The real Diocesan crisis?

Last year I began my synod blog with the words: 'The Anglican Church seems to be very good at managing slow decline.' They were the deliberately cheeky and provocative words of a friend, which continue to haunt me.

In the lead up to synod this year, it is shaping up to be a time of dealing and reflecting on the aftermath of the Diocese Financial Crisis. On the one hand this is necessary, for Diocese organizations are accountable to synod. But on the other hand my fear is these issues will once again take us away from the 'main game'.

One of my recollections of last year's synod was the level of passion surrounding the lay administration discussions. Almost everyone wanted to speak, or so it seemed. Certainly everyone was on edge. Almost all were engaged in the discussion in some way. But it was a notable contrast to the level of engagement when it came to talking about Connect09 and our mission to reach Sydney with the message of Jesus. Could this be a reflection that 'resources are still largely focused on ministering to church members rather than connecting with the community' (p7, The Diocese Mission: Strategic Directions 2010-2012)?

On Monday I returned from holidays to a pile of mail and I knew the big one would be the synod papers. Once again, in my view, the most important document is not the 420 page blue book, nor the 200 pages of supplementary information, nor (though close) the car parking voucher. It is the short 30 page booklet The Diocese Mission: Strategic Directions 2010-2012.

Once again there is a recognition that our churches are not growing; the need to build on the positives of Connect09 is clear; and the list goes on. The report is succinct and articulate. A PDF can be found on this page. Please take the time to read it. Of particular interest is the renewed shift: from central to local.

Our theology of church in Sydney Diocese has long said that, of course. But could it be that the pragmatic reality of the Global Financial Crisis now means we are more serious about it?

The clearest illustration is the introduction of mission areas and leaders, who are existing rectors (it is clever to start something new rather than reform existing structures I might add). The concept is well worth a very serious try. Churches are not very good at working together. Suspicion can so easily creep in, and sometimes that may be warranted. Personal egos can take over, and the list goes on.

However, if we are to mobilize and align more resources at the local level, this is the kind of thing we must try. It is not ourselves we are serving, but the Lord Jesus. We are blessed with extraordinary resources - property, money and most importantly people. The losses we have heard so much about this year are only a very small part of the larger picture.

And once again this year, my primary interest will be to see the priority of the representatives of our churches. Will we seriously be moved and overwhelmed with the future of the Gospel in our great city? Or will we be content to manage 0.5 percent growth, and focus on 'internal' matters? If our synod is not overwhelmed with the status of our 'progress' and called to urgent action, why should we expect the people in our churches to be?

The Rev Raj Gupta is the senior minister of Toongabbie Anglican Church, member of Standing Committee, and Mission Area Leader of the Parramatta Mission Area. He is also a partner with the 'Exploring Effective Ministry under God' team, and currently undertaking a Doctor of Ministry at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (TEDs).

Comments (55)

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  • Shane Rogerson
    October 18, 09 - 9:39pm
    thanks Raj
    would be interested to know what you see the mission area leaders doing that is not already being done locally without the 'central' structure of mission area leader.

    also of interest is the shift from the centre to the congregation in a way that seems to also to shift past regional councils - almost a cutting out the middle man.
    do you think less regional significance may actually reinforce central structures?

    I would agree we need to get to the trenches where the real crisis is - but those on the front line need the right kind of structures behind them to fight on with the right resources in place.
  • Luke Stevens
    October 19, 09 - 2:44am
    The Diocese loses one hundred and sixty million dollars, has to slash funds across the board, and you are worried this will be a distraction?

    I'd imagine that, from the perspective of your average church goer, they would be quite entitled to ask why so much money was risked & lost, & not be marginalized as being concerned with mere trivialities - a "very small part of the larger picture."

    I wouldn't consider flirting with bankruptcy "small" in any way. As Shane says, people in the front line need to know they will still have jobs when they wake up in the morning!

