Thursday, March 27, 2008

A personal request

On my forthcoming trip to Europe, I am staying in Munich with an ex-student who moved there in the early 1980's and has kindly offered his home as a base to where I can return every week or so.
He is a video editor, photographer and has created a short film "41 Sekunden" (German with sub-titles.) It is only about 3 minutes long. It did screen at the recent Gay Mardi Gras Film festival here in Sydney but I was unable to get there.
He has just sent me the following
Our witty, sexy, glossy short film "41 Sekunden" ("41 Seconds") is online at MTV's Logo. Drop by and have a look!

And please vote!! This may be my last chance to be famous!

I have finally seen it, a bit slow on my broadband. Warning if you are uncomfortable with male-male kissing do not view.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Miscellaneous Musings Mainly on Holy Week

A few matters I have intended blogging about recently. It is hard to settle my mind to anything now that it is less than 3 weeks until I fly to Europe for 2 months.
The Annual Vestry meeting at St James, King Street is next Sunday. It will be the first I have attended for over 20 years, I never felt really part of a parish before. In all the papers we have been given in preparation there was a report on the National Church Life Survey which was carried out in 2006. I remember filling it out but had only been attending St James for less than 6 months. In fact it was the first day my sister began to regularly attend after our mother's death.
I was at first horrified to see that "Openness to social diversity" was only 21% until I saw that it is only 5% for the rest of the Diocese. In fact the core quality of wider community care and social justice was the top valued quality for St James (28%) while it was only in the top 3 for 8% of the Diocese. The main weakness for St James was in building a sense of community. This is understandable because the church is situated in the main office and legal section of the city and almost none of the regular worshippers would live nearby. The priests live in suburbs at least 10km from the church. Almost everyone would travel past several other parishes in order to attend yet numbers are growing. Also being in the city and being the oldest existing church, we have large numbers of visitors. Most visiting Anglicans would feel completely lost if they attended services at the cathedral about half a km away.

I received these papers on Palm Sunday. In many Sydney parishes there is only lip service paid to the Church year. One or two hymns might reflect the season or day, the sermon might be relevant if it is a really important day. The priest only wears a surplice and scarf (or perhaps a collar and tie)so no colours are evident, perhaps the book mark on the lectern. Some might find some palm leaves to place with the flowers for Palm Sunday. So it has been a unique experience for me to find the church full of palms and for each worshipper to receive a palm cross. Of course the vestments are in the correct colours. Most moving for me has been the exit procession in complete silence with the processional cross shrouded. One really feels that Holy Week has begun. This year the Palm Sunday service began by us meeting in the city square outside and processing around the city block trying to sing "Ride on Ride on in Majesty" in key with the choir way up the front.
I think it would be wonderful to attend every day during Holy week but far too difficult as I have a 2 hour train ride each way.
When I was young I use to attend the 3 hour "Words from the Cross" service beginning at 12 noon in the cathedral. I do not know when this was discontinued. Now all the cathedral advertises is "The Lord's Supper" even the term 'Holy Communion' seems to be out of favour.
I was glad the first year I went to St James we had this most moving service with seven sermons. Then last year they changed the format to just one sermon and many readings with the choir singing chants and leading the congregation in other hymns (no organ).
Some of the readings were very moving, not just scripture but other poems eg.
Bruce Dawe "And A Good Friday Was Had by All" which ends
"then we hauled on the ropes
and he rose in the hot air
like a diver just leaving the springboard, arms spread
so it seemed
over the whole damned creation
over the big men who must have had it in for him
and the curious ones who'll watch anything if it's free
with only the usual women caring anywhere
and a blind man in tears."
As we had some of the same this year it was a bit disappointing. For some reason they have also included the Eucharist although it is reserved from Thursday night (I did not think that was allowed in our Diocese)
As I have stated, while Holy Communion has been reduced in importance in the Diocese generally, they often cannot think of any thing else to do on Good Friday. We often had the Litany when I was young, the only time I ever heard it. At other times we had ante-communion. (which can be confusing if not spelt properly:-))
To me it is always meaningful to receive the Eucharist on Thursday evening and then not again until the wonderful celebration of Easter Morning.
I have stayed seated during the Eucharist on the last 2 Good Fridays and think next year I may attend the Last Supper service on Thursday and not attend on Good Friday.
As it is not possible to attend every day during Holy Week I have greatly enjoyed visiting the blogs on the right (even if they are a day late for me:-)) especially Father Jake with his readings and thoughts and both Susan Russell and Elizabeth Kaeton.
Just imagine, Jensenites, I am being spiritually fed by priests who are not only women but gay as well.
I felt particularly motivated by Susan's message on Tuesday. “The Spiritual Gift of Righteous Indignation” which included:
'And as we follow Jesus this week in the way of the cross may we also be given the grace to take up the cross of righteous indignation and take ON those religious authorities who presume to say who qualifies and who doesn’t to be gathered into God’s loving embrace.'

