The Great Collapse

One of the challenges we are all living with is the reality that many churches will close in the next decade. It gives me no pleasure to say this, but it is a reality that is upon us. Every Diocese in Australia has a cohort of churches with very small numbers and mainly elderly parishioners. Sooner or later these churches reach a point of unviability. In saying this I’m not saying anything new. We’re all familiar with these situations. The ramp up of multiple compliance requirements in the past decade and the two years of pandemic have accelerated the situation.

The thing that is new will be the scale of the problem. Many of these churches have been clinging on for many years and it’s remarkable that they have gone on for as long as they have. Most of these churches are within the Anglo Catholic/Traditional side of the Anglican Church but it isn’t confined to this tradition. As a clear sign of the challenge of our reality it was reported at the most recent Melbourne Synod that over 50% of parishes have no children in attendance!

In God’s providence the counter to this is that many new churches have started in the past decade and there will be many more new churches in the years ahead. More especially we are being greatly blessed by the birth of many language-specific (non-English-speaking) faith communities which often see significant growth. At the most recent ordination in Melbourne the number of ordinands was 10 to 5 in this direction!

I believe it is true to say that it easier to start a new church than to renew an existing church. Existing churches have many challenges and ministers who are appointed to them are often seeking to do a twin track simultaneously. They are seeking to sustain a traditional service with a group with high pastoral needs, while seeking to birth something new at the same time. It can be done, but it’s a tough gig. While there are lots of great examples where this has led to the birth of something new, there are also many ministers who have been burned along the way in places where it has been too hard, and it hasn’t happened.

So, what should we do? Is this a disaster or is it an amazing opportunity? The comments in this article are more applicable to our metropolitan and provincial cities. The challenges in remote rural areas are great and I don’t claim to be an expert in that area. I give thanks for and pray for BCA and the remote rural Bishops regularly.

The worst-case scenario is that we do nothing intentional and allow church after church to die with nothing to replace them. This would be tragic. There needs to be an intentional Diocesan strategy. If not, more often than not the Assistant Bishops in the larger Dioceses are put into an impossible position. They are left to deal with church after church facing similar scenarios and burning huge numbers of hours with no clear framework for addressing it. Bishops are often obliged to seek out clergy for too many unviable churches and it is proving to be increasingly challenging to find them. A growing number of parishes have had a rolling series of locums for years.

In broad terms I would suggest we are asking too many clergy to go to too many Parishes that are too far gone, and the consequences aren’t great for anyone! While church renewals can and do happen, it is unrealistic to expect them to happen in multiple places simultaneously.

Another scenario is the cobbling together of churches that are within some proximity to create a basis for a full-time minister. This model can work, but only if there is clear intentionality about how it might work. Without that this is often a recipe for significant tension and conflict. It’s not much fun leading two or three centres all of which are in a similar scenario and all of whom want the minister between 9am and 11am on a Sunday morning.

Another worst-case scenario in all of this is that progressively over time properties are sold and Dioceses build up there central reserves to buffer against abuse payouts. The Diocese is an organising entity not the church and the role of the Diocese is to support the church to grow, not to protect itself.

The closure of churches does free up assets that can be used to:

  • create a church planting fund to assist in the planting of new churches
  • more fully support the birth of many more language specific (non-English-speaking) congregations.
  • intentionally partner with the medium size and larger churches to invite them to take over dying churches with a view to planting new congregations. The church planter is then a part of a team as well as having the back-up of a stronger church.
  • facilitate the closure of a few churches within proximity with a view to the sale of one or more of the sites and the building of a new centre with contemporary facilities. I spoke at a Uniting Church last year where 5 churches had agreed to close and amalgamate and come together on an existing site with all sorts of allied activities happening with several Sunday congregations.
  • Buy land for new outer suburban and inner urban plants.

To navigate these and many other changes Bishops need to be honest about the reality of where we are at. Alongside that they need to offer a fresh vision of what is possible and actively support those who are seeking to make that a reality.

