In the run up to Sydney WorldPride, SBS On Demand 'The Feed' were kind enough to produce a short feature on my wife Penny Jones and I,, which we hope may help and encourage others.
Among the several fine contributions to last Saturday’s ‘Voice and the Church’ gathering was that by the Revd Dr Rangi Nicholson, Assistant Priest of Rangiatea Church, the oldest Māori Anglican Church in Aotearoa, and author of ‘Treaty, Church and Nation’, reminding us that though our own struggles are specific they are also common and enriched by solidarity with others across the globe. He spoke powerfully of what needs doing from Māori and Anglican experience in Aotearoa New Zealand - including how, without meaningful resources empowerment is limited, and how the Church needs to be held accountable for benefitting from oppression. There is so much, he rightly identified, that the Church needs to do in terms of recognition, repentance, restitution and reparation.
His three future hopes are pertinent to struggles in Australia too, and beyond:
1. More commitment by the Church to truth telling and ‘the whole story’ - with repentance and reparations
2. the Church needs to put its own house in order re authentic partnership whilst offering constructive critique of Government’s commitment to the UN rights of Indigenous People, reimagining a more just Church and nation.
3. the need for the Church to contribute boldly and with love to a new constitution - to visioning and values clarification for the future of the country - as part of restorative justice
As he says:
Whilst Treaty, in the experience of Aotearoa, can be a ‘sacred covenant’ allowing new life and renewed attention, there needs to be much more - for:
‘Restorative justice needs to become a priority’ - led with young people...
Not an original reflection I’m sure, but sometimes it becomes apparent that being a hitherto lifelong, if very ecumenical, Anglican (liberal Catholic variety) in the Uniting Church as an institution is like being an Apple using cat in a Microsoft dog world - fortunately I do love dogs (generally so much more outwardly friendlier and more sociable for one thing - except when roused or bemused lol - than many felines ) and I can operate Windows operating systems positively (though I can’t stop thinking occasionally how other creative wonks and wrinkles might offer a few possible ecclesial improvements as well as save time and help creativity ). Handiest of all, I also don’t really believe in binaries. But it can be a wee bit taxing at times.
PS I’m really really not sure about this cartoon as an analogy - certainly mainstream Anglicanism is thankfully both equippped with a clearer, simpler and less fussy system (well, yes, ‘method’ to be more accurate - what kind of a cat wants a ‘system’?!) but, unlike Apple. it is also so very messy (and hence actually freer in some organisational respects, than some of its self-assuming ‘freer’ ‘alternatives’). Meanwhile, within its dog context, Pitt Street UC tends of course to be its own kind of animal with some of its own distinctive operating features! Who said ministry was a journey of continuing education?
I’m angry again today - and with good reason, especially having just read a particularly heart wrenching cry of anger from an Anglican priest who has expressed so well their own anger at ‘straightsplaining’ so-called allies and the appalling personal cost upon him (I know, I feel and empathise with that pain on every level). As he says, we can usually cope with much of the reactionary stuff but it is what I call (straight and narrow) ‘passive inclusion’, accompanied by the continual injunctions (by those with comfortable privilege) to continuing ‘patience’, ‘calm’, and ‘good (aka cheap) grace’ that really burdens and eats away at souls, lives and ministries.
One of the things Churches really struggle with is anger - not least Anglicans (born of ‘moderating’ control and English upper/middle class ‘restraint’) and (in my experience) often worse still, the Uniting Church (born of the bureaucracy and functionality that contains its own particular restricted range of Christian diversity). Yet too much of even the best of mainstream Church life has stoked, and continues to stoke, anger which needs to be properly acknowledged, heard and engaged with (not least by empowering, not silencing or sidelining, the huge gifts queer people are to every space, not least the spiritual). Sometimes I just wonder what Jesus it is that Churches read - but then personally I’ve never yet called those who hurt me ‘broods of vipers’ and the like, so perhaps I’m also failing on that score?!
I don’t expect Australian Anglican avoidance and maintenance of the straight, still largely boys, club to change quickly - nor the UCA’s complacency and irritating self-satisfaction about its often pleasant but limited ‘inclusivity’. They are both changing slowly - and this week’s announcement of a queerphobic breakaway ‘Anglican’ body is partly a sign of that change and an admission of that viperous tendency’s failure to win over others. Queer people of faith (especially local Anglicans this week) will continue to do it tough in many ways, but we won’t be crushed, because we are not only essentially gentle in spirit as well as vitally angry, but we are also extraordinarily fabulous and incredible gifts to our struggling world and to any Church that will not simply ‘include’ us but celebrate with us and learn from us. As the old Judaean said, ‘those who have eyes to see, and ears to hear’…
Meanwhile, some of us will keep on singing - and will also sing for those who are denied their voices, and for those who can sing no longer - for why wouldn’t we sing into being such wonderful gentle, angry, gifted, loving lives? 🏳️⚧️🌈
With huge ❤️ and 🙏 for all those doing it really tough right now. You are loved and more precious than you can ever know 😻
A word re current Lambeth Conference happenings - but it applies to many others too…
I’ve always struggled with many faith labels people have tried to stick on me but I’ll still accept ‘ecumenical’ - in the true, big, sense of ‘the whole inhabited earth’, ‘justice, peace and the integrity of creation’, seeking and honouring beauty, truth and goodness wherever it can be found and nurtured, and building on the extraordinary depth of ‘ecumenical grammar’, spiritual nuance and deep relationships developed in the past - and I remain passionately committed to working with anyone who seeks that, whatever label, culture or tradition. That’s been part of the joy of my ecumenical - and interfaith - journeys: discovering others (from Catholics to Pentecostals, Muslims to Wiccans, deep souled Orthodox and big hearted Evangelicals , and those who eschew any ‘faith’ identification). Such people give meaning to the true ‘oneness, holiness, apostolicity, and catholicity’ which others bleat on about but too often only use to bruise and beat up others.
