Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Is there anything sadder?

It was troubling to read about a Pastor who committed suicide while his 800 member church family awaited his arrival.  Suicide is devastating at all times.  In this instance a calamity seems to have preceded the suicide.  That earlier calamity is perhaps sadder than the suicide.

Free and unattributable

A long-time clerical friend of the pastor who committed suicide identified how difficult it is for a pastor to find a fellow pastor as an accountability partner:

“Every pastor needs a pastor to kind of lead and guide them. But it’s hard for us to really find that relationship because often pastors are trying to compete with or cremate you. And so it’s difficult to find camaraderie”

There is a tragedy here in the two extremes “compete or cremate”.

It is very healthy for a pastor to have a fellow to share with.  Downloading matters of concern to a proficient other can be done confidentially and respectfully.  It can lead to prayer, growth and spiritual support.  Sharing may arise from stressors of administration or stressors of problematic congregants.  To quote a popular maxim: ‘A problem shared is a problem halved’.  Some denominations mandate that pastors have an accountability partner, others actively promote the notion.

It is a catastrophic that pastors perceive rivalry between each other (“compete”), or perceive that the rivalry sets to spoil each other’s work (“cremate”).  The harvest field is huge and the Lord’s work aplenty.  Accordingly, all in ministry should actively encourage one another and take gladness first in the fulfilment of God’s glory.

It is the undesired intrusion of the world into clerical careers that proliferates the two extremes of “compete or cremate”.  Pastors need put aside notion of reward in this life for the bountiful reward that awaits them eternally in God’s presence.


For crisis support:, phone: 13 11 14

Monday, November 2, 2015

Genderless beings

Truth is often dismissed as substantive fact of argument or sundry fact of argument.  For instance, a five year old boy may deny playing in mud when caught by mum even where his skin and clothing is baked in mud (substantive fact).  Years later the same lad grown into a husband may defend his lateness home blaming the hopelessness of public transport (sundry as he was late before he boarded the transport).

It is perhaps no surprise then that in electronic chatter following a piece in favour of samesex marriage that someone had identified homo sapiens as “genderless beings”. 

The contributor of “genderless beings” was biologically beset with gender - a hard truth, the mud on the five year old boy’s clothes if you like – yet somehow they see mankind as “genderless”!.  The contributor’s chromosomal make-up is gender specific.  By interpretation of certain bodily features their mother, doctors and nurses within the birthing suite could immediately identify them at birth as male or female.  Such record was attested upon their birth certificate.  Chances are that within three hours of birth their mother was dressing them as pink for girl or blue for boy.  Within four years of birth they were probably registered for a single gender private school.  If the baby is a boy Dad probably formed ambitions of them playing in the baggy green, if the baby is a girl Mum probably thought of years due to be spent at ballet & netball, a white church wedding and grandchildren.

Presumably, it is convenient to the same sex marriage debate to consider people as genderless.  One who is genderless has a different lens from which to view marriage.  A genderless being can dismiss the definitional issue of marriage as say being between man and a woman as concepts such as “man” and “woman” are not derived from some hard biological truth but from perhaps a social assignment factor.  Consequently, they say, let marriage arise between man and man, or between woman and woman, as they are only titles that such people have elected for themselves.  Further to this thinking is to assume mankind to be classification free amongst all the animals.  From such precept man marrying his horse, or woman marrying her dog, becomes an easy leap in thinking.

“Genderless beings” falters from a biological perspective yet it is also a stretch when thought of in terms of social assignment.  Amongst those who practice homosexuality there is pride in being a man, or being a woman, or indeed in being transgender (a term which perhaps ironically is a recognition of gender).  In some instances subset roles within womanhood are practiced amongst those in lesbian relationships, that is, they acknowledge their womanhood yet play a role within their gender. 

So, it is a struggle to think a person genderless either at birth or by social assignment.  Those who were socially conditioned (such as a boy who left hospital wearing pink and raised as a girl) will nonetheless identify with some notion of gender.  It is not implausible to conquer any conditioning and live according to their gender.

God established man and woman (Genesis).  Accordingly, God has imprinted the muddy imprint of gender deep into each person’s biology.  So, let’s not allow the phrase “genderless beings” into the same sex marriage debate.


