Friday, June 27, 2008

Musings on Jensen and Gafcon

I have been following all the discussion on GAFCON but we still do not seem to know what is going on behind closed doors. I am surprised that our local city paper, the Sydney Morning Herald, has gone quiet on the issue, considering our Archbishop, Peter Jensen, seems to have taken the running in preventing Akinola and his mates from making complete fools of themselves. As Jensen is obviously not a fool, I wonder that he has got himself linked up with these thugs. Perhaps he has begun to realise some truths about them. He seems to be backpedalling from making a complete break with the Anglican communion. Is he finally realising that his view of the church is completely different to theirs?
Did he see them in all their liturgical finery?
Did he realise they are really in favour of stoning gays and do not object to the murder of a few moslems?
Or did he mention lay presidency to them over coffee and get a sharp rebuke?

Sydney Diocese has nothing in common with these people except their hatred of homosexuals. Many of the bishops with whom he is fraternising have ordained women to the priesthood, something he regards with horror. He has apparently now stated that GAFCON 'is a coalition of people who would not necessarily work together'. I could have told him that months ago. He has stated it is not possible for the Sydney Diocese to secede from the Australian Province so what is he hoping to achieve?

The talk now is not of a schism but of forming a “church within a church”. This may be okay for conservative parishes within liberal dioceses but what about those of us forced to live and worship within the Diocese of Sydney but feeling completely alienated from it. Will Jensen allow us to form a “church within a church”?
I doubt it.
I have been interested in the discussion on Father Jake's site, that occurred while I was travelling, between my good friend Alcibiades and another person from Sydney who calls himself Obadiah Slope. Having read 'Barchester Chronicles' once and seen the TV series several times, that is not a name I would choose for myself, hardly an example of a godly cleric.
Obadiah seems to think that if wealthy parishes like St James, King Street were able to take their allegiance elsewhere, they would be balanced by evangelical parishes from other dioceses. I cannot imagine Sydney allowing the trade to be both ways.
I am fearful every time an anglo-catholic parish falls vacant. St Luke's Mosman has just had their vacancy filled by Canon Bruce McAteer. He was general secretary of the Australian General Synod but I cannot find anything else about his background. Nearby St Peter's, Cremorne is vacant and they are losing Rev Dr Erica Mathieson who is getting married and is to be inducted into the parish at Hackett (Diocese of Canberra-Goulburn). Sydney born, Erica was priested in Melbourne but I believe had to return to Sydney for family reasons where she has had to work as a deacon in both St Luke's and St Peter's while retired men have been needed to temporarily run the parishes. Good luck to her, Sydney's loss is Canberra's gain.
Now I hear Father James McPherson has moved from St Mark's Granville to Maryborough (where I worshipped last September) in the Diocese of Brisbane. They advertise themselves as the only high church in the Western region of Sydney. Will they remain so?
Obadiah tells me the Sydney bishops want to maintain the few anglo-catholic parishes for those who want to worship in them. St Mark's Granville will be a test.
He refers to St Paul's Burwood in his own local area. That also happens to be the area in which I grew up and worshipped (was also youth leader and occasional preacher in later years) at Holy Trinity Concord West. It was evangelical but Anglican. The rector criticised me for not regularly attending Holy Communion even though I spent most of Sunday at the church but like most young people did not want to get up early. Today their website advertises 'meetings', one is 'traditional' whatever that means. I cannot tell when there is a service of Holy Communion.
My parents were married in St Anne's, Strathfield and my sister wanted to be married there. We therefore attended the Eucharist every sunday for 6 months prior to the wedding and as a 17 year old, it was my first introduction to an anglo-catholic liturgy. My sister still jokes at the look on my face when I was first given a piece of paper (wafer) instead of bread at communion. This church has now joined the ranks of the evangelicals.
I do not know about St Paul's Burwood (I cannot find a website). Nearby St Luke's Concord is special to me as the church where we farewelled my mother. The rector will be retiring in November and I doubt it will remain a moderately high church let alone the centre for meetings of MOW (Movement for the Ordination of Women).

No, I cannot see the Diocese of Sydney allowing liberal and/or anglo-catholic parishes to flourish within its boundaries in exchange for being able to establish elsewhere, history has shown otherwise. I guess I will continue to be ashamed when travelling to say that I am an Anglican from Sydney.
As Father Jake said in the discussion on his blog
What is clear is that the group gathered in Jerusalem is not representative of Anglicanism. Their leaders consist of Abps. who plunder congregations from other Anglican Provinces, speak out against civil rights for Muslims, teach a literal interpretation of scripture, advocate for lay presiders at the Eucharist, and believe the rape and torture of gays and lesbians in their backyards is a cultural matter which is none of their concern.