Bishop Stephen Hale
Chair of EFAC Australia and EFAC Global

03/02/2024 at 12:10 Leave a comment

From Anglo-Catholicism to Evangelicalism

Jack Lindsay’s recent article describing the joy and satisfaction he found in Anglo-Catholicism after a start in Anglican Evangelicalism led me to reflect on my own journey – discovering Anglican Evangelicalism after a High Church upbringing.

Firstly, I am not confident to draw the fuzzy but existent line between High Church and Anglo-Catholic. Nevertheless, there are things in Jack’s article which he seems to identify as Anglo-Catholic, which in fact can be shown to be Anglican from the sixteenth century Anglican formularies and others which belong in the realm of High Church and not exclusively within nineteenth century Anglo-Catholicism.

Secondly, my most substantial experience of Australian Anglican Evangelicalism, although almost entirely outside of Sydney and of Australia, is of Sydney Anglicans, whose ministry I have been privileged to receive.

Briefly, my committed Anglican upbringing, first in the diocese of Adelaide and then, because of redistribution, in the diocese of Willochra, was so thoroughly High Church that only well into adulthood did I discover that alternatives existed. As a young teacher, living within the Diocese of the Murray, I came to the personal knowledge of Jesus Christ in a church which was ritually High Church,  Evangelical in its preaching with a Charismatic flavour. Here I was encouraged to study the Sydney Preliminary Certificate in Theology (PTC). Later, from there, I went to the Bible College of South Australia for too little time and then off to work with the Anglican Church of Chile (SAMS, now CMS). This was my first sustained experience of a culturally Evangelical Anglican Church. Chile then was completely low church, strongly Gospel centred, with a strong dose of charismatic ministry, which is still broadly true, although now with a more formally evangelical flavour. I love the church’s vitality, its commitment over many years to ordered Bible teaching and the centrality that our clergy try to give to Jesus, the Word made flesh, through his word, the Bible.


26/02/2022 at 02:55 3 comments


This is a paper I presented recently at a discussion/mentor group for a small group of younger clergy and youth workers new in ministry, called “Culture Club”

“How should the Church respond to rapid and major social and cultural change?

I have just read and reviewed three books on the history of the Australian Church with an emphasis on a time of radical and major cultural change in Australian life. The particular focus of one of them was on the dramatic and far- reaching changes in the late 60’s and early 70’s but the other two also cover part of this period. They are: The second volume of Stuart Piggins two volume history of the influence of Evangelicals in Australian history from 1740 -2014 “Attending to the Nations Soul” and his biography of Harry Goodhew who was Archbishop of Sydney from 1993-2001.  The third book is by the historian Hugh Chilton “Evangelicals and the end of Christendom – Religion in Australia and the crisis of the 60’s and 70’s.”

These books all raise the question of how the Church and Christian ministries should respond to periods of rapid social and cultural change. Periods of rapid change tend to come in waves. The last big wave was in the 60’s and 70’s and Chilton makes the case that this period was the beginnings of ‘Post Christendom’ in Australia. It coincided with the population bulge of the high number of post war births – the ‘Baby Boomers’. This population bulge drove the changes for the next 60 years. They are all now retiring and still creating waves – in retirement pension costs, health costs and elderly care!!   


31/05/2021 at 01:59 1 comment

Training Evangelical Anglican Leaders in the Developing World – Tim Swan

An extract from Essentials, Summer 2020 By Tim Swan, CEO, the Archbishop of Sydney’s Anglican Aid

Right now, a terrifying number of pastors and teachers around the world are inadvertently leading their people astray because they lack solid biblical understanding, and are being “blown here and there by every wind of teaching.” (Eph 4:14). At the launch of Anglican Aid’s new Bible College Student Sponsorship program Rev. Samuel Majok said,

“In many cases, in Africa, pastors and teachers in the cities do not have any form of theological training. This has resulted in increasingly shallow theology. Leaving many local churches subject to …. errors. The pulpit has become the place to sell anointed oils, to sell holy water, to sell holy soils!”

