August 1st 2011 6pm George Negus
Once again the Anglican Church, and Christianity in general are being declared at an end – 20 years and it should be all over apparently, quoting a report to the Church of England Synod on the aging population of English Churches. According to George, in a report titled “Clinging To Hope” we are on the verge of collapse!
To bolster his position (report?) Negus interviews “a respected senior Anglican” and retired priest, Rev Clive Norton. Rev Norton is certainly respected by some (I assume), Anglican and a retired Sydney priest. And he is senior in the sense that I am middle-aged. But to call him a senior cleric is to misrepresent the facts – and we all thought George was going to do a serious news-show? Oops! Rev Norton deserves respect for his former position, but he is just an average run of the mill Rector (ex-Rector in his case) not a senior clergyman. Senior clergyman would be a Bishop or ex-Bishop, possibly an Archdeacon (though not always), and possibly someone in a Diocese to whom a large quantity of ministers would look to with respect. In Sydney I would suggest someone like Bruce Hall (Carlingford), maybe Simon Manchester (North Sydney), John Woodhouse (Moore College), Rod Irvine (ex Rector of Figtree) – they would be the men who would fit that category.
Rev Norton, reflecting on church as he notes, claims that Sydney is basically operating as a cult – he may not quite make the claim but certainly compares the Diocese to a sectarian cult, due largely if I understand him, to Sydney pushing to be exclusive. He is referring especially to the Ordination of Women, which he has been calmly banging on about for some years, and the Diocesan stance on homosexuality. Sydney apparently has an “us against them” attitude which is disruptive, and a fear of anything or anyone who holds contrary views. Bishop Forsyth’s answer is clear and reasoned – and reasonable, and worth watching.
The reality is the Gospel is about acceptance and love but is also about exclusion. Not everyone gets into heaven, and to state that some are excluded on the grounds of sin cannot be taken as encouraging the persecution of one portion of sinners (i.e. to encourage homophobia). If that is the case then Jesus, who quite clearly condemns various sins, must have been encouraging phobias – against the Pharisees for example, against adulterers, against thieves and tax-collectors (sorry to lump them into one category). Clearly we’re not going to accuse Jesus of that – so why accuse others who simply hold contrary views on theology?
How novel it would be to see unbiased reporting on TV instead of sensationalism dressed up as serious news? It’s a pity – Negus is a respected news correspondent – we might even call him a “senior correspondent”. Maybe he or his producers feel the need to compete with the audience grabbing Today Tonight or A Current Affair programs which have fewer inhibitions in going for the sensational angle? Then again, maybe it would be nice to have Rev Norton engage with the theological arguments rather than simply sensationalising the views of those who disagree with him, declaring them homophobic?
Maybe in a different world?