The Archbishop of Brisbane and former Primate of the Anglican Church of Australia, Phillip Aspinall, has today announced in an ad clerum that he has appointed Archdeacon Jeremy Greaves as an assistant bishop in the Diocese.
Greaves’ appointment will be viewed by many as controversial and even provocative. He gained notoriety for himself when Dean of Darwin Cathedral as a proponent of “progressive Christianity”, most recently being lead organiser of the 2016 “Common Dreams” conference in Brisbane. He is an outspoken supporter of same-sex marriage but perhaps even more troubling he rejects key understandings of Christianity that he will be required to reaffirm at his consecration (having already promised at his ordination to teach them). One particular example will suffice.
In a 2010 ABC Radio National interview with Rachael Kohn he took part in a discussion of Progressive Christianity. The interview includes this exchange:
Rachael Kohn: Do you specifically then have difficulties with the Apostles’ Creed that you might like to rewrite it or ditch it?
Jeremy Greaves: I’d be happy to abandon the Creed.
As a bishop in the Anglican Church of Australia Greaves may struggle to represent the church with integrity. The Constitution of the Anglican Church of Australia [pdf] opens with these words:
Chapter I. – FUNDAMENTAL DECLARATIONS
- The Anglican Church of Australia, being a part of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church of Christ, holds the Christian Faith as professed by the Church of Christ from primitive times and in particular as set forth in the creeds known as the Nicene Creed and the Apostles’ Creed.
It will be his role to uphold and teach that faith which is in particular set forth in statements that he has publicly stated he would “be happy to abandon”.
As the interview concludes we hear this as he discusses the tension being speaking clearly about what he actually believes and the need to continue to draw a salary from his position:
Rachael Kohn: When you said the gut, it reminded me of what Gretta Vosper said, she was quoting Carter Haywood, who named the lurch in her stomach as God. What was your response to Gretta’s charge to the conference here to leave behind a lot of what has been traditional about Christianity, and even abandon some of the terminology?
Jeremy Greaves:I feel very conflicted about some of those things because – and she talked about that chasm between what so many of us believe and what we feel we have permission to say in our churches. And for so many of us in ministry, we’re locked into a model where the people who sit in the pews pay our salaries, pay our way. I have a wife and three small children to support and so the challenge of being too prophetic and changing too many things too quickly is that there won’t be enough people left in the short term to help me survive financially, and that’s a brutal and very difficult challenge.
And for so many of my colleagues in their 60s, which the majority, certainly in the Anglican church clergy are, they can probably get away with doing the same thing for another three or four years, and I have probably 30 years of ministry ahead, and that won’t work. And so the real challenge, from what Gretta has said, is knowing that we need to be somewhere else, but for me it’s the fear that comes with that and perhaps lacking the courage sometimes to go quite as far as we perhaps need to go.
It does seem now that fear of loss of income or worry about permission to speak is no longer a problem when the Archbishop is happy to appoint as bishop a man who publicly stated he would abandon the Apostles’ Creed.
In the comments on this page and elsewhere there has been a repeated argument made that what Greaves was arguing in this interview was simply that since Creedal truths were being spoken in various points in church services in a variety of ways it was unnecessary to then also repeat them in the Apostles’ Creed. I think the best response to that argument is to cite more of the interview transcript (which was also linked above).
Rachael Kohn: What’s the congregation like up in Darwin that you serve?
Jeremy Greaves:We have a very mixed congregation that spans the ages. Like most congregations it’s greying, but there’s plenty of new life at the other end of things. I think we’re very fortunate in that the cathedral for a number of years has been a place that’s offered an alternative voice to the predominant and loud conservative voice of the church in Darwin, and so we have a collection of people who come because of that alternative that we offer.
Rachael Kohn: How alternative then is the cathedral?