Sunday, November 1, 2015

Purity in the Anglican church

The manner in which a body of people constitute and structure bodies corporate is extremely important in terms of outcomes.  As an example, the recent 2015 Argentine elections resulted in a complete change of government.   The ruling President was completing the second of two terms – the constitutional maximum number of terms – such that the President could not stand for election.  So dramatic was the change that the President’s own party self-imploded during the campaigning process to the point of failing to secure any vote of substance.  The constitution served its role.  It limited ruling power and derived an outcome for the people.

Churches also have constitutional controls.  Habitually, constitutions drive management structures and decision-making processes.  Constitutional controls invariably differ from one Diocese to the next.

Which brings me to a seemingly large pool of difference between the Anglican Diocese of Sydney and the Anglican Diocese of Newcastle which share a common geographic boundary.  Sydney is a conservative urban centre and the home of the esteemed Moore Theological College.  Newcastle is to the North, with some sizeable urban centres and large rural stretches.

The prime difference is in respect the definition of marriage. 

Sydney at its annual Synod affirmed marriage as a union between a man and a woman.  In addition, Sydney identified a way for individual ministers to act should a change of legislation compel those with marriage licenses to marry same sex couples.  That’s a belts and braces approach – ministers have a sound indication of what to do should legislation change.

Newcastle Diocese is the home of the picturesque city of Gosford, proximate to the Diocesean southern boundary.  In Gosford there is an Anglican churchWithin the same month of Sydney’s robust vote to support marriage as God intends it, a member of clergy from Gosford was speaking at a public debate that considered the definition of marriage.  Now, it is healthy for a minister to engage with the community.  A well-structured debate with considered venue and audience is a good forum for a local minister to attend. 

Naturally, you’d expect the minister to be supporting traditional views of marriage during the debate.  One would expect some liberal, weed-smoking, whale-loving, guitar-strumming modern hippy to be drooling out some inane message in support of peculiar marriage combinations, while the minister-of-religion would respond with coherent arguments that have stood the test of time.  One would expect the minister to yawn at ideology that the modern day hippy thinks is new and with-it.  Debate ends; minister-of-religion one, modern hippy zero.  Yet your expectation in this case would be wrong.  You’ll find via this link to an invitation to the debate that perhaps those who attended found it hard to determine who was playing the role of the modern hippy, and who was playing the role of the minister-of-religion.  I've not researched the two speakers that spoke in favour of traditional marriage yet I hope, for their own edification, that they have worthy Christian shepherds.

So, there is Sydney where ministers will be abandoning marriage licenses (should it be necessary), and Newcastle where at least one minister of religion is keen to support the other side.  To leave you with no doubt on this point one person who commented on the Anglican Parish of Gosford's Facebook page identified the minister as "a beacon of humanism".

That's a huge difference!

Which brings me to some questions; how is it that two body corporates of the Anglican church are constituted so differently as to create such disparity.  Is Sydney comfortable having a divergent element on the boundary?  Is Newcastle embarrassed by its Gosford contemporary?  Is the stuff broadcast out of Gosford contagious onto Sydney?

And then there is purity of the church as a whole.  Isn’t Sydney undermined when someone can point to divergence on the northern fenceline?

It seems timely that the Australian Anglican church consider its constitutional framework to ensure for sound and consistent outcomes.  One bad apple can ruin a barrel of apples.  Perhaps we need heed Revelation’s message that only two will be left.


Note 1: all links operative as at 29 October 2015

Note 2: The clergy who spoke in favour of marriage equality claimed at the event to speak as a citizen.  He was billed on advertising as "Anglican Archdeacon of the Central Coast".  Was it disappointing for some to arrive, with the expectation of hearing a member of clergy speak, only to find a citizen talking? Would that be like going to a Fleetwood Mac concert to learn that Mick Fleetwood had abandoned the drums to do vocals all night? 
Note 3: On 12 August 2017, in the week that a plebiscite failed in the senate and a postal vote was launched, the parish placed on its Facebook page a message commencing: "I write to confirm that I will be voting YES for Marriage Equality."