Sunday, September 27, 2009

Confused Ritual

Often, after attending church, I return home to read blogs and it is wonderful that some of them contain sermons on the same readings as I have just heard. The different slants by other preachers is very edifying.
Today I am a bit confused as our church celebrated Michaelmas or St Michael and all Angels day and so the readings were quite different. A search on Wikipedia tells me that Michaelmas is next Tuesday so I do not know why we celebrated today.
However we heard a very good sermon on angels or messengers of God  from our previous rector (before I commenced worshipping at St James) now the Bishop of Bathurst, Right Rev Richard Hurford.  There were lots of hugs and kisses at the door as we left. He even gave me a very warm greeting. I do not know if this is usual with him or he was taking insurance in case he had forgotten my face, it was 9 years ago. Our present Rector is leaving in November. he is much more reserved so I cannot imagine the same amount of hugs and kisses if he returns for a visit in 9 years time.

The children did not go out to "Kids@Church" but remained to read the lessons and the prayers of the faithful. Those too young to undertake those tasks collected the offertory (carefully monitored by adults) and formed the offertory procession.  The wine flagon was carried by a little boy not much bigger than it which had my heart in my mouth but I gather there must have been a slight accident with the equally small girl carrying the bread to the altar.

After the Eucharistic prayer and just before the ministers were to process from the altar to the communion rail, I noticed one of them moving across the sanctuary making good use of a dustpan and broom.  Not sure if there is a correct procedure for that in the Sarum rite.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Martian Skies

We woke this morning to red dust over the town and blanketing everything. I smelt it before I opened my eyes. My silver car is now red. The news says the air pollution levels went to 1500 times their normal levels - the highest on record. Over half the state is covered. This is not so unusual for the west of the state but the dust rarely reaches the coast in this way.
The usual arguments about whether it is a result of climate change or just a rare occurrence.
I plan to have all my windows washed before putting the house on the market. I would have been very annoyed if they had been washed last week.
The skies are blue again but the winds are still very strong. We had a big storm last night, I would quite like another one to wash everything including the car.

I was going to take a photo from my window but it would just look like a fairly common foggy morning so I have taken some of the two Sydney icons  from the Sydney Morning Herald website.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Thanksgiving and prayer request

My brother-in-law had a colonoscopy last week. Have just received this email from my sister.

Russ went back to Dr today - he has colon cancer. Doctor said it was only in one of the polyps and he believes they got it all out - has to have another procedure in December to check. Doctor said he was really very lucky as it is a most aggressive cancer with no symptoms.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Sad history

At the meeting with Archbishop Aspinall last Wednesday, I was introduced to a priest in this Diocese who is inclusive and told me about his discussions with other priests about homosexuality.
In telling him my story I mentioned the Rev John T and he confirmed a fact about John which until now had only been suspicions in my mind.

The story of Rev John T (I will not divulge his full name at this time) is very important to me and explains some of the anger I feel with the Diocese of Sydney today.

During the early 60's I was at university doing an Arts degree followed by an Education diploma. I was heavily involved with the Evangelical Union and became Arts Faculty Leader. I was also Youth Leader at my local parish church.

In 1966 I became a teacher at Kingsgrove High School. My focus for Christian service turned towards the Inter School Christian Fellowship at the school. While I never led the group, there were keen women teachers to take that role, my diary shows I regularly attended, took bible studies, ran social activites etc.

I began to regularly attend the Anglican church near the school. Reading my diary for 1967 I find I would often attend both my local church and the church near the school on the same Sunday though I seemed to be alternating until I resigned as Youth Leader in November 1967.

The Rector at Kingsgrove was Rev John T. He was probably in his 40's but very committed to the Youth work of the parish and soon conscripted me into assisting him. Many of the young people were my students.

In 1968 I began teaching scripture at school on behalf of the parish during what would otherwise have been preparation time for me. My diary shows that I went with Rev John on a youth camp in February. I was the only other 'adult' there. He appointed me as one of his parish councillors and I was often at supper in the rectory after Evening Prayer.

