And They’re Off… The Race Begins for Archbishop of Sydney

You are currently viewing And They’re Off… The Race Begins for Archbishop of Sydney

For the last 6 months members of the Diocese of Sydney have been having conversations amongst themselves about who should replace Peter Jensen as Archbishop when he retires in a few months. Several names have been canvassed and considered. Options have been aired and then rejected and a few names have kept cropping up.

This weekend what many have known became official. The first candidate has thrown their hat into the ring. Glenn Davies, current bishop of the Northern Region of Sydney has allowed himself to be nominated for the position of Archbishop. The announcement was made in the form of a brochure sent to many synod reps (being not yet officially appointed I haven’t received my copy but I saw one at another minister’s house this morning). The brochure sets out the argument for Davies and points readers on to a website,


Glenn and Di Davies -
Glenn and Di Davies –

Commending Dr Glenn Davies
For the Office of Archbishop of Sydney

Dear friends,

In August, we will meet to elect the twelfth Bishop of Sydney. Our prayer is that God will raise up a godly and gifted shepherd to pastor and lead us, to engage publicly with our wider society, and to defend, preserve, and strengthen our evangelical Anglican heritage both within and beyond the Diocese.

For this reason, we are writing to commend to you the Rt Rev Dr Glenn Davies, Bishop of North Sydney, for your prayerful consideration as the next Archbishop. We believe that Glenn is the man whom God has raised up and equipped for this difficult task, for the following reasons.

Glenn exemplifies all the qualities of a Bishop, as set out in the Pastoral Epistles. His ministry as Bishop of North Sydney over the past 12 years has demonstrated this, confirming the judgment of our present Archbishop in appointing him.

Glenn has the proven ability to lead and manage an organisation as large and complex as our Diocese. With his experience as a Bishop overseeing 64 parishes, and his long involvement in many key Diocesan entities, there is no one better placed to be able to take on this demanding role. He is a team player who leads collaboratively and effectively.

Glenn has the theological acumen required of the chief pastor-teacher of our Diocese. Glenn is respected, nationally and internationally, as a teacher, preacher and theologian.

Glenn has a pastor’s heart. He engages others with a pastoral sensitivity that is compassionate and engenders trust.

Glenn is an accomplished media spokesperson, with considerable public exposure and media experience that has won respect in the wider community.

Glenn has demonstrated the grace and courage to commend and defend the gospel in Australia, and globally through GAFCON and other international bodies.

We warmly commend Glenn to you.

Rick Smith

There’s no doubt at all that Glenn is a strong candidate and the website seeks to set out exactly why that is the case. It’s no secret that here in Sydney he’s long been considered the default heir of Jensen’s seat, but that’s not the same as saying his election in the upcoming election synod is a foregone conclusion. Precisely because there are many who have their doubts about Davies there’s been talk of other candidates and again it is no secret to tell you that Rick Smith (the current rector of Naremburn/Cammeray) is very likely to be officially nominated in the coming weeks. There will probably be a couple of other names added too but at the moment Davies and Smith are widely acknowledged to be the main candidates.

Which to pick? It’s a dilemma that would be wonderful for pretty much any diocese in the world, but Sydney is particular about it’s Archbishops. We won’t settle for a good choice, we want to make sure we get the best choice. And yes, I’ll be having more to say about that choice in the weeks to come.

Given the importance of Sydney Diocese, particularly within the FCA/GAFON movement, I join with many here in Sydney, no matter who they’re backing, in asking for your prayers for this enormous decision.

Leave a Reply

This Post Has 20 Comments

  1. Erin Carter

    “…but Sydney is particular about it’s Archbishops. We won’t settle for a good choice, we want to make sure we get the best choice.”

    Just a thought, this is true not just of Sydney. I think you’ll find most diocese would say this of themselves. This is not an area in which Sydney is in any way unique. Hence the processes that have to be be gone through to elect someone to such an office.

