orthodox council being called (allowing me a trip to Greece on my editor’s dime.)
Perhaps something less dramatic, but still highly significant is taking place. Has some form of Liberation theology arisen in Greece? That would be news! In marginalized or deprived communities where a priest is not present to preside at the Eucharist, such as in Latin American base communities, Leonardo Boff and other radical theologians have proposed holding a eucharist-like fellowship meal as an admittedly less than adequate substitute for the Eucharist.
Or, as is most likely, the Reuters reporter was confused or his article was mistranslated. I’m afraid I won’t be jetting off to Greece this summer as I suspect the liturgy being used at services where no priest is present is the Typica or Reader’s Service.
While the Typica may not be common in areas where there is a settled Orthodox presence, it can be found in places like the American South or Africa where there are new Orthodox congregations but no resident clergy. Here is a link to a Greenville, NC Orthodox Church that explains the value of Lay-led Services.
While this Reuters story focuses on the effects of Greece’s economic implosion on the Orthodox Church, the statement about lay led masses should be addressed. If wrong, I would hope it would be corrected. If right, then there is a major story here that has so far gone unreported.
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.
First printed in GetReligion.
Sydney rejects Anglican Covenant: The Church of England Newspaper, Oct 21 2011 p 7. October 25, 2011Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Australia, Anglican Covenant, Church of England Newspaper.
Tags: Diocese of Sydney, Mark Thompson, Robert Tong
First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.
Sydney has rejected the Anglican Covenant. The 11 October vote by the 49th meeting of the Diocese of Sydney Synod likely spells the death knell for Dr Rowan Williams’ plan for a global agreement to set the parameters of doctrine and discipline for the Anglican Communion.
Support for the Covenant peaked in the run-up to the 2009 meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council in Kingston, however, Dr Williams’ untimely intervention into the Covenant debate and changes made to the document have alienated both left and right.
Liberal dioceses in New Zealand, Australia and the US have rejected the plan as un-Anglican, while the Global South Primates last year stated that “while we acknowledge that the efforts to heal our brokenness through the introduction of an Anglican Covenant were well intentioned, we have come to the conclusion the current text is fatally flawed and so support for this initiative is no longer appropriate.”
The Sydney motion was moved by Dr Mark Thompson of Moore College, and assistant chancellor Robert Tong, and followed a September recommendation by the diocesan standing committee to reject the Covenant.
In his report to Synod, Dr Thompson said the Covenant was “the wrong approach to the crisis in the Communion; the proposed Covenant has serious theological flaws; and it just won’t work: it won’t solve the crisis.”
The difficulties in the Anglican Communion “ought to have been addressed in terms of the New Testament patterns of fellowship rather than with a fresh appeal to law or regulation,” Dr Thompson said.
He added that “fellowship is nourished by our common commitment to truth and so faithfulness to the teaching of Scripture; it is undone by a refusal to submit to the teaching of God’s word.”
Creating a Covenant that establishes a “new legal structure that is incapable of distinguishing between the betrayal of biblical principle on the one hand, and unpopular but faithful adherence to biblical principles on the other” will not work, he argued.
Dr Thompson cited five theological flaws in the proposed agreement. “It fails to give sufficient attention to historic Anglican formularies; It embodies a confused ecclesiology; It expresses an inflated view of the Anglican bishop; It gives formal expression to an accrual of inordinate power and authority by the Archbishop of Canterbury; and the Covenant fails to give due weight to the teaching of Scripture.”
The Anglican Communion Covenant as it has been drafted is “fundamentally concerned with maintaining structural and institutional unity rather than with biblical faithfulness,” Dr Thompson argued.
“Those who have created the problem won’t sign it; and if they did without repenting of the departures from the teaching of Scripture it would only demonstrate the uselessness of the Covenant itself. What is more, a number of orthodox Anglican provinces throughout the world have already indicated they won’t sign it for various other reasons,” he noted.