    I hope the following questions are answered:
    - Who's decision was it to engage in a schizophrenic strategy of gearing otherwise reasonably conservative investments (growth index funds)?
    - Were the resignations offered by at least 5 of the Glebe board members accepted, and if not, why not?
    - Who's decision was it to get out at the bottom? What would the Diocese's position be today if they stayed in the market?
    - Given the market has bottomed out, why doesn't the Diocese get back *in*?

    If you think the last question is absurd, because the Diocese's position is now "stable", it ain't.

    The only "stability" the Diocese's position now has is stability *against* future growth coming out of the downturn. It seems they have worn all the losses from the downturn, and will get very little out of the recovery.

    Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face.

    I hope you can cover these issues Raj!
  • James Green
    October 19, 09 - 9:50pm
    Interesting thing I noticed in the Annual report of the Glebe board included in one of the circulars:

    paragraph 23 compares the actual geared portfolio to (I think) an indexed fund - the difference is $45 million. And if you read on at paragraph 30 - an extra $35 million was spent.

    So the net difference if the Glebe board had never geared is $10 million. I agree with Raj - it is distracting us from the main game. People in Sydney are dieing today who do not know Jesus as their saviour. That is the main game.
  • Benjamin George Sciberras
    October 19, 09 - 10:18pm
    Luke: We are the Church, Christ is our head and reaching people for Christ is the main game. It's why we exist. Yes, a loss of money needs to be accounted for, but the main game is this, to continue Jesus' ministry by the Spirit he has left to indwell in us, which is 'to seek and save the lost'.
    Personally, I was overjoyed with how God is using this 'crisis' he has remodelled our diocesan strategy - shifting it back into our backyard, He has humbled us and given us an opportunity for 'active faith'. These developments are wonderful. I would rejoice if the church lost all of it's money - if it taught it to trust Jesus! I will not fear, because God will work his purposes out in this 'crisis'. Let's have less blame-throwing, more humility, more love and unity in Christ, who is the head and centre of the Church and our mission.
  • Grant Hayes
    October 19, 09 - 10:54pm
    James Green,

    How do you think *the dying* might react to the fact that the Lord's Anglican reps have been such foolish stewards?

    This damage control - all smothered in pious platitudes - reeks of bad faith.

    We *perishing* mortals can smell it even over the stench of our own decay...
  • Michael Jensen
    October 20, 09 - 12:32am
    Grant - I think you are wrong about the pious platitudes and damage control and it is quite offensive that you characterise it as such. There has been from the diocesan hierarchy disclosure, honesty, soul-searching and taking of responsibility. I know this first hand and from reading what has been written.

    I think this determination to think the worst is what really stinks.
  • Dianne Howard
    October 20, 09 - 1:05am
    You ask a good question Grant:
    How do you think *the dying* might react to the fact that the Lord's Anglican reps have been such foolish stewards?

    Any honest dying person will know they have been 'foolish stewards' of the real treasure that God has given them.

    For he grew up before him like a young plant,
    and like a root out of dry ground;
    he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
    and no beauty that we should desire him.
    He was despised and rejected by men;
    a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
    and as one from whom men hide their faces
    he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

    Surely he has borne our griefs
    and carried our sorrows;
    yet we esteemed him stricken,
    smitten by God, and afflicted.
    But he was wounded for our transgressions;
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
    upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
    and with his stripes we are healed.
    All we like sheep have gone astray;
    we have turned—every one—to his own way;
    and the LORD has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.

    (Isaiah 53)

  • Luke Stevens
    October 20, 09 - 1:05am
    Disclosure certainly has been reluctant in some cases, and it's interesting that the SMH has done far more reporting on this than the diocese itself.

    Many questions still remain unanswered; hopefully there will be more disclosure at Synod.

    I've honestly been shocked by the attitudes of some of the laity and clergy about this, especially the lack of seriousness it's treated with. It's a bizarre bias where, because it's 'our team' it can't possibly be bad, in fact it might actually be a good thing! Yes, they should lose all their money! And so on. Disturbing.