Jeremy Greaves:It’s one of the great challenges of being here at the conference, because being a cathedral, we notionally need to look Anglican in our worship and the words we use in the structure of our liturgy, and I guess the challenges about moving and bridging that gap between the sorts of things I preach about and talk about and the way we worship. And we play around the edges of our worship, but I think the great challenge is about moving beyond playing around the edges, so that the whole our worship becomes creedal, it really expresses what we believe as a community.
Rachael Kohn: Do you specifically then have difficulties with the Apostles’ Creed that you might like to rewrite it or ditch it?
Jeremy Greaves:I’d be happy to abandon the Creed. And it’s certainly a point of conversation with some of my colleagues in Darwin. And I think when so much of the rest of our worship talks about spirituality and God in very different ways, to then stand and recite the Creed, particularly after some of the sermons that get preached in the cathedral, seems a very odd thing. There’s a great dissonance and the real challenge is how we move past that, I think.
Note the following Greaves is arguing:
- The cathedral under his leadership was an alternative to a loud conservative voice (i.e. conservative theology).
- “we need to notionally look Anglican” which is “a challenge” given what he preaches about and how they worship.
- That the challenge is to move beyond “playing around the edges” so that the “worship becomes creedal” i.e. so as to really express what they believe.
- In this context this is a moving away from the constraint of “looking notionally Anglican”and a “conservative voice” around him towards what they really believe and what he preaches (“Progressive Christianity”)
- In this context, there is a “great dissonance” between the Apostles’ Creed and what is actually preached from the pulpit.
I think it’s perfectly clear that the intent here is not simply wanting to express the same old truths in new ways, but to teach new truths in new ways and therefore move away from old restrictive structures (be they liturgical or simply creedal).
And such a reading is entirely consistent with the experience of what happened at Darwin Cathedral under his leadership.
This is not at all surprising. At the time of translation to Newcastle by the current Diocesan Bishop, I pointed to such problems.
Guess who was the Bishop presiding in Darwin when then Dean Jeremy Greaves uttered his heretical views on the Creeds and in effect on evangelicalism on ABC Radio ?
Guess does not seem to have publicly disciplined the then Dean of Darwin Anglican for such outrageous false teaching ? None other than Bishop Greg Thompson. Guess where this Bishop is now ? None other than Anglican Diocese of Newcastle.
Bishops who fail in their duty to uphold and defend and teach the Gospel, create ongoing spiritual cancer in the Church and the leading of many astray.
Both the new upcoming bishop Greaves and his counterpart Bishop Thompson need to fully examine themselves in the light of the basics of the faith, the teaching of a plain and truthful Gospel, as summarised in the Creeds, and the 39 Articles they promise to follow.
In my book, they are both already well on the wide road to Hell, with out urgent repentance from false teaching and massive failure to stay the course of their existing positions.
As for the Archbishop of Brisbane, I am greatly surprised and disappointed.
I can only reflect with sadness on the recent demise of another metropolitan Australian Anglican Archbishop, following stark and most public admissions of massive failures in high standards expected in the conduct of the duties and responsibilities of people in such positions.
We have seen it all before.
Archbishop Aspinell I suggest you should urgently rethink this appointment before it is too late.
Subscription by the clergy to every thing in the 39 Articles and in the Book of Common Prayer was abolished, after a long campaign, by law as long ago as 1865 – 1865 !! The form of subscription was replaced by a general assent that has never been legally defined. That form of assent remains in the Church of Australia but it has been further modified in the Church of England. I do not think any one would agree now with every statement in the articles. Article 2, for example, is surely quite contrary to Scripture in stating that Jesus died “to reconcile his Father to us”.
The Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed obviously contain statements that are historically true and some that no-one would take literally (e.g. the Ascension). As long ago as 1938, the Report on Doctrine in the C.of E. acknowledged the different interpretations made of the “virginal conception” and of the “resurrection”.