We can help. We have the resources to make an impact on the developing church. One resource is those who can teach and train locals. I served in this way with the Anglican Church in Chile for 10 years.


01/05/2021 at 02:02 Leave a comment

Women, Men and Ministry by Peter Corney

Women, Men and Ministry by Peter Corney
The following takes a ‘meta theological’ or overall Biblical narrative approach in trying to answer the question – ‘What are the big Biblical ideas that help us to find our way in these issues?’

  1. Creation: We are all made in the image of God and therefore equal – Gen 1:27. Both the man and the woman are given the role to rule over creation – Gen 1:28. In marriage they are described as “one flesh”, a unity of equality – Gen2:24-25. It should also be noted that the Hebrew word translated as “helper” to describe the woman in Gen 2:18 means one that corresponds to the man or the other side of the coin and is most commonly used of God inthe OT. But the fall disturbs all this and introduces inequality and oppression –“he will rule over you” – Gen 2:16. The fall introduces into our natures the propensity to “the will to power” 1, usually over others and frequently men over women. There are of course many other ramifications of this disturbance in the created order like fear and shame – Gen 3:8-10. The whole plan of salvation is to rectify this disturbance and restore Gods original intentions, which of course includes the relationship between men and women.
  2. Redemption: The goal is to reconcile, restore and renew what has been disturbed and fractured. This plan is worked out in history through Israel and the Old Covenant and then finally through the Church in the new Covenant and so unfolds progressively. In the OT the sign of membership of the people of God, who are called out to be the instrument of Gods plan of redemption is circumcision, born by the male members only as the full plan of redemption is not yet fully realised. But when we come to the fulfilment of the plan, with Jesus’ death, resurrection, the coming of the Holy Spirit and the establishment of the Church, it becomes baptism. This sign is now given to all, men, women, children, slaves, Jews and Gentiles-Gal 3:26-28, Coloss 3:9-11, Ephes 2:11-22, Philemon 15-17. So we begin to see the redemptive process of reconciliation, renewal and restoration beginning to work itself out in the relationships of gender, race and status (e.g. slave and free). Baptism incorporates us all into Christ where we are united as one. The NT in fact encourages us to see ourselves now not only as equals but in a radical new relationship of servant love (literally slaves) of one another just as Christ served us – Phil 2:5-11, Ephes 5:21, Mark 10:42-45.
  3. New creation: So the new people of God, the Church, are to be signs, examples and foretastes of the new creation, the Kingdom that God through Christ is bringing in now and which will be finally consummated when Christ returns and the whole creation is healed and renewed – Rom 8:18-27, Rev 5:9-10, 22:2 (‘the healing of the nations’.)
  4. Ministry: In the new people of God all are equal and servants of one another, therefore ministry and role are by gift (Charism) of the Holy Spirit – I Cor 12:1-31, Rom 12:3-8. Roles and ministry are no longer to be determined by gender, inherited position (OT Priesthood), the world’s cultural constructs of hierarchy and imposed authority, but by the Spirit.2 The proper ordering of the gifts of ministry is a function of the new covenant community operating in its new understanding of itself as a community of redeemed equals in which the disturbed relations between people and particularly men and women and the judgements of the fall are now in the process of redemption. So all tendencies to the fallen “will to power” over one another must be eschewed and excluded from whatever method of ordering the gifts a particular community or group of communities decides.3 The other factors to be considered when appointing people for ministry and leadership roles in the new redeemed community include matters of character, spiritual maturity, sanctification and trustworthiness and those of the kind listed in – 1Tim 3:1-12, Titus 1: 5-9. There is no essential or ontological hierarchy in the Church apart from Christ who is the head of the body.


