Top Ten 2021 Articles

You are currently viewing Top Ten 2021 Articles

Forgive me, dear readers, we’re a whole week into 2022 and I still haven’t posted a “Top Ten” list for last year. It was a weird 12 months, wasn’t it? Covid obviously dominated our thoughts but it also led to a kicking of the Anglican can down the road. We were meant to meet in General Synod in May but that got postponed. Last year’s articles mostly reflect those 2 main topics:

10. Archbishop of Melbourne Ad Clerum: Gafcon move “unnecessary” and possibly “an attempt to shed redress responsibilities”

Archbishop Freier responded to an announcement by GAFCON clarifying their earlier stated intent to provide alternative structures for disenfranchised orthodox Anglicans. In an extraordinary move he suggested that part of the reason might be “an attempt to shed redress responsibilities”. The Anglican Church of Australia is still getting to grips with a number of historic failures in the area of child abuse and yet this was seen by many as a clumsy move.

9. BREAKING: Bishop of Newcastle Lifts Ban on Same-Sex Blessings

Around the same time that Freier was making his accusations, Stuart’s response to the GAFCON move was to announce that Same-Sex Blessings could go ahead. So much for the “restraint” that the Primate had called for. And, perhaps, justification for the GAFCON announcement.

8. Gafcon Australia Announces Plans for Extra-Provincial Diocese

The announcement that, in some ways, catalysed nos. 10 and 9 above. GAFCON put some meat on the bones of their Commitment 2020 outlining what their proposed alternative structures would look like if required.

7. Sydney’s New Archbishop

This piece set out the nominated candidates for Archbishop of Sydney and reported on the first few rounds of voting. Huge amount of interest in this one, even if there were very short odds to be found on the final result…

6. BREAKING: Primate writes to Bishops, criticising Gafcon – “the life of our church is being undermined from within”

Another response to the GAFCON announcement, this time from the Primate himself who draw a lot of criticism from conservatives for, once again, having very little to say about revisionist activism and lots of complaint about GAFCON. You might also be interested in my own “What the Primate Could Have Written

5. Jonathan Fletcher Victim Speaks Out

Meanwhile in England Conservative Evangelicals continue to grapple with the horrible story of not only what Jonathan Fletcher did but how our constituency had allowed it to happen. Here one of his victims speaks out.

4. Breaking – Kanishka Raffel Set To Be Elected Archbishop of Sydney

The title says it all! Here’s the piece trailing the very imminent announcement of the election of Kanishka Raffel as Archbishop of Sydney.

3. Full Report on Jonathan Fletcher and Conservative Evangelicals Released

The long-awaited and much-delayed “Lessons Learned Review” into exactly how Jonathan Fletcher could get away with abuse over such a long period of time was finally published. Many were unhappy with the threads that were left open, which was always going to be the case given the scope of the investigation and agreed limitations on attribution of responsibility. It’s fair to say that this matter is far from being dealt with.

2. It’s Not Over – Evangelicals, Abuse and a Call for a Gospel-shaped Repentance

I didn’t know it at the time, but the piece that I wrote on 1 January set up some major themes for the year. I explored the general issue with abuse within Evangelical churches and then moved to report on a case that had recently come to attention right here in Sydney as John McMartin, pastor of Inspire Church in Liverpool, was charged with an historical sexual assault. I’ve paused reporting on that particular case while it’s before the courts, but when a verdict is reached expect to see more on that matter right here. There is a bigger story to tell and is going to help tell it.

The article then turns to some of the detail around Jonathan Fletcher, and particularly the urgency for some of our leaders to offer up their resignations and apologies before any report (see 3. above) forces them to.

and, finally, our biggest piece of the year. It couldn’t be anything other than covid…

1. Why We Can’t Sign the Ezekiel Declaration. An Evangelical Response.

The heavy lockdowns in Sydney and Melbourne brought an understandable range of responses. Christians grappled with the command and desire to continue to meet, juggling it with the call to submit to the authorities. We also got involved in discussions around vaccines and even mandates.

