Letters from the week of 20 - 26 August 2018
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Sale of Tasmanian Churches
Abuse is a Crime
Some reply is needed regarding the proposed sale of many Tasmanian churches, so many of them beautiful and historic. It would be a tragedy for our Church in that lovely island if the plans of the Bishop and his Synod come to pass. The money needed for recompense of those abused should not come from such sales—but from assessments especially on the wealthier parishes—not by taking from the poor what little they have—and by other means. As stated, that is only one quarter of what Bp Condie wants, and this payment should be kept quite separate from any idea of selling churches supposedly to support mission in the Diocese.
The churches are important for their communities, however small, and valued by many Anglicans who are not regular church-goers and also by those who value local history and heritage. They include the majority of Anglicans who would not agree with the extremely conservative theology one can read on the diocesan web-site, concepts which would dismay so many of the bishops and priests who have faithfully served the Diocese in the past, nor with the rejection of those attending rarely or at all or believing the wrong things as not true Anglicans or true Christians.
I think of fine church folk I have known in Tasmania, such as Bishop Bob Davies or Canon John May (POW in Japan in the War) let alone those about whom I have read such as Bishop Montgomery and his wife. I have seen the majority of parishes in my Sydney Diocese (in which I was baptised 82 years ago) move further and further away from anything recognisably Anglican—becoming neo-puritan, congregational, contemptuous of liberals—and of the US Episcopal Church in particular, and sadly so generally intolerant.
Its Synod now overwhelmingly represents one party (at this year's elections, only two minor positions were even contested), and I know from my long experience both as a rector in the Diocese and for 20 years as an honorary chaplain, how so many of our churches have few links with the local community—and at least in my hospital, virtually none at all. It has planted churches without permission in other dioceses and has successfully taken some over, and the great numbers of deacons ordained (allowed to celebrate the often increasingly less frequent Communion services) means that Sydney's representation in our General Synod continues to increase.
Sadly in some of these respects, Tasmania is even worse than Sydney. This is not a personal attack on the Bishop of Tasmania nor any of his followers nor his Synod members, but it does reflect the despair and impotence so many good church-people feel, in Sydney, Tasmania, and beyond in the Church of Australia. At least, I have just been blessed by probably the last of my many visits to the US and to its Episcopal Church. I am aware it is not free of faults but I came back back renewed, refreshed, and inspired —not least by my stays with the Community of St Francis in San Francisco and the Order of the Holy Cross in Santa Barbara and— giving it a special plug, the Julian of Norwich cottage to which I was welcomed in the grounds of All Saints', Carmel (plus attending a great Hymn Society conference in St Louis and enjoying the wonders of God's world as I travelled by Amtrak from San Francisco to Denver). As usual, I go on and on, but as Tiny Tim says, God bless us, everyone.
The Revd Dr John Bunyan
St John's, Canberra, St Stephen's Uniting, Sydney, King's Chapel, Bost
Campbelltown, New South Wales, Australia
20 August 2018
Whether it happens in Anglican, Catholic or any other church, the sexual abuse of children should be treated for what it is, a crime. The first response should be to call not church authorities but the police. Every time. Without exception. No church studies or hearings or other processes. I am still baffled why this isn’t done.
Cathedral of St. Philip Atlanta, Georgia, USA
21 August 2018
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