    Having elected our bishop here in the Armidale Diocese not so long ago, you can be assured there are many in our diocese praying for Sydney as they go through this process.

    1. David Ould

      Thanks for the comment Erin. Yes, you’re right – all dioceses want the best and I didn’t mean to imply otherwise of other dioceses! Thanks for the helpful reminder.
      And thanks for your prayers.

  2. unkleE

    I would hope they’d be looking for God’s choice!

    1. David Ould

      indeed. Trust I didn’t write anything that would suggest otherwise!

  3. unkleE

    No, you didn’t. But I think it sometimes gets forgotten in the lobbying. Just wanted to make a point! Thanks.

  4. Rosemary Harle

    God left Sydney Diocese decades ago but everyone was so busy nitpicking over the meaning of obscure bible verses they didn’t actually notice. Who cares who is AB of Sydney? It is full of narrow minded literalists who care more about Sydney’s ways than following the example of Jesus. It is ‘full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.’ So glad I escaped from its claustrophophobic clutches in the 70’s. All these blog comments serve to remind me that nothing has changed. Get a grip and take a good look at yourselves – you are a disgrace to the faith you profess to follow!

    1. David Ould

      Sorry you feel that way, Rosemary. I suspect there’s many people doing lots of great gospel work that would be very disappointed to hear you so sweepingly and quickly dismiss all that they’re doing.

  5. unkleE

    I wonder whether anyone is sorry enough hearing Rosemary’s comments, exaggerated thought they may be, to actually pray and consider whether she may be at least partly right? For what it’s worth, I currently attend a Sydney Anglican church, and I would share about half of her comments, and feel sympathy for the rest. I am disgusted at how the lobbying is going, and believe it is an indicator of a deeper malaise.

    1. David Ould

      Ok then, you may have a point. Exactly which of the comments? That God has left the diocese? That we’re just narrow-minded nitpicking literalists? It’s all too easy to throw the accusations about, but perhaps a bit of detail would help our readers understand better.

  6. unkleE

    Hi David, thanks for the invitation.

    The comments you mentioned are ones I have sympathy with, but I wouldn’t use those words. I understand that Rosemary has strong opinions, and probably good reasons for those opinions, but I think I need to be careful and charitable towards my brothers and sisters.

    So I don’t think “God left Sydney Diocese decades ago” but I do think behaviour and doctrine have relegated the Holy Spirit to a minor role in the diocese, as exemplified in the present archbishop lobbying.

    I don’t think “everyone was so busy nitpicking over the meaning of obscure bible verses” but I think that is an unfortunate tendency. In particular, insisting on certain verses being taken literally, while explaining away or ignoring the clear meaning of other passages of scripture (e.g. on prophecy or on the original meaning of “gospel”).

    I don’t think that “It is full of narrow minded literalists” though I think there is a danger of that, and I do think this present situation and many others illustrate that many “care more about Sydney’s ways than following the example of Jesus”.

    “It is ‘full of sound and fury, signifying nothing” is a picturesque quote that I wouldn’t interpret literally, but I think fairly sums up a lot of what goes on because the diocese ignores so much of what Jesus teaches.

    I think the diocese is indeed “claustrophobic” – by which I mean that there is an inordinate amount of fearful control exercised to maintain the “hard line”, leaving lay people suppressed and passive in many cases, and people who are considered to be something other than “solid” are watched and discriminated against.

    Finally, I think we are all sometimes a “disgrace to the faith we profess to follow”, but it seems instead of repenting of some of these things, Sydney Diocese glories in them.

    So yes, there are many wonderful people in the diocese, and I have made many good friends since I began attending an Anglican church a decade ago. And there are indeed “many people doing lots of great gospel work” if you define gospel in the narrow Sydney diocese way and don’t look too hard at where they are not following Jesus. But we could do way way better if we chose to truly follow Jesus in word and deed, allowed the Spirit to work and speak, and allowed people to live in the freedom of the Spirit. It is little wonder that the previous Archbishop’s mission didn’t meet its goals (this isn’t just hindsight as I wrote to him at the start to say why I thought it wouldn’t succeed).

