General Synod. Sigh.

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Justice Peter Young, deputy chairman of the Australian church’s General Synod, believes homosexuality will be the next controversy to confront the Australian church now that the debate over women bishops has been all but thrashed out.
“We can see from England and New Zealand what the problems are. We can see that the next problem is between the hierarchy and gay and lesbian Christians,” he says. (Sydney Morning Herald)

Mr Justice Peter Young AO is a justice of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, the head of the equity division of that court, a member of the Standing Committee of the Synod of the Diocese of Sydney, a member of the Synod of the Diocese of Sydney, and a lay-person living in the Diocese of Sydney. He is a prominent and well-respected judicial officer.

I doubt, personally, that the debate over women bishops has ‘been all but thrashed out’, but it is the the last comment which I find fairly startling, and meriting some questioning, I think…

Why is the inclusion of gay and lesbian people in the church a problem? Leaving aside the ordination of gay and lesbian people, or the blessing of same sex relationships – what is the issue? Am I in a time-warp? Am I not included in the church by virtue of my baptism which made me part of the body of Christ, and though I may sin (in all sorts of ways), I am still a member of the body of Christ and thus of the church? Or are gay and lesbian people so defective that they can only be included by virtue of consideration of General Synod.

Why is it a problem between ‘the hierarchy’ and ‘gay and lesbian Christians’? Who made it so? Why problematise gay and lesbian people in this way?

Is this an argument between ‘the hierarchy’ (whatever, in an Anglican context that is) and ‘gay and lesbian Christians’?

Does this mean it only involves ‘the hierarchy’ and the aforementioned problematised ‘gay and lesbian Christians’?

Who is this ‘hierarchy’? I was of the understanding that there was no magisterium in the Anglican Church, and no ‘hierarchy’. Perhaps I missed the moment in General Synod when they changed their theology on the priesthood of all believers. Bishop Michael Hough of Ballarat writes something interesting about ‘hierarchy’, actually (he and I would certainly disagree on some things, but I respect his opinion and integrity, and think his general observation is sound):

One of the interesting realities that seems to be emerging through the synod is the development of clear layers of authority: we now have a primate, metropolitans, diocesan bishops, other bishops, clergy and lay people. They exercise their authority in a vertical line, from primate downward. In our Australian Church all bishops are supposed to be of equal authority and all dioceses of equal importance and independent in their decision making and governance. From where did this new process of decision making emerge? The growing place of our metropolitans in Church politics is worrying, especially as most of them are of the same ilk. With the exception of Sydney, they all have a liberal agenda and seemed intent on shaping the Church according to their own expectations.

Is this what we really want in our Church? I think not. We already have grown layers on the international scene with the primates gathering regularly to make all kinds of decisions. But from where do these primates come? What makes a primate able to speak for his province? What, for example, does the primate of Australia know about Anglicans in Ballarat? The Primates have decided that they are prepared to accept the assurances of the bishops of the American Church that they have changed their ways. I am not so gullible. Yet, on the basis of their gullibility, the ECUSA are forgiven and welcomed at Lambeth.

In short, I think Mr Justice Peter Young’s statement is very concerning. I would be insulted, but I suspect it says more about Mr Justice Young’s theological position (which I admit I’m inferring) than it says about anything else.

Given much of the other rubbish considered by General Synod it becomes harder and harder to take it seriously, and see how it relates to the mission of the church. Only my opinion, of course.

The last word, and one that really resonates with me…

BRIAN McKINLEY’S plea is simple but heart-felt. “I’d like people to appreciate how hard it is, almost every day of one’s life, to have crisis and division in a church I love because of something that is an intimate part of the way God created me.”
McKinley, a Canberra public servant and lay preacher, is a passionate Christian who lives in a monogamous, committed same-sex relationship with another Christian.
“Do you wake up every morning as a married person and think you are part of the problem dividing the church? I live with this nearly every day. There’s a huge cost,” he says.
“I’m nearly 60, I’m OK. What about the 22-year-old who has just discovered he’s a poofter, but he loves Jesus. How will he cope with that? Some kill themselves.”

But he wants gay and heterosexual Christians to remember what Christian priorities are.
“For me, the work of the church and the gospel of Christ is supremely more important than anything I might construe as my rights. The Great Commission [Jesus’ instruction to make disciples] is best fulfilled if we open our doors to anybody and everybody. I pray that every person who comes seeking God will find a welcome. I don’t want myself to be an obstacle to achieving that.” (Sydney Morning Herald)

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