My diary is difficult reading at that time. There are comments about "having an opportunity to witness to the Lord", there were times when I took particular girls 'out' but much more about my going to the beach with various boys (students and ex-students) one of whom I idolised, he had a stunning smile. I took him and 3 others on an unforgettable camping holiday to the Gold Coast over the new year 1967-68. There are also cryptic entries which list times I drove alone to areas where I might meet up with gangs. I had no idea where to meet other gay men and as far as I knew did not know any other such men although my diary also records that I had long heart to heart talks (no details recorded) with another ex-student who was a committed Christian. I now occasionally exchange emails with him, still an Anglican but also worshipping at an Anglo-catholic parish, in Melbourne and in a same-sex partnership. I have a feeling that he, although also struggling, may have been more aware than the teacher who was 6 years his senior.

Rev John was a single man and had a boarder living with him in the rectory. The boarder was leaving and I was asked to move in. The Billy Graham Crusade at the Showground was about to start and I had trained as a counsellor. Rev John suggested I move in for the week partly as a trial and also to reduce my travel, as the Crusade was closer to the school and rectory than where I lived with my parents.

On the first weekday of the Crusade (April 22) the assistant priest visited me at school to tell me Rev John had gone into hospital and I would not be able to stay in the rectory. All I knew was he had some kind of breakdown. With a few other young people from the parish I visited him in hospital on May 7. A google search of the hospital name shows it was a Methodist run private psychiatric hospital. Rev John never returned to the parish and his resignation was announced on June 11. I never saw him again. I read that he was working as director of the Sydney office of the Church Missionary Society. Some years later I read that he had died. It was confirmed to me (I had an inkling) on Wednesday night that he committed suicide.

I know that was in the 'bad old days' Homosexuality was illegal, 2 years later I also underwent psychiatric treatment and as a result became engaged to a girl from the same parish. Six months afterwards I realised it would be an impossible situation, broke the engagement and also left the parish. There were several years of only occasional church attendance. I have never been so involved in church since. I do not know when I became aware of why Rev John had a nervous breakdown but it was one factor in showing me that the priesthood was not for me.

In hindsight I realise Rev John must have understood more about me than I did at the time, we joke about 'gaydar' these days.

These days in liberal, inclusive dioceses, men like Rev John could find an adult partner which would give him a feeling of contentment and joy. He would not therefore feel tempted by the young men around him in the parish. I am sure he never acted on those temptations but know only too well the feelings of self-loathing they must have generated in him.
That any man (or woman) should still be made to feel that way in these days angers me immensely. Thank God I came to realise those teachings were false and that God loves me as I am.

I am sure God welcomed Rev John into his arms as 'a good and faithful servant'.

Peter, Paul and MARY

When I heard that Mary Travers had died, it meant nothing until the announcer said Peter, Paul & Mary.
Oh what memories it brought back. I was at University from 1962 to 1965 and Peter, Paul & Mary provided the background for that time in my life.

When I looked at the songs on Youtube I did not know which to choose, they all have such evocative feelings for me. 'If I had a hammer', 'The times they are a changing', 'Blowing in the wind', even 'Puff the magic dragon'. 'Leaving on a jet plane' came later when I was into my teaching career.
I finally chose 'Where have all the flowers gone'. Gives many reasons for the tears.
Vale Mary (November 9, 1936 – September 16, 2009)
I have just learned that this was sung at the funeral of Harry Patch, the last British soldier of the First World War, in Wells Cathedral on August 9, 2009

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Gracious Restraint!!!!!!

The meeting was much as I feared.
Archbishop Aspinall began by describing the General Convention of the Episcopal Church at which he was an observer for its first week.  Many were astounded at the size of the proceedings but having read about it at the time on many of the blogs on my list, there was nothing new in that for me. I have also attended a number of Librarian Conventions in the USA and know how they compare in size with those here in Australia.
The Archbishop  perhaps wistfully mentioned that each of the 110 dioceses has the same number of delegates irrespective of size. In Australia, General Synod is made up of representatives from each of the twenty three dioceses on a proportional basis according to the number of active clergy in each diocese. This gives the Sydney Diocese a very large number of representatives. 

