Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Justice Michael Kirby

 I have just watched a video documentary on the life of High Court Justice (now retired) Michael Kirby.

Michael is 5 years older than me. We grew up in the same suburb of Sydney, went to the same primary schools and high school. I then followed him to Sydney university but I studied Arts/Education and became a teacher, he studied Arts/Law and became a lawyer, chair of the Law Reform Commission, a judge, President of the NSW Court of Appeals and eventually a Justice of the High Court of Australia.
We are both Anglicans although we lived and worshiped in different parishes. We are both gay but he has had a partner for the past 40 years.

The summary of the documentary follows:

Filmed before, during and after his final days on the High Court of Australia this documentary explores the personal, moral and spiritual convictions of Michael Kirby – one of the country’s greatest legal minds. It charts his formative years, his Christian faith and his 40 year relationship with his partner Johan van Vloten. Although publicly outspoken on an enormous range of social, political and humanitarian issues, for the first time Michael Kirby reveals his private side. 

If you have an hour, please watch, The documentary is copyrighted and at first I could not watch it from outside Australia but then I was successful with this link.

There are scenes from St James. King Street  where I use to worship,  strangely juxtaposed on a description of the Sydney Diocese. Strange because St James is not typical of the Sydney Diocese, not only due it its "bells and smells" but also it inclusiveness. I have seen Michael there at special occasions but not on a regular basis.

A lot of the commentary is given by his brother David, also a judge, who was in my class at school. There is much humour throughout the documentary.

Some notes I jotted down.
Michael compliments the Anglican church as being one church which is trying to grapple with sexuality and calls it a church of compromise.  He, himself, never had feelings of being wicked or hated by God. His soul was always at peace but knows he was postponing reality.

He loves the smell, beauty, music and language of the Anglican church but believes in the secularism of Australian Society.  Religion is private and he is not to be guided by a bishop in robes.

In the late 60's he defended students involved in the desegregation campaigns.

He believes real mischief is done when society forces a young person at a critical moment in their life to hide reality from those who should be a source of love and strength. "Don't ask, don't tell" lasted too long in Australian society.

His own family recognised his right to achieve justice and love.  In one of the most poignant moments in the film, Donald Kirby, Michael’s 94-year-old father, leads the camera through a series of photo frames sitting on a hallway cabinet in search of a single picture. “There’s Johan,” he says. “They’re inseparable; absolutely. He couldn’t manage without Johan; I don’t think any of us could.” He proudly shows photos of Johan with Michael's mother not long before her death.

Michael believes the Foundation of Human Rights is Love.  His brother says Michael will never take a backward step in defending his own rights and other people's rights?

Michael fought for AIDS/HIV as a human rights issue and became the UN representative on AIDS/HIV rights to Cambodia.  This and his participation in advocating Gay Law reform in Tasmania meant that his sexuality was not much of a secret.

However it was Johan who suggested in 1995 that they owed it to the younger generation to be more open and they changed Michael's Who's Who entry to show Johan as his partner. The Newspaper headline was "The biggest non-secret is out"

Michael believes the church needs to look again at the texts and uses the example of the Jewish people asking for the release of Barabbas and declaring that "His (Jesus) blood be on us and our children" as a foundation for the long anti-Semitism in the church. Similarly they should look at the texts on sexuality in light of modern scientific knowledge.

The event is covered when Senator Heffernan used Commonwealth Car documents to claim under parliamentary privilege that the Judge was procuring young men in these cars. These documents were found to be fraudulent and Senator Heffernan was forced to apologise. The documentary points out that Heffernan was close to that viper, Prime Minister Howard, who of course appeared to remain above the affair.
As Johan says "If they had been true, Michael should have been hung for stupidity."

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Mid-Winter Festival, Lantern Procession

Thanks to Birdie for encouraging me to take my camera. I did not buy a camera for night work and rarely do anything more than point and click.
 However here are the photos from last night. The first shows the Anglican Cathedral on the left and the Town Hall Clock Tower on the right.

Then I managed to shoot a short movie and upload it to Youtube

Finally the more professional production at the Otago Daily Times.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Mid-Winter's Day

Here in Dunedin it is the shortest day of the year and the sun rose at at 8.20am and will set at 5pm.  Back in the Blue Mountains, where I use to live,  it rose at 7am and will set at 4.54pm which actually surprises me. I have had difficulty dealing with the sun in my eyes in the middle of the day here for a few weeks. Apparently even though the day is only a little over an hour shorter the sun must travel lower on the horizon.
Last Saturday was the Mid Winter Festival in the Blue Mountains. Next Saturday there is a Mid-Winter Lantern procession in the evening here in Dunedin.

Back in 1976, I spent December in England and January in France and Italy. I remember thinking it strange as the sun set about 4pm in London while in Paris it set later but did not come up until nearly 9am.
This morning was quite warm and driving home from a luncheon about 2pm the sun was in my eyes. However it  turned cold and wet about 3pm. They forecast snow tonight down to 500 metres but I am about 300 metres. A week ago they forecast snow down to 100 metres but the wind was from the south west instead of south and it was  beautiful blue sky.  I have seen snow falling twice since I moved here but not settling.
I did have thick frost a few weeks ago.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Music in Dunedin

Since moving to Dunedin I have been able to attend many more live music performances than I was able to attend in Sydney. Although Sydney has the world renowned Opera House, Sydney Symphony and Australian Opera the performances tend to be very expensive and I had the problem of a 2 hour journey home, not very pleasant in the evening. My sister and I had a subscription and attended the afternoon symphony performances over the last few years but this was only 4 or 5 times each year.  There were a few local musical performances in the Blue Mountains or Penrith.