    Thanks for the opportunity to explain how at least some people feel.

    1. David Ould

      thanks for taking the time to comment, appreciate it.

      I trust you don’t think I’m difficult but I would have to remark that while I see you describe what you see as a number of flaws you don’t actually give examples.

      Actual examples, of course, help to demonstrate the case. Yes, I would be the first to recognise that much is said about Sydney Anglicans very similar to what you set out but when you actually ask for specifics they tend not to be forthcoming.

      So that’s what I’d be looking for – actual specific examples of what you describe in general terms. Flesh on the bones of the accusation.

  7. unkleE


    I am a little wary of being too specific, because, like I said, I don’t want to malign individuals. Nevertheless, I will give some examples that I think pass this test. But first I want to ask you a question please.

    Does nothing I said resonate with you? Do you not see any of the things I have mentioned? Do you think they are not applicable? What’s your perspective?

    1. David Ould

      sorry for the delay, been a busy 24 hours.
      In answer to your question – yes, some things do resonate. I don’t think anyone can be in any large group of people and not notice disfunction at various levels.

      My experience of these things, however, is that the complaints while sometimes valid are often exaggerated and give the impression of favouring rhetoric over substance. Hence my question – let’s put facts on the ground rather than dealing in sweeping statements that splash the accusations around in generic terms without actually putting up substantive and specific issues.

      So by all means, we all need to have our houses cleaned up – but not by vague rhetoric.

  8. unkleE

    Thanks David. I wondered if you would be pretty occupied!

    I asked you that question because I think we can easily get into discussions from entrenched positions. Jesus engaged in discussions in ways that tended to reveal what people’s motivations were, and how committed they were to finding truth. And I must say I’m not entirely encouraged by your answer.

    “Some things resonating” and the inevitable “disfunction” that comes in any large group are really very noncommittal responses. I understand you are a clergyman with some investment in the system, and some subtle pressure to not rock the boat, and I want to be sensitive to that. But we are talking about the kingdom of God, and God’s work on earth to put things right in people’s lives, and so we need to be doing the very best we can. It seems to me that a noncommittal response is in danger of valuing apologetics over honesty.

    I hope that isn’t insulting, it certainly isn’t meant to be, but it is right that I be frank. Anyway, I will give some examples as I said I would, and see where we go with them.

    1. The present Archbishop election is clearly one example. The lobbying seems more like the NSW ALP than a church committed to knowing and doing the will of God. Did you see the articles by Julia Baird and the Facebook exchange about Phillip Jensen’s comments on Glenn Davies’ supposed mission stance? I don’t suppose everything written there is true, but there is enough to leave a very sour taste.

    I think the real problem is that many Anglicans don’t believe God has a “will” apart from his “sovereign will” (as Phillip Jensen wrote in a book many years ago), and don’t believe God speaks to us except through the Bible, so they don’t believe God has anything more to say on the subject of the Archbishop than general Biblical principles (as expressed, e.g. in the pastoral epistles) and in his sovereign will. So they behave accordingly, confident that if they lobby, God’s sovereign will will be expressed through the results of their lobbying. I was at an influential Anglican Church on Sunday where prayers were offered for the decision, but not once was God asked to show the delegates his will!

    2. Have you read Keith Mascord’s A restless Faith? Keith was a Moore College lecturer who changed his theological views and ran foul of the establishment. I don’t agree with everything he says in that book, but part of it tells of how he tried to encourage the diocese to be less controlling – and failed.

