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Sydney Evangelical Anglican Rector Calls Fellow Evangelicals to Repentance

Sydney Evangelical Anglican Rector Calls Fellow Evangelicals to Repentance

By Michael Jensen
December 15, 2020

Sydney Anglicans, including me, talk a big game on evangelism. We like to define ourselves by our commitment to the preaching of the gospel.

But I want to suggest that there is something holding us back from being effective in evangelism. It's our own need for repentance. My call for others to repent rings hollow, when I don't have an institutional and cultural commitment to repent myself. We debate matters such as whether apologetics or social critique are worth doing, but one reason we can't connect very well is internal.

Sadly, the testimony that reaches my ears on a regular basis tells me that we often do not manage our own culture and systems well. We are not very good at managing the operations of power and authority. And I am aware how I personally have contributed to and benefitted from this culture. I know that I have mishandled my power. Are we really committed to own ongoing [edit:] repentance as individuals as as a result, reformation as an institution?

And I/we too easily excuse criticism as persecution -- meaning I/we fail to take responsibility for any damage we may have caused. The New Testament specifically relates the way we Christians do our life with one another as an issue of the gospel. Jesus (John 15), John (1John 4), Paul (Eph 4), and Peter (1 Peter 2) all urge Christians to model the gospel with one another, that the world might see and know the love of God for the world in Christ. If I/we want to be evangelistically effective, I/we need to attend to these matters not as a distraction from the work of the gospel, but as that very work.

And I think the problem starts with me - a Sydney Anglican rector. In our system, I am given far too much unaccountable power. There's historical reasons for this, but our bishops and congregations and assistant ministers ultimately have to suffer me. Our synod is dominated by rectors - and we classically resist moves to introduce greater scrutiny of what we do.

And so the responsibility for change of that culture and system lies with me and my colleagues. I think it is almost impossible for such a thing to be driven from Church House, given our polity.

So here's the challenge for me, and the point to discuss: how can we seek to reform a system and a culture that has concentrated power in this way, without simply concentrating it somewhere else? After all, congregations can be bullies, too - as can bishops. But I think there has to be some constructive ways forward in our common life - not to be perfect, but to seek a gospel transformation, with an awareness of our tendencies as human beings to mishandle the power given to us.

The Rev. Michael Jensen is rector at St. Mark's Darling Point, Sydney, Australia

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