“It’s the wrong way of dealing with the problem; the draft given to us has serious theological flaws; and in the end it just won’t work,” Dr Thompson said.
Synod adopted the motion by an overwhelming majority.
Tags: Diocese of Sydney, Peter Jensen
First published in The Church of England Newspaper.
The Archbishop of Sydney has denounced the use of church courts to bypass the Anglican Church of Australia’s General Synod to set doctrine and discipline. However, Dr Peter Jensen also reaffirmed the diocese’s commitment to the Anglican Church of Australia, saying Sydney Anglicanism had a central place in the faith life of Australia.
In his hour-long presidential address to the diocese’s 49th synod on 10 October, Dr Jensen addressed social questions, noting the parlous state of family life in Australia and urged politicians to push back against the country’s “gambling culture.”
He also touched upon the spiritual and financial health of the diocese. Participation was ”more than holding its own,” he said. Growth was “not vast but in a world where clubs, political parties and voluntary organisations are struggling to stay alive, it is significant.”
Taking as his text 1 Kings 19, Dr Jensen stated that “Like Elijah, we sometimes feel alone … But what we have is what Elijah was given – not God in earthquake, wind and fire, but the God in his Word. We live by faith, not by sight. Our business, whatever our situation, is to consult the Word of God, to trust it and to keep it.”
As Elijah was “emboldened by God’s Word, so you too take heart,” he told synod.
Speaking about the diocese’s difficult relations with the national Church, Dr Jensen noted the “division or dismemberment of the Anglican Church of Australia is not in the best interests of Christianity in this country.” The Archbishop’s remarks follow an attack last month upon the diocese by journalist Muriel Porter on the ABC, who accused the Sydney diocese of perverting Anglicanism.
The Archbishop stated that from Sydney’s perspective it was “best” if the national Church was “committed in form and fact to orthodox doctrine and behaviour.”
Sydney also laboured “to retain the integrity of the national Church,” he said, adding the diocese “always insisted that the national federation be decentralized in ethos and diocesan in structure as it is under the Constitution. Sydney also had an ongoing “role to encourage and support the growth of evangelical ministries throughout the national Church,” Dr Jensen said.
He also criticized the process by which women were permitted to be ordained to the episcopate, saying the circumvention of the national synod by an appeal to the church courts harmed the integrity of the institution.
“We want to establish the point that the ready appeal to the law to solve relational and political problems is unfruitful and to ensure that there is minimum interference with the life of the dioceses, in line with the spirit and intent of the Constitution,” Dr Jensen said.
He also touched upon the “For Kid’s Sake” report prepared by Sydney academic Patrick Parkinson. The Parkinson paper chronicled an increasingly dysfunctional youth population, with alarmingly high rates of substance abuse, self-harming behaviour and sexual promiscuity. The rise in bad behaviour could be linked to the decline of the family, he said. “The missing ingredient [in Australian family life] is commitment – a public commitment in the marriage vows,” Dr Jensen said.
“There is a cultural malaise here, a tsunami is beginning which, should it be unchecked, will engulf us. At the base of it the problem is spiritual – it is sin and evil, broken promises and broken hearts, our abandonment of God and our elevation of the individual self to the throne,” the Archbishop said.
Over the next two weeks, the synod will address the diocese’s financial situation and plans for future growth.
Anglican Unscripted: October 17, 2011 October 18, 2011Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Australia, Anglican.TV, Church of Ireland, Episcopal Church of the Sudan, Property Litigation, South Carolina.
Tags: Diocese of Sydney
Kevin and George both seem to be qualified to perform the Sacrament of the Eucharist under new rules readopted by the diocese of Sydney. Meanwhile the Archbishop of Canterbury had a very successful visit to Zimbabwe and our hosts tip their hats to the new and improved head of the communion. Almost predictably, Allan Haley builds a defense for the Diocese of South Carolina while stacking the deck against the most arrogant Presiding Bishop to serve in North America. Kevin also interviews Bishop Abraham Neal (formally one of the Lost Boys) of the Province of Sudan.