Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Archbishop Aspinall (Australian Primate) speaks out

I am always concerned at how Jensen is often portrayed as if he were the leader of the Anglican Church of Australia. Archbishop Aspinall of Brisbane is the Primate of Australia. However this is not a position of power, he is not much more than chairman of the Australian General Synod. It was explained to me last week that when the Anglican Church of Australia was created in 1962 the individual dioceses maintained a great deal of independence. Canons passed by the General Synod must be adopted by the individual diocese. Each diocese chooses its own bishop and, as long as the person is canonically fit, the appointment must stand. This is not true in the USA nor NZ where there are processes of confirmation by the national church. Both the dioceses of Perth and Canberra-Goulburn ordained women before the necessary legislation was passed by General Synod and while attempts were made to prevent it in the civil courts they were unsuccessful.
So as the GAFCONites talk about a committee of primates, I wonder who they will be.
The chances of Jensen becoming Primate of Australia (there is an election next October) are thankfully almost nil. Yet he continues to be the spokesman for the Primates who are in GAFCON and seem unable to speak by themnselves without displaying their inate stupidity. So how does Jensen think he will obtain the position of power he so obviously craves while still remaining within the Anglican Church of Australia?

Anyway ++Aspinall has finally spoken. In today's Sydney Morning Herald

THE Anglican Primate of Australia, Phillip Aspinall, has called on rebel Anglicans, including the Sydney Archbishop, Peter Jensen, to reconsider their boycott of Lambeth, the decennial conference of national church leaders, saying reform must come from within.

Responding to the conservatives' threat to create a breakaway faction within the global church, Dr Aspinall said there was room for diversity within the church's boundaries.

Dr Aspinall said the implications of the Jerusalem declaration issued at the conclusion of the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) this week were "not entirely clear and it may take some time before we know the likely impact of what is proposed".

"If participants at GAFCON … regard themselves as Anglicans, which I understand they do, then it seems to me they should be at Lambeth. It's there that the whole Anglican family will gather."

In attempting to find the original of this statement I came upon his sermon for the commencement of the Brisbane Synod last week. I have never heard him preach but he seems to have a sense of humour. He discussed the first Lambeth Conference and drew some parallels. I will quote some parts which appeal to me.

"The first Lambeth Conference in 1867 was marred by controversy over the authority of scripture, the legitimacy of certain sexual practices and mess over Episcopal jurisdiction and boundaries.

So you can see just how far we’ve come!

Now, you don’t have to look very far to see that this underlying tension is still with us today, not just disagreements about presenting issues. One perspective is looking for ‘definitive rulings, decisive moral leadership’, doing away with uncertainty and provisionality. The other is looking for a way forward that affirms what seems to be true in the conflicting positions of those who disagree.

One view seeks closure, the other is looking for openness. To those who take the first approach it seems completely inappropriate to permit change, development, and provisionality in a church that claims to have the truth revealed by God. It also looks weak and indecisive to those looking on from outside. And it’s bound to be a slippery slope. If first one thing, then another is altered, faith is undermined and the whole edifice put at risk. No, according to this view, the faith is clear. Truth is identifiable and must be maintained ‘clear and unambiguous’.

The second view is often known as Anglican comprehensiveness and recognizes that Anglicanism includes a number of perspectives that are often in tension with one another. It would be a mistake though to think that this second view simply seeks an easy compromise for the sake of peace and the avoidance of hard questions. Rather it recognizes, as Michael Ramsey once said, that ‘The Church is a scene of continual dying’. At best it only ever has a partial grasp of the infinity of God. The full ramifications of the gospel are always being worked out in the church. The reality of God can’t be reduced ‘to the dimension of one person’s, or one group’s, need for comfort and control’. From this perspective the journey into truth, guided by the Holy Spirit, rests not on any neat system, but on faith in a crucified and risen Lord who evades and upsets all the structures in which we would contain him.

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