I will follow this up because I have received a reply to my letter (petition) from Archbishop Jensen (or one of his minions) and now that Holy Week is over I intend writing an answer which I am afraid will not be polite.
And on that topic please read the article in the Guardian about Bishop Gene Robinson. Wonderful wonderful man.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Monday, March 17, 2008

HMAS Sydney

Most of my regular readers are from overseas and I just want to mention that today is an important day in Australian wartime history. The wreck of the HMAS Sydney has most probably been located 120 miles off the Western Australia coast. In November 1941, she sank with the loss of all 645 crew after a short battle with the German Raider Kormoran who was also sunk but most of whose crew survived. It was quite emotional watching interviews with some of the widows and some of the children who never knew their father or lost him at a very young age. When I first heard that the Government was going to spend a lot of money on renewing the search for this ship, I was a bit sceptical thinking it would be like searching for the needle in the haystack. I am glad to be proved wrong.
My uncle Ernest was killed on the Somme in 1915 and in 2002 I visited his grave and was glad to be able to take back home to my mother a picture of me kneeling by the grave of her big brother who did not return home when she was only 6 years old. She kept that photo on her mantelpiece for the last 4 years of her life. Last year I returned to the grave with my sister and laid flowers in memory of his little sister.
I can only imagine the relief tinged with sadness of finally knowing after so many years the resting place of one's father, brother or husband. May God bless the relatives at this time and grant eternal rest to the sailors.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Bishops in New South Wales

I know overseas Anglicans are often confused when they hear that Peter Jensen is Archbishop of Sydney. In Australia the title Archbishop is given to the Bishop of the State Capital Cities. The Archbishop does not have any jurisdiction over the other dioceses within the state. He is usually present at the consecration of any of the regional bishops which may prove interesting if any of the NSW dioceses elects a woman as their bishop.
The Primate of Australia is elected by General Synod and is usually but not necessarily one of the Archbishops. At the moment it is ++Phillip Aspinall of Brisbane.
Canberra became the national capital in 1927 and prior to its choice was not much more than a rural sheep station. It was located in the then Diocese of Goulburn which became the Diocese of Canberra and Goulburn in 1950. The cathedral is in Gouburn but the administrative offices are in Canberra which is now much larger. It could be argued that there should be an Archbishop seated there.
I was glad to read in not too much a statement by the recently retired Bishop of Canberra and Goulburn +George Browning. The position is currently vacant (a woman anyone ;-)
"I want for a moment to turn to our own Anglican Communion. It is a very sad, and a sorry state of affairs, that we could be moving towards a loosening of the ties of friendship and fellowship between us, because of the insistence by some that we be committed to the law of Moses "unremembered", a commitment that apparently does not appreciate, or understand, that it is be understood and fulfilled in the life of Jesus.

Let me be quite specific. Of course homosexuality is a contentious issue in the community at large, and in the community of faith. Of course the issue is understood differently in different cultures across the world. Rightly, or wrongly, the Anglican Church of Australia, holds the position of the last Lambeth conference, a conservative position in relation to those who can be ordained and in the matter of the blessing of same sex unions.

In the light of all of this, it is incomprehensible, and I believe inexcusable, that the Archbishop of Sydney should be one of those in the forefront of anticipating division within the Anglican Communion, and has gone on public record as one who is sponsoring the proposed "alternative Lambeth" in Jerusalem in the middle of this year.

He is reported to have said the matter is much more serious than simply a matter of sexuality; it goes to the heart of the authority of scripture itself. On this I absolutely agree. It does go to the heart of scripture itself. But read the scripture: the Law of Moses is to be remembered in the light of the revelation of nature of God in Jesus.

I say to Peter Akinola and Peter Jensen, "Come with me and the Church to the Damascus Rd, come and be confronted by the voice of the Living One, the one who walks on the water and raises the dead. Come with me into the presence of the one who re-members the Law of Moses, and offers it as a tool of life, not a weapon of exclusion and death." I have written to Archbishop Peter Jensen urging him to reconsider his proposal. He has absolutely no right to impose his agenda without consultation upon the Church in the Middle East, and if he is genuine about a debate on scripture, let us have it, for I am one who rejoices in the knowledge that all scripture is to be exposed on the anvil of revelation, which is Jesus Christ."