He then outlined Resolutions C056 and D025 and stressed they did not rescind B033 although he described the media frenzy that resulted from their passing as being unfortunate and criticised the press releases of the President of the House of Deputies and the Presiding Bishop as being "too little, too late".

He described a long list (8?) of  the problems with the Covenant which had me feeling hopeful  until he followed with a similar list of the potential benefits.

What most annoyed me was his assertion that there needed to be more discussion of the theological and Biblical aspects of the position of committed homosexual partnerships. Although he acknowledged this had been happening for at least 40 years in the USA, it had not occurred in Australia. Yet he had no idea of what had happened in individual dioceses as a result of the few papers that had been prepared and distributed. He admitted that the Australian church lacked mechanisms for interchange of ideas. The national webpage is pathetic(my description) and the national paper is defunct. 

The Australian General Synod and the Primate do not have the powers of their counterparts in TEC. As the website states:
Although the Anglican Church of Australia is one church its structure means that political control is vested in the dioceses and the parishes rather than held centrally by the General Synod. ..... Any rule involving a matter which could affect a diocese must be adopted by the dioceses.

The diocese is the basic unit of the Australian church. .....  this bottom up structure means that the Primate, the Archbishop or the General Synod have only limited authority to speak on behalf of the church. Consequently, the church is often criticised for not being able to respond quickly enough to changing political or legal situations.  When it tries to address these situations, the Church seems rarely capable of speaking with a single voice. 

Archbishop Aspinall is a reasonable man but he seems to believe that he is dealing with reasonable men and that continued dialogue will see the church come to know the mind of God. 
If I had been acknowledged (I did put my hand up),  I would have declared that those who run the Diocese of Sydney will never join in reasonable discussion. As I stated in my previous post, women were ordained to the priesthood in Australia 15 years after New Zealand and only after those opposed had tried to prevent it in the courts of the land and failed. 

A priest, in a question, referred to understanding the Love of God but Aspinall countered with words that might have come from the evangelicals that we also need to understand what is sin. I believe he was just putting the case to be fair but was still sad to hear him say it. 

One man outed himself as a homosexual and made an impassioned plea for the hypocrisy to end. He declared that homosexuals, both out and closeted, are being ordained in every diocese in the land except Sydney and Armidale (I would add North West Australia). He later listed some examples to me in a private conversation.  He claimed that the battle over women priests had ended (this brought howls from women in particular, because it has not ended in the Sydney Diocese) and eventually must end over homosexuality. He is an out gay principal in a State school and there are no problems. The church is lagging way behind the times. 

Archbishop Aspinall stated he would not reply to that but allow the man's speech to stand. He also told us how he had breakfasted at the convention with a partnered lesbian rector from Chicago whose parish was supporting 2 clergy in the Diocese of the Sudan despite the regular criticisms from the Archbishop of the Sudan of TEC.  Aspinall several times commented on the resolve by TEC to reaffirm its financial commitment to the Anglican communion.

The meeting was arranged by Anglicans Together which is an organisation of Anglicans in the Diocese of Sydney which values an inclusive and diverse expression of Anglicanism. The Archbishop told us he read the newsletters and he encouraged us to meet and support one another.

So I believe as I did before the meeting that Archbishop Aspinall would like to be more openly supportive but  feels restricted by the role of Primate which has little real power and also by his belief that the church will move to find the will of God by continued prayer and discussion. As a person who is affected by the process I believe in a little more activism than he would prefer. 

General Synod dithered for years over the ordination of women and it was only after the then Archbishop of Perth (later Primate) and the Bishop of Canberra-Goulburn took matters into their own hands, withstood the legal attacks and ordained the first women that the General Synod finally decided in their favour. 