With regard to the former, if God miraculously created the genetic male inheritance that Jesus would otherwise have received from a father, Jesus would not be truly human. And of course there is no mention of a virginal conception in the earliest Gospel or the latest, or in S.Paul, or in such records as we have of the earliest Jewish Christians. We are not dealing here with history or biology but rather theology and metaphor.
With regard to the resurrection of our Lord, would S.Paul agree, for example, with Article 4’s statement that Jesus “took again his body, with flesh, bones…” etc – i.e. with a literally physical resurrection ? S.Paul says flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven, and science tells us that matter cannot be created or destroyed. Rather, we might say, with the writer of 1 S.Peter, Jesus was put to death in the body, but made alive in the Spirit.
Again, can the so-called Athanasian Creed (Article 8) be thoroughly received and believed, a Creed that states that those who do not agree with it will perish everlastingly. That includes not only every Hebrew man and woman including the prophets who lived before the time of Jesus, and innumerable others, but also, for example, every member of the Eastern Orthodox Church (who believe that Creed is heretical in saying that the Spirit proceeds from the Father AND the Son) will perish everlastingly. (And what can “everlastingly mean” in the light of the space-time of which science tells us ? – even though time itself remains a mystery.
What matters ? Only this – to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God (Micah 6), loving and caring for God by loving and caring for our neighbour as the Samaritan did. This is the way to “eternal life”, JESUS says. “Do this, and you shall live.”
I take great delight in publishing this comment as a wonderful example of liberal theology at its finest. Readers should note how many basic Christian doctrines get denied in just a few paragraphs and then the all-too-common switch to “it’s all about love”. Classic.
I think that there are many orthodox Christians (“orthodox” with a lower-case “o”), including many Anglicans, who take the Ascension, the Virgin Birth and the Resurrection to be literally true as presented in the Creeds?
No wonder I no longer attend the Anglican church in this part of Australia. A very sad day as the church heads further down the road of apostasy.
Sorry to say it but the Anglican Church has lost a great ,teacher,pastor, chaplain and parent of 3 future men committed to Our Lord.
Bless you Mark on the eve of your Birthday .
Can I be a wag and point out that many Sydney Anglican church services ditched the creed long ago?
you can. But I think it might be necessary to point out the difference between ditching it’s regular recital and ditching the truths it expresses.
There is ineed a difference between ditching the regular recital or the creed and ditching the truths that it is expresses, that’s true, but Paulo’s comment has point and poignancy – in some Anglican churches, particularly in Sydney, it seems that the creed is never (or virtually never) recited.
On a slightly separate point, I wonder how many Anglicans anywhere are even aware of the existence of the Creed of St Athanasius, which is mentione in the Thirty-Nine Articles as one of the three creeds (together with the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed) that “ought thoroughly to be received and believed: for they may be proved by most certain warrants of holy Scripture”. The Book of Common Prayer allows for its recitation on a number of mornings thoughout the year but I warrant that it is virtually never said (or even read) nowadays: I think I have recited it once in my entire life in church (and that in a Sydney Anglican church on Trinity Sunday, but many years ago).
But back to the main issue: the idea that a person who seriously questions the tenets of the faith as expressed in the Apostles’ Creed would be appointed a Bishop in the Anglican church seems extraordinary, and even distressing, to me. The regular recitation in church of at least this creed and the Nicene Creed certainly would not go amiss.
David, where in the interview does Jeremy support anything but ending the recital of the creed. It might help if you post the whole interview. I’d have thought from a biblical scholar such as yourself, hermeneutics would be important.
The full transcript of the interview is linked in the piece. I think the context (not only of the interview but of Greaves’ consistent promotion of “progressive Christianity”) makes it perfectly clear to any objective reader what he means.
If you think otherwise you are free to make your case from his words and your own knowledge of the progressive Christianity movement.
The creed hasn’t been ditched the Sydney Anglican Church I attend. This appointment is quite disturbing.