Today’s Christian institutional formulations are so typically small, fearful and self-absorbed in that respect - so no wonder we continuing ecumeniacs struggle to be heard. It saddens me that Churches have so little interest in real growth (in humanity and spirituality - not institutional numbers, boundaries and ‘resolutions’) and so neglect the ways forward that ‘receptive’ ecumenists have sought to share - asking not what we can get accepted by others, but what gifts of ‘the other’ (especially the marginal and ostracised ‘other’) we desperately need for our own growth and our mutual survival, never mind flourishing, on this fragile threatened planet.
I know that in every great faith tradition - and not least in the Anglican ones I know best (including some fine bishops now at Lambeth) - that others share my feelings and seek to live faith more abundantly. May we keep such faith and join our hearts and hands with those who also share that vision, wherever they be and come from, choosing love not fear.
I continue to be flabbergasted (that’s the polite way of putting it) by the attempts of Churches to ‘apologise’ to LGBTIQ+ people whilst continuing to ignore our voices, maintaining shame, and hurting us afresh. The latest astonishing ‘apology’ is by the General Synod of the Anglican Church in Australia - actually ’deploring’ activity which it had itself just demonstrated.
NO - this kind of ‘apology’ is not acceptable and represents a mockery of the deep understanding of costly repentance and reconciliation in the Christian tradition.
Meanwhile, the Uniting Church - with more credibility but with significant holes in its LGBTIQ+ ‘inclusion’, including a current low level of trans awareness and engagement - has also been pursuing an apology process. This is a much better concept but one in which no transgender people have been included in the ‘apology’ group! (so there’s a first apology to make)
A few obvious starters therefore for such ventures:
* ‘Nothing about us without us’
* Cheap grace betrays the Gospel
* Reparations matter
Should any green ordinands (aka ministry formation students) ‘fall’, where do they go? I sent thankful video greetings across the globe this weekend to my best man, at my wedding, celebrating a significant birthday landmark - cheers Chris - and it set me reflecting on what has happened to my immediate generation of would-be clergy…
Now this is my kind of Anglican Church - they did say they were ‘inclusive’ on the board but they hardly need to do so with all that gorgeous colour and creativity! Lol These are glimpses of the Festival of Angels in St Wulfram’s Grantham - none of your obvious over-frail tiny frilly fluffy angels either, but each with their own symbolism, including the one with flaming sword, the very posy one with the long wings, and the imposing tall white fluffy one at the door.
Now there’s an idea for some of us to develop in other contexts in other years?
More splendid creativity at Pitt Street from our worship team 😻 And - sad though I am not to share a first Pitt Street Christmas - I’m so delighted that my brilliant wife (Penny Jones) could preside yesterday. That is the first time for her with our community in Pitt Street - and maybe the first time a female cisgender Anglican priest has presided, with full church authority, in a mainstream Christian denomination in the centre of Sydney. ❤️ I think Maude Royden, the founder of the movement for the ordination of women, will have rejoiced in heaven - especially as Pitt Street gave her a pulpit on her famous visit to Australia years ago (see earlier post here).
Hoping one day our good friends in some of the local Anglican and Catholic Churches will share the same blessing - for God’s sake, it was a woman who actually gave birth at Christmas!!
It is just lovely to have a female vicar here in Market Rasen at this time and to think of female priests elsewhere in Australia presiding this year (some for the first time - including some of my former students I dearly love and admire).
#shininglightinSydney #thankGodfortheUnitingChurch #livingAnglicanism #peacetoall
It was wonderful to see photos of good friends and other people from across my old Diocesan community gathered with Elders and other First Nations community leaders at St John's Cathedral, Brisbane after the launch of the second Innovate Reconciliation Action Plan with which I was involved.. The gathering commenced with Yuggera Traditional Owners welcoming to their Country, dancing and carrying out a smoking ceremony on the grassy Cathedral grounds. Following this, community members processed into the Cathedral where the Reconciliation Choir sang and RAP Working Group Chair and Wakka Wakka priest The Rev’d Canon Bruce Boase gave an address, before introducing Archbishop Phillip Aspinall and respected Elder speakers, including Wangan Jagalingou Elder The Rev’d Aunty Alex Gater, Saibai Elder Aunty Dr Rose Elu, Kabi Kabi Elder Professor Boni Robertson and RAP Coordinator and Quandamooka Bundjalung Elder Aunty Sandra King. Following a moving time of truth telling and story sharing, fellowship over afternoon tea was enjoyed, with refreshments provided by First Nations caterer Three Little Birds Events. With thanks to all those who gathered in person and online to officially launch the RAP, as the journey in Reconciliation together continues. Visit the ACSQ website to explore our new Innovate RAP, which particularly embraces stronger procurement and recruitment strategies to support and engage with our First Nations peoples and endorsement of The Uluru Statement from the Heart: https://bit.ly/3r3DR8i.
Jo Inkpin is an Anglican priest serving as Minister of Pitt St Uniting Church in Sydney, a trans woman, theologian & justice activist. These are some of my reflections on life, spirit, and the search for peace, justice & sustainable creation.