A crowdsourced experiment – a personal plea for help

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Friends, here’s something you can all help me with.

Rev. Dr Sarah Macneil, the proposed new bishop of Grafton, has for the last 2 years been Senior Associate Minister at Holy Covenant Anglican Church in the diocese of Canberra-Goulborn. She’s proven to be a useful addition to the team there picking up the largest bulk of the preaching.

Of course, Dr Macneil’s preaching has recently been the source of some concern and as a result of writing about it I’ve picked up a fair amount of flak. One bishop went so far to say of me that,

you are mischievous in raising [questions about Penal Substitution and humansexuality] to centre stage when there is much to affirm about Sarah’s ministry in the cause of the Gospel

Which made me genuinely wonder if I was being unfair to Dr Macneil. Perhaps she did have a powerful ministry “in the cause of the Gospel”. Could I be wrong? I don’t think I am but I’m now going to ask for your help.

Holy Covenant Anglican Church have all their sermon transcripts online. As already noted above, Dr Macneil has been the main preacher there since her appointment. But for the life of me I cannot find one unambiguous call to repentance and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins and avoidance of the judgement of God in any of those sermons.

Not one.

Not a single call in any of her sermons.

But I could be wrong, so I need your help.

Here are all Holy Covenant’s 2013 sermons

Here are all Holy Covenant’s 2012 sermons (Dr Macneil joined in 2012)

I have a simple request from my readers. Can anyone find a sermon (full transcripts of all of them are available at those links) from Dr Macneil that has a clear unambiguous call to repentance and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins and avoidance of the judgement of God.


does anyone think my measure of “ministry in the cause of the Gospel” is outrageously wrong?

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This Post Has 33 Comments

  1. Bruce Lyon

    If you cannot find simple example of “repent [from sin] and believe [in/upon Jesus]” anywhere in over 12 months of senior ministry, it would seem on the surface at least she has flunked the grade. Not passed muster. Not worth the paper her vows are printed on, should this be the case. But perhaps I am not sufficiently informed, so I will look to your list.

  2. Martin Luther

    CHRISTMAS 2012
    Of course, some would argue that all this is irrelevant – that Jesus’ sole
    purpose was to provide our passport to salvation, a mission he fulfilled very
    effectively, if somewhat mysteriously, by dying. He was, in short, a man born
    to die. If we believe that he is God, then everything will be OK. In this way of
    seeing things, the focus really belongs on his death and resurrection. The
    events of the 33 years or so between birth and death were pretty irrelevant
    really and just show us that he really was the long expected chosen one of
    But I want to argue a very different kind of line. For I believe that the birth of
    Jesus as a human child, as one of us, has a much richer significance than
    that and is indeed infinitely more challenging. The incarnation is not some
    kind of crazy rescue plan; it is a systematic and timeless revelation to
    humanity about what it is to be human and about our relationship with God.
    Jesus’ life is not so much to show us who he is but rather to show us who we


  3. Craig Benno

    I am wondering why you are on a public witch hunt against her. She is in another diocese. She answers to other authority figures who are within a political framework higher up in the echelon of power, than you are.

    Have you fulfilled the principals given in Scripture that if you have something against someone, you go to them first? And if you have no recompense with that, take two other elders with you, and then if you have no satisfaction with that, you bring the matter to the church.

    To me your posting smacks of a political witch hunt which brings no glory to our heavenly father, nor does it further the gospel message.,,,

    1. David Ould

      It’s not a “public witchhunt” Craig. Dr Macneil has allowed herself to be nominated for a bishopric and is on the record as opposing the official position of the Anglican Church. That she is in another diocese is hardly a reason not to speak out. We are all affected by what others who present themselves as Anglican do.

      As for “the principals [sic] given in Scripture” I assume you are referring to Matt 18. Jesus there speaks about someone who sins against you. Dr Macneil has not sinned against me privately. Rather she has taken a public position opposed to the truth of the gospel.

      As for your last paragraph, if we are not to challenge false teaching then why did Jesus and His apostles do so? The reality is that there are many who believe Macneil does not promote the gospel, indeed as already quoted in this thread, she appears to regularly undermine it. So to speak out against that is to defend the gospel.

      1. Craig Benno

        Has she denied that Jesus is Lord. Has she denied that he died and was raised to life?

        I don’t believe this has been shown. Regarding the issue of how the atonement works, there never was a council which nutted that one out.

        1. David Ould

          hey Craig, thanks for all your help with the search – have you found a sermon where she clearly calls people to repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ for forgiveness of their sins and to escape God’s judgement?

          1. Craig Benno

            David. Sorry, I don’t partake in discernment ministries. I have seen way too many evidences over the years where they lack speaking the truth in love.

          2. David Ould

            well Craig, it appears not to have prevented you from all sorts of “discernment” about my motivations.

