As I write the synod of the Diocese of Wangaratta is in the final day of it’s current session.
Bishop Parkes has been very clear that he intends to support and endorse a motion before the synod to allow for blessings of those individuals who have entered into a same-sex marriage in Australia. We’ve previously reported on the tensions and vacuum of national leadership this has catalysed.
Bishop Parkes’ Presidential Address provides a clear insight into his thinking on this topic. While he does not rehearse already well-trodden ground on the substance of his argument in favour of the blessings, he does set out a rather lengthy “apologia pro via mea” (“apologetic for my life” in Latin) or “Why I am an Anglican”.
Parkes’ defence of his theological underpinning will contain nothing new for experienced readers. Indeed, it might be seen as a classic liberal apology, drawing on John Macquarrie and Friedrich Schleiermacher.
Writing about the place of Scripture in the Christian life, he enthusiastically endorses Macquarrie’s description of “…this exaggerated regard for the Bible”. He claims that he does not “want to challenge the essential place that the Bible has in Christian theology, only the tendency to absolutize it…”.
We also get the great line, “…Christian revelation comes in a person, not in a book. We are Christocentric and not bibliocentric” as though there were any revelation of Jesus that is not from the Bible. For Parkes there is a “primordial revelation” that Scripture does not “automatically lay … before us”.
It’s a million miles from Luther’s “Christ clothed in the Scriptures”. It is, in fact, a Christ divorced from the Scriptures yet which the Scriptures point to without any assurance of clarity. Thus, Parkes argues, we need other influences to read correctly. And, of course, Parkes then emphasises those other factors – reason, tradition, culture etc.. It is, in effect, a concerted effort to undermine the place of the Scriptures in Christian revelation and praxis while at the same time paying lip service to it’s “high place in Christianity”. Here at davidould.net we’re reminded of bishops who say “we believe in the sanctity of all life” and then explain how it is justifiable to kill babies in the womb as an expression of that belief.
Where to from here?
It seems certain that the synod will pass the motion and the crisis will be upon us. As we’ve reported previously, we should expect to see conservative bishops take out disciplinary measures against Parkes. The matter will also be referred to the Appellate Tribunal. The Chancellor of the Diocese of Wangaratta (Justice Croft) currently sits on that Tribunal and Parkes assures us in his presidential address that he has not received any synod papers or attended the session of synod so that he “can be seen to be at arms length” when considering the question put before the Tribunal.
Here at davidould.net we think there is only one option for Justice Croft; he must recuse himself from the hearing. The matter is of such great import for the national church and he has (as Parkes himself puts it) “served me and the diocese with great skill and devotion” for 11 years. It is not a matter of whether Croft can be impartial; we don’t know the man and can only assume he is of the utmost integrity. The Appellate Tribunal, however, must be seen to be utterly without fear or favour on this most crucial of questions and we believe Justice Croft would understand that.
We should also expect to see other dioceses attempt similar moves. The candidates are obvious; Newcastle, Gippsland, perhaps even Perth or Brisbane.
If and when the motion does pass we’ll have more to report here at davidould.net.