If this is the future of Anglicanism, I don't want anything to do with it.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Prayers for Jane McGrath, Glenn and her children

Jane McGrath, wife of one of our leading sportsmen, lost her battle with cancer yesterday. Farewell to a fighter, an inspiration to all. May God take her into His loving care and be with her husband and young children as they face the future without her. May God care for all women fighting this disease and support those working to find a cure.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Various - mainly gay marriage and Jensen/GAFCON

Now that I am home, there seems little to blog about.  Or rather, the things I want to blog about are already filling other blogs. 
I am so happy about the gay marriages in California and the stand made by Rev Martin Dudley in London by marrying the two male priests. Like another Martin who made a stand and defied authorities in Wittenberg where I was less than 2 weeks ago.  I feel a little wistful reading at the happiness of these people.  I have only had just one relationship which lasted 18 months just over 25 years ago. 
I am also happy to see there are problems in GAFCON or gaffecon.  I could hug the Jordanians for keeping Akinola out.  There was an item in our paper about Jensen setting off for the meeting on the same day I received yet another request for funds from Anglicare  so I finally sent off an email and told them they were wasting their money sending me letters as I would not support any organisation of which he is President. I suggested he give them the money he spends jetting about the world aiming to destroy the Anglican church.  I bet he doesn't fly economy. 
They replied "Whilst ANGLICARE regret your decision to discontinue donation we nevertheless remain steadfast in support of our President and Chairman, Dr Peter Jensen, Archbishop of Sydney" 
which only confirms my decision.  I guess this was pointed at my referring to him as just Peter Jensen. The only titles I feel like giving him these days are unprintable. 

However, in case any of you have not visited Father Jake recently please read the article in Newsweek  Let Me Worship as I am
As far as I am concerned, it says it all.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Back in the Blue Mountains

Am back home after 61 nights away. Perhaps I should not have complained about the heat in Frankfurt as am having to adjust to a cold spell here and find the heaters stored away last winter. Least said about the flights the better, had dinner again in Bangkok with Tony and Somphong. Stayed with my sister and brother-in-law in Sydney and Bev drove me home yesterday. The car sulked by refusing to start until the NRMA (road service) man arrived when it started immediately (probably fuel had dried out, not the battery, he said). My clever plans to thwart burglars by hiding the car keys and the TV remote just had me searching madly through the house for them.
Now to get back to normal. It is nice not to have to dress before breakfast nor go out to find somewhere for dinner and today I am just not going to go anywhere but I have yet to face having to wash the dishes myself again. Thanks for the comments and prayers over the last 2 months. Finally the view from my house across the Mid-Mountains.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Return to Germany

It has now been just over a week since I posted from Finland. I spent 24 hours sailing from Helsinki to Rostock in Germany. I was pleased and surprised to find that I had internet connection in my cabin on the ship. Every time I looked, there was at least one other ship in sight and often we could just see the coasts of Sweden, Poland and Germany. As we approached Rostock, I tried my mobile phone and it was trying to connect to Danish telecoms. There was a bit of a hassle trying to get from the ship to the hotel, the company does not really cater for the few travellers without cars. However I had an English couple with whom to share my frustration. I spent an hour wandering in Rostock the next morning and the city centre is very pleasant despite the surrounding depressed factory areas and ship yards. There is still some evidence of the old city walls and the Steintor or stone gate was just a few yards from my hotel.

I caught the train to Leipzig with a 30 minute change back in Berlin. For several reasons I was not impressed with Leipzig. It is still undergoing great changes and rebuilding including an underground railway which meant construction sites everywhere. You can tell you are in the old East Germany by the dilapidated, often empty buildings near the railway and those horrible 50's flats in the suburbs. My hotel was located amongst some of these. I knew it was a 20 minute walk from the station but did not expect nearly as long to reach a restaurant.

Bicycles are far more in evidence in European cities than in Australia but in Leipzig they were a plague. Pedestrians are definitely bottom of the pecking order. Lights generally control cars and while trams do not follow the same light system they are large and noisy but bicycles creep up on you from all directions sometimes at speed. They have their own paths which must be crossed but I found they were quite happy to infringe on the marked pedestrian paths if travelling abreast or overtaking each other. I am afraid I will not be so sympathetic to more bike paths in Sydney in future.

I mainly chose Leipzig as a base from which to travel to nearby towns and found Weimar much nicer. I spent quite some time in Goethe's house. Goethe is the German's equivalent of Shakespeare for the English. In fact he was far more prolific, having lived to a good age and had wider interests than just literature. I remember learning some of his easier poems when I studied German at school. The photo shows his house from the garden, no photos were allowed inside.