The Sydney evangelicals never forgave either bishop and treated Archbishop Peter Carnley with outride rudeness when he became Primate. They are not reasonable men and will never listen to reasonable discussion, Stuff em.


Monday, September 14, 2009

Gracious Restraint?

Tomorrow night I am attending a meeting in Sydney at which the speaker will be the Primate of Australia and Archbishop of Brisbane, Phillip Aspinall.
He had lunch with Bishop Gene Robinson in Anaheim and I think also met with him in Brisbane but I am nervous about the title of his address.
Gracious Restraint: Hastening Slowly in the Anglican Communion

It is worth noting that the meeting is not in the Sydney Cathedral but in the most anglo-catholic of parishes in the diocese, Christ Church St Laurence.
I sense Archbishop Aspinall is sympathetic but am afraid any idea of gracious restraint is just seen as weakness by those who run the Sydney Diocese.

If TEC and the province of New Zealand had maintained a policy of gracious restraint I doubt there would be women priests let alone Bishops anywhere in the Anglican Communion. The stranglehold of the Diocese of Sydney has kept Australia way back in accepting the rights of women (Priests 1992, Bishops 2008 and still not as Diocesans) while New Zealand had women priests in 1977 and a woman as Diocesan Bishop in 1990). If the Australian province continues to kowtow in gracious restraint to the Sydney Diocese in acceptance of LGBT people, there will be no change in my lifetime.

I am usually far too nervous to speak up in such public meetings but would like to read out the following comment in 'The Changing Attitude Blog"

We are already present in the church. However, we are clearly not fully present. Our presence is fully welcomed and accepted in a few Provinces, tolerated in others and invisible in the majority of Provinces.

Where it is now legally possible, we are contracting Civil Partnerships and Marriages. Elsewhere we are creating relationships equivalent to marriage - loving, lifelong, faithful and monogamous.

We are present at every level of church ministry, lay and ordained, readers, deacons, priests, bishops and archbishops, celibate, single and partnered.
We are present across the whole Anglican Communion, LGBT people of faith, the majority of us invisible to and unrecognised by the church.

The attention of the Communion is absorbed by consideration of the Anglican Covenant, questions about church order, authority and doctrine and an obsession with homosexuality.

Our very presence demands an answer to the question we pose, a question that will never go away because we LGBT people will never go away. LGBT people will continue to be born and drawn into a life of faith by the Holy Spirit in OUR as yet unwelcoming Anglican Communion.

How IS the Anglican Communion going to make room for us? I know how the church is pragmatically making room for us in England and Wales, the USA and Canada, in South Africa and New Zealand. I know how the church is trying to deny room in Nigeria and Uganda, the Sudan and Kenya, the Southern Cone and South East Asia.

The conservative tactic has been to focus on the USA and Canada as the Provinces presenting the Communion with a problem. These Provinces present the Communion with a challenge, one which will engage every Province. LGBT people are in the midst of the church, woven invisibly into church life. We are constructing healthy, creative and holy lives in response to the call of God, inspired by political change in the secular world.

We are a minority in the church. We are caught in a trap. We cannot easily show the church how profoundly committed and faithful we are to God because the prejudice and hostility directed against us intimidates us into silence and invisibility.

How is the Anglican Communion graciously going to open herself and make room for us?

Saturday, September 12, 2009

It's the economy, stupid

In contradiction of a post on patriotism I am considering,  I am going to applaud the Australian economy, using material from an article in today's newspaper "Riding the tsunami".
There is a lot in the paper about the Global Financial Crisis which apparently was most critical just 12 months ago.  I thought it began much earlier.  I transferred my main investments from Balanced to Conservative in 2 movements, first in January then in April of last year.  However according to the article:

Australia outperformed the world.
"Australia is the only developed country to avoid recession," attests the World Bank's chief economist, Justin Lin. "It is a unique achievement" in the midst of the sharpest global downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
The economy suffered a mild contraction in the last three months of last year before growth returned. It was a single quarter of shrinkage in a world where two in a row makes a "technical'' recession.
And the latest statistics show the recovery in the first quarter of 2009 actually accelerated in the three months that followed.
The world economy came down with pneumonia. Australia sneezed. Once.
Is this due to our connection to China?
Australia is China's quarry. And China, after a brief falter, has rebounded. So isn't Australia simply riding the China boom?
While the US suffered a 15 per cent slump in exports last financial year, and Japan a staggering 29 per cent, Australian exports were essentially unchanged, down just 0.2 per cent, protected largely by rampant demand from China.
But exports themselves have made only a slight contribution to Australia's recovery. In the second quarter of this year, for example, net exports actually sapped growth, contributing minus 0.2 per cent to national economic growth.
The main drivers of Australian recovery have been the instruments of official stimulus. The Reserve Bank, by cutting interest rates to their lowest since the 1960s, and the Federal Government, by allocating $42 billion in extra new spending, sent a surge of cash and confidence into the economy.
Australia's banks not only survived but prospered, in substantial profit throughout the global crisis. The Big Four are now among the world's dozen top-rated banks.
Australia's economic stimulus package was one of the largest in the world proportionately, second only to China's, according to a forthcoming World Bank report. Yet Australia's government finances were in such a strong surplus pre-crisis that the country will emerge with the lowest government debt of any developed country, on current Treasury projections.
Australia's unemployment rate has worsened markedly, from 4.2 per cent in 2008 to 5.8 per cent today. Yet this is better than all but six countries - only Austria, Denmark, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway and South Korea have lower unemployment rates.
And even today's elevated rate is a level considered impossibly low in Australia until just a few years ago. The European Union average is the same as that of the US at 9.5 per cent.
Australia's political economy offers an alternative to the two familiar options of the American versus the European. It enjoyed faster economic growth than the US over the past decade. Yet it also offers universal health care and other social welfare benefits that the US does not. Unemployment is lower than America's, and without the glaring income disparities that characterise US growth.
The US may be a rich country but its bounty is very unevenly shared. One result is that for the broad mass of its citizens, America has the sort of health indicators of a much poorer country. Australia has chosen a more egalitarian policy set. Life expectancy is the fifth highest in the world. Child poverty is half the American rate. No one in Australia dies because of lack of health insurance.
But neither does Australia suffer the customary handicap that goes with a humane welfare system - a crushing burden of government spending. As a proportion of gross domestic product, total government spending in Australia is the third lowest in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and slightly less than in the US. In 1996 Australia paid off all outstanding federal debt - the federal government became debt-free for the first time since the 1970s.
Western Europeans are leaving their children a debt of insupportable proportions.
Australia is a country that seems to have achieved a sweet spot, combining the vigour of American capitalism with the humanity of European welfare, yet suffering the drawbacks of neither.
Australia is a case study in the benefits of economic reform tempered by a concern for fairness. It is a prototype society illustrating that vigorous capitalism can coexist with a humane welfare system. Affordably.

The article does share the credit for this result with both the economic changes begun by the Hawke Keating Labor Governments  from 1983 to 1996 and those continued by the Howard Liberal Governments from 1996 to 2007 as well as the emergency packages of the Rudd Labor Government in 2008-2009.  However it mentions that the Howard government did see an increase in the income gap between rich and poor which the crisis is helping to reduce. I know that the prices of homes in the wealthy suburbs have fallen greatly while thankfully those in suburbs like mine have remained steady or even slightly increased.

The son of my next door neighbour is unemployed, he was in the finance sector, the most hard hit.  My funds on which I depend fell alarmingly from January 2007 and reached bottom in March 2009 but are on the rise again as seen in the graph below.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Spring has sprung

Not much to relate at the moment as I try to prepare my house and garden for sale but here are a few photos of the garden taken this morning.
1. Rhododendron
2. The front door with tree fern, azalea and pieris japonica
3. Flowering peach, which has nearly died several times but struggles on, and daffodils.
4. Flowering cherry and bulbs
5. Front rockery which is better in summer (neighbour's house in background)