          3. James Ellis

            Hi David,
            Bit late to the conversation … but the reaction I got from you when I visited on Christmas Day 2014 and said I attend Holy Covenant makes much more sense now!
            Your comment about Sarah’s sermons not calling people to repentance each and every Sunday (or at all) don’t reflect that Holy Covenant (and many other faith communities) are communities that have already turned to christ and are journeying together. Quite frankly, it get’s a little boring if you get an Altar Call each Sunday.
            In our services at Holy Covenant (still now when we have Ven Paul Wallis as Rector) we follow a liturgy based on APBA where there are spaces calling for repentance, public confession of sin, absolution and declarations of forgiveness… there are ways to share this essential tennet of the faith that aren’t in the 15 minute sermon. Needless the say, all these things are also shown in the Eucharist without the use of words.

          4. David Ould

            hi James!

            Yes, a little bit late but no less welcome because of it.

            there are ways to share this essential tennet of the faith that aren’t in the 15 minute sermon.

            well yes, but if they’re never heard in the sermon then surely questions need to be raised.

            Needless the say, all these things are also shown in the Eucharist without the use of words.

            on the contrary, it’s the words that set the concepts out clearly. Without words to properly clarify and contain, the Eucharist could, quite literally, be hocus pocus.

  4. Bruce Lyon

    David did indeed try to take it up with her directly, and she refused to respond. He has also taken it up with the immediate consecrating Bishops.

    The problem here is twofold.

    a/ the structure and nature of the Anglican Church in Australia means each Diocese is largely independent. Its a very flat structure.

    b/ we have a broken, and in parts Apostate church, with some very liberal Diocese and clergy teaching all manner of strange things (for example the Perth Synod passed a motion supporting gay marriage just recently .. how did it get that far ? … poor teaching and apostate church leaders)

    I see no reason why David should not challenge publicly false teaching, when Bishops and senior clergy freely give wacky lectures and sermons overturning orthodoxy.

    It is after all, David’s blog …

    1. Craig Benno

      Bruce. I am sure that the Bishop of Goulburn is a Godly man. I am doubly sure that if he had any doubt about the validity of this Bishop, he himself would have raised them.

      Personally after seeing the way John Dickson copped a flogging over his recent book on women preaching, by Sydn Ang’s- I think Sydney Ang’s have an ax to grind against any female who may dare raise up to the level of Bishop.

      But, yes, it is David’s blog and he is able to do with it what he thinks is best.

      1. David Ould

        Craig, this is entirely wrong of you to state:

        I think Sydney Ang’s have an ax to grind against any female who may dare raise up to the level of Bishop.

        On the contrary. I have made it quite clear throughout this whole thread that the issue at stake is independent of her being a woman.

        That she is a woman (and our first diocesan female), of course, only means that more attention will be paid to her. But I am entirely convinced Dr Macneil was well aware she would be getting attention. Your attempt to try and deflect this conversation from the issues of the gospel and sexual ethics into an attack on Sydney Anglicans is not doing you any favours.

        1. Craig Benno

          You say she is your first diocesan female. I hadn’t heard the news that Grafton had now amalgamated with Sydney.

          1. David Ould

            oh come now Craig, don’t be silly. It’s not making you look good.

          2. Andrew K

            “our” in this case is quite clearly referring to the Anglican Church of Australia

            1. Craig Benno

              Thanks for clearing that up Andrew. In my 12 years experience on Synod, albeit a long time ago, I had never heard the Anglican Church of Australia referred to as our diocese. Even when I was there for AB Peter Jensen’s inaugural speech and the Synods that followed, the terminology of Diocese was always spoken as within the Sydney location. The wider body was always referred to as the greater Anglican fellowship.

              Even when AB Goodhew pulled the kaboosh on lay presidency – all the references to the reason why was not in Australian Diocesan terms – rather it was within an Australian / Global Anglican fellowship.

              Things must have changed over the last 10 years where now the Australian fellowship is referred to as Diocese.

          3. David Ould

            nobody here has called it “our diocese”. The only one operating on that basis is you.

        2. Craig Benno

          David… read your comment here.

          “That she is a woman (and our first diocesan female), of course, only means that more attention will be paid to her..”

          1. David Ould

            our (the Anglican Church of Australia) first diocesan (a term used to refer to the bishop in charge of a diocese) female.

            As I said, Craig. I think it’s time for you to stop now. I will be placing all your future comments into moderation.

  5. Martin

    Haven’t looked through all of them. I picked a few. Perhaps, I thought, Christmas and Easter would be a good starting point — after all, it’s the ideal opportunity to preach the gospel; there should be plenty of visitors at church!

    I found myself somewhat concerned by this, in her Easter 2013 sermon though, speaking about the significance of the resurrection:

    This is good news indeed. And it is light years away from the Old Testament understanding of the nature of God. This is not a God who punishes us for infringements of a divinely laid down code – this is a God who takes the very worst of what we do, who even bears the scars of it, and who then seeks us out, not to take revenge on us, but to reassure us.

    Oh dear. The New Testament understanding of God’s nature “is light years away from the Old Testament understanding”? Has she not read of God’s unfailing faithfulness, eternal love, patience or forgiveness in the OT, or of Jesus’ declarations that he did not come to abolish the Law? Does the OT really teach that God is out for revenge on us. What a caricature!