I have already referred to the statement by + Brian Farran of Newcastle (NSW) I wrote a thank you note on the Diocesan Forum
This has now had a lengthy addition from
Sandy Grant, St Michael’s Anglican Cathedral, Wollongong which seems to equate committed homosexual relationships with the sexual activities of the Woman taken in adultery????
Thankfully +Brian Farran has replied including:
"For me the fundamental issue in this whole matter was the need for another voice. Up to the time of my releasing my statement the only voice that Australians and international Anglicans were hearing was that of the Archbishop of Sydney. Obviously within the broad spectrum of the Anglican Church of Australia there are dissenting voices from that of Dr. Jensen. I patiently waited for others to contribute but with nothing forthcoming I decided on advice from others to make my statement.

After reading your letter carefully several times it becomes evident that you conclude that the only authentic view is your own. This applies to your exegesis of texts that you offer in regard to your understanding of the doctrine of the atonement."
"the only authentic view is your own "sounds familiar when reading the views of the typical Jensenite
The only other regional bishop whose views I can find are those of Bishop Peter Brain of Armidale who was trained at Moore Theological College but has also criticised the decision of the Sydney bishops to boycott Lambeth.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Final statement from Lambeth

Please go and read the statement by Bishop Gene Robinson as it has finally been made clear that he is not to be invited to join with the other Anglican Bishops at Lambeth. The man is a saint and I have been reduced to tears just reading his statement.

Some excerpts that moved me.
I wasn't going to Lambeth to have another interview with the secular press. If interviewed at all, I want to talk with a theologian. I want to talk about the love of Christ. I want to talk about the God who saved me and redeemed me and continues to live in my life. I want to talk about the Jesus I know in my life.

But my mind boggles at the misperception that this is just about gay rights. It might be in another context, but in this context it is about God's love of all of God's children. It's a theological discussion, it's not a media show. I have been most disappointed in that my desire was to participate in Bible study and small groups, and that is not being offered. It makes me wonder: if we can't sit around a table and study the Bible together, what kind of communion do we have and what are we trying to save?
In my most difficult moments, it feels as if, instead of leaving the 99 sheep in search of the one, my chief pastor and shepherd, the Archbishop of Canterbury, has cut me out of the herd.

I ask two things of you. Some of you have indicated that if I am not invited, you won't go either. I want to say loud and clear - you must go. You must find your voice. And somehow you have to find my voice and the voices of all the gay and lesbian people in your diocese who, for now, don't have a voice in this setting. I'd much rather be talked to than talked about. But you must go and tell the stories of your people, faithful members of your flock who happen to be lesbian and gay.

For God's sake, don't stay away.
Pray for me. I will need that. A lot.
I personally promised to pray for him on that wonderful day I met him last year. I regard him as my bishop.
Akinola and Jensen need not worry about being contaminated if they attend Lambeth. I would not shake hands with Jensen if he visited St James. It would be all I could do to refrain from spitting on him but he need not worry I am HIV free.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Roman in the Gloamin

Caliban's post "Help! The Romans are Coming" about the reaction of the Sydney Evangelicals to the visit by the Pope for World Youth Day in Sydney has inspired me to describe a little of my religious history.
I was baptised, went to Sunday School, sang in the junior choir and was eventually confirmed in a typical Sydney Evangelical church of the 50's. The Rector was a little different however. While he could preach a good evangelistic sermon (and as I grew older he would chuckle as he asked me if I enjoyed it), his typical sermon could be best described by the joke of the Rector's warden one morning when he was found reading the paper before the service and said he was checking what the sermon topic might be. The Rector's politics and mine were quite opposed (I have matured) so I was often annoyed. The services were low church but definitely Anglican with Holy Communion at 8am, Morning Prayer at 9.30 (Communion twice per month) and Evening Prayer at 7pm (Communion once per month)
As I grew older, I taught Sunday school and became Fellowship Leader. As I was considering entering the Ministry (I am using the terms I would have used in those days), I asked the Rector if I could read the service occasionally. He threw me in the deep end by telling me to preach first at the Evening Service. However he told me if I went over 13 minutes, he would announce the next hymn.
Although we argued often, several things stand out for me about his ministry. He told me to beware of both extremes in the Anglican church. He also questioned why I did not regularly attend 8am Communion despite being at church nearly all the rest of each sunday. For him Holy Communion was the most important part of church life. This is not the Sydney Evangelical view today
Finally I am most grateful to him for my Father. The Rector was not known for regular parish visiting (in his defence he was a very sick man and his illness finally killed him) but when my Father had a heart attack, the Rector visited him in hospital. Dad only attended church occasionally and was bemused by his very religious son. He had heard me preach but made no comment. After the hospital visit Dad kept saying "Why did he visit me?" From that day on Dad attended church every Sunday, pushing Mum to attend although Mum had always been a regular worshipper. (I know I owe my faith to my Mother's teaching and example). Dad died 6 months later and I am sure he and Mum are waiting for me.