28/04/2017 at 04:22 2 comments

Gospel Implications for Today’s Church

Mark Thompson, in his article, “When to Make a Stand” in the Autumn 2016 Edition of Essentials (Part 2 in the Winter edition) provides an excellent balance to the paper by Brian Rosner, “When Christians Differ” (Essentials Spring 2015). The question of when to make an issue of some aspect of Christian life is often a difficult one and this becomes even more so when our understanding of Scripture seems at odds with that of someone else.
The error that Paul highlights in his encounter with Peter, reported in Gal 2 came about not because the “Judaizers” were disobedient. Rather it occurred because they were strongly Bible believing followers of Yahweh. The “plain reading of the text” in many places was that Jews shouldn’t associate with Gentiles. But Paul points out to Peter and presumably to all those standing around as the encounter takes place, that Jesus’ coming has changed things. What we used to believe needs to be reconsidered. What’s more, as Mark Thompson points out, ‘their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel’ (v. 14). The tearing down of the ceremonial and fellowship barriers between Jew and Gentile was a consequence of the gospel but one that was so natural and necessary a consequence that to deny it was to be ‘out of step with the truth of the gospel’.
Mark proceeds to show how a necessary consequence of the gospel is that the social barriers have been torn down.
What Mark doesn’t do, no doubt due to a limitation of time, is to consider the conclusion that Paul comes to after the extensive theological discussion of Galatians 3. Paul’s conclusion is: “28There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”
Why does Paul throw in these extra two categories of social distinctiveness, yet elsewhere appear to reinforce that distinctiveness? His main concern in this letter is the issue of the status of Jewish identity. Hence the next verse: “29And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.” Yet he includes slave-free and male-female in his list of distinctions that are torn down by the gospel.
It should be noted that his conclusion isn’t that the pairs here are equal. It’s actually that they are equivalent. Equivalent not in terms of value but in terms of social interaction. To put it in Marks Thompson’s words, the tearing down of the ceremonial and fellowship barriers between slave and free, and between male and female is so natural and necessary a consequence that to deny it was to be ‘out of step with the truth of the gospel’.
Yet in the rest of his writing Paul accepts and, in places, reinforces the social and economic reality of slavery, the social and ceremonial distinction of male and female roles. Why is it so?
My conclusion is that to change the behaviour of Christian Jews was within his power as one of the apostles but to overthrow a social order as all pervasive as slavery and patriarchy were, would take a longer time than he had. Instead he chose to sow the seeds of change and wait for the gospel implications to filter through to the wider culture. Just as Matthew includes a subversive element in his genealogy of Jesus by including marginalised women, including a number who were Gentiles, so Paul here and elsewhere prepares the way for these social distinctions to be broken down.
So while Paul tells slaves to obey their masters he also warns masters to treat their slaves with respect. In Eph 6 he goes further: “9And, masters, do the same to them. Stop threatening them, for you know that both of you have the same Master in heaven, and with him there is no partiality.” Slaves had no rights under Roman law but under God they were fellow servants, with their masters, of God.
In the case of his letter to Philemon he asks that Onesimus be treated “16no longer as a slave but more than a slave, a beloved brother—especially to me but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.” And then he goes further in asking Philemon to welcome him as he would Paul himself.
Sadly it took 1700 years before a small group of evangelical Christians began to argue for emancipation of slaves. Even then there was an equally vocal group of evangelical theologians who argued from God’s word that slavery was a right and proper institution affirmed by God’s word and in fact established by God to be the lot of the descendants of Ham. To give two minor examples, in 1835, the Presbyterian Synod of West Virginia fiercely assailed the case for abolition, calling it “a dogma” contrary “to the clearest authority of the word of God.” In 1845 the Old School Presbyterian Assembly decreed that slavery is based on “some of the plainest declarations of the Word of God.” Countless other examples of bible believing evangelical argument could be given.
What was being overlooked by the opponents of abolition was that the gospel intrinsically overthrows the possibility of men and women being held by another as property. Why? Because they are people for whom Christ died.
The same approach is true with the issue of male and female relationships. In Ephesians 5 Paul appears to reinforce the social norm of male headship, but in fact subverts it, first by instructing Christians to submit to one another out of reverence to Christ (5:21) (note the gospel imperative similar to that in Gal 2:14), and then by instructing husbands to love their wives in a life-surrendering way, the way Christ loved the church. He also redefines headship in Eph 4 to be something totally different to what would have been the common understanding then and still is today: “15But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.” According to this definition headship has to do, not with directing and decision making, but with empowering and enabling growth.
Elsewhere we see Paul validating the ministry by women of prophecy and leading the congregation in prayer (1 Cor 11) and interestingly in the same passage he points out the interconnectedness and interdependence of men and women in the purposes of God.
In the second part of Mark’s paper he says: “we should be seeking to understand just how much of a difference [God’s word] makes for our good. God’s benevolence and the goodness of his word are foundational principles when considering when to make a stand. I want to ask, ‘Is this teaching, is this behaviour, drawing people away from the good God’s good word which nourishes and builds his people?’ ‘Does it build confidence in God’s good word as an instrument for good or does it undermine that confidence?’ ‘Does it suggest that the truth expressed in God’s word is incomplete, or out-dated, or ill-informed?’
Paul had a similar approach. “20To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so that I might win those under the law. 21To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law) so that I might win those outside the law. 22To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some.” (1 Cor 9:20-22)
The question that immediately comes to my mind in this context is whether the approach of so many evangelical Christians to the ministry of women in the church is building confidence in God’s word as an instrument for good? Is it drawing people away from the good God’s good word which nourishes and builds his people?’ Are we going to win those who are outside the law by restricting the ministry of women to lesser roles in the church? Equally important, if not more so: is the way we treat gifted women in our churches in step with the truth of the gospel?