    Particularly when, if you read the Abp's comments in Southern Cross, he's not saying it's merely a 'small' distraction at all, quite the contrary.

    So either people like Raj are right and the Abp has got it wrong, or vice versa.

    Can't both be right.
  • Michael Jensen
    October 20, 09 - 1:53am
    Disclosure has been reluctant? How do you know? Why assume skulduggery must exist becuase it is 'our team'?

    And: I have to say that the clergy and laity that I have had contact with - and these are very numerous - are certainly not taking this with a lack of seriousness or questioning.

    I think we could permit Raj the liberty of some hyperbole here.
  • David Palmer
    October 20, 09 - 2:04am
    I was pretty shocked when I first heard about the losses, knowing the extent of the comparable (much smaller) losses sustained by the PCV trustees, and believe penalties ought to apply to the officials involved and if necessary reaching up to the A/B - a cut in pay?

    However, it is not a bad thing for the Diocese to be forced into a radical rethink of its priorities, programmes and accordingly make the necessary adjustments.

    In the Church we believe in being charitable to those who have made mistakes not least becasuse all of us in our own small corners make many mistakes, and besides as the saying goes, forgiveness is divine.

    I'm sure after all the requisite mea culpa's, breast beating, etc, we can still say all things work together for good for those who love Christ, which is undoubtedly true from the top down as far as Sydney Diocese is concerned.
  • Grant Hayes
    October 20, 09 - 2:15am
    @ Michael,
    I think this determination to think the worst is what really stinks.

    I didn't think up the losses, Michael, or the mismanagement. Have all those responsible done the decent thing and tendered their resignations yet? Or is apparent in-house *soul-searching* sufficient?

    Someone has let a cowboy have his wild way with the assets. This tends to undermine claims of careful stewardship, and suggests incompetence or greed for quick gain (or both) on the part of those in charge.

    The *dying* notice when the ark is so carelessly captained.
  • Luke Stevens
    October 20, 09 - 2:19am
    Michael, I said bias, not skulduggery. It's like when football fans are slow to believe their star players could do anything wrong, until the evidence becomes overwhelming. It is possible to forgive too quickly.

    When everyone is so quick to forgive (what's $160 million between friends?), it becomes too easy to simply dismiss the truly difficult questions, and instead prattle on about "moving forward."

    There are still important questions yet to be answered, not only with regards to who, outside of the board, encouraged the greater leveraging and why, but why they are currently *out* of the market? That has direct implications for the future (missing out on the rebound), as I indicated above.

    Also, lost in the noise about the GFC, is what happened to the endowment (if I've got the right term) that funded the bishops? Was that simply mismanaged, or what?

    This is a case where some independent, investigative reporting would go a long, long way. If only we had the budget...
  • Michael Jensen
    October 20, 09 - 2:29am
    The assumption both Luke and Grant make is that none of this is going on. What do they know that I don't? How do you know, Grant, who is or is not still working at the Glebe Board? How do you know what measures have been taken, or what investigative procedures are at work? How do you know what the personal responses have been of those responsible? How do you know what their feelings and reactions have been?

    You don't know. But it is too good an opportunity to miss, isn't it?
  • Grant Hayes
    October 20, 09 - 2:46am
    Comment deleted by Administrator. Be careful Grant.
  • Luke Stevens
    October 20, 09 - 2:49am
    Assume none of what is going on? I've read all the public material. I've just been raising questions that I think need to be answered. I haven't assumed they wont be. I just strongly disagreed that the losses were a small distraction, as Raj suggested!
  • Grant Hayes
    October 20, 09 - 2:58am
    And my point is that exhortations to *focus on the lost* ring hollow, considering the extent of what has been *lost* in-house.