    3. Scriptural reinterpretation.

    3.1 The noun “gospel” is much used in our modern church, sometimes even as an adjective of approval – you used it in that way yourself. But the word used by Mark in Mark 1:15, and presumably the Aramaic word that Jesus used, mean something much broader than the modern usage. We have made the centre of our faith and evangelism the penal substitutionary atonement to save individuals (you and me) from our sins, but Jesus was on a far bigger mission than that – the kingdom of God, the shalom of God, and making all things new. This includes individual salvation, but a lot more as well. So we have taken a word, narrowed and re-focused its meaning, then used it as a way of judging others – all contrary to the Jesus we are supposed to be following. This is one of the reasons, I believe, why Sydney Diocese is becoming so narrow, unattractive and less effective.

    3.2 A few years ago the previous archbishop came to our church, gave a sermon and invited questions. One of the questions was a ‘Dorothy Dixer’ on prophecy. He answered by saying that prophecy is a form of preaching, with exegetical teaching at one end of the scale and prophecy at the other end. This fits Sydney Diocese anti-charismatic theology (which seems to me to be based on fear of the Spirit and fear of excess), but is contrary to the NT evidence.

    If you go through all the NT occurrences of the three Greek words about prophecy (prophecy, prophesy and prophet), as I have done, you find that half clearly mean prophecy in the conventional sense of a word directly from God, half could mean merely preaching or could mean genuine prophecy (the meaning isn’t clear enough to delineate), and none (not one that I can see) unambiguously means what Peter Jensen said.

    So the diocese goes to great lengths to defend its stance on women’s ordination (for example) by appealing to the plain meaning of scripture, then it redefines words like gospel and prophecy to suit its theology. This means there is a deep dishonesty at the heart of the diocese’s theology, and one which cuts it off from much of the work of the Holy Spirit and the guidance it surely needs.

    I think that is enough for now. I have more I could say, but I’ll await your response. Thanks again for the opportunity to discuss these matters amicably.

    1. David Ould

      thanks for the detailed comment. As you might expect I’m going to agree with some but not all of what you say.

      As for the conduct of the campaign, I think what is clear to those of us who were involved in it is that at times it was intemperate but it never spilled over into any real hostility. Both nominees thanked both “parties” in Synod last night for the opportunity for us to properly air all the issues involved. There was also a remarkable spirit of friendship between us in the evening when the final result was known. I cannot speak for others on this (although I suspect they would say the same thing) but when Synod was finished (and to a limited extent beforehand) my time was spent shaking hands and embracing those who Julia Baird and others would like you to believe were actually my mortal enemies.

      Yes, there were some real concerns raised and distinct differences. Yes there were also some contributions that I thought were not helpful. But Baird’s narrative of “deep division” and “the younger generation being held down by Philip Jensen and others” were actually figments of her imagination. They were the facts of the matter presented through the prism of her heavily distorted and biased position. So she accurately reported some facts but her piece was let down by her interpretation. In the longer term she and others will be disappointed to find that what they call “Jensenism” and believe to have now been rejected will actually remain prominent in the Diocese (and not least in the actions and teachings of our new Archbishop) since it is simply good old-fashioned “conservative” evangelicalism.

      I’ve read Keith’s book and find it intriguing. Again, I don’t doubt nor would deny that there have been some serious issues in the way that some people handle things. But Keith also gives the air (I’m sorry to say) of someone disappointed that his argument did not win the day. I sat under his tutelage with my entire year at Moore College and the plain fact of the matter is that he failed to persuade the vast majority of us. Now either that’s because we’re all blind unthinking clones or it could just be that he didn’t persuade us. I do also note that his open letter of the following year fell into the same problem I have noted earlier. He complained that Moore College students have a deserved reputation for being difficult and uncaring and dogmatic etc but then immediately claimed that not one of the students in his own pastoral groups that he went on mission with were like that! Again we have this divergence between the supposed stories and the actual experience he had. As Keith has continued I note that he has not yet persuaded many here of his point of view.

      As for your argument on “scriptural interpretation” I’m tempted to observe that you, yourself, are being dogmatic about the meaning of words and seeking to “outcast” those who do not agree. We all disagree about a number of things. I see your case on “gospel” and “prophecy” but remain unpersuaded. That’s not to say that I don’t think there’s merit in what you say (so your observations about how we fall into narrower assumed meanings is perfectly valid and helpful) but you will be aware that there are other arguments.