I have since found there are Goethe houses in several towns and passed the one in Frankfurt. I guess he moved around a bit in over 80 years. Weimar was also the home of the dramatist Schiller and composer Lizt. They also have their houses on display but I preferred a walk in the park which includes another pleasant house with garden where Goethe lived first.
Northern Germany was now having what they referred to as a heatwave and while not equal to those in Australia it was much more pleasant sitting in the shade of trees during the day. I also enjoyed some musicians playing in the main street, a brass band, they played popular classics but also some more recent tunes like "I did it my way".

The next day I travelled to the town we all know as Wittenberg, now called Lutherstadt - Wittenberg. It was where Luther nailed his 95 theses to the wall of the church and later established the Lutheran church. I discovered it was the main festival day for the town which was a mixed blessing. My aim to move quickly through the town and get back to see some sights in Leipzig was thwarted by the crowds. While I spent a long time in Luther's house and could have spent more, the Castle church,where he is buried and where he nailed his theses had a free organ concert in progress. I listened for 20 minutes but could not get near the pulpit to see where he and his friend Melancthon are buried. All this revived memories of my early modern history course at Sydney University way back in 1964. I did buy lunch of bratwurst and crepes from stalls (much like I usually buy at the Katoomba mid-winter festival which is in two weeks time) and saw a bit of the parade with everyone in medieval costume.

However, I rushed back to Leipzig to visit the Bach museum, only to find it is closed for renovations until next year. I did visit St Thomas Church where he wrote some of greatest works from 1723 until his death in 1750. His tomb is in front of the altar.
He also worked in Weimar but the church there was closed for a meeting and his works were also performed at the Nikolaikirche in Leipzig which I visited. It is very ornate.

On Sunday I moved on again by an ICE train to Frankfurt am Main. These trains have whizzed me through Germany at speeds of about 120-150km per hour occasionally passing 200km/hr. You are served drinks at your seat (First class) and given free pretzels or cookies. Sometimes the conductor has attempted to help the grey haired old man with his case. I must point out, the rail passes sold outside Europe are only available in 1st class unless you are a student. On the days when I have purchased a ticket, I have joined the masses in 2nd class.

I stayed overnight in Frankfurt way back in 1974 and have changed planes in the airport several times since but thought it would be good to see the city again. It is, of course, the financial hub of Europe which is evident in the skyscrapers. I made the mistake of going up one of these to the observation platform. When I saw the fence was made of clear plastic, I stayed way back. Some parts of the old city have been rebuilt since my first visit, they were all destroyed during the war. It was Monday so all the museums were closed therefore I mainly wandered the city and along the river. To avoid the heat in the afternoon, I spent over an hour travelling with my day pass on the airconditioned trams.

I made sure I visited the first memorial in Europe to the homosexuals who were also persecuted by the nazis but whose sufferings were not recognised for many years afterwards.
The core of the monument is Rosemarie Trockel's "injured" angel. As a cast of a 19th-century bronze sculpture the angel cites history; time has left its mark on it. Only at second glance does the viewer discern what Trockel herself has changed: the head was broken off, turned to one side and then placed back on so that a noticeable scar remains. As an androgynous being, the injured angel stands as a symbol for "being different", and likewise as a symbol of the violence which homosexuals faced during the Third Reich. A circle consisting of four benches, enclosed by four hedges of box trees, creates a sense of intimacy and tranquility, enabling viewers to contemplate the statue and remember the past.

Located in the heart of Frankfurt's downtown and in the midst of the city's gay/lesbian sub-culture, the Monument to the Persecution of Homosexuals on what is now Klaus Mann Platz is a public symbol against the past being forgotten. As a "village square" it is also a preferred meeting point for the local community and an expression of the self-confidence with which gays and lesbians live in society today.

I referred to my visit to the Holocaust monument in Berlin when I was there. Since my visit only 3 weeks ago, a monument to the homosexuals who were killed by the Nazis has been opened across the street.

Of course, Germany is now in the grip of Europe Cup fever. Fortunately I am not in Austria or Switzerland. However choosing a restaurant for dinner has involved finding one in which the match is not too loud. I decided it was better to be in my hotel by the end of the match between Germany and Poland on Sunday night just in case. However Germany won.