In the 4 months I have been in Dunedin I have attended one performance by the NZ Symphony and 3 performances by the Southern Sinfonia. They have all been excellent, costing about $25 or $30 and I have been home in less than 20 minutes after the finish.  I also attended a concert by Dame Malvina Major, and a performance of the musical Dusty and the Cologne Philharmonic performed Vivaldi's Four seasons.

Last Sunday evening I attended the Knox Presbyterian church which was celebrating its 150th Anniversary. Their choir combined with that of the Anglican cathedral and the Dunedin City choir to perform Mozart's Requiem.  David Burchell, the Cathedral and City organist performed Haydn's Organ Concerto in C as well as accompanying the choirs

The whole performance was excellent.

I was interested to read a history of the Knox church which is the 2nd Presbyterian church in Dunedin.  Dunedin was found by Scots and so the Presbyterian church is more numerous than the Anglican. The First Presbyterian church dominates the city but I believe is more conservative. The Knox church voted in the National assembly to allow same-sex partnered ministers but was not successful.

I have found a video of the Knox church on You-tube although the tourist cannot spell Dunedin.

I have also included one small section (not from last Sunday) of the Requiem for your enjoyment.

Tonight I am attending the Regent Theatre in the city which needs upgrading and there is a variety concert with all genre of music not just classical. Not sure it will be to my taste but I was invited by new friends and it is in a good cause.

Snow is forecast for tonight so I hope it does not start until after I get home.  If the roads are open tomorrow afternoon I may attend Faure's requiem to be performed by the City Choir in the Cathedral.

Dunedin is certainly living up to my expectation of providing me with a lot of music experiences.

Saturday, June 05, 2010


I am happy to belong to an episcopal church but I am also happy that in the Anglican church we do not need to treat our bishops as little gods.

On Tuesday, while walking with the 60+ group I have recently joined, I was telling one lady how, before I moved to Dunedin, the only person I knew was the Vicar of Roslyn but shortly after my arrival he became the Bishop of Dunedin.  She asked me what I now called him with several suggestions (right rev, your worship).  I answered "I call him Kelvin".

I am glad to now live and worship in a diocese where I can respect the bishop and be in agreement with most of what he says.  I probably disagree with him on some matters and, if the opportunity arose and it was important enough, would tell him so.  From what I have seen so far they are more matters of degree rather than substance.  I respect his position as leader of the diocese and, in some mystical fashion, I honour that particular role conferred on him by ordination practised during church services particularly the Eucharist.  He will be returning to the parish of St John's Roslyn in a few weeks time for the Patronal festival and (I think) confirmation.

However in my previous life in the Diocese of Sydney I believed the bishops to be in grievous error.  They are preaching a gospel of hate completely different to what I have been able to discern as the teachings of Christ. Their gospel has no room for people like me who were created gay. Their views of women are not much better. Therefore they had lost all credibility with me and I had no respect for their position. If Archbishop Jensen had arrived at my parish church I would have immediately walked out.  I did attend one confirmation service where  Bishop Forsyth of South Sydney presided.  However it was difficult, his sermon and his actions confirmed my belief in his hypocrisy and I left by a side door. I did not attend the following year.

Sadly my view of the Archbishop of Canterbury is now not much better. He has been a great disappointment and while a learned man is also able to spout arrant nonsense.

I gained a great deal from my time working for the Catholic church but I always balked at the position given to the previous Pope. While he did some excellent things, I also believed him to be in error in many other ways and would never give him any special honour and my views on this matter were one of the reasons I was unable to convert to Roman Catholicism.  I had returned to the Anglican church by the time of the election of the present Pope. I do not have any respect for him at all.

On the other hand, and the reason for this post, I consider the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, to fill the post of bishop in an excellent manner.
Her recent pastoral letter is a great response to that of the Archbishop of Canterbury which I regarded as completely non-Anglican.
His attempt to usurp some central authority and decide who is in and who is out among the Provinces is just plain wrong. That sort of thinking is what I rejected in the Church of Rome.

The Anglican church has bishops, priests and deacons to provide good order and continuity. I do not believe they exist to rule. I accept the right to disagree with them and that any disagreement I might have with them should not give them the right to refuse my attendance at church and especially at the Eucharist. That decision is between me and God.

In the discussions of the recent Synod of the Province of Aotearoa, New Zealand there was general agreement that the first 3 sections of the proposed covenant presented no problem. However they have deferred any decision to ratify for 2 years because of problems with the 4th punitary section. From my reading I fear they either worry about being ignored as a very small part of the worldwide Anglican communion or consider that the whole issue will go away in the usual Anglican manner of avoiding anything that might be disagreeable. This latter seems to be the view of Bishop Kelvin. 

I worry that he does not fully comprehend the drive and determination of those like Jensen who would happily destroy the Anglican communion if they could gain their own way.
From what I have seen, even the evangelical Anglicans in New Zealand are essentially nice unless they are stirred up by those from across the Tasman.

If this covenant, including section 4, were to be accepted by provinces like New Zealand and as a result TEC and the Province of Canada were to be treated in some way as 2nd class because of their full inclusion of Gay people, I would no longer be able to regard myself as an Anglican.

I do not believe this will happen as I feel I have moved to a Province which is moving, perhaps a bit more tentatively, in the same direction as the Provinces of North America.