19.1.11

Sydney fascinates me...I wonder how different life is there at the beginning of a new decade

This is from the launch of a magazine 10 years ago. I wonder how different the faith is there a decade on:


The stakes are, after all, high, a reputation within a diocese that is essentially isolated from the outside world. Theological education is in the monopoly hands of Moore Theological College. Three of the four Australian-born archbishops (who are all the archbishops since 1966) have come from the faculty of this college. Almost all senior diocesan appointments are made only from within the diocese. No new theological leadership in the diocese has come from outside within the experience of most of its members.

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The emphasis of the prevailing theology on the Bible, not in itself a bad thing, has led to the identification of theology with biblical exposition. This is part of the issue, raised earlier in the essay, about the role of the reader in the interpretation of texts. If theological discussion is tied so closely to a text and if the interpretation of the text is almost the sole sign of orthodoxy, discussion is inevitably constrained. It is not that there are no publications within the diocese. The teachers at Moore College publish continuously. The diocese has a newspaper, Southern Cross, the Anglican Church League has its journal, The Australian Church Record. The two latter are linked to the dominant theological discourse of the diocese. Matthias Media has its long-standing journal The Briefing, also a major organ for promoting the dominant view.

A significant problem for theological debate within the diocese is that most of the talk is carried on in code. The use of such codes allows those within the mainstream to identify each other and detect the unorthodox. One example of this code is that the theological term ‘atonement’ means the penal substitutionary theory of the atonement, not a more general reference to the process by which humans are reconciled to God and which may be described in various ways. The appropriation of language in this way makes discussion a difficult and potentially dangerous exercise.

We launch this electronic journal in this context. We assert that there are respectable and alternative views to the dominant theology of the Diocese of Sydney. We assert that such alternative views are within the bounds of Christian orthodoxy as historically conceived. We know that many faithful members of the diocese hold such views. This is their forum, but not theirs alone. It is open to all sides of the debate. It is open to outsiders as well as insiders. We invite you to join us in promoting an alternative debate around the issues that arise in the Diocese of Sydney, the Anglican Church of Australia and the Anglican Communion.

2 comments:

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Rachel,
I don't think anything has changed and my betting money would be on the next archbishop to be elected from the faculty of Moore College!

The ES debate you are reminding us of, and for which some of your links take people to debates which include for/against a Sydney line, reflect a particular way of being evangelical: highly rationalist combined with intensely Scriptural. Hence an attempt to undertake trinitarian theological reflection via exegesis of many citations of verses. (Cf. the words in your quote about the identification of theology with biblical exposition). One question then concerns the best way to undertake theology, especially when it involves a subject such as the Trinity which represents an achievement in the life of the church in which clues and hints in Scripture have been drawn to a conclusion, rather than a matter on which Scripture speaks directly, clearly, and comprehensively.

A reason to raise the question is the (arguably) unfortunate conclusion rationalism combined with Scriptures takes some approaches to ES associated with Sydney theologians: in the end Scripture does not itself make a direct connection between the Father/Son relationship and husband/wives relationships. That raises significant questions about why Scripture does not make that connection (since it would appear to be an important one to make if it matters), as well as about a method explicitly based on Scripture leading to an unScriptural conclusion. (As some have pointed out on my blog, there are Scriptural routes to a conclusion that wives ought to submit to their husbands and ought not to be leaders of churches!)

Lynne said...

I don't think anything has changed. If anything the "battle-lines" have hardened. I've seen ESS mentioned in passing in sermons etc with the implication that this is normal standard orthodox Christian doctrine which everyone has always been on board with, and this is the sort of thing which is filtering down to ordinary parishioners as the faith once delivered to the saints. Sydney is not an easy place to be if you want to be any other flavour of Anglican -- let alone a woman who would seek ordination if I lived in most other dioceses. And yes, it really is becoming Sydney contra mundum, so anyone who questions anything is automatically assumed to belong to the "mundum"

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