    The *lost* notice.
  • Allan Patterson
    October 20, 09 - 2:59am
    I would like to know where the Standing Committee fits into all this. Who actually is responsible for oversight of Diocesan investments?
  • Andrew Mackinnon
    October 20, 09 - 3:36am
    Comment deleted by Admin - way off topic.
  • Andrew Mackinnon
    October 20, 09 - 3:37am
    Comment deleted by Admin - way off topic.
  • Andrew Mackinnon
    October 20, 09 - 3:39am
    Comment deleted by Admin - way off topic.
  • Andrew Mackinnon
    October 20, 09 - 3:39am
    Comment deleted by Admin - way off topic.
  • Luke Stevens
    October 20, 09 - 3:43am
    *Paging moderators to isle 2 ... we have some global conspiracy theories that need to be cleaned up...*
  • Grant Hayes
    October 20, 09 - 3:56am
    Comment deleted by Admin - related to off topic comments deleted above.
  • Kevin Goddard
    October 20, 09 - 4:59am
    Comment deleted by Admin - related to off topic comments deleted above.
  • Grant Hayes
    October 20, 09 - 5:25am
    Be careful Grant.

    Sorry, Admin. Fair cop.
  • Allan Dowthwaite
    October 20, 09 - 5:27am
    Everyone needs to be a bit more careful on this least stay on topic!

    There are some strong feelings surrounding this issue, and it's a good debate to have, but I'm going to keep a close eye on tone.

    Consider yourself warned.
  • Grant Hayes
    October 20, 09 - 6:18am
    @ Michael,
    How do you know, Grant, who is or is not still working at the Glebe Board? How do you know what measures have been taken, or what investigative procedures are at work? How do you know what the personal responses have been of those responsible? How do you know what their feelings and reactions have been?

    You don't know.

    Then, given that you do *know*, can you explain where *the buck stops* for a loss of this magnitude? And how many have expressed contrition for their involvement in it by tendering their resignations?
  • David Ball
    October 20, 09 - 10:56am
    I haven't seen much evidence in the press of genuine remorse for such a large scale error of judgment. Making such statements at Synod is not enough (if indeed any such statements have been made).
  • Michael Canaris
    October 20, 09 - 12:03pm
    I haven't seen much evidence in the press of genuine remorse for such a large scale error of judgment.
    Without touching or detracting from this specific matter, to be frank I'm not quite sure how it's possible to show sufficient evidence of genuine remorse in the press concerning anything. Sometimes anything one might say seems bound to be misconstrued.
  • Alan Dungey
    October 20, 09 - 12:29pm
    Folks - it's dead people's money; nobody you know gave it to the diocese; it's sad that some of it's gone, but it's a blessing from the past. I'm a bit shocked that the D of S has lost $160 million, but mind you, everyone's super has gone down so some of that loss was inevitable; and if they adopted this gearing strategy in 2002, then there must have been some pretty good years in the meantime too! The chickens have come home to roost, and in hindsight a conservative strategy would have been better.

    But my understanding is that Sydney is still greatly blessed. In Perth, the diocesan investments are smaller, and not imaginatively managed - a bunch of poorly performing metropolitan properties, last time I checked - they pay for the bishops and head office, but no ministry as such; the parishes pay a 16% assessment to the diocese - a heavy burden, when so many are small, struggling or shrinking. Is there any tax similar in Sydney?

    Sydney's wealth was wonderful, and has been used wisely to reach out to people with the gospel of Christ and make disciples (rather than liberal theology and sex abuse payouts); but ultimately money (given by people long passed) is no substitute for enthusiasm, prayer and evangelism - all things Sydney is committed to deeply. So go for it!
  • Ben Stone
    October 20, 09 - 1:01pm
    Good questions raised about why the Dioceses pulled out of the market at its lowest point and did not return - seems to me a sign of panic.