I can understand a man wishing to omit the Nicene Creed, as it was never intended to be the creed for ordinary folk but as a test of orthodoxy for clergy. But the Apostles’ Creed is another matter : based on, and developed from, the baptismal confessions of ancient churches, it does express the minimum of Christian faith for all; and any person rejecting it should not be admitted to membership of an Anglican church.
The historical summary of the creed isn’t the issue, but the biblical truths it expresses. To deny these truths is to deny Christianity. I am so sad for the people of Brisbane not being able to know the truth about our wonderful God if they listen to those who deny the truth. I’m praying for the Anglicans of Brisbane to be able to ever gain Biblical truth about our Saviour God, whose Son died for us, despite anyone who reject it, whether clergy or lay, Sydney or Brisbane!
Reading this article and the gentle and considered remarks of the above respondents moves my heart for you all. I am American and for that reason should probably just not say anything at all. But I am Anglican – baptized and confirmed in the Episcopal Church but now belong to a rock-solid Anglo-Catholic Continuing Church – and I feel your pain and despair. I try hard to stay abreast of what is happening in the greater Anglican Communion because it’s not about me and my church, it’s about Christ and the world.
We read the Athanasius Creed in church, out loud, every Trinity Sunday. We recite in unison the Nicene Creed every Sunday. We read the Apostle’s Creed every morning. These are our statements of faith; these are what define us. These Creeds define who I am and what I believe as a Christian – regardless of denomination. For us Anglicans, the comfort and support and understanding they bring to us – all these centuries later – cannot be swept away with the dust of the day. And should not be.
I will keep you all in my prayers. Every fall begins with one mis-step; the elevation of Mr. Greaves to his new position is such.
God bless you all.
Two things come to mind (sadly): much like some in the American church, and not limited to our Anglican franchise, he truly believes he is being “prophetic,” when an plain reading of Scripture would clearly indicate God is incapable of contravening His character. Secondly, the quote “…is knowing that we need to be somewhere else, but for me it’s the fear that comes with that and perhaps lacking the courage sometimes to go quite as far as we perhaps need to go” is most telling. True prophets act from conviction… while they may experience some amount of fear, they continue to bring the Word they are given to the world, according to their charge. I can at least agree with one thing he said – he needs to be somewhere else. There are plenty of liberal, heterodox denominations where he can continue his “prophetic witness” without further polluting the Anglican church. Of course, they are all seeing such declines I cannot speak for how long he can continue to collect that salary, but this is the typical arrogance of the left.
Reciting a creed forced on the church by the Roman Empire does nothing for the work of Jesus who preached a governance of love rather than one of brutal power. Time for the Church to work on its relevance rather than try to maintain its fast failing power over people. Jeremy will bring his undoubted compassion, love and generosity and will have enormous support.
truly fascinating. I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone effectively argue all at the same time that the Creeds:
1. Are not relevant
2. Do nothing to promote the gospel
3. Are an exercise of brutal power
But then I guess that’s what progressive Christianity does for you.
and apologies, I didn’t even draw attention to “forced on the church by the Roman Empire”.
I think you should put away your Dan Brown and attend Church History 101.
I have come to this conversation apologetically late, but do so, as a Roman Catholic, in fraternal love for my Anglican sisters and brothers. I beg then to add that one may not require a Pass in Church History 101 to know from the historical record that the Early Fathers were locked up and denied victuals as well as, for that matter, release until they’d signed on the approved and dotted line of what began from then on to be termed ‘the Magisterium’. Reflecting back on half a millennium since the disastrous parting of ways between our two sides of the larger Christian family, who is there NOT to gently reflect that the impulses that drove such enforced consent and which were in part a major trigger for the Reformation more than a full millennium later were but part of the continued Purification of the overall Church as it struggles to break open the Gospels to those on the outside who may not know it? It seems to require the brutal self-assessment that +Jeremy unflinchingly submits to in the Kohn interview to undertake that insuperably dangerous but compelling task. (God Love & Bless All Anglicans!).
Michael Furtado (email@example.com)