I think it’s fair to say that there was a certain degree of influence from American christians with their own particular political contexts. The more right-wing segments of the Christian internet were, understandably, the most opposed to government restrictions. When the “Ezekiel Declaration” was published I wrote a piece in partnership with Melbourne Baptist pastor Murray Campbell.

What we had hoped would be a helpful contribution to the debate instead turned into a bit of a lightning rod. One of my great sadnesses about the whole thing is that lack of nuance displayed by so many Christians and also the regular charges of apostasy and abandonment of ministry that we both received. If more right-wing positions cause young Christians to declare well-established pastors as “a disgrace” then perhaps it only demonstrates the need to write something. As it was, this obvious conservative found himself branded a leftist sell-out.

And, irony of ironies, here we are in 2022 with far less restrictions in place than in 2021 – contrary to the doomsayers.

What of 2022? will still be here! I can see a few things on the horizon:

  1. The Anglican Church of Australia General Synod should finally meet in May. Expect some fireworks with people unhappy at the end of it. I’ll be there, taking part and reporting afterwards. And keeping you up to date with everything else that goes on.
  2. A new vod/podcast! I’m looking to record my first episodes of “Dual Citizens” in January. Watch this space!
  3. Whatever else comes up!

Thanks for your support of I’m grateful for your comments and messages. If you have a story please let me know. Who knows? Maybe your tip-off will be the no. 1 story of 2022?!

Leave a Reply

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. richiejs

    (Long Post and word count)
    Hi Rev David
    Your articles on safeguarding and Jonathon Fletcher in 2021 were magnificent. Clear and brave, and a great example of investigative reporting with a deep theological perspective. If the religious press had a Walkley, they would have been a contender.

    Your articles on the GAFCON issues last year were incredibly helpful in placing the canon law arguments into the light of day. The current divisions between GAFCON and the liberal diocese’s are concerning for clerical abuse survivors and our families.

    Actuarial calculations based on broad statistics are showing that a deep crisis is currently occurring in the ACA regarding safeguarding. Briefly, after consulting with sources across the country including Bishops and other senior leaders, it looks like a number of Diocese across Australia including Tasmania Riverina FNQ Bunbury Newcastle NT and other rural and remote Dioceses across the Eastern states are facing the possibility of bankruptcy or severely limited finances in the wake of the abuse crisis.

    The effects of this for survivors and our families are profound. With the increase of civil litigation across all states except for SA the actuarial calculations of redress are now at best outdated.

    This affects survivors as it means that dioceses are being pressed to not act as model litigants but to increasingly fight civil actions in courts rather than via mediation. It also means that there is less willingness to go beyond what has been required by the legislation of the National Redress Scheme in added support for survivors and our families.

    When dioceses see that their redress and civil litigation obligations could effectively bankrupt them survivors claims are fought without compassion and understanding and a febrile atmosphere within senior leadership and the people within the pews causes further stress and heartache.

    An anglo-catholic Priest in Perth deep in denial once stated to me ” we cannot just sign a cheque for “XXXk” for anyone with a claim “. Many Ministers Priests and lay leaders seem to be in a frozen fight or flight response. Sources have stated that some administrators have said things like ” @#$% victims they are only after financial redress” and other anti victim commentaries.

    It is also possible that a new wave of claims comes through given the time periods and the years it takes for victims to come forward with disclosures of clerical abuse.

    With the current situation in mind, the possibility of GAFCON Dioceses splitting from the ACA is terrifying for many Anglican survivors.

    My reading of your articles is that this is not what GAFCON intends after the National Synod.

    I wonder if I could propose a possible solution to the financial crisis that faces all Dioceses across Australia.

    If Sydney leaves the ACA it will have huge consequences. The situation currently is that for some dioceses to remain solvent a new National safeguarding system needs to be put in place. That means that Metropolitans like SYD Brisbane Melbourne Perth and perhaps Adelaide may need to help battling dioceses like North Queensland NT Tasmania Bunbury and the multitude of East Coast country and regional dioceses.