      I think one of the main problems here in Sydney for “dissenters” is that they find themselves arguing against a much larger body that is very united. It can feel like they are being bullied and squashed (and it’s entirely possible that that does happen on occasion, I have no doubt of that) but often it’s simply the fact that they are in a minority. So setting aside where there is genuine abuse, which ought to be dealt with, my sense is that there is also simply a resentment that people here cannot be persuaded. And, I have to say, I see it expressed online in very unhelpful terms. I have, for example, trashed comments in moderation this morning that would be libellous is published. They came from people who claim to be Christian and yet who used disgraceful language about the diocese, it’s leaders and one even about our new Archbishop. They ought to realise that such behaviour utterly discredits any merit to argument they have.

      Don’t read me wrong, I won’t tolerate any wrong behaviour and have myself challenged it where I see it. But the picture that is often painted is highly selective and distorted and, because of that, actually undermines it’s own desire to do something about the problems where they do exist. That goes for the whole spread, from comments here that “God has left the diocese” through to Julia Baird’s op-ed disguised as objectivity.

      Thanks again for commenting

  9. unkleE

    Hi David, thanks for this reply. I don’t think I will respond at length, though there is more I could say. here are a few brief final responses:

    1. I’m sorry you copped some abuse. It’s not pleasant, though sometimes it may give an indication that someone has been hurt.

    2. I feel your response tries to smooth things over. That’s OK, especially in your position, but my reason for commenting is not to be negative, but because I believe there are real problems that could be fixed. If there was one word that summarises my perception of how outsiders see Sydney Diocese, it is “arrogant”, and while that is surely unfair to many people, the perception merits some change in attitude I think.

    3. I am glad Synod was such a positive experience for you, and for others as I read. It seems there were less in the lobbying group than I thought, which was very nice, but I think you understated the poor impression that behaviour gives. (BTW, I think you used Julia Baird too much, as if I endorsed everything I said when I didn’t, and said so.)

    4. I am surprised at your comments about the meaning of “gospel” and prophecy (and this is where I thought you most smoothed over rather than engaged). I don’t recall reading any scholar who doesn’t see the broader meaning for euangelion in Mark 1:5, and I don’t see how the evidence I mentioned leaves any alternative but to regard prophecy as at lest often much more than Peter Jensen said. I feel your response in a sense illustrated the problem I was alluding to.

    5. I also think you somewhat whitewashed how dissent is dealt with. I have had two ex-Moore College students (Anglican clergymen) describe to me events they witnessed that seemed to border on manipulation of a vulnerable student by senior staff, in the name of “good doctrine”. This was perhaps the most reprehensible example I could have given.

    So I won’t pursue matters further. I have appreciated your courtesy and the opportunity to express some of my views. Thanks and best wishes.

    1. David Ould

      thanks for that. Just a couple of things.

      1. I get that people feel hurt and are genuinely hurt. But that in no way excuses the sort of stuff I find myself regularly subjected to. I don’t believe you are suggesting it does.

      2. I’m happy to accept that people will perceive us in a certain way. Some of it is certainly deserved. But some of it is often not – I regularly ask people to give examples when they make similar accusations and it is notable how often the examples are not forthcoming.

      4. my response was simply to point out that there will be differing opinions. You resist what you see as a “narrower” position but I’m just suggesting that perhaps you’re engaging in your own dogmatism. That’s all.

      5. Again, I’m not seeking to dismiss anything and everything. Just to point out that the over-statement and, at times, sheer lies told do nothing to enhance the legitimate complaints that surely exist.

      Glad you felt safe to express yourself here. I know many read and I’m always grateful when someone wants to engage. I think part of that process is for us all to listen to each other. And to watch as others have conversations.

Leave a Comment - but please pay careful attention to the house rules