Why Fuss So Much About Mere Men?

Seems there is excitement aplenty at the moment around St Paul’s Cathedral, Melbourne. I need to confess outright, not only is this the “home church for Anglicans in Melbourne and Victoria” as it says on the web site, but also it is the church I attend regularly, Sunday by Sunday. There is excitement aplenty. Next Wednesday 13 August sees the cathedral hosting the formal installation of Archbishop of Melbourne Philip Freier as Primate of Australia. That is excitement enough for some, but the big excitement is that Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby will be there, and will preach at the installation service.

Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby
Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby

Excitement aplenty! The Dean and Precentor have been unable to hide theirs during announcement times these past few Sundays. An extra working bee has been scheduled for Saturday, to get the place all spick and span. This week there have been Tweets of the seating plan, and the evolving order of service and running sheets—yes, the excitement bubbles over and just has to be shared with us all!

Understandable excitement, really. Seventeen years have drifted by since an Archbishop of Canterbury last set foot on Australian soil. The Archbishop of Canterbury is the Anglican Communion’s most senior bishop, worldwide. Not that any authority comes by virtue of his seniority—he is simply the “first among equals.” Unquestionably there is prestige. Also some amount of influence. But no authority outside England. He is definitely not the Anglican version of the Pope—we have none such.

Archbishop of Melbourne and Primate of Australia, Dr Philip Freier
Archbishop of Melbourne and Primate of Australia, Dr Philip Freier

Similarly the Primate of Australia. He too is “first among equals”—the most senior bishop in Australia, with some prestige, a measure of influence, but no authority outside his own immediate sphere.

Why fuss so much about such men? They do not even possess authority to match their rank! Surely the attention paid them detracts from our proper task of proclaiming Christ to the world? Surely we should point past mere men like these, drawing attention only and constantly to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ?

Perhaps.

Yet—like it or not—these men are, and will always be, prominent Christians. You will not hear of me in the media, but you will hear of them. My Christian witness is on view to just a few, theirs often to thousands and millions. I mix only with simple, ordinary folk; they quite often find themselves in the presence of people of real power and influence.

Therefore, at very least, these men, and others like them, deserve the attention of our prayers. Pray that their witness will be faithful always to the gospel of Christ. Pray that they will proclaim Christ, crucified and risen, without fear or favour. Pray that the Holy Spirit will fill and empower them to be godly and faithful servants of Christ and his church, walking always in the way of wisdom, justice and truth. It is when I see these prayers answered—and praise God I do!—that I get really excited.

Hey, and why not make a bit of a fuss once in a while? I admit it; I also am very excited about Wednesday!

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Church of England and Woman Bishops: Timely Posts

There have, of course, been voices bemoaning the Church of England’s decision to allow woman bishops. As I said in my last post, there is still agonising and deep angst on this topic (and many others) in some circles. These two recent posts from Tim Harris, assistant bishop in the Diocese of Adelaide, are timely:

Church of England Offers Women More Opportunities for Servanthood

Worthwhile reflection on the recent decision by the Church of England to allow woman bishops. A conclusive result for them. For many, agonising and deep angst over this and other divisive issues continues. I pray there will be an end, and we can get on with the real work of the gospel. Christ have mercy on us.

God and Politics in the UK

Women Bishops VoteThe history of the role and definition of bishops is a long and often turbulent one. From the beginning, Paul in his letters to the churches set high standards for his leaders:

‘Since an overseer [bishop] manages God’s household, he must be blameless – not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.’ (Titus 1:7-9)

Interestingly though, when Paul talks about the order of positions within the Church in his letter to the Corinthians, he places apostles first, prophets second and teachers third. This was all about mission as the Gospel spread rapidly throughout the Roman empire.

During the life of Paul and…

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