14/08/2016 at 05:51 2 comments

Sexual freedom and the rise and fall of nations.

‘Any human society is free to choose either to display great energy or to enjoy sexual freedom; the evidence is that it cannot do both for more than one generation.’

Dr. J.D. Unwin (1895-1936) was a British ethnologist and social anthropologist at Oxford and Cambridge Universities. He studied the rise and fall of civilizations and wrote a book, ‘Sex and Culture’ published in 1934 by O.U.P. He studied 86 civilizations spanning the last 4,000 years.

‘In human records there is no instance of a society retaining its energy after a complete new generation has inherited a tradition which does not insist on pre- nuptial and post-nuptial continence.’

‘The data showed an inseparable link between a society’s destiny and its willingness to exercise sexual restraint.’

‘Societies that practice absolute monogamy, meaning no extra-marital or pre-marital sex and which discouraged divorce, tend to be the most vital economically, scientifically and artistically.’

Unwin had no Christian convictions and applied no moral judgement on his findings, saying, ‘I offer no opinions about its rightness or wrongness.’

As a Christian I marvel at the way history vindicates God’s commandments which are always for our good.

Of course it will not happen to us; or will it ?

‘Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.’   (Winston Churchill)

Every Christian can play their part to save our nation by being completely controlled by God, the Holy Spirit.

‘You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.’                                                                               Romans 8.9.   NIV

A powerful prayer for constant  use.

Loving Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, you love us and gave your life for us.              I love you and give my life for you.                                                                                I am willing to lose control of my life and give back to you complete control of the whole of my life with all of my heart in the power of your Spirit alone.


Bob Collie       12.2016       [email protected]

09/08/2016 at 06:35 Leave a comment

C.S. Lewis on the radical nature of Repenting—a MUST do.