    Then, she concludes — the ideal time for a clarion call to repentance and faith in the living Christ…

    If we choose to explore it, to try to live it out day by day, we will find a God who does not punish us but rather a God who takes the very worst we can do, who even bears the scars of it, and who then seeks us out to forgive us, love us and reassure us. Jesus’ death and resurrection show us that God’s love is eternal, passionate, and unconditional. Love wins, perfect love has cast out fear, the gate of glory is open– let us celebrate for he is risen, he is risen indeed!

    True, but so much missing. It’s all about God’s forgiveness and love, but God’s righteousness and judgement have apparently been swept away with the now-superceded “Old Testament understanding”.

    “The gate of glory is open.” Hallelujah, it is! But how do we go through it, Sarah?

  6. Eddie Ozols

    Easter Day 2013 was irrelevant.
    All Saints Day 2013 – “There is not actually agreement on what constitutes a saint. The
    Roman Catholics take a fairly rigid, rules-based approach: a couple
    of miracles, a blameless life, and you may be in. It helps, of course,
    to be a former Pope. ”
    “The Anglican Church, as we might expect, has taken a middle path,
    acknowledging some of the great heroes of the faith as saints but
    generally having a much shorter list than Roman Catholicism.”
    “There is also between the churches a difference of opinion on the
    role of saints, ranging from those who see them as intercessors for
    us before God to those who understand them as examples of godly

    But in common language we tend to use the word ‘saint’ in this last
    way. We use the word to describe people who are shining examples
    of what it means to live as God wants us to live. Saints are people
    who have shaped their lives into godly shapes. This is expressed in 2
    many different ways: ‘they follow God’s will’, ‘they have set aside
    their own desires and followed God’s path’, ‘they have died to self’. ”
    It appears her understanding of a saint is not in accord with the Bible whci clearly indicates all Christians are saints.

    Saint Eddie of Wollongong

  7. Daniel

    Her idea of looking inward for repentance was weird…

    It’s like saying “you’re screwed up, just compare yourself to yourself and see”

  8. Craig Benno

    David. I only comment as someone who is an outside observer of the Anglican Church. I only say it, as I see it.

    1. David Ould

      I “see it”.
      You “discern”.
      They “orchestrate a witchhunt”.

  9. Craig Benno

    I’m calling it as I see it David. I’m wondering why it is you have never gone after the other liberal bishops in Australia. The only difference I can see is they operate out of male privilege. Maybe you can explain otherwise?

    1. David Ould

      I’m wondering why it is you have never gone after the other liberal bishops in Australia

      Craig, once again you’re only demonstrating your ignorance. I do wish, for your own sake, you would stop with all the demonstrably false accusations.

      1. Craig Benno

        Please link to me your previous blog posts about other liberal bishops and priests. I will then apologize for making a false accusation.

  10. Richard Blight

    Just scanned a couple of sermons.There are some that call for repentance, but the sins needing repentance tend to reflect a particular bias. This is a quote from Dr Macneil’s sermon of 10th March 2013 (Lent 4) where she is commenting on the parable of the prodigal son. Her call for repentance includes a challenge to the religious (who she sees represented by the older brother):

    “Here is where we come to the crux of the story. This parable is one of four
    parables Jesus tells to the Pharisees and scribes who were grumbling and
    saying ‘This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.’ Although we tend
    to hear it 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 3
    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. Is it the Anglican Church of Australia’s reluctance to allow
    the ordination of gay people in same sex relationships? Is it the inability of our
    political parties to agree on a humane asylum seeker policy? What would
    Jesus be taking pot shots at if he were here with us now? Where, in our
    personal and communal lives, are we blocking the flow of love, compassion
    and mercy? “

    1. Bruce Lyon

      If we were to allow ordination of same sex coupled gay priests, we would be obliged to allow ordination of heterosexual priests living together with the opposite sex, and not married. That is, homosexuality and fornication, both of which are unacceptable to God, especially his set apart Anglican priests. This teaching has been used elsewhere by liberals to attempt to derail evangelical straight talking. So sad.

    2. Bruce Lyon

      Mixing same the religious controversy over ordination of active gay priests in the same pea soup as asylum seekers is dis-ingenuous.debate. Linking these into the same moral equivalence is a sleight of hand, a trick of the mind. For a potential Bishop to have to resort to such deception merely speaks volumes about the inadequacy of her credentials to be entirely of the Word of Truth, to be adequately humble and genuine in her desire for the Gospel, and not her own teachings.

  11. Lucy McWhirter Browne

    I was in Anglican Churches for 3 years, Australia. I never ever heard the gospel preached or a call to repentance and it was clear that sermons are focussed on the life of Jesus and how we can apply this to our own rather than the atonement. I don’t think that Sarah Macneil being female is what David’s article is about Craig and he has also wrote about other liberal bishops. It may be the case that people within her diocese are themselves quite liberal so are not objecting to her views. When the bishop here was quoted in the local newspaper as saying he wanted to support same sex marriage, the letters to the editor that followed came from people other christian denominations. I reckon bishops act and teach in a way that they know they will get away with.

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