    . It is so vital that the needs of survivors and families come before schismatic theological arguments. I also think that there are wonderful people doing ministry that are Sydney trained and based and that the ACA has to unite over safeguarding.

    My fear is that National Synod will end up with a schism and the ability of Sydney and other GAFCON dioceses to be a force for good and assist the National response in safeguarding with both finance and experienced people with a broad knowledge of history and culture is lost to the National Synod office.

    If GAFCON splits it would be a disaster. My own view is that schism is inevitable as both sides are too entrenched in their positions, and I think that’s a tragedy.

    But there is a possible light at the end of the tunnel. Could National Synod develop a National plan that allows richer dioceses to place a percentage of funds into a National Synod created a body that distributes funds equitably across Australia to prevent poorer dioceses from suffering unduly when faced with Redress obligations?

    Could National Synod create an oversight body that would prevent Diocese from going “rogue” where one Diocese is a model litigant but another behaves like the Diocese of Grafton historically ( see CS 3 Royal Commission and the cases of Slater and Combden vs the claimants of the NCCH)?

    Could there be a fund created for the ongoing support of survivors and their families beyond the limitations of the NRS for counselling and practical support given the long term effects of abuse across the lifespan?

    Could all diocese employ a survivor advocate as is the case in Adelaide and Newcastle?

    Even more vital could Dioceses create a Bishop who is called to serve only in the areas of safeguarding and survivor support either to serve as the National Bishop for safeguarding or as a Provincial or a Diocesan in larger population centres?

    If National Synod could legislate along these lines then it would be possible that if the worst-case scenario happens that the ACA National Synod has an overarching ability to assist survivors with the unanimous support of GAFCON and all other dioceses.

    Surely before debating the theology of SSM and possibly creating a schism, such an agenda would show that the ACA actually is committed above and beyond theological divides to overarching compassion towards survivors and our families.

    Across Australia across theological divides are wonderful people who all want to show compassion care support and comfort to victim-survivors and act truly like the people of God.

    1. Tim Tunbridge

      Your comments and suggestions about “richer dioceses” making an extra financial contribution are no doubt well intentioned. But the “light at the end of the tunnel ” as you put it , overlooks the fact that some liberal dioceses have a significantly worse track record when it comes to child sex abuse. For instance the Royal Commission in its final report singled out Newcastle Diocese for special criticism for its governance failures leading to a culture of abuse.

      1. Richie

        Tim respectfully, the Royal Commission triaged its cases based on the information it had gathered from Anglican Churches across Australia. Although hot spots such as Newcastle and Adelaide were examined other Dioceses escaped a public hearing due to time constraints. CSA does not discriminate, so evangelical dioceses are likely also to have considerable number of cases. One of the interesting things is that the governance failures seen in Newcastle were probably systemic to the culture across Australia including Sydney but the placing of clergy on pedestals happened across the board as well. Patrick Parkinson a committed member of Sydney diocese wrote a report which is well worth reading as well as gave evidence in CS 52. It outlines some statistics which are compelling. I think Sydney has similar problems but they centre around a different evangelical theology.

  2. chris russell

    As a frequent commentator on the Top Ten 2021 articles, I commend David for his very astute coverage of critical issues facing the professing Christian and his institutional church. I often found myself disagreeing, however, with David’s characteristic approach in these matters, which, unfortunately, is not to consider first and foremost the question concerning what it means for us, as followers of Christ, and in relation to everything, to love God first, and, secondly, our neighbour. I find that I can also very often reprove myself likewise.

  3. Tim Tunbridge

    Thanks David for your Top Ten 2021 articles. Very informative – and a great read. An interesting issue to cover in 2022 might be the General Synod’s ” Reserve Fund ” which currently stands at more than $3 million. The Fund has been increasing in size over the years thanks mainly to contributions made by Sydney Diocese via General Synod Assessments. The obvious question for Sydney Diocese is whether continuing to make financial contributions to an apostate ACA is the best use of scarce resources.

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