    Ok so when they sell off all the shares, they lost $160 million. But didn't anyone in the Glebe Board sense the market is bouncing back and the economy is recovering? The market has risen 45% since last year and had we stayed in the market or returned to the market the results would be quite different today.

    We should not dismiss this matter so quickly as to say it forces the Dioceses to rethink its strategy and mission. This is just a cop out. We did not lost $10 million or $50 million but 0 million, causing major effects across the Dioceses. Had this happened to a secular company, I am sure the board would had been sacked by now - or resigned. The board needs to offer a satisfactory explanation to the Synod about this mess.
  • Brian Tung
    October 20, 09 - 1:45pm
    @Ben - the situation is much much more complex than, why didnt GAB hold off selling assets. Even a monkey knows not to sell when the market is on the way up.
    I suggest that you actually spend time studying the explanation given by board and the CEO GAB before forming such a simplistic conclusion. For explanations are given.
  • Brian Tung
    October 20, 09 - 1:53pm
    @Grant and Ben - the board of GAB has effectively resigned.
    I'm sure that they should be knocking n your doors soon. Afterall, I'm sure all you guys can do better than the board, i.e generate an annual return of 5% above inflation rate for 10 years (that'sabout $45 million in return alone) but of course you'd do it risk free able to pick when to get into and out of the market that the rest of the market didn't. That's why you guys are all billionaires.
  • Peter Smith
    October 20, 09 - 2:37pm
    If only you knew how rich you still are! The perception is that you are still the rich fat cats... still with all that money and the church only grows marginally. There really is a crisis Raj.

    Praise God that money (Zechariah 4:6) is not the means of growing God's church.
  • David Ball
    October 20, 09 - 3:21pm
    Sorry Michael @29 - by "the press" I simply meant some sort of public statement, perhaps on a web site such as this. Fears about the secular media misrepresenting a statement such as this are a side issue, and may themselves be interpreted as evidence that the diocese has a glass jaw.
  • Michael Canaris
    October 20, 09 - 4:48pm
    Thanks for clarifying, David. As it happens, my apprehension was less about misrepresentation by intermediaries of any particular matter, and more of an abstract inherent difficulty for anyone to adequately apologise for anything to those adversely affected or those who care for the interests of an entity so affected by any perceived harm.

    In retrospect, I'm sorry for raising a red herring.
  • Peter Anderson
    October 20, 09 - 8:27pm

    I have three questions about this issue: 1. How long has Christ been the Lord? 2. How long has the dollar been the currency? 3. How long has the dollar been the way to serve the Lord?

  • Shane Rogerson
    October 20, 09 - 8:32pm
    there was comprehensive reporting, debate and call for action last evening which will not doubt be reported today.
    As Brian indicates. It is complex , there were mistakes and losses, deep regret, offer of resignation, calls for censure and sacking, an importantly an open , accountable and gracious debate.
    The lord is sovereign, we are collectively responsible to varying degrees, and there have been moves and measures to learn, change and then continue to both protect the assest and grow it for the sake of the gospel
  • Michael Jensen
    October 20, 09 - 8:46pm
    Thanks Shane. I doubt that this will actually make Grant and co happy.
  • Nigel EJ Fortescue
    October 20, 09 - 8:47pm
    Readers of the Blog can be assured that in the Anglican Synod on Tuesday night people stepped up to the plate, admitted mistakes, claimed responsibility and accepted the blame for the financial losses. A full explanation was made. An open ended opportunity for questions was given. A long debate ensued and neither side of the argument was stifled. In the end the synod expressed its profound regret at the situation. It did not absolve. It did not forgive and forget. It did not ignore. Investigations, changes and process reviews continue. This was not the end of the matter but a fitting discussion that allows the opportunity for further important revisions of practice and policy to be made.

