Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Peter Jensen on living in apocalyptic times

"What with Global Warming, the War on Terror and the Global Financial Crisis, we may well think that we live in apocalyptic times."
So began Archbishop Peter Jensen's presidential address to Synod. The bulk of the speech concerned the particular financial and organisational issues that have arisen as the result of very significant losses in Diocesan wealth over the last twelve months, but his opening sought to say something about living with the perception of being in apocalyptic times.

Jensen affirmed that "we are always in apocalyptic times", that elements of crisis and threat are a perennial feature of human experience and that "we are always only one step away from the end of all things". And so the lessons to be learned include the ubiquity of human folly (and hence the folly of utopianism), the necessity of hard work in facing contemporary challenges (while relativising the importance of all human projects) and accepting that "the ordinary human feeling that we are powerful creatures who live in a stable world and a stable universe, is deluded." In short, our response ought to be "neither paralysis nor pain, [but] persistent active faith".
The full address can be found here. H/T to John Shorter for sending me the link.

For those unfamiliar with the peculiar flavour(s) of Sydney Anglicanism, Archbishop Jensen and evangelical Anglicanism in Sydney were the subjects of the latest episode of Compass, the ABC's religious affairs program. Of course there will always be more to say and this is a brief snapshot, but it is not entirely inaccurate.


gbroughto said...

Hi Byron,
Have you seen this? I think what the Social Entrepreneurs are seeking to do / create has resonances with your own research. It might be worth exploring.


(sorry, I'm lazy and haven't learned to do the tinyURL thingy...)

Anthony Douglas said...

I'm just snickering about the implied expectation of quality that Compass brings...'Of course there will always be more to say and this is a brief snapshot, but it is not entirely inaccurate.' Even after all the caveats, the best we can hope for is not entirely inaccurate!

byron smith said...

Geoff - thanks for the link. What connexion(s) did you have in mind?

Anthony - On the relatively few matters about which I have some personal knowledge, it is very rare to see mainstream media report a situation with a high degree of accuracy. This was one of the better instances. Still some confusion (e.g. about whether Moore graduates are all Anglicans), but better than average. Yes, my comment was cynical, but then I think it is worth approaching most media outlets with a grain or six of cynicism. Between honest mistakes, the need to have a familiarity with a wide range of issues, the pressures of a fast-paced media cycle in which journalists don't have time to check sources (did you see this?), deliberate attempts to deceive for profit, and the truth-distorting influence of the profit motive, journalists have a hard time. But that doesn't mean I trust them, just sympathise somewhat with their difficulties.

byron smith said...

Oh, and legal fun and games too.

gbroughto said...

If you are both trying to think & act through 'societal unsustainability' and that the social entrepreneur crowd are pretty alert to the idea that innovative 'solutions' require moral-ethical-spiritual considerations alongside economic-social-ecological ones.

I see your research as really adding some theological depth & academic rigour to what the SE crowd are trying to do.
Last year I was invited to an exploratory meeting in establishing an Australian centre for social innovation. There was a good cross section of business, academic and practitioners present... I was the only clergy / religious type present, and they were very glad that I was present, as they considered church / religious involvement as crucial to what they were on about.
It is a tragedy that such sentiments are not generally reciprocated.
Your research will be great encouragement to some of the people I know that church / theologians take this seriously...

Matthew Moffitt said...


gbroughto said...

sorry - shorthand for 'Social entreprenuers" or sometimes "social innovations"

byron smith said...

Ah, got it. Thanks.

Though you'll notice in my latest posts that although I'm interested in sustainability per se, at the moment my research primarily uses it as a background for asking about the possibility of moral thought.