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Apr 10, 2008

Sydney Anglicans intolerant in a tolerant church

The extraordinary attack on Justice Michael Kirby is a reflection of just how great the "divide" between Sydney and other Anglican dioceses has become, writes Jeff Wall.

The extraordinary attack on Justice Michael Kirby by one of the senior clergy of the Anglican Diocese of Sydney over homos-xual issues is a reflection of just how great the “divide” between Sydney and most other Anglican dioceses has become. The Sydney Morning Herald had the story this morning.

The Anglican Church has always sought to portray itself as a “broad” church – accommodating diverse views on a whole range of issues, and not just s-xuality. The great majority of dioceses and clergy in the world-wide Anglican communion would be comfortable with the term “tolerant” on s-xual issues, and a whole range of social and community issues including divorce amd unmarried couples living together. That said, the African Church in particular is much less tolerant on recognising any aspect of gay lifestyles.

But there is little evidence that tolerance, in any form or any area, has grown in the Sydney Diocese – except that the “low church” Diocese has always tolerated a small number of “high church” parishes, provided the emphasis remains on “small”.

The intolerance shown by the Rector of Bellevue Hill, Richard Lane in his letter to Justice Michael Kirby, who has dared to call himself a “Christian Anglican” while living in an open gay relationship, is at the extreme end, but, sadly, his position will not be without support among Sydney clergy and in other fundamentalist dioceses. (For the full, fascinating correspondence between Lane and Kirby, click here)

The fundamentalist approach of the Sydney Diocese to scripture and doctrine will be the ultimate dividing factor with the majority of Anglican Dioceses in Australia, and the worldwide Anglican communion. It will not be about women priests, or even women bishops.

The Archbishop of Sydney, Peter Jensen, has carefully distanced himself from what many will rightly regard as an “unChristian” attack on Justice Kirby by one of his senior clergy, but his own on-the-record views are hardly tolerant, though not as extreme as the Rector of Bellevue Hill.

Inevitably, the intolerance on this, and a range of other issues including divorce, is going to lead to an effective “division” in the Anglican Church in Australia and around the world no matter how much Archbishop Jensen and others portray it otherwise.

Were such a division able to become a complete separation without costly litigation over the ownership of property and assets worth billions, it would probably be happening right now.

And there are many Anglicans who, on reading the exchange of letters between Justice Kirby and the Rector of Bellevue Hill in today’s Sydney Morning Herald, will be hoping that those legal hurdles can be overcome.

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5 thoughts on “Sydney Anglicans intolerant in a tolerant church

  1. David

    Perhaps the sanctamonious clergy in the Sydney Anglican Church should practise more of what they are supposedly preaching, CHRISTIAN TOLERANCE. They too will be judged, come the time.
    PS: George Pell the same

  2. Brendan

    I read those letters. Most amusing was the good Reverend’s sublimation of his Taliban-esque reflex of wanting to part Kirby’s head from his torso into an almost-as-grotesque sarcastic and petulant rant, clearly a man unaccastomed to the fetters of having to use reason and logic when talking to others. Praise!

  3. John James

    It is amazing how the apologists for homosexuality will not countenance any public debate about the question and of course no public criticism.
    Homosexuality has always been seen by Orthodox Christianity but also by orthodox Judaism and Islam as a perversion, a misuse of a great gift.
    It was a practice the Christian church had to confront almost immediately as pagan Rome was notorious for its homosexual practice and the Church has been consistent in seeing this practice as a sign of corruption and deeply offensive to God.
    I think to understand the Catholic position it would be good to read the relatively recent biography of Oscar Wilde by Joseph Pearce.
    Wilde suffered much in his life and there is no question we human beings can treat others with great cruelty but Wilde recognised that he had to struggle and overcome this practice.He was received into the Catholic Church on his death bed.
    His story , The Happy Prince, is one of the most beautiful stories for kids.

  4. Dave Liberts

    I am an atheist former Anglican who attended a church school and a high church congregation in Adelaide. My experience of the school was that its snobby attitude (anti anyone not white middle class basically) was hypocritical in the context of the religion. My experience of the church was much better. Tolerant, understanding, community minded and generous. Gay parishoners seemed as welcome as anyone else. The biblical arguements against homosexuality are very thin. The tale of Sodom and Gomorrah promotes raping girls as much as it condemns homosexuality. Leviticus has homosexuality on par with a woman staying in town during her period. But like my former school, many Christians just want to feel superior, so prejudice is a way of life. Yay organised religion!

  5. Dean Bradley

    I wish to air a view regarding leaders of the Anglican Sydney Diocese from the perspective of a Sydney born citizen who has observed the outflow of rhetoric from these so called “leaders” of the church from this part of the world.
    Islamic fundamentalists by no measure hold exclusive rights to religious extremism. Labelling bigotry or intolerance of minorities as christian values is not only unchristian, uncharritable or simply misguided, but pure ignorance which, when sold to a wider audience enters the realm of evil. I would like to challenge the protagonists of such narrow views in this organisation, particularly those individuals in leadership roles, to seek professional assistance towards achieving a deeper and more consistent examination of their honesty towards themselves.To confront their personal fears which they harbour, giviing rise to the hatred and narrow mindedness unsuccessfully concealed to all but the most vulnerable and easily led. It’s bad spin!!