    Now, as Raj indicates above, it is time to move on to what is important now. we need to work out how to operate best to ensure that our dying Anglican church reaches those dying without Jesus. Ministry Leaders is just one arm in this strategy - but most importantly, we probably need to get off this blog and go and talk to our friends, neighbours and family about Jesus.
  • Jeremy Halcrow
    October 20, 09 - 10:03pm
    reports pending. Given the heat and sensitivities its important we are accurate before publishing.
  • Allan Dowthwaite
    October 21, 09 - 1:33am
    A brief story on last nights synod session has now been posted here. There will be a more detailed report in the upcoming edition of Southern Cross.
  • Leeanne Zamagias
    October 21, 09 - 3:05am
    The story of how God reduced the number of Gideon's troops, so that His glory may be revealed, comes to mind.
  • Luke Stevens
    October 21, 09 - 11:14am
    Somewhat tangential, but related: it has been interesting for me to watch people try to reconcile their understanding of God's sovereignty with this kind of calamity.

    The Abp explored the issue somewhat in the presidential address, and thankfully came down (if a little tentatively) on the side that God is not speaking to us particularly through such an event.

    However, what I don't understand is the Abp attitude that "[what has happened] has not left me anxious because I have trust in a sovereign, wise and good God."

    I don't understand how that is meaningful at all. We live in a effectively random world where fallible people like you & I -- not God -- are responsible for things like finances and other aspects of what we do and how we organise.
    I don't think that means we should be anxious (whatever happens, happens), but I think the position that God's in control, except he's not, is horribly inconsistent and illogical, and usually falls back on bald assertions in lieu of any reasonable explanation.

    This really bothers me. Anyone want to set me straight? MJ? :)
  • Brian Tung
    October 21, 09 - 12:30pm
    @Luke - I'm no MJ. I'm sure that he can do a much more abled jb than I can but I'll give it a quick go.

    Perhaps it's the distinction between events (what happens, GFC) and meaning (to what end, for what purpose, why is God doing this).

    Peter's point, as i understand it, is not that 'God is in control except he's not'. But that we cannot deduce from events the purposes of God, e.g. it's a punishment for sins. Rather we know God's mind as he has revealed it in his Word.
  • Luke Stevens
    October 23, 09 - 2:03am
    Thanks Brian, I agree about not being able to deduce meaning/purpose from specific events, but I just think it's such a weird position - we say God is in control and is working out his purposes, yet from actual events they seem random and pointless.

    To me, it's pure cognitive dissonance, and results in all these weird logical contortions which don't add up to much, imo.

    The fallback, as you mention, of 'look to the bible' is neither here nor there, really. I mean, what's the point of a meta-belief in a "sovereign, wise and good God" if day to day events are essentially random and of unknowable meaning (if there is any meaning)?

    We end up at the same point - having to deal with the world and events as they are, not what our meta-beliefs wish they were.

    I really don't understand the cognitive dissonance tho :|
  • Andrew Mackinnon
    October 23, 09 - 2:23am
    The Anglican Diocese of Sydney is left floundering in the context of current world events because it refuses to investigate current world events in an intellectually honest way and actively denigrates those who do.
  • Dianne Howard
    October 23, 09 - 2:43am
    Andrew, you said: 'The Anglican Diocese of Sydney is left floundering in the context of current world events...'

    Just wondering if you could perhaps give some examples to explain what you mean?

  • Brian Tung
    October 23, 09 - 2:50am
    Andrew is perhaps confusing denigration with logic or reason. A naked assertion even if repeated ad nauseum is still an assertion.
  • Leeanne Zamagias
    October 23, 09 - 3:15am
    God is in control and working His purposes out - it's just that we don't always know what those purposes are. We have all been affected by the view that money is the measure of all things to such an extent that we fail to understand that blessings can be in any form other than this.

    God is bigger than the GFC, than those persecuted in third world countries and anything else we could imagine. The monies involved here are a drop in His bucket. I know this sounds trite but when you realise that two thirds of the world couldn't even imagine such figures, and we have been blessed so much that we can even talk about loosing this. I am not putting down big numbers - good stewardship means continuing to ensure that God's people in the future have access to sufficient funds so as to keep doing His work until His return. Since we don't know if that is next year or in 1000 years, we need to maintain our responsibility but continue to seek His wisdom.

