Well, Australia has their first diocesan woman bishop, and what a bishop she’s going to be…
With a real sense that she is answering God’s call, Sarah Macneil will next year be installed as the 11th bishop of Grafton and the first woman to head an Anglican diocese in Australia.
Dr Macneil is married, a grandmother and a former Australian diplomat.
She is a former dean of Adelaide and archdeacon in the diocese of Canberra-Goulburn.
Dr Macneil will give up her role as senior associate priest at Holy Covenant Church in Jamison, to lead a diocese with 28 parishes, taking in major centres such as Lismore, Ballina, Coffs Harbour and Port Macquarie.
“This does feel right, this does have a sense of call to it,” she said.
“A part of me feels an enormous weight of responsibility. But another part of me feels excited and delighted.”
Dr Macneil accepted the position after she and the Grafton nomination board came to the mutual decision that her skills and interests would suit the direction the diocese wanted to take.
Dr Macneil praised the diocese for being willing to appoint a woman – a step that will not be universally celebrated within the Anglican Church.
“Grafton is a trailblazer,” she said.
Well that’s certainly true. But it’s not only Grafton since Macneil has blazed a bit of a trail herself. Just what are the views held by the person that the Grafton nominations board unanimously selected?
Although we tend to hear [the parable of the Prodigal] as a parable highlighting God’s welcome to all sinners, especially those who have had lurid pasts, like the younger son, its placement in the Gospel of Luke aims it straight at the religious authorities – the goody two shoes upholders of the faith. Will they join the party? Or will they stick to their rigid adherence to the Torah, tithing even the herbs in their cupboards, but neglecting mercy and compassion?
We can ask where it is that we are working within rules that neglect mercy and compassion.
Now some of us have been at this such a long time that we could tell you the next line without thinking. But just for the fun of it, let’s play a little game. What is the first issue that Macneil will raise as an example of this “rigid adherence to the Torah”? Take your time because there’s so many options…
Is it the Anglican Church of Australia’s reluctance to allow the ordination of gay people in same sex relationships?
I’m sorry, if you were looking for something else but you’re going to be disappointed. Right at the top of the list of examples that Mcneil gives is the ordination of gay people in same sex relationships.
At this point some may suggest that the Grafton nominators can’t be expected to dig around in websites hunting this sort of stuff out. Perhaps not, but given that this is now a major issue in the Anglican Church in Australia we can be pretty confident that it will have been discussed. At least it should have been discussed. And particularly since Macneil is alleged to have resigned over this very issue.
Macneil gave up her position as Dean of Adelaide cathedral in early June 2011 stating she could,
no longer work with integrity at diocesan level
What prompted this resignation after less than 2 years in the job? It’s believed by some in Adelaide that this resignation was related amongst other things to another one at the same time…
AN openly gay Anglican priest has quit her post, after ongoing “persecution” from the church over her sexuality.
The resignation of Semaphore’s St Bede’s Reverend Ali Wurm comes as the Dean of Adelaide, Sarah Macneil, also announced she would step down.
Tensions within the Diocese of Adelaide about how to respond to a global moratorium imposed by the church on same-sex unions and the ordination of clergy in same-sex relationships – as well as the handling of the turmoil by Archbishop Jeffrey Driver – are believed to be factors in the women’s departures.
All Souls of St Peters’ Reverend Andy Wurm, Ms Wurm’s brother, confirmed pressure over many years about her former same-sex relationship was a key factor.
“A major reason for her resignation was the persecution she felt as a result of her living arrangements and sexual orientation,” Rev Wurm said.
“It was made clear by some that her partner wasn’t welcome at clergy gatherings by some other clergy.
“People were also pressuring the Archbishop (Driver), trying to make him take action against her.”
If this was part of the reason that Macneil resigns it does, one should concede, present her to us as someone with great integrity.
There is, however, a question that Macneil now needs to answer.
Does Bishop-elect Macneil stand by the position expressed in her sermon of 10 March 2013 that mercy and compassion ought to lead to the ordination of gay people in same sex relationships or does she, instead, stand by the Australia House of Bishops’ Protocol of March 2012 which states
“As bishops in the Australian Church we accept the weight of 1998 Lambeth Resolution 1.10 and the 2004 General Synod resolutions 33, 59 and 61-64 as expressing the mind of this church on issues of human sexuality.
We undertake to uphold the position of our Church in regard to human sexuality as we ordain, license, authorise or appoint to ministries within our dioceses.”?
Now, this is not the only issue on which Macneil departs from the position of the Church itself. There is a far weightier matter on which she is also on record. Here is an extract from a sermon given in Sydney in October 2010:
It is clear from the gospel [Luke 10:1-9] and from Acts that Luke is not thinking of salvation and atonement in terms of what we now call penal substitution. This view uses the logic of retributive justice and argues that it was Jesus’ death on the cross that saved us from our sins and brought us into right relationship with God. A debt had to be paid for human sin and disobedience in order to satisfy God’s demands of justice. This is what made Christ’s death upon the cross necessary. In his great love for us, Christ is therefore said to have taken the punishment deserved by all humanity upon himself.
This rather mechanistic and grim understanding of atonement, prevalent not so very far from here, was not part of early Christian thought and clearly not part of Luke’s thought world. Nor does Luke regard Jesus’ death as a sacrifice or as an expiation for sin. His focus is more on Jesus’ life and on the wholeness that is brought to humanity through contact with the suffering Messiah.
There is no doubt in the gospel that Jesus is the Messiah, no doubt that he will suffer and die, but the wholeness that comes to people because of him, comes from their encounter with him.
Jesus’ presence is what brings life, peace, forgiveness of sins and right relation to God.
Now be very clear on what Macneil is arguing here. She sets a view of penal substitution (and to be fair to her she at least does a pretty good job of trying to describe it) against a view that “Jesus’ presence is what brings [salvation]“. Of course, if it’s simply the incarnation and Jesus presence that brings salvation then as inevitable as the Cross is, it doesn’t save.
This is an intriguing position for a bishop in the church (who is meant to be a source and symbol of unity) to hold. The official Anglican position is something very different,
XXXI. Of the one Oblation of Christ finished upon the Cross.
The Offering of Christ once made is that perfect redemption, propitiation, and satisfaction, for all the sins of the whole world, both original and actual; and there is none other satisfaction for sin, but that alone.
Now this is, let’s be clear, a far more important issue that the one already highlighted. Macneil is on record as stating that the official position of the Anglican Church of Australia on the central question of the gospel is wrong. (The 39 Articles are set out in the Constitution of the Anglican Church of Australia as doctrine which is “retained and approved” (Part I, s.4) [pdf]).
So here’s the second question for Macneil:
Does Bishop-elect Macneil stand by her position expressed in a sermon on St Luke’s Day, October 2010, that penal substitution is a incorrect view of the atonement and that rather than the Cross, “Jesus’ presence is what brings [salvation]” or does she affirm the doctrinal position of Article XXXI of the 39 Articles which states that “The Offering of Christ once made is that perfect redemption, propitiation, and satisfaction, for all the sins of the whole world, both original and actual; and there is none other satisfaction for sin, but that alone.” and which is position that the Anglican Church of Australia in it’s constitution (Part I, s.4) expressly retains and approves”?
I’ll put those questions to her new press officer and I’ll let you know when we get an answer.
In the meantime, take a good look at Grafton’s new diocesan. Their new bishop is on record as taking an opposing position to the Bishops’ Protocol after it was published and denies that the Cross is where Jesus saves us.
The fact that she is a woman ought to be way down your list of complaints.