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Monday, 31 December 2007

Anglicans in Australia

Tom Frame has done a good job with his most recent book Anglicans in Australia (UNSW Press, 2007) in telling a complex story well. At least that's my view as someone from outside the Anglican tradition though I confess to having spent a fair amount of time churching with Anglican communities.

It is a book that is distinguished by a good tempered tone. a deep commitment to the renewal of the Anglican church and a willingness to be clear about the difficulties facing the church. There is something deeply "Anglican" in the best sense of that term, about the tone and temper of the writing.

I shall look forward to the reviews by his fellow Anglicans and hope that they engage with Tom's argument in the spirit in which it has been written.

On the way through a number of questions occurred to me that arose from my perspective as one who has been deeply influenced in recent years by the Anabaptist tradition. A nest of overlapping questions seemed to be lurking just out of focus as I read the text:
  • whether the Anglican Church in Australia has quite gotten over a hankering for Establishment?
  • How willing it would be to revisit and acknowledge the ambiguities of the Christendom settlement? (there are a couple of unqualified references to Christendom in the book that seem to be in the present tense)
  • How really enthusiastic are Australian Anglicans about mission post-Christendom?
  • What might the implications be for Anglican ecclesiology and theology more generally of active engagement in the post-christendom context in Australia? In posing this question I am asking in my own way about the historical contingencies that have shaped Anglicanism and what forms of church life might survive as something recognisably Anglican in this new context.
These questions are not so much directed at Tom (on the issue of Establishment there is no question as to where he stands - very much against it) but a first attempt to frame some of my own questions.

Claiming an historical heritage as central to their identity as Anglicans do is fair enough. The issue that is rarely explicitly dealt with by those claiming the heritage is the question of the use of state power to enforce matters of worship and theology, whether directly by capital punishment and torture, or less directly by educational, social and economic discrimination against Catholics and dissenters. This it seems to me to be a scandal that needs to be more directly addressed.

I was delighted to note that Tom suggests a revisiting of the Thirty-nine articles. A reconsideration of those articles might provide a useful opportunity for dialogue with descendants of the 'detested anabaptists" over a number of matters canvassed therein.

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