I continued my journey south yesterday and am back in Munich where I started my European odyssey 8 weeks ago. I went to dinner with my host, Rodney, last night but the planned beer garden choice was booked out due to the Football and we went to a nearby restaurant which strangely did not have a TV but was much better for conversation if not for atmosphere. Now to pack and have a final wander through one of my favourite cities before that awful plane journey with again a stopover in Bangkok. I spent the last few days looking forward to getting home but a return to Bavaria and Munich has me wishing Germany and Australia were much closer.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Rev Sue Speaks Out

Rev Sue Emeleus was deacon at my mother's church for many years and my mother was greatly nourished by Sue's ministry. I have written of my mother's wonderful smile when Sue came, in the last week of Mum's life, and anointed her with holy oil from Jerusalem. In Sydney Diocese Sue cannot administer the sacraments, that had to be done by a man whom Mum only slightly knew.
A week later Sue officiated at Mum's cremation and later at her memorial service.
In her sermon she obliquely referred to Mum's acceptance of my sexuality
" To our shame we still haven't learnt that lesson, but Jesus continues to plead with us through the scriptures. These are the things I would regularly speak about at St Luke's, and one of my most enthusiastic of hearers was Marge. How many 90 somethings do we know who can see beyond the traditions they have been brought up on and say, yes, I think you are right. I think Jesus is inclusive, never exclusive, and therefore so should we include everyone.

Marge Ralph was intelligent, thoughtful and a woman of God.
She listened to God's voice, and when she believed she could
hear it, she would welcome it and say amen. I'm sure our
inclusive God has already welcomed her home, but I know I
will remember her as a woman ahead of her time, who saw
Jesus as representing a God in whom there are no exclusions.
She would often tell me how much she agreed with something
I'd said, and always it was something about being more
inclusive and less exclusive. If only the church would hear the
feelings and opinions of people like Marge Ralph. God go with
you all as you journey on the difficult road of living without
her physical presence. In spirit I have no doubt she will always be with us. Amen."

Sue has just written in the Sydney Morning Herald. It is in response to an article last weekend which I do not think is online
Please read Sue's words and pray for Godly women in Sydney who are oppressed by the Diocesan leaders. I am sure this will not further her popularity with them.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008


I have now spent over a week in Finland, broken by my excursion to Tallinn for 2 nights. After arriving the first morning, I was taken by my host, Jari, by ferry across the harbour to the fortress island of Suomenlinna. Building started in 1748 to defend against the Russians but it was not very successful and the Russians owned it for most of the 19th century. It was also a naval dockyard but has now been restored for civilian use with museums, cafes and restaurants.

I was also taken for a quick walk through the city which helped orientate me for later exploration.
However before doing this I travelled by train about 900 km north to Rovaniemi where I caught the local bus 8km further to the Arctic Circle. It really was midnight sun as it did not set that night until 12.15am and was up again just after 2am

I even wandered through Santaland and met the old gentleman before returning to Rovaniemi and spending a few hours in the Museum called Arktikum learning about geological processes, wildlife and the traditional life of the people of the arctic lands. For lunch I had smoked reindeer on a bun. The town is pleasantly situated on the longest river in Finland but is quite modern having been razed to the ground as the Germans retreated in 1944.

I returned to Helsinki in the overnight train and spent the next morning visiting the harbour front, the Lutheran cathedral which dominates the town,
and the Orthodox Cathedral which rivals it, as well as the impressive university library and other government and private buildings. It is a very pleasant city in which to wander. Several of the cultural buildings, Finlandia Hall and the Opera House are built around Tooloo Bay
However I was to make yet another trip , this time 300 kilometres to the north -east , driven by my hosts to stay with Jari's family in Savonlinna. This is a land of lakes and forests and in the town is the castle of Olavinlinna built in 1475. It is now used for opera performances in summer and preparations for this prevented us accessing some sections but we were taken on a tour of the towers, more steps.
We drove out through the beautiful lake country with the varying greens of the spruce and birch which is hard to cover in one photo to a forestry research station and museum called Lusto (Finnish for growth ring) and discovered much about the history of forestry in the country and how the logs were floated down the rivers. On the way back to Savonlinna we stopped at the largest wooden church in the world but unfortunately it was closed.
Besides experiencing lavish Finnish hospitality in the way of food I was taken to the family cabin set way out amongst the lakes and forests in a beautiful tranquil setting and was able to spend the evening here (including a sauna but I declined a swim in the lake at 14deg. ) before the sun set after 10pmWe drove back yesterday and having been near the Russian border in lands once ruled by Russia, it seemed appropriate to go to a Russian restaurant for dinner. Today I have wandered some more streets and parks of the city by foot and by tram and seen the Sibelius monument and a church built into the rock. In a few hours I will be leaving Finland on a ferry which will take 24 hours to reach Rostock where I will be back in Germany for the last week of my travels.