What Satan put into the heads of our remote ancestors was the idea that they could ‘be like gods’—could set up on their own as if they had created themselves. They could be their own masters—invent some sort of happiness for them­selves outside God, apart from God. And out of that hopeless attempt has come nearly all that we call human history—the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy. The reason why it can never succeed is this. God designed the human machine to run on himself. God cannot give us happiness and peace apart from himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.
Now what was the sort of ‘hole’ man had got himself into? He had tried to set up on his own, to behave as if he belonged to himself. In other words, fallen man is not simply an imperfect creature who needs improvement: he is a rebel who must lay down his arms. Laying down our arms, surrendering is the only way out of our ‘hole’. This process of surrender—this movement full steam astern—is called repentance. Remember, this repentance, this willing submission to humiliation and a kind of death, is not something that God demands of you before He will take you back and which He could let you off if He chose: it is simply a description of what going back to Him is like. If you ask God to take you back without it, you are really asking Him to let you go back without going back. It cannot happen.
Now the whole offer that Christianity makes is this: that we can, if we let God have His way, come to share in the life of Christ. Christ is the Son of God. If we share in this kind of life we also will be sons of God. We shall love the Father as He does and the Holy Ghost will arise in us. He came to this world and became a man in order to spread to other men the kind of life He has—by what I call ‘good infection’. Every Christian is to become a little Christ. The whole purpose of becoming a Christian is simply nothing else.
We were considering the Christian idea of ‘putting on Christ’, or first ‘dressing up’ as a son of God in order that you might finally become a real son. What I want to make clear is that this is not one among many jobs a Christian has to do; and it is not a sort of special exercise for the top class. It is the whole of Christianity. Christianity offers nothing else at all.
The Christian way is hard and easy. Christ says ‘Give me all. I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want you. I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it. No half-measures are any good. Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires which you think innocent as well as the ones you think wicked—the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you myself: my own will shall become yours.’ You have noticed, I expect, that Christ Himself sometimes describes the Chris­tian way as very hard, sometimes as very easy. He says ‘Take up your cross—in other words, it is like going to be beaten to death in a concentration camp. Next minute He says, ‘My yoke is easy and my burden is light.’ He means both.
The terrible thing, the almost impossible thing, is to hand over your whole self—all your wishes and precautions—to Christ. But it is far easier than what we are all trying to do instead. For what we are trying to do is to remain what we call ‘ourselves’, to keep personal happiness as our great aim in life, and yet at the same time be ‘good’. We are all trying to let our mind and our heart go their own way—centred on money or pleasure or ambition—and hoping, in spite of this, to behave honestly and chastely and humbly. And that is exactly what Christ warned us you could not do.
That is why the real problem of the Christian life comes where people do not usually look for it. It comes the very moment you wake up each morning. All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists simply in shoving them all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in. And so on all day. Standing back from all your natural fussings and frettings; coming in out of the wind. We can only do it for moments at first. But from those moments the new sort of life will be spreading through our system: because we are letting Him work at the right part of us. When He said, ‘Be perfect’, He meant it. He meant that we should go in for the full treatment. It is hard; but the sort of compromise we are all hankering after is harder—in fact it is impossible. May I come back to what I said before? This is the whole of Christianity. There is nothing else. The church exists for nothing else but to draw men into Christ, to make them little Christs. If they are not doing that, all the cathedrals, clergy, missions, sermons, even the Bible itself, are simply a waste of time. God became man for no other purpose.
That is why He warned people to ‘count the cost’ before becoming Christians. ‘Make no mistake,’ He says, ‘If you let me, I will make you perfect. The moment you put yourself in My hands, that is what you are in for. Nothing less, or other, than that. He meant what He said. Those who put themselves in His hands will become perfect, as He is perfect—perfect in love, wisdom, joy, beauty and immortality. The change will not be complete in this life, for death is an important part of the treatment.
The more we get what we now call ‘ourselves’ out of the way and let Him take us over, the more truly ourselves we become. It is when I turn to Christ, when I give myself up to His Person­ality, that I first begin to have a real personality of my own. But there must be a real giving up of the self. You must throw it away ‘blindly’ so to speak. Give up yourself, and you will find your true self. Lose your life and you will save it. Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favourite wishes every day and death of your whole body in the end: submit with every fibre of your being, and you will find eternal life. Keep back nothing. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.
C S Lewis (1898–1963) was one of the literary masters of the 20th Century. He was an atheist who later fell in love with Jesus Christ. One of his most read books is Mere Christianity. And one of the main themes of this book is ‘Repenting’. All the above quotes are from this book and on this theme.
The church generally through many centuries has deliberately ignored the need to repent as being far too difficult for both church leaders and people. It is what Bonhoeffer termed ‘cheap grace’—forgiveness without repenting. It is not possible.