To return to my religious journey. Besides the parish, I was involved in the Inter-School Christian Fellowship run by Scripture Union and eventually was one of the leaders. When I went to Sydney University, I quickly joined the Evangelical Union which took up more of my time than my studies. I was often at activities in Moore Theological College which adjoins the University. I knew the present Dean of Sydney, Phillip Jensen and a number of others who are now the leaders in the Diocese. I became Arts Faculty Leader of the Evangelical Union. My plan was to teach for a few years and then enter Moore College. However I still use to say I was an Anglican first, Evangelical second and once told Phillip Jensen he would be better joining the Baptist church. However, I would still make fun of the few Anglo-Catholic churches that can be found in the Sydney Diocese. No bells, incense or bowing and scraping for me.

In those days homosexuality was not discussed, even in the newspapers, and I do not think the word 'gay" existed in this sense. It was not until I studied psychology at University that I was able to put a name to my feelings. I sought help from psychiatrists who told me I would be in danger as a teacher. I, however, still became a teacher, tried through prayer and psychiatric treatments to change and was encouraged to propose and become engaged. I was still a youth leader, supported the Christian groups at the school where I taught, went on Beach Mission, was invited as a speaker at Youth Houseparties and counselled in Billy Graham Crusades.

The engagement was the moment of truth when I realised I could not change. After I broke the engagement, my whole life changed. While I still occasionally attended church, I was more likely to be found at the pub. I still worked with youth but now I took them surfing and no, I never did anything illegal. I joined gay activist groups as we fought to become legal.

After a difficult school posting, I changed to the Catholic school system and am coming to the point of this post.
I was bowled over by the life of the religious with whom I taught. The sermons of the priests was different to anything I had heard in Anglican sermons (and they were very unlikely to go over 13 minutes). I was accepted although a protestant, encouraged to partake of the Mass, because I was a member of their community. I was not thrown out when I came out as gay. I know this was not the official lines but the position taken by ordinary religious and lay people. I use to state I would never be employed in an Anglican school.
In the same week as I stormed out of my Anglican church (having just read the epistle) after the Minister equated homosexuality and bestiality as evil, I attended a retreat for lay teachers and received help, acceptance and support from a wonderful sister who was leading the retreat.
I began to attend "Acceptance" for gay catholics where we once had a Bishop (since retired) preside. This became my weekly communion. I came to the realisation that God loved me as He had created me - gay.
I, naturally, began to accept incense and bells, make the sign of the cross and to bow and scrape myself. :-)
I did attend Catholic parish masses for a number of years but never felt I was part of the community and there were a number of obstacles to my converting, papal infallibility being the most obvious but also devotion to Mary (less a problem today), prayers to the Saints and transubstantiation. Some of my Catholic friends did not agree with everything either but they did not have to make a statement of support in order to be a Catholic today.
Eventually I moved back to the Anglican church and tried several parishes here in the Blue Mountains but never really belonging, always wary and moving on if they became too inquisitive.
Finally in 2006 the Rector where I was worshipping at the time preached the sermon I often expected. This was brought on by the film "Brokeback Mountain" which had emotionally swamped me a week or so earlier. I stormed out (during the hymn that followed the sermon) and decided to travel the 2 hours each way to St James, King Street which is one of the churches I laughed at in my youth. The sermons provide some meat, not out to convert me again every week. Sometimes they even preach about God's inclusive Love for all including homosexuals. Women take an important role in the service (other than arranging flowers and handing out books which is all they do in the churches near my home). We have women priests from other dioceses preaching. They cannot preside at communion as we are under the authority of the Archbishop of Sydney. I have begun to attend classes and meetings at the St James Institute and at one of them I met Bishop Gene Robinson. I can go to coffee after the Eucharist and not worry about being asked personal questions and have often mentioned I am gay even to the Priest.
So while I am not a Roman Catholic and will remain an Anglican, I thank God that I was led to work for 25 years in Catholic Diocesan schools and experienced the teaching and acceptance of all those Godly men and women. I will pray for World Youth Day here in Sydney as I know 'God works in mysterious ways his wonders to perform.'