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.