16/03/2016 at 03:55 Leave a comment

Marriage Equality: How Then Shall We Be Heard?

A response from Rev. Lynda Johnson, Queensland
I can’t stay quiet any more. Marriage has absolutely nothing to do with slavery!
Marriage is an institution, which stabilises and sustains society. Yes, it is about love between two people, but it is also about much more than that. Marriage is about creating a stable environment where the expression of love between the two marriage partners can bring new life into being, and, in the process, cares for, sustains, prolongs and populates society. And this great institution has an incredible design about it, which comes from a loving and involved Creator. This is what the Biblical narrative affirms.
So how do Christians, who want to preserve marriage as legitimately being a union between a man and a woman, get some real traction in a sensible and dispassionate debate about the nature of marriage and marriage equality? Using the Bible as a basis of authority doesn’t seem to be working. It’s not working in secular society, because your average person in the street doesn’t have the view that the Bible has anything particularly special to say to a modern world. The new atheists are doing a good job of disempowering the Scriptures in the public sphere; they are doing a good job of ridiculing and patronising Christians [in fact anyone with a ‘religious’ belief] even to the point of making this an acceptable practice to be encouraged. Being at the Krauss/Lane debate a few weeks ago showed that very clearly. There are not many minority groups in society that passively take ridicule and patronising as Christians are doing these days.
But another problem for those who want to preserve marriage as legitimately being a union between a man and a woman is also the various interpretations in the Church, all with voices trying to say that theirs is right. There are voices now within the Church who identify as ‘progressive Christians’ [a new level of liberal theology], which has as its starting point the philosophy of the day and from that standpoint critiquing the Bible. What has happened for the last two thousand years is that we have started from the Bible and used that to critique society. For progressive Christians, the Bible has no more authority than any other ‘sacred’ book. This comes with huge associated difficulties for the Church to have a voice in society.
Historically, the Bible has had influence in society and the Church, and sadly, that influence is declining. Historically, also, society has upheld that marriage is between a man and a woman. So what are we to do if we hold the view that the Biblical narrative does, in fact, affirm that?
I want to suggest that we can use basic logic and reason, as I can’t see that this debate can truly be about marriage ‘equality’ in the purest sense of the word.
From a design point of view, marriage between two people of the same gender can never, in practice, be a biologically productive relationship. There will always be the need of a third party, if a choice is made by the couple to have progeny. Therefore, how can it be ‘equal’? What are we saying as a society if we normalise something as being between two people, which will always require a third? I know that at this point, the arguments of exception will rear their heads. What about infertile heterosexual couples? What about those who adopt? My points are ….. 1. generally and genetically, male and female have the potential to reproduce, whether or not some individual cases are unable to do so or choose to not do so. And …… 2. society shouldn’t ‘normalise’ something as being equal, which in practice cannot be so.
There needs to be recognition that at a national/societal/community level we shouldn’t allow the exception to form the norm, or become the norm. If we do, there will be different types of marriage. Therefore ….. not truly equal. I’m actually neutral about society recognising various kinds of relationships other than what has been the historical norm [i.e. civil unions], and this has already happened through legislation anyway. What I do not want is the collateral damage that comes from not valuing children sufficiently, and recognising how we are designed to bring them into being and care for and form them, with both a mother and a father. We cannot escape the biological fact that both an X and a Y chromosome are needed for the race to continue. This is how society flourishes. And it is society’s role [via government] to dispassionately recognise this and affirm it, alongside appropriately recognising those who are at variance.
Rev. Lynda Johnson
Chair of EFAC Queensland.

06/09/2013 at 05:32 1 comment

Challenges Facing the Anglican Church in Australia

Bishop Peter Brain spoke at a meeting of EFAC WA in Perth on 12 March 2012. His talk entitled, Challenges facing the Anglican Church in Australia, is available here. It includes a question time which covers some discussion of the “marriage” debate.

13/03/2012 at 01:22 Leave a comment

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