[Sydney harbour at sunset]

  Tracing the malaise
  in Sydney

      Theorizing about the malaise presently infecting Evangelical Anglicans is one thing, detailing the "malaise" in a particular diocese is another. As a son of the Sydney diocese, the following critique is made in full knowledge of the acceptance and support my church has given me over the years, while being very aware of my own failings.
      Cranmer had to contend with his presbyterian friends, as well as his catholic friends, in reforming the English church, so the "fundamentalist/liberal" tussle goes way back. In fact, the struggle is evident in the early church.
      In the Sydney diocese, conservative Evangelicals were the dominant party up till the 1980's. On the far right there was a smattering of fundamentalists and puritans/presbyterians and on the left a small grouping of liberals and sacramentalists. The liberals were given a boost in the 1970's from the New Evangelical Movement, but waned in power over the 80's. The significant move to the right in the diocese flowed from the influence of Moore Theological College. The principal at the time, Dr. Knox, although a brilliant Biblical theologian, was more a Congregationalist than an Anglican evangelical. A generation of student ministers came out of the college dedicated to a congregational/ presbyterian polity - they were more Puritan than Evangelical.
      At the Parish level, the center of the practical implementation of this neopuritanism was St.Matthias Centennial Park under the leadership of Rev. Phillip Jensen. With the demise of the evangelical party newspaper, The Church Record, St.Matthias press filled the gap with The Briefing. Although the church growth movement was the driving force in the diocese during the 80's and early 90's, the hearts and minds of many were moving more toward purity than promotion.
      A distilling moment occurred in 1992 during the last year of the incumbancy of Archbishop Donald Robinson. Donald, an old guard conservative evangelical, had failed to note that the world was changing. He assumed that his clergy were fulfilling their ordination promises. He regularly spoke of how poorly the clergy read the services, unaware that the only time they read them was when he was present. In that last year, Phillip Jensen called a meeting of some of the most influential clergy in the diocese. There were eighteen of them. They in turn called numerous meetings where Phillip gave his "how to save the world" talk. Those who attended were asked to finance a fighting fund with a donation of $50. The reaction throughout the diocese was generally negative, given that it was an obvious move to promote an appropriate candidate for the election of the next Archbishop. At the 1993 Synod a number of prominent members from "the eighteen" lost diocesan positions and at the election Synod the compromise candidate, Rev. Harry Goodhew, was elected as Archbishop. Phillip Jensen, standing for the neopuritans and Bishop John Reed, standing for the conservatives, were the other main contenders. John's expected strong showing waned when he was smeared as a liberal.
      Archbishop Harry Goodhew sought to unite the diocese under broad management principles that reflected his church-growth leanings and only in the later years of his incumbency did he try to claw back the ever-widening gulf between traditional Anglican practice and that of the two contending Evangelical parties in the diocese, namely the church-growth methodists with their disco style of worship, and the neopuritan presbyterians with their lecture style. Increasingly, traditional Anglicans began to suggest that the methodists and presbyterians, who no longer supported Anglican polity, should consider leaving the Anglican church and join a denomination that best reflected their personal beliefs. The traditional Evangelical loyalty to both gospel truth and Anglican polity had, by now, all but unraveled. During Harry's incumbency, the neopuritans continued to organize and grow in strength.
[Peter Jensen]       In July 2001 Rt. Rev. Dr. Peter Jensen was ordained as the new Archbishop of Sydney. Peter had served as the principal of Moore Theological College and was one of the leading lights in the neopuritan movement in Sydney, although he was more conservative than hard-line. Peter came to the task with outstanding leadership and theological qualifications. Above all, he was an outstanding communicator and evangelist; both a conservative and a radical in that he presented as an Evangelical who was conservative in his theology, but radical in his churchmanship. Peter reinforced the standing of Reformed [Calvinist] / puritan [pietist] clergy in the diocese and furthered the drift toward relevance in worship and ministry (eg. pop-culture worship forms to promote access for the unchurched - "building bridges"). Traditional/Conservative Evangelicals (ie. those reformed in theology [small "r" - big on the sovereign grace of God in justification] and at the same time loyal to Anglican ritual and order) were increasingly marginalized.
[Synod members signing up to the mission]       In October 2002 The Archbishop introduced his agenda for the Sydney diocese. Management by objectives is a well-tried method of moving an organization forward and Peter sought to apply this methodology to the Sydney Diocese. "In submission to the Lord Jesus Christ and his command to make disciples of all nations", Peter proposed the following Mission Statement for the diocese:
      "To glorify God by proclaiming our Savior the Lord Jesus Christ in prayerful dependence on the Holy Spirit, so that everyone will hear his call to repent, trust and serve Christ in love, and be established in the fellowship of his disciples while they await his return."
      This was a sound Biblical statement, although its avoidance of anything peculiarly Anglican set the future direction of Sydney Anglicanism and its drift from Prayer Book Christianity. By the end of his term, the reformation of the Anglican church in Sydney had all but expunged its catholic roots, becoming a hybrid form of presbyterian methodism.

Some graphics courtesy of Southern Cross
The diocesan Newspaper of the Sydney Diocese

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