    While I am not making a direct comparison, God chose to reduce Gideon's numbers to ensure that the troops would acknowledge that the victory was God's and not of their own doing. There are many possible reasons for this reduction in funds, (and I am not about to speculate as to which is the definitive reason) the principle of ensuring that God is still able to do a mighty work through His people, with all Glory to go to God rather than man, stands.

    Regarding cognitive dissonance - is this a gift from God or a sin?
  • Andrew Mackinnon
    October 23, 09 - 3:29am
    Hi Di at #48

    It is not appropriate for me to give some examples of what I mean because those examples, which I provided in posts 18 to 21 above, have already been deemed to be "way off topic" in relation to this particular thread and were censored.

    While I understand why these posts were censored, that is, they completely overshadowed the topic of this thread and potentially hijacked it, they were still completely relevant to the topic of this thread because they defined the global operating environment in which the diocese incurred its financial loss.

    While some may imply that the assertions I made cannot be substantiated, I am fully capable of substantiating any and every assertion I made with forensic evidence that cannot be invalidated.

    When it comes to current world events, the Anglican Diocese of Sydney exhibits strident agnosticism. It does not believe that any meaning can be attributed to these events. However this is a false belief. If the events driven by non-believers are random and meaningless, does this also mean that the events driven by believers are random and meaningless? If not, why not? Do those who perpetrate evil do so unintentionally or in a manner which is not premeditated, so that no meaning can be attributed to their actions? Is it only those who work good as God's representatives who carry out their work in an intentional and premeditated manner, so that meaning can be attributed to their actions?

  • Andrew Mackinnon
    October 23, 09 - 3:30am
    The reality is that there is not one single atom in this universe that does not have meaning. I believe that this agnosticism of the Anglican Diocese of Sydney in relation to current world events has led it to a place where it is seen as irrelevant by non-believers whose daily lives are being heavily, adversely impacted by these events.
  • Allan Dowthwaite
    October 23, 09 - 3:54am

    You're walking on thin ice.

    The topic of Raj's article is not the the "global operating environment in which the diocese incurred its financial loss", but the relative importance of those losses when compared to mission of the church in taking the gospel to a lost world - and the danger of being so focused on the losses that it distracts us from that mission.

    I will ignore for now the myriad of unsubstantiated assertions you've made about what the diocese does or doesn't do...
  • Dianne Howard
    October 23, 09 - 4:20am
    Andrew, we aim to preach Christ crucified in the hope that God may grant repentance to people leading them to a knowledge of the truth.

    And yes, this message will seem highly irrelevant to many non-believers. It's always been this way.

  • Andrew Mackinnon
    October 23, 09 - 4:46am
    Hi Di

    I don't believe that the church is seen as irrelevant by non-believers because it preaches the gospel, which I am all in favour of. I'm a Christian myself who believes that Jesus Christ is my only hope. I believe that the church is seen as irrelevant by non-believers because it fails to push back against the problems that are being foisted upon society by patently ungodly political leadership around the world. In many cases, the church fails to even detect these problems at all. It seems to view political leadership around the world through rose-coloured glasses on account of Romans 13 and give that leadership a free pass on account of Romans 13. However Romans 13 is implicitly talking about godly political leadership (eg. Romans 13:3a, Romans 13:4a). It is not talking about patently ungodly, harmful political leadership, which should be actively resisted.

    It seems to me that the church only pushes back against ungodly political leadership when the church's interests are being directly threatened. However, to win people to Christ, the church needs to stand up for interests which are not directly related to its own, such as the interests of the innocents being slaughtered in Iraq for no justifiable reason. Unfortunately, the Iraq war has become a cliche but the bullets continue to tear through flesh each day.