Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Godly church politics

Michael Jensen, the Blogging Parson, reflects on how to conduct diocesan politics Christianly. The piece is directed towards the Sydney Anglican context and will have most resonance there, but the principles are transferrable. Michael's piece makes important points for all Christian involvement in formal politics of any kind.

Sydney's particular challenge on this front arises from the decades-long political success of the ACL (Anglican Church League), a party within the synod and standing committee (read, parliament and executive) that has held a sizable majority for decades. Can a polity dominated so thoroughly and for so long by a single party sustain wise, measured and humble political discourse, deliberation and action? How can such a polity nurture a loyal opposition that does not feel (and is not in practice) marginalised, squished or ignored? Might there be something to be said for standing committee elections based on proportional representation (as I believe are used in Melbourne)? I have never been to synod and am generally quite ignorant of how things work, so these are genuine questions.


byron smith said...

A couple of further thoughts. Such lists as Michael's can be expanded (almost) endlessly, but here are a few thoughts that came to mind:

• The danger of seeing political opponents as theological opponents. They may well be, but there is no necessity to this.
• The danger of groupthink and yes-(wo)men, perhaps especially on standing committee, given that the electoral maths gives ACL almost all the seats.
• The importance for a healthy parliamentary system of a loyal opposition (if there is going to be a governing party). Michael touches on this in his fifth point in his comment about disloyalty.

Michael Canaris said...

While I don't have its history on me at present (being in an Internet cafe), I seem to vaguely recall from it that certain past rectors of Christ Church St Laurence were accorded membership of either Standing Committee or the Doctrine Commission.

Mark Thompson said...

Thanks Byron. All of this is helpful and the challenge to maintain godliness in relationships is an ongoing one. I do not for a moment claim the ACL has always done things well (all of us are fallible and sinful after all) but I can testify to a determination to be godly rather than simply partisan. These are discussions we need to have and keep having. Thanks for your thoughts. It seems odd to some that at present a theologian rather than a politician is the President of the ACL.